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Latest on Tennessee’s quarterback recruiting options in 2019 class

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SEC Country reporter Blake Morgan will candidly answer your Tennessee sports queries each weekday in our  Mailbag Question of the Day . Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to @SECCountryVols, Tennessee Insiders Facebook page or by email to Blake at blakemorgan123@gmail.com .

I’ve received plenty of questions about Tennessee’s quarterback recruiting situation, so it’s probably time for an update on that key position.

Tennessee is still going kind of slow at quarterback. The coaching staff pushed hard for Sam Howell before peeling off late when it appeared he was going elsewhere. Tennessee was the only school other than Alabama to put some time into Taulia Tagovailoa because most schools figured he’d follow his brother Tua to Alabama. He did that last weekend, announcing his commitment.

So where does that leave the Vols in the search for a signal caller in the 2019 class?

SEC Country reported two weeks ago that Lance LeGendre talks with Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt about every three days. Pruitt making the calls might lead some to believe that the 6-foot-3, 214-pound dual-threat quarterback is being recruited at another position. Offensive coordinator Tyson Helton usually handles the quarterback recruitment. But LeGendre is adamant that he is a quarterback.

LeGendre has a huge arm and terrific athleticism. He’s a Kansas commit but is giving other schools a shot. LSU is a looming factor. If the Tigers strike out elsewhere, they could come calling on the New Orleans native.

The Vols are involved with another New Orleans quarterback: Travis Mumphrey Jr. He has improved his technique and footwork the last few months. Tennessee offered him in February and is trying to get him on campus for a camp this summer. Western Kentucky, Georgia Tech and South Alabama are recruiting him the hardest.

Tennessee continues to slow-play the quarterback position. I think the quarterback in the 2019 class will be a prospect the Vols haven’t been linked to much to this point.

The camps this summer might be key to finding the new targets.

The Class of 2020 — with Marietta, Ga., native Harrison Bailey as the top target — seems to be where the most attention is being placed right now.

For answers to prior Tennessee Questions of the Day,  click here .

The post Latest on Tennessee’s quarterback recruiting options in 2019 class appeared first on SEC Country.

Will Connor Noland be better football or baseball player at Arkansas?

arkansas-arkansas football-connor noland 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: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 Interesting question. The Greenwood High (Arkansas) product (actually, wait. I don’t want to call the man a product. He is not a piece of meat here for Arkansas fans’ pleasure), er, the Greenwood High football and baseball player will be in Fayetteville this summer. That in and of itself is a win. See, Noland only decided a few weeks ago to definitely do it. He was a potential top 10-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. Instead, Noland officially announced his intention to skip the draft — he emailed teams telling him he was going to Arkansas — and head to college. He was recruited by both Bret Bielema and Chad Morris for football and Dave Van Horn for baseball. Odds are, his upside is higher in baseball. Part of that is just the nature of the sport. A good college baseball player can play professional baseball easier than a good college football can play professional football. But the question isn’t which path is easier. Arkansas has an immediate opening at quarterback. Noland will be a late arrival who missed spring practice, but Ty Storey and Cole Kelley didn’t exactly take control of the starting gig in that time, anyway. There is a chance, albeit a small one, Noland could arrive and immediately fit Morris’ plans for the position. Even if he doesn’t, it’s unlikely Storey or Kelley will blow away the competition in 2018, which would allow for another competition in 2019. Van Horn’s baseball team is in better shape. Right now, anyway. However, starting pitchers Blaine Knight and Isaiah Campbell are draft eligible and, in my personal opinion, unlikely to return in 2019. That would leave two spots immediately open for the weekend rotation. Even if Van Horn moves up a guy such as Matt Cronin or Bryce Bonnin, plenty of opportunities should be available for Noland on the mound. More opportunity and sooner means the answer provided right now is baseball.

The post Will Connor Noland be better football or baseball player at Arkansas? appeared first on SEC Country.

How Auburn gained edge over SEC schools in recruitment of DB Roger McCreary

Auburn football-Auburn recruiting-Roger McCreary

MOBILE, Ala. — The football coaches at Williamson High School in Mobile, Ala., knew early they had a special player in Roger McCreary. That included Lions defensive coordinator Antonio Coleman.

“He played running back, quarterback, wide receiver, punter, kicker, safety,” said Coleman, who played defensive end at Auburn from 2005 through 2008. “Anywhere I put him he could do it.”

McCreary didn’t just do what Coleman asked, either. He excelled. As a senior, the 5-foot-11,178-pound corner had 62 catches (702 yards), 802 rushing yards and threw for 600 yards. He scored 21 touchdowns, intercepted 8 passes and broke up 14 passes. His stat line attracted several schools, but major programs weren’t showing loads of interest.

Still, McCreary, Coleman and Lions coach Dedrick Sumpter remained confident the 3-star prospect would end up at the right school.

“I really knew that this was a special kid. With some other schools, they were going after highly recruited kids and if that guy didn’t pan out then they wanted Roger,” Coleman said. “That was the story a little bit with a lot of schools, but they didn’t really know what they were missing.

RELATED: Auburn ‘expecting full recovery’ from Jordyn Peters, Jeremiah Dinson

“A lot of good schools offered him,” Coleman said. “But I was convinced the kid would be an SEC player, that he would start in the SEC one day.”

Auburn was the first powerhouse program to enter into the picture. Kevin Steele, Travis Williams and other staff members saw McCreary’s film and were interested. When the Tigers started tracking McCreary, other SEC teams followed.

Overnight, or so it seemed, the recruiting process changed. McCreary was hesitant at first, but Steele and Auburn quickly proved loyal.

“When he first came I thought it was just recruiting talk, him saying he really wanted me,” McCreary said. “But that’s when he started coming. He talked to my coach and my coach said they were going to talk to the staff about me. A day or two days later they offered me so I knew he was serious and he really had wanted me.”

From there, McCreary’s connection to Steele grew stronger. Auburn’s loyalty stayed with him when Tennessee and Alabama showed interest.

In November, the Tigers gained their second important edge in their pursuit of McCreary.

“When I went to the Georgia and Alabama games, I loved how the fans were at the games,” McCreary said. “I didn’t know they would be like that because I went to Alabama games, but that game at Auburn was just different. The atmosphere was different.”

At that point McCreary’s vision of playing in Jordan-Hare Stadium seemed within reach. Shortly after the season ended, it became a reality.

“When I went on the Auburn visit I kind of had my mind made up, but I was keeping my options open,” McCreary said. “I spoke to my parents and they said if I loved it and they loved it, what was the wait? After that I committed to Auburn.”

The post How Auburn gained edge over SEC schools in recruitment of DB Roger McCreary appeared first on SEC Country.

Fletcher Cox’s Mississippi hometown names road after him following Super Bowl victory

Fletcher Cox-Mississippi State-hometown Mississippi-names sweet after him

Fletcher Cox won Super Bowl LII in February and is getting an awesome honor in April.

The former standout at Mississippi State helped lead the Philadelphia Eagles to the championship last season, and the Mississippi native got a surprise from his hometown.

He told the Philadelphia media about it during the team’s offseason program on Tuesday.

Fletcher Cox’s hometown of Yazoo City named the longest street in town after him due to the Super Bowl win. “Fletcher Cox Road” #Eagles — Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) April 24, 2018

The road formerly known as River Road in Yazoo City is now called Fletcher Cox Road in honor of the town’s Super Bowl champion.

River Road in Yazoo City, Miss. is now Fletcher Cox Road. I spent a few days in Yazoo City in 2012 to learn about Cox’s connection to his hometown: https://t.co/x4Nv6BTWGE — Zach Berman (@ZBerm) April 24, 2018

Cox played for the Bulldogs in Starkville for three seasons from 2009-11, totaling 7.5 sacks and 24.5 tackles for loss during his career.

Cox has been with the Eagles for his entire NFL career that began when the team drafted him in the first round in 2012, and he’s been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons.

Cox didn’t have a huge performance in a Super Bowl that was dominated by offense, but he did have 1 tackle and 2 hits on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

If Cox wasn’t already a legend in Yazoo City, he is now, and he’ll be there forever.

The post Fletcher Cox’s Mississippi hometown names road after him following Super Bowl victory appeared first on SEC Country.

Greg McElroy: Missouri’s Drew Lock, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham ‘bound for big years’ in 2018

Greg McElroy-Greg McElroy Jarrett Stidham Drew Lock-Jarrett Stidham-Drew Lock-Auburn-Auburn Tigers-Missouri-Missouri Tigers-football-SEC quarterbacks

Greg McElroy envisions big things for Missouri quarterback Drew Lock and Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham in 2018.

On Tuesday, the former Alabama quarterback and current SEC Network analyst appeared on WJOX 94.5 FM and broke down the country’s quarterback landscape. After analyzing the national picture, McElroy offered his opinion that Lock and Stidham are quarterbacks within the SEC who are “bound for big years” later this fall. McElroy avoided naming Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, saying he needs to see more from the young player than the one strong half Tagovailoa produced in the Crimson Tide’s victory against Georgia in the National Championship Game in January.

“As far as SEC quarterbacks are concerned,” McElroy said in the radio appearance, “I would say, based on a 12-game sample size from last year — so I can’t go based on one half of football — and I know Alabama fans don’t understand why that’s difficult to do. … But I need to base it off a little bit more tape than that. So other guys I would consider in the SEC would be Drew Lock and Jarrett Stidham, who I think are bound for big years this year as they head back off of pretty productive seasons last year.”

Both Lock and Stidham had strong 2017 campaigns. Lock completed 242 of 419 passes for 3,964 yards with 44 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last year as Missouri finished with a 7-6 record. Stidham went 246-of-370 passing for 3,158 yards with 18 touchdowns and 6 interceptions as Auburn closed with a 10-4 record during a campaign that included an SEC West title.

If Tagovailoa ends up being named Alabama’s starting quarterback after his competition with Jalen Hurts, there’s a strong possibility that he will produce standout numbers as well. Still, Lock and Stidham are safe bets to be notable SEC performers from the pocket this fall.

Click below to listen to the full interview featuring McElroy:

Greg McElroy recaps the spring for the SEC teams https://t.co/Wb4LaTjOLs via @Audioboom — WJOX 94.5 FM (@WJOX945) April 24, 2018

The post Greg McElroy: Missouri’s Drew Lock, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham ‘bound for big years’ in 2018 appeared first on SEC Country.

Alabama’s post-spring defensive depth chart: Next wave already is here

Alabama football-depth chart-defense

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — There’s turnover, and there’s what the University of Alabama defense is going through this offseason.

All the departures, both on the coaching staff and the numerous contributors on the field, have been well documented. But to put it into some perspective, consider the following:

Da’Ron Payne, Da’Shawn Hand, Rashaan Evans, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison Anthony Averett, Levi Wallace and Tony Brown — who will all likely be selected in the 2018 NFL Draft — had combined to play in 396 games for Alabama, with 196 starts.

It’s almost like the Crimson Tide will have a totally new defense.

Here’s a look at the projected depth chart for the defense and special teams at the end of spring:

Defensive line
  • Starters: Isaiah Buggs, Raekwon Davis, Quinnen Williams
  • Backups: LaBryan Ray, Stephon Wynn, Phidarian Mathis, Johnny Dwight
  • Arriving over the summer: Christian Barmore, Vita Musika

Depth is an obvious concern, but the starting trio could be very good with Davis and Buggs wreaking havoc. Williams stepped up and won the nose tackle job even though he’s more of a defensive end physically. Regardless, his teammates spoke highly of his progress during the spring.

Behind them there’s a lot of talent, yet very little experience as Ray is a sophomore, Mathis a redshirt freshman and Wynn an early enrollee. The junior college transfer Musika was a post-National Signing Day addition and he will be a much-needed reserve in the middle.  

This is insane. Alabama’s OL was unable to create ANY movement against Isaiah Buggs, Quinnen Williams (92) and Raekwon Davis (99) on this play. This Alabama defensive line is about to be a nightmare for opposing offenses. pic.twitter.com/Jefs15bZf4 — Clint Lamb (@ClintRLamb) April 23, 2018 Interior linebackers
  • Starters: Dylan Moses, Mack Wilson
  • Backups: Keith Holcombe, Joshua McMillon, Markail Benton, VanDarius Cowan, Ben Davis
  • Arriving over the summer: Jaylen Moody

Moses and Wilson have four career starts between them, but could be poised for monster years. Nick Saban is looking for a little more maturity out of them, yet the former 5-star recruits were both impressive on A-Day.

Cowan looked like he had a chip on his shoulder after getting suspended, and demoted, for academic reasons at the beginning of the spring. McMillon and Benton were second team and Davis’ move to the interior appears to be for good.

Holcombe is the wild card as he won’t decide until after baseball season is over if he wants to focus on that sport full-time or come back and play two sports again next year.

Outside linebackers
  • Starters: Christian Miller/Terrell Lewis, Anfernee Jennings
  • Backups: Jamey Mosley, Christopher Allen, Jarez Parks
  • Arriving over the summer: Eyabi Anoma, Jordan Davis, Cameron Latu

Coming off a torn ACL in the College Football Playoff, Jennings missed the spring but should be ready to go for fall training camp. Miller and Lewis, who missed most of last season with injuries, can play at either outside linebacker spot and will get plenty of playing time. Teammates widely hailed Lewis’ improvement throughout the spring.

Look for Allen to step up as a pass rusher, but the player to watch in the fall will be Anoma, one of the nation’s top prospects in the 2018 recruiting class who notched 50 sacks during his last two seasons in high school. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, he could be too good to keep off the field.

Terrell Lewis looking like a big time pass rusher today. Really quick hands. Big time get off. #Aday — Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) April 21, 2018 Cornerbacks
  • Starters: Trevon Diggs, Saivion Smith
  • Backups: Shyheim Carter, Jared Mayden, Nigel Knott
  • Arriving over the summer: Patrick Surtain Jr., Jalyn Armour-Davis, Josh Jobe, Eddie Smith

Alabama was going to experiment with wide receiver DeVonta Smith at cornerback during the spring to add some depth and be available on an emergency basis in the fall, but those plans had to be scrapped when two other wide receivers suffered injuries.

Diggs couldn’t pin down the starting job after moving from wide receiver last year, yet he now looks the part and is  more confident. He and Smith give Alabama a pair of big cornerbacks who can match up against both size and speed, and Carter nailed down the job called star as the nickel defensive back.

The player to watch in the fall is Surtain, who — if he comes in ready to go — might quickly challenge for playing time.

Safeties
  • Starters: Deionte Thompson, Xavier McKinney
  • Backups: Daniel Wright, Kyriq McDonald, Keaton Anderson, Slade Bolden

Thompson already has emerged as the leader of the unit. Anderson missed the spring with a shoulder injury. He and Wright already have become regulars on special teams.

Alabama doesn’t have any incoming safeties when the rest of the recruiting Class of 2018 arrives, so look for one of the young cornerbacks to slide over if necessary. Bolden did for the spring, at least, and is versatile enough to play on offense as well.

Special teams
  • Starters: K Joseph Bulovas, P Skyler DeLong, LS Thomas Fletcher
  • Arriving over the summer: K Austin Jones (graduate transfer)  

Alabama has to replace every specialist except the long snappers, Fletcher and walk-on Scott Meyer. Bulovas redshirted last season and was named co-MVP of A-Day after making 5 field goals, yet competition at kicker won’t begin until Jones arrives as a graduated transfer.

The Crimson Tide may not settle on returners until the fall, but Trevon Diggs, Henry Ruggs III, Xavian Marks and Josh Jocobs all have some experience. Jared Mayden also lined up deep on punt returns during A-Day.

The post Alabama’s post-spring defensive depth chart: Next wave already is here appeared first on SEC Country.

Alabama championship QB provides mixed review on Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It’s too early to draw any conclusions about Tennessee football’s quarterback race, even after Saturday’s scrimmage, according to SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy.

“Regardless of how things go today, the grade for Jarrett Guarantano and Tyson Helton is incomplete,” said McElroy who led Alabama to a 14-0 record and the 2009 national championship running a similar pro style attack.

“You can’t learn this system and implement this system and know all the nuances and the checks and the adjustments and the progressions after 15 practices,” he said. “You get 25 more [practices] in the fall, [and] these guys will be well oiled and ready to go.”

Guarantano was the MVP of the Tennessee Orange and White Game last Saturday, 15-of-27 passing for 226 yards with 2 touchdowns.

“Looking at it up close,” McElroy said. “I think Guarantano looked comfortable.”

Coach Jeremy Pruitt wasn’t ready to let any of his players get too cozy.

RELATED: The truth about Tennessee football quarterback situation

Pruitt referenced some open receivers Guarantano missed and a need for him to step up into the pocket more often, making it clear the quarterback competition will continue into the future.

Stanford graduate transfer Keller Chryst, who has four years of experience running a pro style offense and an 11-2 record as a starter, is expected to arrive June 1.

But it was Guarantano who was under the microscope on Saturday, and as effective as he was, McElroy found room for critique.

“You watch Jarrett Guarantano, he doesn’t have a huge arm, but that’s fine, he can anticipate and that’s where he needs to grow as a player,” McElroy said during the SEC Network broadcast. “He needs to grow from an anticipation standpoint, and that comes from comfort, and that comes from reps and maturity.

“So last year seeing what he was, knowing what he could eventually become, I’m quite encouraged about the development that he has a chance to make here in the next couple of years.”

McElroy said it’s not uncommon for transfers to make an impact when new coaching staffs are brought in, but he expects Guarantano to make it a competitive situation with Chryst.

“I can tell you this, Jarrett Guarantano, based no the way he’s played, isn’t going to make it easy for Jeremy Pruitt when he does decide [on a quarterback],” McElroy said.

Guarantano’s shortcomings — holding the ball too long, lacking the lower-body power to step out of tackles in the pocket — are things time and physical maturity can take care of.

“There are still issues from time to time when it comes to game management, for instance taking a sack on first-and-10 in the 2-minute drill and setting yourself way behind the chains,” McElroy pointed out. “He missed a couple [throws] but that’s to be expected. There were some teachable moments …   but he used his legs a couple of times, he evaded pressure and he used the clock in his head.

“I thought he was very sound and in command of the huddle, too, which I think is important and something Jeremy Pruitt is keeping a close eye on.”

Tennessee football Orange and White coverage

The post Alabama championship QB provides mixed review on Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano appeared first on SEC Country.

Auburn DC Kevin Steele lists secondary starters ‘if we lined up tomorrow’

Auburn defense-Tigers defensive backs-Javaris Davis

MOBILE, Ala. — The 2018 season won’t start for Auburn football until Sept. 1, when the Tigers take on Washington. However, if kick-off came sooner, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele would be confident in his starting secondary.

“If we lined up tomorrow it would be [Jeremiah] Dinson and Daniel Thomas,” Kevin Steele said at an Auburn Club event Monday. “And then [Jamel] Dean and Noah Igbinoghene. Then with [Javaris] Davis at star.”

The Tigers are expecting Dinson, who left the A-Day spring game after suffering a shoulder injury, to make a full recovery by the time fall camp begins, Steele said. With that clarification, the most surprising name in the group is Igbinoghene, who switched from wide receiver to defensive back at the beginning of spring.

Steele was most encouraged by the three early enrollees who reported to campus in January to participate in spring workouts. He anticipates the three immediately adding depth to the secondary.

RELATED: Auburn ‘expecting full recovery’ from Jordyn Peters, Jeremiah Dinson

“[Christian] Tutt and [Jamien] Sherwood and [Smoke] Monday were all in the spring practices and really should have still been in high school,” Steele said. “They picked things up very good and played at a high level.”

Tutt, a 4-star cornerback prospect out of Thomson, Ga., stood out most to Steele, so much so that the veteran coach “wouldn’t be afraid to play him” if Auburn was kicking off in Atlanta tomorrow.

“That’s a pretty big statement to say for a corner that’s really still supposed to be in high school,” Steele said. “He’s got the tenacity, he’s got the work ethic. He’s got the mentality. He’s very sharp. So, that was a big plus coming out of spring.”

Auburn is expecting “good competition” between the newcomers in August, and Steele has also been impressed by the growth of some other returning players.

RELATED: How realistic is another trip to SEC Championship Game for Auburn in 2018?

“We’ve got [John] Broussard is really another guy that has kind of been in the background,” Steele said. “But really had a very good spring.”

In the end, with limitations on practice and scrimmages during the months of March and April, Steele exited spring feeling good about his defense and his secondary. The process was accelerated, but his players responded like he’d hoped they would — eager to roll into the preseason.

“The thing that probably was the most encouraging was there was very good retention from the guys who played last year,” Steele said. “Then we had some guys who weren’t technically redshirted, some were redshirted, some were not, that they used the offseason to study and they came with a good background in what we had done in fall camp.”

The post Auburn DC Kevin Steele lists secondary starters ‘if we lined up tomorrow’ appeared first on SEC Country.

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