Justin Hunter

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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Monday night one-liners

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Meandering our way through the offseason, a solitary one-liner at a time…

— Despite a significant offensive turnaround in 2012, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley still looks back on the game tape with disgust.

David Climer of The Tennessean whines writes that Alabama’s recruiting math doesn’t add up.

The Oregonian: With his mom in Afghanistan, Oregon State safety Tyrequek Zimmerman shoulders heavy load.

— Losing assistant coach Jerry Montgomery to Oklahoma is not a huge blow to Michigan, but it will have an impact on the recruiting trail.  Speaking of which…

— The hiring of Montgomery is a clear signal that Bob Stoops has made recruiting an even higher priority at Oklahoma.

— After the ACC released its 2013 schedule Monday, the Raleigh News & Observer writes that November will be a big football month for Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State.

— Former Alabama and Auburn football players will put aside their Iron Bowl rivalry for the benefit of a local high school football program.

— Illinois head coach Tim Beckman reached out to friends in the coaching profession in an attempt to get the Illini back on track after a dismal first season in Champaign.

C.J. Brown, one of the 792 Maryland quarterbacks to suffer season-ending injuries last season, is ahead of schedule in the rehab process.

— The Memphis Commercial Appeal explores what the new Big East TV deal means to the Tigers’ bottom line.

— Three returning starters are among the baker’s dozen who will miss Northwestern’s spring practice, which kicks off Wednesday morning.

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times continues his positional look at the Washington Huskies heading into the spring with an overview of the offensive line.

Knoxville News Sentinel: Once a trio, Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson go under individual microscopes at the NFL Combine.

San Diego Union-Tribune: Aztecs look for talent at TE, CB this spring.

Deseret News: No one can argue that changing BYU’s colors has not been a business success.

— Former Tennessee offensive lineman Anthony Parker has joined the Vols as a grad assistant.

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

Vols confirm four entering draft, including Bray

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It had previously been reported that three members of Tennessee’s 2012 offense — quarterback Tyler Bray and wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson (pictured) — would be leaving the Vols early for the NFL.

As it turns out, the total’s actually four.

In a press release, UT confirmed that trio, along with defensive lineman Darrington Sentimore, have informed new head coach Butch Jones that they intend to declare for the 2013 NFL Draft and relinquish their final year of college eligibility.

Bray has started 24 games the past three seasons, and leaves the Vols in fourth place all-time in passing touchdowns (69) and passing yards (7,444) and fifth in pass completions (540).  His father confirmed earlier this month that his son had already signed with an agent, precluding any type of return to Knoxville.

Hunter and Patterson were 1-2 in receptions and receiving yards this season, the first year the latter had been part of the Vols.  Hunter announced via Twitter last month that he was headed to the draft.

The only “surprise” among the four is Sentimore.  The lineman started nine of the 12 games he played this season, and was credited with four sacks and five tackles for loss.

Bray signs with agent, ending Vols career

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Just over two weeks ago, it was reported that Tyler Bray was leaving Tennessee a year early for the NFL.  While the school never officially confirmed the quarterback’s departure, it appears the Vols will indeed have a new player under center to go along with a new head coach.

By way of the Knoxville News Sentinel, Bray’s father Jeff told a Knoxville radio host today that his son has signed with NFL agent Don Yee.  That move means Bray’s UT career has officially come to an end.

Why the school has yet to officially acknowledge Bray’s departure is unclear.

Bray is a true junior, and has started 24 games his first three seasons in Knoxville.  The four-star member of the Vols’ 2010 recruiting class is coming off his best season, totaling career highs in yards (3,612) and touchdown passes (34) as well interceptions (12).  The News Sentinel writes that “Bray would leave Tennessee in fourth place all-time in passing touchdowns (69) and passing yards (7,444) and fifth in pass completions (540).”

With 11 days left until the deadline for underclassmen to declare, Bray is the lone quarterback to make the early leap into a draft pool that’s very shallow at his position at the moment.

UT wide receiver Justin Hunter announced via Twitter last month that he’s leaving early for the NFL.  Fellow receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is expected to do the same, although that’s yet to be officially announced as well.