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DeShone Kizer staying level headed through struggles

Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 10:03 AM

FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2017, file photo, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson talks with quarterback DeShone Kizer
FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2017, file photo, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson talks with quarterback DeShone Kizer(7)

Rookie DeShone Kizer, statistically and via the eye test, might be the worst quarterback in the league. He’s trying to stay optimistic while his team has slumped to a winless first month.

When you are 0-4 and statistically one of the worst quarterbacks out there right now, you have to figure out where you are headed,” Kizer said. “What is the path right now? What is the message? For me, it is about doing whatever I can to grow in whatever Coach [Hue Jackson] decides needs to be the right room for growth for that week.

“In the last couple weeks, we were talking about trying not to hold onto the ball and make sure that we are throwing the ball away and not taking sacks. We made progress in that. This week, it is about putting the ball in playmakers hands and trying to go score points so we can go win a game. Now, it is up to me to do whatever I can this week to grow in that. Obviously, this is going to be a process.”

Kizer is right in that he’s holding the ball too long. But an expensive Cleveland offensive line hasn’t come together either and Kizer’s weapons are anything but dangerous.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I am looking forward to attacking this consistently and taking on those small projects until it becomes something that we really want it to be,” he said.

Dallas Cowboys reducing role for rookie LB Jaylon Smith

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 9:14 AM

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith was never supposed to have to do so much so fast.

When the Cowboys drafted him in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, they had a pretty good idea that he wouldn’t play that season and probably figured he’d have to be worked in slowly in 2017 after a catastrophic knee injury in his final game at Notre Dame. Because of need, he wound up playing 75.6 percent of snaps through five games.

However, with their full expected linebacking corps finally healthy again, the Cowboys have made the decision to dial it back for their leading tackler to this point.

“I don’t see a lot of physical limitations,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said according to Clarence Hill, Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s just a lot for a young guy, a rookie, coming in at that position. It’s a lot and the communication and all the things you have – close calls, adjustments – it can wear you out as you go. It’s a lot to it.”

While Marinelli makes it clear that the pitch count isn’t about injury, Smith has been playing through drop foot, a complication of the knee injury, and has used a customized ankle-foot orthotic to help give stability to that joint. Only time will tell if the nerve that controls that action will regenerate itself and give him full range of motion.

So the pitch count may have the added benefit of making sure he isn’t overworking himself and helps aid in his recovery.

Either way, the Cowboys have been gashed against the run in 2017 and, even though he’s lead the team in tackles, Smith has struggled at times during the year. The Cowboys are No. 22 in run defense in 2017, a year removed from fielding the best run defense in the NFL.

They’re hoping getting Anthony Hitchens back out there as the starter along with a healthy Sean Lee on the weak side and Damian Wilson on the strong side will allow them to help plug a leaky run defense.

Tennessee football media picks: Examining predictions for Alabama victory margin

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 9:11 AM

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The question this week doesn’t seem to be if Tennessee can beat Alabama, so much as how many the Crimson Tide will win by in Saturday’s game.

The teams meet at 3:30 p.m. (eastern time) in Tuscaloosa in a game that will be televised by CBS, and No. 1 ranked Alabama is a 36-point favorite.

It’s believed to be the biggest spread in the history of the rivalry, which has been dominated by the Crimson Tide since Coach Nick Saban took over in 2007.

Alabama has won 10 straight, and Tennessee hasn’t won in fabled Bryant-Denny Stadium since 2003 when Casey Clausen was quarterbacking the Vols.

Tennessee football media picks

Idaho at Missouri (-14)

Dustin’s pick: Missouri 27, Idaho 12

Blake’s pick: Missouri 48, Idaho 24

Josh’s pick: Missouri 45, Idaho 24

Mike’s pick: Missouri 41, Idaho 28

Kentucky at Mississippi State (-11.5)

Dustin’s pick: Mississippi State 31, Kentucky 22

Blake’s pick: Mississippi State 35, Kentucky 28

Josh’s pick: Mississippi State 31, Kentucky 30

Mike’s pick: Mississippi State 27, Kentucky 20

LSU (-7.5) at Ole Miss

Dustin’s pick: LSU 21, Ole Miss 14

Blake’s pick: Ole Miss 35, LSU 28

Josh’s pick: LSU 36, Ole Miss 30

Mike’s pick: LSU 24, Ole Miss 21

Auburn (-15.5) at Arkansas

Dustin’s pick: Auburn 35, Arkansas 21

Blake’s pick: Auburn 35, Arkansas 21

Josh’s pick: Auburn 31, Arkansas 20

Mike’s pick: Auburn 30, Arkansas 27

Tennessee at Alabama (-36)

Dustin’s pick: Alabama 45, Tennessee 13

“This one isn’t going to be fair. Alabama hasn’t had any trouble with anyone yet, and the Vols simply don’t have the offensive firepower to keep up.”

Blake’s pick: Alabama 42, Tennessee 7

“Tennessee has yet to put together a full four-quarter performance. Facing the No. 1 team in the country probably isn’t the time the trend reverses itself.”

Josh’s pick: Alabama 45, Tennessee 7

“Alabama will do to Tennessee what it has done to all of its opponents — dominate.”

Mike’s pick: Alabama 37, Tennessee 14

“Tennessee’s offense has a bit more to it with a mobile quarterback, but this is a tough place for Jarrett Guarantano to make his first road start.”

Top-100 CB Derek Stingley Jr. talks LSU’s push

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 9:11 AM

Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Eye on the Tigers, a rundown of everything happening in LSU Tigers recruiting , with Sam Spiegelman. Today, we discuss one-time LSU commit Derek Stingley Jr., who remains a priority defensive back target in the Class of 2019. 

Derek Stingley Jr. returns to LSU

BATON ROUGE, La. — Derek Stingley Jr. has been a mainstay at LSU since the summer. That has continued into the fall.

That should come as no surprise, since the one-time LSU commit lives just minutes away from Tiger Stadium.

During his most recent unofficial visit last Saturday for the game against Auburn, Stingley caught a range of emotions, beginning with LSU’s early 20-0 deficit onto a second-half comeback and the secondary preserving the win.

Four-star cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. has taken in three LSU home games so far this fall, including the Tigers’ comeback victory over Auburn. (Sam Spiegelman/SEC Country)

“It was pretty good to see them actually come back and get a win like that and have success,” Stingley told SEC Country. “At first, I was like, ‘Come on, y’all. You can do better than this.’ And then they ended up doing it. It was pretty wild because at first, I could tell the environment was hostile when they were losing by a lot, and once they returned the punt and all that, it kicked up in a good way.”

For the 4-star Class of 2019 cornerback, there was an obvious takeaway.

In the waning minutes, Stingley’s eyes were glued on LSU cornerback Donte Jackson, who batted down 5 passes over the final two series to preserve the 27-23 victory.

“What stood out the most was Donte at the end of the game shutting down four or five passes in a row,” Stingley raved. “I feel like teams don’t usually go at him, so for him to knock it down was good to see him do well. I haven’t seen much action from him because he’s just locking down [receivers].”

Stingley has taken in a handful of LSU home games in recent years, including three already this fall. His next scheduled visit will be to Alabama when the Tide host the Tigers. That will be Stingley’s first game in a venue aside from Tiger Stadium.

Tigers among the schools pushing hardest

When the calendar flipped from August to September, a handful of teams began to make their push for the No. 6-ranked cornerback in the 2019 class.

Count LSU among those teams.

“It’s still been the same [with LSU], the same how it was before. Daily contact from the coaches and things like them saying, ‘Good morning,'” Stingley explained. “Penn State has surprisingly been right there. LSU, of course. Florida, Alabama, Texas and Ole Miss, they keep up every day, too. Those are the main schools that are keeping up with me every day.”

LSU is among the schools pushing hardest for 4-star cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. along with Penn State, Alabama, Florida, Texas and Ole Miss. (Sam Spiegelman/SEC Country)

What’s different between LSU’s push for the 6-foot-1, 175-pound corner versus the pack?

Corey Raymond, of course.

Raymond, LSU defensive backs coach, has already established a relationship with Stingley dating back to his original commitment to the Tigers back in June 2016. While other schools are trying to develop a bond with the 4-star prospect, LSU is ahead of the curve.

“The others schools, they’re trying to build a relationship and win me over,” Stingley said. “LSU, we’re cool. We’re saying ‘Good morning.’ I understand the relationship, and they understand their relationship with me. It’s just different because it’s laid back more.”

“He [Raymond] is helping me with my game now technique-wise,” he added, “so I can help out the rest of my team and I can do it later. It’s more about technique and actually playing the game.”

Stingley still does not have a concrete timeline for making a commitment. Right now, pulling the trigger could take place next fall right before his senior season at Dunham (La.) School, during or even after.

At this point, LSU is sure to be a finalist whenever Stingley is ready to decide. That’s a product of a longstanding relationship and continued push from Raymond and coach Ed Orgeron, who have proven he’s a top priority in the 2019 class during his recent string of visits to campus.

“Whenever I go to a game, them coming up to me and taking the time out to come talk to me,” Stingley said. “You know, I’m a high school player and they’re talking to me in public and at the games, that’s something that’s keeping it going.”

Miss a previous edition? Find every post of SEC Country’s daily Eye on the Tigers recruiting notebook right here .

Breaking down the top storylines, visitors expected in Tuscaloosa for Tennessee game

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 9:11 AM

Welcome to  SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings , a rundown of everything happening in Alabama Crimson Tide recruiting with Chris Kirschner. Today, we talk the latest with the most important visitors headed to Tuscaloosa this weekend. 

Alabama will host some of its most important targets in both the 2018 and 2019 classes this weekend when it takes on Tennessee in what could be Volunteers coach Butch Jones’ final game before he gets fired.

Here’s a look at where things stand with the Tide’s top targets who will be in town:

Alabama official visitors for Tennessee game

Antwuan Jackson, 4-star JUCO defensive tackle, Blinn (Texas) College — committed to Ohio State

Jackson wasn’t expected to visit until Thursday. If he follows through with the visit, it’ll be a good opportunity for Alabama to sell the Buckeyes commit on how badly the team needs interior defensive linemen in this class. But, Jackson is going to be a hard flip from Ohio State. The Buckeyes were one of his top teams before he signed with Auburn out of high school. He also battled with the Auburn staff to not allow them to block Ohio State as a possible transfer destination.

• Emory Jones, 4-star quarterback, Heard County High School (Franklin, Ga.) — committed to Ohio State

Jones is arguably the most important visitor for the Crimson Tide this weekend as the team continues to try to land a top 2018 quarterback. There are three main options: Jones, 4-star Kentucky commit Jarren Williams and 4-star prospect Tanner McKee. This will be Jones’ fourth visit to Tuscaloosa this year, and that’s not including him attending Alabama’s opener against Florida State in Atlanta. Expect Ohio State to start turning up the heat on other quarterbacks in the coming days because the team can’t continue to wait on if Jones will stick or not. He’s expected to take an official visit to OSU next weekend. A decision to flip or not could come soon after that.

• Jordan Moore, 4-star safety, Yoakum (Texas) High School — committed to Texas A&M

It’s not clear how big of a priority Moore is at this time. As of now, it looks like an opportunity to take a trip with his brother, who is the bigger Alabama target.

• Joshua Moore, 4-star wide receiver, Yoakum (Texas) High School — committed to Nebraska

With Nebraska being an absolute mess, Moore’s recruitment is one to watch. Alabama is recruiting him as an athlete, as the staff believes he can excel on both sides of the ball. Coach Nick Saban actually FaceTimed Moore while he was at the NFL draft this year.

• Penei Sewell, 4-star offensive tackle/guard, St. George (Utah) High School

Sewell will either commit to Alabama or Oregon, and a decision could come soon after this visit to Tuscaloosa. Sewell has been one of the team’s top offensive line targets since early summer. Heading into this trip, Oregon is trending a bit, but from all my conversations with his father, it seems like Alabama is in good shape to land his commitment.

Important targets visiting Tuscaloosa

• Emil Ekiyor, 4-star center/guard, Cathedral High School (Indianapolis) — committed to Michigan

If Ekiyor follows through with this visit, a flip from Michigan should go down. This would be his fourth visit to Alabama. He took an official visit to Tuscaloosa for the Ole Miss game, and after that visit, sources indicated that Ekiyor would likely flip to the Tide at some point.

• Asa Martin, 4-star running back, Austin High School (Decatur, Ala.) — committed to Auburn

Martin visited Tuscaloosa last weekend for the Arkansas game. Back-to-back trips to Tuscaloosa certainly won’t hurt the Tide’s chances of flipping the Auburn commit.

• Coynis Miller, 4-star defensive tackle, Jackson-Olin High School (Birmingham, Ala.) — committed to Auburn

Miller committed to Auburn over Alabama earlier this month. This recruitment isn’t over by any means. Alabama will continue to recruit him strongly. His dad also didn’t look pleased with his son’s decision.

• Christian Tutt, 4-star cornerback, Thomson (Ga.) High School

Tutt wanted to commit to Alabama earlier this year, but he didn’t have a committable offer. He still doesn’t but is one to watch should the team miss on several cornerback targets.

• Seth Williams, 4-star wide receiver, Paul W. Bryant High School (Cottondale, Ala.)

The team would like to add one big-bodied receiver between Williams and Justyn Ross. Williams seems to be trending toward Auburn, while Clemson is looking good for Ross. This will be Williams’ second trip to Alabama this fall.

• Taulia Tagovailoa, 2019 4-star quarterback, Thompson High School (Alabaster, Ala.)

If Alabama wants Tagovailoa, Tua’s brother, to be its 2019 quarterback, he will commit to the Tide. It’s as simple as that.

• Clay Webb, 2019 5-star center/guard, Oxford (Ala.) High School

Webb is a major 2019 priority. Expect his decision to come down to Alabama or Auburn. I think Alabama wins out in the end.

Alabama commits headed to town 

• Jalyn Armour-Davis, 4-star cornerback, St. Paul’s Episcopal (Mobile, Ala.)

• Skyler Delong, 3-star punter, Nation Ford (S.C.) High School

• Vernon Jackson, 3-star linebacker, Boling (Texas) High School

• Cameron Latu, 4-star Jack linebacker, Olympus High School (Salt Lake City)

• Quay Walker, 4-star linebacker, Crisp County High School (Cordele, Ga.)

Other notable visitors

• Army RB commit Elliott McElwain

• 3-star DB Kevontae’ Ruggs — Henry Ruggs III’s brother

• 3-star Tennessee LB commit Matthew Flint

• 2019 4-star DB Cortez Andrews

• 2019 Southern Miss RB commit Xavien Banks

• 2019 4-star OLB Mohamoud Diabate

• 2019 4-star LB Ge’mon Eaford

• 2019 4-star OL Amari Kight

• 2019 4-star CB Jalen Perry

• 2019 4-star WR Brandon Turnage

• 2019 3-star QB Paul Tyson

• 2020 4-star OL Tate Ratledge

• 2020 OL Brady Ward

Alabama coaches to see 2 top prospects on Friday

Only two assistants will be on the road Friday night to scout Alabama targets.

Defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley will be at Heard County in Franklin, Ga., to see 4-star quarterback Jones ahead of his official visit to Alabama this weekend.

As reported by SEC Country on Monday, 3-star running back Jerome Ford will have an Alabama coach on the sidelines. Wide receivers coach Mike Locksley will scout Ford, who has emerged as a top target for Alabama. The Crimson Tide staff have been impressed with Ford this season and see him as a change-of-pace back. Ford said South Florida leads, but it is expected that Alabama will become a threat for the Bulls target if he ends up visiting this fall.

Miss a previous edition? Find every post of SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings recruiting notebook  right here .