Each Friday, GatorCountry.com combs the Internet for the most intriguing headlines and stories from across the Southeastern Conference, so our members can keep up with what’s going on at the other 13 schools in the league.
In this week’s, Around the SEC Notebook, the Missouri Tigers joining the league could make it a “banner year” for SEC basketball, the Rebels get an early verbal commitment from an Elite 11 quarterback and Kentucky’s John Calipari lost his shot at making an appearance in London this summer.
Be sure to check back with Gator Country each Friday for more Around the SEC Notebooks.
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE: 2010 top prospect transfers to Virginia
The NCAA granted Alabama transfer Phillip Sims immediate eligibility for the 2012 season, according to Saturdayblitz.com. Sims is transferring to Virginia, his home state, after a family emergency became known which caused the need for him to be closer to home. In 2010, Sims was ranked as the No. 2 overall quarterback prospect by Rivals.com, so he had some hype. He was in competition with A.J. McCarron last spring for the starting job but lost it in the end to only become a reserve. Even though he underachieved in his few chances at Alabama, his talent is undeniable. At Oscar F. Smith High in 2009, Sims impeccable passing racked up 2,938 yards and scored 33 touchdowns to just four interceptions in the single season. There is going to be a clear quarterback controversy at Virginia with returner Michael Rocco still in the mix.
ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS: Mackey Award watch list
Arkansas’s senior tight end Chris Gragg was named to the Mackey Award Watch List on Tuesday afternoon. The Mackey Award is given to the top collegiate tight end in the nation at the end of every college football season. Gragg is the team leading receiver from the previous season with a career-high 41 receptions which resulted in a career-high 518 yards. With star receivers Joe Adams and Jarius Wright leaving to the draft, Gragg will have to step up and be the go-to receiver for Heisman candidate Tyler Wilson this fall. In his entire career though, Gragg now has a total of 50 catches for 714 yards so this season will be a tell all on whether or not his last season was a lucky one or a snapshot of what is to come.
AUBURN TIGERS: Dyer’s request was denied
Last Thursday, the NCAA abrogated former Auburn running back Michael Dyer’s request to be immediately eligible to play with Arkansas State this season. The news was announced by Red Wolves coach Gus Malzahn. After being the first Tiger running back to ever rush for more than 1,000 yards in his first two seasons, Dyer transferred to Arkansas State in January and attended all of the spring practices. The former Little Rock Christian star thought he had it all planned out with applying for a waiver to play immediately this season, but Malzahn made it clear the NCAA denied the request. Dyer was selected as the offensive MVP for the 2011 BCS national championship game as only a freshman and has major potential to help the Red Wolves, unfortunately not as soon as he or the team hoped.
GEORGIA BULLDOGS: Grantham earns new title
Georgia’s defensive coordinator Todd Grantham got a raise and a contract extension this offseason, but that is not all. He earned the title as associate head coach after two seasons with the Bulldogs. The last coach to hold that title was wide receiver coach John Eason under Mark Richt from 2005-08. “It’s just a designation that the head coach gives to assistant coaches,” athletic director Greg McGarity said Tuesday. “That’s really the head coach’s call.” Grantham’s ultimate goal is to become a head coach someday and his new contract waives any buyout he would need to pay if he became a head coach at the collegiate or NFL level. He got a $75,000 raise in his deal to push his annual salary to $825,000. Grantham is also Georgia’s outside linebackers coach.
KENTUCKY WILDCATS: Calipari’s shot at Olympics
Kentucky’s basketball coach John Calipari had his shot to get to the London Olympics with Dominican Republic’s national squad. He was one game away from coaching a rare NCAA championship and Olympic game in the same calendar year. The Nigerians were led by Ike Diougu’s 25 points to beat out the Dominicans 88-73. “We didn’t get where we wanted to, but I’m hoping that we’ve turned a generation of athletes on to basketball,” said Calipari. “It has been a baseball nation. We were able to help the federation and the country.” Calipari made a two-year commitment to the Dominican national team, which was led by NBA players Al Hartford and Francisco Garcia. His future with the team is unclear but Calipari plans on meeting with Dominican National Federation in Las Vegas this week. Thursday night though, Calipari and the Dominican team played Mike Krzyzewski and the U.S. national team in Las Vegas. It was an odd scenario for Calipari considering that every time he has played Krzyzewski the two squads have been pretty evenly matched, but not this time. “It’ll be fun,” Calipari said on Thursday. “I’ll see if they want us to play zone or play a certain way. I’ll do whatever they want to help them out at this point.” The Dominicans were overpowered by a stacked U.S. squad by a final score of 113-59.
LSU TIGERS: Four on the Bednarik Award list
LSU’s defense for the upcoming season is going to be a top tier in the collegiate football league. Already, the Tigers have four players on the 2012 Chuck Bednarik Award watch list . The Bednarik Award honors college football’s national defensive player of the year. The players being defensive end Sam Montgomery (led team with nine sacks), defensive end Barkevious Mingo (15 tackles for a loss last season), safety Eric Reid (76 tackles and two interceptions last season), and last year’s Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu. Patrick Peterson won it for LSU in 2010 and Mathieu won it this past season by causing 14 turnovers. Mathieu will be buying for a chance to become only the third back-to-back award winner. Semifinalists for the award will be announced on Oct. 29 while the three finalists will be announced on Nov. 19. The winner will be announced on Dec. 6.
MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS: Talent of the Mississippians
Many people may forget the in-state talent that is grown within the state of Mississippi, but head football coach Dan Mullen is sure not to forget. “The talent in this state is amazing,” Mullen said. “That was one of the main reasons that enticed me to take the job at Mississippi State. There’s a lot of in-state talent here and it’s a fact that a lot of it has been looked over. All you have to do is look at Walter Payton.” Even though Payton did not attend MSU, future hall of famers like Brett Favre and Jerry Rice, also not MSU alums, were also in walking distance of the Bulldogs’ campus. Mullen does not focus on recruiting rankings but focuses on the dirt roads in the small towns of Mississippi to find the talent. Three MSU players were picked in the first round of the MLB, NBA, and NFL Drafts this spring to complete a rare trifecta that has only been accomplished by 12 other schools in the past 10 years. Mississippi has the second-smallest population among the 11 states in the SEC but is second in the SEC, per capita, in producing professional athletes in the three major sports.
MISSOURI TIGERS: “Banner year” for SEC basketball
With the Missouri Tigers being added to the dynamic arsenal that is SEC basketball, this upcoming season can be seen as a banner year for the Southeastern Conference . South Carolina’s new men’s basketball coach Frank Martin had one piece of advice to his SEC colleagues with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the league: Change is not easy, and playing an 18-game league schedule is brutal. “League games are just so hard because of the atmosphere, the rivalries. And most importantly, the coaches know each other,” said Martin, the former Kansas State coach. After some arguments and debate, SEC coaches agreed upon the 18-game schedule with one permanent rival, four rotating opponents on a home-and-home basis and eight team playing once a year (four at home). Missouri finished the season in the top five of the Associated Press poll, and Texas A&M reached Top 25 before midseason issues. The talent in this league will be no joke.
OLE MISS REBELS: Elite 11 quarterback commitment
In the past week, Ole Miss received a verbal commitment from Elite 11 quarterback DeVante Kincade of Skyline High School. The Elite 11 Quarterback competition is a five-day event starring the top high school quarterbacks in the country. The goal is to help improve these quarterbacks’ play on and off the field. “The SEC is the next thing to the NFL,” he continued. “I feel comfortable playing against big-time players every week…competing every week.” Kincade, from Dallas, TX, has a legitimate chance of starting as a true freshman. The Rebels, after all, are coming off a horrific 2-10 season which featured a passing attack ranked 107th in the nation. Of all places for a dual-threat quarterback like Kincade to go though, why choose Ole Miss? “I fit in their scheme, the type of thing they do,” said Kincade of his decision. “The offense is kind of like Skyline’s, and the coaching staff is great—I feel comfortable being around them and talking to them.” He had a total of 4,127 combined yards and 54 touchdowns as a junior last year. This is the type of hype that Ole Miss and its fans need. Some quarterbacks that have attended this camp are Drew Brees, Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Tim Tebow, Matt Schaub, and Matthew Stafford. Just to name a few.
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS: New AD announced — anonymously
On Thursday, a person told The Associated Press, on condition of anonymity, that the Gamecocks’ have chosen two-time national champion baseball coach Ray Tanner as the next athletic director of the University of South Carolina. The decision won’t become public until Friday during the day. Tanner replaces Eric Hyman, who resigned two weeks ago to take over the position of athletic director at Texas A&M. He has been interested in the job of AD since 2005 when Hyman was hired, and he always saw it as his next step. Tanner had formally been the assistant athletic director of University of North Carolina. Tanner’s assistant coach Chad Holbrook expects to be named the new head baseball coach after Tanner officially gets the job.
TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS: Recruit Tucker selected to play in FIBA championship
New Town rising senior Jannah Tucker has set her goals high from day one. She dreams of playing in the WNBA and competing for her country in the 2016 Olympics in Ro de Janeiro, Brazil. She is definitely on her way with already winning a gold medal as a starter for the United States national U-16 team at FIBA Americas championship in Merida, Mexico last summer. As of now, she is about to compete in the U.S. U-18 National Team in Puerto Rico in August for another gold medal. Tucker was undecided for what collegiate basketball program she should attend until she visited the University of Tennessee for the second time, and then she was sold. “Tennessee just had so many things to it,” Tucker said. “I just fell in love with it, starting from the academic support to the opportunity in basketball to the family environment. In my first visit down there, I just had this gut feeling it was the best place for me. I took another visit as sort of confirmation.” Tucker is ranked the eighth-best player in the ESPN Hoop Gurlz Super 60 class of 2013. She will be playing for first-year head coach Holly Warlick at Tennessee.
TEXAS A&M AGGIES: New conference, new uniforms
Adidias and Texas A&M University unveiled the new Lone Star TECHFIT football uniforms for the Aggies’ debut in the Southeastern Conference. The design was inspired by the 1970’s jerseys and the university wanted to bring back the rich tradition that is Texas A&M football. “Our team is really excited about the new uniforms for the upcoming season,” Texas A&M head football coach Kevin Sumlin said. “adidas has done a great job of developing a uniform that provides a look that blends our great history and tradition, with a modern look that our players and recruits will really like. We are looking forward to wearing them this inaugural season in the SEC.” The home jerseys are maroon and away are white with a similar look to the 1970’s era uniform, which featured unique vertical stripes down the shoulder. One of the innovations of the new jersey is a complete reconstruction that is 30% lighter.
VANDERBILT COMMODORES: Two Commodores make the Coaches’ Preseason All-SEC Team
Running back Zac Stacy and defensive lineman Rob Lohr both earned a spot on the Coaches’ Preseason All-SEC Team. Stacy was named to the All-SEC second team after setting Vanderbilt’s single season rushing record with 1,193 yards. However, he was behind South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore, Arkansas’s Knile Davis, and Alabama’s Eddie Lacy on the conference depth chart. Since these are only predictions of course, Stacy still has a shot to earn first team honors with an impressive final season with the Commodores. Lohr made the third team at defensive tackle after a strong 2011 showing. He’ll have a chance to improve on his breakout season which included 11.5 tackles for loss and five sacks last year.
Follow Gator Country Reporter Max Mattern on Twitter at @MaxMattern.