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Florida announces hiring of strength and conditioning coach Nick Savage

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Dan Mullen continues to add to his football staff.

Florida on Monday announced that Mullen has added Nick Savage as the Gators’ director of football strength and conditioning. Savage changed his Twitter avatar earlier in the day to a Gator logo.

Savage has six years of experience as a strength coach at the college football level. He spent the past four years at Mississippi State under Mullen, including the final two as the Bulldogs’ head strength and conditioning coach. Prior to that, Savage spent time at Bowling Green, Toledo and Ohio State in 2013 and 2014.

Savage joins a long list of new assistants that have worked under Mullen, including defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and offensive assistants Billy Gonzales, John Hevesy and Brian Johnson.

The strength and conditioning program was one that both Mullen and athletic director Scott Stricklin emphasized as a need for improvement during Mullen’s introductory press conference.

“I think it’s critical. It’s the backbone. I think any successful program has a really strong strength and conditioning program that builds accountability, and I think programs that aren’t as successful usually are lacking in that area,” Stricklin said.

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Jordan McPherson – SEC Country

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Florida Gators special teams duo earns AP All-America honors

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Heading into the 2017 season, Florida punter Johnny Townsend and kicker Eddy Pineiro wanted to prove that they could be one of the top special teams duos in the country.

While the Gators’ season ended in a tailspin with a fired coach and a 4-7 record, the two special teams aces lived up to individual expectations and were honored as such on the Associated Press’ All-America teams which were released on Monday.

Townsend earned second-team honors while Pineiro landed on the outlet’s third team.

Townsend, a redshirt senior, solidified himself as arguably the top punter in Florida football history. The redshirt senior is second nationally averaging 47.6 yards per punt, with 27 of his 64 punts going for at least 50 yards. Townsend owns every major career punting mark in the Gators’ record book.

Pineiro, a redshirt junior, made 17 of 18 field-goal attempts for a national-best 94.4-percent conversion percentage. He closed the season by making 16 straight field goals. Six of his 17 makes came from more than 40 yards. Pineiro owns the school record with an 88.4-percent field-goal percentage (38 of 43) and is one of two players in program history to have two separate strings of at least 13 consecutive made field goals.

Both Townsend and Pineiro also earned All-SEC honors by both AP and conference coaches.

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Jordan McPherson – SEC Country

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Florida football: A closer look at Brian Johnson’s success as a QB coach

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Brian Johnson knows what it’s like to be a successful college football quarterback because he was one during his time at Utah from 2004-2008.

Johnson passed for 7,853 yards, 57 touchdowns and 27 interceptions with 848 rushing yards and 12 scores during his career at Utah’s starting quarterback. He finished his playing career with the most wins by a Utes starting QB, going 26-7. The biggest of those wins came at the close of the 2008 season and the close of Johnson’s playing career when his sixth-ranked Utes defeated fourth-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to cap an undefeated season. Johnson threw for 336 yards and 3 touchdowns while completing 65.9 percent of his passes against the Crimson Tide.

After a year playing professionally with the New York Sentinels of the United Football League in 2009, Johnson is now making a name for himself as a college football quarterbacks coach, helping groom the up-and-comers of the game at a position where he excelled.

His next stop: The Florida Gators, where he will be reunited with coach Dan Mullen, who recruited him to Utah. The Gators are a team that desperately needs consistency and continuity at the quarterback position after going through 11 starters the past eight seasons.

Here’s a closer look at Johnson’s resume and how he has fared with developing quarterbacks and passing games at his previous three stops.

Houston (2017)

Johnson most recently served as Houston’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach during the 2017 season under first-year coach Major Applewhite. The Cougars went 7-4 on the season, but Johnson’s offense ranked 35th overall in yardage (436.1 per game) and 38th in passing offense (260.6 yards per game). Houston sustained its success in the passing game despite using three different quarterbacks throughout the season.

Junior Kyle Allen, a Texas A&M transfer and former top-ranked pro-style quarterback recruit according to the 247Sports composite, opened the season as the starter and threw for 751 yards, 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in three games before being benched in favor of senior Kyle Postma. Postma started the next four games of the year and led Houston to a 2-2 record while throwing for 975 yards, 4 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.

Postma was benched early in his fifth start against USF in favor of sophomore D’Eriq King, who led the Cougars to a 28-24 come-from-behind victory and afterward was named the starter for the remainder of the year. In the final three games of the regular season, King completed 73 percent of his passes for 832 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception while averaging 11.2 yards per pass attempt.

Mississippi State (2014-2016)

Johnson served as Mississippi State’s quarterbacks coach during the final two years of the Dak Prescott era (2014-2015) and, with Mullen, helped morph Prescott into an eventual NFL talent. Prescott threw for 7,242 yards, 56 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in those two seasons while leading Mississippi State to a 19-7 record overall in that time span. Prescott also rushed for 1,574 and 24 touchdowns in those two seasons.

In Johnson’s final year at Mississippi State and lone year without Prescott behind center, redshirt sophomore Nick Fitzgerald completed 54.3 percent of his passes for 2,423 yards, 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for a team-best 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns that season, joining Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and South Florida’s Quinton Flowers as the only quarterbacks with at least 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards that season.

Utah (2010-2013)

Johnson’s coaching career started at his alma mater after his playing career ended. He served solely as the quarterbacks coach from 2010-2011 before assuming offensive coordinator duties for the final two years.

In his coaching debut, Johnson helped the Utes finish 47th in passing offense, averaging 236.1 yards per game through the air to go along with 24 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions as the Utes finished 10-3 overall and 7-1 in the Mountain West Conference.

Utah transitioned to the Pac-12 at the start of the 2011 season and the offensive numbers took a hit as a result over Johnson’s final three years. After two seasons ranked in the bottom 20 in total offense, the Utes finished 76th nationally in 2013 (397 yards per game) and 62nd in passing offense (236.3 yards per game).

The post Florida football: A closer look at Brian Johnson’s success as a QB coach appeared first on SEC Country.

Jordan McPherson – SEC Country

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How Will Muschamp’s success at South Carolina affects Florida; Gamecocks add another official visitor for June

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Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

Division rivals

South Carolina Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp could become a thorn in the side of his former employer, Florida, according to Gridiron Now’s Ryan Green.

“Will Muschamp and South Carolina beat Florida in 2017,” Green wrote. “Will Muschamp and South Carolina are currently outrecruiting Florida for the Class of 2019, and if Will Muschamp and South Carolina were to beat Florida in 2018, it would be another reminder that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”

In four seasons with the Gators, Muschamp posted a 28-21 record. In his first two years in Columbia, the Georgia graduate has led the Gamecocks to a 15-11 record, including the program’s seventh-ever 9-win season in 2017.

Guest list

Four-star athlete and 2019 prospect J.R. Walker plans to take an official visit to South Carolina the first weekend in JuneSportsTalkSC’s Phil Kornblut reports.

The Gamecocks are “like close together, really tight” with North Carolina State for the 6-foot-1, 205-pound athlete, according to Walker himself.

He’s rated as the No. 298 overall prospect for 2019, per the 247Sports composite.

‘Right here in Anderson’

Muschamp spoke at an Anderson Gamecock Club meeting on Wednesday night.

“Some of the best football in our state is played right here in Anderson [at] T.L. Hanna and coach Jeff Herron has done a fantastic job. I’ve known him forever. And Scott Earley and the job he does over at Westside,” Muschamp said.

T.L. Hanna is home to 5-star defensive end and 2019 prospect Zacch Pickens.

Pickens, one of the Gamecocks’ top recruiting targets, is ranked as the No. 1 prospect in South Carolina and No. 13 prospect overall for 2019, according to the 247Sports composite.

Standing out

ESPN’s Alex Scarborough picked guard Sadarius Hutcherson as South Carolina’s breakout player from spring practice, Ben Breiner of The State reports.

“With Jake Bentley at quarterback and Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards at receiver, the Gamecocks’ passing game has a chance to be special,” Scarborough wrote. “But it needs protection, and it might have found a key in that respect in former defensive line recruit and current offensive tackle standout Hutcherson, who was one of two offensive players of the spring.”

The former Huntingdon (Tenn.) High School standout was rated as the No. 63 strongside defensive end by the 247Sports composite when he signed with the Gamecocks out of high school in 2016.

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Summer grind

Class of 2020 offensive lineman Seth Williams is hoping for an offer from South Carolina when he attends camp in Columbia later this summer.

“Just keep working, and I think this summer will be big for me,” Williams said of South Carolina offensive line coach Eric Wolford’s message. “I feel like, if I do really good, though, he’ll offer me at the camp.”

The Statesville, N.C., native already lists offers from Charlotte and Virginia.

‘Breaks my soul’

When meeting with reporters on Wednesday, South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin was candid about former point guard Rakym Felder.

“It breaks my soul that he’s not going to play for us, but I’m very clear with all my guys, not just the one that made mistakes, on a daily basis, what’s expected of them on a daily basis. … He’s a great kid. He’s got a great heart,” Martin said. “Decision-making, when he’s got free time, is a problem for him and he made some poor decisions that put me in a spot where I couldn’t trust him moving forward.”

Felder signed with New Mexico Junior College on May 7.

Great debate

In the Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James debate, Martin makes the case for the former.

“Can you imagine if Jordan had played the way the NBA is today, with a bunch of 6-foot-6 guys at center, can you imagine that?” Martin said. “Everyone wants to talk about fouling. Jordan had to go finish at the rim over the best group of bigs that have ever played our game, in his era: Patrick Ewing, Hakeem [Olajuwon], Dikembe [Mutombo] — he had to go finish at the rim over all those guys.”

The South Carolina coach continued on to add Wilt Chamberlain’s name to conversation.

Craving more Chicken & Waffles? Get your fix with previous versions here.

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Daniel Sweeney – SEC Country

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Florida Gators DT Taven Bryan declares for 2018 NFL Draft

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Taven Bryan will not return to Florida for his final year.

The redshirt junior defensive tackle announced Monday on Twitter that he will enter the NFL Draft and start prepping for his professional career. He is regarded as a potential late first-round pick by some draft sites and will likely be the first Gators player selected in the draft.

WalterFootball.com has Bryan ranked as the No. 4 defensive tackle in the 2018 draft class and has drawn comparisons to the Denver Broncos’ Derek Wolfe and the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt when he is playing at his best.

“Bryan has a tremendous get-off with serious explosion off the snap,” the website’s analysis reads. “He also has developed strength with active hands to shed blocks. With his length, Bryan can play end or tackle, and he would be a perfect fit as a five-technique.

Bryan had a breakout season for the Gators in 2017, his first year as a full-time starter. In 12 games, Bryan recorded 40 tackles (6 for loss), 4 sacks and 3 quarterback hurries despite being constantly double-teamed as an interior defensive lineman. He was consistently ranked as one of the top defensive tackles in the SEC by Pro Football Focus and earned second-team All-SEC honors by the Associated Press.

Bryan did note, however, that the hiring of coach Dan Mullen gave him pause when considering his decision.

“Coach Mullen coming back to Gainesville made this decision very difficult,” Bryan wrote in the tweet, “because I have the highest regard for him and I believe he is going to bring greatness to #GatorNation.”

Bryan joins wide receiver Antonio Callaway as the Florida juniors so far to declare for the NFL Draft. Juniors have until Jan. 15 to finalize their decisions.

The post Florida Gators DT Taven Bryan declares for 2018 NFL Draft appeared first on SEC Country.

Jordan McPherson – SEC Country

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Florida football: Recruiting a priority with early signing period closing in

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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.

Recruiting whirlwind continues

With the early signing period now just eight days away, Florida is continuing its strong push on the recruiting trail. In summary:

Taven Bryan going pro

Redshirt junior defensive tackle Taven Bryan on Monday declared for the 2018 NFL Draft. A budding star on the defensive line, Bryan has the potential to be a late first-round pick.

In other Florida football news

Basketball tumbles in the polls

After two losses last week, the Gators men’s basketball team dropped 15 spots to No. 22 in the AP poll, which was released Monday afternoon.

Gymnastics getting early recognition

The Florida gymnastics team will open the season as the No. 2 team in the country. The Gators are coming off a third-place finish at the NCAA Championships last season.

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

Wide receiver Dre Massey:

Tight end Kemore Gamble:

Quarterback commit Matt Corral:

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

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Jordan McPherson – SEC Country

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Inside the numbers: Breaking down Dan Mullen’s offensive success at Florida in 2006

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New Florida coach Dan Mullen has had offensive success in the SEC for the last 13 years, dating back to his time as the Gators’ offensive coordinator from 2005-08. Once a week, we’ll break down Mullen’s success, one year at a time.

The focus this week is the 2006 season.

The rundown

The Gators finished 13-1 and won the second national championship in program history. Budding stars by the name of Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin made their presence known in their freshman seasons and Mullen’s offensive identity truly began to take form. Florida went 5-1 against ranked opponents, with the lone loss coming against Auburn before closing the season on a seven-game win streak capped with SEC and national championships.

The stats

  • Total offense: 396.1 yards/game
  • Passing offense: 236.1 yards/game
  • Rushing offense: 160 yards/game
  • Scoring offense: 29.7 points/game
  • Yards per play: 6.3 yards

The key players

  • Quarterback Chris Leak: 2,942 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
  • Quarterback Tim Tebow: 358 passing yards, 5 touchdowns, 1 interception; 469 rushing yards, 5.3 yards per carry, 8 rushing touchdowns
  • Running back DeShawn Wynn: 699 rushing yards, 6 touchdowns, 4.9 yards per carry; 12 catches, 161 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns
  • Wide receiver Percy Harvin: 34 catches, 427 yards, 2 touchdowns; 428 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns
  • Wide receiver Dallas Baker: 60 catches, 920 yards, 10 touchdowns
  • Wide receiver Andre Caldwell: 57 catches, 577 yards, 6 touchdowns
  • Wide receiver Jemalle Cornelius: 34 catches, 523 yards, 3 touchdown

The key wins

  • 21-20 over Tennessee: After opening the season with a pair of easy wins (34-7 over Southern Miss and 42-0 over UCF), the Gators came close to dropping their SEC opener against Tennessee. But behind a pair of clutch second-half touchdown drives led by Chris Leak — and ending with catches in the end zone by Dallas Baker — Florida found a way to leave Rocky Top with a win.
  • 21-14 over Georgia: After losing by 10 points to Auburn two weeks earlier, Florida knew it would need to be perfect the rest of the way for a spot in the SEC Championship Game and beyond. First up in that back half of the season was the annual neutral-site rivalry game with Georgia. The Gators took a 21-0 lead early in the third quarter and held off a late Bulldogs rally to clinch the win.
  • 41-14 over Ohio State: The SEC Championship was already in hand after a 38-28 win over Arkansas. Now, the real test awaited. No. 2 Florida vs. No. 1 Ohio State. In reality, though, it didn’t turn out to be much of a test at all. The Gators took a 34-14 lead at halftime and never looked back. By the end of the game, Florida had amassed 370 yards of offense. Chris Leak completed 25 of 36 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown, while Tim Tebow had a passing touchdown and rushing touchdown as the Gators won the national championship. 

In summary

It took just two years for the Gators to get back into national championship contention — and the work was just getting started.

The post Inside the numbers: Breaking down Dan Mullen’s offensive success at Florida in 2006 appeared first on SEC Country.

Jordan McPherson – SEC Country

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Dan Mullen’s success at Mississippi State should translate at Florida

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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.

In-depth look at Dan Mullen’s tenure at Mississippi State

It’s been a little more than two weeks since Florida formally introduced Dan Mullen as its next football coach after he spent nine years building up the Mississippi State program. Our Ryan Young took an in-depth look at Mullen’s time at Mississippi State — with interviews from athletic director Scott Stricklin and Mississippi State players — and what that success could mean for the Gators.

“The trajectory of that program changed the day Dan walked in. He led them to unprecedented consistent success. … Facilities changed, mindset changed, the support changed,” Stricklin said.

“But you sit here and go, OK, now Dan gets to come back in here and he knows the place so he doesn’t have the learning curve. … It’s just exciting to think about how he can take the experience he had there and build on it and use the platform here at Florida to have the kind of program that Gators fans want.”

Stricklin also candidly reflected on the personal toll of hiring Mullen from Mississippi State.

Recruiting roundup

  • Why Mullen waited until Monday to visit Matt Corral.
  • Should Corral sign at Florida, it would help Mullen haul in more offensive talent.
  • The Gators are in the lead for Noah Jefferson, the nation’s seventh-ranked JUCO defensive lineman.

In other Florida football news

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

Running back Adarius Lemons:

Linebacker Nick Smith:

Punter Johnny Townsend:

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

The post Dan Mullen’s success at Mississippi State should translate at Florida appeared first on SEC Country.

Jordan McPherson – SEC Country

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

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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.

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Jordan McPherson – SEC Country

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Florida football: A closer look at Dan Mullen’s track record in key games

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — During Dan Mullen’s nine-year tenure at Mississippi State, he compiled a 69-46 record and reached the eight-win mark five times.

But not all wins are created equal.

Here’s a closer look at how Mullen fared in key situational games during his tenure at Mississippi State.

Season openers

Mullen was 7-2 in season openers during his stint in Starkville. The two losses came against No. 13 Oklahoma State in Houston as part of the Texas kickoff in 2013 (21-3), and there was a surprising 21-20 loss to South Alabama to open the 2016 season. The seven wins came by an average of 40.7 points.

However, take note that those seven wins came against the likes of Jackson State (twice), Memphis (twice), Southern Miss (twice) and Charleston Southern.

Ranked opponents

Mullen and Mississippi State went 7-34 against ranked opponents. No matter how you shake it, that’s a rough number. However, there are a few caveats to point out with this one:

  • Nine of those losses were to Alabama.
  • Eight of those losses came during his first two seasons while Mullen was still rebuilding the program.
  • Ten of those losses were decided by eight points or fewer.
  • Mississippi State was the lower-ranked team in all but five of those 41 matchups.

While Mullen struggled against premier competition at Mississippi State, that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t be able to turn around that number at Florida. During his four years as the Gators offensive coordinator from 2005-08, Florida boasted a 17-5 record against ranked opponents, including five top-5 wins.

Rivalry games

Mullen went 5-4 in the Egg Bowl, Mississippi State’s annual regular-season rivalry game against Ole Miss. The Bulldogs’ 55-20 win in 2016 was Mississippi State’s largest margin of victory in the rivalry since 1916.

Bowl games

After inheriting a team in 2009 that had made just two bowl games since the turn of the century, Mullen had Mississippi State bowl eligible in each of his final eight seasons. The Bulldogs went 5-2 in the first seven bowls in that stretch (the Mullen-less Bulldogs play in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Dec. 30). The two losses came against No. 20 Northwestern in the Gator Bowl following the 2012 season and to No. 9 Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl following the breakout 2014 season.

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Jordan McPherson – SEC Country