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Can Darius Slayton become all-around WR Auburn football needs?

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Over the next few weeks, SEC Country will take Auburn football fans to Summer School. Each session will focus on one position on Auburn’s 2018 roster, finding answers from spring practice and looking ahead to what might be the biggest questions for the fall.

Let’s continue with the top wide receiver position of split end, also known as the 9 or X.

  • Darius Slayton (Junior)
  • Nate Craig-Myers (Junior)
  • Matthew Hill (Freshman — summer enrollee)
  • Seth Williams (Freshman — summer enrollee)

SUMMER SCHOOL:  QB | RB

auburn football-auburn tigers-auburn-darius slayton-auburn wide receivers
Auburn wide receiver Darius Slayton averaged more than 22 yards per catch last season. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Answers from spring practice

How can Slayton take the next step as Auburn’s top outside receiver?

Slayton dealt with injury issues early in the 2017 season, going three straight games without a single catch. Then he turned it on, putting up four games of at least 60 receiving yards in the back half of the season. Slayton averaged 22.17 yards per catch and was Jarrett Stidham’s most reliable deep threat.

This spring, Slayton said he was working on his route running and becoming more of an intermediate threat — an area where Auburn’s passing game needs improvement. He got some looks on those types of routes on A-Day. If he can be more of an all-around receiver, Slayton could be in for a huge season.

Can Auburn find a way to get Craig-Myers more involved this season?

There will be more written about Craig-Myers later this week, when Summer School takes a look at the slot receivers. But the injuries to Eli Stove and Will Hastings could have opened the door for the junior to be more of a playmaker in 2018.

With Stove and Hastings out, Ryan Davis might see more time on the outside at flanker. In a standard three-receiver set for Auburn, Craig-Myers saw more opportunities on A-Day as a big slot target. Since Craig-Myers’ speed and separation aren’t quite what is expected of the split end, there’s a good chance he won’t have to compete against Slayton on the outside. He can get his looks down the middle.

Numbers to know

22.17. Slayton averaged 22.17 yards per catch last season on 29 receptions. That single-season mark is the fourth-best in Auburn history for receivers who had at least 20 catches, behind Freddy Weygand (1984), Alexander Wright (1989) and Alvin Bresler (1970).

39.2. Slayton’s catch rate last season, per  Football Study Hall, was 39.2 percent. He was the only scholarship receiver on the roster that has a catch rate of less than 50 percent. That’s not all on Slayton — he ran a lot of deep routes that are tougher to complete. More intermediate routes will be key for him in 2018.

Questions for the fall

Can Slayton become a more consistent target with Stidham?

If Slayton gets opportunities to run more than his standard fly routes and screens at split end, Stidham will have another go-to target in 2018. Davis averaged 6 receptions per game last season. Slayton only had 2.2. With his ability to create big plays, Slayton needs to be more involved in the passing game this fall.

A lot of signs point to that happening. Slayton will be in his second season with Stidham, so the chemistry from all those long passes in 2017 should continue to grow. Now entering his fourth year with the program, all eyes are on Slayton to become a bigger playmaker in an offense that is made for his talents.

Auburn football-Auburn Tigers-Auburn-Auburn wide receivers-Matthew Hill
Incoming Auburn wide receiver Matthew Hill is already close with Darius Slayton. (Benjamin Wolk/SEC Country)

Where will Auburn’s new freshman receivers line up?

Hill told SEC Country last week that Auburn coaches saw him in Slayton’s role at split end. Slayton could use a dedicated backup, especially if Craig-Myers gets more opportunities as a slot receiver this fall. A source told SEC Country that Auburn expects Hill to be an instant-impact playmaker this fall, so getting in the rotation at split end makes perfect sense for the Georgia native.

But don’t forget about Williams, the 6-foot-4 product from just outside Tuscaloosa, Ala. Williams is a big body with impressive athleticism who can work either inside or outside. Only time will tell if Auburn sees Williams as a split end or more of a big slot. That will be something to watch early in fall camp.

The post Can Darius Slayton become all-around WR Auburn football needs? appeared first on SEC Country.

Live updates: Alabama vs. Arizona for women’s golf national championship

Alabama golf-Alabama women's golf-Crimson Tide golf-Crimson Tide women's golf-NCAA Championships

The first players are on the course in Stillwater, Okla., and we’ll have live updates throughout the day. For a preview of Alabama vs. Arizona and  TV information check out our story from this morning.

The lineup (with pre-tournament rankings):

  1. Lauren Stephenson (3) vs. Yu-Sang Hou (31)
  2. Kristen Gillman (6) vs. Gigi Stoll (75)
  3. Cheyenne Knight (19) vs. Bianca Pagdanganan (67)
  4. Angelica Moresco (91) vs. Sandra Nordaas (NR)
  5. Lakareber Abe (54) vs. Haley Moore (28)

The post Live updates: Alabama vs. Arizona for women’s golf national championship appeared first on SEC Country.

Alabama top commit explains what separated Crimson Tide, Georgia

Antonio-Alfano-talks-about-his-commitment-to-Alabama

Welcome to SEC Country’s daily  Alabama Crimson Tide podcast  with Ryan Fowler. In this edition, we talk with Alabama commit Antonio Alfano about why he chose Alabama over Georgia and Penn State. Nick Saban beats Kirby Smart on the recruiting trail. 

Topics discussed:

  • Antonio Alfano committed to the Alabama Crimson Tide on May 18. He talks in-depth about the recruiting process.
  • Alfano started getting recruited and received his first offer when he was in the eighth grade.
  • Because of Alfano’s size, he played against older competition, he talks about how that helped him develop as a player.
  • Alfano says how new co-offensive coordinator and wide receiver coach Josh Gattis helped Alabama land his commitment.
  • Alfano explains what separated Alabama from Georgia and Penn State.
  • Alfano talks about what it is like to get to know Nick Saban and be recruited by the best coach in college football.
  • Alfano talks about Craig Kuligowiski, the new defensive line coach
  • Alfano explains that Georgia is trying to replicate what Nick Saban does at Alabama and how that helped him make his decision.
  • Alabama Crimson Tide podcast on Wednesday included a conversation with Braden Gall who shared high praise for Alabama and Tua Tagovailoa going into the 2018 season.

Miss a previous edition? Find every episode of SEC Country’s daily Alabama Crimson Tide podcast  right here .

The post Alabama top commit explains what separated Crimson Tide, Georgia appeared first on SEC Country.

Hating on Dave Van Horn? Crazy. This season is one of his best coaching jobs

arkansas-arkansas baseball-dave van horn

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: Wednesday, May 23, 2018

This is hard to say right now because the season isn’t over. Any previous seasons would include the postseason, so let’s get that caveat out of the way up-front.

The best coaching job, honestly, was his second season. Arkansas in 2004 was a great college baseball team. Look back at that roster. Only one guy played Major League Baseball and even he didn’t have much of a career at that level until the last couple seasons, in his early 30s. Those Razorbacks were 163rd in slugging and 148th in batting average in the nation and sixth in the SEC earned run average. Shouldn’t have made the College World Series on paper. Did.

Flip side is 2008 Arkansas probably should have been a bit better. Three MLB hitters and two pitchers and the Razorbacks were only 34-24 and lost in regionals. Good season. Not a great one.

This year comes closer to the first example than the second. Anyone who tells you Arkansas baseball has underachieved this year is an idiot. Plain and simple. Sorry to be so blunt about it, but these naysayers should probably not watch baseball anymore because they have no clue what is going on.

The Razorbacks are outstanding. Outstanding. And, believe it or not, this isn’t a team that is loaded with guys expected to make it all the way to the big leagues. Blaine Knight is a high-round pick, expectantly. Isaiah Campbell, too. After that, there’s a drop-off. Bryce Bonnin and Cole Turney, two guys who have had minimal impact this year, are maybe the next two biggest future draft picks. Eric Cole, Heston Kjerstad and Casey Martin are three guys who have played themselves into higher picks than when they arrived, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone say, “Oh, yeah, future big league players, definitely.”

Good players. Strong college baseball players. Sometimes those are the best teams, even. Guys who are playing for everything they can at this level. Guys such as Carson Shaddy and Luke Bonfield. They know that, probably, this is it. A career full of bus rides awaits. It’s up to Van Horn to get the most out of them when they come to this realization. And he’s doing a mighty fine job of it.

 

The post Hating on Dave Van Horn? Crazy. This season is one of his best coaching jobs appeared first on SEC Country.

ESPN analyst Brad Edwards shares concern about new Arkansas coach Chad Morris

Chad Morris-Arkansas Razorbacks football

Chad Morris is ready to lead Arkansas this fall, but not everybody is convinced that the new Arkansas coach will turn around a struggling Razorbacks program.

Count ESPN college football analyst Brad Edwards among those who have some concerns about Morris, who has only three years of head-coaching experience and led SMU to a 14-22 record over the past three seasons.

“While I think the issues at SMU before he got there were probably a lot deeper than most people realized, I still don’t think he succeeded to the point where you would say, ‘OK, I’m convinced that he’s cut out to be a big-time head coach,'” Edwards said during an appearance on “Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly” on Tuesday. “I’m glad that he’s got a shot to get to Arkansas and to be able to prove himself on a higher level, but I don’t think he did anything at SMU to leave no doubt in my mind that he’s going to succeed at the SEC level.”

Morris will try to turn around the Razorbacks, who won four games in 2017 and fired coach Bret Bielema at the end of the season. But it likely will be a challenging task, which Edwards pointed out during his appearance.

“Now I know there are a lot of people out there who are very big on him, they love some of the hires that he made and they’re expecting big things from Arkansas, but I’m kind of wait and see,” Edwards said during the radio appearance. “I guess the way I look at it is that nobody’s on Alabama’s level in the West, and I don’t think anyone’s going to argue with that. But if you’re Arkansas, you’ve got to start by getting to Auburn’s level.”

For the full segment featuring Edwards, listen below:

ESPN's Brad Edwards is skeptical Chad Morris will have success at the SEC level pic.twitter.com/t5X4Wge5DR — Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) May 22, 2018

The post ESPN analyst Brad Edwards shares concern about new Arkansas coach Chad Morris appeared first on SEC Country.

Bruce Arians reveals hilarious story about the time he stood up to Bear Bryant

Bruce Arians-Bear Bryant-Alabama-full time job-part time job-story-pardon my take

Former NFL coach Bruce Arians has had a long career that has taken him everywhere from Alabama to Arizona. But the stint in Tuscaloosa almost didn’t happen.

In an interview on the Pardon My Take podcast Wednesday, Arians told the story of the time he stood up to Bear Bryant and almost quit a job he was offered before it even started.

“I was hired full time [at Alabama],” Arians recalled. “That was the thing. They had a new change in the NCAA about recruiting, and they decided to make me the part-time guy because I was the newest guy on staff. That’s not what I just took. If that was the job, I’d still be at Mississippi State. So, I basically quit and walked out.”

Arians had just left a full-time job with the Bulldogs as the receivers and running backs coach, and he wasn’t about to be relegated to part-time status where he couldn’t recruit.

But he didn’t want to give up on the job entirely, either.

“I called Jimmy Sharpe, who was coach Bryant’s confidant,” Arians said. “And I told him what happened, and he said, ‘Good for you.’ Next thing I knew Coach Sharpe called me back [and told me], ‘Go back up to the office. Coach Bryant is going to see you in about 10 minutes.’

“Well, I didn’t know I got him off the golf course. So, he was pissed. It was bad.”

Thankfully for Arians, who went on to have a successful career coaching in both college and the pros, Bryant decided to stick to his word.

“He said, ‘Now, what is all this about? Who the hell likes recruiting?’ I said, ‘That’s part of my job. That’s why you hired me,” Arians said. “I’m a good recruiter. I’m a full-time coach. If this part-time job is the job you’d offered me, I’d still be at Mississippi State.’

“So, he stood up over that desk and said, ’Boy, I don’t talk out of both sides of my mouth. You get your ass in the car and start recruiting. You’re full time’ … I headed out that day and I didn’t come back for about three weeks.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Arians stayed with the Tide from 1981-82 and then moved on to be the coach at Temple.

The post Bruce Arians reveals hilarious story about the time he stood up to Bear Bryant appeared first on SEC Country.

Florida recruiting: TE Keon Zipperer will remain top priority for Gators

Keon Zipperer-Florida recruiting-Florida

We are tackling the best recruiting question supplied by Florida fans each day. If you’d like to submit a question, tweet to Zach Abolverdi  here . Check out our question of the day every Monday through Friday. Go  here  to see our previous answers.

Are we still pursuing Zipperer with Billingsley naming us as a favorite this past weekend? — Hunter Morgan (@hunterm1518) May 22, 2018

Florida has always wanted to sign a pair of tight ends in the Class of 2019, and the top two targets at the position emerged this spring.

Top-150 overall prospect Keon Zipperer (Lakeland, Fla.) has been No. 1 on the board since the start of the recruiting cycle, and Jahleel Billingsley became the leading candidate to join Florida’s class last weekend.

RELATED: TE Jahleel Billingsley names Florida No. 1, sees ‘best of both worlds’ on visit

The 4-star tight end from Phillips Academy (Chicago) visited Gainesville for the first time and named the Gators his top team after attending the cookout on Saturday. Billingsley plans to commit before his senior season.

Even with Billingsley’s pledge, the Gators would continue to pursue Zipperer and make him one of their biggest priorities — regardless of position. He is simply too talented, too much of need and too close by to stop recruiting.

Zipperer has taken two trips to Florida this year, most recently on March 29. He named Clemson his leader during the spring, but later backed off those comments. Miami now appears to be the biggest threat to the Gators following his recent visits to Coral Gables.

RELATED: TE Keon Zipperer feeling love from Gators staff 

His other suitors include Alabama, Florida State and Oklahoma, so there’s some stiff competition for the nation’s No. 3-ranked tight end, according to the 247Sports composite. However, the Gators have positioned themselves well with Zipperer and will not let up, whether Billingsley is on board or not.

The other options at the position include 3-star TE Gary Cooper (Miami) and 4-star TE Ethan Rae (Orange, Calif.), who visited Florida last month and named the Gators in his top 10 on Tuesday.

For answers to our previous Questions of the Day, check out our archives. 

The post Florida recruiting: TE Keon Zipperer will remain top priority for Gators appeared first on SEC Country.

Florida recruiting: TE Keon Zipperer will remain top priority for Gators

Keon Zipperer-Florida recruiting-Florida

We are tackling the best recruiting question supplied by Florida fans each day. If you’d like to submit a question, tweet to Zach Abolverdi  here . Check out our question of the day every Monday through Friday. Go  here  to see our previous answers.

Are we still pursuing Zipperer with Billingsley naming us as a favorite this past weekend? — Hunter Morgan (@hunterm1518) May 22, 2018

Florida has always wanted to sign a pair of tight ends in the Class of 2019, and the top two targets at the position emerged this spring.

Top-150 overall prospect Keon Zipperer (Lakeland, Fla.) has been No. 1 on the board since the start of the recruiting cycle, and Jahleel Billingsley became the leading candidate to join Florida’s class last weekend.

RELATED: TE Jahleel Billingsley names Florida No. 1, sees ‘best of both worlds’ on visit

The 4-star tight end from Phillips Academy (Chicago) visited Gainesville for the first time and named the Gators his top team after attending the cookout on Saturday. Billingsley plans to commit before his senior season.

Even with Billingsley’s pledge, the Gators would continue to pursue Zipperer and make him one of their biggest priorities — regardless of position. He is simply too talented, too much of need and too close by to stop recruiting.

Zipperer has taken two trips to Florida this year, most recently on March 29. He named Clemson his leader during the spring, but later backed off those comments. Miami now appears to be the biggest threat to the Gators following his recent visits to Coral Gables.

RELATED: TE Keon Zipperer feeling love from Gators staff 

His other suitors include Alabama, Florida State and Oklahoma, so there’s some stiff competition for the nation’s No. 3-ranked tight end, according to the 247Sports composite. However, the Gators have positioned themselves well with Zipperer and will not let up, whether Billingsley is on board or not.

The other options at the position include 3-star TE Gary Cooper (Miami) and 4-star TE Ethan Rae (Orange, Calif.), who visited Florida last month and named the Gators in his top 10 on Tuesday.

For answers to our previous Questions of the Day, check out our archives. 

The post Florida recruiting: TE Keon Zipperer will remain top priority for Gators appeared first on SEC Country.

Here’s how Arkansas’ new staff compares to its old staff in recruiting

Chad Morris-Arkansas Razorbacks football

SEC Country reporter Trent Shadid will answer your Arkansas Razorbacks football recruiting questions each weekday in our recruiting question of the day mailbag. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to  @SECCountryHogs@Shadid13 or by email to Trent at  Shadid13@gmail.com. To view prior answers to our questions,  click here.

Recruiting Question of the Day: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 Who works(ed) harder at recruiting, Bielema or Morris? — Robert Handford (@RobertHandford) May 10, 2018

As far as commitment results, there hasn’t yet been a noticeable difference between Bret Bielema and Chad Morris at Arkansas. There may not be until Morris and Co. prove they can win some games in Fayetteville. But there are still plenty of noticeable differences between the previous staff and the current group on the recruiting trail.

One obvious difference is Morris and his staff have fully embraced new-age recruiting tactics. Whether it be the constant flow of personalized graphics the staff is sending out or the willingness to hype up each stop they make on the trail, this group of coaches understands how to get the attention of recruits.

That was not an area of strength for the previous staff. Bielema took more of a stubborn approach to such things. He admitted as much in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples.

“I don’t mind Twitter,” Bielema said. “But when a kid makes a decision based on how many Twitter followers he gets, that’s when I’m about ready to tap out.”

I understand Bielema’s stance. A lot of these things do seem trivial at times. But, like it or not, that’s a major part of recruiting today. The new staff may not love it either, but they certainly give the appearance of playing the game as well as any program in the country.

There’s been other evidence, too, that the new staff has a better recruiting approach than the previous. Arkansas is making the short list for far more top recruits than in recent years. The Hogs also have seen an increased number of such prospects coming to campus. To me, that’s a sign of the new staff casting a broader net and pushing for any and every recruit that will listen. From there, they do whatever they can to build strong relationships.

To be fair, I think the previous staff — particularly Bielema — was equally adept at building strong relationships with recruits based on what I’ve seen so far. They just weren’t putting themselves in the discussion for nearly as many top prospects.

Does all this mean Morris and his group are working harder than their predecessors? My gut says yes, but it would be be unfair for me to act like I know that for certain. I haven’t seen enough behind-the-scenes action to know.

I’m only going off what I can see and what I’ve been told. So, I can only give you a guess here, and my guess is Morris.

To view prior answers to our questions,  click here.

The post Here’s how Arkansas’ new staff compares to its old staff in recruiting appeared first on SEC Country.

Florida’s recent recruiting weekends will be a catalyst for commitments

Florida-Florida recruiting-Dan Mullen-2018 class-Florida Gators-National Signing Day

Welcome to Chomp Chat, SEC Country’s  daily Florida podcast with reporter Zach Abolverdi and Gators broadcaster Jeff Cardozo.

Florida coach Dan Mullen and his staff hosted the inaugural Great Gator Grill-Out last Saturday at the indoor practice facility. The barbecue didn’t produce any public pledges, but Florida had more than 10 top targets on campus and recruits raved about the event afterward.

And for the second straight recruiting weekend, the Gators took the lead for a 4-star visitor. Chicago tight end Jahleel Billingsley called Florida his No. 1 school after attending the cookout Saturday, and New Orleans cornerback Chester Kimbrough did the same thing following the Orange &amp; Blue Game on April 14.

RELATED: TE Jahleel Billingsley names Florida No. 1, sees ‘best of both worlds’ on his trip RELATED: New Orleans CB Chester Kimbrough still favoring Florida, eyeing official visit 

Kimbrough doesn’t plan to make his pledge any time soon, but Billingsley hopes to have a decision made before the start of his senior season and is one of nine recruits who could commit the Gators in June, July and August.

In the latest edition of Chomp Chat, we discuss how the recent recruiting weekends at Florida will be a catalyst for commitments in the coming weeks and months.

Here are the topic on the show Wednesday:

  • Mullen and his staff have been behind the eight ball in this recruiting cycle compared to the long-term relationships between recruits and other coaches. The Great Gator Grill-Out allowed to the staff to make up for missed time and make those critical connections that are needed for commitments.
  • Moreover, Florida gave visitors a unique recruiting experience that will be unmatched at other schools they check out. That dynamic could make a difference during the decision-making process.
  • An interview with top-50 overall recruit and 4-star defensive end Nathan Pickering (Seminary, Miss.), who discusses his latest visit to Florida and the strong bond he has with Mullen.

Miss a previous edition? Find every episode of SEC Country’s daily Florida Gators  podcast right here.

The post Florida’s recent recruiting weekends will be a catalyst for commitments appeared first on SEC Country.

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