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Fans and analysts react to DeShone Kizer’s benching

Published: Sunday, October 08, 2017 @ 3:48 PM

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)

After an abysmal first half, Browns coach Hue Jackson pulled the plug on rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer.

Kizer was benched in the second half on Sunday’s game against the Jets. Kevin Hogan led the Browns on a touchdown drive following the move, but they trail the Jets 17-7 in the fourth quarter.

Les Miles reveals why he passed on taking Arkansas job in 2012

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 10:40 AM

Can you picture Les Miles as Arkansas’ coach? He considered the possibility, but ultimately, Miles passed for family reasons.

Speaking with Bo Mattingly of Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly on Thursday, Miles said he weighed the option of taking the job in Fayetteville before the 2013 season. Back in November 2012, Jim Kleinpeter of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Miles had an offer worth $27.5 million over five years to become the Razorbacks coach. However, as Miles told Mattingly on Thursday, the coach decided to stay in Baton Rouge because he didn’t want to move his family from Baton Rouge.

It’s intriguing to consider where Miles might be now had he taken the Arkansas job.

Of course, the Razorbacks went on to hire Bret Bielema, who went 29-34 from 2013-17. Bielema was fired at the end of Arkansas’ most recent season, which ended with a 4-8 record. Miles, meanwhile, stayed at LSU until he was fired during the 2016 season. He finished with a 114-34 mark with the Tigers.

Would Arkansas be in a better place if Miles had accepted the job? Would Miles still be coaching at the moment instead of trying to get back into the game?

Both of those are fascinating questions. But it’s hard to blame Miles for doing what he thought was best for his family at the time.

Jaydon Mickens goes from living in his car to playing for an AFC Championship

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 10:34 AM

On Sunday afternoon, Jaydon Mickens, a former standout at the University of Washington now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, will suit up in New England with the opportunity to win an AFC Championship and a berth to a Super Bowl. And if anybody thought the Jags themselves were long shots, well, nobody was more of a long shot than Mickens.

Mickens had a good, not great, college career. He led the Washington Huskies in receptions and receiving yards as a junior and senior, but he never cracked the top 10 in the Pac-12 in either. It wasn’t a huge surprise, then, when he went undrafted in 2016, to be scooped up as a free agent by the Oakland Raiders, where he waffled between the active roster and the practice team. Finally, after two demotions to the practice squad, he was released in September, signed 17 days later to the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad.

Mickens knew, though, the mercurial lives that practice squad players live. He was making $6,500 a week but, because he didn’t know how long he’d be in Jacksonville for, he didn’t sign a lease.

He simply lived in his car.

“You can go into an offseason and not get paid for six months,” Mickens told “I would rather save every check if I’m on the practice squad for the whole year and have something to fall back on.”

In a month he was promoted to the active roster, and he made an immediate impression, returning a punt for a touchdown in a Week 9 win over Cincinnati, earning him AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. In Week 14 against Seattle he would do it again, becoming the first returner in Jacksonville history to win it multiple times in a season.

Now, with his help, the Jags are knocking on the door to a Super Bowl, with Tom Brady and the Patriots standing in their way.

A Super Bowl check might be enough for an apartment.

Auburn football podcast: Auburn moves in new direction after 14 years

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 10:30 AM

Welcome to The Podcast on the Plains, SEC Country’s daily Auburn football podcast with host Zac Blackerby. On the show Thursday, Blackerby is joined by Justin Ferguson of SEC Country. On episode 114, the guys talk about a busy start of the week with Auburn sports. Auburn has zeroed in on a new athletics director, had a tough loss against Alabama and hired a new offensive line coach.

Auburn football podcast: Auburn moves in new direction after 14 years

Use the following time marks to navigate the podcast:

  • Start of the show: Blackerby and Ferguson discuss the big news of the day. Auburn has found the next athletics director. The experts discuss the situation that he’s coming into, his strengths and how his name seemed to be a bit out of nowhere.
  • 9-minute mark: Allen Greene has no ties to Auburn. This hire is refreshing to some fans due to the fact the Tigers looked outside of the school to make the move.
  • End of the show: Blackerby closes the show with a rant about Auburn basketball’s winning streak coming to an end against its biggest rival. Sloppy basketball on the road does not result in wins. The guys talk about what went wrong.

Miss a previous edition? Find every episode of SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers podcast  here. It also airs every day on ESPN 106.7 in Auburn at 3:30 p.m. CT.

Subscribe and listen to  SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers on iTunes. 

NFL mock draft 2018: Predicting first round, top players for the 2018 NFL Draft (1/18/2018)

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 2:00 AM

With the early entrant deadline come and gone, it’s time to look ahead to the  2018 NFL Draft.  A number of elite players declared, such as the Alabama trio of  Calvin RidleyDa’Ron Payne and  Minkah Fitzpatrick. Bryce Love, rather surprisingly, elected to return to Stanford.

This draft figures to be quarterback heavy, with potentially four signal callers, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen going among the top-10 picks. Of the non-quarterbacks, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley and Texas’ Connor Williams could be selected in the top 5.

The order for the first 20 picks is set.

NFL mock draft 2018, Round 1

  1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, USC QB: The Browns have to use the pick on a quarterback, and we think they’ll choose Darnold.
  2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, UCLA QB:  Rosen vs. Darnold will be an interesting debate. The UCLA quarterback might be wired to better succeed in New York than Darnold.
  3. Indianapolis Colts: Connor Williams, Texas T: For the Colts, it’s simple: They must do a better job of protecting Andrew Luck, provided he can return in 2018. As long as Williams can stay healthy, he’ll be a top draft pick.
  4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston): Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama DB:  The Browns went quarterback with their first pick. Next up, they grab the best defensive prospect in the class. Fitzpatrick is a queen-on-the-chessboard-type of defensive back.
  5. Denver Broncos: Josh Allen, Wyoming QB: Offensive tackle could be the pick here. Drafting Allen is a risk, but the Denver quarterback situation might be the worst in the league.
  6. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB: The Jets will continue toiling in mediocrity as long as they lack quality quarterback play. If anyone can handle the spotlight and attention that comes with playing for the Jets, it’s the Heisman Trophy winner.
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bradley Chubb, N.C. State DE: The Buccaneers have stumbled this season thanks to both Jameis Winston’s struggles and a poor pass rush. Chubb should help shore up the latter of their issues.
  8. Chicago Bears: Christian Kirk, Texas A&M WR:  The Bears almost have to pick a wide receiver. While many will peg Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, I think Kirk is a little bit better. But the Bears couldn’t go wrong with either.
  9. San Francisco 49ers: Saquon Barkley, Penn State RB:  With Jimmy Garoppolo looking like the quarterback of the future, San Francisco can draft the best player available, which is the superstar running back from Penn State.
  10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, Georgia LB: A defense with Khalil Mack on it shouldn’t be as bad as Oakland’s was this season. Smith is maybe the best off-ball linebacker prospect since Luke Kuechly.
  11. Miami Dolphins: Arden Key, LSU DE/OLB : Quenton Nelson could be an option, but instead they’ll take Key. While he might have off-field concerns, the LSU product has the potential to be an elite pass rusher.
  12. Cincinnati Bengals: Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame T : The Bengals have skill players and a number of young and talented defenders. Where they most need help is on the offensive line. McGlinchey, or his teammate, Quenton Nelson, could be an option.
  13. Washington Redskins: Derwin James, FSU DB: What Washington does will largely depend on whether it keeps QB Kirk Cousins. If it does, look for them to take a player such as James, who is 95 percent the player that Fitzpatrick is.
  14. Green Bay Packers: Josh Jackson, Iowa CB: The Packers were a bit of a mess without Aaron Rodgers, so look for them to go best player available. The secondary was one of their biggest concerns and they’ll address it here.
  15. Arizona Cardinals: Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame G:  If Mayfield were still on the board, he could be an option. Instead, the Cardinals will gladly take the best interior lineman in the class.
  16. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley, Alabama WR:  The Ravens might have the worst group of pass catchers in the NFL. This makes too much sense.
  17. Los Angeles Chargers:  Da’Ron Payne, Alabama DT : The Chargers had the second-worst rush defense in the league. Payne will help them improve.
  18. Seattle Seahawks: Derrius Guice, LSU RB: The Seahawks have had a revolving door of running backs since Marshawn Lynch departed. Guice should make it two years in a row that an LSU running back goes in the first round.
  19. Dallas Cowboys: Maurice Hurst, Michigan DT: Hurst might not be drafted this high simply because of his position. But the Cowboys need defensive tackles who can play, and Hurst is one of the best football players in this draft class.
  20. Detroit Lions: Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech LB: Running back could be an option here, but Edmunds fits a similar role to what Anthony Barr does for Minnesota.
  21. Buffalo Bills: James Washington, Oklahoma State WR: While they need to figure out their quarterback situation, the Bills need to improve at the wide receiver position.
  22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City), Vita Vea, Washington DT: The Bills traded Marcell Dareus earlier this season. And they’ll look to Vea to fill his void.
  23. Carolina Panthers: Courtland Sutton, SMU WR: Offensive line could be the choice, but Cam Newton needs guys on the outside who can help him out. Sutton might be the most physically gifted wide receiver in the draft.
  24. Los Angeles Rams: Orlando Brown, Oklahoma T: Andrew Whitworth was huge for the Rams this season. But he’s also 36 years old. Brown is raw, but he could become the Rams’ left tackle of the future.
  25. Tennessee Titans: Denzel Ward, Ohio State CB: The Titans selected a cornerback in the first round last year and will look to continue to improve their secondary. The Titans also could target a pass rusher.
  26. Atlanta Falcons: Harold Landry, Boston College DE/OLB: The Falcons love athletic playmakers, and Landry fits that role. It would not be a surprise to see him go higher in the draft than this. Landry led the NCAA in sacks in 2016.
  27. New Orleans Saints: Harrison Phillips, Stanford DT: While the Saints defense has made huge improvements, it could stand to get better. Phillips was a monster for Stanford this past season.
  28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashaan Evans, Alabama LB:  With the Ryan Shazier injury casting doubt on his NFL future, linebacker becomes a position of need. Evans isn’t the prospect that Shazier was, but he, like many other Alabama linebackers, can be very good.
  29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State QB: Blake Bortles isn’t the answer for Jacksonville. The Jaguars could look at Rudolph or Louisville product Lamar Jackson.
  30. Minnesota Vikings: Billy Price, Ohio State G/C: Quarterback could be in play here, but Price, like Pat Elflein did this season for Minnesota, could be a Day 1 starter on the interior.
  31. New England Patriots: Sam Hubbard, Ohio State DE/OLB: Bill Belichick loves players who have ties to Greg Schiano. Pass rusher is a huge need for New England. And Hubbard’s defensive coordinator is in fact Schiano.
  32. Philadelphia Eagles: Ronnie Harrison, Alabama S:  The Eagles appear set at corner with Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones and Jalen Mills, but the secondary is still a weakness. Harrison could help turn that into a strength.

*Order is through the Divisional round of the NFL playoff. The top 20 picks are official. Picks 29-32 will finalize after each round of the playoffs. San Francisco and Oakland will hold a coin flip for picks 9 and 10.

2018 NFL Draft: First-round order

Pick Nos. 1 through 20 are set now that the regular season is finished.

1. Cleveland Browns

2. New York Giants

3. Indianapolis Colts

4. Cleveland Browns

5. Denver Broncos

6. New York Jets

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

8. Chicago Bears

9. San Francisco 49ers OR Oakland Raiders (coin flip)

11. Miami Dolphins

12. Cincinnati Bengals

13. Washington Redskins

14. Green Bay Packers

15. Arizona Cardinals

16. Baltimore Ravens

17. Los Angeles Chargers

18. Seattle Seahawks

19. Dallas Cowboys

20. Detroit Lions

21. Buffalo Bills

22. Buffalo Bills(Via Kansas City)

23. Carolina Panthers

24. Los Angeles Rams