by Gary Olshan, Chief Analyst

ALABAMA—Tuscaloosa sources are impressed with RS frosh QB Philip Sims (he compiled a 48-4 mark as a prep QB ), who has shown a quiet confidence in early fall practices. We expect Nick Saban to extensively play both soph A.J. McCarron and Sims in early non-conference play, which will help him determine their crucial decision-making skills under the bright lights. Saban seeking more “explosive plays” from the offense. Insiders believe Saban could have his best defense yet (five starters made the preseason All-SEC 1st team defense), with nine starters returing, including all four defensive backs. Coaches are thrilled with early play of tatooed Aussie NT Jessie Williams (6-4, 330), who should help provide pass rush that was lacking last year.

ARKANSAS— As expected jr. QB Tyler Wilson has taken most of the reps with the first team while competing soph Brandon Mitchell is the next QB in the lineup. The running backs are receiving a nice boost with the addition of juco FB Kiero Small. “He’s a great fullback, and he’s going to make big plays for us this year,” says jr. TB Dennis Johnson. “He’s really quick in the holes and out of the holes, and can deliver a blow he gets there. He’ll help our running game, and catches the ball well.” ...To help numbers in the secondary, the coaches have decided to move WR Davyon McKinney to CB. “He’s a willing hitter and it’s a real asset to have a 6-2 corner with long arms who really likes to hit," says Petrino. Injury news from late this week was not good, however, as star RB Knile Davis, who gained 1322 YR in 2010 to lead all SEC rushers, would likely miss the season due to an ankle injury suffered in a midweek scrimmage.

AUBURN—Rebuilding Tigers have just 71 scholarship players at this time. with more than half composed of freshman and sophomores. Note that a whopping 11 scholarship players have left or been dismissed since the end of last season! There is no Cam Newton clone waiting in the wings, but 6-3 soph triggerman Clint Moseley has looked sharp executing innovative o.c. Gus Malzahn’s attack in early August practices. Moseley, who has shown some running skills (ran the zone-read in high school), is competing with last year’s backup 6-2 jr. Barrett Trotter and hotshot frosh Kiehl Frazier in a 3-man derby for the starting gig.

FLORIDA—Gators are using early predictions as a motivational tool in 2011. UF was picked to finish third in their division by the media during SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama several weeks ago. Most magazines have picked the Gators second or third in the SEC East Division, and were picked 23rd in the coaches’ preseason poll. It is the first time since 2004 that UF opens the season outside the of the top 10! Morever, no players were named to the first two teams of the preseason All-SEC team. “Yeah, we noticed that stuff, jr. DT Omar Hunter says, But honestly, we don’t worry about it, but it makes us work harder. We like to play with an edge, and this defiinitely gives an edge.”...Due to numerous offseason player defections, Gators are down to just 71 scholarship players out of a possible 85.

GEORGIA —The Dawgs are seeking big-play threats. They might have found some. QB Aaron Murray terribly excited about true frosh WR Malcolm Mitchell, who looks like he might be ready to make an immediate impact. Murray says, “I haven’t seen speed and quickness like this is in a while.” Murray says he has also been impressed with his work ethic. “I would say he knows about 70 to 80% of the playbook, but he’s been studying everyday. Every day after pass drills, he’‘ll get with me and work on pass routes for 45 minutes.” And Murray has received praise from veteran WR Tavarres King, who says he is more precise and has a stronger arm this season. And HC Mark Richt is feeling better about the ground game following the first August scrimmage. Prized frosh RB Isaiah Crowell lived up to the hype, rushing for 84 yds. on 13 carries and one TD. And jr. RB Richard Samuel was right on his heels, amassing 82 yds. on 11 totes. Both had different styles. “Richard is more of a power runner, power and speed with a bit of wiggle, while Isaiah has great quickness. he’s got great change of direction and a bust of speed,” beams Richt.

KENTUCKY—The Wildcat defense needs to dramatically improve its performance vs. physical ground attacks iu 2011, after allowing a whopping 30 rush TD and 4.7 ypc. Fiery, first-year co-d.c. Rick Minter has brought an element of toughness that HC Joker Phillips thought the team lacked. And Minter is counting on 6-2, 241-pound MLB Ronnie Snead to be a key cog in the new-look defense. And while most of the preseason buzz centers around weakside LB Danny Treveathan (LY’s leading tackler in the SEC) and Winston Guy, who’s sliding into an outside LB spot from safety, Joker says Sneed is “one of the most reliable guys on this football team.” And makes all the calls for us. Sneed has already graduated and fatherhood (has 1-year old son) has given him more motivation to push for a pro football career.

LSU—Highly-respected, 3rd-year defensive coordinator John Chavis feels his current stop unit will be his strongest since he took over in Baton Rouge. And even though marvelous CB Patrick Peterson left after his junior year for the NFL, Chavis, he believe the loaded secondary—featuring outstanding CBs Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne—is even more talented in 2011. Tiger assistant Steve Kragthorpe, who was hired during the offseason to become the offensive coordinator and help the sagging passing game, has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Kragthorpe will remain as the QB coach, while OL coach Greg Studrawa has been elevated to o.c. Miles says Studrawa is ready for the expanded role on the staff. Studwara, who will call the plays, is a former o.c. at Bowling Green.

MISSISSIPPI STATE—In early August practice, players sense a change in attitude following 9-4 campaign and a dominant 52-14 victory over Michigan in the Gator Bowl. Sr. Quetin Saulsberry, who moved from guard to center in the offseason, said he could sense the difference in attitude. “It was a good productive day, showing the young guys what to do, when to do it and how to it at the right intensity level.” The attitude was better than ever, and I see more guys flying to the ball.” Mullen said the depth chart will be fluid for the first several practices as he worked to get all players the same amount of repetitions. “We want to get the best 11 guys on the field at the same time.” Mullen said. "That can affect a lot of different things. If two guys are battling at one position are better than a third guy somewhere, we need to tweak some things.”

OLE MISS—Although a starter hasn’t been named for the important opener vs. BYU, Rebel mentor Houston Nutt says he has never had better depth at QB position. Juco A-A Randall Mackey has shown good mobility and a flair for the deep ball. Athletic soph Barry Brunetti (West Virginia transfer) is a legitimate dual threat, and 6-4 jr. Zack Stoudt (juco and former Louisville signee), who is more of a pure dropback passer, has displayed a strong arm in fall camp. Nutt also has his biggest OL during his tenure, with the average size of the “big uglies” at a massive 6-6, 330 pounds.

SOUTH CAROLINA—After being reinstated following his 5th suspension, senior QB Stephen Garcia has shown strong leadership and greater maturity in fall camp. Garcia, who has already graduated, worked all summer with the WRs. HC Steve Spurrier, who has banned all Twitter use by his players, says Garcia is no longer a “goofball.” ... Assistant Head Coach for Defense HC Ellis Johnson loves the overall speed of his stop unit. So far, frosh phenom DT Jadeveion Clowney (considered top frosh recruit in nation) has lived up to the hype. Clowney, who has been a nightmare to block in early practices, will be used in a variety of ways during the season by Johnson...WR coach Steve Spurrier Jr., claims he has 10 receivers good enough to play on the roster, but only six spots to fill when it’s time to start preparing for the season opener.

TENNESSEE—Knoxville scouts are raving about the play of the WR corps in early fall camp. Super-soph WR duo of 6-4 Justin Hunter and 6-5 Da’Rick Rogers (dangerous on reverses) are likely to be one of the premier pass-catch tandems in the SEC. And look out for highly-touted frosh WR DeAnthony Arnett (blue-chipper from Michigan) to get a chance to crack the rotation

VANDERBILT—New HC James Franklin is young and exuberant, and his confidence is rubbing off on the Commodores. “We’re ready to turn it around,” QB Jordan Rodgers says, We’re ready to win games. Anybody that comes in, has confidence, enthusiam and charisma that coach Franklin has, it rubs off, and it makes us more confident.” Franklin has been able to recruit at an unusually high level in Nashville right away, and he kept up the work on the trail landing enough verbal commitments this summer give the Vanderbilt faithful reason for some seldom seen optimism. Franklin, who has 21 starters back, says he sees a stronger and faster team so far in early fall camp. Time will tell if the rapid “attitude adjustment” will translate to more victories for a Commodore bunch seeking their second winning campaign since 1982.

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