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If LSU needs to move a safety to cornerback, it has options

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SEC Country reporter Alex Hickey will answer your LSU Tigers sports queries each weekday in our LSU Question of the Day. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to  @SECCountryLSU@bigahickey or by email to Alex at  alex.hickey@coxinc.com.

Question of the Day: Monday, Feb. 19

We may be in the heart of the lull between signing day and spring practice, but football is still on everyone’s mind.

With the possible exception of wide receiver, LSU will have more depth at safety than any other position this fall. But as Cliff Nelson points out, with that depth comes a dilemma.

How Best does Aranda make use of FIVE stud safeties: Battle Delpit White Stevens Paris (possibly moves to CB) @bigahickey @SECCountryLSU — Cliff Nelson (@ChuckNelson44) February 13, 2018

To show you just how good of a problem LSU has, I’d actually go so far as to say that LSU might have seven stud safeties. One of them is Todd Harris, who is presumably the player Cliff was talking about when typing in Devin White’s name.

Eric Monroe is another player who belongs on this list. So does incoming freshman Kelvin Joseph, though he will move to cornerback after the Tigers failed to land prospects Patrick Surtain Jr. and Mario Goodrich in this year’s signing class.

Barring some unorthodox new formation from Dave Aranda, you can’t get all of them onto the field at once. Logic dictates that someone in that group will join Joseph in getting reps at cornerback.

Senior Ed Paris is the slam-dunk pick since he played the position in 2015. But with Paris, there is still one catch — he still hasn’t been medically cleared to return to practice following last year’s season-ending knee injury. That’s not expected to be an issue that carries into the season, but it could mean that a different player would be in the cornerback mix in spring practice.

Aranda and Corey Raymond have enough faith in their guys that it’s conceivable that any of those safeties could be moved to corner. Remember, in order to get the best guys on the field, LSU frequently played three cornerbacks last season even when it was in a base 3-4 defense. Donte Jackson became a safety with Greedy Williams and Kevin Toliver on the outside. This year, LSU’s nickel look might feature three safeties at times rather than three corners.

JaCoby Stevens sticks out as a distinct possibility given that he has already played safety, wide receiver and H-back in his short LSU career. But with the exception of Battle, I think it’s feasible that any of LSU’s safeties could be a candidate to play nickel or corner if needed. This spring will be the time to see who is best suited to do so.

To see prior answers to our Question of the Day,  we have you covered.

The post If LSU needs to move a safety to cornerback, it has options appeared first on SEC Country.

WATCH: SEC Country Live, February 19

Alabama-Nick Saban

SEC football news never stops. So join us for SEC Country Live every Monday-Thursday at 3 p.m. ET ! Host Brandon Adams and former Alabama All-American Mike Johnson break down everything you need to know in the SEC football world with news, analysis and so much more. Join the conversation on Facebook.com/SECCountry!

Watch on Facebook!

The post WATCH: SEC Country Live, February 19 appeared first on SEC Country.

Arkansas baseball overrated after smashing Bucknell?

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SEC Country reporter Eric W. Bolin will candidly answer your Arkansas Razorbacks sports queries each weekday in our  Mailbag Question of the Day. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to  @SECCountryHogs or by email to Eric at  ericwbolin@gmail.com.

Question of the Day: Monday, February 19 2018

Yes and no.

If you, as a fan, are the type to look at what Arkansas did this past weekend and think these Diamond Hogs are the greatest thing since sliced bread and will never beaten, slow your roll.

If you, as a fan, are the type to look at what Arkansas did this weekend and know these Diamond Hogs are a top-notch team and Bucknell baseball is in the Patriot League, good for you.

Reality lies closer to the latter. Arkansas is a lot better than Bucknell and showed it’s a lot better than Bucknell. College baseball, however, isn’t a sport where run differentials mean a whole heck of a lot. Not in nonconference games in February. Shoot, Arkansas could have lost one game over the weekend and it would not have meant a thing.

Bucknell baseball players haven’t been outside this year. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but college baseball teams in the Northeast don’t get the same amount or type of preseason practice and preparation as those Arkansas is used to playing down in the South. Otherwise, decent teams can look miserable simply because they haven’t spent much time outdoors. Bucknell doesn’t even play its first home game until March 17. That’s more than a month on the road to start the season. It’s going to be a month before Bucknell looks like a team.

Arkansas took advantage of that. But the Diamond Hogs didn’t simply have it fall into their laps. They took advantage of it because they were good enough to take it.

But, yes, not a lot can be gleaned one way or the other after the first weekend of the season. Better opponents, more opponents will tell us more. For now, though, no reason to disbelieve where Arkansas is slotted in the top 5 in the nation.

 

 

The post Arkansas baseball overrated after smashing Bucknell? appeared first on SEC Country.

Kentucky basketball: ‘Whole mood’ changed for Wildcats after Alabama win

Kentucky-Kentucky basketball-John Calipari-Nick Richards-Wenyen Gabriel-Black Panther-Fortnite

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky’s 81-71 win against Alabama on Saturday snapped a four-game losing streak and slowed any talk of missing the NCAA Tournament. But it also changed things in a less concrete way for the Wildcats.

“It cleared the air, definitely,” sophomore forward Wenyen Gabriel said Monday. “It makes the whole mood change the day after the game. It feels like we haven’t had a win in forever. It feels like we’re on a winning streak again.”

Freshman center Nick Richards said the “winning feeling” is all his team really wanted. Kentucky is the youngest team in the nation, so it only makes sense that nothing could restore confidence the way a win could.

Maybe it wasn’t the reason behind Kentucky’s win Saturday, but Richards and Gabriel separately brought up the same thing Monday: players are hanging out with each other off the court more.

Gabriel said they watched the NBA All-Star Game together Sunday night and that he saw Black Panther with some of his teammates.

Richards said they watch TV with each other, not just sports, and play video games. Richards plays FIFA, but everybody else plays Madden, NBA 2K and Fortnite.

“It actually helps us build chemistry with each other,” Richards said of hanging out. “We can ask each other what we like to do on the court, what we don’t like to do on the court. Each guy will know what this guy’s about to do, what the other person’s about to do. It’s actually really helping us.”

Richards said there were a couple of team meetings. Gabriel said there’s been more after-hours shooting sessions. He said the focus in the locker room has been different before games.

“We really hate that losing feeling so I don’t think we’re ever gonna go back to it,” Richards said.

Kentucky (18-9, 7-7 SEC) faces Arkansas (19-8, 8-6 SEC) at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday in Fayetteville.

RELATED: What went right against Alabama, what it might mean for March

RELATED: SEC Bracketology: Kentucky, Arkansas boost NCAA Tournament resumes

Watch: Assistant coach Joel Justus previews Kentucky-Arkansas  (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = 'https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&amp;version=v2.12'; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Posted by Kentucky Wildcats – SEC Country on Monday, February 19, 2018

The post Kentucky basketball: ‘Whole mood’ changed for Wildcats after Alabama win appeared first on SEC Country.

4 SEC traditions in running to be named America’s favorite in USA Today vote

best SEC traditions-SEC traditions-sports traditions-tommer's corner-the grove-12th man-usa today

Make your voice heard with a vote, SEC fans.

Think your school has the best tradition in America? There’s a chance to have your thought count.

As part of USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards, four SEC traditions are listed among the possibilities to be named the  favorite tradition in American sports. If you haven’t voted yet, you have time. You can vote for your favorite sports tradition once per day until polls close at noon ET on March 5. The winning tradition will be revealed on March 9.

The four SEC traditions included in the vote are as follows:

  • Mississippi State’s cowbell
  • Ole Miss’ The Grove
  • Texas A&amp;M’s Midnight Yell
  • Auburn’s rolling Toomer’s Corner

The other possibilities include the Chicago Cubs’ seventh-inning stretch, Duke’s Cameron Crazies, college basketball’s cutting of the nets, the Kentucky Derby’s hats, Clemson’s Howard’s Rock, Wisconsin’s Jump Around, the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Leap, Army and Navy’s March On, Florida State’s Planting of the Spear, Notre Dame’s Play Like a Champion sign, the Oakland Raiders’ Raider Nation, the New York Yankees’ Roll Call, Ohio State’s Script Ohio, Oklahoma’s Sooner Schooner, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Terrible Towels and the Detroit Red Wings’ Throwing of the Octopus.

Of course, judging traditions is so subjective. But come on, each of those SEC traditions is far superior to most of those other options. (Who really wants to throw an octopus? Ew. And those Kentucky Derby hats? Talk about boring.)

You can check out the current leaderboard here. Get those votes in fast, SEC fans. Have justice be done.

The post 4 SEC traditions in running to be named America’s favorite in USA Today vote appeared first on SEC Country.

Meghan Gregg leading Tennessee softball, Lady Vols off to 10-1 start

Tennessee-softball-Lady Vols-Caylan Arnold

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s softball program has the early look of a borderline world series contender, depending on how the Lady Vols’ pitching and hitting depth develops.

Meghan Gregg gives No. 10-ranked Tennessee arguably the most dangerous hitter in the nation. The senior shortstop is batting .559 though the Lady Vols first 11 games with 2 home runs, 14 RBIs and 7 drawn walks.

RELATED: Watch Meghan Gregg reflect on season-opening tourney in Arizona

Gregg came up with a game-winning, bases-loaded hit in the bottom of the seventh to push the winning run across the plate in a 5-4 win over Marshall on Sunday.

Tourney performance

The Lady Vols improved to 10-1 with that victory over the Herd, capping a 4-1 performance in the Michele Smith Invitational in Clearwater, Fla. last weekend.

The Lady Vols beat No. 15 Oklahoma State by a 5-1 count in the tourney opener, but two games later they fell to unranked Florida Atlantic, 3-2.

Junior Matty Moss has established herself as the early season staff ace. Moss improved to 5-1 with a 1.35 ERA after the Florida tournament.

Sophomore Caylan Arnold (3-0) bounced back from a tough opening series by allowing just 2 earned runs in 20 innings in Florida.

Up next

Tennessee softball will face another strong test next weekend when it heads to Palm Springs, Calif., for the Nutter Classic — a tourney featuring several elite programs including No. 3-ranked Oregon.

The Lady Vols have shown a penchant for fast starts and strong finishes, outscoring opponents 16-4 in the first innings of games and 6-0 in the final frames.

WATCH: Abby Lockman delivers walk-off hit in dramatic win over No. 15 Utah in Arizona

Leadoff hitter Aubrey Leach has drawn a team-high 12 walks and has a .545 on-base percentage, bettered only by Gregg’s .628.

The post Meghan Gregg leading Tennessee softball, Lady Vols off to 10-1 start appeared first on SEC Country.

Auburn recruiting question of the day: Ranking top-5 recruiters on staff in 2018 cycle

Auburn-Auburn recruiting-Kodi Burns

Much like Justin Ferguson does on the Auburn team side, recruiting reporter Benjamin Wolk  will answer the Recruiting Question of the Day. You can ask him questions on Twitter or Facebook. Look for our  Question of the Day each weekday. Go  here  to see our previous answers.

Rank Auburn's coaches in order of recruiting impact. — Zac Blackerby (@Zblackerby) February 19, 2018 5.  Defensive line coach Rodney Garner

Maybe the standard has been set too high for Rodney Garner.

With five defensive line signees — Daquan Newkirk, Coynis Miller, Richard Jibunor, Kayode Oladele and Caleb Johnson — Garner did what he normally does. He found athletic, versatile defensive linemen in bulk, including a National Signing Day addition from Johnson. That would’ve garnered (see what I did there) a top-3 spot on the staff in the 2018 class.

So maybe we’ve just become too accustomed to Garner’s recruiting success to rank him fairly.

It’s also a testament to the work other position coaches and coordinators did during the 2018 recruiting cycle.

4. Running backs coach Tim Horton

Tim Horton deserves more love than he receives.

The Auburn running backs coach recently got some of that love from Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson during an appearance on The Cube Show with Cole Cubelic. Horton doesn’t get the credit he deserves for Auburn’s consistent trend of 1,000-yard rushers. He also rarely earns enough recognition for his role as a recruiter.

We’ll take care of that here.

Horton played a primary or secondary role in adding all three 2018 running backs — Asa Martin, Shaun Shivers and Harold Joiner. Horton’s long-standing relationship with Joiner helped secure the versatile athlete late in the cycle. He also played a key part in securing Australian punter Arryn Siposs, which Tigers fans will be thankful for in 2018.

Horton’s ability to help snag Martin will be the defining move in the 2018 class.

He also played a key role in the Bo Nix recruitment. Even though that’s 2019, it’s worth mentioning here.

3. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele

Position coaches are the ones most often asked to take on day-to-day recruiting efforts. Most coordinators take a CEO-type role to recruiting. They often don’t have specific recruiting area, and they tackle more big-picture recruiting concepts.

That describes Kevin Steele’s role for Auburn, too, but it shouldn’t take away from his recruiting impact on the 2018 class.

When several 2018 signees committed, they cited conversations with Steele as major selling points. Anyone who has met Steele or had conversations with him understand the type of mental and emotional effect it could have on a recruit. Quindarious Monday, Jamien Sherwood, Christian Tutt, Coynis Miller, Caleb Johnson and Roger McCreary all directly credited Steele to their ultimate commitments. Several other factors went into it, but Steele’s presence sealed the deal.

In Monday’s case specifically, Steele deserves high praise. Monday was a week away from committing to Clemson when he took a visit to Auburn. His time with Steele on that visit not only gave him pause with Clemson; it caused him to commit to Auburn on the spot.

2. Linebackers coach Travis Williams

Even when he’s not recruiting his own position, Travis Williams is helping the Tigers from a recruiting standpoint.

Williams locked up the two linebackers he wanted in this class — Zakoby McClain and Michael Harris — but he didn’t stop there. With a lessened need for immediate linebacker help, Williams was tasked with finding prospects from his recruiting territories and getting them to Auburn, even if he wasn’t going to be their position coach.

That happened with prospects such as Matthew Hill, Quindarious Monday, Christian Tutt, Richard Jibunor, Roger McCreary and Josh Marsh. Yes, Williams is an ace recruiter at his own position, which will show itself in full form during the 2019 cycle, but he’s done a complete job of helping other position groups.

1. Wide receivers coach Kodi Burns

Kodi Burns silenced any remaining recruiting critics during the 2018 cycle.

After the 2017 class, the common complaint was that Auburn only took one true wide receiver, and it was 3-star Noah Igbinoghene who chose Auburn over Duke and Notre Dame. Burns picked up some criticism because of his youth and an underwhelming opening recruiting cycle. But most of that had to do with the star-studded receiver class the Tigers took the year before Burns’ arrival.

He corrected the script in the 2018 class.

Matthew Hill, Seth Williams, Shedrick Jackson and Anthony Schwartz make up one of the best wide receiver classes in the nation. All four bring immediate-impact ability in a variety of different ways. Also, even though Auburn missed, the fact the Tigers also finished second for prospects such as Justyn Ross and Ja’Marr Chase — despite four highly-rated guys already committed — is a testament to Burns’ relate-ability to high school football prospects.

To see all the answers to prior Auburn questions, click here.

The post Auburn recruiting question of the day: Ranking top-5 recruiters on staff in 2018 cycle appeared first on SEC Country.

LSU’s Arden Key tweets about anti-climactic junior season as he preps for NFL combine

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Considering LSU’s All-American edge rusher Arden Key’s sophomore season, one in which he set the single-season school record with 12 sacks, his junior year was quite the disappointment. That turn of events has Key reflecting.

Key only played in eight games, posting just 4 sacks as he battled through a few injuries. He missed the first two games of the season while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Key then missed the final two regular season games with a knee injury before having surgery on his finger and missed the team’s Citrus Bowl loss to Notre Dame.

Prior to the start of the 2017 season, Key was projected to be a top 10 pick by some. However, his stock has dropped significantly as the NFL draft approaches in late April.

On Monday, Key posted a message on social media that acknowledges his final season in Baton Rouge didn’t go as planned, but he believes it will ultimately serve a positive purpose.

My junior year wasn’t the best year and it didn’t sit well with me but guess what? I learned a lot of life lessons and blessed I went through what I went through! #GodsPlan — OptimusKey_ (@ArdenKey49) February 19, 2018

Speaking with NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, one anonymous NFL executive described Key as the most polarizing player in the class for LSU.

“We had guys who had huge grades on him coming into the season and they plummeted during the season,” the executive told Jeremiah. “We’re still trying to sort him out.”

Even ESPN’s Mel Kiper has said that he doesn’t see Key hearing his name called in the first round, calling him more of a second-round pick.

Nonetheless, SEC Country’s mock draft has Key going with the No. 11 overall pick to the Miami Dolphins in the upcoming draft.

The post LSU’s Arden Key tweets about anti-climactic junior season as he preps for NFL combine appeared first on SEC Country.

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