Tennessee Volunteers

Bogus Rankings

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Here are the initial college football playoff rankings released on Tuesday night with my thoughts by each team:

Tennessee: Wins over Alabama and LSU land the Vols in the top slot. The argument against Georgia by the committee was that they struggled with Missouri and Kent State.

Did the committee not watch Tennessee struggle against Pitt and give up almost 500 yards passing to Anthony Richardson and Florida in a 38-33 Vol win?

Vols land here by virtue of beating Alabama. I’m good with it. This defense is not championship caliber, however.

Ohio State: A brand the playoff committee loves. They always have and always will. Game with Michigan is coming up.

Georgia: Defending national champs are undefeated with number one Tennessee coming to Athens this weekend.

It will all sort itself out in a couple of days. Can you hear Kirby talking to his team about respect about right now?

Clemson: Another loved brand by the committee. The ACC did their best to protect the brand against Syracuse a couple of weeks ago. Is there a team in the top ten this week that Clemson could beat? This team is vastly overrated.

Michigan: I guess the committee does not think much of the Michigan out of conference schedule this year. That is my only guess on why they are ranked behind Clemson.

Alabama: The loss to Tennessee does not hurt Alabama as they control their own destiny. This Alabama team does not seem as good as previous Alabama teams. Loved name brand though by the committee.

TCU: Unbeaten TCU gets the hose job by the committee plain and simple. Ranked behind a one loss Alabama team and behind a Clemson team that has not beat anyone noteworthy.

If Oklahoma or Texas had the TCU resume, they would be in the top four. The committee loves name brands.

Oregon: The Ducks may be playing the best football in the country right now, but that 46-point loss to Georgia opening weekend looms large right now.

USC: The Trojans might beat Clemson in the top 10 and nobody else, but if they do not lose at Utah a couple the brand loving committee would have had this team near the top four.

LSU: The two loss Tigers believe it or not control their destiny in the SEC West. Beat Alabama this weekend and get to Atlanta and win the SEC and the Tigers will be the first two loss team to get into the playoff.

Tennessee is the easy #1 team in the country based on their body of work so far.

No argument from most reasonable college football fans that follow the sport. My question is why the committee didn’t give us a #1 vs #2 matchup this weekend?

We had an entire hour show on ESPN last night focused on the hypotheticals of it all. I firmly believe that if the Dawgs and Vols were playing on ABC or ESPN Saturday we would have that #1 vs #2 matchup.

Since the game is on CBS, I believe ESPN pressured the committee to put UGA at #3 to keep CBS from hyping a game of the century type matchup this weekend. It will sort itself out in the end but a #1 vs #2 would have been fantastic.

 

Initial rankings winners:

Tennessee: They beat the beloved brand Alabama.

Clemson: No way they should be in the top four.

 

Losers:

Michigan: Being behind Clemson is an absolute joke.

TCU: Not a preferred name brand by the committee.

 

Final Thoughts: If your name is Alabama, Clemson, or Ohio State you will get a favorable ranking. If you are not one of those three, then your resume gets nitpicked by the talking heads on ESPN.

 

SEC Pulse

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The SEC football season is now a month old. Those who follow football have come to consensus about every single team in the best football conference in the country which is the SEC. Here are my thoughts a month into the season on every team.

SEC East:

  1. Georgia: The defending national champions looked like a beast for the first three weeks of the season. Stetson Bennett looked like a Heisman front runner. UGA was lighting up scoreboards. Over the past two weeks UGA has looked very beatable with struggles against Kent St. and Missouri. Wide receivers need to get healthy, and the defense needs to stop the run better. November is looking brutal now with the recent struggles with Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Kentucky in consecutive weeks down the stretch.
  2. Tennessee: The Vols look like a scoring machine with Hendon Hooker at QB. LSU this week and Alabama next week will tell us what we need to know about Tennessee. Will the Vols be able to stop any offense with a pulse moving forward? Right now, Tennessee looks like a contender for the SEC title.
  3. Kentucky: The Cats gave one away in Oxford last weekend. But isn’t that what Kentucky does when the pressure is on? Still in contention in the east. Probably will need to beat both Tennessee and Georgia later in the season. That is not going to happen. They might get one of those big games, but they will not win both. Odds are they lose both.
  4. Florida: The Gators are in a rebuild. Billy Napier will get 6-7 wins out of this team and make a bowl. Florida will be back soon.
  5. Missouri: The Tigers played UGA down to the wire last week. Can they take that same intensity to Gainesville this week? The answer is no.
  6. South Carolina: This is a bad football team folks. End of story here.
  7. Vanderbilt: This team plays hard, and I respect that. Not a particularly good football team.

SEC West:

  1. Alabama: How hurt is Bryce Young? The running game looked impressive at Arkansas last week. Defense is solid. Wide receivers are down from previous years. This is still the team to beat right now in the SEC if Bryce does not miss considerable time. The TSIO (Third Saturday in October) next week in Knoxville with Tennessee could be the game of the year in the conference.
  2. Ole Miss: Running game and defense. That is the recipe in Oxford in 2022. 5-0 sounds good. Alabama comes to Oxford soon.
  3. LSU: Will the real LSU Tigers stand up? Jekyll and Hyde Tigers right now. Alabama comes to Tiger Stadium in November….
  4. Mississippi State: MSU is one of the surprise teams this fall. This is a dangerous team to play right now. Are you listening UGA? The November 12th trip to Starkville looks like a beast on the schedule right now.
  5. Arkansas: The Razorbacks are horrible on defense. They cannot stop a dripping faucet right now.
  6. Texas A&M: I called this before the season. This team is a fraud. No QB, no imagination on offense, and are about to get run out of Tuscaloosa, Alabama this weekend. The real loser is CBS who used a primetime 8PM slot for this game against Alabama.
  7. Auburn: If the Tigers lose on Saturday to UGA will Bryan Harsin have a job on Sunday? Auburn has QB issues and have not won in Athens since 2005. It is safe to say that Auburn has hit rock bottom. Recruiting is down and the boosters at Auburn are running and ruining the athletic department.

The East Beasts

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We are going to take a look and preview the SEC East for the upcoming 2022 season.

#1 Georgia: The Bulldogs finally beat Alabama in the National Championship to win their first national championship since 1980.

They only return 10 starters but they are expected to reload. The defense was historically good but they lost players like linemen Jordan Davis and Travon Walker, linebacker Nakobe Dean and safety Lewis Cine.

Stetson Bennett returns under center and they return three starting offensive linemen. They have two very talented tight ends, Brock Bowers and Arik Gilbert.

#2 Tennessee: Head coach Josh Heupel is entering his second season in Knoxville and he has the program going in the right direction. The Volunteers averaged 39.3 points a game. They also led the SEC in plays of 40-plus yards (23) after only having three in 2020.

Quarterback Hendon Hooker is entering his senior year after having a breakout year in 2021. He passed for 2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He also rushed for 620 yards and 5 scores.

They also return four starting O-linemen. The defense allowed over 200 rushing yards and 33.6 points a game in SEC play last season.

#3 Kentucky: It’s a toss-up between the Wildcats and Tennessee for the No. 2 spot. Offensive coordinator Liam Coen helped them average 32.3 ppg last year. Coen left to take a job on the LA Rams staff. Mark Stoops hired Rich Scangarello from the 49ers to replace him.

QB Will Levis is back and they have a good running back stable led by Chris Rodriguez Jr.

Kentucky ranked fourth in the SEC in scoring defense, 21.7 ppg allowed. They have holes to fill up front and in the secondary. The linebacker unit is talented.

#4 Florida: The Gators are led by first year head coach Billy Napier. They finished 6-7 in 2021 and they should improve this season. Quarterback Anthony Richardson played in eight games last year and averaged 8.1 yards per play, ran for 401 yards and 9 total scores.

Florida should have a solid running back core that includes Louisiana transfer Montrell Johnson and former top recruit Demarkcus Bowman. The Gators finished 10th in the SEC against the run and only had 20 sacks in conference play.

#5 South Carolina: The Gamecocks could be one of the most exciting teams to watch. They have several transfer players including quarterback Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) and receivers Corey Rucker (Arkansas State) and Antwane Wells (James Madison) to add to a receiving corps already featuring Josh Vann (15.8 yards per catch) and Dakereon Joyner.

They return all five starting O-linemen but that’s still an area of concern. They only averaged 3.8 yards per carry in 2021. The defense allowed 175 rushing yards a game.

#6 Missouri: The Tigers have a bad defense and inconsistent quarterback play. The defense allowed 6.7 yards per play, 36 points a game and more than 200 rushing yards a contest in SEC action last fall.

Offensively, the Tigers averaged only 22.6 points and 5.2 yards per play in SEC games last season.

Ends Isaiah McGuire and Trajan Jeffcoat lead the way up front, while cornerback Kris Abrams-Draine and safety Martez Manuel are two building blocks for new coordinator Blake Baker.

#7 Vanderbilt: Are we surprised to see the Commodores here?

Mike Wright and Ken Seals are competing for the QB 1 job.

Vanderbilt ranked 13th in the SEC against the run, last in pass efficiency defense, and surrendered an unpleasant combination of 6.8 yards per play and 35.6 points per game.

Prove It To Me

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It is that time of the year that is dreaded and that is the official ending of football season.

Football, the greatest game on the planet, is in hibernation until August. However, it is never too early to discuss SEC football in the South. Here is a look at my top five teams in the SEC with the most to prove in 2022:

 

1: Texas A&M: All the talent money can buy. They need a good season this year, and need to prove they can win.

Can Jimbo get it done in College Station? Yes, they beat Alabama last season, but they found a way to lose 4 football games.

The Aggies must find a QB that can lead this team to the SEC title game. The new NIL landscape favors the Aggies, who have very deep pockets. If this team can’t win 10-11 games this fall, then the heat starts mounting on Jimbo Fisher.

 

2: LSU: When you think LSU, you think contenders.

LSU will have a new coach, and will have to prove they are making progress.

I think Brian Kelly is a pretty good hire. Talent is never an issue in Baton Rouge, but right now the QB position is a big question mark. If the Tigers can figure that out quickly, they could be factor in the West.

 

3: Tennessee: The Vols have not been relevant since 2007, when they last won the SEC East.

Tennessee has not won a national title since 1998.

Skill position talent is much improved, but Tennessee does not have the offensive or defensive line talent to be a serious SEC contender yet.

Tennessee has lost 15 straight to Alabama and is 1-16 against Florida in the last 17 years.

Since Philip Fulmer was forced out in 2008 the Vols have whiffed on 4 straight head football coaches. Josh Heupel hopes to reverse that trend.

Tennessee went 7-6 in 2021. In the last five years Tennessee is a combined 0-15 against Alabama, Florida and Georgia, which are the 3 biggest games on the Vol schedule. Tennessee needs to beat one of those three teams in 2022.

 

4: Florida: Florida also has a new head coach.

They must prove they can compete in the SEC East. The East is way better when Florida can challenge UGA for that top spot.

Billy Napier was a great hire for UF. There is talent on the roster, but it is undisciplined talent. If Napier can change that culture in Gainesville and recruit then Florida will be back soon.

If Florida can win 8-9 games in 2022 then things should take off quickly in Gainesville.

Since Steve Spurrier retired Florida has missed on 4 of its last 5 football coaches. Only Urban Meyer has had consistent success since 2001.

Florida has not won an SEC or National Title since 2008. Too much talent in the State of Florida for the flagship university not to be a national player and to top it off you just lost to UCF in a bowl game.

 

5 Ole Miss: Ole Miss surprised a lot of people last season by being a top 10 team. Was it a fluke? They must prove they can maintain solid seasons with Lane for years to come.

I don’t think 2021 was a fluke for Ole Miss. If Matt Corral can be replaced then I think this team will finish right behind Alabama, and Alabama does come to Oxford in 2022.

The defense is improving, and we know a Lane Kiffin offense will produce. I think this will be the surprise team in the SEC next year. I believe Ole Miss is here to stay and 2022 will prove that.

I did not mention Auburn because Bryan Harsin is dead man walking on The Plains of Auburn. Of course, it has all been self-induced by Auburn, who set this man up for failure.

SEC Hardwood

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We’re about two weeks into the college basketball season. The SEC is known for football but there are several programs ranked in the top 25 in basketball.

It looks like Kentucky will have some competition after a down 2020-21 season. Let’s examine the ranked teams to see who the real contenders are.

#10 Alabama: The Crimson Tide (4 – 0) have been doing well on the hardwood lately. They advanced to the Sweet Sixteen last season and lost to UCLA in overtime.

They also won the SEC Tournament. Alabama finished last season ranked No. 5 in the final AP Poll and Coaches Poll. Those were the school’s highest season-ending rankings since 1956.

Junior guard Jaden Shackelford leads the team in scoring with 19.5 points per game. Junior Jahvon Quinerly averages 15.5 PPG and senior Keon Ellis averages 14.5 PPG.

Alabama heads to the ESPN Events Invitational this week in Orlando, where it will meet Iona on Thursday at 4 p.m. CT in a rematch of its NCAA tournament opener in March. They will play either Belmont or Drake on Friday, with a chance to meet Kansas on Sunday in the finale. The Jayhawks are No. 4 in the AP poll and No. 3 in the coaches poll this week.

# 10 Kentucky: The Wildcats (3 – 1) lost the third game of the season to No. 5 Duke, 79 -71. Last season they finished 9 – 16, their worst season since 1988-89.

Since head coach John Calipari took over in 2009, he’s built the team with the top one-and-done players every season. Surprisingly, out of the top four scorers on the team only one is a freshman.

Freshman TyTy Washington Jr. and junior forwards Oscar Tshiebwe, Keion Brooks all lead the team with 13 PPG.

The next four games are against Albany, North Florida, Central Michigan and Southern. Those should all be blow out wins. The schedule gets tougher after that with games against Notre Dame and Ohio State.

#13 Arkansas: The Razorbacks (3 – 0) are looking to make the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year. In 2020-21 they were 25 -7 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.

Senior guard JD Notae leads the team with 21.7 PPG. Fellow senior Chris Lykes averages 15.7 PPG.

They have eight games before conference play begins December 29th and only two of those games are against Power 5 teams. They should be undefeated during this stretch.

#15 Tennessee: The Vols (3 – 1) just played some elite teams over the weekend in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament. They were blown out by No. 5 Villanova 71 – 53 on Friday. They rebounded Saturday and beat No. 18 North Carolina, 89 -72. They have some marquee games against Colorado, Texas Tech, No. 9 Memphis and No. 17 Arizona before SEC play starts.

#19 Auburn: The Tigers (3 – 0) have been doing well the last few seasons since Bruce Pearl took over as head coach in 2014. They advanced to the Final Four in 2019 and would have been in the 2020 NCAA Tournament if it was not cancelled due to the pandemic. Last year they were 13 – 14.

They play UConn in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas for their next game. No. 24 Michigan State, No. 6 Baylor and Syracuse are potential opponents in the next round.

#23 Florida: The Gators (3 – 0) play Cal in the Fort Myers Tip-Off this week. They will face No. 21 Seton Hall or Ohio State in the next round.

The best team they have played so far is Florida State and they won 71 – 55.

 

The Crystal Ball Of The SEC

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Labor Day weekend is upon us and that means the greatest game of all, College Football kicks off.

I love many sports, but college football is just special. In this part of the world, you have SEC football; which is the best brand in college athletics.

Others try and duplicate it, but they simply come up short.

Oklahoma and Texas are moving over probably next season instead of 2025. Some critics say conference expansion is bad using excuses like geography, and any other reason they can find.

We live in a generation of participation trophies as it relates to sports, and quite frankly the SEC has an ‘iron sharpens iron’ kind of mentality and that keeps them ahead of the rest in the college football world.

Here are my 2021 SEC Predictions:

Most Overrated Team: Texas A&M: The 2021 hype train has the Aggies picked by some to knock of Alabama to win the West.

I don’t think defensively A&M is there yet, and will Jimbo Fisher open up the offense to the Alabama and LSU levels of the past two seasons?

I don’t think the Aggies have those types of weapons and will come up short in the West. What happens if they lose at home to Alabama? Well, they are and I think they end up losing to Ole Miss and possibly LSU.

Most Underrated Team: Ole Miss: Ole Miss may end up having the best offense in the conference. So, when you line up against this team you better be prepared to score a lot of points.

Everyone harps on the Ole Miss defense, but I ask the question they can’t be worse than they were last year, right? I expect improvement out of the unit in 2021. This team could sneak up into the double-digit win category.

SEC West:

Alabama: Until someone knocks them off, they are the pick here.

Nick Saban is the best head coach in the history of the conference and he has the national championships to prove it in the playoff era of college football.

Ole Miss: This team is dangerous. Sleep on them if you want to.

Texas A&M: I’m just not buying the hype. This team is too conservative on offense, and do they have enough defense to be championship elite? The answer is no.

LSU: Coach O it is starting to slip away. Fix it in 2021 or your seat is going to get very hot.

Auburn: New coaching staff that wants to go from a spread offense to more of a pro type offense. Going to take some time Aubbies.

Arkansas: I love how the Hogs are building this roster, but you are in the best division of the best conference in college football.

Mississippi State: Not a terrible team, but you have six bowl teams ahead of you.

SEC East:

Georgia: This is an elite football program that gets the underachiever label by folks who don’t hold everyone to the same standard they judge UGA by.

Could it be they know UGA is about to knock the National Title door down in the near future and what that may mean? Cue the 1980 jokes haters.

Florida: Gators will be good, but a different kind of good. One that starts with better defensive play. Florida lost 6,600 yards and 79 TDs to the NFL draft from last year.

Missouri: A much improved Tiger squad could challenge for 2nd in the East.

Kentucky: Nope, I’m not buying what you are selling Cats. Your offense is like watching paint dry.

Tennessee: Vols are building back the roster. It is going to take a couple of years.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks are starting a Graduate Assistant at QB. Ouch!

Vanderbilt: We love the Dores during baseball season, but they are an instant win during the fall.

SEC Title game will be Alabama against Georgia.

Dumpster fire

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

As you look around the Southern college football landscape you see the Alabama, Clemson, Florida, and Georgia’s of the world playing a very good brand of football, but you can also look around and see some programs not performing very well.

We have a few programs in our geographical region that currently look like dumpster fires. Let’s take a look at my top five programs that have fallen on hard times.

 

  1. Georgia Tech: The Jackets were number one on this list two years ago. Now they are about remove themselves from lists like this. Georgia Tech is doing the right things to not be included on lists like this much longer.

Teams 1-4 on this list need to follow the Jacket blueprint. The Jackets land here as a motivational tool for 2021.

 

  1. Florida State: My how the mighty have fallen. This once proud football program has sunk to an all-time low.

Gone are the days of ruling the ACC with an iron fist, and now we see FSU backing out of playing home games against Clemson and using Covid-19 as an excuse after Clemson had already made the trip.

FSU used to be a recruiting machine and now they fight Georgia Southern and South Alabama for 3-star athletes.

FSU will be back eventually but how in the hell should a program of this magnitude ever appear on a list like this?  It cost Clemson $250K to travel to Tallahassee for a pre-game meal, but they got to see a top five dumpster fire in person.

 

  1. South Carolina: Are you starting to see a pattern of the SEC East yet?

South Carolina is a State with good high school football, Columbia is 80 miles from Charlotte and less than 3 hours from Atlanta. The recruiting base is there.

South Carolina’s biggest problem is that they are Clemson’s little brother and they can’t shake that label.

You mention that to the fan base and they get fighting mad. How can Clemson be so good and South Carolina be so bad currently? I just don’t get it and many football observers in the south don’t either.

Will Shane Beamer fix this dumpster fire?

 

  1. Vanderbilt: Vandy has never been very good in football. We all understand that the academic prestige of Vanderbilt presents some competitive challenges for this fine University.

Derek Mason has been fired and been replaced by Clark Lea from Notre Dame.

Vandy needs to get back to work of becoming a competitive football team. The Commodores did not win a football game in 2020, and decided they were just not going to show up and play Georgia in their final game of the season. That mentality alone has to go and makes Vandy a dumpster fire.

 

  1. Tennessee: How did we get here Vol fans? You are the biggest dumpster fire in college football currently. A ten-year-old boy and Tennessee fan asked his father “What is it like to beat Alabama dad?” Dad answered “I don’t know son we are Vol fans.”

Tennessee just suffered through the worst decade of football in its proud history. Six head coaches in 12 years.

Now apparently Tennessee has as many as 30 level 1 and level 2 major recruiting violations. Rumors of giving away cash in McDonald’s bags and so on.

Due to NCAA sanctions forthcoming it may be 2025-26 until Tennessee has a full complement of scholarships to offer (they could lose up to 30 over next 4 years).

This program is about to be on life support. Tennessee is having a mass exodus via the transfer portal.

Memphis is the best college football program in the State of Tennessee right now.

Damn, just damn, Big Orange nation you are the biggest dumpster fire in all of college football.

Disney Or Six Flags?

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Since John Calipari arrived in Lexington almost twelve years ago, Kentucky has dominated the SEC.

Over that period of time, in conference play, the Wildcats have won six regular season and conference tournament titles, while finishing in either first or second place in every season but one.

Kentucky has essentially been operating at the level of Disney and the rest of the SEC has been Six Flags.

Still, even when you’ve been as dominant as the Wildcats have been there is usually a season mixed in there somewhere, when other teams are able to get their shots in- last year’s UNC season comes to mind.

Could this be the year the tables are turned?

The one team that automatically comes to mind that’s in the best position is Tennessee.

The Vols are probably the league’s most completely team, with a nice mix of experience, talent, and coaching.

They have played the second toughest schedule of anyone in the SEC (Kentucky’s has been the most difficult, by far) and they have been the most impressive doing it.

The only thing I worry about, and I realize I’m contradicting myself a bit here, is I just don’t trust Rick Barnes.

Yes, I think he’s a good coach, his teams just tend to fall short when they’re the leaders. In a weird way I would actually feel better about their chances if Kentucky were playing at a higher level.

Teams like Arkansas, Missouri, Auburn, and LSU could certainly let wind up at the top of conference if Tennessee were to falter, but there are still too many questions about each for me to feel comfortable separating any one of those from the pack.

I think some of the other teams (Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M) will certainly have a shot at some upset wins, I just don’t think they’ll be able to compete for a shot at the top spot.

Florida is the one wild card in this whole thing. After witnessing Keyontae Johnson collapse on the court and then the aftermath of that event, you can’t predict how they’re going to react.

And just to be clear, these are a bunch of teenage kids who saw a teammate and friend collapse in front of them, so however they respond on the court is really inconsequential.

Of course, this topic is only relevant because Kentucky is off to their worst start in over a hundred years. An optimistic fan will argue the team has played the most difficult schedule in the country and their young players will mature and grow over the course of the season.

Everyone else will counter with the fact Kentucky still lost those games and those young players have more than likely never faced this kind adversity that is currently staring them in the face.

We should have a good idea who may be on the right path after the first few games, since Kentucky begins their conference schedule against some of the league’s weaker teams.

Even though we knew this season was going to be different for all the obvious reasons, I think most still felt like Kentucky was the team to beat and most everyone else was playing for second place.

With Kentucky’s early struggles it feels as if a number of teams have an opportunity to feel what it’s like to be the top dog.

Don’t get me wrong, going to Six Flags can be great, but it’s Disney that most everyone is after.

I Will Take My Talents To…

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

With the Early Signing Period in the rearview mirror and bowl season over, the last big day for college football before spring practice is National Signing Day.

With many of the top recruits from the 2020 class already signed, who is left for the top programs to pick up on Wednesday, February 5th?

Five Star Running Back Zack Evans is the number 1 running back in the class of 2020.

By far the wildest recruitment of the 2020 cycle. Evans signed a LOI (Letter of Intent) with the Georgia Bulldogs back in December, got cold feet, and asked to be released from his LOI.

Georgia obliged and now Evans is back on the market as an extremely talented athlete with some off the field issues.

This recruitment still seems very cloudy through, as Evans has left a lot of coaches guessing. This is shaping up to be a Tennessee, Ole Miss and Georgia battle. Alabama, Florida and LSU have rescinded their offers over the past few weeks.  My Pick: Georgia

Four Star Safety Avantae Williams backed off his early commitment to the Oregon Ducks back in December.

Williams is the 9th ranked safety in the 2020 class.

He is a hard-hitting safety that can cover a lot of ground. Williams’ recruitment is a battle between Miami, Florida and Georgia. My Pick: Florida

Four Star Offensive Lineman Sedrick Van Pran has been committed to Georgia since August.

Van Pran has taken official visits to Alabama and is scheduled to be at Florida this weekend.

With the departure of former Offensive Line coach San Pittman, Van Pran seems to have opened up his recruitment. It would be shocking if Van Pran is not a Bulldog come National Signing Day. My Pick: Georgia

Four Star Running Back Jahmyr Gibbs has been committed to Georgia Tech since May.

After a very strong senior season, Gibbs has received offers from Ohio State, LSU, Georgia and Florida.

While Florida and Ohio State have put on the full court press, Gibbs will stay firm to his commitment. My Pick: Georgia Tech 

Four Star Athlete Damarcus Beckwood has hopes of playing college football and basketball.

The 6-foot-4, 220 pounder is a versatile weapon on offense playing both wide receiver and tight end in high school.  This is a battle between Tennessee and Florida. My Pick: Florida 

February 5th marks the final day of the 2020 recruiting cycle. National Signing Day will still be important as there are a couple highly touted 2020 high school prospects that remain uncommitted.

And there will always be the few flipped prospects that make headlines on National Signing Day.

Since Dan Mullen’s time at Florida, the Gators have used the transfer portal to pluck talented players. The Gators have landed four star Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes in Mullen’s first year at Florida.

Last season, the Gators landed five-star defensive end, Brenton Cox.

This season is much different, the Gators signed a pair of five stars in running back Lorenzo Lingard and wide receiver Justin Shorter. Both players have applied for waivers with the NCAA.

Kirby Smart used the portal to add quarterback Jamie Newman. Newman has one season of eligibility and should be the front runner for QB1 for the Bulldogs.

Can Newman do what Joe Burrow did for LSU?

SEC Best Basketball Conference In The Country

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

For years the SEC has been known as a football conference, and with good reason.

The start of the basketball season was just viewed as the beginning of the countdown until spring football games; each passing game meant fans were just one day closer to the start of the gridiron season.

Over the past few years SEC basketball has slowly crept up the rung of high powered basketball conferences. With four teams participating in this year’s Sweet Sixteen, they may have finally arrived.

I’ve joked in the past how outside of John Calipari the rest of the SEC had basically become the “Land of Misfit Coaches”. Names like Rick Barnes, Bruce Pearl, Tom Crean, and Ben Howland; all on their own personal reclamation journeys after being dismissed from more prestigious jobs.

While it’s still too early in Crean’s tenure at Georgia, the other hires have undoubtedly exceeded expectations. Throw in other coaches like Kermit Davis and Mike White, and suddenly the SEC coaching tree is as strong as any in the country.

(Up until a few weeks ago I would’ve included Will Wade on that list with Davis and White. I do think Wade is a good coach, but I’d be shocked if he coaches another game for LSU.)

The conferences strong showing in this year’s tournament, and the increasing possibility of having at least one Final Four team, can only bolster their upward projection.

Barnes’ Volunteers did their best to help run his consecutive tournament appearances without a trip to the Sweet Sixteen to eight, but low and behold they were able to break the streak. Now, they are probably the favorite to come out their region.

North Carolina is still the favorite to come out of the Midwest, but Auburn is as dangerous as any remaining team with their ability to stretch the floor and propensity for hitting the three.

Kentucky will need PJ Washington back in order for them to have any legitimate shot of beating Houston, and either UNC or Auburn. Still, that doesn’t mean the Wildcats will be a pushover.

And as a Duke fan, if the Blue Devils are lucky enough to get past Virginia Tech, I do not want any part of LSU. The Tigers, along with Tennessee, have arguably been the best team in the SEC this season.

My only concern for LSU entering the tournament was how they would handle all the off court distractions. After two good, but not overly impressive wins, I’m not sure they’ve quite answered that question yet. However, they are long, athletic, and talented enough to beat any one of the other remaining teams.

There was a four to five year span where SEC basketball consisted of Kentucky, and that was about it. The remainder of the league basically took turns at mediocrity, with the occasional surprise tournament run.

The SEC is still viewed as a step below conferences like the ACC and Big Ten when it comes to all around talent and depth, but they’ve made up a lot of ground in a short period of time.

The league may be full of coaches on their second or third chances, but they have all but turned the corner on being “reclamation projects”.

Basketball will never be as big as football in SEC country, but with some consistency and a few deep tournament runs, those three to four months may be actually be referred to as “basketball season” and not just “football’s offseason”.