Mike Evans

All is not right with Texas A&M after No. 21 Aggies lose to No. 7 Alabama 59-0

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Where have you gone Johnny Manziel?

The answer is Cleveland, and the Texas A&M Aggies obviously miss their former quarterback’s presence.

The No. 7 Alabama Crimson Tide annihilated the No. 21 Aggies 59-0 Saturday. Nick Saban‘s squad dominated every level of the game.  The Crimson Tide racked up 602 total yards. Meanwhile, the Aggies’ explosive offense was held to only 172 total yards.

While Alabama earned an opportunity to move up the national rankings, Texas A&M is going in the opposite direction after its third-straight loss.

Over the past two weeks, the Aggies have been outscored 66-0 during the first half against the Ole Miss Rebels and the Crimson Tide.

After the past three seasons, Sumlin’s squad lost multiple top talents. Manziel, wide receiver Mike Evans and offensive tackles Jake Matthews and Luke Joeckel were first-round draft picks. Players such as running back Christine Michael, defensive end Damontre Moore, linebacker Sean Porter and wide receiver Ryan Swope were also drafted. As well as Sumlin has recruited for the Aggies, it’s still a young team at key positions and lacks talent in others.

The Crimson Tide easily exploited Texas A&M’s problem areas. It starts up front with an undermanned defensive line. Alabama’s offensive line mauled its way to 298 rushing yards. Texas A&M couldn’t counter.

The Aggies’ normally explosive offense couldn’t stretch the field. Quarterback Kenny Hill was under pressure throughout the contest and forced off his spot. Alabama played sound football by keeping everything in front of them and not allowing yards after the catch.

These problems became a recipe for disaster.

Fans of Texas A&M should expect plenty of changes after this week. Sumlin already stated at halftime of the game some players would be replaced.

No one should be safe after Texas A&M laid another egg, including Hill after throwing six interceptions the past three games.

CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: SEC Predictions

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As the 2014 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the SEC. 

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.

SEC EAST

1.  South Carolina (Last year: 11-2; beat Wisconsin in Capital One Bowl)
I’ve said it multiple times and I’ll say it again: this could very well be Steve Spurrier‘s best and deepest Gamecock team since taking over in Columbia a decade ago.  The loss of starting quarterback Connor Shaw will certainly have some impact, but the fact that Dylan Thompson isn’t your typical first-year starter — he’s started three games and thrown passes in 17 others — should help soften the transition.  Losing a pair of defensive line starters and two secondary starters won’t help matters either, but USC has recruited well at those positions the past couple of years and should have the on-paper talent to fill the voids.  A total of 16 starters return, though, including workhorse running back Mike Davis.  The Gamecocks are clearly the class of the East, and it would be more than a little surprising to not see them in Atlanta in early December after qualifying for the SEC championship game.

2. Georgia (Last year: 8-5; lost to Nebraska in Gator Bowl) 
After watching uneven and subpar defensive performances not just last season but the past couple of years, Mark Richt looked to right that ship by going out and reeling in Jeremy Pruitt of the defending BCS champion Florida State Seminoles as defensive coordinator.  Combine that with the returning talent — nine starters on that side of the ball — and the defensive woes of the past should be a thing of the, well, past.  The loss of a four-year starting quarterback will sting, at least initially, but the fact that his replacement, Hutson Mason, started two games at year’s end to go along with Todd Gurley carrying the offensive load while Mason gets his starting sea legs should help in the transition to the post-Murray era.  Having to travel to East favorite South Carolina won’t help the cause, but getting past that early-season hurdle could set the Bulldogs up for a return trip to Atlanta after a one-year absence.

3. Florida (Last year: 4-8)
The Gators could very well be the third-best team in the SEC East — and that may not be enough to save Will Muschamp‘s job.  Beset with injuries and overall poor play — especially on offense — in 2013, UF tripped, bumbled and stumbled its way through the program’s worst season in nearly two decades.  The offense was simply abysmal, especially in the passing game, which served as the impetus for Muschamp to swipe offensive coordinator Kurt Roper from Duke in the offseason.  The early signs point to a rejuvenated offense in general and quarterback Jeff Driskel in particular under Roper.  The defense, as has been the case under Muschamp, will be just fine; if the offense can merely climb to respectable, it should be enough for the Gators to get closer to 2012’s 10-win season than last year’s eight-loss abomination.  The schedule is essentially a wash, with games at Alabama and Florida State offset by tough games against LSU and South Carolina in The Swamp.  UF could be staring an eight-win season square in the face — and that should be enough for Muschamp to get a fourth year on the job.  Anything less than that, and his future employment in Gainesville becomes dicey.

4. Tennessee (Last year: 5-7)
Surprise!!!  Yes, this one could — and quite likely will — come back and bite me square in the arse, but what the hell.  Call it a hunch. Or the fact that they finished with a better record than did the Gators, who I have listed above.  Or a bad case of (insert serious mental disorder here).  Whatever the case, I love what Butch Jones is doing in Knoxville and, while I might be a year early on this, I’m buying in.  How mental am I?  I’m predicting the Vols to finish fourth in the seven-team East, even as I’m fully aware of the fact that UT is the only team in the country that lost every starter on both the offensive and defensive lines.  And then there’s the schedule: the opener at home against an underrated Utah State; a road trip to Oklahoma in Week 3; and SEC away games at Georgia, Ole Miss and South Carolina.  Yep, I’m nuts.  But I do like the defense and the receiving corps, and think that Justin Worley is ready to take a step up to the next level in a conference riddled with questions at the quarterback position, especially as he’s now solidified his hold on the job.  Again, I may not be right, but I think I’m closer to that than wrong.

5. Missouri (Last year: 12-2; beat Oklahoma State in Cotton Bowl) 
The Tigers return just seven of 22 starters — three on offense, four on defense — from last year’s surprise SEC East championship squad.  Mizzou must find a way to replace its leading passer, rusher and three top receivers from a year ago, although the former is a little disingenuous as Maty Mauk showed he was the Tigers’ future at the quarterback position subbing for an injured James Franklin.  Losing Dorial Green-Beckham to a dismissal, though, was a huge blow for Mauk as he assumes the full-time offensive reins for the first time.  The good news is that, while Mauk is adjusting to his new role, Mizzou will feature a pair of running backs — Russell Hansborough and Marcus Murphy — who combined for nearly 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.  The schedule makers didn’t do Mizzou many favors, with road trips to South Carolina, Florida, Texas A&M and Tennessee in the offing.  The Tigers surprised many most all observers by claiming a division title in just their second season in the conference; it’d be equally surprising if they came even remotely close to matching 2013’s success,

6. Kentucky (Last year: 2-10)
Despite just two wins last season, UK appears to be a football program on the upswing, especially if recruiting rankings mean anything.  The past two recruiting cycles, UK has pulled in the No. 17 (2014) and No. 23 (2013) recruiting classes, and are currently rated No. 20 for 2015.  Prior to Mark Stoops’ arrival, UK had just two recruiting classes — 2006 (No. 36) and 2009 (No. 41) — finish inside the Top 50 nationally since 2002.  How long before that success planted on the recruiting trail bears fruit on the field?  That remains unclear, although it could be 2015 before Stoops truly sees the fruit of his and his staff’s labor.  Until then, it could be another rough football season at the basketball school, even as doubling up on last year’s win total would seem to be a modest and attainable goal.

7. Vanderbilt (Last year: 9-4; beat Houston in BBVA Compass Bowl)
I’m fully aware that the Commodores finished fourth in the East last year and won nine games, including the program’s first-ever back-to-back bowl game.  I’m also fully aware that James Franklin was a huge part of that success, and Franklin and his coaching staff are currently in Happy Valley preparing for the upcoming season.  Do I think Stanford’s Derek Mason was a subpar replacement?  Most definitely not; he was one of the more underrated hires of the offseason.  Do I think he can do what David Shaw did after Jim Harbaugh left The Farm after laying the foundation?  No, because there’s simply not that type of foundation in place in Nashville.  Inexperience on the skill player side of the equation, especially at quarterback and wide receiver, could be Vandy’s undoing.

SEC WEST

1. Alabama (Last year: 11-2; lost to Oklahoma in Sugar Bowl)
Replacing a three-year starter at quarterback?  Pffft, no problem for a Tide squad that boasts two Top-Five SEC running backs in T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry… and the SEC’s best wide receiver-tight end combination in Amari Cooper and O.J. Howard… and at least three returning starters along the offensive line… and a defense that, despite the return of  just four starters, is littered with four- and five-star recruits throughout the depth chart and will, again, be one of the most stout in the conference… and, hands-down, the best coach in college football in Nick Saban.  So, yes, the Tide will, as has ofttimes been the case over the past five-plus years, be the favorite not only in the division but in the conference, despite the presence of East/SEC title winner Auburn.  The Tide is locked and loaded to bounce back from two straight losses to end the 2013 season by a squad that was viewed by some, including its head coach, to be an entitled bunch.  A pissed-off Saban with a legitimate agenda and loads of talent at his disposal entering a season is a dangerous proposition not just for the SEC but for college football as a whole.

2. Auburn (Last year: 12-2; lost to Florida State in BCS title game)
There’s no way around it, no way to tap-dance whilst whistling past the biggest question when it comes to AU football in 2014: did the Tigers use a couple of years (decades?) worth of luck in their magical, unexpected, inexplicable ride to the BCS title game?  Even the biggest homer out on The Plains would have to admit that the Tigers were “fortunate” to end the season where they did.  Of their 12 wins, six were decided by eight points or less.  In four games — Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Georgia, Alabama — they were trailing with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.  The Georgia (“Prayer at Jordan-Hare“) and Alabama (“Kick-Six“) wins immediately earned nicknames for the sheer improbability of the endings.  There’s little doubt that Gus Malzahn has, very quickly, turned AU around from the three-win embarrassment that was the final season of Gene Chizik in 2012.  How much was sheer luck, the kind of once-a-decade (or two) happenstance that simply can’t repeat itself?  Regardless of the answer — I’m guessing the talent is sufficient so as to make the question moot — Malzahn’s Tigers will be one of the more fascinating squads to watch throughout the 2014 season.

3. LSU (Last year: 10-3; beat Iowa in Outback Bowl)
Eight times in Les Miles‘ 10 season on the bayou, the Tigers have won at least 10 games.  Included in that total is a streak of five straight.  Don’t expect that skein to be broken in 2015.   Gone is starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger, leaving LSU with arguably the biggest question mark in the conference at the most important position.  Gone also are the top two receivers and leading rusher.  Back, though, are four offensive line starters and seven defensive starters.  Entering the fray as well is Leonard Fournette, one of the most hyped freshman running backs since Adrian Peterson burst onto the scene as a true freshman in Norman a decade ago.  Fournette has the type of ability that will allow whomever emerges from LSU’s quarterback competition to ease into the job.  Well, that and a defense that will be as physical and stifling as it always is.  The schedule makers also smiled on LSU, with its toughest road trip likely proving to be a Oct. 4 date with Auburn at Jordan-Hare, although a regular season-ending trip to Texas A&M’s Kyle Field won’t exactly be a cakewalk.

4. Ole Miss (Last year: 8-5; beat Georgia Tech in Music City Bowl) 
I was almost — almost — tempted to put the Rebels ahead of the Bayou Bengals, but simply couldn’t pull the trigger.  Ole Miss is the “trendy” sleeper pick heading into 2014, and for good reason.  There’s really not a lot to not like about the potential of the 2014 version of Hugh Freeze‘s 2014 Rebels.  They will, once again, possess one of the best offenses in the SEC to go along with a defense that, quietly, is one of the best in a defense-heavy conference.  The biggest hurdle the Rebels have is something completely out of their control: the division in which they reside.  Since Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012, the Rebels are just 2-6 against those four programs — a three-point home win against LSU last season and a win in 2012 against an Auburn team that would ultimately win three games and fire its head coach.  And that’s without even mentioning that Ole Miss has lost four of the last five Egg Bowls against in-state rival — and divisional foe — Mississippi State.  How Ole Miss can crack the Top Three the way the West is currently constituted is unclear.  What appears to be clear is that they have the head coach who could do just that, whether it be in 2014 or in the coming years.

5. Texas A&M (Last year: 9-4; beat Duke in Chick-fil-A Bowl)
Where do we start?  You lose Johnny ManzielMike Evans, one of the best receivers in the country… the best left tackle in the game in Jake Matthews… myriad defensive contributors due to suspension/dismissals/other forms of attrition from a unit that was really bad in 2013… all of that, and it could be quite the season in College Station coming off the success that was A&M’s first two seasons in the SEC.  One known amidst the question marks is that Kevin Sumlin always fields a Top-10 offense as a head coach; even as just five starters on that side of the ball return, that shouldn’t change as Sumlin’s system remains a big consistent for the Aggies.  That defense, though, needs to step it up a level or eight so that the offense doesn’t have to outscore its expected unevenness on that side of the ball.  Games at South Carolina, Alabama and Auburn — the Gamecocks contest is the season opener — doesn’t bode well for the young but talented Aggies.

6. Mississippi State (Last year: 7-6; beat Rice in Liberty Bowl) 
MSU’s placement of second-to-last is not an indictment of Dan Mullens‘ football program, but merely an indicator of just how deep the West is.  If the Bulldogs were in the East, they could very well be the third-best team in the division.  Given their current football lot, they’ll continue to struggle to get past their in-division rivals.  Since going 5-7 in Mullens’ first season in 2009, MSU’s win total has ranged from seven (twice, including 2013) to nine (2010).  With 16 returning starters back, including nine on defense as well as one of the most experienced returning quarterback starters in the conference (Dak Prescott), MSU could and should very well get in that very same win range for a fifth consecutive season.  Whether that’s good enough for the fans and the administration remains to be seen.

7. Arkansas (Last year: 3-9)
In Bret Bielema‘s first season in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks won just three games; two of those wins came against FCS programs, the other against a Southern Miss team that was in the midst of what would become a 23-game losing streak.  UA ended the season on a nine-game losing streak, finishing up Year 1 of the Great Bielema Southern Experiment at 0-8 in SEC play.  Six of those nine losses came by at least 10 points, with two of them coming by a combined 97 points.  It was a rough first season for Bielema and his charges; it doesn’t expect to get much better in 2014.  The good news for Bielema and his coaching staff is that his boss, athletic director Jeff Long, is committed to them for the long haul; whether the long haul is three years or four years or even five years remains to be seen.  One thing is certain: Bielema has a helluva tough job ahead of him, cleaning up the mess left by the controversy-stained departure of Bobby Petrino and the lost 2012 season under John L. Smith.  Oh, and all the while sweeping the broom in the toughest division in any conference in the conference.  Yeah, good luck with that.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Alabama over South Carolina

When they were recruits: 2014’s first-round draft picks

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Of the 32 players drafted in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, four were rated as five-star recruits out of high school — just one more than the total of players rated as two-star players taken among the first 32 picks Thursday night.

Being a freakishly good athlete out of high school often translates into success in college — like for Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2011 and the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft — but it hardly guarantees a player being a first-round draft pick. A look back at where this year’s first-rounders stood coming out of high school certainly proves that point:

1. Jadeveon Clowney: 5 stars, No. 1 overall player (2011)

2. Greg Robinson: 4 stars, No. 90 overall player (2011)

3. Blake Bortles: 3 stars, No. 44 quarterback (2010)

4. Sammy Watkins: 5 stars, No. 15 overall player (2011)

5. Khalil Mack: 2 stars, no national, positional or state ranking (2009)

6. Jake Matthews: 4 stars, No. 48 overall player (2010)

7. Mike Evans: 3 stars, no national, positional or state rankings (2011)

8. Justin Gilbert: 4 stars, No. 26 cornerback (2010)

9. Anthony Barr: 4 stars, No. 50 overall player (2010)

10. Eric Ebron: 3 stars, No. 21 tight end (2011)

11. Taylor Lewan: 4 stars, No. 194 overall player (2009)

12. Odell Beckham Jr.: 4 stars, No. 43 overall player (2011)

13. Aaron Donald: 3 stars, No. 37 defensive tackle (2010)

14. Kyle Fuller: 3 stars, no national, positional or state rankings (2010)

15. Ryan Shazier: 4 stars, No. 14 outside linebacker (2011)

16. Zack Martin: 4 stars, No. 22 offensive tackle (2009)

17. C.J. Mosley: 4 stars, No. 56 overall player (2010)

18. Calvin Pryor: 3 stars, No. 31 safety (2011)

19. Ja’Wuan James: 4 stars, No. 55 overall player (2010)

20. Brandin Cooks: 4 stars, No. 240 overall player (2011)

21. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: 5 stars, No. 7 overall player (2011)

22. Johnny Manziel: 3 stars, No. 14 dual-threat quarterback (2011)

23. Dee Ford: 3 stars, No. 62 outside linebacker (2009)

24. Darqueze Dennard: 2 stars, no national, positional or state rankings (2010)

25. Jason Verrett: 3 stars, no national, positional or state rankings (2011)

26. Marcus Smith: 3 stars, no national, positional or state rankings (2010)

27. Deone Bucannon: 3 stars, No. 45 safety (2010)

28. Kelvin Benjamin: 4 stars, No. 60 overall player (2011)

29. Dominique Easley: 5 stars, No. 7 overall player (2010)

30. Jimmie Ward: 2 stars, no national, positional or state rankings (2010)

31. Bradley Roby: 3 stars, no national, positional or state rankings (2010)

32. Teddy Bridgewater: 4 stars, No. 113 overall player (2011)

Five-star players: 4 (Jadeveon Clowney, Sammie Watkins, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Dominique Easley)

Four-star players: 13 (Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Justin Gilbert, Anthony Barr, Taylor Lewan, Odell Beckham Jr., Ryan Shazier, Zack Martin, C.J. Mosley, Ja’Wuan James, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Teddy Bridgewater)

Three-star players: 12 (Blake Bortles, Mike Evans, Eric Ebron, Aaron Donald, Kyle Fuller, Calvin Pryor, Johnny Manziel, Dee Ford, Jason Verrett, Marcus Smith, Deone Bucannon, Bradley Roby)

Two-star players: 3 (Khalil Mack, Darqueze Dennard, Jimmie Ward)

NFL Draft: Four SEC players in top 10 and Manziel still on the board

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Three SEC players went in the top ten and for the second season in a row a player from the MAC was drafted in the top five. Here is a quick rundown of the top ten picks in the 2014 NFL Draft.

1. Houston Texans: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

Jadeveon Clowney was expected by many to be the first player drafted, and the Texans made him wait before the pick became official. Clowney is the fifth player from the SEC to be drafted number one overall since 2004.

2. St. Louis Rams: OT Greg Robinson, Auburn

For the first time since 2010 the top two picks in the NFL Draft came form the same conference. In 2010 it was Oklahoma and Nebraska accounting for the top four picks. Robinson is the first Auburn offensive tackle to go in the first round since Victor Riley in 1998.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Blake Bortles, UCF

Jacksonville pulled off the first puzzling draft decision of the night by drafting Bortles with the third overall pick. Bortles is now the highest draft pick and just the second first round draft pick in school history. The last UCF player to go in the first round was quarterback Daunte Culpepper in 1999.

4. Buffalo Bills (from Cleveland Browns): WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson

For the second straight season a Clemson wide receiver was drafted in the first round. The Bills traded up to get the player who may be the best receiver in the draft and we will finally get a chance to see CJ Spiller and Watkins on the field at the same time.

5. Oakland Raiders: LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo

The MAC defensive star that seemingly came out of nowhere is the second MAC player in two seasons to go in the first five picks of the NFL Draft.

6. Atlanta Falcons: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

If you were curious why Johnny Manziel has been so effective for the Aggies, take a look at the draft. For the second straight season the Aggies sent an offensive linemen in the first ten picks of the draft (Luke Joeckel last year). Johnny Manziel sits waiting and sipping water in the back.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M

Tampa Bay picks up one of the top wide receivers by choosing the second straight player out of Texas A&M. Evans is the first wide receiver in school history to be drafted in the first round.

8. Cleveland Browns (from Minnesota Vikings): CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

This may be the strangest move of the draft. For some reason the Browns, having already traded down earlier, felt it necessary to move up one pick in order to draft a cornerback. Justin Gilbert is a good player, but there does not seem to have been any sort of demand to make this move for Cleveland, but they are the Cleveland Browns after all.

9. Minnesota Vikings (from Buffalo via Cleveland): LB Anthony Barr, UCLA

The Vikings passed on a chance to draft Manziel but do so by picking up a solid defensive addition in Barr. The Vikings could have used some help at quarterback, but adding Barr is not exactly a poor decision.

10. Detroit Lions: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina

The Lions already have a franchise quarterback so there was no need to make a move for Manziel. Instead they add what could be the best tight end prospect in the draft and give Matt Stafford a nice target to compliment the wide receivers already on the field.

Players by Conference: SEC (4), ACC (2), AAC (1), Big 12 (1), MAC (1), Pac-12 (1)

 

Texas A&M receiver arrested for disorderly conduct

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Texas A&M wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones was could be suspended by the school following an arrest for disorderly conduct.

Seals-Jones was taken into custody early Sunday morning on a disorderly conduct charge according to a report by KBTX. As it is being reported, a police officer saw Seals-Jones be bumped in o by someone outside a bar and Seals-Jones got in to a heated verbal exchange. Although no punches were thrown, the officer on the scene said tensions were getting to a tipping point and Seals-Jones apparently was attempting to pick a fight. At that point, the officer stepped in and made the arrest accompanied by the misdemeanor charge.

Texas A&M has initially issued an indefinite suspension to keep in line with school policy, but that decision was overturned until the school has more information on the incident.

Seals-Jones took a medical red shirt in 2013 after injuring his knee in a season-opening win against Rice. It is expected he will become the team’s top target this fall, replacing Mike Evans. He is the fourth Aggie player to be arrested this spring. Quarterback Kenny Hill, a starting quarterback candidate, was arrested for public intoxication in late March. Linebacker Darian Claiborne (disorderly conduct) and defensive lineman Isaiah Golden (possession of marijuana) were arrested and suspended in late February. Texas A&M also dismissed promising safety Kameron Miles for a violation of team rules in early March.

UPDATE: It was originally reported Texas A&M issued an indefinite suspension, but that decision was scaled back until more information could be reviewed.