Kizer: It’d help to have veteran QB in room

Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 9:08 AM

Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer
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Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer(7)

The Browns might’ve gone one step too far in their youth movement. Surprisingly, it could be at the quarterback position. 

Cleveland jettisoned veterans over the past couple seasons, and most recently dumped signal callers Josh McCown and Brock Osweiler. Osweiler isn’t exactly a prize, but McCown has been serviceable with the Jets and is a renowned locker room presence.

That’s where ditching him may have been a mistake. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, who’s struggled mightily in four losses, admitted having a wiser player to turn to would help.

“It would be valuable to have a guy who has been through this and understands it all,” Kizer said. “But when you have a quarterbacks coach in coach (Hue) Jackson, essentially I already have that. The conversations that we have are more on a personal level where we can share thoughts and create dialogue. It is not just coach talking down to a player. That relationship in itself is something that I have used as a mentor tool, but also, I will go elsewhere. I have some good relationships with guys who have played in this league outside of this locker room, and I try to use them as much as I possibly can.”

The other Browns quarterbacks, Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler, are fellow youthful signal callers. Perhaps Cleveland misjudged the importance of leadership in the second year of a major retool.

Auburn football: Tigers from all sports recognized on the Plains

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 8:15 AM

Auburn football-band

Auburn football is the No. 1 topic in the War Eagle Wakeup every day — but we cover news, notes and analysis from across the Tigers’ sports world. Join us each morning to get caught up on everything you missed in the world of Auburn football, recruiting, basketball and more.

Midseason All-Americans

Two Auburn Tigers were recognized as members of the Associated Press’ first-ever Midseason All-America team on Tuesday.

The honors went to senior right guard Braden Smith and cornerback Carlton Davis.

It’s no surprise that Smith claimed yet another honor. He was named first-team All-SEC by the AP and other outlets at the end of last season and has been recognized several times by Pro Football Focus so far this season.

Davis has been a big reason why Kevin Steele’s defense has been a top unit in the country so far this year.

The junior has defended 1.3 passes per game (ranked third in the SEC) and has notched 17 total tackles. He’s also snagged an interception and recovered his first fumble at LSU over the weekend.

In other Auburn football news:

Don’t mess with Dodson 

Don’t get in the way of senior forward Kristen Dodson, a standout on the Auburn women’s soccer team.

First, Dodson was dubbed the SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday. Within 24 hours, she grabbed national Player of the Week honors from TopDrawerSoccer.com.

That’s the second time that Dodson has been named the national athlete of the week, and she’s the first student-athlete in program history to earn the nod twice.

The Illinois native led Auburn soccer’s offense in two straight wins last week, and scored her 10th career game-winning goal in an upset of No. 10 Florida.

Headed to media days

Auburn basketball will be represented by a pair of upperclassmen Wednesday at SEC Media Days.

Be on the lookout for center Horace Spencer and shooting guard Bryce Brown’s comments from Nashville.

Also, make sure you’re following SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker, who will be your source for all things SEC media days, hoops style.

Tweet of the day 

Well, you can’t really blame the two basketball legends for having a little fun about SEC football, right?

Miss a previous edition? Find every post of SEC Country’s daily War Eagle Wakeup Auburn football post right here.

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Alabama football: Jonah Williams uses interesting Krispy Kreme doughnut analogy when discussing Alabama’s pass protection

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 8:15 AM

alabama-football-nick-saban-jonah-williams

Alabama football drives the conversation here at the Rammer JammerSEC Country’s daily Alabama athletics recap, but we’ll cover news for every facet of the Crimson Tide. Every morning, we’ll be here for the latest on Alabama football, basketball and every sport on campus.

Not so sweet

Alabama’s pass protection has experienced its ups and downs this season. The Crimson Tide have allowed pressure in multiple games and given up 9 sacks this season. On Saturday, Alabama’s offensive line gave up pressure on multiple plays and quarterback Jalen Hurts was forced to scramble on pass plays. When asked about the pass protection struggles, sophomore left tackle Jonah Williams made an unusual comparison. Williams actually used a Krispy Kreme doughnut example to explain Alabama’s pass protection issues.

You can watch Williams’ full interview here.

In other headlines …

  • Our own Christopher Walsh broke down the Alabama vs. Tennessee rivalry in on the Alabama football beat.
  • FiveThirtyEight gave Alabama surprisingly low odds to win the SEC Championship Game.
  • Our own Chris Kirschner predicted Alabama’s signing class on defense.
  • Cecil Hurt and Tommy Deas of TideSports.com discussed the best wins over Tennessee during Nick Saban’s tenure.
  • Our own Marq Burnett discusses how the score of Alabama’s game against Tennessee could get ugly.
  • New York Giants safety Landon Collins responded to a Penn State account saying that the Nittany Lions want Alabama.

Fixable problems

Alabama experienced its fair share of special teams issues on Saturday against Arkansas. The Crimson Tide muffed 3 punts. Henry Ruggs III, who was filling in for Trevon Diggs at returner, fumbled back-to-back punts. Diggs finally came into the game and ended up fumbling a punt as well. Even though Alabama had a disastrous game in that area, Saban said those issues are fixable.

Getting recognized

The Associated Press announced its midseason All-America teams on Monday, and Alabama is well-represented. The Crimson Tide had five players make the first and second teams. Levi Wallace and Minkah Fitzpatrick were on the first team, while Williams, Bradley Bozeman and Da’Ron Payne made the second team.

A different list recognized some other Alabama players as well. NFL.com named its top 25 future NFL stars. Fitzpatrick, Calvin Ridley and Ronnie Harrison were all featured on this list. Fitzpatrick was the only top 10 selection at No. 7.

Built by Bama

• Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry shined in the Titans’ 36-22 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday. Henry reached 100 yards for the first time in his career with 131 yards on the night. The Heisman Trophy winner’s big highlight came in the fourth quarter when he ran 72 yards to seal the victory.

• New York Yankees pitcher David Robertson allowed 1 run in 1 inning but also struck out a batter in the Yankees’ 6-4 win over the Houston Astros in the ALCS on Tuesday.

Around the Capstone

  • Alabama’s Vincent Kiprop was named SEC Runner of the Week.

Miss a previous edition? Find every installment of SEC Country’s daily Alabama newsletter right here.

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South Carolina recruiting: R.J. Roderick sidelined with an injury

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 8:15 AM

South Carolina recruiting-RJ Roderick

Whenever Will Muschamp lands a commitment, the South Carolina coach drops a #SpursUp on Twitter. Come to SEC Country for the latest news, notes and observations in South Carolina recruiting.

For previous editions of SpursUp Surveillance, check out the link.


Done for the season

The same injury that limited RJ Roderick this past summer will force the 3-star safety to miss the majority of his senior season at Cane Bay High School (Summerville, S.C.).

Roderick, who set the Cane Bay rushing record earlier this season, has missed the Cobras’ last four games with a stress fracture in his lower back.

“Rest and time,” he said, when asked about the treatment. “By the time January comes and I enroll, I’ll be good. Right now, I’ve just got to take a couple of extra precautions, being that I will be at South Carolina in January.”

The 6-foot, 207-pound 3-star safety mostly played quarterback at Cane Bay, but he profiles as a safety at South Carolina. Recently, he’s had to “take on a different leadership role.”

Cane Bay (7-1) has won every game since Roderick shut things down.

“Every time something goes wrong with the team, like a turnover or a bad play or a negative play, I’m just kind of keeping everybody composed and letting them know that there’s another play and there’s still time left in the game,” Roderick said.

His future squad is 5-2 so far this season.

“I feel like South Carolina has always been a good team and they had good depth and potential,” Roderick said. “I think, now, everything is starting to show. Everything is starting to surface, so I think it’s on the up from here.”

He added, “I truly believe in them as a team. They feed off one another and everybody sees their potential. I honestly think we’ll end the season with a bang.”

The future, according to Roderick, is extremely bright.

“Defensively, we’ve made so many improvements,” he said. “I just feel like, with this next recruiting class coming, they can make an even bigger difference and I feel like [a] top 5-ranked team and things like that are in the future.”

Plans with Tennessee

With 3-star defensive end Dorian Gerald, a Tennessee commitment, it was previously presumed that he would stick with the Vols if Butch Jones returns as coach in 2018.

Well, it’s a given. If Jones and his staff aren’t fired, Gerald will stick with his pledge to the Vols.

“Everyone knows that staff may not make it, but that staff, I’m 100 percent committed to,” Gerald told Phil Kornblut. “I’ll stick with them if they’re not fired; that’s sort of the plan.”

South Carolina hosted the College of the Canyons (Calif.) sophomore for an unofficial visit a couple of weeks ago. He’ll be back for an official visit in November. Florida, Louisville and Texas A&M are also in the mix.

Miss a previous edition of Spurs Up Surveillance? Get caught up here.

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College football tickets: Week 8 slate not lacking in intrigue

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 8:15 AM

arkansas-alabama-bryant-denny-sec

We’ve reached the second half of the 2017 college football season, meaning from here on out, every game has the potential to impact division or conference standings, the playoff picture and the fate of coaches on the hot seat. That’s a perfect way to describe the top slate of games on top for this weekend.

The first College Football Playoff rankings will be out in less than two weeks, meaning there’s not much time left to make early impressions before the selection committee starts having their say. No team can lock up a title of any sort this early, but they can make great strides toward that goal.

And embattled coaches shouldn’t be judged just by the results of one game, good or bad, but unfortunately that ends up being the case. And at this point in the season, a bad performance in either direction could have a major influence on that coach’s job security.

Using pricing figures provided by TicketCity, here’s a look at what you’ll need to spend to get an up-close view of some of Week 8’s best games:

College football’s best Week 8 ticket options

No. 10 Oklahoma State at Texas

  • Where: DKR Memorial Stadium; Austin, Texas
  • When: Saturday, Oct. 21; noon ET
  • Median ticket price: $123
  • How much to get in the door: $51

The last thing Texas fans want to have to do is look for signs of progress, particularly if it doesn’t occur during wins. They didn’t stand for it during the Charlie Strong era, thus contributing to its early end, and they no doubt aren’t too pleased about moral victories at this point in coach Tom Herman’s first season.

But so it goes for a program that, like it or not, is trying to rebuild itself. Texas is 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the Big 12, and its two most impressive performances have come in defeat. It took USC to overtime on the road and last week pushed rival Oklahoma to the limit in their annual rivalry clash at the Cotton Bowl.

Five of Texas’ six games this season have been decided by 10 or fewer points, so the seventh figures to be close as well. Being able to knock off a top-10 team, one that still has a shot at the playoffs, would go a long way toward getting the Longhorns back to elite status.

Tennessee at No. 1 Alabama

  • Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium; Tuscaloosa, Ala.
  • When: Saturday, Oct. 21; 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Median ticket price: $221
  • How much to get in the door: $61

Come for an up-close view of the country’s most dominant team to this point, stay to see just how badly it can get for Tennessee and not-long-for-his-job coach Butch Jones.

The Volunteers come in as a 34-point underdog, the largest spread ever against the Crimson Tide, per SB Nation. The line shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s seen how Tennessee has looked of late, losing three of four and getting outscored 56-9 in the previous two games (both at home). Each setback has only increased the chances that Jones will get fired, if not after the season, then during it.

Meanwhile, Alabama is just obliterating folks. At 7-0, it has outscored foes 299-71 with only the Week 6 win at Texas A&M decided by less than 10 points. The Tide have won 10 in a row over the Vols, only twice by single digits.

North Carolina at No. 14 Virginia Tech

  • Where: Lane Stadium; Blacksburg, Va.
  • When: Saturday, Oct. 21; 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Median ticket price: $118
  • How much to get in the door: $52

North Carolina has been one of the most disappointing power-conference teams in the country this season, sitting at 1-6 overall and 0-4 in the ACC. Only two seasons ago the Tar Heels represented the Coastal Division in the conference title game.

That spot went to Virginia Tech last season and it could again in 2017, but only if the Hokies win out. They’ve already lost an ACC game, to Clemson, and with fellow Coastal team Miami currently unbeaten, that doesn’t leave any room for error.

UNC coach Larry Fedora is on the hot seat with how his team has played this fall, and it’s looking very much like the Tar Heels won’t be going to a bowl for the first time since 2007. Winning in Blacksburg won’t likely change that, but it could increase Fedora’s chances of staying employed beyond this season.

Oregon at UCLA

  • Where: Rose Bowl; Pasadena, Calif.
  • When: Saturday, Oct. 21; 4 p.m. ET
  • Median ticket price: $102
  • How much to get in the door: $30

Speaking of coaches in desperate need of a win, UCLA’s Jim Mora is high on that list. The Bruins might have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft in quarterback Josh Rosen, but that hasn’t been enough to do better than a 3-3 record, mostly because Rosen doesn’t play defense.

Some might say neither does UCLA, as it is allowing 40.5 points per game and more than 300 rushing yards per game.

Oregon’s defense, which looked much improved earlier this season, has regressed in recent weeks with the Ducks allowing 143 points in the past four games (three of which were losses). Their offense can continue to move the ball on the ground, though, and senior running back Royce Freeman is only 140 yards away from becoming the school’s all-time rushing leader.

No. 19 Michigan at No. 2 Penn State

  • Where: Beaver Stadium; University Park, Pa.
  • When: Saturday, Oct. 21; 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Median ticket price: $340
  • How much to get in the door: $206

No team has been better in Big Ten play since the start of the 2016 season than Penn State, which has won 12 of 13 games against league opponents in that span, including against Wisconsin in last year’s conference championship game. The only loss was last September at Michigan, a 49-10 drubbing.

Don’t think Nittany Lions fans have forgotten about that loss. It’s no doubt influenced the extreme demand for tickets to the Wolverines’ return to Happy Valley, where Michigan won in 2015 and is an impressive 6-4 overall.

Penn State is in prime position to make the playoffs this season after being shut out a year ago, but it still needs to win this game and the following week’s trip to Ohio State to ensure that happens.

National Fan Base Game of the Week

USC at Notre Dame (Saturday, Oct. 21; 7:30 p.m. ET)

When Notre Dame plays on the road, or at a neutral site, it’s usually the main reason that tickets are so expensive and hard to come by. The Fighting Irish have a tremendous following all across the country and when the team visits somewhere the fans come out in droves.

At home, it’s more a matter of being able to experience at game at one of the more iconic venues in college football, Notre Dame Stadium. The quality (or name recognition) of the opponent usually doesn’t matter, with few exceptions.

USC is among those exceptions. The Trojans also have a nationally following and their bi-annual trip to South Bend is always one of the most highly anticipated on the schedule, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the media price for a seat at this game is $315. The cheapest ticket available on TicketCity is $157.

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