My Favorite SEC Football Players of All-Time

Last week was a busy one for SEC football. Coaches wish it weren’t so, but it seems as though there is never a dull moment when it comes to headlines that don’t spotlight the positives in and around their programs.

Hugh Freeze got blindsided (pun intended) with the resurrection of the Laremy Tunsil debacle just as Ole Miss is about to hear from the NCAA and its investigation into their program. Also, it appears that Freeze and Jim Harbaugh will attend the same satellite camp in Mississippi.

As the football world turns. These soap operas are highly entertaining and they give people like me something to write about.

Speaking of smoking weed with a gas mask device, four Auburn players were arrested on the Plains Saturday night for, you guessed it, ganja possession, and much to the chagrin of Gus Malzahn and the rest of us in the Auburn family. How long, oh Lord?

Then there was the NFL draft. Ohio State had the most first round picks with five and Alabama had only one, which surprised many “experts”, but the SEC, once again, had more players drafted than any other conference. So there! Nanny nanny poo poo!

So much for all of that. In my last couple of blogs I, subjectively ranked, in order, SEC head coaching jobs and power rankings of the fourteen schools in the conference.

I like lists. From top tens to favorites to whatever. I think most people do enjoy these.

That being said, this week I’m going to give you my top ten favorite SEC players of all time, excluding Auburn. If I allowed my Tigers’ players on the list you would have Pat Sullivan, Terry Beasley, Bo Jackson, Cam Newton, Jimmy Sidle, Tucker Frederickson, Phil Gargis, James Brooks, Joe Cribbs, Cadillac Williams, Bobby Hunt, Travis Tidwell, and the like to dominate it.

Here we go! My top ten favorite non-Auburn players in SEC history. I will do them alphabetically.

Billy Cannon – LSU – 1957-59. Cannon is most remembered for his 89-yard punt return against Ole Miss, in Tiger Stadium on Halloween night in 1959, to give the Tigers a 7-3 win. He won the Heisman that year, as well. Cannon was also named the SEC player of the year in both 1958 and 1959. LSU won the National Championship in ’58.

Randall Cobb – Kentucky – 2008-10. Cobb was an electrifying player at multiple positions for the Wildcats including quarterback, wide receiver and return specialist. He could do it all. He is not to be confused with boxer, Randall “Tex” Cobb.

Archie Manning – Ole Miss – 1968-70. Archie is, actually, one of my favorite players in any sport at any level. I never enjoyed watching a player from a team, not named Auburn, more. Just go back and watch some of the old clips from his days as a Rebel. Simply amazing!

Peyton Manning – Tennessee – 1994-97. Does anyone really need to be familiarized with Peyton? He led the Vols to an SEC Championship in 1997. He was a consensus All-American that year and also won the Maxwell Award. He should have won the Heisman Trophy.

Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M – 2012- 13. Has there ever been a more exciting college football player than “Johnny Football”? Incredible. Love him or hate him, you’ve got to give credit where credit is due. The 2012 Heisman winner pulled off more incredible escapes than Houdini. I truly hope his story turns out to be one of redemption.

Darren McFadden – Arkansas – 2005-07. McFadden could flat out tote the rock. He rushed for 4,590 yards at a 5.8 yards per carry clip during his years as a Razorback. He tied the SEC record for most yards rushing in one game, in 2007, with 321 against South Carolina. McFadden won the Doak Walker Award twice, 2006-07, and the Walter Camp Award, given to the nation’s best overall player, once, in 2007.

Joe Namath – Alabama – 1962-64. “Joe Willie”, “Broadway Joe.” These are two of the monikers that Namath was known by during his playing days with the Crimson Tide. I loved him. Most boys loved him. All the girls loved him. Bama won the National Championship, with Joe under center, in 1964. But he is most famous for guaranteeing that his New York Jets would win Super Bowl III, and they did.

Dak Prescott – Mississippi State. The best player in the history of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, no? He was a gifted athlete who could both run and throw the ball. He carried the Bulldogs to heights henceforth unknown as they topped the polls for several weeks during the 2014 season. That season he also passed for 3,449 yards and 27 touchdowns, and accumulated 4,435 total yards. He rushed for 2,411 yards in his time at State and that is third all-time, by a quarterback, in SEC history.

Steve Spurrier – Florida – 1964-66. Spurrier may be best known as the Head Ball Coach, but he was also a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback for the Gators in 1966. There may have never been a more competitive, driven player and coach in the annals of the SEC. Football, golf, tiddlywinks, Spurrier just wants to beat you. And, he was always good for a great quote.

Herschel Walker – Walker is, arguably, the greatest running back in the history of college football. Bo Jackson is my choice for the greatest athlete of all-time, but Herschel, both a Heisman winner and a national champion, carried the mail. He rushed for 5,259 yards in only three years as a Bulldog. And he was a sprinter, mixed martial artist and bobsledder!

There is my list of favorite non-Auburn players in SEC history. Why not come up with your own list? I am also open to suggestions for future lists as they are a lot of fun, and great conversation centerpieces at home, or at your favorite sports bar.

Now, who was the greatest fighter that ever lived? 😉

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What’s the Best Coaching Job in the SEC?

Quick! Off the top of your head, what’s the best job in the SEC? We’re talking football, of course. That’s what we do here.

So, what is it?

Did I hear a goodly number of ‘Alabamas’ out there? Ok, that would be fair. But here is what the head coach at the University of Alabama, Nick Saban, thinks. In an article written by Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, Saban compliments his former pupil, Kirby Smart, and also questions him as to why Georgia does not win on a grander scale. That is something that has left many pundits and fans scratching their collective heads over the years. That has been debated, ad nauseum, over the past eleven years. It’s how long it has been since the Bulldogs won an SEC championship. They haven’t won the Big Enchilada, a natty, since 1980.

Smart now finds himself in the big chair, in Athens, and Dawg fans are howling… with glee. Time will tell if Georgia returns as a dominant power in the SEC East. We shall see.

Now back to Saban. He thinks Georgia and LSU should be the top jobs in the conference. And that brings us back to our original question… What is the best head coaching job in the Southeastern Conference?

Barrett Sallee make a a very solid and strong argument for Alabama. He thinks that is, pretty much, a no-brainer. It is difficult to disagree with him, whether you love or hate the Crimson Tide. The “Process” is hitting on all eight in T-Town and it doesn’t look like things are going to change in the near future.

What about the rest of the league?

I’m going to start at the bottom and work my way up to the top. This is what I think and you should take it with the very smallest grain of salt you can locate with a magnifying glass.

Onward!

14. Vanderbilt

A gimme, right? You don’t have to be Carnac The Magnificent to figure that one out. Vandy is the graveyard of coaching jobs in the SEC and it ain’t even close.

13. Kentucky
They play basketball exceptionally well in Lexington.

12. Mississippi State
StarkVegas. It holds no similarity, whatsoever, to the derivation of its, now popular, nick-namesake.

11. South Carolina
We’re about to be reminded, once again, how great a football coach Steve Spurrier really was.

10. Arkansas
Ole Bret Bielema has done some good things in Fayetteville but he will never win the SEC West.

9. Ole Miss
Hugh Freeze has proven the Rebels can contend but Oxford is a place where no one will win, consistently, over an extended period of time.

8. Missouri
The Tigers have won two out of the last three East division titles but it doesn’t appear that is going to happen again any time soon.

7. Tennessee

A lot of coaches around the country wish that they were up on Rocky Top.

6. Auburn

They have both won a national championship and played for another, in the last six years, down on the Plains.

5. Texas A&M

The resources in College Station are limitless.

4. LSU

I don’t think it’s one of the top two jobs in the conference but one could certainly argue that point.

3. Georgia

A great, great job that is begging to be the top one.

2. Florida

It’s been done here, one more than one occasion, and it, probably, will be done again.

1. Alabama

In the SEC? How about the country?

That’s my two cents on how head coaching jobs rank in the Southeastern Conference. It’s entirely subjective and that’s one reason we love to spend much of our time, as SEC fans, debating countless subjects related to college football. Everybody has an opinion and, quite often, they are strong ones. Mull it over. Chime in!

Hey! Only 127 days remain until Vanderbilt hosts South Carolina on a Thursday night!

Auburn Road Trips, Part Two- Baton Rouge

I promised back in March to deliver another road trip adventure. Here she is, folks! We go back to the 1997 season when the Auburn Tigers journeyed deep into Bayou Country for a very important conference game with the LSU Tigers. Auburn stood at 2-0 with victories over Virginia, in Charlottesville, and Ole Miss, at home. The Bayou Bengals were also 2-0. Their wins came in Tiger Stadium versus UTEP and in Starkville against Mississippi State. Both teams were ranked. Auburn was No. 12 and LSU No. 10.

My son, Luke, and I hit the trail on Friday, September 19 for the Saturday game down in Louisiana. The trip would take us from Atlanta, down I-85, eventually hitting I-65 in Montgomery, AL and on to Pascagoula, MS for the the evening. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn by Marriott there on the Gulf Coast, but not before stuffing ourselves on a buffet at a nearby casino and losing a couple of rolls of quarters. We were hoping that was not a portent of things to come. After watching some Mr. Show, with Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, we hit the hay.

A bright, hot and humid Saturday morning greeted us for the remainder of the drive to the Red Stick. Our entire family had made the trek in 1988 only to see our Tigers’ national championship hopes derailed, 7-6, in what is now infamously known as the “Earthquake Game.” Luke and I also attended the 1995 game at Tiger Stadium. LSU, 12-6.

We were hungry for a road win over the other Tigers, to say the least.

We checked into the Courtyard by Marriott, rewards points are nice, and went to get some lunch at a famous place, now closed, that served up some mighty fine po’ boys. We were the only patrons representing the visiting team in that eatery, and we did not get hassled either. We were ahead of the game!

Then it was time to circle back by the hotel and check on the Bama-Arkansas game which the Hawgs won, 17-16. That was an excellent choice of scores. For the uninformed, Auburn stunned no.2 Alabama by the same score in the epic “Punt, Bama, Punt” game in 1972.

Now it’s off to the lovely campus of Louisiana State University for a night game. Shudder!

We found a good tailgating spot which was not terribly far from Tiger Stadium. We were plenty early to take time and roam around the venerable, but highly inhospitable, ole gal. On the way there, and back to our vehicle, various insults about our team and our garb, were hurled at us. Welcome to Baton Rouge.

In all fairness, we did receive some welcoming words from a group or two. Tailgating in the SEC is one of life’s great pleasures and they do it very well at LSU. The boiling pots of crawfish, jambalaya and other Cajun creations is a sight to behold and smell. Yaaaaay Heeee!

Before long, though, we had to scurry back to the ’93 blue Saturn sedan for a couple of rounds of courage and the walk to the game. This is a time when your anticipation, and anxiety, is completely off the charts and your heart is beating like a rabbit’s. The excitement is at a fever pitch!

Now, let me emphatically say this. There is nothing like a night game in Baton Rouge at Tiger Stadium. Nothing! If you are a college football fan, and have a bucket list, put this at, or near, the top of it. Now! Get your pen, or pencil, and paper. Write it down. Now!

Luke and I squeezed through the crushing crowd at our gate which lead us through a portal and into a lower seating section of the south end zone.

Buckle your seat belts! Here we go!

The visiting Tigers came out on fire. They scored first on a 26 yard-pass from Dameyune Craig to fullback Fred Beasley. Craig, oddly enough, recently departed his position as wide receivers coach at Auburn to take an assistant coach position at LSU. Hicks Poor hauled in a 25-yard TD pass from Craig to go up 14-0 with 7:28 still remaining in the opening stanza. Wow!

LSU struck back on three-yard run by Cecil “The Diesel” Collins to cut the margin to seven. Collins ran over, around, and through the Auburn defense that night for 232 yards on 27 carries. Day-um!

At halftime the score was locked at 21. It appeared that Auburn could not stop Collins and that could, very well, spell their demise in the last quarter as he would continue to pound that defense.

At halftime we happened upon some old friends of mine from down in Lower Alabama and my hometown of Camden. We so enjoyed meeting again but soon it was time to get the second half underway and break the deadlock.

The only score in the third quarter was a 34-yard field goal by Auburn’s Jaret Holmes. The score stood 24-21, Auburn, as quarter four got underway.

Cecil Collins continued his land assault on Auburn’s D and Dameyune Craig did likewise, through the air, to LSU. Collins broke off on a 42-yard scamper, early in the final quarter, to give the hometown Tigers a 28-24 lead.

Both defenses held their ground and neither allowed a score for 12 or 13 minutes. The drama was as thick as the humidity enveloping Tiger Stadium. LSU was forced to punt with about three minutes left in the game. Auburn took the ball deep in its own territory. Luke buried his head in his hands and said he couldn’t watch as the East Alabama Felines would get one more crack at the, now formidable, LSU defense.

Ten Auburn players stood ready for huddle as Craig got his last second instructions from head coach Terry Bowden. Craig then began a gallop to his awaiting band of brothers. I told Luke that our Tigers were going to win and asked that he look up as I pointed to Craig and boldly stated, “And there is the reason why.”

The noise in Death Valley rose to a crescendo and was, literally, deafening. You could not even carry on a conversation amongst the roar in that bowl. Auburn began a march toward us and the south end zone. One first down, then another, and another as the clock ticked, ticked, ticked away and Auburn made its way deep into LSU territory.

There were now 46 seconds on the Tiger Stadium clock and Auburn found itself at the LSU one-yard line.

Timeout.

As Craig, again, jogs onto the field, the 80,538 fans assembled in this hallowed venue create an ear-shattering twelfth man. One inhales and the smell of bourbon opens the nasal passages.

Auburn comes to the line of scrimmage. Craig makes every effort to communicate with his troops as he barks up and down the line-of-scrimmage. It seems as though we can reach out and touch the 22 Tigers there before us. Craig takes the snap. The visitors offensive front, pads low, makes a huge surge forward. A hole, that I could run through, opens on the right side of Auburn’s line, and tailback Rusty Williams rumbles through it and falls into the purple and gold of LSU’s end zone with 30 ticks remaining on the clock.

There is a moment of stunned silence as the LSU Tiger faithful sit in disbelief.

The Auburn band plays “War Eagle” over and over.

Shortly, the game itself is over.

Auburn 31, LSU 28.

The two teams of Tigers, ultimately, tie for the SEC West title and Auburn goes on to play the Peyton Manning-led Tennessee Volunteers for the SEC Championship.

Football on Saturday night. Church on Sunday morning.

Life in the Deep South.

Y’all come!

E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

SEC Football: Yesterday and Today

Last week I introduced myself to you as your SEC blogger for Campus Pressbox. I know that was exciting. Try to contain yourself. We’re only in week two and I don’t want you to peak even before all of the spring football games have been played. I’m not going to rehash any of those drama-filled debacles for you in this space, that is unless you need a good sleep aid. Just turn on the SEC Network, record one of those barn burners and play it near your bedtime. The sandman will be pounding you into submission before the first quarter has come to completion. A good night’s rest is very important.

We now move on to a short history lesson. Where else can one get all of this, and more, in a thousand words or less? Exactly!

Follow me deep into the bowels of the Library of… Ok, nooooo, just into that bastion of academia, Wikipedia.

“The SEC was established on December 8 and 9, 1932, when the thirteen members of the Southern Conference located west and south of the Appalachian Mountains left to form their own conference. Ten of the thirteen founding members have remained in the conference since its inception: the University of Alabama, Auburn University, the University of Florida, the University of Georgia, the University of Kentucky, Louisiana State University (“LSU”), the University of Mississippi (“Ole Miss”), Mississippi State University, the University of Tennessee, and Vanderbilt University.

The other charter members were:

The University of the South (“Sewanee”) left the SEC on December 13, 1940, and later de-emphasized varsity sports. It is currently a member of the Division III Southern Athletic Association.
Georgia Institute of Technology (“Georgia Tech”) left the SEC in 1964. In 1975, it became a founding member of the Metro Conference, one of the predecessors to today’s Conference USA. Georgia Tech competed in the Metro Conference in all sports except football, in which it was independent (the Metro did not sponsor football). In 1978, Georgia Tech joined another Southern Conference offshoot, the Atlantic Coast Conference, for all sports, where it has remained ever since.

Tulane University left the SEC in 1966. Along with Georgia Tech, it was a charter member of the Metro Conference. Unlike Tech, however, Tulane remained in the Metro Conference until it merged with the Great Midwest Conference in 1995 to form Conference USA. Tulane remained an independent in football until C-USA began football competition in 1996. Tulane left C-USA in 2014 for the American Athletic Conference.”

“Sewanee! How I love you! How I love you! My dear old Sewanee!!!” I do Al Jolson too! And hey, folks, it’s free!

Did I hear a cackle? Harrumph! “I didn’t get a harrumph out of you!” $1 to Blazing Saddles.

In 1899 Sewanee recorded a sterling record of 12-0. Not only that, but they outscored their opponents 322-10! The lone team to score on them was Auburn, War Damn Eagle!, with John Heisman at the helm.

The “Iron Men”, as Sewanee was affectionately known back then, dominated Southern Conference football.

There’s more! The “Iron Men” won five road games in six days that season!!!

Now, speaking of former SEC teams, how many of you knew that Georgia Tech and Tulane used to play in the SEC? And how well have these teams done since their departure? MmmmHmmm.

How many of you know that Missouri is in the SEC? Don’t snicker! When was the last time Georgia won the Easy and played in two consecutive SEC Championship Games?

I do soooo love having a third team of Tigers in the conference, but I also seem to often come up with thirteen when counting up the total number of SEC squads; or I come up short of seven teams when counting the Easy. (Dang! I keep hitting the “y” key instead of the “t” key when referring to the “other” division in the SEC.)

I thought I heard groans from fans of the teams in said Easy. Alrighty then! When was the last time a non-West division team won an SEC Championship Game? I can hear Jim Morrison even now, “The west is the best.” Name that song!

OK! OK!, in the spirit of fairness, when was the last time Ole Miss won the West?

When was the last time Mississippi State won the SEC?

When was the last time Arkansas won the SEC?

(Now don’t forget! We’re talking football here. God bless the non-revenue sports. I’ll say ten ‘Hail Marys’ and ten ‘Our Fathers’. Wink wink. I’m not Catholic, but I did date one once.)

Aggies, you get a mulligan.

Vanderbilt and Kentucky, your baseball and basketball teams get you a mulligan. You may pass ‘Go’ and collect your bowl money, and it’s a helluva lot more than $200.

Well, that’s all we have time for, today, boys and girls! Say your prayers and eat your vegetables. And whatever you do, join us here, again, next week. Same Bat Time! Same Bat Channel!

Adios!

E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

SEC Football Previews and Picks

Hello, I’m Bird and I’ll be your SEC Blogger! I really hate it when servers greet you that way at a restaurant. So why not begin this, new, weekly column in such a manner? Does that make sense? No, but neither does picking SEC football at this juncture. Being that this is my initial SEC blog, I thought I would divulge my spring divisional picks and crown a winner of the SEC Championship Game. I will also take a look at the most intriguing intersectional match-ups involving teams in the Southeastern Conference for the 2016 season. I love predictions and speculation on what lies ahead for us college football fanatics.

So here we go! Mind you, this is only April and the landscape can change, sometimes dramatically, by September. We will take another look at it when the season draws much closer and freshmen arrive on campus. Injuries, suspensions, and unforeseen events can also alter our perceptions over the next five months.

East

Tennessee (No surprise here. Most forecasters will probably lean in this direction.)
Georgia (I’m basing this on the winner of the World’s Largest…, no we can’t say that. Ok, the Jacksonville Drunk Fest).
Florida (Will lose to both the Vols and Dawgs and they need a quarterback.)
Missouri (A very good defense, per usual, and new head Coach, Barry Odom, will pull an upset or two out of his pocket.)
Kentucky (The Wildcats continue to improve and will make a bowl.)
Vanderbilt (Derek Mason will also see improvement in the monumental task he finds himself in.)
South Carolina (Will Muschamp wasn’t very good at Florida or Auburn and will not be at USC East either.)
West

Alabama (Sigh. As long as Nick Saban is at the helm in Tuscaloosa, it’s foolish to call it any other way.)
Ole Miss (Hugh Freeze is doing a remarkable job in Oxford. Two-in-a-row against Saban. Also remarkable. Chad Kelly returns.)
LSU ( Leave Les alone! He’s 112 and 32!!!)
Auburn (The Tigers will be much improved but I don’t know how this will reflect in their overall record. They absolutely must find a quarterback.)
Arkansas (Bret Bielema fields another good team but the loss of Brandon Allen, Alex Collins and others will hurt.)
Texas A&M (The turmoil in College Station mounts.)
Mississippi State (Dak Prescott is long gone. Dan Mullen has built the Bulldogs into a good program but they’re in the SEC West.)
Who will win the SEC Championship Game on December 3? The University of Tennessee will upset the University of Alabama… in Knoxville on what actually will be the Third Saturday in October in 2016. The Crimson Tide will defeat the Vols in the Georgia Dome to, once again, capture the SEC crown.

And now, the intersectional match-ups:

Alabama vs. USC West (Sept. 3)
This one has fans all over the country chomping-at-the-bit for some foot-damn-ball and the Lane Kiffin storyline makes it even more compelling. It will be played in Jerry World. Does Bama play a game there every season, or is it just me?

Auburn vs. Clemson (Sept. 3)
An enormous opportunity for Gus Malzahn’s felines to take a quantum leap in the eyes of the football world with what is, possibly, the number one team in the country coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Georgia vs. North Carolina (Sept. 3)
Larry Fedora had this thing rolling until undermanned Baylor rushed for a new bowl record of 645 yards in the Russell Athletic tilt. The Bears won 49-38 but it wasn’t that close. This is the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Game in Hotlanta.

LSU vs. Wisconsin (Sept. 3)
From Lambeau Field in Green Bay! How much fun will that be? Should be a donnybrook! You need this, Les. The critics could be howling if you lose. But it’s not a conference game.

Missouri vs. West Virginia (Sept. 3)
In Morgantown. Great chance for Odom to get some positive press and whet the appetite of the Tiger faithful.

Texas A&M vs. UCLA (Sept. 3)
Jim Mora, Jr. brings his Bruins into College Station. Kevin Sumlin could, at least temporarily, quell the storm in Aggieland with a victory.

Ole Miss vs. Florida State (Sept. 5)
The Labor Day special. A huge game with far-reaching national implications and two highly-ranked teams. It will be played in Orlando. I smell a wide-open affair.

Arkansas vs. TCU (Sept. 10)
The Hawgs will be traveling to Ft. Worth for a monster showdown in Cowtown. They will win their opener, the previous week, against LA Tech. This one will be just a bit more demanding. It’s hard to see them coming away with a win.

Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech (Sept. 10)
At the Bristol Motor Speedway in the tri-city area of Eastern Tennessee. The place holds 160,000. It will be strange to not see Frank Beamer patrolling the sideline of the Hokies. Maybe Butch Jones can get people’s minds off the off-the-field issues surrounding the program.

Vanderbilt vs. Georgia Tech (Sept. 17)
The Dores will make the trip to Atlanta in a game both schools have to think they can win. This could result in a very good ball game.

Mississippi State vs. Brigham Young (Oct. 15)
The Bulldogs travel to Provo, Utah for a mid-season clash with the Cougars. They play Auburn the prior week in StarkVegas and could be beat up both physically and emotionally.

Now I’ve gotten myself revved up for some SEC Football! Hey, it’s only 150 days until Vanderbilt and South Carolina tee it up in Nashville!

E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.