Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Swing Players - SEC West

Here is the 2nd installment for the SEC, this time of the Western Division persuasion.

-WR Tim Hawthorne (rFR), 6'3", 207: Highly touted prospect two seasons ago; with two other mediocre receivers with him, someone has to step up to be Cox's go to guy; Prechae Rodriguez has been a disappointment, and Roderiqus Smith averaged 2 catches per game in 2006; Hawthorne and Smith could be potentially dynamic together, but neither of them have proven much on the field, if anything; Auburn's 173 passing yards per game was their worst total this decade.; must replace draft pick Courtney Taylor.

-OT Lee Ziemba (FR), 6'7", 295: One of the most sought after OL recruits this past winter; with Brandon Cox throwing as a southpaw, Ziemba gets the opportunity to protect his QB's blind side as a true freshman; expect to see Derrick Harvey, Antwain Robinson, and Tyson Jackson to be opposite Ziemba this fall - can a true freshman hold off these 3 draft picks?

-RB Ben Tate (SO), 5'11", 215: Highly touted prospect in 2006, played a bit last season - 54 carries, but 7.3 ypc; will get the bulk of the carries over Brad Lester; Lester is best suited as a backup, and Tate will need to shoulder the load for the entire offense; unlike last season, the Tigers cannot afford a lackluster season from their feature back; has 4 new starters on the line, so he needs to make things happen by himself sometimes.

-QB Matt Flynn (SR), 6'3", 228: Everyone remembers the 40-3 drubbing he helped lead against Miami in the Peach Bowl following the 2005 season; it could have been lightning in a bottle or a sign of the future; the defense is National Title caliber, but the offense still have some questions - mostly Flynn; he went 12-20 for 133 yards, 2 touches and a pick - no clues there, either; should have ample targets at WR, enough time to look around via a stud OL, and a decent running game.

-FS Danny McCray (SO), 6'1", 205: Has the unenviable task of trying to replace top tackler and top 10 pick Laron Landry; the defense is studly everywhere, except his FS spot; he did have 30 tackles and an interception as a true freshman, so he has some experience; he basically needs to play well enough to where there won't be a glaring weakness on the LSU defense.

-RB Keiland Williams (SO), 5'11", 223: Best back on the team last year; really needs to separate himself from Scott and Broussard to provide consistency for the offense - no more musical chairs at HB; if LSU can't create a running game, it might not matter if Flynn plays well - you can stop a one dimensional attack.

-RB Terry Grant (rFR), 5'9", 184: Played the best ball of all the backs in the spring; Jimmy Johns has been disappointing this offseason, and Grant was a pretty highly touted prospect out of high school; will need to be good enough to keep defenses honest - Alabama will have the best WR duo in the conference along with an improving QB; Darby averaged only 4 yards per carry, a disappointment for a usually strong Bama rushing attack.

-CB Eric Gray (SR), 6'2", 188: Unheralded senior who has played over 300 snaps in his career at Alabama; if he doesn't show up, teams will simply throw away from star CB Simeon Castille, negating his talents; returning starting FS Marcus Carter wasn't impressive last season and they'll have a JUCO starter at SS - Gray needs to not only play well, but show senior leadership.

-NT Lorenzo Washington (SO), 6'4", 269: Played in 7 games as a freshman, but not many snaps; as everyone knows, in Saban's (and every) 3-4 defense, you need a hole-clogging, 2-gap defensive tackle - Washington doesn't fit the mold quite yet; 269 pounds is a bit light for an SEC nose tackle - has to reek havoc on the line for LBs Prince Hall, Keith Saunders, and others to make tackles; thrown into the fire.

-OT Jose Valdez (JR), 6'5", 307: Will attempt to replace 3 year starter and 2nd round pick Tony Ugoh; has 2 other new starters on the line with him, but he has the LT spot, the most important; McFadden and Jones are amazing, but they also benefitted from a bulldozing offensive line that loses 3 uglies; with Casey Dick starting at QB, he'll need to do his part to keep passing situations from getting worse; defenses will put 8 or even 9 players in the box, so he'll need to get close to the same push Ugoh was getting - tough task.

-OLB Freddy Fairchild (SO), 6'3", 220: Started 9 games in 2005, but missed all but 2 games in 2006 due to an ACL injury; there isn't much experienced depth behind him; the secondary should be good and the DL should be decent, so the LBs stand out as a glaring hole on the defense; attempting to replace 1st Team All SEC LB Sam Olajubutu.

-QB Casey Dick (JR), 6'2", 216: Will not have the luxuries of last season - defensive coordinators have an entire year to gameplan against McFadden, Jones, and Monk; Dick completed only 49% of his passes, was lucky to have 9 touchdowns; with more pressure on him now than last year, he'll have to make some big throws to win games - I don't think he can.

-QB Michael Henig (JR), 6'1", 190: Awful 2006 - 44% completion percentage, 7 TDs to 9 INTs; getting pushed by highly regarded JUCO Josh Riddell; talented RB Anthony Dixon needs help; has talent at WR; worst team completion percentage this decade; has 4 starters back on the OL, so no excuses.

-DE Avery Hannibal (SR), 6'1", 245: Only 4 sacks in 3 seasons; needs to provide a semi-consistent rush, as Titus Brown will be double teamed all season long; being pushed by highly touted Jazzmen Guy; MSU had a good rush defense last year - with 2 new CB starters, the passing defense will be in trouble; senior leadership is underrated.

-OT Michael Brown (JR), 6'5", 300: MSU allowed 29 sacks last year, but only 6 in the 5 games he started at LT; needs to watch Henig's blind side to give the poor QB some time to throw; was ineligible for first 6 games in 2006, when MSU allowed 22 sacks; line returns four starters so should be much improved.

-QB Brent Schaeffer (SR), 6'2", 205: Coach O's prize catch last winter, but hasn't done anything at Mississippi; completed 47% of his passes; only ran for 100 yards in 12 starts; attitude problem; being beaten out by a walk-on; has to take advantage of 4 returning starters on the OL and a good RB in Green-Ellis; for Ole Miss to have a chance, Schaeffer has to win the starting job back and play like he was once projected to.

-DT Jeremy Garrett (SR), 6'1", 290:
Started 3 games in 2006 before injury, and had 3 TFL and 26 tackles - good sign; Ole Miss created only 14 sacks last season; line returns 4 starters; 3 new starters at LB means the DL is of the utmost importance in both creating pressure on the QB and stuffing holes on runs; senior leadership should be helpful to his trenchmates.

-MLB Tony Fein (JR), 6'2", 245: JUCO signee who spent the last year in Iraq with the Army; he should be an emotional, mature leader in a corps of 3 new starters at LB; oh, and he has to replace some guy named Patrick Willis; the DL and DBs should be good to great, so the LBs need to get good, quickly.

So, where is Brandon Cox for Auburn? I don't think he's a swing player. He played mediocre in 2006 and Auburn won 11 games. He was good in 2005, and they won 9. There are certainly other players who could make these lists, so go ahead and leave some comments on guys who you think could change the SEC West race.

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