Chat with Chris Low
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN.com's SEC blogger Chris Low will stop by to talk some college football.
Low joined ESPN.com in 2007 after 10 years with The (Nashville) Tennessean covering the University of Tennessee and SEC. The Rock Hill, S.C., native lives with his wife in Knoxville and has three sons.
Send your questions now and join Low Monday at 12:30 p.m. ET!
Chris Low (12:33 PM)
I hope everybody had a great Easter weekend as we head down the home stretch for a lot of teams in spring practice.
who do you think will win the east?
Chris Low (12:34 PM)
Florida, based on just the overall program's strength. By that, I mean there are still a lot of players on that roster who have been a part of these last two seasons and are guys that are extremely talented, but just haven't played starring roles because there has been NFL talent in front of them. To me, John Brantley is the second or third best QB in the league.
Jonathan (Bay Minette AL)
Do you really think Saban and Co. at Alabama are qoing to open up the Air attack this year or will it be the Running game that still rules the day in T-town? How good do you the offense being regardless?
Chris Low (12:36 PM)
The best news for Alabama is they don't have to half anything on offense because they will be so balanced. When you've got two backs like Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, the passing game is always going to be open for big plays, because nobody is going to want those two guys to go off. I also think Julio Jones will have a season this year much closer to the one he had as a freshman, provided he stays healthy.
Terrance (Baton Rouge)
With a top corner like Patrick Peterson and speed all over the field. Do you think that LSU is the best defense in the SEC?
Chris Low (12:37 PM)
I wouldn't call them the best right now because they still have guys that have to prove it this year. Guys that haven't been full time starters yet. That said, I would put them in my top 3.
After getting a chance to spend some time with the teams, which teams impress you the most?
Chris Low (12:39 PM)
I really like the momentum that Auburns got right now. Getting Newton out of junior college is a huge acquisition for the Tigers. But that's a team, if they get the kind of help they think they will out of this signing class, they'll be a real factor. It still gets down to building more depth at Auburn. They need more players they can count on defensively, especially late in the season.
Tyler (Charleston, SC)
Do you think the Gamecocks have a chance this year to really compete for the East at least?
Chris Low (12:41 PM)
If they don't, then I'm not sure they ever will. I've said it repeatedly, this is the year that Steve Spurrier can legitimately compete for the East championship. When you look at all of the returning starters and the rest of the division and what all of the teams like Florida and Georgia have lost. Moreso than ever, the Gamecocks have to win that second game of the season at Georgia at home, to be a real player. If they do win that game, then I do think they'll be right there come November challenging for the division title.
billy (henry county, ga)
The state of GA is always loaded with high school football talent, but this year the talent is very deep. UGA has to land some of the top guys but, from what I am reading they are struggling a little with the guys in the top ten. Why do you think this is?
Chris Low (12:43 PM)
First of all, I would wait until at least until we get into November or December before I say that they're not going to get some of the best talent in that state. Georgia, for the most part, has always gotten its share of the best prospects in that state. There were a couple of key guys last year that got away late, but the truth is there are so many good players in Georgia, year in, year out, that you can't take them all. You have to determine who fits your program best and go after those guys.
Will (Metairie, LA)
With Craig Loston's strong performance in LSU's spring game, do you think he locked up the starting FS position? What about the CB spot opposite Peterson? Who will step up, Morris Claiborne maybe?
Chris Low (12:44 PM)
I wouldn't say he locked it up, but I think he locked up a spot in the DB rotation. The Tigers feel like Loston is an exceptional talent, but they still want to see him be a little more consistent and a little tougher. But I will say this, for LSU's secondary, it has a chance to be even better next season than it was last year. That's saying something if you look at the team they put on the field in 2009. Everybody knows Patrick Peterson is an exceptional talent at CB. Watch the other CB Morris Claiborne.
Do you think Eric Berry could be a huge bust in the NFL?
Chris Low (12:46 PM)
I can't see any way he would be a bust, given his combination of cover skills, hitting ability, work ethic and versatility. As a college player, he played the classic free safety role under Chavis. And he played the ILB role under Kiffen. He's as well equipped as a safety as we've seen in the SEC in a long time. I think he'll be a terrific NFL player.
Chris, Tennessee has had a top ten recruiting class three out of the past four years. Obviously, the VOLS are painfully thin in certain areas (OL), but with that kind of talent, could they surprise some folks this year?
Chris Low (12:49 PM)
No, I don't see any way how Tennessee surprises this year. If they get to .500 this season, that would be a pretty decent accomplishment. They have no depth at DT and don't have a proven QB on the roster either. The recruiting rankings can often times be deceiving. For instance, Lane Kiffen's top 10 class two years ago was severely lacking in OL. They haven't signed a QB of note.
Bryan (Springdale, AR) [via mobile]
Will Mallet be ready for the start of the season, and if so will he be able to improve on 3rd downs? The Hogs were all or none on offense last year
Chris Low (12:51 PM)
He'll definitely be ready for the season. You'll see him throwing with the receivers by the first of June to get their timing back down. His accuracy period is something he'll have to improve on this year, not just on third down. I think he will in his second time through the SEC and with all of this playmakers returning at WR, TE, RB. In my mind, he's the most talented QB in the country this year.
John Brantely (Gainesville, Florida)
Most people seem to think Florida's reign is over now that Tebow is gone. Please set the record straight and explain that we still have plenty of NFL talent at every position ready to step in. Also True or False. I will win a National Title and Heisman over the next two years.
Chris Low (12:53 PM)
Well, John, you should know as well as anybody, I agree in one sense that the Gators have recruited like gang busters the last few years and they won't be hurting for talent. But you weren't hurting for talent in 2007 either and lost 4 football games. Sometimes it takes a year before that talent develops and blossoms. I think this may be one of those years for the Gators. Though I still think they'll be good enough to win the East. I just think they won't be a national contender this year.
Do you think Alabama has a legitimate chance to win Penn St., FL, LSU, and Auburn this year with the schedule in the opponents favor with off weeks
Chris Low (12:55 PM)
I'm on the record right now as saying I don't think anyone in the SEC will go undefeated this season. That includes Alabama. Now, that doesn't mean that I'm ruling the SEC out of the national championship race, because as we've seen in the past that a one-loss SEC champion has a good chance to play in the BCS national championship game.
Memphis Rob (Memphis, TN)
Hey Chris, has anything been decided on the potential schedule change for Bama next season?
Chris Low (12:57 PM)
Nothing's been decided, but I talked to SEC officials recently and they're still trying to find some holes in the schedule where they can give them some relief. As it is right now, they face six teams that have byes the week before they play Alabama. Maybe they can get that to four, but they're not going to be able to completely overhaul schedule.
What are the chances Ingram and Richardson both rush for 1000 yards for Bama this year? And if they do, what does that mean for Ingram's chances of a Heisman repeat?
Chris Low (1:00 PM)
Well, I would not be at all surprised if they both rush for over 1,000. I would expect to see the carries even out some more, maybe Ingram with 60% of the carries and Richardson with 40. Maybe even 55-45. That said, Ingram's rushing totals might go down this year, with Richardson getting more carries and Alabama's running game overall being better. But that might mean that Ingram's numbers won't be as flashy and therefore might not win the second Heisman.
Would you consider Georgia a true, top contender for the East division race this year even though they will need to break in a new QB and new defensive scheme? What chances do you give them of making an appearance at the SEC championship?
Chris Low (1:02 PM)
I consider Florida, Georgia and South Carolina all legitimate contenders in the East this year. I think the winner of that game the second week of the season in Columbia between Georgia and South Carolina takes a big step forward. While Georgia does have to break in a first year starter at QB, let's not forget they return the other 10 starters on offense and are extremely deep and versatile on the offensive line. Georgia this year will be stopping people and under new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, they can be more of an attacking defense and keep teams from hitting them with big plays.
Steve (Atlanta, GA)
Chris - Every year there is a team or two in the SEC with big expectations going into the season that surprises everyone with disappointment. Which team from both the East and West are most likely to fit this bill?
Chris Low (1:04 PM)
I would say two teams that have a chance to be break through teams - Arkansas and South Carolina - have a chance to be disappointing. If Arkansas doesn't improve significantly on defense, then they'll have a hard time being a 9-10 win team. In South Carolina's case, the Gamecocks have to play better on the offensive line than they have to this point under Steve Spurrier and commit to running the football more effectively to help out a defense that's played valiantly the last two years, but has been on the field too much.
How do you think Bama's D will hold up? Do you think will they still be one of the best in the nation? The qb's having a good scrimmage has me worried about the secondary.
Chris Low (1:07 PM)
I wouldn't put a lot of concern into the scrimmage numbers, especially the first scrimmage. But there's no question that Alabama's going to have to grow up quickly in the secondary. So many new faces back there and that's an area where if you're inexperienced, it comes back to get you just about every time to some degree. The good news for Alabama is that in their front seven, they'll be outstanding again. Marcell Dareus might be the best defensive lineman in the league this year. If LB Dont'a Hightower stays healthy, that's an incredibly talented duo in their front seven.
Hayden (Logan, Utah)
who is the best pro coming out of the SEC this year?
Chris Low (1:08 PM)
I'll give you three. Tennessee safety Eric Berry, Alabama LB Rolando McClain and even though there were some character issues, I still believe Florida DE Carlos Dunlap will be a big time NFL player.
Will we see a more mobile Mallett this season? I got tired of watching him just take a sack instead of trying to scramble or have 10 yards of green in front of him and throw it deep for an incompletion. Just something id like to see him work on.
Chris Low (1:10 PM)
He's never going to remind anybody of Michael Vick, but he does think he's in better shape. Moreso than scrambling around, I think he'll be smarter about getting rid of the football quicker, checking down to shorter routes and not trying to throw the deep ball all the time, which probably cost him more than anything last year. The other thing with Mallett is that he will have a better understanding of what defenses are trying to do to him than he did last year in his first year in the league.
Top Heisman candidates in the SEC this year?
Chris Low (1:11 PM)
You have to start with Ingram, since he won it last year, although I think the odds are long that he will win it again. Moreso because I think Alabama will use Richardson even more next season. Arkansas' Ryan Mallett.
Mike (Atlanta, Ga)
How good is Georgia's runing back Ealey in your opinion?
Chris Low (1:13 PM)
I like Ealey a lot. He has that blend of speed and quickness through the hole and is extremely difficult to tackle. His running style is such that it's hard to get a square hit on him. When Georgia decided to play him last year in the LSU game, he probably wasn't ready from a mental stand point, but this year you'll see a much more patient runner and educated runner. Right now, I would put Ealey at a solid No. 3 in the SEC behind Mark Ingram and Richardson.
Steven (Salem, OR)
Do you see any other team winning the National Championship other than a team from the SEC? (since the SEC has won the last 4 years)
Chris Low (1:14 PM)
I think Ohio State, when you look at who the Buckeyes have coming back and at their schedule, this could be as good a chance they have of winning the title in a long time. In fact, I'd be surprised if they're not playing for the title next season. I would have thought Oregon had a shot, if they had not had all of the off the field problems they had. It's hard to pick them now because of those issues. And one of these days it's going to fall just right for Boise State if the right teams lose toward the end of the season.
Richard (Tupelo, MS)
Chris- Can you see Ole Miss being able to replace Dexter McCluster and going 8 and 4 again?
Chris Low (1:17 PM)
I don't know about replacing Dexter McCluster. He was the most dynamic player in the league last year, in my opinion. To do what he did in the last half of the season and carve defenses apart at 170 pounds was phenomenal. However, as difficult as he will be to replace, the Rebels schedule this year is pretty soft again. I would think they're going to have a good start. 8 wins would not be out of the question. I don't think they'll be as good of a team this year, but I could see them getting to 8 wins.
How long til Dooley has Tennessee back in the mix?
Chris Low (1:19 PM)
Realistically, 2012, which is three years. I don't see them being a factor in the East in either of the next two seasons. They need to get two more recruiting classes in there. I would think in 2012 that they could make a move to compete for SEC titles again. But not all of that is assured, given the play on the lines and at how good everyone has recruited around them.
dogger Dog (georgia)
Predict the record for UGA for 2010?
Chris Low (1:20 PM)
I think 10-2 regular season would be a best case scenario for the Bulldogs. But if they don't get everything corrected on defense and the new QB struggles, then maybe you're looking at 8 wins again.
Lance (Fort Payne, AL)
With this being Sabans first year of all players recruited by him, How good can they be? I know talent isnt a question but can they win games in the SEC.
Chris Low (1:21 PM)
Alabama's the favorite to win it again, in my mind. They have just about everyone back on offense. This team has great leadership. If you know anything about Saban, you know he won't let them get complacent. It's about filling big holes on defense, especially in the secondary and keeping guys like Hightower healthy. From a pure talent standpoint, Alabama is the best in the SEC, but experience counts for something. We'll find out how quickly how some of these new guys on defense develop.
Which SEC matchup are you most excited to see this year? I'm looking forward to the Florida v. Alabama game. Its becoming an even greater rivalry than ever. With both teams facing a good deal of transition it should be very interesting.
Chris Low (1:23 PM)
That one will be right there at the top of my agenda. I think the Alabama-Arkansas game will be another one that's highly anticipated. Even though it's not a league game, the first one, LSU-North Carolina, two teams with good defenses will give you a good indication of how good LSU will be thie season.
Jim (Memphis, TN)
Who do you see winning Georgia's QB competition, how sure are you, and why?
Chris Low (1:24 PM)
The good news for Mark Richt is all three guys played very well in the scrimmage on Saturday. Aaron Murray probably has a leg up, based on his versatility, his accuracy and the fact that he has really immersed himself in that offense. It hurts Mettenberger's chances that he's going to be suspended for at least the first game and possibly more. But he's thrown the ball well this spring.
Patrick (Mobile, AL)
Chris, after spending so much time with Auburn this week, what is your prediction for this season? Are they a dark horse for the West?
Chris Low (1:26 PM)
They won 7 games in the regular season last year. Keep in mind they lost 5 of their last 6 SEC games. I think the Tigers will close stronger this season and I will go with 9-3 this season. The key game for them early is at Mississippi State. But after that, 5 of their next 6 are at home.
Taylor (Clermont, FL)
Florida has winning streaks over UK and Vandy that are greater than 20 years each. Do you see either of them beating UF in the future?
Chris Low (1:27 PM)
Ever is a long time, but no, not in the near future. As soon as I say that, remember the 2007 season, Kentucky played Florida pretty tough.
Herbie (Canton, Ohio)
Hoping Ohio St. wins it all. If they don't, it will be an SEC defense who beats them. Who are the top 4 SEC defensive coaching staffs?
Chris Low (1:28 PM)
I would start with Alabama again, even though there will be some new faces. I also believe LSU, South Carolina and Florida will be good on defense again. But I think Alabama will be the top defense in the league.
Chris Low (1:29 PM)
Thanks for the questions. I look forward to catching up with the Gamecocks later this week. They're in my spring travels. We'll do this again next Monday.