Ace Sanders

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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Record number of underclassmen enter NFL draft

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We’ve been keeping track of underclassmen who have declared for this year’s NFL draft. This morning, the NFL released its list of 73 underclassmen who have been granted “special eligibility” for the draft by being at least three years removed from high school before declaring.

That number is a new record, breaking the one held in 2012 with 65 underclassmen declaring. In 2011, 56 players left early and 53 took off in 2010. In fact, the 73 who declared this year is 30 more than in 2004.

Of the 73 players, 33 come from SEC schools, or began their careers at SEC schools. That’s far and away the most of any conference. LSU has 11 underclassmen with ties to the program represented.

You can view the NFL’s release HEREbut here’s the alphabetized list.

Keenan Allen WR, California
David Amerson DB, North Carolina State
Alvin Bailey G, Arkansas
Stedman Bailey WR, West Virginia
David Bakhtiari T, Colorado
Dwayne Beckford LB, Purdue
Le’Veon Bell RB, Michigan State
Giovani Bernard RB, North Carolina
Tyler Bray QB,Tennessee
Terrence Brown DB, Stanford
Duron Carter WR, Ohio State
Knile Davis RB, Arkansas
Mike Edwards DB, Hawaii
Matt Elam DB, Florida
Zach Ertz TE, Stanford
Gavin Escobar TE, San Diego State
Chris Faulk T, Louisiana State
Sharrif Floyd DT, Florida
Michael Ford RB, Louisiana State
Travis Frederick C, Wisconsin
Kwame Geathers NT, Georgia
William Gholston DE, Michigan State
Johnathan Hankins DT, Ohio State
Jajuan Harley DB, Middle Tennessee
DeAndre HopkinsWR, Clemson
Justin Hunter WR, Tennessee
Jawan Jamison RB, Rutgers
Stefphon Jefferson RB, Nevada
Tony Jefferson DB, Oklahoma
Jelani Jenkins LB, Florida
Luke Joeckel T, Texas A&M
Jarvis Jones LB, Georgia
Jose Jose DT, Central Florida
Joe Kruger DE, Utah
Eddie Lacy RB, Alabama
Marcus Lattimore RB, South Carolina
Corey Lemonier DE, Auburn
Bennie Logan DT, Louisiana State
Stansly Maponga DE, Texas Christian
Tyrann Mathieu DB, Louisiana State
Dee Milliner DB, Alabama
Barkevious Mingo DE, Louisiana State
Kevin Minter LB, Louisiana State
Sam Montgomery DE, Louisiana State
Brandon Moore DT, Texas
Damontre Moore DE, Texas A&M
Alec Ogletree LB, Georgia
Cordarrelle Patterson WR, Tennessee
Bradley Randle RB, Nevada-Las Vegas
Joseph Randle RB, Oklahoma State
Jordan Reed TE, Florida
Eric Reid DB, Louisiana State
Greg Reid DB, Florida State
Xavier Rhodes DB, Florida State
Sheldon Richardson DT, Missouri
Nickell Robey DB, Southern California
Logan Ryan DB, Rutgers
Ace Sanders WR, South Carolina
Darrington Sentimore DT, Tennessee
Tharold Simon DB, Louisiana State
Dion Sims TE, Michigan State
Akeem Spence DT, Illinois
Kenny Stills WR, Oklahoma
Levine Toilolo TE, Stanford
Spencer Ware RB, Louisiana State
Menelik Watson T, Florida State
Bjoern Werner DE, Florida State
Steve Williams DB, California
Marquess Wilson WR, Washington State
Brad Wing P, Louisiana State
Cierre Wood RB, Notre Dame
Robert Woods WR, Southern California
Tom Wort LB, Oklahoma

Gamecocks lose Ace Sanders to NFL?

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Tuesday morning, a rumor began making the rounds that South Carolina’s Ace Sanders had told at least one person close to him that he was leaving the Gamecocks early for the NFL draft.  We put in a call to Joe Kinnan of Manatee High School — Sanders’ father is on Kinnan’s football coaching staff — who told CFT that, the last he had heard, his former player would be returning to Columbia for another season.

Based on the chatter coming from Sanders’ Twitter timeline, that’s not likely to be the case.

In a tweet directed at himself a short time ago, Sanders wrote “welcome to the real world… Time to make it happen!” followed by one in which he speaks in the past tense of his time at the school.

“Day full of emotion for. Thank you everyone apart of #GamecockNation. I appreciate everything you did for me. #TearsOfJoy I love you guys!!!” Sanders wrote, which was followed up by a congratulatory message from former teammate and current Buffalo Bill Stephon Gilmore — “S/o to my homie @AceSanders1 going pro” — that was retweeted by Sanders.

The move would be more than mildly surprising as it had long been thought that he would indeed return for his senior season.

Early-entry paperwork needed to be submitted to the NFL by 4 p.m. this afternoon.  The school has not yet confirmed Sanders’ future football intentions, although that seems to be a mere formality at the moment.

Sanders led the Gamecocks in receptions (45) and receiving touchdowns (nine) in 2012, and was one of the most electrifying punt returners at the FBS level. His 14.8 yards-per-return average was good for fourth in the nation, returning two of 29 punts for touchdowns.

2012-13 Underclassmen Draft Declarations Tracker

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In an effort to keep all of the underclassmen declarations in one handy, easy-to-find location, we’ve created this page and will update it as the official word comes down that a player is leaving collegiate eligibility on the table and making the early leap to the NFL. The deadline for draft-eligible players to officially file their paperwork with the NFL is January 15.

Last year, a record 65 draft-eligible underclassmen left school early.  That shattered the record of 56 set the previous season.

So, without further ado, on to the tracker…

QUARTERBACKS (2)

Tyler Bray, Tennessee (1/4/2013)
Kyle Padron, Eastern Washington (1/13/2013)

RUNNING BACKS (11)

Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State (1/3/2013)
Giovani Bernard
***
, North Carolina (12/14/2012)
Knile Davis
**
, Arkansas (12/12/2012)
Michael Ford**, LSU (1/7/2013)
Jawan Jamison***, Rutgers (1/5/2013)
Stefphon Jefferson**, Nevada (12/31/2012)
Eddie Lacy**, Alabama (1/11/2013)
Marcus Lattimore
, South Carolina (12/12/2012)
Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State (1/10/2013)
Spencer Ware, LSU (1/4/2013)
Cierre Wood**, Notre Dame (1/14/2013)

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)

Keenan Allen, Cal (12/6/2012)
Stedman Bailey**, West Virginia (12/17/2012)
Josh Boyce**, TCU (1/9/2013)
DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson (1/10/2013)
Justin Hunter, Tennessee (12/17/2012)
Brandon Kaufman, Eastern Washington (1/13/2013)
Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee (1/9/2013)
Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech (12/13/2012)
Ace Sanders, South Carolina (1/15/2013)
Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (1/7/2013)
Marquess Wilson, Washington State (1/11/2013)
Robert Woods, USC (12/31/2012)

TIGHT ENDS (6)

Tyler Eifert**, Notre Dame (1/8/2013)
Zach Ertz
**
, Stanford (1/7/2013)
Gavin Escobar
**
, San Diego State (1/7/2013)
Jordan Reed
**
, Florida (1/4/2013)
Dion Sims
**, Michigan State (1/3/2013)
Levine Toilolo**, Stanford (1/7/2013)

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Alvin Bailey**, Arkansas ((12/20/2012)
David Bakhtiari
**
, Colorado (1/9/2013)
Chris Faulk**, LSU (1/9/2013)
D.J. Fluker**, Alabama (1/11/2013)
Travis Frederick
**
, Wisconsin (1/5/2013)
Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M (1/8/2013)
Justin Pugh
**, Syracuse (1/3/2013)
Menelik Watson, Florida State (1/8/2013)
Tom Wort**, Oklahoma (1/9/2013)

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (17)

Sharrif Floyd, Florida (1/3/2013)
Kwame Geathers**, Georgia (1/9/2013)
William Gholston, Michigan State (1/5/2013)
Johnathan Hankins
, Ohio State (12/10/2012)
Brandon Jenkins
**
, Florida State (11/20/2012)
Joe Kruger, Utah (1/2/2013)
Corey Lemonier, Auburn (12/31/2012)
Bennie Logan**, LSU (1/7/2013)
Barkevious Mingo**, LSU (1/7/2013)
Sam Montgomery**, LSU (1/7/2013)
Brandon Moore, Texas (1/11/2013)
Damontre Moore, Texas A&M (12/30/2012)
Sheldon Richardson**, Missouri (11/30/2012)
Darrington Sentimore, Tennessee (1/9/2013)
Akeem Spence**, Illinois (12/21/2012)
Stansly Maponga**, (1/15/2013)
Bjoern Werner, Florida State (1/3/2013)

LINEBACKERS (4)

Jelani Jenkins**, Florida (1/7/2013)
Jarvis Jones
**
, Georgia (1/4/2013)
Kevin Minter
**
, LSU (1/3/2013)
Alec Ogletree
, Georgia (1/1/2013)

DEFENSIVE BACKS (13)

David Amerson, North Carolina State (1/5/2013)
Terrence Brown
**
, Stanford (1/8/2013)
Mike Edwards
**
, Hawaii (1/2/2013)
Matt Elam, Florida (1/3/2013)
Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma (1/7/2013)
Tyrann Mathieu
*
, formerly of LSU (11/29/2012)
Dee Milliner, Alabama (1/11/2013)
Eric Reid, LSU (1/4/2013)
Xavier Rhodes**, Florida State (1/2/2012)
Nickell Robey, USC 1/13/2013)
Logan Ryan**, Rutgers (12/31/2012)
Tharold Simon, LSU (1/4/2013)
Steve Williams**, Cal (1/8/2013)

PUNTERS/KICKERS (1)

Brad Wing***, LSU (1/4/2013)

(*Mathieu was dismissed by LSU and did not play his true junior season in 2012)
(**denotes fourth-year junior)
(***denotes third-year sophomore)