Thanks for a wide scope of questions this week. I’ll do my best to answer as many of them as I can in the SEC mailbag:
Lawrence in Alpharetta, Ga., writes: When you look at all the experience coming back, is this the year that Georgia puts it all together in the offensive line?
Chris Low: Down deep, Georgia coach Mark Richt thinks so, but he’s not going to say it publicly. He’d much rather see it play out that way on the field. Trinton Sturdivant hopes to regain his starting spot at left tackle after missing each of the past two seasons with knee injuries. The Bulldogs felt Sturdivant was their best lineman before he got hurt leading into the 2008 season. Tanner Strickland is also back after missing last season with a shoulder injury. So if everybody stays healthy (and the Bulldogs are due a little luck in that area), they will put a deep, veteran offensive line in front of redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray in 2010.
John in Oxford, Miss., writes: How about some love for us stepping up and playing Boise State to open 2011? You’ve ripped on Ole Miss’ football schedule for last year and this year a lot, and rightfully so. However, we have Boise State now in 2011 and Texas in 2012 and 2013. The schedule is stepping up.
Chris Low: Indeed it is. The Rebels have some marquee home games lined up for the next several years. They get Boise State at home to open the 2011 season, then face Texas at home the third week of the 2012 season and also play Clemson at home during the 2016 season. Ole Miss plays at Texas during the 2013 season and travels to Clemson during the 2015 season. Every SEC school should play at least one high-profile nonconference game every season. Ole Miss’ nonconference schedule has been ridiculously soft and will be again next season. The Rebels did go on the road to face Wake Forest in 2008, but were beaten by the Deacons. So, yes, it’s good to see them get serious about upgrading their schedule. Plus, I’m not sure the Ole Miss fans were lining up at the box office to see too many more games against Northern Arizona, Southeastern Louisiana, Samford and Louisiana-Monroe.
Ernie in Columbus, Ohio, writes: You reportedly made a statement on ESPN Radio late Tuesday night that Mike Slive has had talks with four schools about joining the SEC. West Virginia was one of the four. Oddly, there hasn't been another word mentioned about this report. Was this incorrect, inaccurate or was there another reason why this hasn't been mentioned again? Thanks.
Chris Low: I appreciate your asking that question, because I’ve been getting bombarded with inquiries about what I supposedly reported concerning West Virginia, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami moving to the SEC. For the record, I haven’t reported anything of the sort. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever even mentioned West Virginia in terms of SEC expansion. I have said that Clemson, Florida State, Miami and Georgia Tech could all four be teams SEC commissioner Mike Slive would probably be interested in should the league decide it needs to expand. But that’s a long way from saying those teams have already been contacted. I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot of wild expansion stories over the next few months and who’s coming and who’s going. When you consider that each SEC school will pocket close to $17 million in shared revenue next month at the spring meetings, why would anybody be looking to get out?
Hawgwild 2010 in Little Rock, Ark., writes: Julio Jones gets talked up like he is the second coming of Jerry Rice. I think he is a borderline top 5 wide receiver in the SEC going into 2010. I get why he is an elite pro prospect, and I don't dispute his potential. He had a very good freshman year, but his eight touchdowns in two seasons are pedestrian. To me, he is the equivalent of Taylor Mays. Great specimen. However, he is invisible at times and he doesn’t get it done in the red zone. The bottom line: The numbers don’t lie. When will his potential and production truly deserve the adulation? My top 5 to start the season is A.J. Green, Greg Childs, Darvin Adams, Alshon Jeffery and Julio Jones.
Chris Low: I get it. You think Jones is overrated. And while I’d agree that his numbers were down last season, I’m betting you see a different version of Jones in 2010, the one we saw as a freshman. Right now, I would take Green as the No. 1 receiver in the SEC, but Jones would be my No. 2 choice. You mention everything he’s supposedly not. Well, he did make a few plays to help the Crimson Tide win a national championship last season. Without his 73-yard touchdown catch and run against LSU, I’m not sure Alabama wins that game. He was also clutch in that final drive to beat Auburn. There are a number of outstanding receivers in this league, and it’s true that Childs led the SEC in conference games last season in receiving yards, yards per catch and touchdown catches. I think the Hogs’ collection of receivers are among the best in the country. But Jones would still be in my top 2 in the league.
C.B. in Baton Rouge, La., writes: Not sure if you saw this, but I thought I’d throw it out there. This was from LSU’s spring conditioning in the 40-yard dash (hand timed): Patrick Peterson 4.20, Ron Brooks 4.23, Drayton Calhoun 4.24, Morris Claiborne 4.25, Chris Tolliver 4.33, Russell Shepard 4.36. That's one fast defensive backfield, huh?
Chris Low: Yep, that was the plan when the Tigers moved Jai Eugene from cornerback to safety, to get even more speed on the field in the secondary. The thing that should make LSU so good back there next season is that Peterson can cover and tackle and has the speed to lock down on anybody. The LSU coaches think Claiborne is cut from that same mold. Obviously, Shepard is a receiver, but the Tigers sound serious about putting his speed to good use next fall. Here's a link to some of the Tigers' strength and conditioning numbers.
John in Las Vegas writes: After going through the spring camps in the SEC, did you think that if you took the exact same South Carolina team and replaced their jerseys with Georgia or Tennessee jerseys, you'd believe in them a lot more? I guess my real question is are they good, or are they just good for South Carolina and our eternally hopeful fans?
Chris Low: I genuinely believe this is Steve Spurrier’s best chance to make some real noise in the Eastern Division race since he’s been in Columbia. I say that because of the 15 starters returning, in particular the young talent in the program (Stephon Gilmore, Alshon Jeffery, Marcus Lattimore, DeVonte Holloman), and because I think Florida won’t be as dominant as the Gators have been the last few years. We’ll find out soon enough if I’m right. South Carolina has to beat Georgia at home that second week of the season if the Gamecocks are going to be a legitimate player.