College Weekly Report
by Brent Beaird
There were no SEC teams in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1988. This past SEC basketball season fell short of being a success, but there are brighter days ahead for the league. LSU, the regular season champ, and Auburn, both lose four seniors, but nearly every other SEC team returns the majority of their rosters. Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Arkansas, for example, return their entire starting lineups. Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia will immediately upgrade their coaching staffs. The new ESPN contract will allow the SEC the most television exposure in its history. Starting next season, SEC basketball teams should be much more prominently mentioned in the top 25 polls and the NCAA Tournament.
TENNESSEE (21-13, 10-6): The Vols struggled in close games this season. The opening round loss to Oklahoma State in the NCAA Tournament was no exception. Tyler Smith missed a 3-point attempt on the last play of game to give Oklahoma State a win. Tennessee was 0-4 in games decided by three points- or- fewer. The Vols came into the NCAA Tournament with the lowest 3-point percentage (31%) of any NCAA Tournament team. Inexplicably, Tennessee had 33 attempts from beyond the arc and made only 11 against Oklahoma State.
LSU (27-8, 13-3): The Tigers enjoyed a memorable season despite a second round NCAA Tournament loss to North Carolina. LSU made its first NCAA appearance since the 2006 Final Four. The Tigers also won the SEC regular season title. In the four point win over Butler, Marcus Thornton scored 30 points. Tasmin Mitchell scored 14 points and Chris Johnson added 12. The Tigers shot nearly 50% from the field. The Tigers have some rebuilding to do after losing seniors Garrett Temple, Terry Martin and Thornton. Mitchell, a junior, will also have a decision to make whether or not he is going pro.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (23-13, 9-7): Washington took advantage of Bulldog center Jarvis Varnado being in foul trouble in the first half to pull ahead in a first round NCAA Tournament game. Varnado, who could benefit from 10-15 extra pounds, said after the game that he has not considered going to the NBA. He had four fouls, five blocks, seven points and three rebounds in the Washington loss. State missed 17 of its first 23 shots. Barry Stewart and Phil Turner both scored 11 points. State returns all five starters next season.
AUBURN (24-12, 10-6): The Tigers season came to an end Tuesday night as Baylor (23-14) won at Auburn. DeWayne Reed missed two free throws with eight seconds left in the game and Rasheem Barrett missed a 3-point attempt that left Auburn short.
Auburn, a No. 1 seed in the NIT, beat Tulsa by 19 last Friday night despite Korvotney Barber, the second leading scorer, sitting on the bench in foul trouble for most of the game. Auburn’s 24 wins are the second most in Tiger history. Auburn finished 24-10 in 2000. The 1999 SEC championship team finished 29-4.
KENTUCKY (22-14, 8-8): UK‘s season is over after losing at Notre Dame Wednesday night. UK has 10 turnovers, allowed 11 offensive rebounds. Irish center Luke Harangody scored 30 points. Notre Dame hit 12 shot from 3-point range. In the win over Creighton, during the final 9:23, Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks scored 19 of Kentucky’s 23 points. Perry Stevenson had a double-double and Ramon Harris had a career high eight assists. Booker Woodfox, who averages 46% from the 3-point line, averages 15 ppg for the Bluejays. P’Allen Stinnett averages 12 ppg. Ten players average 14 minutes per game.
Kentucky decided to part ways with Coach Billy Gillispie (40-27 record). The divorce might cost them a $6 million ($1.5 million for four years) buyout. Fans became frustrated with Gillispie’s stubborn streak as evidenced by game- day practices and near arguments with the media. There is optimism that incoming star recruits Daniel Orton and Dominque Ferguson will provide immediate help. Possible Kentucky replacements are Tom Izzo of Michigan State, Travis Ford of Oklahoma State, John Calipari of Memphis and Jay Wright of Villanova among many.
SOUTH CAROLINA (21-10, 10-6) Offensive inconsistency hurt South Carolina over their last five games. The Gamecocks, who led the league in scoring averaging 78 points per game, scored 70 or less in the last five games finishing 1-4. Next year looks promising for the Gamecocks because Zam Fredrick is the only senior of consequence the Gamecocks lose.
ALABAMA (18- 14, 7-9): Tide officials have hired Virginia Commonwealth Coach Anthony Grant to replace Mark Gottfried. He visited the campus Wednesday. Alabama could offer him somewhere near $2 million and a promise to upgrade basketball facilities (Grant has a ($240,000 buyout). Grant’s name was mentioned for vacancies at Georgia and Virginia. He posted seasons of 28-7, 24-8 and 24-10 at VCU.
The Tide finished the season winning five of seven games. Interim Coach Philip Pearson posted a 6-7 record. Alabama loses only seniors Alonzo Gee and Brandon Hollinger. Eight of the Tide’s top nine starters and reserves return next season.
GEORGIA (12-20, 3-13) Bulldog players Zac Swansey and Troy Brewer are transferring. Swansey was the starting point guard earlier in the season. Terrance Woodbury led his team in scoring 13 times this season. Rumors continue that Georgia might offer Oklahoma’s Jeff Capel $2 million to replace Dennis Felton. Missouri’s Mike Anderson could become involved.
OLE MISS (16-15, 7-9): The Rebels could be one of the more improved teams in the league next year due to the return of guards Eniel Polynice, Chris Warren and Trevor Gaskins, who all missed the season with knee injuries. The return of SEC Freshman- of- the- Year Terrico White gives the Rebels as strong a backcourt as anyone in the league.
ARKANSAS (14-16, 2-14) Coach John Pelphrey has to convince junior forward Michael Washington, a second-team all conference selection, to return for his senior season. Plenty of talented players like Courtney Fortson, Michael Sanchez and Rotnei Clarke return. Even though there are no allegations of wrongdoing, the Hog basketball program is being investigated by the NCAA for recruiting practices. Athletic director Jeff Long gave Pelphrey, 15-19 in two SEC seasons, a vote of confidence Thursday. Arkansas has no seniors on its roster and started three freshmen against Florida in the SEC Tournament.
VANDERBILT (19-12, 8-8) returns all five starters-Jermaine Beal, Brad Tinsley, Jeffery Taylor, Steve Tchiegang and A. J. Ogilvy-return next season.
FLORIDA (25-10, 9-7): Gator Coach Billy Donovan squashed reports that he was going to Kentucky shortly after the announcement of Gillispie’s firing.
In the loss to Penn State (24-11, 10-8), Florida was outrebounded by 10 and shot only 5 of 22 from 3-point range. Nick Calathes, who struggled all night shooting, ended up with10 points and seven assists. Erving Walker finished with 16 points and Alex Tyus added 15. Penn State hit eight 3-point shots. Jemalle Corley had 23 points and 12 rebounds for Penn State. Kenny Kadji, sustain a concussion in practice Monday and couldn’t play.
Florida had won four of its last five games before losing to Penn State. During that span, the Gator defense held opponents to under 45% shooting and under 31% shooting from 3-point range. The Gators have allowed only 58 ppg over the past five games.
In the win over Miami, Calathes scored 23 points and grabbed six rebounds, Tyus added 13 points and 12 rebounds, Dan Werner added 12 points and six rebounds. Florida outrebounded Miami 37-25. Calathes has 224 assists on the season, breaking his mark of 221 as a freshman. Miami didn’t score until the 14:32 mark of the first half. Freshman forward Alan Chaney, who was also injured, was suspended for the rest of the season. Florida held Miami’s Jack McClinton, who averages nearly 20 ppg, to only 13. In the win over Jacksonville, Walker started in place of Chandler Parsons, who came off the bench with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Calathes had 19 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Coach Billy Donovan has to improve the non-conference schedule which included Toledo, Southern Utah, Georgia Southern and Longwood. Tennessee, for example, played Marquette, Siena, Georgetown, Memphis, Gonzaga (twice), Kansas and Temple. This year, in games against teams in the top 100 RPI the Gators are 9-9.
Gator year- end evaluation: Marreese Speights left and would have been a force inside. Speights starts at center then Alex Tyus goes to power forward. Defense was a problem. The Gators were last or near the bottom in defensive stats. Only two Florida teams have played worst defense in the past 20 years-in Don Devoe’s first year and Lon Kruger’s first season. Florida didn’t have the foot speed or size to play better defense. Injuries to forwards Adam Allen and Chaney left Florida with an eight- man rotation. Youth is a problem-there is one scholarship senior and one scholarship junior. There are eight underclassmen with five freshmen and three sophomores. Donovan signed nine players in the 2005 and 06 classes, but only two remain-Hodge and Werner. David Huertas went to Ole Miss. Jimmy Sutton to Central Florida CC, Johnnie Mitchell to Rutgers and Brandon Powell to Marshall. Only Huertas has been an SEC caliber player. Derwin Kitchen couldn’t get in and ended up finally at FSU. Doneal Mack was denied admission and went to Memphis.
With that said, Donovan believes the team has overachieved with three freshmen, three sophomores and two role-playing upperclassmen. Florida has lost five games by three points or less.
Next year: Kenny Boyton (6-2, 187), a five-star shooting guard from Plantation, Fl., comes in. Duke, Texas, Memphis and USC offered him. Vernon Macklin (6-10, 240), a transfer from Georgetown, also comes in. Deshawn Painter (6-9, 210), a four-star center from Chatham, Va., Erik Murphy, a three-star power forward from Southborough, Ma., in the 2009 class. Patric Young (6-8, 220), a four-star power forward from Paxon High in Jacksonville, Fla., has committed to 2010.
FLORIDA: A total of 21 of 22 starters return from last year’s national title team. In an article on Florida spring practice, Gatorbait.net’s Mark Wheeler listed five players who could sink or swim: junior linebacker Lorenzo Edwards, redshirt junior center Corey Hobbs, redshirt senior safety Dorian Munroe (knee injury last year), senior cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis (lost his job to Janoris Jenkins) and redshirt junior receiver Justin Williams. Also, here are five players who could surprise: redshirt junior offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert, redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jaye Howard, redshirt junior offensive guard Maurice Hurt, senior receiver Carl Moore, and redshirt sophomore receiver Paul Wilson.
In a Miami Herald report, Miami proposed to play Florida twice every four years so that every player can experience one game against the Gators. Gator AD Jeremy Foley said there are no plans to play Miami past 2013 when the two teams meet in Dolphin Stadium.
Spring questions: How will quarterback Tim Tebow respond to Scot Loeffler? He and Loeffler are working on Tebow’s footwork, drops, and lining up under center. Who steps up at receivers among the group of Riley Cooper, David Nelson, Deonte Thompson (bulked up to 200 pounds), Moore, Frankie Hammond, T. J. Lawrence, Williams, and Paul Wilson? There is plenty of depth at safety with Ahmad Black, Major Wright, Munroe, and Will Hill. How will young defensive backs such as Jeremy Brown, Adrian Bushnell and Dee Finley fit in? Defensive tackle could pose some depth problems behind Lawrence Marsh and Terron Sanders. Matt Patchan (a scooter accident messed up his knee, but he will be back soon) has moved to the offensive line and John Brown and Torrey Davis, who was recently arrested, have left. Omar Hunter (308 pounds), Brandon Antwine, Jaye Howard, Edwin Herbert, Earl Okine need to step up. Linebacker William Green is up to 235 pounds. Will young offensive linemen such as Lerentee McCray and T. J. Pridemore, David Young and Sam Robey step up?
Gator players spoke to the media about taking the remarks from Tennessee Coach Lane Kiffin personally. Brandon James will miss all of spring with a foot injury. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap is nursing an abdomen strain. Brandon Hicks (right shoulder), offensive lineman Mike Pouncey (left shoulder) and receiver Omarius Hines (thighs) were dressed and participated in spring drills despite being listed as out for the spring. Meyer said there is a chance that Torrey Davis could return to the team.
ALABAMA: The Tide restarted spring practice Monday. Coach Nick Saban said he wants to see how hungry the team is. Saban told the media that he sees no benefit in knowing who the starting quarterback is going to be at the end of spring. Will rebuilding the offensive line cause the Tide offensive coaches to rethink about their run- dominated attack? Saban praised the effort of linemen James Carpenter, Tyler Love, Chance Warmack and running back Terry Grant. Linebacker Brandon Fanney is still suspended. Baron Huber has moved from fullback to tight end.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: State began spring practice Tuesday. Twelve starters return. Five quarterbacks participated in spring practice including starter Tyson Lee. Freshman Tyler Russell will also join the fray this summer. Wade Bonner has moved from running back to safety. Tailback Anthony Dixon is 235 after losing 20 pounds. Receiver Brandon McRae, running back Robert Elliott, and tight end Marcus Green will be limited this spring due to injuries. Coach Dan Mullen has implemented his own “Champions Clubs” similar to what Urban Meyer does at Florida. Senior linebacker Jamar Chaney practiced for the first time Tuesday after a season-ending leg injury in last year’s opener. Chaney said practice under Mullen is more intense. JUCO defensive tackle Pernell McGee has made progress this spring. Redshirt freshman receiver O’Neil Wilder (6-5, 210), could give the Bulldogs some much needed speed. He missed last season with a knee injury.
OLE MISS: The Rebels started spring drills Friday. Coach Houston Nutt said his team is dealing with bigger expectations. His main concern is the lack of experience and depth on the offensive line. Nutt added that All-SEC defensive end Greg Hardy is healthy with a great attitude. Brandon Bolden is ranked No. 1 at tailback over Cordera Eason. Nutt said he is still gathering facts about Jamar Hornsby’s recent arrest. He also said seven of his 37 signees will be placed in junior colleges. Can the Rebels handle the hype of being a targeted team? Can the secondary continue to be a strength after last season? Free safety Kendrick Lewis was a star by the bowl game. Who will replace Peria Jerry, considered the heart and soul of the team? Who replaces Michael Oher (possibly sophomore Bradley Sowell)? The opener at Memphis has been selected by ESPN for a Sunday afternoon broadcast on ESPN.
SOUTH CAROLINA: In Saturday’s scrimmage, defensive end Cliff Matthews also caught a 43-yard touchdown as a tight end. Quarterback Stephen Garcia also threw a 46-yard touchdown to Moe Brown. Garcia has developed under G. A. Magnus, the quarterback coach. Tailback Brian Maddox ran for a 60-yard score. Reid McCollum would be the second string quarterback at this point according to Coach Steve Spurrier. Dion LeCorn has moved back to offense after playing in the secondary toward the end of last season. Starting defensive left tackle Ladi Ajiboye, who has been charged with simple marijuana possession after being caught in a drug deal, has been suspended from the team temporarily. Freshman cornerback Stephon Gilmore could earn a starting position in the near future. Sophomore cornerback C. C. Whitlock is running out of chances. He failed to show up Tuesday morning for class and a morning punishment run. There is good competition at running back with Maddox, sophomore Eric Baker, redshirt freshman Kenny Miles and true freshman Jarvis Giles.
GEORGIA: Coach Mark Richt said he is going back to tougher practices after backing off last year due to injuries. Richt has won 10 or more games in six of his eight seasons. Georgia has finished in the top 10 five of those seasons. Richt is also only one of six head coaches to have won 80 or more Division I games in his first eight seasons. His teams have won two SEC titles and six bowls.
In last Friday’s scrimmage, the defense dominated. Safety Bryan Evans and cornerback Prince Miller intercepted passes and linebacker Rennie Curran returned a fumble for a score. Receivers Vernon Spellman and Tavarres King caught touchdowns. Tailback Carlton Thomas had a long touchdown run making several defenders miss. After practice one day this week, Richt’s chair that he was sitting in broke, but he caught his balance. He quipped, “A lesser athlete would have been down and a lighter athlete might not have had that happen.” Richt also said tailback Dontavious Jackson might be back at practice sooner than expected after having his knee scoped. Georgia has added a kicker to the 2009 class-JUCO Brandon Bogatay (6-3, 200), who is from San Diego, Calif.
Since preseason of last year, 30 Bulldog players have had surgeries. Bryan Evans, who is from Jacksonville, Fla., has moved from cornerback to safety. Linebacker signee Dexter Moody (6-2, 205) has been released from his national letter of intent because he threatened a teacher at his high school. He is free to sign with another school. Moody said he might sign with either Central Michigan or Florida. Tailback Caleb King is five to eight pounds lighter at 210. Offensive line coach Stacey Searels is accepting interview requests this season after not talking to the media last year. Bulldog athletic director Damon Evans said there have been no talks with Gary Stokan, president of the Atlanta Sports Council, concerning moving the Georgia-Florida game to Atlanta once every four years. The Georgia Dome seats 72,000 while the stadium in Jacksonville has an 82,000 seat capacity.
LSU: In last Saturday’s scrimmage, all four quarterbacks took equal snaps. Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee are battling Russell Shepard and Chris Garrett. Coach Les Miles lauded super freshman Shepard for his play and has not ruled out moving him to anther position. Richard Dugas, a converted senior fullback, sustained a knee injury in Saturday’s scrimmage. Lazarius Levingston is coming on at defensive end. Defensive coordinator John Chavis has been very animated.
TENNESSEE: Kiffin likes to keep score during practice to foster competition. At one point this week, the defense was up 3-0. The players seem to enjoy the score keeping. Quarterback Nick Stephens is back at practice doing limited duty until he is able to take snaps next week. He is recovering from a broken hand. Receiver Gerald Jones continues to make big plays. He is the favorite target of the quarterbacks.
AUBURN: The Tigers started spring practice Tuesday with six returning starters on offense and seven on defense. Auburn is strong along the defensive line, secondary and at tight end. Antonio Coleman and Michael Goggins head up the line. Three starters return in the secondary. Two-year starter Aairon Savage returns after missing all of last year. Tommy Trott and Gabe McKenzie return at tight end. However, McKenzie is not at practice due to a medical issue. The Tigers have plenty of question marks on offense at quarterback, running back and receiver. Kodi Burns (2-5 overall, 0-5 in SEC) returns as the most experienced quarterback to battle with Chris Todd who is still recovering from shoulder surgery. Neil Caudle and Barrett Trotter are also in the mix. Philip Pierre-Louis (5-8, 155), is a redshirt freshman has plenty of potential. Montez Billings is the leading returning receiver with 24 catches. The Tigers have to replace two starters in the offensive line. Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks and defensive back Jerraud Powers both left early for the NFL. Mike Blanc and Jake Ricks will try to replace Marks. Antonio Coleman returns at end. Linebackers Craig Stevens and Josh Bynes both return, but there is little depth behind them. JUCO transfer Eltoro Freeman, a linebacker, comes in with much hype.
ARKANSAS: The Hogs started spring practice Tuesday. Running back Michael Smith (hamstring), receivers Lucas Miller and Marques Wade (both knee injuries) and free safety Elton Ford (neck) will not participate. The offensive line loses center Jonathan Luigs and tackle Jose Valdez, but four guards return with starting experience. The entire defensive front returns. Running backs are plentiful with USC transfer Broderick Green, Oklahoma State transfer Adrian Moore, Dennis Johnson and De’Anthony Curtis and early enrollee Knile Davis.
Derek Hatcher, a quarterback from Ridgeview High in Orange Park, Fla., will walk- on at Arkansas. He will replace the loss of former verbal commitment Will Secord who went to FSU. Hatcher helped his team win two playoff games this season. Tickets for the Texas A & M game at the new Dallas Cowboy Stadium will be starting at $50 for student tickets on up to $300 for club seats. Tyler Wilson will share snaps with Ryan Mallett (6-7, 248). Jim Youngblood is also in the quarterback mix. Some scouts compare Mallett’s arm with JaMarcus Russell. The Hogs returns eight starters on defense and seven on offense.
VANDERBILT: Tray Herndon, a Minnesota transfer and a Bolles School (Jacksonville, Fla.) grad, was impressive in Saturday’s scrimmage. Coach Bobby Johnson said he is experimenting with a no-huddle offense this spring.
FLORIDA STATE: In Wednesday’s half scrimmage, the second team offense got the best of the defense. Walk-on quarterback Corey Eddinger hit fellow walk-on Louis Givens (three catches for 84 yards) on a 65-yard scoring play. The first team offense moved the ball on the first team defense, but for the second straight scrimmage, they had trouble getting the ball into the end zone.
In Saturday’s scrimmage, Jermaine Thomas, Ty Jones, and Marcus Sims ran for 100 yards. Christian Ponder was 7 of 15 for 145 yards. The offense got the best of the defense, but the defense didn’t allow a score. Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said, “I didn’t think it was worth a crap,” when asked about the play of the defense. Receiver Jamar Fortson had a 41 yard acrobatic catch. Bert Reed caught three passes for 24 yards. Thomas (hip flexor) and Jones (bruised ribs and sprained thumb) have been banged up. Sims, who also has a sprained ankle, drew praise from the staff for several bruising runs during the scrimmage. Defensive lineman Markus White is hoping to replace Everett Brown. Receiver Richard Goodman is back on the field fully recovered from a leg injury that has limited his play since 2007. The coaching staff has called Patrick Robinson a “big league cornerback”. Robinson, in his third season as a starter, began to come on last season. Linebacker Nigel Carr, who is from Jacksonville, is running with the first team. Carr has changed his attitude and is up to 226 pounds. Chad Abrams (6-0, 188), a safety from Lakeland Kathleen, has committed to FSU.
MIAMI: Former offensive line coach Art Kehoe will be honored after the spring game on Saturday. Tailback Javarris James (arm or shoulder injury) will not be able to participate in spring game due to an unknown injury. Receiver LaRon Byrd said the receivers understand most of Mark Whipple’s complex offense. C. J. Holton has moved from safety to linebacker. Whipple and John Lovett are finishing their first spring as coordinators. Tailback Mike James continues to impress. The cornerback position is still very thin. DeMarcus VanDyke needs to improve over last year when he was confused during Bill Young’s schemes. Sam Shields is still transitioning to cornerback. Senior Chavis Grant and sophomore Brandon Harris are some of the cornerbacks with experience.
CLEMSON: Former Tennessee defensive line coach Dan Brooks has joined the Tigers staff. Tailback Jamie Harper, who is from Jacksonville, Fla., is down to 224 pounds. The quarterback battle between Willy Korn and Kyle Parker is progressing. Coach Dabo Swinney said neither quarterback was the clear leader. The coaches need receivers such as Xavier Dye (6-5) to step up and join Jacoby Ford.
GEORGIA TECH: The offensive line will be fine despite losing Andrew Gardner (nearly 50 starts) and David Brown. Josh Nesbitt and Jaybo Shaw return at quarterback. Jonathan Dwyer returns along with Roddy Jones (8.5 ypc) and Louisville transfer Anthony Allen. The big question is the defensive line after losing Michael Johnson, Vance Walker, and Darryl Richard.
NORTH CAROLINA: The Tar Heels have their spring game this Saturday. T. J. Yates returns at quarterback. Nine starters return on a defense that finished No. 11 in total defense in the ACC last year. There is a void at receiver after losing Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate. Former tailback Greg Little, Rashad Mason and Dwight Jones are hoping to fill the breech.
VIRGINIA: Quarterback Jameel Sewell returns after missing the 2008 season due to academics. Former cornerback Vic Hall, who started at the end of last season, will work at quarterback. Mark Verica, who started seven games last year, is also involved. Running back Mikell Simpson is back after breaking his collarbone during the last three games last season. Linebacker Clint Sintim has to be replaced.
BRENT BEAIRD IS A SPORTS WRITER FOR MYCLAYSUN IN ORANGE PARK, FLA. HE ALSO WRITES FOR RIVALS.COM, SAMSPORTSLINE.COM AND GATOR BAIT MAGAZINE. HE CAN BE HEARD ON SPORTS RADIO 1010 XL.
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