Tyler Wilson

CFT Predicts: the SEC

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As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the SEC. 

And while we’re at it, check out our other conference previews: Big Ten, Pac-12

SEC East

1.  South Carolina (Last year: 11-2; beat Michigan in Outback Bowl)
What happened last season?
The Gamecocks put together an 11-2 season for the second straight year — the first time in school history the program has accomplished such a feat. Yet, Steve Spurrier‘s team still didn’t make it to the SEC championship game despite handing it to SEC champ Georgia 35-7 in Columbia. Also, this happened. You may have seen it before on SportsCenter. 

So why are they ranked here?
South Carolina and Georgia have taken their respective turns representing the East division in the SEC title for the past three years, and it looks like 2013 will be two-team race between these two once again. The Gamecocks get the edge this time because of their defense, which features preseason Heisman candidate Jadeveon Clowney. But it’s not just the projected No. 1 NFL draft pick that makes this defense so good. Cornerback Victor Hampton and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles also return.

Anything else?
That’s a Clowney question, bro. But for real, the offense loses wide receiver Ace Sanders. However, the Gamecocks have a solid wide receiver group led by Bruce Ellington and Damiere Byrd. 

2. Georgia (Last year: 12-2; beat Nebraska in Capital One Bowl) 
What happened last season?
If only Chris Conley had been a few yards further, Georgia would have been playing in the BCS championship game. Still, 12-2 and a January bowl win aren’t too shabby. Despite getting blasted by South Carolina midway through the season, UGA still won the East division for the second year in a row.

So why are they ranked here?
The Bulldogs’ offense returns so many key players, including seventh-year senior quarterback Aaron Murray and running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. But conversely, it’s the defense that loses just about everyone. There’s plenty of talent on that side of the ball and Todd Grantham is considered one of the best in the business at defense coordinator, but there’s enough turnover to cost the Bulldogs the top spot in the East.

Anything else?
Georgia is the media’s favorite to win the SEC East this year, but the month of September could get the Bulldogs off to a slow start. Georgia faces four tough opponents to start the season: Clemson, South Carolina, North Texas* and LSU.

(*Kidding, obviously. But seriously #GoMeanGreen.) 

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Jadeveon Clowney names QBs who are ‘scared’ of him

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The first day of SEC Media Days was, outside of Will Muschamp channeling his inner Brady Hokeshaping up to be relatively uneventful. Thankfully, Steve Spurrier and Jadeveon Clowney from South Carolina ended the Tuesday on a high note.

Spurrier was Spurrier (and we love him dearly for it) and Clowney drew easily the largest crowd of media members (for a player) of the day. The preseason Heisman candidate didn’t disappoint reporters looking for a juicy sound clip, either.

Mixed in with SEC championship expectations and draft projections, the topic of scared quarterbacks came up. Clowney didn’t shy away from speaking his mind, naming off at least three quarterbacks he considers to be “scared” of him. The lucky three? Georgia’s Aaron Murray, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and former Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson.

You can look at a guy and tell if he’s scared,” Clowney said. “If he’s staring at me before the ball is snapped, if he’s staring at me before every snap, I’m just like: Oh, we got him.”

But Clowney didn’t stop there.

He is scared every time we play them,” Clowney said of Boyd. “I know he’s listening to this right now but I’m telling the truth.”

Clowney’s earned the right to talk a little, though it should be noted that Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has already been asked about, and downplayed, Clowney’s comments. (Murray will have his chance to respond later this week.) Either way, the real news would be if there’s a quarterback not scared of Clowney at least a little. The defensive end has been tearing it up on the field and this hit against Michigan’s Vincent Smith launched Clowney into another level of stardom (not to mention Smith’s helmet into another dimension).

Of course, there’s still a whole season of football to be played in 2013 and you can be sure teams have been, and will be, spending extra time trying to stop Clowney from creating another game-changing moment.

I mean, which quarterback wants to see this? #CLOWNEYCOMIN

clowney

NC State, USF in play for another transfer QB, too

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Over the past several days, it’s been reported that North Carolina State and USF are interested in former Penn State quarterback Steven Bench.

If that option were to fall through for either school, though, it appears one or the other could be in line for another transfer player at the same position.

Former Arkansas quarterback Brandon Mitchell, Joe Schad of ESPN.com reports, is considering the Wolfpack and Bulls as potential destinations to continue his collegiate playing career.  Schad added that UAB — whose head coach is former Razorbacks assistant Garrick McGee — Louisiana Tech and Northwestern State are also under consideration.

UA announced earlier this week that Mitchell was one of four Razorbacks granted releases from their scholarships.  Mitchell had been competing with Brandon Allen for the Hogs’ starting job throughout the spring, but Allen was named the starter exiting the 15 practice sessions.

The Amite, Louisiana, product will graduate from Arkansas soon and be eligible to play at the FBS level in 2013.  A three-star member of the Razorbacks’ 2009 recruiting class, Mitchell served as Tyler Wilson‘s backup in 2011 before moving to wide receiver last season.

Mitchell and Bench would be the second and third transfer quarterbacks USF has pursued this offseason.  Earlier this month, the Bulls officially lost out to West Virginia in their pursuit of ex-Florida State signal caller Clint Trickett.

Brandon Mitchell among four players granted releases by Arkansas

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Following a competition that lasted throughout the spring, Brandon Allen exited the spring game as Arkansas’ starting quarterback.

As a result, one of Allen’s competitors for the job has decided to take his leave of the football program.

Head coach Bret Bielema announced via a press release Monday that quarterback Brandon Mitchell was one of four players who have been granted a release from their UA scholarships.  Bielema stated that the decisions came after post-spring meetings with each member of the team were conducted.

“Through meetings with these student-athletes, a determination was made that it would be mutually beneficial for them to pursue their goals elsewhere,” the coach said in a statement. “We fully support them and wish them all the best moving forward.”

Mitchell will graduate from Arkansas soon and be eligible to play at the FBS level in 2013, Bielema added.  To where the Amite, Louisiana, product will transfer, though, is unknown.

A three-star member of the Razorbacks’ 2009 recruiting class, Mitchell served as Tyler Wilson‘s backup in 2011 before moving to wide receiver last season.  Bielema had previously hinted that Mitchell contributing at a position other than QB was a possibility this season.

In addition to Mitchell, defensive lineman Austin Flynn, defensive back Defonta Lowe and wide receiver Keante Minor were also granted releases by the school.

It had previously been reported that Flynn would be transferring from the program.  That move came a month after Flynn was arrested and charged with drunk driving, although Bielema stated that the decision was related to academics.

Flynn played in 12 games last season after coming to Fayetteville from the JUCO ranks.0

Minor played in 21 games the past two seasons, primarily as a punt returner.  Lowe played in four games as a true freshman in 2012.

Brandon Allen is Arkansas’ starting QB exiting spring

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As Arkansas heads for a bit of a break following the conclusion of spring practice and prior to the start of the summer conditioning program, Bret Bielema has tabbed his starter at quarterback.

On the Hogs’ post-spring depth chart released Monday, Brandon Allen was listed as the starter at the quarterback position.  Brandon Mitchell, who has been battling Allen for the right to replace Tyler Wilson, was listed as the No. 2 QB.

In quotes distributed by the school, Bielema stated that the decision to put Allen No. 1 on the depth chart simply boiled down to the fact that the front-runner took better care of the football than his competition.

“Brandon Allen, from the first week to the game on Saturday, made progress all the way along,” Bielema said. “The last two weeks have been exceptional. Brandon Mitchell does a lot of good things as well. The one thing that we can’t do is we can’t turn the football over. We can’t create negative plays on our own, and I think Brandon Allen did a better job of that and has progress in a way to put him in that position.”

The decision to tab Allen as the starter entering summer should come as little surprise as, back in early April, Bielema had stated that the newly-minted starter “had a little bit of an edge” on Mitchell.  Allen continued to take a sizable share of the reps with the first-team offense throughout the spring, leading most to assume he was the presumptive leader for the job.

Allen, Wilson’s primary backup last year and a four-star member of UA’s 2011 recruiting class, played in five games as a redshirt freshman in 2012, starting one of those contests and completed less than 50 percent of his passes (21-49) for one touchdown and three interceptions on the year.

As for Mitchell, he could see some time at another position if the depth chart remains the same.  As a redshirt junior in 2012, Mitchell, who served as Wilson’s backup in 2011, was moved to wide receiver.

Bielema hinted that Mitchell contributing at a position other than QB was certainly a possibility.

” I’m a big believer that everyone on this team has a role,” the first-year UA coach said. “I don’t care if you are the second-string quarterback or the second-string snapper or middle linebacker. Whatever that role is, you need to know where it’s going to be.

“With Brandon Mitchell at quarterback, he definitely has some special gifts that we can use. If there’s another role, another position we can use him at, we’ll work together on that.”