Epps: NFL's lure tilts West to Rebels

Epps: NFL's lure tilts West to Rebels

January 17th, 2009 in Sports

Let me tell you how much the early-entry filings for the NFL draft impact the Southeastern Conference: Ole Miss is probably the SEC West favorite.

That's right, the same Ole Miss with zero appearances in Atlanta for the Peach/Chick-fil-A Bowl in almost 40 years, much less the SEC title game. (Hey, Arkansas fans, are you still checking Houston Nutt's phone records? You probably noticed he recently spoke to bowl representatives. Remember those?)

Here's one reason to like the Rebels: Alabama and Ole Miss will play in Oxford next season, and Greg Hardy, if he's in the mood, still will be rushing the Crimson Tide passer. Andre Smith, who left early, will not be present to stop him.

Let's take a more detailed look at who left and who stayed in the SEC in addition to Hardy. We'll start with the biggest winners and work our way to the fan bases who will bang their heads against the wall on draft day. (Note: Arkansas' Andrew Davie, a 26-year-old blocking tight end, left early.)

* Florida

Lost: Receiver Percy Harvin

Kept: Quarterback Tim Tebow, linebacker Brandon Spikes

The Gators keep the best offensive player in the league and one of the best defensive players. Did you know Tebow has accounted for 110 touchdowns in his career? That's ridiculous. Tennessee's entire offense scored 22 touchdowns last season. I know, I know - we're tired of hearing about Florida's team in 2009. It's January, by the way.

* Kentucky

Lost: None

Kept: Cornerback Trevard Lindley, defensive end Jeremy Jarmon, linebacker Micah Johnson

The nation's 35th-ranked scoring defense keeps three crucial parts, particularly Lindley. Even coach Rich Brooks can't believe Lindley stayed: "I advised Trevard that he should strongly consider his option (of going to the NFL) because he was rated fairly high. I'm excited, and a little surprised." Kentucky should be pretty good next season and will likely be favored in the Music CIty Bowl.

* LSU

Lost: Defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois, receiver Brandon LaFell

Kept: Running back Charles Scott, offensive tackle Ciron Black

Al Woods should fill in nicely for Jean-Francois, and new coordinator John Chavis will help fix the problems in the secondary except in third-and-long situations. That's right, the Mustang is coming to LSU! New quarterback Jordan Jefferson keeps two key components of the offense and possibly three. LaFell said he isn't hiring an agent and may change his mind by the Sunday afternoon deadline (the Donte' Stallworth Rule).

* Auburn

Lost: Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, cornerback Jerraud Powers

Kept: Defensive end Antonio Coleman

Linebacker Tray Blackmon also left the team to pursue a career in the Canadian Football League. I still think the Tigers are solid on defense.

* Vanderbilt

Lost: Cornerback D.J. Moore

Kept: None

A huge loss for the Commodores, because Moore filled so many roles. He was outstanding in the secondary, returned kicks, caught passes, got involved in the running game, helped old ladies cross the street and landed the plane in the Hudson River earlier this week. It's like Vandy lost three players.

* Alabama

Lost: Offensive tackle Andre Smith, running back Glen Coffee

Kept: Nose guard Terrence Cody

I'm guessing Coffee sent in his papers at halftime of the Sugar Bowl after seeing Alabama's line without Smith, then realizing Antoine Caldwell was also leaving. I wonder if he borrowed Troy Fleming's cell phone. Coffee's stock wasn't going to get much higher, so you can't blame him for leaving.

* South Carolina

Lost: Tight end Jared Cook, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, strong safety Emanuel Cook

Kept: Linebacker Eric Norwood

None of South Carolina's early entries are considered first-round picks, and Cook is the only one who received a high grade from the draft advisory committee. Are players fleeing South Carolina? Norwood initially said he was leaving but got a low grade from the committee.

* Georgia

Lost: Quarterback Matthew Stafford, running back Knowshon Moreno, cornerback Asher Allen

Kept: Safety Reshad Jones, defensive tackle Geno Atkins

Allen was one of the only consistent players on defense, so that one hurts. Georgia fans can look to Tennessee's 1998 team for hope.