Tag:Cam Newton
Posted on: May 20, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2011 3:42 pm
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Friday Four Links (and a cloud of dust), 5/20

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Every Friday we catch up on four stories you might have missed during the week ... and add a few extra links to help take you into the weekend.

THE FOUR LINKS ...


1. Most of the spring buzz out of Ole Miss regarding the quarterback position hds centered on the dramatic improvement of former JUCO transfer Randall Mackey, but West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti came on late in camp and according to many observers outplayed Mackey in the Rebels' spring game. Result? Houston Nutt saying this week that "if we had to play tonight," Brunetti would be the starter.

Nonetheless, expect this to be a battle that lasts well into fall practice.

2. Yes, there's still more updates out there on the mad, mad, mad mad world of Harvey Updyke, even following this week's fresh indictments. For one, if you remember the alleged assault on Updyke that took place after his initial court appearance, it's looking more "alleged" than ever. Local police told The War Eagle Reader that there is "absolutely nothing for us to pursue" in terms of evidence and that the case would be closed soon.

If the country district attorney has his way, Updyke will be unable to reiterate his claims with another Paul Finebaum appearance; the DA has also requested a gag order on the case.

3. Unless you're a particularly devoted fan of Phil Steele's preseason college football magazine, the release of the magazine's nine regional covers isn't something you'd, I don't know, plan your lunch break around. But we wanted to mention it all the same, just to note our love for the annual Armed Forces cover:



If you'll excuse me, I need to go find some redcoats or Communists to punch out.

4. Andrew Luck will enter 2011 as the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy (and the overwhelming one to nab the top spot in the 2012 NFL Draft), but as this study from TeamSpeedKills shows, it's a little early to start engraving his name on anything just yet; quarterbacks with QB ratings as stratospherically high as Luck's typically regress to a merely outstanding mean in their final seasons. Luck's hardly a typical quarterback, but especially without Jim Harbaugh at the offensive reins, it's something to consider.

AND THE CLOUD ...

As it had suggested previously, the SEC is officially not interested in moving any games to Sundays ... BYU is reportedly in high demand as an opponent thanks to their independence-created flexibility, but we're waiting to actually see a couple of scheduling announcements before giving them too much credit ... Purdue will be joining the throng of teams with new Nike duds to debut this season, but we don't have any images to show you yet ... An Auburn auction to sell off Cam Newton's game-worn BCS championship pants has been won by the Internet ... Nine-game Big Ten schedules are still a long, long ways off ... Two professional recruitniks are sniping at each other over the rankings of Alabama players ... and though you may have seen this already, former Kentucky quarterback/SEC folk hero Jared Lorenzen has resurfaced at quarterback for an indoor football team named the Cincinnati River Monsters. You'll be happy to know the Lefty remains as Hefty as ever.




Posted on: May 18, 2011 2:53 pm
 

Gamecocks' Johnson no fan of no-huddle

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We don't expect defensive coordinators to like the current trend of up-tempo, no-huddle offenses like those favored by Oregon, Oklahoma, and Auburn. But we also don't expect them to be, well, bitter about them, either, or suggest that the NCAA step in with rules changes to stop what's still a small minority of college offenses.

So, yes, consider us surprised by the vehemence with which South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson attacked the trend in a recent radio interview:
“One thing that has gotten into it that I’ve been pretty outspoken, that I really think is starting to deteriorate some of college football is the hurry up offenses ...

“[W]hat’s happening now with the rules is that you can snap it as soon as you want to or you can sit on it for 40 seconds, and there is no in-between ... The NFL cut it out with Buffalo in the 90’s, they kind of put some cold water on it a little bit with the Colts not too many years ago. What they realized is they’re taking the game of football and turning it into soccer or lacrosse. There’s nothing wrong with those sports, but that’s not football.”

"What it's about now is who can snap the football before the other team lines up. You can’t hardly get your players on and off the field. You can’t get your signals in and out. It’s become who has the best signal system or verbiage system ... It’s not about blocking, tackling, running, route running, throwing, and so forth. It’s something the college football world needs to look at.”

“It sounds like sour grapes right now, but there is not a balanced playing field.”
Please don't take this the wrong way, Mr. Johnson ... but yes, right now, it sounds like sour grapes.

Because while a good "signal system or verbiage system" paired with an up-tempo offense can make things very difficult on a defense when run correctly, it's hardly some kind of college football cure-all. For starters, there's the trade-off of a greater strain on the no-huddle team's own defense; the defenses opposite Gus Malzahn's attacks at both Auburn and Tulsa took huge statistical hits as soon as he arrived. There's the subtantial increase in conditioning work that must be done for those offenses to maintain their stamina late into games. There's the risk of multiple high-tempo three-and-outs putting the no-huddle team at a huge time-of-possession disadvantage.

And then -- despite Johnson's implication that a collection of players who weren't any good at "blocking, tackling, running," etc. could thrive as long as they had the right "verbiage system" -- you've still got to have the right personnel. While the tempo has no doubt helped, the overwhelming talents of players like Sam Bradford, Cam Newton and LaMichael James have all played a far greater role in the success of their respective offenses.

As for what the no-huddle looks like without those kinds of players, Vanderbilt installed the no-huddle before the 2009 season, and even brought in Malzahn's Tulsa colleague Herb Hand for 2010; the results were still 109th- and 110th-place finishes in total offense, even worse than the Commodores' usual efforts.

So we humbly suggest that if Johnon wants the no-huddle offensess on the Gamecocks' schedule stopped, he prepare his team to do so -- not an impossible task even against the best of them, as Mississippi State (17 points allowed to Auburn) and Cal (13 points allowed to Oregon) proved last year -- rather than hoping the NCAA descends from on high to do his work for him.

HT: Get the Picture, which quotes a 2004 story to show that it wasn't so long ago the rulebook agreed with Johnson.
Posted on: May 3, 2011 12:31 pm
 

Eye on CFB Roundtable: Draft reaches and steals

By Eye on College Football Bloggers

Each week, the Eye on CFB team convenes Voltron- style to answer a pressing question regarding the wild, wide world of college football. This week's topic:

We're not NFL scouts. But we have watched most of the players taken in last weekend's draft for the past three or four years (or, in one particular high-profile case, one year). Based on what we saw during their college careers, which players do we believe were "steals" for the team that selected them? Which were "reaches" which went earlier than they should have?

Tom Fornelli: I'll start with the reach because this is an easy answer to me: the very first player taken, Cam Newton.

This is not a dig on Newton personally, or the player he was at Auburn last season. The fact of the matter is that there wasn't a single quarterback in this draft class that I felt was worth a first-round pick. Yes, there were a lot of quarterbacks in this class who were good college quarterbacks, but as we have seen through many examples before, being a good college quarterback doesn't make you an good NFL quarterback. And for me, with the first overall pick -- when I have the opportunity to pick anybody I want, and have that person help my team immediately -- Newton is not the player I'd pick. I'm not saying that I don't believe it's possible that Cam can develop into a good NFL quarterback one day, but I do feel the odds of Newton becoming a Hall of Fame NFL quarterback are pretty slim. And if I'm going to take a quarterback with the first pick of the draft, he needs to give me the impression that he has that kind of potential.

As for the steal, there were a few players who I thought were really good picks for teams in later rounds. There was Green Bay getting Randall Cobb with the final pick of the second round, Da'Quan Bowers slipping to Tampa Bay in the second, and Ahmad Black going to Tampa as well in the fifth round. The biggest steal to me of all, though, was Baltimore picking up Indiana wide receiver Tandon Doss late in the fourth round. In my opinion, Doss may turn out to be one of the most dependable receivers in what was a very deep class this season. He does not have the size and wow factor that guys like A.J. Green and Julio Jones have, nor is he a burner, but he's got great hands and he's a very polished route runner. He's the type of receiver who isn't going to end up in the Hall of Fame, but should pick up a lot of big first downs, make some plays and be dependable for a lot of years. I watch Doss, and I see a player that can be what Hines Ward has been to Pittsburgh for so many years. To get that kind of player in the fourth round is the definition of a steal.

Adam Jacobi: I think to a large degree, Tom's right. I wouldn't go so far as to say there were no first-round QBs in this class, because guys like Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and even Newton have all shown a great deal of potential. But let's be honest: this wasn't really a great draft class to begin with. I thought there were only 15-20 first round-caliber guys on the board. But the first round is still 32 picks, no matter what, and I don't think there were 32 better draft picks to make before you got to Newton (or any other quarterback).

That said, yes, Cam Newton was a reach. Right now, Carolina is not a team that has the tools to let a quarterback succeed. They have needs all over the place, and if all they do is give up on Jimmy Clausen after one year so they can plug in Cam Newton instead ... well, they're still a team that doesn't have the tools to let the quarterback succeed. (It's like the Detroit Lions drafting Chuck Long and Andre Ware as first-rounders 20-25 years ago. You really think their failures had nothing to do with the crappy players surrounding them?) I'm of the philosophy that the No. 1 overall pick should be spent on a player with the best odds of making a high-level contribution immediately and repeatedly. That means wide receivers and all but the most experienced, productive quarterbacks are out, as are safeties, guards and centers. That's why I would have preferred to see a guy like Texas A&M's Von Miller go first.

As for steals, I'm going to say Nick Fairley dropping all the way to Detroit, where he can be paired with Ndamukong Suh on the interior defensive line. There isn't an NFC North team left that isn't going to have to dramatically retool its blocking strategy now because of that setup, and even that might not be enough to avoid a franchise quarterback getting broken in half this season. How in the world does Fairley fall to No. 13, past Christian Ponder, the real reach of the first round? Fairley didn't dominate the NFL combine, but you know what? Freakish combine measurements don't really matter for defensive tackles. It's whether they can shed blocks reliably and repeatedly at the next level, and based on the way Fairley performed not only during the season but especially in Auburn's biggest games, he's got the ability to do that. If there's a character concern, you know what? Let the rest of the locker room take care of that. That's where the veteran teammates are supposed to step in, not the scouts.

Outside of the first round, I really like the Sam Acho pick in the fourth round by the Cardinals. At 6'2" and 260, Acho's sort of an OLB/DE tweener as size goes, and he's going to be playing OLB in the Cards' 3-4 system after lining up at end at Texas. But he's fast and disruptive, and was plenty productive with the Longhorns, so he could definitely end up being a James Harrison- type terror for the Cardinals in a year or two.

TF: Not to get too far off the subject, but Adam brought up something that drives me crazy when it comes to the NFL and the way teams draft. All too often it seems like NFL teams become enamored with how a player performs in the combine while wearing shorts and a t-shirt. That's the reason Ponder got taken so early; without linemen closing in on him, he's really good at throwing a football. But it seems like they forget about what these players did while they were actually on a football field.

For instance, look at Acho. NFL teams see his size and they're not entirely sure what to do with him. They don't seem to pay as much attention to the fact that Acho was a kid that did his job on the field at Texas and did it well. He made plays. It's why I think Tampa got a steal in Florida's Black. For the last few years, Black was one of my favorite players to watch because he just had that knack for making things happen. However, all NFL scouts seemed to see was that he didn't have top-notch speed. Nevermind the fact that he played in the SEC -- which I believe is the home of that ESS EEE SEEE SPEEEED -- and played well.

Jerry Hinnen: I agree that the draft over-rewards potential and underrates production, which is why I never thought I'd see the day when an NFL team reached for the occasionally erratic run-first quarterback out of the gimmicky option offense, and stole the rifle-armed pocket statue with a former NFL play-caller for a coach. But as the draft day fates of Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Mallett illustrate, there's a first time for everything.

Let me first say this about Kaepernick: as a college quarterback, he was under appreciated, having accumulated an incredible 10,000 yards passing and 4,000 yards rushing over his four years at Nevada, the only quarterback in FBS history to do so. In 2011, he joined Tim Tebow and Newton as the only players in FBS history to run and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season. Kaepernick was, simply, one of the most exciting, most fun, best college football players of his era.

But having watched him ever since he exploded onto the scene against Boise State in 2007's overtime classic, I can't say I ever saw him as a blue-chip NFL prospect. Kaepernick was always a substantially greater threat on the hoof than in the pocket, where his awkward throwing motion and come-and-go accuracy led to outings like his 12-for-23, 149-yard, two-interception clunker to open the 2009 season at Notre Dame, or the 14-for-26, 159-yard, four-turnover debacle at Hawaii that led to the Wolf Pack's only loss of 2011. The greatest strengths of Kaepernick's unique skill set -- his ball-fake jujitsu within the pistol, his surprising speed and agility as a ball-carrier, his ability to throw outside the pocket -- won't do much to make an already difficult transition from the pistol to an NFL offense any easier. Jim Harbaugh's right pinky knows more about quarterbacking in the NFL than I ever will, obviously, but I remain stunned Kaepernick went as a high second-rounder rather than a late-round flyer. (Which brings me to an aside in response to Tom: we can debate Newton all day, but if Kaepernick is the 36th overall pick, Newton -- in a different class athletically, more polished as a passer, proven in SEC competition -- is something akin to the negative-17th pick.)

But where Kaepernick never struck me as meant for NFL stardom (or even starterdom), Mallett is the sort of prospect whose very double-helixes probably unwind to spell out "PROFESSIONAL QUARTERBACK" under the microscope. 6'7", possessor of likely the strongest arm in college football, with his two years under former NFL head coach Bobby Petrino yielding better than 7,400 passing yards, better than 9 yards an attempt, and a 62-to-19 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Mallett couldn't have looked the part of a future NFL signal-caller any better either on the field or on paper. But of course he looked like something else in the headlines and gossip factories, thanks to those pesky drug admissions and work ethic rumors. But the facts are that Mallett was arrested just once at Arkansas (for public intoxication), was never suspended, and by all accounts enjoyed the respect of his teammates. Yes, he's a character risk, but so were plenty of players who went in the first and second rounds.

Were I in a quarterback-needy NFL team's shoes, I'd worry more about his penchant for forcing the spectacular throw when the easy one would do--but that's not the kind of worry that would have caused me to pass him up twice.

AJ: I can't say New England taking Mallett is a steal. He's on a spectrum where the high end is Drew Bledsoe and the low is Ryan Leaf, and nowhere in-between is a Super Bowl ring.

Chip Patterson: I'm not sure if it was one of the biggest "steals" of the draft, but seeing how highly rated Robert Quinn was on many boards, the Rams had to have been happy to grab him at No. 14. Quinn just got things going at North Carolina before he was suspended for his junior season during the NCAA investigation of the football program; he'd finished second in the ACC Defensive Player of the Year voting as a sophomore in 2009, just two years after battling back from brain surgery to remove a tumor. Quinn continued to impress throughout different stages of the process, but according to reports he was not cleared by several team doctors. Many teams were likely on the edge about Quinn because of the off-field activity at North Carolina, and may have just needed one more reason to bypass the budding defensive end. Battling back from brain surgery to all-conference honors seems more like a positive intangible than a negative one to me, but I'm not the one making the million dollar moves. (Yet.)

My colleagues have covered a fair share of the quarterbacks, so I'll point out the very next pick in the draft: Mike Pouncey. The Dolphins didn't want this pick, and in fact they tried desperately to trade down. Pouncey addresses a need and will likely be an immediate starter, but there's little about Pouncey's performance at Florida that makes him seem like a No. 15 pick. He was the highest drafted center since 1993, the kind of accolade that's usually placed on a uniquely talented individual. Pouncey will help the Dolphins' running game, especially with his experience as a pulling guard, but he does not stand out to me as a "unique talent." The Dolphins didn't make a huge mistake by drafting him, but it just doesn't seem like the best talent for the pick.

JH: See, I tend to think the point of a mid-first-round pick is to simply not make that "huge mistake," so I thought drafting a solid future pro (if not a future Pro Bowler) like Pouncey was a smart move. But looking back over this discussion, we're clearly all haters of one stripe or another.

Posted on: April 29, 2011 1:45 pm
 

SEC dominates first round of NFL draft

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The SEC has been dominating the college football landscape for quite a while now, as the conference has been the home of the last five national champions. So it's not exactly surprising that during the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night, more players who called the SEC home during their college career were taken than any other conference.

In fact, nearly a third of the players taken on Thursday night were SEC players. There were 32 picks, and 10 of them were from the SEC, including five of the first six picks. The only non-SEC player taken in the top six was Texas A&M's Von Miller, who went to the Denver Broncos with the second pick. Other than that there was a distinct SEC flavor, with the state of Alabama being able to lay claim as the best college football state in the country. Auburn saw Cam Newton go to Carolina with the first pick, while Nick Fairley went 13th to the Detroit Lions.  Then there was the Crimson Tide, who basically had their own table in the green room, and everyone who sat at it -- and even one player who didn't -- heard their name called on Thursday night.

Marcell Dareus (#3 Buffalo), Julio Jones (#6 Atlanta), James Carpenter (#25 Seattle) and Mark Ingram (#28 New Orleans) all gave Nick Saban some valuable face time on television last night. Elsewhere in the conference, Georgia's A.J. Green (#4 Cincinnati), LSU's Patrick Peterson (#5 Arizona), Florida's Mike Pouncey (#15 Miami) and Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod (#32 Green Bay) were drafted as well.

Here's a look at selections by conference in last night's first round (both Nebraska and Colorado still counted for the Big 12).

  1. SEC - 10
  2. Big 12 - 8
  3. Big 10 - 6
  4. Pac-12 - 3
  5. ACC - 3
  6. Big East - 1
  7. MAC - 1

That's it. While it was a great year for the Big 12, what's somewhat surprising about the eight players drafted from the conference is that Missouri had two, Colorado had two and Baylor had another two. Not exactly your classic Big 12 powers. In fact, Oklahoma and Texas combined for none of the picks last night. Which can be looked at two ways. You might say that it's because neither school produced any top talent last season. I prefer to think of it as neither school lost any of its top talent this year.

There's a reason a lot of people think Oklahoma will start the year at #1 after all.

Then there was the Big 10, who had six picks, but it should be noted that all six players drafted from the Big Ten last night were lineman, whether offensive or defensive. Surprise! The Big Ten didn't have any top talent at the "skill" positions. Still, if you're a skilled defensive lineman in high school right now, there are worse places for you to play than the Big Ten, as Wisconsin, Purdue, Ohio State, Illinois, and Iowa all sent members of the defensive line to the NFL last night.

Then, in other not-so-surprising news, we see that the Big East had only one player taken in the first round last night. The same amount as the MAC, which was the only non-BCS conference to be noticed last night, as Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson went to the Jets with the 30th selection. The one Big East player to be taken was Pitt wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin to Kansas City at 26, which came as a bit of a surprise as most grades on Baldwin saw him as being an early to mid-second round pick.

Of course, this isn't the end of the NFL Draft by any means. There are still three days and six rounds left to get through, and who knows what the numbers will look like by Sunday night? More importantly, the true measuring stick of the conferences success on the pro level won't be known for years. It's not the amount of players you funnel into the league, it's the players who last on the next level and succeed that really tell the story.

Though that's not going to stop the "S-E-C!" chants.

Posted on: April 23, 2011 10:12 pm
 

Site challenges Cam Newton to lie detector test

Posted by Tom Fornelli

At the moment, Cam Newton is busy worrying about his future in the NFL. He's working out for numerous pro teams who are trying to get an idea of how the kid who dominated college football last season will perform in the professional game. Of course, no matter how he performs in the NFL, odds are that Newton is going to get a nice contract before he ever steps foot on an NFL field.

Though if Cam would like a shot at earning $1 million before that, it seems that somebody is giving him a chance.

A website has been created at camnewtonliedetector.com that challenges the former Auburn quarterback to take a lie detector. According to the site, if Cam Newton can answer "no" to four simple questions and pass the test, the site owner will give him $1 million. What are the questions?

- Prior to signing with Auburn, were you aware your father was “shopping” you to Mississippi State or any other school?

- Did you tell Dan or Meghan Mullen that you signed with Auburn because of the money because you truly believed Auburn had paid for your commitment?

- Did anyone on the Auburn coaching staff/athletic department instruct you how to answer questions from the NCAA by lying or avoiding the truth?

- Did you or your family ever receive any impermissible benefits from Auburn?

I would just like to point out right here and now that I can answer no to all four of these questions and pass any kind of lie detector you would like to subject me to. Can I get $1 million? I'll even let you shoot video of me taking the test and post it on the internet. I'm that confident.

Of course, you do have to wonder if the person challenging Newton to the test actually has the funds to pay Newton the money if he passes. You also have to challenge that person's sanity. I'm just not sure I'm willing to risk that much money in case Newton did pass the test, no matter how confident I was that he wouldn't.

I mean, it's just college football, folks. I love the game too, but not that much.

Posted on: April 19, 2011 4:42 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 4:55 pm
 

What I Learned This Spring: SEC West

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the SEC West, team by team. In alphabetical order:

ALABAMA: The two big headlines for Tide fans this spring were the quarterback battle between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims (pictured), and the unveiling of the new Nick Saban statue added to those of the school's first three national title-winning head coaches. As our own Dennis Dodd reported (and as you can hear for yourself in the reverent tone of this student news broadcast), the statue left the Tide faithful plenty satisfied; the quarterback battle, not so much, as neither McCarron nor Sims was able to create any real separation from the other. (How close were they? At A-Day, McCarron went 21-of-38 for 222 yards and one interception, Sims 19-of-38 for 229 yards and an interception.)

But as we pointed out in our Tide spring primer, who's at the reins of the offense isn't nearly as important as whether the offense can remain productive without Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, et al. With Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower each looking like terrors this spring in the linebacking unit and All-American safety Mark Barron showing few ill effects of his postseason pectoral muscle surgery (he returned a fumble 96 yards for a score at A-Day), the defense looks poised to live up the "best in the nation, or damn close" expectations. All the offense has to do is not screw things up, and the running game -- behind Trent Richardson, a dynamo on A-Day with 167 all-purpose yards, and a loaded line with former five-star right tackle D.J. Fluker beginning to fulfill his vast potential -- appeared ready to do the job nearly by itself.

The Tide still haven't found what looks like a go-to receiver in the wake of Jones' departure (Richardson led both sides in receptions and yards at A-Day), and the McCarron/Sims derby could be a distraction lasting well into the fall. But given the help either one will receive from the running game (and line) on display Saturday, none of that might matter.

ARKANSAS: The big question before spring started was simply "can the Hogs handle losing Ryan Mallett?" And though the Red-White game certainly isn't a guarantee, it's definitely an arrow pointed in the direction of "goodness, yes." Likely new quarterback Tyler Wilson averaged 9.7 yards per his 25 attempts, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His receiving corps -- on paper, the SEC's best, hands-down -- lived up to its billing, with Jarius Wright hauling in five balls for 157 yards and two scores. The White team defense had its moments, too, holding All-SEC candidate Knile Davis to just 44 yards on 16 carries.

The Hogs' spring wasn't perfect -- backup tailback Broderick Green went down for the year with an ACL tear -- and Bobby Petrino hasn't even officially named Wilson the starter yet. But with the quarterback position looking solid and the defense boasting its best spring in years, the loss of Mallett sure hasn't put much of a dent in the Hogs' new position as West challengers just yet.

AUBURN: The Tigers entered the spring looking for playmakers to fill at least part of the colossal void left by Cam Newton's and Nick Fairley's departures. And at defensive end, they may have found some; sophomores Corey Lemonier and Nosa Eguae both drew positive reviews throughout the spring, and previously little-used junior Dee Ford burst into the rotation with a big camp and a pair of sacks at Auburn's A-Day game. New line coach Mike Pelton said he was impressed by -- and would use -- all three this fall.

The rest of the defense didn't have a shabby A-Day, either, as they defeated the offense 63-32 in Gene Chizik's unique scrimmage scoring system. But most of the offense's efforts went towards polishing up the passing attack (tailbacks Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb combined for just seven carries), and those efforts didn't yield much in terms in terms of finding big-play potential. Tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen (pictured) won MVP honors for his 65 yards receiving and catching the lone touchdown of the scrimmage, and DeAngelo Benton added one 48-yard reception. But otherwise, offensive excitement was hard to come by, and Chizik afterwards called the quarterbacking from Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley "inconsistent." (The two will compete for the starting job into the fall.)

Under Chizik, Auburn hasn't made much of an effort to put on a show in their spring game -- the reviews on Newton's debut in the 2010 version were universally ho-hum -- but there still seems little doubt Gus Malzahn will look for much more explosiveness out of his attack come fall camp.

LSU: It's the same old story on the bayou. The Tigers entered spring hoping to finally put their quarterbacking issues to rest behind someone, be it incumbent starter Jordan Jefferson or someone else ... and left it with Jefferson still the starter and still on less-than-firm ground after an ugly 4-of-14, no touchdowns, one interception performance.

Well, less-than-firm ground with the LSU fanbase , anyway. Bayou Bengal supporters seem to have universally pinned their hopes on JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger, despite Mettenberger being mired at third on the depth chart entering the spring game. But you can't blame them when Jefferson struggled the way he did, Jarrett Lee averaged all of 4.5 yards per-attempt (with a pick, of course) and Mettenberger did this:
 


None of that made any difference to Les Miles and the LSU staff, who gave Jefferson the team's "Jim Taylor Award" for his spring effort and leadership. And quarterback or no quarterback, LSU showed how formidable they'd be all the same: Spencer Ware followed up his breakout Cotton Bowl performance with a huge spring, the secondary looks as airtight as ever even without Patrick Peterson, and there's plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball.

But unless Jefferson lives up to his coaches' faith in him -- and that spring game performance did little to assure anyone he will -- LSU's still going to have some headaches.

MISSISSIPPI STATE, OLE MISS: Despite their wildly divergent 2010 seasons, the question for both Mississippi schools was the same entering the spring: how would their defenses fare after losing several major contributors from last year?

In Oxford, that question was all the more important for last year's defense having been such a disappointment in the first place. And it got even harder to answer mid-spring when potentially the unit's best player, linebacker D.J. Shackelford, was lost for the year with an ACL tear. The Rebel defense had a successful spring game all the same, holding the two offenses to just 27 total points and scoring seven of their own on an Ivan Nicholas interception return. But coming against a Rebel offense in flux after seeing former JUCO Randall Mackey ascend to the likely starter's job (and former favorite Nathan Stanley leave the program), the jury will remain out despite the positive signs.

Up the road in Starkville, the news seemed more unambiguously positive: Dan Mullen said his defensive line "dominated" the Marron-White Game, producing 11 tackles-for-loss. The Bulldogs already seemed happy with their new linebackers, and that was before redshirt freshman Ferlando Bohanna blew up for eight tackles and a pair of sacks in the spring game. The secondary may remain a work-in-progress (State quarterbacks, including backup Dylan "Yes, That" Favre, combined to average a healthy 7.8 yards per-attempt), but the front seven looks like it shouldn't take too big a step back.

We'll cover the SEC East next week once the slowpokes at Kentucky hold their spring game this weekend.


Posted on: April 19, 2011 12:49 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 12:52 pm
 

Mark Ingram wins EA NCAA Football 12 cover vote

Posted by Adam Jacobi

For college football enthusiasts, there's no more anticipated video game than EA's NCAA Football series, released during the interminable off-season and resurrecting fans' anticipation for the upcoming season. The changes in gameplay have become more incremental over the years, but what people are most interested in are the ever-expanding dynasty mode and EA's updated rosters and ratings.

Oh, and then there's the prestigious honor of the annual cover athlete.

Unlike EA NCAA Football's pro counterpart in the Madden series -- made famous for its "Madden Curse," which routinely afflicts its subjects with terrible, injury-addled seasons -- the NCAA Football cover is usually a harbinger of upcoming pro success. Sure, it started off slowly with Tommie Frazier and Danny Wuerffel, and EA would probably like to take those Joey Harrington and Chris Weinke covers back, but it has also honored such luminaries as Shaun Alexander, Ricky Williams, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, DeSean Jackson, and Tim Tebow, among others. Not bad company, really.

This year, EA Sports put the NCAA Football 12 cover role up to a vote between four athletes: Auburn DT Nick Fairley, Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray, Alabama RB Mark Ingram, and Washington QB Jake Locker. Unsurprisingly, the voters chose the only athlete of the four who won a Heisman trophy: Ingram.

Astute observers probably noticed a conspicuously absent name from that list: Auburn QB Cam Newton. Newton, of course, won the 2010 Heisman Trophy and won the BCS Championship with Fairley this past January. EA Sports didn't divulge why Newton wasn't among the four finalists for the cover -- a lack of popularity doesn't exactly seem plausible, as he'd probably have beaten Ingram for the top spot -- but endorsements are always tricky business, to say nothing of the as-yet unresolved situation with Newton's recruitment and the NCAA's investigation thereof. Suffice it to say the arrangement didn't work for at least one of the two sides, so it'll be Ingram and that's that.

Of course, nothing about the cover athlete affects anything about the game itself past the opening screen; remember, these guys are all off to the NFL, so they're not actually in the game. But college football, more than any other sport on any level, prides itself on its awards and honors, and the EA cover is no exception.

Thoughts on the cover? Great? Terrible? The right call?

Posted on: April 14, 2011 11:06 am
 

Auburn readying statues of Heisman winners

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Given the press surrounding the soon-to-be-unveiled Nick Saban statue at Alabama and the new row of Heisman-winning quarterback statues at Florida, it was only a matter of time before some other school stepped forward to keep up with the Joneses in Tuscaloosa and Gainesville.

And this week, in a letter to fans and alumni, Tiger athletic director Jay Jacobs made it official that that school would be Auburn. The Tiger athletic department last year commissioned statues of past Heisman winners Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson, before having to add another sculpture to their shopping list when Cam Newton picked up the program's third Heisman last December. "Little did we know we would need to add a third statue so soon," Jacobs wrote.

Newton's honor likely pushed the timetable for the unveiling back from this weekend's "A-Day" spring game to the 2011 season; the artist's website says the Sullivan and Jackson statues are already completed. If there's any positive to the delay from the Auburn perspective, it's that it will give the program another few months in which to avoid unveiling the Newton statue should anything come to light in the still-ongoing (as far as we know) NCAA investigation into his recruitment.

But obviously, Jacobs and Auburn aren't expecting any developments like that soon, or ever; it's hard to prove a belief in a player's innocence any more emphatically than setting a nine-foot tall, one-ton statue of him outside the stadium directly alongside the team's two greatest legends, isn't it?
 
 
 
 
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