COLLEGE NEWS AND NOTES
by Brent Beaird
April 10, 2012
ALABAMA: In Friday's scrimmage, Jalston Fowler led all rushers with 151 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns, with one of those going for 68 yards in a situational drill. While those numbers are far more impressive than Fowler's first scrimmage, Saban noted the offense ran more rushing plays and fewer passing plays than it did a week ago. As such, quarterback AJ McCarron (14 of 29, 160 yards, four TDs, one INT) had fewer opportunities.
Wide receiver DeAndrew White, who missed last week's scrimmage with a hamstring problem, led all receivers with five receptions for 112 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Saban said an abnormal practice week in which UA practiced only twice between scrimmages had no negative impact on Friday's work, and in fact may have been a benefit due to an extra day of rest for the players
Having been the backup to Marquis Maze last season as Alabama's punt returner, Christion Jones is a primary candidate for the same role in 2012. But his competition for the return job this spring includes running back Dee Hart and cornerback Deion Belue.
Saban said Jones is also a capable kickoff returner. "Amari Cooper looks like a pretty good kickoff return guy," Saban said. "Dee Milliner will probably be back there as the off-returner on kickoff." Backup quarterback Phillip Sims was limited in scrimmage work for the second consecutive week with a sore shoulder.
INJURIES: Saban said defensive backs Vinnie Sunseri, Robert Lester and Caleb Castille, as well as defensive lineman Jesse Williams, suffered sprains in the scrimmage, but none are believed to be serious. Sunseri, Castille and Williams sprained ankles, while Lester sprained a knee. (tidesports.com)
ARKANSAS: (Clay Travis) I'd expect that Arkansas will cut Petrino's pay in half -- from $3.6 million a year to around $1.8 million. (This will at least offset the millions the school will pay in civil settlements.) I'd expect that Arkansas will suspend Petrino from coaching the first two games of the season -- Jacksonville State and Louisiana-Monroe. (As I told you Friday, I think Mike Slive will add to that punishment)
And I'd expect that the school will announce a new "zero tolerance policy" when it comes to future Petrino issues. Then the school will announce that it's time to "move forward" and Razorback fans will call the Hogs in teary redemption. That's the roadmap athletic director Jeff Long is hoping to follow right now. Whether he can do it or not remains to be seen. It's clear that Arkansas wants to keep Bobby Petrino. Now the question that still hangs out there is this, will anything more come out?
A Facebook page has been formed to rally support for Petrino, who's on administrative leave while Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long decides whether Petrino will keep his job. There were more than 7,300 members Monday morning of the "Team Save Coach Petrino" group. The group is asking fans to call and/or email Long and express their support for Petrino, who's led the Hogs to 21 wins over the last two seasons.
One of the group's organizers, Matt Couch, told Tom Murphy of The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "It's a great week for forgiveness, with it being the Easter weekend. We want to forgive, forget and win." (espn.com)
FRIDAY SCRIMMAGE NUMBERS: Passing Team: 50 of 76, 808 yards, 10 TDs Tyler Wilson (vs. 1s): 22 of 25, 366 yards, 6 TDs Brandon Mitchell (vs. 2s/Rs): 12 of 25, 166 yards, 2 TDs Cobi Hamilton totals: 10 rec., 197 yards, 3 TDs Chris Gragg totals: 5 rec., 71 yards Marquel Wade totals: 8 rec., 186 yards, 4 TDs
AUBURN: The offense focused on running the football and protecting the quarterback, while the defense worked a lot of blitzes. Coach Gene Chizik said sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier did a good job despite the defense's pass rush. Frazier said he felt better about his performance today now that he is more confident in the offense.
According to reports, Clint Moseley connected with Trovon Reed for a touchdown pass and freshman Zeke Pike linked up with Quan Bray for another score. Moseley, who has been limited by a shoulder injury (rotator cuff), said he has fallen behind. Running back Mike Blakely was not at today's scrimmage. Per Twitter, he is at home celebrating the birth of his son. (auburnsports.com)
FLORIDA: Scott Carter, Florida's in-house reporter for GatorZone just released a story saying Ronald Powell has a torn ACL and will miss 4-6 months. Apparently that will serve as UF's version of a press release on the issue.
SPRING GAME REPORT: According to the coaches, Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel have been running pretty much dead even in the race for the starting quarterback role. The two QBs both showed off big-time arms and the ability to manage and move the offense. This appears to be a dead-even battle, and it's going to be ongoing right up to the start of the season.
Mike Gillislee has pretty much established himself as the starter at tailback. Will Mack Brown, who has some impressive talent, play well and lock down the No. 2 spot? Brown scored a touchdown, ran hard and made some nice cuts in leading the Orange in rushing with 31 yards on eight carries. But it was obvious Saturday he's going to be facing tough competition from Chris Johnson and Omarius Hines for that No. 2 spot in August. Johnson, in particular, looked like a real natural runner, with moves and vision. Hines showed he's going to help the Gators as a receiver and runner in 2012.
Both quarterbacks were effective finding the open receivers down the field and making plays. Brissett threw a 43-yard strike to true freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman in the first half. Driskel hooked up with Andre Debose for a 44-yard gain in the second half. Overall, it appears the Gators are determined to involve the wide receivers more than a year ago and stretch the field vertically.
Overall, the Gators look bigger and stronger than a year ago, and coach Will Muschamp said after the game his team has displayed a toughness and physicality that was missing last season. The Gators appear much more aggressive and tenacious on the offensive line. That was evident on some short-yardage conversions in the downhill running game.
PITTMAN IMPRESSIVE: Pittman, who had two catches for 51 yards, showed his ability to separate from coverage on a 43-yard catch on a pretty deep ball thrown from Brissett. Muschamp has raved about Pittman all spring. Driskel said Pittman, a 6-foot, 201-pound early enrollee from North Marion High School in Ocala, has made plays every day during spring drills.
Pittman wasn't the only Gator receiver who made big catches Saturday. Redshirt junior Andre Debose had a 44-yard catch and run, while sophomore Quinton Dunbar had three catches for 17 yards and a touchdown. Frankie Hammond did sprain an ankle in Monday's scrimmage.
Florida had a dearth of big plays at receiver last season, a reason why the Gators struggled offensively once Southeastern Conference play began. Debose led Florida in touchdown catches with four. No other Gator receiver had more than two touchdown catches last season.
Throughout the spring, Muschamp frequently praised the play of the offensive linemen. He credited the work of new offensive line coach Tim Davis. The sophomore quarterbacks have taken notice of the line's improvement. Driskel said it's the strength of the offense, and Brissett feels they've gelled as a unit.
RECRUITING: Florida followed up its spring football game Saturday with a huge haul on the recruiting trail. The Gators picked up three verbal commitments: from wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood, offensive guard Joshua Outlaw and cornerback Tre Bell.
The first to pull the trigger was Outlaw, who plays for the same high school (Martin Luther King/Lithonia, Ga.) as UF running back Mack Brown.
The surprise of the day came from Fulwood, whose mother wasn't fond of Florida when they visited in early March. But after bonding with new UF offensive coordinator Brent Pease and seeing the need at receiver on Saturday, Fulwood convinced his mom Gainesville is the right place for him. The Jacksonville Bishop Kenny prospect told Rivals.com that she was "just as happy as I am."
While Outlaw and Fulwood are the second players to commit at their position, Bell is UF's first cornerback verbal this year. Although he's coming from St. Peter's Prep in Jersey City, N.J., Bell has been rooting for the Gators since they won the 2006 national championship - in basketball. (gainesvillesun.com)
GEORGIA: Georgia's offense was able to make a little headway in Saturday's second spring scrimmage at the Woodruff Practice Facility, but from an overall standpoint it's the Bulldog defense which continues to impress.
Still, quarterbacks Aaron Murray and Hutson Mason enjoyed better days. Murray completed 8 of 13 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns, with Mason completing 12 of 19 for 151 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Parker Welch chipped in completing 5 of 10 for 56, with Christian LeMay completing 3 of 6 for 28 yards and a pick.
But head coach Mark Richt said don't let the yardage numbers fool you. Marlon Brown led the receivers with five catches for 90 yards and a score, with Taylor Bradberry grabbing five for 72 and a score with Justin Scott-Wesley catching five passes for 38 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Jay Rome caught two passes for 50 yards.
The offense gained little on the ground however, as Ken Malcome rushed five times for 29 yards, followed by Isaiah Crowell with six for 23. Jamie Lindley added a 32-yard field goal.
Defensively, safety Corey Moore led the way with nine tackles and an interception, with linebacker Ramik Wilson collecting seven tackles to go along with a sack and a pass breakup. The defense also received strong play from defensive end Ray Drew with five tackles and a sack, while linebacker Chase Vasser finished with six tackles. Interceptions were recorded by safeties Connor Norman and Shawn Williams, who left later on with a knee injury.
Nose guard Kwame Geathers collected a pair of sacks. Already down several players to injury, Richt revealed that Georgia's already thin secondary took another hit Saturday when starting safety Shawn Williams suffered a knee injury.
Richt said he does not know Williams' status for Saturday's G-Day game, although it does not appear that the injury will require surgery. That is certainly good news as the Bulldogs will already be without cornerback Sanders Commings (two-game suspension) and stand to be without defensive backs Branden Smith and Bacarri Rambo once Richt decides their punishment, Smith following his arrest for misdemeanor drug possession and Rambo for allegedly failing a recent drug test. Linebacker Alec Ogletree is also facing a suspension for allegedly failing a drug test.
Ironically, Rambo missed his third straight practice Saturday while he recovers from a hamstring injury. Both Rambo and Williams are questionable for G-Day.
Also, Richt revealed that running back Richard Samuel is questionable for G-Day due to a concussion while freshman running back Keith Marshall is doubtful while he recovers from a hamstring injury.
Cornerback Devin Bowman according to Richt had the "wind knocked out of him" Saturday, but is expected to be OK. (ugasports.com)
KENTUCKY: Kentucky's game versus Louisville has been picked up by ESPN and will be played on Sept. 2 at 3:30 p.m. at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. This is the seventh time the series will be played on a Sunday, with the last one coming in 2008. The times for UK's home games versus Kent State and Western Kentucky will be announced later this summer. Southeastern Conference games, starting with a Sept. 22 game at Florida, will be determined 12 days prior to the game. (catsillustrated.com)
PLAYERS DISMISSED: A month or so after Kentucky linebacker Ridge Wilson was booted from the team after being arrested on felony drug charges, the Wildcats are watching another three defenders depart the program. A UK spokesperson confirmed to Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal that defensive end Nermin Delic has been dismissed from the team for a violation of unspecified team rules. Additionally, fellow DE Justin Henderson and linebacker Tim Patterson have decided to transfer. The spokesperson did not say to where Henderson and Patterson will go.
Although the losses will affect defensive depth for the Wildcats, none of the three defensive players, who were three-star prospects as part of UK's 2010 class (Rivals.com), recorded any defensive stats last year. (cft.com)
SOUTH CAROLINA: South Carolina practiced Thursday for the 12th time this spring at Williams-Brice Stadium, celebrating the occasion with a 39-play mini-scrimmage in which the offense scored two touchdowns in seven possessions.
Thus, USC has two practices remaining until the annual Garnet & Black game on April 14 at Williams-Brice Stadium. Because it was not considered an official scrimmage (one of the three 'full contact' scrimmages allowed by the NCAA), no statistics were kept by the athletic media relations staff.
Presumptive starting quarterback Connor Shaw led the first series and moved the offense into the red zone before the drive stalled.
The first snap from scrimmage was a 13-yard pass completion to Bruce Ellington. Moments later, Shaw found D.L. Moore down the left sideline for a 41-yard gain, putting the ball at the 16.
On the next play, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney dropped into pass coverage and slapped away a pass. But the second down play, a swing pass to Kenny Miles, produced a nine-yard gain.
However, Miles was stuffed for a two-yard loss on third-and-1, setting up a fourth-and-3 from the 9-yard line. Shaw's pass for DeAngelo Smith in the middle rear of the end zone was ruled out of bounds beyond the end zone.
Unofficially, Shaw was 3-for-6 passing for 63 yards. During the scrimmage, Marcus Lattimore ran sprints in the end zone alongside Shon Carson. Lattimore continue to run straight ahead. He should be ready to cut and go side-to-side by the start of summer conditioning in June. "He's well on schedule," Spurrier said. "He should be fine. We think he'll be as good as ever."
Spurrier on the O-Line: Cody Gibson is starting to look like an offensive lineman instead of a basketball player. So, he's working hard in the weight room. We expect him to be a lot better come September." Spurrier said redshirt freshman tackle Brandon Shell "is doing fine and coming around." (gamecockcentral.com)
TENNESSEE: In the Vol's last scrimmage, the top three running backs --- Rajion Neal, Devrin Young and Marlin Lane combined for 168 rushing yards on 30 carries, with Neal accounting for 100 on 15 tries. Quarterback Tyler Bray completed 13 of 32 tosses for 142 yards with a touchdown to Mychal Rivera and an interception by Brian Randolph.
But Bray, as well as backups Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman, were praised for the manner in which they managed the offense. Dooley took encouragement from the efforts of Bray's understudies as well. The sophomore Worley completed 11 of his 20 tosses for 110 yards while the midterm enrollee and true freshman Peterman hit on four of his eight tosses for 13 yards.
A new scheme isn't the only thing Sal Sunseri brought to Tennessee when he was hired in January to be the Vols' defensive coordinator. After Tennessee's first scrimmage on Saturday, it was apparent from both head coach Derek Dooley and players alike there will be more aggression.
After ranking 10th in the SEC in forcing turnovers and 11th in sacks, the Vol defense has been focused on being more aggressive and Dooley left the scrimmage noting the Vols looked much better in that department. One player that delivered more aggressiveness on Saturday was sophomore safety Brian Randolph. The Freshman All-SEC selection from last season finished the game with three tackles, an interception and a blocked field goal, according to stats provided by University of Tennessee Media Relations.
For linebacker Herman Lathers Friday was a big day. It was his first time playing football in Neyland Stadium in a year. Lathers admits he was far from good and far from "back" to his old self, but without question he was back. Lathers, who was credited with 4 tackles, was not held back in any work and has been challenged to fight through the lingering pain from the broken leg/ankle he suffered last June. (volquest.com)
ACC FOOTBALL NOTES
CLEMSON: Florida State won't be the only ACC team losing a linebacker for the rest of this spring. Joining the likes of Vince Williams, Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony will miss the remainder of spring because of a finger injury. An official release from the school states that Anthony has a torn ligament from the injury, which happened earlier this week, and will need surgery to repair it. Barring a complication, he should be back in time for fall camp. Anthony had 32 tackles last season in 13 games last season. (cft.com)
FLORIDA STATE: Senior linebacker Vince Williams broke his tibia during practice on Thursday. He will miss the remainder of Florida State's spring drills and is expected be sidelined for four to six weeks according to FSU coach Jimbo Fisher. Fisher said that Williams' tibia is broken, but it's only a "slight crack." "In four or five weeks, he'll be fine," Fisher said.
Williams currently shares first-team reps at middle linebacker with Telvin Smith. The two rotated at MLB throughout the 2011 season. Williams finished fifth on the team with 54 tackles to go along with two sacks and one interception. Smith tallied 42 tackles and three sacks.
Williams' last major injury came in 2009 when a back issue forced him to redshirt. Since playing in 12 games as a true freshman in 2008, the former Ridge Community High star has played in 36 total games at Florida State. While Florida State searches for the right mix across the offensive line and searches for depth at the running back spot, one position that's cause for no concern is at wide receiver.
The Seminoles return a bevy of talent including the top four and five of the top six pass catchers from a season ago. And that doesn't factor in junior Willie Haulstead, who missed all of last year with a concussion and 6-foot-6 freshman phenom Kelvin Benjamin who also redshirted in 2011.
All told, wide receivers accounted for 186 receptions for FSU last year, and 2012 returnees accounted for 157 of those catches (84.4 percent). Bert Reed, who caught 29 passes last season, is the only receiver that does not return.
Receiver Kenny Shaw, who ranked third on the team in receptions (34) and fourth in yards (418) last season, says the depth at the position is noticeable this spring. Sophomore Rashad Greene, who led the team with 38 catches, and senior Rodney Smith are penciled in as starters as of now, but Florida State has flaunted a wide rotation of receivers getting first team reps during the open portion of spring drills. (warchant.com)
GEORGIA TECH: The first public competition in last Saturday's scrimmage between Georgia Tech backup quarterbacks Synjyn Days and Vad Lee provided evidence of both players' potential. It also showed there's still distance between them and starter Tevin Washington. Washington opened the scrimmage by leading the first-team offense on a 10-play, 70-yard drive against the first-string defense, punctuated by A-back Robert Godhigh's 8-yard touchdown run. As planned, he played sparingly for the remainder of the roughly 100-play scrimmage. Days and Lee split about 70 of the snaps.
Days showed toughness running for hard yards, generally made good decisions when protection broke down and avoided ball-security problems that have been his undoing in the past. However, several botched center-quarterback exchanges plagued him and center Catlin Alford, who is at the position for the first time. He led the offense to one score and a missed field-goal try.
His highlights included a 25-yard pass to Godhigh and a 27-yard keeper out of the shotgun. Tech coach Paul Johnson said he thought Days improved from the first scrimmage last Saturday, particularly with his decision-making.
Lee led the offense to two touchdowns. He showed command on his final possession, a six-play, 70-yard drive run out of the shotgun that he finished with a 47-yard tackle-breaking run down the sideline. The play before, he threw a catchable deep ball to wide receiver Jeff Greene that he couldn't secure. (ajc.com)
MIAMI: Miami released yet another spring depth chart heading into this past weekend. That's the third since a month ago, when coach Al Golden released a depth chart to spring practice. A.J. Highsmith, who was the No. 1 strong safety when the previous depth chart was released a week earlier, is now listed as an "or" with Vaughn Telemaque. Gionni Paul and Tyrone Cornileus also have an "or" between them at one outside linebacker spot, as do Brandon McGee and Thomas Finnie at cornerback. Sean Harvey has vaulted to the No. 1 fullback spot because of injuries. The depth chart can be viewed in its entirety here. Also worth noting is that quarterback Stephen Morris took reps in drills for the first time this spring, during the Hurricanes' 12th spring practice Thursday. Recovering from back surgery, Morris did not wear pads. (espn.com)
Brent Beaird writes for Lindy's Sports, Gator Bait magazine and Samsportsline.com. He can be heard on 1010XL sports radio in Jacksonville, Florida. Brent, who is a Heisman Trophy voter, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
E-MAIL BRENT AT email@example.com