Categories
Featured

Mississippi State football: Bulldogs running game could be even better in 2017

aeris williams-mississippi state

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Historically, and over the last two decades especially, Mississippi State football maintained a proud tradition at running back. Workhorses Anthony Dixon, Jerious Norwood, Josh Robinson and Vick Ballard, all of whom made it to the NFL, pepper the program record books.

Mississippi State’s typically productive ground game took new shape in 2015-16, as quarterbacks Dak Prescott and then Nick Fitzgerald led the team in rushing. Prescott accounted for 10 rushing touchdowns as a senior, and Fitzgerald ran for 1,375 yards and 16 scores last fall as a sophomore.

We can in part attribute that lack of balance to inconsistent offensive line play; since 2014, only one former Bulldogs lineman was drafted into the NFL (Justin Senior). But tailbacks Brandon Holloway and Ashton Shumpert were found wanting as seniors at times in 2016, hence the emergence of Aeris Williams last November.

The return of Williams, who ran for 720 yards as a sophomore and has receiving skills, gives Mississippi State a potential do-it-all back in 2017. More important, the running backs room should be stronger, deeper and more competitive this fall.

“We’ve got three backs capable of being really, really good SEC backs,” running backs coach Greg Knox said last month, referring to Williams, redshirt sophomore Nick Gibson and redshirt junior Dontavian Lee.

Gibson rushed for 108 yards on 17 carries during Mississippi State’s spring game and had a handful of impressive runs, including a 25-yarder in the first half. It was only a glorified scrimmage, of course, but the tough running Gibson displayed had to be promising for Dan Mullen and his coaching staff.

“We kept it really simple for [Gibson],” Mullen said after the game. “And you saw he has some ability running the football. Now what we got to see is the other things from him.

“And that’s always been the case for him. Route running, pass protections, blocking, some of those things. The consistency of performance. He’s got the running part down. We want to see the complete game.”

A former 4-star recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings, Gibson said he gained 10 pounds this offseason so that he “could take more punishment” in the fall. He was 5-foot-11, 211 pounds on the spring roster.

“He got smarter as well,” Williams said. “Just being around Coach Knox, he’s going to get smarter anyways, man. His pad level got better over the spring. He’s been running the ball pretty good.”

Then there’s Lee, a rising junior from Hattiesburg listed at 6-1 and 235 pounds. He ran for 49 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in the spring game and, according to coaches, is a lot healthier than he was last season.

“That ankle injury held him back,” Knox said. “And then mentally, he’s making better decisions.”

Four-star signee Kylin Hill deepens Mississippi State’s running back options. (247Sports)

The Mississippi State running backs room will add talent once Kylin Hill, a prized 4-star signee out of Columbus (Miss.) High School, begins participating in fall camp. Without committing to anything, Knox made it clear he expects his newest blue-chip standout to compete for early playing time.

“We’ll get him here, give him every opportunity and see how he does,” Knox said. “We’ll go from there with it. But he’s going to get every shot.”

If any combination of Gibson, Lee and Hill can establish themselves as reliable options in the running game, that would not only ease the workload for Williams but also Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald ran the ball 195 times last season — more than Alabama’s Jalen Hurts did — and while it’s obvious the junior quarterback can handle the beating he takes on those inside option runs, Mississippi State might consider managing his workload a little more carefully this year. For a Mississippi State rushing attack that finished fourth in the SEC as The Nick Fitzgerald Show, throwing more bodies into the mix should give the unit a boost.

The X-factor, of course, again will be the offensive line. Tackle Senior and center Jamaal Clayborn graduated, and two of the projected starters missed all of spring practice while injured (Elgton Jenkins and Deion Calhoun). The result was a first-team line that looked like this: Greg Eiland at left tackle, Dareuan Parker at left guard, Martinas Rankin at center, Darryl Williams at right guard and Stewart Reese at right tackle. Of those players, only Rankin started last season, and that was at left tackle.

When Jenkins and Calhoun return to the fold, there will be more shuffling up front and adjustments from there. It’s a tricky situation for position coach John Hevesy.

If Williams’ opinion counts for anything, though, Mississippi State fans can expect more performances reminiscent of what they saw during the spring game, in which Williams and Gibson each averaged more than 6 yards per carry.

“It is going to be a lot of days like this in the fall,” Williams said. “I promise you that.”

The post Mississippi State football: Bulldogs running game could be even better in 2017 appeared first on SEC Country.

Alec Shirkey – SEC Country

Categories
Featured

2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Texas A&M is ranked (Week 5)

Texas A&M-Aggies-power-poll

Texas A&M has done a nice job turning things around after blowing a huge lead in the season-opening loss to UCLA.

The Aggies have won four games in a row after rallying in the second half to beat South Carolina on Saturday night in College Station, Texas. At 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the SEC, the Aggies have momentum — and what better time to have it with top-ranked Alabama coming to town this Saturday?

With its fourth consecutive win, Texas A&M moved up three places to No. 5 in the Week 5 SEC Country Power Poll. The 27 voters placed them behind No. 1 Alabama, Georgia, Auburn and Florida.

Imagine what it might look like if Texas A&M hadn’t squandered a 44-10 lead against UCLA in the season opener only to lose, 45-44? The Aggies would be 5-0 and the game against Alabama this Saturday would look more intriguing than it does.

Quarterback Kellen Mond has completed 54.8 percent of his passes for 808 yards with 6 TDs and 2 interceptions, and he continues looking more comfortable as the starting quarterback after being thrust into action against UCLA. He also has 252 rushing yards (4.9 per carry) with a touchdown.

The Aggies’ next four games are against SEC competition, extending a streak of six consecutive games against conference opponents. They play Alabama at 7:15 p.m. ET at Kyle Field on Saturday. Following that date with the top-ranked Crimson Tide, Texas A&M travels to Gainesville to play Florida on Oct. 14. After an off week, the Aggies get Mississippi State (Oct. 28) and Auburn (Nov. 4) at Kyle Field.

Alabama received all 27 first-place votes this week, as it has every week this season, after dismantling Ole Miss, 66-3, on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Check back here every Sunday for the latest installment of the SEC Country Power Poll.

Your Week 5 Power Poll rankings

Results are below:

RANK TEAM POINTS 1ST PLACE
VOTES
PREV HIGH
VOTE
LOW
VOTE
1 Alabama (13 – 1) 351 27 1 1 1
2 Georgia (13 – 2) 322 0 2 2 3
3 Auburn (10 – 4) 298 0 3 2 4
4 Florida (4 – 7) 265 0 4 4 5
5 Texas A&M (7 – 6) 223 0 8 4 13
6 Kentucky (7 – 6) 200 0 7 4 12
7 Mississippi State (9 – 4) 191 0 5 4 9
8 South Carolina (9 – 4) 135 0 11 7 13
9 Arkansas (4 – 8) 128 0 12 3 13
10 LSU (9 – 4) 115 0 6 7 13
11 Vanderbilt (5 – 7) 93 0 9 7 14
12 Tennessee (4 – 8) 81 0 10 6 13
13 Ole Miss (6 – 6) 49 0 13 7 14
14 Missouri (7 – 6) 6 0 14 9 14

This week’s voters:

Alex Hickey (SEC Country)
Alex Martin Smith (SEC Country)
Andrew Astleford (SEC Country)
Ben Wolk (SEC Country)
Blake Morgan
Brandon Walker (SEC Country)
Chip Towers (DawgNation)
Chris Kirschner (SEC Country)
Christopher Walsh (SEC Country)
Eric Bolin (SEC Country)
Joe Mussatto (SEC Country)
Jordan Mcpherson (SEC Country)
Justin Ferguson (SEC Country)
Ken Bradley (SEC Country)
Kyle Tucker (SEC Country)
Lauren Shute (SEC Country)
Marq Burnett (SEC Country)
Mike Bambach
Mike Griffith (SEC Country)
Nick Suss
Pete Scantlebury
Ryan Young
Sam Spiegelman
Seth Emerson (DawgNation)
Thomas Neumann (SEC Country)
Trent Shadid (SEC Country)
Zach Abolverdi (SEC Country)

The post 2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Texas A&M is ranked (Week 5) appeared first on SEC Country.

Ken Bradley – SEC Country

Categories
Featured

2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Mississippi State is ranked (Week 5)

mississippi state-nick fitzgerald-2018 season

After reaching a high of No. 3 in the SEC Country Power Poll several weeks ago, Mississippi State is out of the top 5 following a 49-10 pounding at Auburn on Saturday night, the Bulldogs’ second straight loss.

Auburn jumped on Mississippi State (3-2, 1-2 SEC) early and didn’t let up with a balanced offense that put up near-identical numbers in passing (267) and rushing (244). The Bulldogs didn’t do themselves any favors with 10 penalties, including seven false starts that seemed to always come on third-and-short.

“I don’t think it’s time to panic. I don’t think we need to press,” Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald said after the game. “I don’t think we need to be frustrated. We just need to come out and focus on ourselves. When practicing, we really need to focus on a lot of individual drills, work on some techniques so they know what will get them through game weeks, and get some younger guys some reps.”

The Bulldogs fell two spots to No. 7 in the latest SEC Country Power Poll, released Sunday. The 27 voters placed the Bulldogs as high as fourth and as low as ninth. The top 5 is comprised of Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M. As they have every week this season, the Crimson Tide received every first-place vote.

Mississippi State gets a week off to figure out things after being outscored a combined 80-13 against Auburn and Georgia the last two games. When the Bulldogs return to action Oct. 14, they’ll do so at home against BYU before returning to SEC play on Oct. 21 against Kentucky.

“The big plays really hurt today on the defensive side of the ball,” coach Dan Mullen said after the game. “There were some missed opportunities on the offensive side. Last week I don’t think we played well. I’m anxious to see the film this week to see if we played better than last week, but just missed some plays. If that’s the case then we’ll take a look and try to get that fixed. If we played worse than that’ll just be disappointing that we didn’t get better.”

Check back here every Sunday for the latest installment of the SEC Country Power Poll.

Your Week 5 Power Poll rankings

Results are below:

RANK TEAM POINTS 1ST PLACE
VOTES
PREV HIGH
VOTE
LOW
VOTE
1 Alabama (13 – 1) 351 27 1 1 1
2 Georgia (13 – 2) 322 0 2 2 3
3 Auburn (10 – 4) 298 0 3 2 4
4 Florida (4 – 7) 265 0 4 4 5
5 Texas A&M (7 – 6) 223 0 8 4 13
6 Kentucky (7 – 6) 200 0 7 4 12
7 Mississippi State (9 – 4) 191 0 5 4 9
8 South Carolina (9 – 4) 135 0 11 7 13
9 Arkansas (4 – 8) 128 0 12 3 13
10 LSU (9 – 4) 115 0 6 7 13
11 Vanderbilt (5 – 7) 93 0 9 7 14
12 Tennessee (4 – 8) 81 0 10 6 13
13 Ole Miss (6 – 6) 49 0 13 7 14
14 Missouri (7 – 6) 6 0 14 9 14

This week’s voters:

Alex Hickey (SEC Country)
Alex Martin Smith (SEC Country)
Andrew Astleford (SEC Country)
Ben Wolk (SEC Country)
Blake Morgan
Brandon Walker (SEC Country)
Chip Towers (DawgNation)
Chris Kirschner (SEC Country)
Christopher Walsh (SEC Country)
Eric Bolin (SEC Country)
Joe Mussatto (SEC Country)
Jordan Mcpherson (SEC Country)
Justin Ferguson (SEC Country)
Ken Bradley (SEC Country)
Kyle Tucker (SEC Country)
Lauren Shute (SEC Country)
Marq Burnett (SEC Country)
Mike Bambach
Mike Griffith (SEC Country)
Nick Suss
Pete Scantlebury
Ryan Young
Sam Spiegelman
Seth Emerson (DawgNation)
Thomas Neumann (SEC Country)
Trent Shadid (SEC Country)
Zach Abolverdi (SEC Country)

The post 2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Mississippi State is ranked (Week 5) appeared first on SEC Country.

Ken Bradley – SEC Country

Categories
Featured

ESPN: Florida football’s Hail Mary-finish against Tennessee one of the best games of 2017

florida gators-florida football-tyrie cleveland-best game

Florida Gators football is the No. 1 topic in Good Morning, Gators every day — but we cover news, notes and analysis from across the Gators sports world. Join us each morning to get caught up on everything you missed in the world of Florida football, recruiting, basketball and more.

Florida-Tennessee a top-20 game from 2017

The Florida Gators football season overall was one to forget in 2017, but according to ESPN’s Jake Trotter, at least one game will stand out among the best of college football. Trotter ranked the Gators’ 26-20 win over Tennessee on Sept. 16 as the 13th-best game of the 2017 regular season. His explanation:

An otherwise unwatchable matchup delivered an incredible finish, as Gators QB Feleipe Franks unleashed a 63-yard TD over the top of the Tennessee defense as time expired. The sloppy play on both sides was a harbinger, as Vols coach Butch Jones and Florida’s Jim McElwain would be fired before the end of the season.

Recruiting roundup

In other Florida football news

Volleyball plays Stanford for spot in national championship

The No. 2-seed Gators volleyball team plays Stanford in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Thursday in Kansas City, Mo. First serve is set for 9 p.m. ET and will be televised on ESPN.

On Wednesday, five Florida players earned AVCA All-America honors, with senior middle blocker Rhamat Allhasan earning a coveted first-team spot.

Let’s keep talking

Want to keep the conversation going? Hop over to our free Florida message board. Sign up now and join the discussion here.

What they’re saying on Twitter

Linebacker Kylan Johnson:

Defensive back Quincy Lenton:

Tight end Kemore Gamble:

Miss a previous edition of Good Morning, Gators? Get caught up here.

The post ESPN: Florida football’s Hail Mary-finish against Tennessee one of the best games of 2017 appeared first on SEC Country.

Jordan McPherson – SEC Country

Categories
Featured

2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Mississippi State is ranked (Week 7)

Mississippi State Bulldogs-football-BYU

Nick Fitzgerald threw for 2 touchdown passes and ran for 2 more as Mississippi State returned after its bye week and a pair of lopsided losses to handle BYU at home, 35-10.

The victory was a nice bounce-back after the Bulldogs began the season 3-0 before being upended in back-to-back games against Georgia and Auburn by a combined 67 points.

“Overall, I like the performance our guys came out with despite coming off a bye week and the early kickoff,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said after the win. “BYU is a team we talked about being very physical on both lines of scrimmage. I thought we came out and played hard on defense. We made plays; holding them to 10 points. We were able to control the line of scrimmage on offense and wear them down.”

It was an all-around performance Saturday in Starkville. The Bulldogs piled up 546 yards of offense — 306 rushing and 240 passing — while they allowed just 8 first downs and 176 yards on defense. Aeris Williams ran for 114 yards and had a 5-yard TD run, while Keith Mixon had 69 receiving yards and Donald Gray hauled in 4 passes for 41 yards and a 9-yard touchdown.

BYU was held to seven possessions of 3 plays or fewer and nine that totaled 4 plays or fewer.

The Bulldogs (4-2, 1-2 SEC) improved one spot in the SEC Country Power Poll this week. The 25 voters moved them up to No. 6 this week, replacing Florida, which fell to No. 8 after losing to Texas A&M.

Alabama retained the top spot with all 25 first-place votes and was followed by Georgia. Auburn remained third despite losing at LSU, Texas A&M is fourth and LSU sits one spot ahead of Mississippi State.

Check back here every Sunday for the latest installment of the SEC Country Power Poll.

Your Week 7 Power Poll rankings

Results are below:

RANK TEAM POINTS 1ST PLACE
VOTES
PREV HIGH
VOTE
LOW
VOTE
1 Alabama (13 – 1) 325 25 1 1 1
2 Georgia (13 – 2) 300 0 2 2 2
3 Auburn (10 – 4) 255 0 3 3 5
4 Texas A&M (7 – 6) 253 0 4 3 7
5 LSU (9 – 4) 231 0 5 3 7
6 Mississippi State (9 – 4) 179 0 7 4 12
7 Kentucky (7 – 6) 165 0 8 6 9
8 Florida (4 – 7) 161 0 6 6 9
9 South Carolina (9 – 4) 151 0 9 6 10
10 Ole Miss (6 – 6) 77 0 13 9 13
11 Tennessee (4 – 8) 67 0 10 10 14
12 Arkansas (4 – 8) 65 0 12 9 13
13 Vanderbilt (5 – 7) 32 0 11 10 14
14 Missouri (7 – 6) 14 0 14 10 14

This week’s voters:

Alex Hickey (SEC Country)
Alex Martin Smith (SEC Country)
Andrew Astleford (SEC Country)
Ben Wolk (SEC Country)
Blake Morgan
Brandon Walker (SEC Country)
Chris Kirschner (SEC Country)
Christopher Walsh (SEC Country)
Eric Bolin (SEC Country)
Hale McGranahan (SEC Country)
Jeff Sentell (DawgNation)
Joe Mussatto (SEC Country)
Jordan Mcpherson (SEC Country)
Justin Ferguson (SEC Country)
Ken Bradley (SEC Country)
Marq Burnett (SEC Country)
Mike Bambach
Mike Griffith (SEC Country)
Nick Suss
Pete Scantlebury
Ryan Young
Sam Spiegelman
Thomas Neumann (SEC Country)
Trent Shadid (SEC Country)
Zach Abolverdi (SEC Country)

The post 2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Mississippi State is ranked (Week 7) appeared first on SEC Country.

Ken Bradley – SEC Country

Categories
Featured

2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Texas A&M is ranked (Week 8)

Christian Kirk-Texas A&M Aggies-Belk Bowl

After four consecutive weeks of tooth-and-nail SEC games, Texas A&M got a rest this week before jumping back into conference play Saturday.

Last week, the Aggies won at Florida, 19-17, one week after giving No. 1 Alabama its toughest game of the season in a 27-19 setback. Texas A&M previously beat South Carolina, 24-17, and outlasted Arkansas in overtime, 50-43.

After climbing to fourth in the SEC Country Power Poll rankings last week, the Aggies held on to that spot barely as LSU closed the gap. The two are now tied at No. 4. With its 40-24 win against Ole Miss, LSU pulled even with the Aggies sitting out this week. The 25 SEC Country Power Poll voters had A&M voted as high as third and no lower than seventh.

RELATED: How about an apology for Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin?

The top three teams remained the same with Alabama occupying No. 1 as it has all season, followed by Georgia and Auburn.

The Aggies (5-2, 3-1 in SEC) are led by freshman quarterback Kellen Mond. Mond was throw to the fire in the Week 1 loss at UCLA when starting QB Nick Starkel went down with an injury. The freshman is completing 53.6 percent of his passes for 1,225 yards, 7 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He’s also run the ball 80 times for 318 yards and 3 TDs.

Trayveon Williams leads A&M in rushing with 440 yards (4.8 yards per carry, 5 touchdowns) and Keith Ford (343 yards, 4.5 yards per carry) is the team leader with 7 rushing scores.

Dynamic receiver/kicker returner Christian Kirk has been Mond’s favorite target. He has 29 receptions for 360 yards and a team-best 5 touchdown receptions. Kirk also averages 26.9 yards on kickoff returns and has a 100-yard return for a TD this season. As a punt returner, Kirk averages 11.4 yards per return on 5 returns.

Texas A&M plays Mississippi State on Saturday at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas, and then gets Auburn at home on Saturday, Nov. 4.

Check back here every Sunday for the latest installment of the SEC Country Power Poll.

Your Week 8 Power Poll rankings

Results are below:

RANK TEAM POINTS 1ST PLACE
VOTES
PREV HIGH
VOTE
LOW
VOTE
1 Alabama (13 – 1) 325 25 1 1 1
2 Georgia (13 – 2) 299 0 2 2 3
3 Auburn (10 – 4) 263 0 3 2 5
4 LSU (9 – 4) 232 0 5 3 7
5 Texas A&M (7 – 6) 232 0 4 3 7
6 Mississippi State (9 – 4) 215 0 6 4 9
7 Florida (4 – 7) 174 0 8 5 8
8 South Carolina (9 – 4) 142 0 9 6 10
9 Kentucky (7 – 6) 140 0 7 7 9
10 Tennessee (4 – 8) 76 0 11 10 13
11 Ole Miss (6 – 6) 72 0 10 10 14
12 Arkansas (4 – 8) 51 0 12 8 14
13 Vanderbilt (5 – 7) 47 0 13 9 14
14 Missouri (7 – 6) 7 0 14 12 14

This week’s voters:

Alex Hickey (SEC Country)
Alex Martin Smith (SEC Country)
Andrew Astleford (SEC Country)
Blake Morgan
Brandon Walker (SEC Country)
Chris Kirschner (SEC Country)
Christopher Walsh (SEC Country)
Eric Bolin (SEC Country)
Jeff Sentell (DawgNation)
Joe Mussatto (SEC Country)
Jordan Mcpherson (SEC Country)
Justin Ferguson (SEC Country)
Ken Bradley (SEC Country)
Marq Burnett (SEC Country)
Mike Bambach
Mike Griffith (SEC Country)
Nick Suss
Pete Scantlebury
Ryan Young
Sam Spiegelman
Sam Spiegelman
Seth Emerson (DawgNation)
Thomas Neumann (SEC Country)
Trent Shadid (SEC Country)
Zach Abolverdi (SEC Country)

The post 2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Texas A&M is ranked (Week 8) appeared first on SEC Country.

Ken Bradley – SEC Country

Categories
Featured

2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Mississippi State is ranked (Week 8)

Mississippi-State-Nick-Fitzgerald-quarterback-Kentucky-SEC-Player of the Week

Nick Fitzgerald was on his game Saturday against Kentucky in Starkville.

The Mississippi State quarterback ran for 115 yards with touchdown runs of 3 and 40 yards, and he threw for 155 yards and a 10-yard TD toss as the Bulldogs routed the Wildcats, 45-7. On the season, Fitzgerald has 569 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns and is completing 56.9 percent of his passes for 1,169 yards, 11 TDs and 7 interceptions.

“I thought he did a really good job. He made some great plays. I think he missed a couple,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said of Fitzgerald after the game. “I told him it was one of those six-to-12 inch days. He had great reads, great checks, got us into the right plays. He managed the game.

“On a couple of throws we were about six to 12 inches off. In fact, you could take that ball and move it about six to 12 inches in a different direction and he probably would’ve had a couple more touchdown passes. I think that is the consistency and performance that he continues to improve on, but I was pleased with his decision and play making all day.”

The Bulldogs improved to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the SEC after the win. They remained No. 6 in the Week 8 SEC Country Power Poll. The 25 voters awarded Mississippi State 215 total votes — LSU and Texas A&M tied for fourth place just in front of the Bulldogs with 232 votes.

The top 5: Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, LSU and A&M.

Mississippi State has a chance to move up next Saturday when it travels to College Station, Texas, to take on Texas A&M (Saturday, Oct. 28, 7:15 p.m. ET). The two teams have split their past four meetings. The Bulldogs won last season in Starkville, 35-28, and the Aggies won at Kyle Field in 2015, 30-17. This is just the 11th meeting between the two, and A&M has won the only two games in College Station.

Check back here every Sunday for the latest installment of the SEC Country Power Poll.

Your Week 8 Power Poll rankings

Results are below:

RANK TEAM POINTS 1ST PLACE
VOTES
PREV HIGH
VOTE
LOW
VOTE
1 Alabama (13 – 1) 325 25 1 1 1
2 Georgia (13 – 2) 299 0 2 2 3
3 Auburn (10 – 4) 263 0 3 2 5
4 LSU (9 – 4) 232 0 5 3 7
5 Texas A&M (7 – 6) 232 0 4 3 7
6 Mississippi State (9 – 4) 215 0 6 4 9
7 Florida (4 – 7) 174 0 8 5 8
8 South Carolina (9 – 4) 142 0 9 6 10
9 Kentucky (7 – 6) 140 0 7 7 9
10 Tennessee (4 – 8) 76 0 11 10 13
11 Ole Miss (6 – 6) 72 0 10 10 14
12 Arkansas (4 – 8) 51 0 12 8 14
13 Vanderbilt (5 – 7) 47 0 13 9 14
14 Missouri (7 – 6) 7 0 14 12 14

This week’s voters:

Alex Hickey (SEC Country)
Alex Martin Smith (SEC Country)
Andrew Astleford (SEC Country)
Blake Morgan
Brandon Walker (SEC Country)
Chris Kirschner (SEC Country)
Christopher Walsh (SEC Country)
Eric Bolin (SEC Country)
Jeff Sentell (DawgNation)
Joe Mussatto (SEC Country)
Jordan Mcpherson (SEC Country)
Justin Ferguson (SEC Country)
Ken Bradley (SEC Country)
Marq Burnett (SEC Country)
Mike Bambach
Mike Griffith (SEC Country)
Nick Suss
Pete Scantlebury
Ryan Young
Sam Spiegelman
Sam Spiegelman
Seth Emerson (DawgNation)
Thomas Neumann (SEC Country)
Trent Shadid (SEC Country)
Zach Abolverdi (SEC Country)

The post 2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Mississippi State is ranked (Week 8) appeared first on SEC Country.

Ken Bradley – SEC Country

Categories
Featured

2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Texas A&M is ranked (Week 9)

Kevin Sumlin-Texas A&M football

Texas A&M fell behind by 21 points and never threatened Saturday night at home against Mississippi State.

The result was a disappointing 35-14 loss that put an abrupt halt to a run of 5 wins in 6 games with the lone loss being an 8-point setback to top-ranked Alabama.

SEC Country Power Poll voters didn’t ding the Aggies too much — they dropped from fifth to sixth this week — but where the voters hurt Texas A&M most was in the gap between the Aggies and No. 5 Mississippi State. There is a clear separation between the top 5 teams and the rest.

Texas A&M was voted as high as No. 5 and as low as No. 8.

Things went poorly from the start Saturday against Mississippi State. The Aggies were outrushed 228-96 and outgained in total offense 369 to 285. Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond struggled the most he has since the season opener against UCLA when he was thrust into action. He completed 8-of-26 passes against MSU for 56 yards and 2 interceptions. Nick Starkel relieved him and threw for 133 yards with a TD pass and an interception.

This week doesn’t get easier. Auburn (6-2) visits College Station. The Tigers moved up from 19th to 16th in this week’s AP Top 25. Auburn sits at No. 3 in the SEC Country Power Poll, behind No. 2 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama. LSU and Mississippi State round out the top 5.

Check back here every Sunday for the latest installment of the SEC Country Power Poll.

Your Week 9 Power Poll rankings

Results are below:

RANK TEAM POINTS 1ST PLACE
VOTES
PREV HIGH
VOTE
LOW
VOTE
1 Alabama (13 – 1) 334 22 1 1 2
2 Georgia (13 – 2) 316 4 2 1 2
3 Auburn (10 – 4) 280 0 3 3 4
4 LSU (9 – 4) 250 0 4 3 6
5 Mississippi State (9 – 4) 247 0 6 4 6
6 Texas A&M (7 – 6) 198 0 5 5 8
7 South Carolina (9 – 4) 175 0 8 5 9
8 Kentucky (7 – 6) 162 0 9 6 10
9 Florida (4 – 7) 127 0 7 7 11
10 Arkansas (4 – 8) 98 0 12 7 13
11 Ole Miss (6 – 6) 63 0 11 10 14
12 Tennessee (4 – 8) 54 0 10 10 14
13 Vanderbilt (5 – 7) 38 0 13 9 14
14 Missouri (7 – 6) 24 0 14 9 14

This week’s voters:

Alex Hickey (SEC Country)
Alex Martin Smith (SEC Country)
Andrew Astleford (SEC Country)
Ben Wolk (SEC Country)
Blake Morgan
Brandon Walker (SEC Country)
Chip Towers (DawgNation)
Chris Kirschner (SEC Country)
Christopher Walsh (SEC Country)
Eric Bolin (SEC Country)
Hale McGranahan (SEC Country)
Joe Mussatto (SEC Country)
Jordan Mcpherson (SEC Country)
Justin Ferguson (SEC Country)
Ken Bradley (SEC Country)
Lauren Shute (SEC Country)
Marq Burnett (SEC Country)
Mike Bambach
Nick Suss
Pete Scantlebury
Ryan Young
Sam Spiegelman
Seth Emerson (DawgNation)
Thomas Neumann (SEC Country)
Trent Shadid (SEC Country)
Zach Abolverdi (SEC Country)

The post 2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Texas A&M is ranked (Week 9) appeared first on SEC Country.

Ken Bradley – SEC Country

Categories
Featured

Ranking the SEC running backs: Derrius Guice, Nick Chubb highlight loaded group in 2017

Alabama-Alabama Crimson Tide-football-Clemson-Clemson Tigers

Perhaps no conference has a deeper tradition of excellence at running back than the SEC. From Herschel Walker to Bo Jackson, Emmitt Smith, Kevin Faulk and Shaun Alexander, the list is littered with some of the best to ever play college football.

If talent is any indicator, the 2017 SEC running back class looks poised to keep the league’s proud legacy alive. Eight 1,000-yard rushers return this fall, along with a host of other studs, and they’ll be supplemented by the addition of six blue-chip signees.

Picking the best of this stacked bunch is about as difficult as picking your favorite Martin Scorsese film (for the record, it’s Goodfellas). That also means it’s really hard to pick a bad one.

Because we’re nearing the height of power rankings season, SEC Country made a feeble attempt to sift through the conference’s best tailbacks and, somehow, rank them. Below is the result. We tried!

Honorable mentions

  • Najee Harris, Alabama: The latest 5-star running back to join the Crimson Tide dynasty rushed for 7,948 yards and 94 touchdowns during his high school career. The 247Sports composite listed Harris as the No. 3 prospect in the country. He’d start immediately at about 10 other SEC schools, but because Nick Saban hoards blue-chip running backs like no man before him, Harris could only see limited time this season.
  • Keith Ford, Texas A&M: A former 5-star recruit himself, Ford transferred from Oklahoma and quickly proved himself a quality addition to the Aggies’ backfield. He wrapped up last season by combining for 186 yards on 25 carries against LSU and Kansas State.
  • Aeris Williams, Mississippi State: The junior really came on toward the end of last season, highlighted by a 191-yard rushing performance in the Egg Bowl.  Bulldogs fans can expect him to be more of a workhorse back this fall.
  • Kerryon Johnson, Auburn: Lest we forget about Auburn’s other capable bell cow, Johnson began the season as Gus Malzahn’s primary tailback before an injury to his right ankle hampered his breakout year.
  • Devwah Whaley, Arkansas: Rawleigh Williams retiring from football means Whaley should receive a bunch of carries in 2017. He flashed potential as a true freshman, most notably rushing for 112 yards against Mississippi State, and has a 4-star pedigree.
  • John Kelly, Tennessee: The Vols offensive line was an unqualified disaster last season. Kelly somehow averaging 6.4 yards per carry behind that mess, even against a softball November slate of Tennessee Tech, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt, deserves recognition. He should spearhead the UT rushing attack this fall with Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara out of the picture.
  • Jordan Scarlett, Florida: The Gators also suffered from some seriously inconsistent O-line play, but Scarlett managed to separate himself as the clear leader in an otherwise crowded UF running backs room. He looked good during 100-yard games against Missouri, South Carolina and LSU, and his position coach wants him to be a 1,000-yard back in 2017. Scarlett just missed the top-10 cut.

Tier III: The new kids

We begin this top-10 countdown with a trio of rising sophomores, all of whom came out of high school as (relatively) low-rated prospects. Trayveon Williams was a 4-star, per the 247Sports composite, but 19 other running backs were ranked higher than him. Damarea Crockett was only the No. 43 recruit at his position. And, apparently, 881 Class of 2016 prospects were supposed to be better than Benny Snell.

All three broke the 1,000-yard rushing mark as true freshmen. Funny how that works out.

10. Damarea Crockett, Missouri

  • 2016 stats: 1,062 yards rushing, 6.9 YPC, 10 TDs
  • 100-yard games: 5
  • Best performance: Tennessee (24 carries, 225 yards, 1 TD)

Crockett comes off maybe one of the quietest 1,000-yard freshman seasons in recent memory. He set program records for single-season rushing, single-game rushing and single-season rushing touchdowns for a freshman, and he did it in just 11 games behind a disjointed offensive line. Had the 4-8 Tigers not been so awful, more folks might have paid attention.

Now, that one game he missed? The team suspended Crockett for the season finale against Arkansas following an arrest on suspicion of marijuana possession. He’ll have to stay out of trouble and out of coach Barry Odom’s doghouse for the success to continue in 2017. But assuming that happens, and if we see even marginal improvement from Mizzou up front, Crockett should put up even better numbers as a sophomore.

Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams enjoyed a fine freshman season in 2016. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

9. Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M

  • 2016 stats: 1,057 yards rushing, 6.8 YPC, 8 TDs
  • 100-yard games: 3
  • Best performance: Tennessee (28 carries, 217 yards, 1 TD)

Williams, like most of Texas A&M’s roster, started the year strong only to fade down the stretch. He rushed for 704 yards in the first six games and barely ended up eclipsing 1,000 yards on the season.

Of course, most of the Aggies’ November woes were rooted on the defense side. Williams still averaged more than 5 yards per carry over the final four games, which is dang good for a newcomer in the SEC West.

If Texas A&M can really start maximizing his big-play potential — Williams, Derrius Guice and Leonard Fournette were the only SEC tailbacks to reel off multiple 70-plus yard runs last season — the sophomore will have another good year. Using him more on kickoff returns would be a good start.

8. Benny Snell, Kentucky

  • 2016 stats: 1,091 yards rushing, 5.9 YPC, 13 TDs
  • 100-yard games: 5
  • Best performance: Georgia (21 carries, 114 yards, 2 TDs)

Is this too low for Snell? Maybe. The guy is an absolute battering ram who gave the Kentucky offense an element it had otherwise lacked under coach Mark Stoops. Boom Williams had home-run potential on every carry, but Snell lived between the tackles and really shouldered a heavy load.

However … he also did most of his damage against weaker opponents, highlighted by 100-yard games against New Mexico State, Austin Peay and Missouri. UK’s stiffest competition kept him pretty well contained. The underrated offensive line is due a fair share of credit for Snell’s breakout year, too. Props for being a workhorse, but he’s not quite the complete package (yet).

Tier II: The underappreciated guys

With so many top running backs in the SEC, it’s easy for fans to overlook a few great ones. These next three guys fit the bill.

7. Sony Michel, Georgia

  • 2016 stats: 840 yards rushing, 5.5 YPC, 149 yards receiving, 5 total TDs
  • 100-yard games: 3
  • Best performance: Georgia Tech (19 carries, 170 yards, 1 TD)

Michel is an NFL-caliber running back who would start on most teams. The former mega-recruit’s hands are a major asset, as evidenced by his 55 career catches, and his speed is deadly at the second level. He has the ability to break any game open with a big play.

Georgia hasn’t used Michel as much as some of the other backs on this list — partly because of durability, and partly because of the depth chart — but when called upon, he has come up big. The rising senior logged 15-plus carries in five games last year and averaged well above 5 yards per carry in all of them, including his absolute field day against the Yellow Jackets.

Bonus points for being an accomplished musician:

6. Damien Harris, Alabama

  • 2016 stats: 1,037 yards rushing, 7.1 YPC, 4 total TDs
  • 100-yard games: 4
  • Best performance: Southern Cal (9 carries, 138 yards)

Is it remotely possible for anyone to overlook a Crimson Tide running back? When the do-it-all quarterback contends for the Heisman as a true freshman, and he isn’t even the best tailback on his own roster … yes, yes it is.

Harris certainly doesn’t fit the one-man-wrecking-crew mold we’ve come to expect from Alabama’s lead backs, but don’t let that take anything away from the junior. He was a highly-efficient cog in the Lane Kiffin offense, averaging more than 7 yards per offensive touch, and he hit 1,000 yards despite never logging a 20-carry game.

How often new coordinator Brian Daboll uses Harris will be a major source of intrigue this fall. It’s wild to think a player like Harris probably won’t be the featured weapon in Saban’s stacked backfield.

5. Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt

  • 2016 stats: 1,283 yards rushing, 5.1 YPC, 166 yards receiving, 13 TDs
  • 100-yard games: 7
  • Best performance: Florida (24 carries, 110 yards)

An underappreciated Vanderbilt football star. Imagine that.

Webb surprised some by returning for his senior season, and it’ll be a huge boost for the Commodores after they lost Zach Cunningham to the NFL. He has been as reliable as anyone over the past three seasons, amassing 3,342 yards and 24 total touchdowns behind a Vandy offensive line, and he’s done so on some pretty bad teams.

In fact, since Webb was a freshman, Vandy has never averaged more than 200 yards passing per game. Opponents know exactly what’s coming, but even that isn’t always enough the stop the 5-foot-10, 202-pound bruiser.

Tier I: The high draft picks

Four elite rushers remain. All of them are on track to earn a nice NFL payday, and they’ll start 2017 on at least a few Heisman watch lists. The ceiling is sky-high here.

Auburn football-Kamryn Pettway
Auburn RB Kamryn Pettway posted monster numbers in 2016, but much of his production came against subpar run defenses. (Butch Dill/Getty Images)

4. Kamryn Pettway, Auburn

  • 2016 stats: 1,224 yards rushing, 5.9 YPC, 7 TDs
  • 100-yard games: 7
  • Best performance: Ole Miss (30 carries, 236 yards, 1 TD)

Here’s where I foresee our Auburn readers getting worked up. Nothing against Pettway, who led the SEC in rushing despite logging stats in only 9 games, but does he deserve top-3 status just because Gus Malzahn fed him the rock all-you-can-eat-buffet style?

Auburn arguably fielded the conference’s best offensive line in 2016, and the Tigers handed the ball to Pettway a league-high 20.9 times per game. His per-carry average? It was 5.9, good for just 13th-best in the conference. Of his five 150-yard games, four came against Mississippi State (bad run defense), Arkansas (worse run defense), Ole Miss (worst run defense) and Arkansas State (laughably outmatched).

That said, Pettway is exceedingly tough to bring down and could’ve gone pro this year. He is a grinder, and Jon Gruden would love him if he paid attention to any position besides quarterback.

3. Bo Scarbrough, Alabama

  • 2016 stats: 812 yards rushing, 6.5 YPC, 11 TDs
  • 100-yard games: 2
  • Best performance: Washington (19 carries, 180 yards, 2 TDs)

Crimson Tide fans were finally treated to the full Bo Scarbrough experience at the end of last season, and boy, was that a treat. Hampered by injury for much of the year, including a sprained knee that forced him to miss two games, the junior finally found his groove in late November and carried the good mojo into the College Football Playoff, where he combined for 273 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns.

He is, quite simply, a freak. He looks like Derrick Henry 2.0 and runs with that same sort of reckless abandon, too. Had he not broken his right leg in the third quarter of the Clemson game, we’d probably be talking about Saban’s sixth national title right now. If Scarbrough can produce like that over a full season, the Heisman might be back in Tuscaloosa this winter.

2. Nick Chubb, Georgia

  • 2016 stats: 1,130 yards rushing, 5.0 YPC, 9 total TDs
  • 100-yard games: 5
  • Best performance: UNC (32 carries, 222 yards, 2 TDs)

The joint return of Michel and Chubb at Georgia is pretty shocking. With his injury history and more than 500 carries to his name, Chubb had every reason to go pro. But he’ll be back, much to Kirby Smart’s delight, to spearhead one of the best rushing attacks in the country alongside his senior backfield mate.

Those who watched Chubb play before his horrendous 2015 injury know that, while he was healthy in 2016, he hadn’t quite gotten his full burst back. Still, that didn’t stop him from dropping a 200-yard effort on UNC just 11 months after tearing multiple ligaments in his left knee. He broke 1,000 yards behind a weak offensive line, on an offense that was often listless, and helped freshman quarterback Jacob Eason adjust to the SEC.

With another offseason of rest and training under his belt, Chubb should regain that explosiveness. Combine that with his punishing style, and it’s not hard to foresee a huge year for him.

1. Derrius Guice, LSU

  • 2016 stats: 1,387 yards rushing, 7.6 YPC, 106 yards receiving, 16 total TDs
  • 100-yard games: 6
  • Best performance: Texas A&M (37 carries, 285 yards, 4 TDs)

We’d call Guice the successor to Leonard Fournette — which he clearly is — but, in reality, he seized that title well before the end of last season. With his superstar teammate limited by a lingering ankle injury, Guice absolutely steamrolled his way through most of LSU’s opponents while averaging an SEC-best 7.6 yards per carry. Oh, and he broke the LSU single-game rushing record that Fournette had set earlier in the season. Ridiculous.

The two major roadblocks for Guice, Alabama and Wisconsin, both ended the year with top-3 run defenses, and it’s not like teams were scared of Brandon Harris or Danny Etling. Everyone knew to expect a heavy dose of power running, and Guice still managed to lead the charge in dominating fashion.

Guice is a ferocious runner who’s shifty, smart and a threat to house it on every play — basically everything you look for in a college running back. And he’s the best in the SEC.

READ MORE: SEC quarterback power rankings, post-spring edition

The post Ranking the SEC running backs: Derrius Guice, Nick Chubb highlight loaded group in 2017 appeared first on SEC Country.

Alec Shirkey – SEC Country

Categories
Featured

Mississippi State football: How high is Nick Fitzgerald’s 2017 ceiling? The Heisman Trophy isn’t unthinkable

Nick Fitzgerald-Mississippi State-SEC Network-rankings

Mississippi State star Nick Fitzgerald might be the SEC’s most interesting quarterback in 2017, even with Alabama’s Jalen Hurts, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham and other top talent in the conference.

Why is that? For starters, he plays under one of the most accomplished quarterback gurus in college football. Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen has developed elite performers at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and now MSU. Fitzgerald could be his greatest success story by the time he leaves Starkville.

The former 3-star recruit attempted just 78 passes as a high school senior because his team ran the triple option. Before that season, he played wide receiver. He only had two scholarship offers — Middle Tennessee was the second, not UT-Chattanooga, though a clip of Mullen claiming that was hilarious.

Fitzgerald entered last season as a redshirt sophomore and in a four-way quarterback battle. He won the job by Week 2 and went on to thrive as a first-year starter.

The final numbers in Fitzgerald’s breakout season: 2,423 yards passing, 1,375 yards rushing, 37 total touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

His level of production puts the Mississippi State junior in some rare company. According to the Sports Reference Play Index, only five other SEC quarterbacks have thrown for 2,000 yards and rushed for 900 in the same season since 2000.

The impressive list:

Quarterback Year School Pass yards Rush yards Pass TDs Rush TDs INTs Comp%
Tim Tebow 2009 Florida 2,895 910 21 14 5 67.8
Cam Newton 2010 Auburn 2,854 1,473 30 20 7 66.1
Johnny Manziel 2012 Texas A&M 3,706 1,410 26 21 9 68.0
Dak Prescott 2014 Miss. State 3,449 986 27 14 11 61.6
Jalen Hurts 2016 Alabama 2,780 954 23 13 9 62.8
Nick Fitzgerald 2016 Miss. State 2,423 1,375 21 16 10 54.3

The list includes two Heisman Trophy winners, two other Mullen pupils and an all-time great freshman quarterback. Fitzgerald’s 2016 statistics paralleled theirs in every major category except for completion percentage.

Two of the quarterbacks on the list — Manziel and Prescott — came back to college after huge seasons. Since we’re interested in gauging what sort of year Fitzgerald could have this fall, let’s start there.

  • In 2013, Manziel followed up his Heisman campaign with another insanely productive season. He had 4,114 yards passing, 759 yards rushing, 46 total TDs and 13 interceptions. He passed more often, completed more of his passes, gained more yards per pass and ran the ball less often.
  • It’s a similar story with Prescott. In 2015, he threw the ball 81 more times than the previous year, cut down on interceptions — which dropped from 11 to 5 — and ran the ball less often.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Every quarterback wants to become a high draft pick, and even in this era of up-tempo offenses the NFL still loves the traditional pocket passers. Thus, a dual-threat guy coming back after a great season usually will say he wants to become a better pocket passer.

“They know I can run. They know I can get out of the pocket, try to throw on the run,” Fitzgerald told SEC Country in April. “Staying in the pocket, staying calm and collected, sticking to your techniques, staying compact, really driving through a pass even when someone’s through your face — that’s hard.

“The first instinct when someone’s around you is get away from them, not step into it and make a throw. Staying in the pocket, trying to make reads, trying to feel pocket presence has been a huge emphasis.”

So, all else being equal, it’s likely Fitzgerald will throw a little more often and run a little less in 2017. Mississippi State’s sketchy wide receiver situation could limit how much change we see, though. There isn’t a proven receiving threat on the roster besides Donald Gray now that Malik Dear has been sidelined by an ACL injury. But with so many young targets in the fold, odds are at least one will emerge from the pack.

What degree of improvement can we can expect from Fitzgerald?

Let’s take a look at the year-to-year improvement of a few former Mullen quarterbacks. In addition to Tebow and Prescott, he coached Chris Leak, Alex Smith and Josh Harris. Below, we’ve mapped out the change in each category from Year 1 to Years 2/3.

Quarterback Years School Pass yards Rush yards Pass TDs Rush TDs INTs Comp%
Tim Tebow 2007-09 Florida -391 +15 -11 -9 -1 +0.9
Chris Leak 2005-06 Florida +303 -51 +3 -3 +7 +0.8
Alex Smith 2003-04 Utah +705 +179 +17 +5 +1 +2.5
Josh Harris 2001-02 Bowling Green +1,388 +93 +8 -7 +1 +9.7

Tebow is the outlier because of his ridiculously good 2007 season. The other three players experienced anywhere from slim to major improvement in their second year as starters under Mullen. Both Harris and Smith improved as passers while maintaining their strong production on the ground. And Harris, whose junior year completion percentage was just 56.1, saw that mark jump way up in 2002.

So, in addition to expecting Fitzgerald to sling the football more frequently, Mullen’s track record gives us reason to believe that his current quarterback will also pass more efficiently in 2017.

“[I’m] cleaning up some footwork, cleaning up technique here and there with my throwing,” Fitzgerald said. “Trying to get the accuracy up. Trying to complete more passes.”

Just how great of a year could Fitzgerald have if everything comes together? Since 2000, only 29 college quarterbacks have thrown for 2,000 yards and rushed for 1,000 in the same season. They include three Heisman winners, two more Heisman finalists and a second-round draft pick out of a Mountain West school.

  • Vince Young (2005)
  • Colin Kaepernick (2008)
  • Colin Kaepernick (2009)
  • Cam Newton (2010)
  • Denard Robinson (2011)
  • Braxton Miller (2012)
  • Johnny Manziel (2012)
  • Greg Ward Jr. (2015)
  • Deshaun Watson (2015)
  • Lamar Jackson (2016)
  • Quinton Flowers (2016)
  • Nick Fitzgerald (2016)

Let’s take this one step further. How many quarterbacks have thrown for at least 2,400 yards, rushed for at least 1,300 and scored at least 37 touchdowns in the same season? Since 2000, there have only been three.

  • Nick Fitzgerald (2016)
  • Quinton Flowers (2016)
  • Lamar Jackson (2016)

All of this should have Mississippi State fans very excited for the fall.

The defense is a rebuilding project for new coordinator Todd Grantham, and we’re not sure which members of the offensive supporting cast will step up. History, however, tells us Fitzgerald could still be in for a seriously good year.

READ MORE: How one recruiting list set Nick Fitzgerald on the path to Mississippi State stardom

The post Mississippi State football: How high is Nick Fitzgerald’s 2017 ceiling? The Heisman Trophy isn’t unthinkable appeared first on SEC Country.

Alec Shirkey – SEC Country