Gator Linebacker Arrested: University of Florida sophomore middle linebacker Antonio Morrison (left #12) was released from jail on Monday after being arrested early Sunday. The police report associated with the arrest stated Morrison punched a bouncer outside a bar in downtown Gainesville early Sunday morning after a verbal dispute over a bill. Morrison, the 6-1, 240lbs bruising tackler, is a projected starter at middle linebacker in 2013 with the graduation of 2012 leading tackler Jon Bostic. During his true freshman season Antonio Morrison had 34 individual tackle and a sack in limited action.
Kentucky Adds the Davis Brothers: Redshirt freshman twins from Austintown, Ohio, Demitrious and Chris Davis, have announced they will transfer from the University of Pittsburgh to Kentucky. The twins will initially walk-on to the Wildcat football program but will have a chance to earn a scholarship in future seasons. Both Davis brothers will have to sit out the 2013 season but will be eligible in 2014. Given the new pass-happy offensive system Kentucky has installed, it is understood playing time will be available for incoming wide receivers in Lexington. When coming out of high school in the recruiting class of 2012, Demitrious was ranked as the 32nd best athlete, while Chris was evaluated as the 33rd best athlete by the Rivals.com. Although both have exceptional 4.4 speed, it is believed that Demitrious will play wide receiver for the Wildcats, while Chris will be a defensive back. The brothers had offers from Oregon, West Virginia, UCLA, Baylor, Arkansas, Oregon State, Purdue and Vanderbilt when signing with Pittsburgh in 2012.
Top Destinations at Each SEC University: The culture of the Southeastern Conference is second to none in the landscape of college football. A small part of the tradition that drives the culture of each member institution are the local, but legendary restaurants and bars in each SEC town or city. Below you will find a few of the unique stops each SEC die-hard fan should visit in their lifetime. Live For Saturdays…
University of Missouri - Harpo’s
Texas A&M University – The Dixie Chicken
University of Kentucky – The World Famous Two Keys
University of Florida – The Swamp Bar
University of Alabama – Houndstooth Sports Bar
University of Mississippi – The Library
Auburn University – The War Eagle Supper Club
Louisiana State University – Walk Ons Bar
Arkansas University – Foghorn’s
University of Georgia – The Nowhere Bar
Vanderbilt University – The Flying Saucer
University of Tennessee – The Hill
Mississippi State University – Cowbell’s Sport Grill
University of South Carolina – Sharky’s Bar
Recruiting 2014 and the Ole Boys of the South: In our last article Saturday Morning Tailgate focused on three surprise programs, Ole Miss, Kentucky and Tennessee, and their recruiting success in Spring/Summer 2013. But don’t be fooled, the tradition rich programs of the South are still the “Powers of the Southeastern Conference” and recruiting with that same confidence, picking, choosing and stealing prospects throughout the nation. Below is a recount of the recruiting success the Crimson Tide, the Aggies and the Bayou Bengals:
The Texas A&M Aggies Recruiting Class: Other than winning the SEC Title in their first season as members of the Southeastern Conference, every possible outcome went the way of the Aggies in 2012/2013 (Heisman, Cotton Bowl and a nationally televised win over Alabama). With this success, the Brothers of the Gigem Nation have captured the recruiting momentum in the Lone Star State, going head-to-head with arch-rival the University of Texas on multiple recruits and more than often winning these battles. Newly promoted co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Clarence McKinney and wide receivers coach David Beaty have been recruiting stalwarts for the Aggies. Both assistant coaches have been credited for turning the recruiting tides for A&M in the Lone Star State and have demolished the fertile areas of metro Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston.
Analysis: Aggie head coach Kevin Sumlin understands the importance of defense and the role it plays in succeeding in the Southeastern Conference. Given the amount of defensive linemen signed in the 2013 class, the 2014 Texas A&M class seems to be focused on building depth in the Aggies’ secondary and linebacker units. At this time the crown jewels of this class on defense are; outside linebacker prospect Hoza Scott, an instinctive leader who is the type of athlete that starts for three to four seasons in the SEC and Nick Harvey, a cornerback prospect, who comes equipped with all the tools needed to be a successful defensive back in the SEC and should see snaps early in his college career. Overall, coach Sumlin has the Aggies rolling in the right direction, the question is now, can the Aggies defense improve enough to compete against the monsters of the SEC West, while keeping the Texas A&M offense dangerous both during and after the days of Johnny Football?
Key Recruit: Kyle Allen – QB – 6’4, 195lbs – Scottsdale, Arizona
- Top Ranked 2014 Pro-Style Quarterback Prospect (according to Rivals.com)
The LSU Recruiting Class: Since websites like Rivals.com and Scout.com began tracking individual programs and their classes in the early 2000s, the Bayou Bengals have easily been the most consistent conference member ranked among the nation’s recruiting elite. And 2014 will continue this track record of impressive success. At this time, the crown gem of this class is Texas safety/cornerback prospect Ed Paris. Though his 6-1, 190lbs frame may resemble that of a safety prospect, Paris has the hips, agility and speed that the LSU coaching staff covets in their cornerbacks, i.e. Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne, Corey Webster and Tharold Simon. The Bayou Bengal have a full allotment of scholarships to use for the 2014 class and could end with a Top 5 rated class if lucky.
Analysis: Although most programs would be pretty satisfied with the current state of commitments the Bayou Bengal have accepted, most programs don’t have the amount of talent the borders of Louisiana has produced in 2014. LSU should be proud of their current commitments from Texas, but when the dominoes start falling in their home territory, the 2014 LSU class is going to be scary good. Most recruiting analyst are expecting well known prospects in Louisiana like Leonard Lournette (New Orleans, LA, Top Ranked RB) and Cameron Robinson ( West Monroe, LA, Top Ranked OT) to end up at LSU. Add the other top tier talent the Tigers are in on in Florida, Texas and Mississippi and Les Miles might be vying for the top rated recruiting class in the nation come signing day.
Key Recruit: Ed Paris – SS/CB – 6’1, 200lbs – Mansfield, Texas
- Fourth Ranked 2014 Safety Prospect (according to Rivals.com)
The Alabama Recruiting Class: Another year, another Top 5 recruiting class. As easy as the Crimson Tide make this process look just winning National Titles does not entitle a program to achieve recruiting success. Even more impressive seems to be the revolving door of assistant coaches whom leave Tuscaloosa, only to be replaced by staff members with recruiting prowess equal too or greater than before…Hats off to King Saban. The man is the best in the business and does not have the sell the program, as Alabama sells itself.
Analysis: When you are a program such as Alabama, most of the elite prospects nationally are in play to become future members of the Crimson Tide football program. But this also means the Alabama coaching staff will have to wait until national high school football all-star games and elaborate January/February 2014 press conferences to land said prospects. But worry not Crimson Tide fans, if one would search through the best remaining uncommitted members of the 2014, at each position, you will see Alabama is in play for many, if not all. With that said, looking to the future, the 2014 edition of Alabama football might have the two most physically imposing and punishing running backs in college football, in current freshman Derrick Henry (6’3, 242lbs) and 2014 signee Bo Scarbrough (6’2, 222lbs). Together, along with surely another massive Alabama offensive line, the 2014 Crimson Tide rushing attack will put the fear of God into SEC linebackers conference wide. National Signing Day 2014 will be a great day to be a Alabama fan.
Key Recruit: Zach Whitely – LB -6’2, 222lbs – Galena Park, Texas
- Fifth Ranked 2014 Inside Linebacker Prospect (according to Rivals.com)
In the SEC Recruiting is 24/7 – 365 Days a Year: We are a little less than eight months away from national signing day 2014 but recruiting efforts are in full effect across the Southeastern Conference. Aside from coaches traveling the nation to recruit, on-site summer camps give SEC staffs the opportunity to evaluate hundreds prospects, develop meaningful relationships and begin the process of accepting 2014 commitments. Although the SEC has always been the center of the recruiting world, the crazed fans of God’s Conference have the potential to see something for the ages in 2014. With the current state of recruiting, both with traditional powers and cellar dwellers, every member within the Southeastern Conference has the opportunity to finish within the Top-25 of many recruiting analysis rankings. Although that might be somewhat far-fetched, as seen below, some of the lower-tier SEC programs are recruiting at elite levels. Below is a breakdown of three surprising SEC programs and their early summer success:
The Kentucky Wildcats Recruiting Class: At the time this article is written Kentucky is ranked third in the SEC and fifth in college football in Rivals.com’s 2014 recruiting rankings. Yes, this is not an error. This is unknown recruiting territory for the Football Wildcats. But the new regime of the Mark Stoops Era has the athletic department, prospects and Bluegrass fan-base believing football can be relevant in the SEC. Need proof, over 50,000 fans came to the Kentucky Spring Football Game. Without a doubt the Kentucky Wildcats are the surprise of the Conference and have a lot of momentum to finish the 2014 recruiting season strong.
Analysis: Kentucky has made their living in Ohio, scoring commitments from three of the top ten rated prospects within the borders of the Buckeye State. Youngstown natives Vince Marrow (Tight End Coach) and UK head coach Mark Stoops have used every hometown relationship to win Ohio recruiting battles over more prestigious programs such as Penn State, Nebraska, Ohio State, West Virginia and Michigan. Don’t forget about the dividends Stoops’ time at Florida State has earned, as defensive end prospect, Denzel Ware, a one time Seminole commitment, has given the Wildcats his pledge. Finally, add the staffs’ ability to lock down Kentucky hometown hero and top quarterback prospect Drew Barker and the Wildcats are staring a Top-20 2014 recruiting class dead in the face.
Key Recruit: Drew Barker – QB – 6’3, 214lbs – Burlington, Kentucky
- Fifth Ranked 2014 Pro-Style Quarterback Prospect (according to Rivals.com)
- UK’s new Air Raid Offense Fits the Strengths of this prospects skills
The Tennessee Volunteers Recruiting Class: The Butch Jones Administration has made recruiting their first, second and only priority since taken the Volunteers program. New assistant coaches, Mark Elder (Tight Ends Coach) and SEC veteran Tommy Thigpen (Linebackers Coach) have made an effort to close the borders of Tennessee, an aspect former head coach Phillip Fulmer used during his successful tenure. UT has commitments from four of the top ten prospects, while sitting pretty with most of the highly ranked football prospects in the Volunteer State. Furthermore, wide receiver coach Zach Azzanni and running backs coach Robert Gillespie are thought to be in on many other top prospects within Florida and Georgia. If the Volunteer’s recruiting goals come true in their home and neighboring regions, UT fans should expect a Top 15 class to arrive in Knoxville in 2014.
Analysis: New head coach Butch Jones and some of his coaching staff that followed him from the University of Cincinnati have strong recruiting ties to areas outside the traditional SEC territories. For that reason, Volunteer fans might see an increase in commitments and enrollments from areas such as Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Illinois in future classes. Although this has not been a recipe for success in the past, given the hold on elite southern prospects by programs such as Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Auburn, Florida, Ole Miss and South Carolina, stealing the top-tier recruits from northern ACC and southern Big Ten regions might be the best manner to regain relevancy in the brutal SEC East.
Key Recruit: Jalen Hurd – RB – 6’3, 230lbs – Hendersonville, Tennessee
- Fifth Ranked 2014 Running Back Prospect (according to Rivals.com)
- Jones had always featured a strong rushing attack in his offensive schemes
The Ole Miss Recruiting Class: Coming off the miracle recruiting class Hugh Freeze and company delivered to Oxford in 2013, should SEC fans even be surprised if 2014 produces the same results? Not at all. Ole Miss employs some of the best recruiting talent in college football, i.e. defensive line coach Chris Kiffin, offensive line coach Matt Luke and assistant head coach & running backs Coach Derrick Nix. Together this assembly of talent will have Ole Miss in the mix for some of the best prospects in the southeast. More music to the ears of Rebel’s fans, Ole Miss lies in the national hotbed of junior college talent and has always picked and choose as they saw fit.
Analysis: Although not as sexy as the 2013 recruiting class yet, many of the need positions that can be the difference between a 7-5 and 9-3 season are being addressed. Rebel commitment Andy Bauer, the top rated prospect in Missouri and a Top 15 offensive tackle recruit in 2014, is the type of big ugly that SEC West rivals Alabama and LSU strongly covet for trench warfare. Furthermore, home grown running back prospect, D.K. Buford (a Top-15 running recruit nationally) has turned down many SEC programs to come aboard with the Rebels, as he fits Freeze’s spread rushing philosophy perfectly. Last, given Ole Miss’ strong start to the 2014 recruiting season and the momentum the program has captured nationally, it is foreseeable the Rebels will land a Top 10 class once again.
Key Recruit: Demarquis Gates – LB – 6’2, 217lbs – Hampton, Georgia
- Sixth Ranked 2014 Outside Linebacker Prospect (according to Rivals.com)
- To take the Rebels to the next level, the defense must become an SEC Top 10 unit
Tyler Russell, Mississippi State University, Senior: In the first half of the 2012 season, Tyler Russell looked like an All-SEC quarterback, throwing for 15 touchdowns and just one interception. However, in the second half of the season Russell played mediocre at best, throwing nine touchdowns and nine interceptions, while playing some of the most difficult teams in the SEC West. If Russell, who lost his best wide receivers to graduation, is too regain his early 2012 form and be a Top-5 SEC QB this fall, the Bulldogs will need multiple vertical threats to emerge from a roster that looks to be short on talent, depth and speed.
Bo Wallace, Ole Miss University, Junior: Bo Wallace, who had a break-out season in 2012, throwing for 2,994 yards and 22 touchdowns, along with 390 rushing yards and eight scores, could be one of the most dangerous weapons in the SEC this fall. The Volunteer State native tossed eight touchdowns over the final two games and threw for 310 yards in a narrow loss to LSU in mid-November. The 6-4, 230lbs passer had shoulder surgery after the BBVA Compass Bowl victory but is expected to return by the Rebel’s summer practice. However, shoulder surgeries, for example Missouri’s quarterback James Franklin surgery in 2012, are not a guaranteed return to full health immediately. If Wallace should report to summer practice with a fully recovered right throwing shoulder, he could easily improve on last season stats with Ole Miss’ arsenal of receiving weapons returning in 2013.
Zach Mettenberger, Louisiana State University, Senior: Zach Mettenberger arrived in Baton Rouge with high expectations attached to his rocket launcher of a right arm, but when the Bayou Bengals needed a game deciding play the passing game disappeared. In 13 starts last season, Mettenberger threw for 2,609 yards and 12 touchdowns, while also tossing seven picks. Mettenberger’s season of highs and lows was never more evident then his solid performance against Alabama, torching the Crimson Tide for 298 yards and one score, while just throwing 120 yards against Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Tigers have a new coordinator in former NFL coach Cam Cameron and all their wide receiving threats back from last season. If Zach Mettenberger can improve, he could rise to the top tier of the SEC and get a dangerous vertical passing game with going with speeders Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry.
Jeff Driskel, University of Florida, Junior: The Sunshine State signal caller was the top dual-threat quarterback prospects coming out of high school in 2011. Driskel saw action in five games during his freshman season when John Brantley was injured, but as a sophomore, the 6-4, 245lbs power house settled in as the starter and began to command the Gator’s offense. Driskel is entering his third season in Gainesville and his second full season as the unquestioned starter. Driskel brings an elite set of dual-threat tools, making him one of the athletes to play QB in college football next season. His 177 yards rushing against Vanderbilt last season, set the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game. If Driskel can learn to play more consistently in the passing game, he could blossom into one of the SEC’s best quarterbacks and the hardest quarterback to game plan against, aside from Mr. Manziel.
Volunteers Running Back Rejoins Team: In a move that many SEC insiders have expected since the hiring of Butch Jones, the University of Tennessee football team has announced junior running back Marlin Lane has been reinstated by the Volunteers and will be eligible to play in 2013. Lane missed most of spring practice due to a undocumented disciplinary violation, but Volunteer’s head coach Butch Jones has confirmed Marlin Lane will be available for summer practice. As a sophomore in 2012, Marlin Lane accounted for 658 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns, behind senior-to-be Rajion Neal for the team lead.
Top QB Recruit Picks MLB Over SEC: What many Aggie fans and recruiting analyst have long expected is finally be coming to true, as Kohl Stewart, a top quarterback prospect from Houston’s St. Pius-X High School, has chosen to play major league baseball over college football in College Station. Stewart, who was ranked as a Top-15 pro-style quarterback nationally in the 2013 class by Rivals.com, was chosen fourth overall by the Minnesota Twins and announced he will sign with the American League Central ball-club. Stewart, who routinely throws in the mid-90s but has been known to touch 97 mph, was the 2013 Texas’ Gatorade Player of the Year for baseball, but also excelled on the gridiron, throwing for 8,803 yards and 87 touchdowns in his high school football career. Stewart was one of two quarterback prospects the Aggies took in the 2013 class, along with Kenny Hill from Southlake (Texas) Carroll High School, but the Aggies will not be short on QB depth in 2013. Along with the return of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M returns quarterbacks Matt Joeckel and Matt Davis. Joechel, the brother of 2013 NFL Draft pick Luke Joechel, is considered a pro-style quarterback, while Davis is more of a dual-threat option.
MSU Will Be Down Scholarships: The Mississippi State Athletic Department has confirmed a decision in their NCAA case, in connection to the recruitment of defensive back Will Redmond, where as the NCAA has agreed upon the self-imposed sanctions the Bulldogs levied upon their program earlier this year. The NCAA’s investigation surrounding the Mississippi State football program found a principal infraction where a Bulldog booster “made contact with a top football prospect and provided impermissible benefits.” In this report authored by the NCAA Division Committee on Infractions, states a Mississippi State booster arranged for a recruit to use cars, provided him with cash as well as other benefits, including the car for approximately $2,000 below its actual value. The penalties assessed against the Bulldogs include:
- Two years of probation from June 7, 2013 through June 6, 2015
- A one-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach, which prevents him from recruiting activities and booster interaction. The public report contains further details.
- A reduction of the number of official visits to 39, from the four-year average of 41, for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years (Self-imposed by the university).
- A reduction of the number of recruiting days during the spring evaluation period by four, from 168 to 164, for the 2013-14 academic year (Self-imposed by the university).
- A reduction in the number of total scholarships by two, from 85 to 83, for the 2012-13 academic year (Self-imposed by the university).
- A reduction in the number of initial and total scholarships by two, from 25 to 23 and 85 to 83, respectively, for the 2013-14 academic year (Self-imposed by the university).
Wildcats Announce Multiple Transfers: The University of Kentucky athletic department has confirmed the departure of four football players, a situation that will leave the Wildcats short two players at the much-needed wide receiver position. Sophomore receivers DeMarcus Sweat and Bookie Cobbins and freshman defensive backs Shawn Blaylock and Sterling Wright are transferring to other football programs. Furthermore, rumors are floating around Lexington that sophomore linebacker Demarus Rancifer will not return to the Wildcat program next year. With the transfers of Sweat and Cobbins, Kentucky only has four scholarship wide receivers in Junior Demarco Robinson and sophomores A.J. Legree, Daryl Collins and Rashad Cunningham, until their 2013 recruiting class arrives on campus this summer.