Wednesday, April 30, 2008

2009 NFL Mock Draft

To go along with the 2009 Bracketology that's been up for weeks, ESPN has now released their first edition of a 2009 mock draft. If it holds anywhere close to being true, it's going to be a great year of football in the SEC. Overall, 13 of the 32 first rounders are projected to be from the SEC, including 7 of the top 10.

Obviously, there's some fairly presumptuous assumptions predicting a lot of underclassmen including Stafford, Moreno, Harvin, and Tebow. It's even more presumptuous to assume that the Cowboys will be in the Super Bowl. Tony "Mr. Clutch" Simpson-Romo turns into Ryan Leaf in the 2nd half of playoff games...

Another interesting tidbit is that - while there are a baker's dozen projected in the first round - only 6 schools are represented. LSU leads the way with 4, Florida has 3, Georgia and Ole Miss 2, and Auburn and Alabama each have 1. Anyway, here are the 13 SEC players projected and their notes.

3. Kansas City Chiefs -- Matt Stafford*, QB, Georgia

Another injury-plagued and disappointing season out of fragile QB Brodie Croyle will force the Chiefs to address the position with this high draft pick in 2009. If the supremely talented Stafford continues to progress as he did last fall, he could easily emerge as a top-five pick next April.

4. Miami Dolphins -- Al Woods, DT, LSU

At 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds, Woods is a physically imposing defensive tackle with enough size and strength to anchor the middle of a 3-4 defense.

5. Cincinnati Bengals -- Sen'Derrick Marks*, DT, Auburn

The Bengals got shut out in their pursuit of an elite defensive tackle in this year's draft, but 2009 will be more kind. Marks is an undersized playmaker with the first-step quickness to disrupt as a 3-technique tackle, which is exactly what Marvin Lewis' defense needs along its front.

6. Oakland Raiders -- Andre Smith*, OT, Alabama

Smith stepped in immediately as the Tide's starting left tackle and continues to improve with more coaching and game experience. The Raiders could enlist a player with his kind of skills to take care of their most recent first-round investments in QB JaMarcus Russell and RB Darren McFadden.

7. Chicago Bears -- Tim Tebow*, QB, Florida

It's almost certain that the Bears will need a quarterback come next offseason. Unfortunately, next year's crop of signal-callers does not look promising at this point. Bears fans won't be thrilled if the team uses a high pick on another Gators quarterback following the failed Rex Grossman experiment, but Tebow's unique blend of skills and rare intangibles might be too good to pass up. Should Tebow elect to leave school early, however, his uncommon skill set could make him the most difficult prospect at any position to grade.

8. San Francisco 49ers -- Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi

Oher, who possesses the size and athletic ability to develop into an upper-echelon starting tackle in the NFL, would make an ideal bookend opposite 2007 first-rounder Joe Staley.

10. New York Jets -- Knowshon Moreno*, RB, Georgia

Moreno burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2007 and he should build on that momentum as a first-year starter behind a more mature offensive line during the upcoming season. The Jets were not able to land McFadden in this year's draft but Moreno would be worth the wait if he's available in 2009.

19. Washington Redskins -- Greg Hardy*, DE, Mississippi

Hardy is flying under the radar right now despite notching 10 solo sacks the past two seasons, and the Redskins will be looking for a young pass-rushing threat after failing to land one during the latest draft.

20. Minnesota Vikings -- Percy Harvin*, WR/RS, Florida

Staying healthy for a full season would all but guarantee Harvin a spot in the first round of the NFL draft, either next year or in 2010.

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Ciron Black, OT, LSU

The Bucs will be looking to enlist the services of a talented left tackle prospect such as Black, who displays quick feet for a 6-5, 315-pounder.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers -- Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU

Jackson is among the elite senior defensive prospects right now but that might not hold up for 12 full months, as he's simply not a great fit for every team's defensive scheme. At 6-5 and 290, Jackson is best suited to play defensive end in a three-man front like the one employed in Pittsburgh.

27. New York Giants -- Brandon Spikes, ILB, Florida

The Giants could use a quick and powerful tackling machine like Spikes after failing to address that need early in the 2008 draft.

31. Dallas Cowboys -- Demetrius Byrd, WR, LSU

Wide receiver is the one area Dallas did not address during an otherwise promising 2008 draft. Byrd has a lot to prove as a senior but he certainly has the blend of size and deep speed it takes to emerge as a first-round draft pick.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Random Links for a Tuesday

* When Title IX was passed several years ago, it led to the emergence of more sanctioned women's sports. Things like rifle and field hockey give the university's sports information employees something to do in their spare time from football, basketball, and baseball. But Title IX has nothing to do with this: Ice Hockey is becoming prevalent in the SEC.

Fortunately Kentucky, Auburn, and Ole Miss have remained hockey-less. ESPN finally stopped wasting air time on hockey a few years back, but they still show the highlights in a desperate attempt to convince people south of the Mason-Dixon line that hockey is relevant. It's not. Sure it's fun to knock back a couple of cold ones at a minor league game and hope for a fight, but seriously... Ice hockey? in the SEC? No thanks. Just because it's prevalent, doesn't mean it's relevant.

* ESPN continues their hate affair with new Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino. In a mockery of mock drafts, Gregg Easterbrook suggests the Falcons use their pick on:

3. Atlanta Falcons: Eliot Spitzer, former governor, New York. Falcons owner Arthur Blank explains: "Compared to Bobby Petrino, this guy is a class act."

* The AJC has a good read up with questions SEC teams need to answer before football starts up

* Owch... And can someone tell me why the announcer thinks the ball bounced in the dirt?

Friday, April 25, 2008

David Pollack to retire from NFL

UGA great David Pollack has announced that he's retiring from the NFL. It's not exactly a surprising announcement - he hasn't played in a game since early 2006 - but it is a sad reminder that life isn't always fair. The guys at The Blue Workhorse have a few thoughts on Pollack's (too) brief NFL career.

Pollack was a 3-time All American while at UGA. Opposing coaches basically schemed their offense to go away from Pollack and he still almost always was in the middle of the play. Perhaps he's most remembered for this play from the 2003 South Carolina Game.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A little bit of everything

Fox Sports has 20 burning questions about the 2008 college football season, including a few involving the SEC.

#5- Which teams will be the most disappointing?
Alabama- not quite there yet, but the fans are getting impatient. It takes time to build a great team.
I can’t imagine this will be the case anywhere outside of Tuscaloosa. I know the Tide won the recruiting national championship (and have the shirts to prove it), but few outside the Tide Nation really expect a whole lot out of that team this year. They’re certainly headed in the right direction under Saban, but they finished 7-6 and won the Indy Bowl last year. What expectations do they have that they’ll be so disappointed this year?

#6- Which BCS teams will be the sleepers this year?
SEC- Mississippi State
I think the Bulldogs will be closer to disappointing than the Tide will be. MSU is coming off an 8-win season and a bowl win. Seeing as how they were (quite possibly) the worst 8-win SEC team in history last season, their luck will most likely run out this season. Their abysmal offense was just that in their 6-0 (in OT) spring game. They get Vandy and Kentucky at home in conference, but no way they approach last year’s success.
8- Which BCS conference will prove to be the strongest?
yada...yada...yada...But this year looks like it will be the year of the Big 12.
The SEC will drop off a little bit this year. Kentucky doesn't have 'Dre, Tenn. doesn't have Ainge, Vandy is Vandy, Mississippi State is very mediocre, Mississippi and Arkansas have new coaches, Alabama has had strong recruiting classes, but still isn't there yet and South Carolina has so many question marks, you pretty much have to peg them as a .500 team. Auburn, Florida, Georgia and LSU are the big dawgs. The rest are puppies.
She’s right and wrong here. I’ll give her that Kentucky will be worse this year, MSU is mediocre and that Vandy is Vandy. I think the Hogs will struggle this year rebuilding under Petrino. But that’s where our agreement stops. Why is Tennessee disqualified because Ainge is gone? No way they win the East again this year, but the Vols are hardly a “puppy” as she claims.

Alabama will most likely improve over last season and they suffered a few painfully close losses. Ole Miss has a chance to be one of the most improved teams in the country under Houston Nutt. South Carolina was one of the top teams in the country before they suffered a collapse for the record books.

Sure, the SEC will be weaker than last year. Kentucky and Mississippi State won’t make bowl games this year after notching bowl wins last year, but Ole Miss and South Carolina could replace them if the cards fall right. I don’t think the SEC is ready to pass that torch off just yet..
12- Which new first year coach will have the most success?
You have to go with Bobby Petrino. …if the Hogs come out of this season with a winning record, then that will have been a huge success.
I guess that depends on your definition of the word success. If Petrino guides Arkansas to a 7-5 record and Houston Nutt does the same thing for Ole Miss, who’s had more success? My guess is that – at season’s end - Rebel fans are happier with Nutt than Hog fans are with Petrino.

20- Who will win the Heisman?
Tim Tebow of Florida is the obvious front-runner. But there are some others who will make a strong case; RB Noel Devine of West Virginia, QB Pat White of West Virginia, QB Chase Daniel of Mizzou, RB Beanie Wells of OSU, QB Sam Bradford of Oklahoma, RB Knowshon Moreno of Georgia, WR Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech, U Jeremy Maclin of Mizzou, QB Max Hall of BYU, and RB Joe McKnight of USC. Sleepers: PJ Hill of Wisconsin, WR/RB Percy Harvin of Florida and QB Colt McCoy of Texas.
My three way-too-early early picks are Knowshon Moreno (Georgia), Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) and Chase Daniel (Mizzou)
Of course Tebow is the frontrunner. How could he not be with a collection of YouTube videos like he has?

As usual it’s a wide open race. Look for tOSU’s Chris Wells to get a lot of pub down the stretch as the Buckeyes roll through the directional school equivalents in the Big10+1. You can count on Homer Herbie to begin the season long fawning in July or August, whenever he and Corso start getting their worthless mugs on TV on a daily basis.

19- Can LSU repeat?
Heck yeah! A few things have to happen, but the odds are good they can repeat. If Miles can get his QB situation under control, then this could be a special year for the Tigers. Their schedule is what dreams are made of. They play eight games at home, and four on the road, including at Auburn, at Florida and at Arkansas to close out their campaign. If they don't slip up at South Carolina and beat Georgia in Death Valley, they have a solid shot at being undefeated. The Georgia game is the big question mark in terms of them being undefeated, but they can still win the division crown since Georgia is in the SEC East, and LSU is in the West. Playing in any BCS bowl is not an unrealistic expectation for the defending champs, and neither is getting to the Big Dance.
The Tigers certainly have as good a shot as anyone. Their non-conference schedule is a joke, so no worries there. No way they survive undefeated, but if they have just 1 loss and win the SEC Championship Game, no way they don’t deserve a hot to defend their title. Of course, that’ll all depend on QB play and whether or not Perilloux is even on the team this August...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

An SEC legend retiring

Legendary Arkansas cross country track and field John McDonnell has announced he'll step down after the 2008 outdoor track and field season. He coached Arkansas for 36 years and won 42 NCAA championships and 83 conference titles.

This pretty much says it all:

McDonnell’s 42 national titles are more than any coach in any sport in the history of collegiate athletics. He has won five national triple crowns, 20 conference triple crowns, 34 consecutive cross country conference championships, including 17 straight in the Southeastern Conference, and has been named national, regional or conference coach of the year a total of 140 times.

Shocking: ESPN dedicates Cyberspace to tOSU

I am shocked - shocked I say - to see that ESPN dedicated a page to boasting about how strong the Buckeyes will be this season. After being outclassed across the board for 2 straight seasons, the talking heads at ESPN are standing by their Buckeyes.

Now, instead of making up stories about SEC coaches changing jobs, Homer Herbstreit can make excuses as to why his Suckeyes have been embarrassed for 2 straight seasons. Sure they've got basically their entire team from last season back, but that team was slow and systematically exposed by a clearly superior LSU team. James Katzenmoyer Laurinaitis is an absolute joke. There's a perfectly good reason he came back for his senior season - he was exposed for the mediocre player he is against the Tigers and Gators in the two bowl losses. LSU ran their entire offense directly at Laurinaitis and moved the ball at will.

Look, I understand it's impressive to go 23-3 over two seasons no matter what conference you're in. But if tOSU finishes with only 1 loss, you'd be hard-pressed to convince anyone who doesn't live in Columbus or work for ESPN that the Buckeyes are more deserving than a 1-loss Georgia, Florida, LSU, USC, Oklahoma, or Texas team. But, like Dook basketball, tOSU has their own personal spokesman on ESPN. Homer Herbie is the ultimate Buckeye Sunshine Pumper who will work diligently all season to convince otherwise intelligent people that this Buckeye team deserves a chance to be humiliated on a national stage, just like their 2 predecessors were.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Abalama don't sppel so good

What better way to honor a senior captain than to misspell their name in concrete on campus?

Pete Carroll will be hearing from Beck Campbell

Unless Mark Sanchez screws up - which is certainly not outside the realm of possibility - Mitch Mustain won't be the starter for USC this season. And we all know what that means: cranky phone calls from Beck Campbell, Mustain's crazy mom who believed that her precious little snowflake and his 52% completion percentage and 10/9 TD/INT ratio gave the Hogs a better chance of winning than pounding the ball with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones behind a good OL.

Somewhere in Oxford, MS, Houston Nutt is smiling...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Original Gator Hator

I have reimvalutated the saturation and convoluted that that's funny. I don't care who you are. Gotta love the Squidbillies.

Bracketology 2009

Now that the 2007-08 college basketball season is days behind us, it's obviously high time to release predictions for next year's tournament. Regardless of how silly it is to try and predict next year's bracket in April, it should be a better Dance for the SEC in '09. This year, only Tennessee advanced to the Sweet 16, where they were schooled by a deeper, better Louisville team. Arkansas and Mississippi State advanced to the 2nd round, but were sacrificial lambs to 1-seeds.

According to Joe Lunardi, 6 teams will make the Tourney next season. He sees:
Florida: 3-seed
Mississippi State: 6-seed
Kentucky: 6-seed
Ole Miss: 8-seed
Tennessee: 9-seed
Alabama: 11-seed

While I'm no Bracketologist, the only ones I would agree with are Florida as a 3 and Ole Miss as a 9. They both made it to the NIT semi-finals before bowing out and will look to build on that success. The big question mark for UF will be the inside play, but my feeling is that Speights will be back. With the talent in this year's draft, I don't think he'll be projected high enough to justify leaving early. Even if he does hire an agent, the Gators have enough talent everywhere else to be a real threat next year.

As for the Rebels, they've been a win or two away from a Dance bid in both years under Andy Kennedy. No question their success next year relies on the development - or recruitment - of some big bodies, but, like the Gators, have a young, immensely talented backcourt returning for next season. I think the Rebels break through next year, though it may very well be in the form of a dreaded 8/9 game.

As for the others, here's why I question the seedings (or even inclusion):

Mississippi State: Who knows how this team will look next year? All-SEC big man Charles Rhodes is gone for sure, as is PG Ben Hansbrough, who had some big scoring games for the Bulldogs this season. Most importantly though is the coming decision by Jamont Gordon - the best player in conference this past season - to either stay in Starkville for one more season or go pro. The recruiting class has taken a blow with previous MSU commitment Scotty Hopson signing with Tennessee. (as an aside, in the last 13 months, MSU has lost 3 players to transfer - the Delk twins and Hansbrough - and had Hopson renege on his commitment to them. Bulldog fans - what's going on there? Anything to be concerned about?)

Kentucky: Sure, Patrick Patterson will (by all accounts) be back and presumably better, but who else is going to score... or handle the ball for that matter. Gone are Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley, who combined for more than 34ppg between the two of them). Gillespie is a decent enough coach and the 'Cats have a good class coming in, but I think they're 2 years away before really being back. I think a 6-seed may be asking too much.

Tennessee: With all the success Bruce Pearl has had everywhere he's coached, what makes Lunardi think that UT will plummet down to a 9 seed next season? Even with losing JaJuan Smith and Chris Lofton, the Vols are loaded with talent and are bringing in one of the nation's top recruiting classes. While I doubt the Vols are a 2-seed next year, I think a 3-5 seed is much more likely than a 9.

Alabama: I guess he's assuming that Richard Hendrix comes back. If he does, I could possibly see this happening, but they'll still have Mark Gottfried as a coach and they'll be pinning their hopes on Ronald Steele, who, when he was healthy a few years ago, was as explosive a PG as there was in conference. But it's been a while since he's played a college game, and he's even testing the draft waters, though don't look for that to come to fruition.

My Darkhorse: I wouldn't be shocked if LSU ended up dancing next season. Now that they've gotten rid of Brady, they have a chance to be competitive every game. Losing Randolph is a big blow obviously, but there's a wealth of talent that will be in place next season in Baton Rouge and new HC Trent Johnson seems to have a knack for getting the most out of his players.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Excellent read on ESPN bias

There's a great piece on the Sporting News website that delves into the bias of ESPN, particularly that of no-talent ass clown Kirk "Homer" Herbstriet and his perennial tOSU love fest.

It's basically a summary of what every SEC fan knows anyway.. the Buckeyes had no business being on the field with either LSU or Florida the last 2 seasons. They were outclassed at every position. They were slow and lumbering and abused by SEC Speed. Guys like Chris Wells are fast, but that's just one. the SEC depth charts go 2-3 deep with that sort of speed.

What Goes Around Comes Around

Picture from LWS

In an earlier post, I asked if there could have been a more fitting end to the season than all of Memphis' flaws manifesting in the final 3 minutes of the title game.

Turns out, there could be... and there is. While Calipari's band of criminals were in San Antonio over the weekend, another band of criminals broke into some Tiger players' apartments.

Living in the Memphis metro area, I can tell you that there is a lot of outrage over this. Concerns like "Who would do this to these young men representing our University?" and "This is like those lowlifes who stole things from Katrina victims!" Of course this sort of outcry was missing when Joey Dorsey twice punched people and ran, or Robert Dozier and Jeremy Hunt punched women, or when Shawn Taggart and Jeff Robinson were arrested for inciting a riot, or when Andre Allen was arrested for soliciting a prostitute.

But hey, with those blue and gray glasses on your face and a cup of Calipari kool-aid in your hand, the world is a very different place. One free of rules and discipline and consequences. I wonder how they'll function in the next few years when Calipari isn't around...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Trent Johnson reportedly in at LSU

Despite rumors that UMass' Travis Ford, Ole Miss' Andy Kennedy, and VCU's Anthony Grant were the top 3 candidates to replace John Brady, it looks like the Tigers have landed Stanford's Trent Johnson.

Johnson took the Cardinal to the Sweet 16 this year and may best be remembered for his uncharacteristic - but nonetheless stupid - blowup in the 2nd round game against Marquette that saw him get ejected from the game. Stanford ended up winning on a last second shot or that would have been a much bigger story than it was. And, with both Lopez brothers bolting for the NBA, it's really not a surprise that Johnson was eager to get the hell outta Palo Alto.

Based on his coaching ability, this seems like a good hire for the Tigers. It seemed like some one with SEC connections - like Ford or Grant - would have been a more logical choice but LSU decided on Johnson. Priority numero uno will be to try and convince freshman sensation Anthony Randolph to stick around for another year. He could certainly use some offensive refinement and about 40 more pounds on his spindly frame. ***UPDATE: So much for that***

As for interim coach Butch Pierre, look for him to land squarely on his feet. My hunch is he'll be back in the SEC as an assistant coach somewhere if he can't land a smaller school head coaching job. He and his 5head did a great job rallying a talented group of LSU players after their souls had been sucked out by the force of nature that is John Brady.

Championshipo Numero Ocho

Congratulations to Pat Summitt and her Lady Vols for winning yet another national title last night. I didn't watch any of the game, since, you know, it's women basketball, but I did see the highlights on SportsCenter.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Score one for Decent Society... Rock Chalk Jayhawk

Could there have been a more fitting end to the college basketball season than what occurred last night? Joey Dorsey fouled out of the game on a cheap foul he had no business getting. Fatal coaching flaws by Calipari showing a lack of basic understanding about when to foul and when to play defense. And the free throws… ah yes… the free throws. One glorious brick after another. Basically, the Tigers’ season in a microcosm. They lost a 9-point lead quicker than anyone since the Knicks against the Pacers.

Finally free of the shackles of basketball, the Memphis players can get back to doing what they do best… getting arrested. They’ll have plenty of time to beat up ex-girlfriends, incite riots, solicit prostitutes, punch people and take off running, and all the other activities that make their motors hum. Reserve guard Andre Allen was so anxious to get back to real life, that he failed a drug test the week of the Final Four. Good to see that he was taking this opportunity so seriously.

As for this team’s legacy, it’s a shame that they set the single season wins record, considering half of their wins came against C-USA teams. Kansas finished with just one less win than the Memphis, despite having to actually navigate a legitimate conference. Instead of Houston and Rice, KU notched wins over Texas, Texas A&M, and Baylor. Instead of Tulsa, KU beat Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

John Calipari’s only other appearance in the Final Four has been stricken from the record books thanks to a fantastic watch that Marcus Camby was given. Though Calipari successfully weaseled his way out of that, the UMass program is just now righting itself from his tenure there. In my opinion, this appearance has at least a decent chance of disappearing too.

After a long 5 months, the college basketball season has come to an end. That means it’s time for Calipari to start flirting with other jobs. Only this time, I think he bolts instead of bilking a bankrupt Memphis athletic department for money it doesn’t have, which has become his annual tradition.

For more information on attending the summer University of Memphis basketball camp, please call (800) CHOK-JOB.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

R.I.P. Bill Keightly

I'm a day late posting this I realize, but whatever. Long time - 48 years to be exact - Kentucky equipment manager died yesterday in Cincinnati from internal bleeding caused by a previously undiagnosed tumor on his spine.

There are few people in or around the SEC that would have been more fun just to sit down with and listen to him tell stories. His career dates back to Adolph Rupp and included other SEC legends like Joe B. Hall and Rick Pitino. After nearly 5 decades as a fixture on the UK bench, he'll be missed by UK coaches, players, and fans as well as anyone who watches a Kentucky basketball game on TV.