Bengals DT Atkins appears in NFL Network’s Top 100 rankings

Published: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 @ 11:29 AM


            CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 09: Geno Atkins #97 of the Cincinnati Bengals warms up prior to the AFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 09: Geno Atkins #97 of the Cincinnati Bengals warms up prior to the AFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The NFL Network continued its countdown of the league’s Top 100 players Monday night, with Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins coming in at No. 68.

Atkins led the Bengals last year with nine sacks, which were the most in the league among interior linemen. He also team highs in tackles for loss (13) and quarterback hits (26) and was voted to his fifth Pro Bowl.

He is the first Bengals player to appear on the list this year, with selections 59 through 1 still to come.

This is the fourth time Atkins has made the list. He was 29th last year, 48th in 2014 and 36th in 2013.

Five other Bengals made the list in 2016., led by wide receiver A.J. Green at No. 16.

The NFL Network will continue to unveil another 10 selections each Monday.

Steve Spurrier gives major praise to Dabo Swinney and Clemson staff

Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 10:16 AM

He coached against Dabo Swinney and Clemson in many Palmetto Bowl contests, so the admiration was already there.

But with Clemson returning to the College Football Playoff to defend their national title, the Old Ball Coach has Dabo on the brain.

To former South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, it’s undeniable: no one has done a better job in the last half decade or so than Swinney and his staff.

“I think Dabo and his staff have done the best job of any coaching staff in America the last five, six years,” Spurrier said to The Athletic’s Matt Fortuna.

Swinney and Spurrier squared off seven times from 2008-14. South Carolina won five in a row from 2009-13, bookmarked by Clemson victories in 2008 and 2014.

That Clemson victory in 2014 kickstarted what’s now a four-game winning streak over South Carolina in the series.

Swinney has guided Clemson to a national title in 2016, a runner-up national title finish in 2015 and four ACC titles while posting a 101-29 record in 10 seasons at the helm.

Spurrier amassed a 228-89-2 overall record as the head coach at Duke, Florida and South Carolina. Spurrier, who won six SEC titles and an ACC title, led the Gators to the 1996 national championship.

Clemson will face Alabama on Jan. 1 in the Sugar Bowl for a CFP semifinal matchup.

Kentucky Basketball: Kicking and screaming, PJ Washington got to work and saw it pay off

Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 10:11 AM

LEXINGTON, Ky. — John Calipari just threw it out there real casual-like during the TV broadcast of Kentucky basketball’s blowout win over Monmouth on Saturday: freshman PJ Washington recently lost 15 pounds in 17 days, the coach said, which accounts a great deal for his huge afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

Wait, what? That seems like a lot of weight in a short amount of time, no? Not when you have the metabolism of a freakishly athletic teenager and an assistant coach, Kenny Payne, who specializes in fast-forwarded development of young post players.

“Individual players have got to improve before your team can get better,” Calipari said after Washington went off for a career-high 20 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks. “So PJ lost that weight and all of a sudden he didn’t even look like the same guy. I wasn’t sure it would be this game, but he had practiced this way.”

RELATED: Diallo’s hot streak shows he’s trusting the process

Washington, a 6-foot-7 former McDonald’s All-American with a 7-3 wingspan and 43-inch vertical leap, had gotten off to a somewhat disappointing start at Kentucky: 5 points or fewer in four of his first eight games. He was shooting 46 percent at the free-throw line. Despite a lot of preseason hype about being “positionless,” he’d made zero 3-pointers.

Then came Saturday, when he buried his first college three, sank 9 of 9 free throws and pretty well dominated on both ends of the floor. Was it really as simple as losing 15 pounds in 17 days? And how the heck did he do that?

“Running,” Washington said with a grin. “Just running every day. Before practice, after practice, everything. [Losing the weight] is just a confidence booster. I feel like I’m more in shape and my shots are falling now and I’m just playing better.”

RELATED: Dad trusted UK staff to help Washington break through

Almost three weeks ago now, Calipari asked Payne to start putting Washington through grueling workouts in addition to practices. Calipari did not ask Washington if he wanted to attend. He ordered.

“The kid wasn’t happy,” the coach said. “He was whining and complaining — and all of a sudden it starts kicking in. There’s only one way if you’re chasing greatness to convince yourself that you’re good enough, and that’s through work, spending more time than anybody, being more committed than anybody.

“In the case of PJ, it was a demand. It wasn’t an ask. But [Saturday’s game] was good stuff. I was happy for him.”

At long last, Washington showed off all of the skills that made coaches at Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA and just about everywhere else salivate. When the Wildcats got into foul trouble on Saturday, they went to a zone defense and Washington played at the top of it, in the middle of it and on the wing.

He was everywhere. He looked … positionless.

“That’s who he is,” Calipari said. “But plus-15 pounds, he can’t be that. And I even said, ‘Myabe lose 7 or 8 more, maybe you’ll get even better.’ ”

If that happens, or even if Washington can just maintain what he displayed in New York, the outlook for this Kentucky team changes dramatically.

RELATED: Four 1 seeds, four mid-major threats, four games to watch this week

Arkansas 4-star QB target Gerry Bohanon Jr. believes Chad Morris will turn program around

Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 10:06 AM

Welcome to SEC Country’s  daily Arkansas Razorbacks recruiting notebook . In this edition, we discuss the top in-state recruit, retaining the primary in-state recruiter, a former commit heading elsewhere and more.


Chad Morris visits top in-state recruit Gerry Bohanon Jr.

Chad Morris has convinced Gerry Bohanon Jr. he’s the right coach to get the Razorbacks back on track. Now that Morris has accomplished that, he’s doing his best to convince Bohanon to join him in for the rebuild.

A quarterback from Earle, Ark., Bohanon is the No. 1 in-state recruit in the 2018 class according to the 247Sports composite. Morris, who was hired last week, met Bohanon personally for the first time Monday at Earle High School, 275 miles east of Fayetteville. That visit apparently went very well.

“I feel like that’s the right man for the job,” Bohanon told Hayden Balgavy of THV11 in Little Rock on Sunday evening.

“I feel like he’s going to really change the program around with the right guys. I really believe that.”

Bohanon (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) has previously listed Arkansas among his top choices along with Baylor, Georgia, Louisville, LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. He also holds offers from Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee and several other programs.

A commitment decision is likely to be made by Bohanon between now and the Dec. 20 earlier signing period beginning. It may not be made public until that time, when he is planning to sign. Other than his intentions to sign that day, Bohanon has given no indication when he might make his commitment known. For now, all signs point toward Arkansas.

“Every kid in Arkansas wants to be a Razorback,” Bohanon said. “A lot of guys like watching the Hogs. I like watching them. I like going to the games, I like the people up there and the fans are absolutely the best in the nation.”

Barry Lunney Jr. remains on staff recruiting, unsure of role

Tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. has remained on Arkansas’ staff in the transition from Bret Bielema to Morris. Lunney has actively recruited over the past week as a representative of the new staff.

A source with knowledge of the situation recently told SEC Country that Lunney is definitely being retained by Morris. However, the source also said it is uncertain what role Lunney will serve. It remains very likely he continues to coach tight ends, though Morris’ offense uses the position quite differently than the previous staff.

Lunney joined Morris and offensive coordinator Joe Craddock in Ashdown, Ark., on Sunday night as the three met with 2018 cornerback LaDarrius Bishop. Bishop flipped his commitment from Mississippi State to the Razorbacks following his meeting with the coaches.

As he does with most in-state recruits, Lunney served as the primary contact between Bishop and Arkansas throughout his recruitment.

Byron Hanspard II officially off list of possibilities, commits to Baylor

SEC Country reported Monday that former Arkansas commit Byron Hanspard II had not heard from the Hogs’ new staff.

The Razorbacks have indeed made contact with the 4-star cornerback since, but apparently not with intention of pursuing him. It is believed at this time the Hogs do not intend to pursue any other cornerbacks following Bishop’s pledge.

Morris’ staff at SMU did not recruit Hanspard despite him being from nearby DeSoto, Texas. He was one of Arkansas’ top commitments in the 2018 class until rescinding his pledge late last month. He stated that his  de-commitment was because of the uncertainty surrounding Bielema’s firing.

With Arkansas out of the picture, Hanspard announced his commitment to Baylor on Monday evening.

No more SMU commits expected

Morris flipped two of his SMU commits — wide receiver Mike Woods and offensive lineman Silas Robinson — to Arkansas on Sunday. At this time, it is not expected the Hogs will be adding any of Morris’ other pledges from his time with the Mustangs.

A 3-star prospect from Magnolia, Texas, Woods was SMU’s highest-rated commit in the 2018 class. Robinson is a 3-star tackle from Yoakum, Texas.


Miss a previous edition? Find every SEC Country daily Arkansas Razorbacks recruiting notebook  right here.

How former Alabama players fared in NFL Week 14: O.J. Howard catches fifth career touchdown pass

Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2017 @ 10:06 AM

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard has made his presence felt in his rookie year, despite the team having a disappointing season. Howard has been a big target for quarterback Jameis Winston, particularly in the red zone. On Sunday, Howard caught his fifth touchdown pass of the season in the team’s 24-21 loss to the Detroit Lions. This one came from 2 yards out in the fourth quarter.

The former Alabama tight end finished with 54 yards on 5 catches. This season, he has 402 yards on 25 catches and averages 16.1 yards per reception. His longest catch of the season went for 58 yards.

Here is how other former Alabama players fared in NFL Week 14:

  • For the Lions, defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson collected 1 tackle and 1 quarterback hit in the win.
  • Chicago Bears safety Eddie Jackson forced 2 turnovers in a 33-7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on his birthday. Jackson also recorded 4 tackles in the win. The first of the turnovers came when Jackson intercepted a pass on a tipped ball. Later, Jackson stripped the ball from Bengals wide receiver AJ Green. It is the second time this season that Jackson has forced multiple turnovers in a game.

  • For the Bengals, quarterback AJ McCarron saw action in the loss, completing 4 of 8 passes for 47 yards.
  • Green Bay Packers Ha Ha Clinton-Dix produced 6 tackles and also intercepted a pass in a 27-21 win over the Cleveland Browns. It was his third interception of the season.
  • Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Anderson made a career-high 5 tackles in a 30-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers.
  • Wide receiver Julio Jones gained 98 yards on 5 catches in a 20-17 win against the New Orleans Saints. For the Saints, running back Mark Ingram had 49 yards rushing and 43 yards receiving on 16 total touches.
  • Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley made 14 tackles and a pass deflection in a 39-38 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Also for the Ravens, cornerback Marlon Humphrey posted 5 tackles, with one of them being behind the line of scrimmage. Humphrey received lots of praise for the way he was able to battle with wide receiver Antonio Brown.

  • Houston Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson recorded 3 tackles and picked off his first pass of the season in a 26-16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Also for the Texans, wide receiver DeAndrew White caught his first pass of the season after recently signing with the team. The pass went for 24 yards.
  • For the 49ers, linebacker Reuben Foster recorded a team-high 8 tackles and also made 1 tackle for loss.
  • Los Angeles Rams linebacker Mark Barron racked up 7 tackles and 2 tackles for loss in a 43-35 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
  • Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Reggie Ragland made 3 tackles in a 26-15 win over the Oakland Raiders.
  • New York Giants safety Landon Collins tallied 7 tackles and a tackle for loss in a 30-10 setback to the Dallas Cowboys. His teammate, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, made 3 tackles.
  • Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry rushed for 20 yards on 8 carries in a 12-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Henry also scored the Titans’ lone touchdown on a 6-yard run.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Marcell Dareus had 3 tackles, while running back T.J. Yeldon picked up 9 yards on 2 carries in a 30-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks.