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    2012 SEC Post-Spring Football Notes

    2012 SEC POST-SPRING FOOTBALL NOTES
    (May 7, 2012)

    2012 Spring Game Attendances
    Alabama - 78,526
    Arkansas - 45,250
    Auburn - 43,427
    Florida - 38,100
    Georgia - 44,117
    Kentucky - 4,500
    LSU - 33,000
    Ole Miss - 25,000
    Mississippi State - 22,604
    Missouri - 18,614
    South Carolina - 34,513
    Tennessee - 35,421
    Texas A&M - 15,000
    Vanderbilt - 8,500
    14-Game Total = 446,572 (31,898)

    ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

    • The attendance for A-Day was 78,526 (1st in the SEC and 2nd nationally this year to Ohio State) which was the fifth-largest in school history. Each spring game under head coach Nick Saban has had an attendance of 78,200 (2008) or higher.

    • True freshman tailback T.J. Yeldon was named the Dixie Howell MVP in the game as he accounted for 179 all-purpose yards. He caught five passes for 91 yards and a TD and carried 16 times for 88 yards to lead the White team to a 24-15 victory.

    • Sophomore outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard earned the Dwight Stephenson Lineman of the Game Award with a team-leading 7 tackles, including 3 sacks and 4 tackles for loss.

    • The annual Walk of Fame ceremony took place prior to A-Day as the 2011 permanent captains (as voted on by teammates) had their hand prints and foot prints placed in cement at the base of Denny Chimes. Safety Mark Barron and linebacker Dont’a Hightower were recognized for a second year as captains and were joined by tailback Trent Richardson in the cermony.

    • Eight early enrollees from Alabama’s top-rated recruited recruiting class began classes in January and took part in spring drills. Those players included six freshmen (LB Ryan Anderson, WR Chris Black, LB Dillon Lee, DL/OL Alphonse Taylor, WR Amari Cooper and RB T.J. Yeldon) and two juniors (DB Travell Dixon and DB Deion Belue).

    • Alabama led the country with eight players selected in the 2012 NFL Draft including four first-rounders for a second straight year in Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dont’a Hightower. UA also leads the nation with 10 first round picks over the last three years and 11 over the last four.

    • As an SEC head coach (beginning in 2001 at LSU and 2008 at Alabama), Nick Saban has totaled 73 NFL draft picks with 20 first round selections and 10 among the top 10 overall.

    • During the last academic year, Alabama’s football program led the SEC (in what is believed to be a conference record) with a total of 38 student-athletes on the Academic All-SEC Honor Roll with 38 players. A total of 22 players were on the bowl roster who had already earned their degrees, which was tied for first nationally in terms of graduates on bowl rosters.

    • The team visited the White House and met President Obama on April 19th. The President was presented with a #14 Alabama helmet and #14 jersey to commemorate UA’s 14th National Championship. After the visit, they team toured the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.

    • Of Alabama’s 13 starters lost, all were either drafted or signed free agent contracts with the NFL. Included among those 13 were the four first-rounders listed above along with LB Courtney Upshaw (2nd round), NG Josh Chapman (5th round), DB DeQuan Menzie (5th round) and TE Brad Smelley (7th round). OG Alfred McCullough, WR Marquis Maze, WR Darius Hanks, C William Vlachos and LB Jerrell Harris each signed as free agents following the draft.

    • The Tide returns five starters on offense, including Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones, who played left tackle last year but moved to center in the spring. Also back is QB AJ McCarron, the offensive MVP of the National Championship Game, along with OG Chance Warmack, TE Michael Williams and OT D.J. Fluker. The defense has just four returning starters in DL Jesse Williams and Damion Square, LB Nico Johnson and S Robert Lester. Williams played DE last year, but moved inside to NG during the spring.

    ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS

    • John L. Smith was announced as Arkansas’ head coach on April 23. Arkansas is Smith's sixth head coaching position following stints at Idaho, Utah State, Louisville, Michigan State and most recently at his alma mater, Weber State. As a head coach, Smith has a 132-86 overall record and produced six conference champions. Twelve of his 18 teams have participated in postseason play.

    • Tyler Wilson enters his second season as the Razorbacks’ starting quarterback in 2012 coming off a spring in which he completed 101-of-146 passes (69.2 percent) for 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns with 0 interceptions during scrimmages. His first season as a starter resulted in UA tying the single-season school record with 11 wins and Wilson becoming the first Arkansas quarterback to earn first-team All-SEC honors after he passed for 3,638 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2011.

    • 2010 AP first-team All-SEC running back Knile Davis participated in spring practice after suffering an injury in August of 2011 that forced him to miss the entire season. In 2010, Davis led all SEC running backs with 1,322 yards, the fourth-highest single-season total in school history, and closed the season with five straight 100-yard rushing games.

    • Cobi Hamilton leads the deep and dynamic Arkansas receiving corps. In 39 career games, he has 85 receptions for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns. Hamilton ended the spring with a team-leading 11 receptions for a team-high 156 yards in the Red-White Spring Game.

    • Mackey Award candidate Chris Gragg leads a talented group of tight ends. Gragg has started 15 games in his career and caught 50 passes for 714 yards and four touchdowns. He made caught nine passes for 130 yards and a team-high two touchdowns in the Red-White Spring Game to conclude spring practices.

    • The Razorbacks are the only team in the SEC to return a quarterback (Tyler Wilson) with a 3,000-yard passing season in his career and a running back (Knile Davis) with a 1,000-yard rushing season as a collegian.

    • Arkansas has been ranked in 32 straight AP polls, tied for the seventh-longest active streak in the nation, and in the top 10 for nine straight polls, which also ranks seventh among active streaks in the country.

    • Arkansas finished the 2011 season undefeated at home for the first time since 1999. With seven home victories in 2011, the Razorbacks have 19 wins at home in the last three years, which is tied for the fourth-highest total in the NCAA. UA enters the 2012 season with an 11-game home winning streak, the fifth-longest active streak in the country.

    • The Razorbacks have installed a new defensive scheme for 2012 with the hire of defensive coordinator Paul Haynes, who has 24 returning lettermen on defense and 15 players who have started at least one game in their career.

    • Alonzo Highsmith returns to the linebacker corps after starting all 13 games in 2011 and making his mark all over the defense. He recorded 80 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two quarterback hurries, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup.

    • Kicker Zach Hocker enters his junior season as UA’s record holder for career field goal percentage with his success rate of 80.4 percent. He also ranks in the top 10 in school history in six other categories and finished the 2011 season second in the SEC in points per game, field goals made per game and touchback percentage.

    • Punter Dylan Breeding returns after becoming the first Razorback to lead the SEC in punting average. His average of 45.28 yards per punt, which also ranked seventh in the NCAA, earned him second-team All-SEC honors and placed a UA punter on top of the conference for the first time since Brad Horne led the Southwest Conference in 1986.

    • Arkansas’ Red-White Spring Game was played in front of a school-record 45,250 fans, breaking the previous record of 42,000 in attendance last season.

    AUBURN TIGERS

    • For 2012, Auburn returns 48 lettermen (20 offense, 26 defense, 2 specialists)

    • Of the 68 scholarship players who participated in spring drills, 61% (38) were underclassmen

    • Gene Chizik is entering his fourth season as Auburn’s head coach, having led the Tigers to a 30-10 record over the previous three seasons. Chizik has coached Auburn to bowl game victories in the past three seasons, including a 43-24 win over Virginia in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl.
    • Auburn is returning seven players who were starters on offense last season: WR Emory Blake, C Reese Dismukes, TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, RB Onterio McCalebb, QB Clint Moseley, OG Chad Slade, OG John Sullen

    • Nine Tigers who were starters on defense last season return for 2012: LB Daren Bates, CB T’Sharvan Bell, DT Kenneth Carter, CB Chris Davis, DE Nosa Eguae, LB Jonathan Evans, DE Corey Lemonier, S Demetruce McNeal, DT Jeffrey Whitaker

    • Five previous starters were not available for spring drills while recovering from off-season surgeries: CB T’Sharvan Bell, DE Nosa Eguae, LB Jonathan Evans, TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, DL Kenneth Carer . DT Gabe Wright and S Demetruce MvNeal missed significant time during the spring with injuries; LB Jawara Wright, who was contending for a starting role, was forced to retire from football due to injury.

    • Auburn welcomes new coordinators on both sides of the football, in defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler ; with those additions, the Tigers have a restructured coaching staff that also includes the addition of secondary coach Willie Martinez and the move of Tommy Thigpen, who coached safeties hisfirst three years at Auburn (2009-11), to linebacker coach (the position he played at  North Carolina and coached at UNC and Illinois prior to his arrival at AU).

    • The A-Day attendance for Auburn’s spring game was 43,427. A-Day also featured the dedication of statues of Auburn’s three Heisman Trophy winners: Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton, all of whom were in attendance.

    • In the A-Day spring scrimmage, the offense defeated the defense 36-27 using a customized scoring system. Quarterback Kiehl Frazier (7-9, 92 yards passing; 102 yards total offense) was the offensive MVP, while defensive end Dee Ford (4 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack) was the defensive MVP. All-America punter Steven Clark was the MVP of the special teams for A-Day.

    • The Tigers start the 2012 season in the same location as they finished the 2011 campaign, playing in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. On Sept. 1, Auburn opens with Clemson in the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Game. The Tigers completed the 2011 season with a 43-24 victory over Virginia in the Chick-fil-a Bowl on December 31. Auburn’s 2012 schedule features eight games against bowl participants from a year ago, including five that played in traditional New Year’s games.

    • Junior punter Steven Clark, one of three finalists for last year’s Ray Guy Award, is one of two returning first team all-SEC honorees for Auburn, along with junior defensive end Corey Lemonier. Returnees Philip Lutzenkirchen (senior tight end) and Onterio McCalebb (senior all-purpose back) were second team all-SEC selections in 2011.

    • On April 11, Auburn welcomed 2010 signee Shon Coleman to the practice field after a two-year battle with leukemia. The highly recruited offensive lineman from Olive Branch, Mississippi, discovered his cancer during his senior year of high school and has undergone chemotherapy to fight the acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

    FLORIDA GATORS

    • Florida returns 10 starters on the defensive side of the ball where the Gators ranked eighth in the nation in total defense (299.5 yards per game) in 2011. The Gators ranked second in the nation in third-down defense in 2011 holding opponents to 48-for-176 (.273).

    • UF’s returns 14 of its top 15 tacklers for the 2012 season, including leading tackler senior linebacker Jon Bostic, who tallied 94 total tackles, 10 tackles for a loss and three sacks. Also returning for the Gators are their second and third leading tacklers, junior safety Matt Elam who recorded 78 tackles, a team-leading 11 tackles for a loss and a team-high-tying two interceptions, and junior linebacker Jelani Jenkins who totaled 75 tackles and a team-best six pass break-ups.

    • UF’s offense will lose five regulars starters and must replace their leading passer and their two leading rushers going into 2012. The Gators gained plenty of experience having 10 first-time starters on offense in 2011, seven of which are returning. Florida ranked 10th in the SEC in total offense with 328.7 yards per game but, under new offensive coordinator Brent Pease, the offense was much more efficient in the Orange and Blue Debut, passing for a combined 423 yards two touchdowns and one interception on 24-for-36 passing and rushing for a total of 196 yards on 44 carries (4.45 avg.).

    • Sophomore quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will continue to battle to secure the starting position through the summer and into fall camp. Driskel and Brissett both put up solid efforts in the Orange and Blue Debut. Driskel set a new Florida spring game record for completion percentage after going 12-for-14 (.857) for 147 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Brissett went 9-for-16 with 233 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions connecting on five passes of 20-plus yards. Both saw significant time during their freshman campaigns due to injury. Against Alabama, Driskel recorded the third-longest run given up by the Tide in 2011 with a 31-yard rush and Brissett became the first true freshman in school history to take his first career snap as the starter when he got the nod at LSU.

    • Senior running back Mike Gillislee, who has 920 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in his career,  highlights the running back group having won the starting spot going into next season. Gillislee has appeared in 36 games and owns a career 6.7 yards per carry average. The senior carried the ball six times for 35 yards, including a 20-yard run in the Orange and Blue Debut.

    • 2011 marks Florida’s FBS-leading 32nd-straight season with a winning percentage of .500 or higher. With the win over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl, the Gators have now had 24-consecutive winning seasons, the longest active streak in the country. Additionally, with the trip to the Gator Bowl, UF made its 21st-straight bowl appearance, which ranks first in the SEC and second nationally.

    • The 2012 season opener against Bowling Green will be the first game after the completion of the west concourse renovations at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

    GEORGIA BULLDOGS

    • Georgia returns All-SEC quarterback Aaron Murray.  Junior Hutson Mason is planning on redshirting the 2012 season, which opened competition for the backup spot.  Redshirt freshman Christian LeMay is now the backup going into preseason practice.  In the spring game, LeMay was 7-of-10 for 154 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

    • With the departure of senior center Ben Jones and tackles Cordy Glenn and Justin Anderson, who combined for 125 starts in their career and were all selected in the 2012 NFL Draft, the leading candidates to fill those roles are sophomore David Andrews at center and a combination of junior Kenarious Gates, junior Chris Burnette, junior Dallas Lee, redshirt sophomore Kolton Houston and sophomore transfer Mark Beard.

    • The Bulldog defense returns nine starters and 12 of the 14 leading tacklers after posting a No. 5 national ranking in 2011.  All-American junior OLB Jarvis Jones and All-American senior FS Bacarri Rambo headline the unit.

    • Bulldog receiver Malcolm Mitchell also saw action at cornerback in the spring and is expected to go both ways in 2012.  Mitchell finished with 45 catches for 665 yards and four touchdowns last season.

    • Georgia returns its top five rushers from last season.  Heralded recruit Keith Marshall enrolled in January and participated in spring drills.  Leading rushers in the spring game were sophomore Isaiah Crowell and senior Richard Samuel.

    • The defense recorded two touchdowns in the annual spring G-Day game.  Junior DE Garrison Smith had a fumble recovery in the end zone and then the Red Team clinched the victory after senior OLB Ricky Lowe ran back a 62-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

    • Georgia completed spring drills without any significant injuries and are on track to be at full strength when the team reconvenes for preseason workouts.

    • The Bulldogs’ lone early entry into the NFL Draft was junior TE Orson Charles.  The leading candidates to step up at that position are junior Arthur Lynch and redshirt freshman Jay Rome.  Both had a pair of catches in the spring game.  Rome, who had a 66-yard touchdown catch from Christian LeMay in the spring game, also suited up for Georgia’s basketball team.

    • Sophomore OLB/DE Ray Drew and redshirt freshman FLK Justin Scott-Wesley are splitting time between track and football.  Drew has competed in three discus competitions during the outdoor season, taking second and third in separate competitions.  Scott-Wesley competed indoors and already ranks in the top-10 on the school’s 60-meter dash list.

    • The post-spring award winners include: MVP (offense) – Aaron Murray, QB, Tampa, Fla.; Hutson Mason, QB, Marietta, Ga.; True Grit Award (offense) – Arthur Lynch, TE, Dartmouth, Mass.; Coffee County Hustle Award (offense) – Kolton Houston, OG, Buford, Ga.; Michael Erdman, SE, Merritt Island, Fla.; Most Improved Player (offense) – Ken Malcome, TB, Decatur, Ga.; Outstanding Walk-On (offense) – Merritt Hall, FB, Alpharetta, Ga.; MVP (defense) – Jarvis Jones, OLB, Columbus, Ga.; John Jenkins, N, Meriden, Conn.; True Grit Award (defense) – Shawn Williams, SS, Damascus, Ga.; Coffee County Hustle Award (defense) – Garrison Smith, DE, Atlanta, Ga.; Most Improved Player (defense) – Damian Swann, CB, Atlanta, Ga.; Ramik Wilson, ILB, Tampa, Fla.; Outstanding Walk-On (defense) – Connor Norman, SS, Duluth, Ga.

    KENTUCKY WILDCATS

    • Coach Joker Phillips was happy with the team’s overall performance in the spring, especially the last two weeks when the team’s execution showed significant progress.  “We know we have had a good spring. We have gotten a lot better from day one to now,” Phillips said.  “We ought to get better because we are so young at many positions. We got a lot of young guys reps (practice repetitions) and we invested in those guys. So, there is no doubt that when those guys got better, we got better.”

    • Kentucky concluded on April 21 with the annual spring game, featuring “Kentucky” (first-team players) against the “Wildcats” (second-teamers).  The second team was spotted a 14-0 lead and it turned out to be a very competitive game, with the first team rallying for a 35-28 victory. 

    • With Morgan Newton out for the spring with a shoulder injury, sophomore-to-be Maxwell Smith was the starting quarterback in the spring.  In the spring game, Smith completed 29 of 45 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns.  Smith was the Freshman All-SEC QB in 2011.

    • One of the key goals of the spring was identifying additional playmakers on offense.  “We really think right now we know who our playmakers are and guys who can make things happen,” Phillips said. “(Wide receiver) Demarco Robinson is one of those guys and Maxwell Smith is doing well for us and getting the ball out of his hands, which is important. People don’t consider (offensive guard) Larry Warford a playmaker but he is as big a playmaker as there is on this team. (Wide receiver) Daryl Collins has made a lot of plays. Ronnie Shields is holding down the starting tight end position and he has moved ahead of the rest of the guys. We have asked him to do a lot of things and were concerned early in the spring how he would handle that but he has stepped up to the plate and shown us he can do all the things we are asking him to do.”

    • Sophomore wide receiver Demarco Robinson came on strong in the spring, highlighted by nine receptions for 146 yards and two TDs in the spring game.  After the game, Phillips said, “I worked a training camp one year with Joe Gibbs, and I can remember in one of our coaches’ meetings, (we talked about) ‘There’s something to be said for a guy every time you have a scrimmage he makes a play.’ Demarco Robinson is that guy.  Every time we came into this place (for a scrimmage) he made a huge play for us and today he made a lot of big plays.”  Robinson also had two TD catches in the last scrimmage before the spring game.

    • It also was a big spring game for the tight end position.  For the first-teamers, Tyler Robinson caught five passes for 75 yards and Ronnie Shields snagged three for 42.  On the second team, Anthony Kendrick caught three for 40 yards and a touchdown and Jordan Aumiller added one reception. 

    • The line should be a strength of the UK defense in 2012.  All three regular starters return, senior end Collins Ukwu and junior tackles Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph.  Senior end Taylor Wyndham, a starter when UK goes to a four-man line, also will be back.

    • One of the stars of the spring on defense was sophomore Alvin “Bud” Dupree, who has shown huge upside at the hybrid end/linebacker position.  Dupree was hard to handle as a pass rusher and his athleticism enables him to make plays all over the field.

    • A position change that paid big dividends was the move of redshirt freshman tailback Marcus Caffey from tailback to cornerback.  Caffey showed immediate aptitude for the defensive backfield and finished the spring as a starter.  “I think he is a special player,” Phillips said.  “He’s a big, physical guy who can hold up in this league.  We are going to play against some big receivers and we think he is a guy that can go match up with them.”

    • Senior defensive back Martavius Neloms is not only the team’s leading returning tackler, having made 71 stops last season, but has emerged as the unit’s emotional leader as well.  Neloms was a starting cornerback in the 2010 season and moved to safety in 2011.  “I’m really proud of Martavius,” Phillips said.  “We’ve put a lot on him, playing a lot of different positions.  I’ve personally asked him to lead this football team defensively and I think he’s trying.”

    • Junior linebacker Avery Williamson continued his improvement in the spring and is expected to anchor the defense at middle linebacker.   He led all players in the spring game with eight tackles, featuring two tackles for loss and a quarterback sack.  He made 49 tackles last season as a reserve and is ready to step into a leadership role.

    • The Wildcats did not appear to have any major new injuries in the spring.  Six players sat out the contact portions of spring drills, including QB Morgan Newton, tailback Josh Clemons, wide receiver Gene McCaskill, offensive lineman Tyler Davenport, defensive end Collins Ukwu and linebacker Jabari Johnson.  All six are expected to be ready to go in time for preseason practice.

    LSU TIGERS

    • LSU returns 16 starters (8 offense, 6 defense, 2 specialists) from last year’s team that posted a 13-1 overall mark and won the Southeastern Conference title.

    • Junior Zach Mettenberger took over as LSU’s starting quarterback during the spring and will take the first snap when the Tigers open the 2012 season against North Texas on Sept. 1 in Tiger Stadium.

    • Mettenberger threw for 270 yards and 2 TDs in the LSU spring game. In 4 scrimmages during the spring, Mettenberger threw only 2 interceptions.

    • LSU returns 3 running backs that started at least 1 game (Spencer Ware 10 starts, Michael Ford 3, Alfred Blue 1) last year.

    • The Tigers have 4 running backs coming back that had 7 or more rushing TDs (Ware 8, Kenny Hilliard 8, Ford, Blue 7).

    • In 2012,  LSU returns 2,481 of its 2,836 rushing yards (87 percent) and 31 of its 35 rushing TDs (89 percent) from a year ago.

    • WR Odell Beckham Jr. returns as LSU’s top receiver from 2011 after hauling in 41 passes for 475 yards and 2 TDs. Jarvis Landry and James Wright emerged from spring practice as 2 players who will have a shot at starting at the receiver position in 2012.

    • LSU has 5 returning offensive linemen with starts to their credit, led by C P.J. Lonergan with 26 and OG Josh Dworczyk with 26. Other linemen with career starts to their credit include LT Chris Faulk (13), RT Alex Hurst (23) and RG Josh Williford (9). A sixth offensive lineman – La’el Collins – came out of spring practice as possibly the starter at left guard.

    • Defensively, LSU returns its top 2 tacklers (Tyrann Mathieu 76, Eric Reid 76) and its top two leaders in both tackles for loss (Barkevious Mingo 15.0, Sam Montgomery 13.5) and sacks (Montgomery 9.0, Mingo 8.0).

    • LSU returns 11 players on defense that started at least 1 game a year ago, including 5 defensive linemen.

    • LSU had 4 early enrollees go through spring practice – LB Lamar Louis, LB Ronnie Feist, SNP Reid Ferguson and OL Vadal Alexander. Feist had 7 tackles in the spring game, while Louis had 5 tackles and an interception return of 74 yards for a TD.

    2012 LSU Spring Awards
    Alvin Roy Fourth Quarter Award (Outstanding performance in LSU Off-Season Program) - KeKe Mingo, James Wright, Alex Hurst, Kenny Hilliard, Kadron Boone, Rocky Duplessis, Paul Turner, Tyrann Mathieu, Tabari Williams, Nick Rice

    Eric Andolsek Leadership Award (Outstanding Leadership in Spring Drills- Offense) - Zach Mettenberger, Alex Hurst, Alfred Blue, Spencer Ware, Josh Williford, Jarvis Landry

    Mike Miley Leadership Award (Outstanding Leadership in Spring Drills- Defense) - Bennie Logan, KeKe Mingo, Kevin Minter

    Toby Caston Performance Award (Outstanding Performance in Spring Drills- Defense) - Ego Ferguson, Sam Montgomery

    Ralph Norwood Performance Award (Outstanding Performance in Spring Drills Offense) - Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Alfred Blue, Spencer Ware, Josh Williford

    Most Improved Award (Players who have made the most improvement during Spring Drills) - Zach Mettenberger, Elliot Porter, Quentin Thomas, La’el Collins, Tharold Simon, Jalen Collins, Tahj Jones, Craig Loston, Micah Eugene

    Jimmy Taylor Award (The comprehensive Spring Award for Outstanding Leadership, Effort and Performance) - KeKe Mingo

    Jerry Stovall Special Teams Award
    Drew Alleman, Reid Ferguson, James Hairston

    OLE MISS REBELS

    • Senior second-year CB Wesley Pendleton was selected by the coaches as the most outstanding defensive player of spring drills. Pendleton teams with junior honors candidate Charles Sawyer and mid-year JUCO transfer Dehendret Collins to help form a talented secondary.

    • A sophomore All-America honoree in the fall, DB Charles Sawyer remains a leader on the defensive side. Last year, he finished fourth in the SEC in passes defended and seventh in interceptions and helped Ole Miss rank 22nd in the nation in pass defense.

    • Junior LB Mike Marry continues to provide leadership in the defensive front. The 2010 All-SEC honoree topped the team and tied for 14th in the SEC in tackles a year ago.

    • Junior WR Ja-Mes Logan was selected by the coaches as the most outstanding offensive player of spring drills. Logan and sophomore honors candidate Donte Moncrief are poised to lead the receiving corps in the fall.

    • A freshman All-America honoree a year ago, WR Donte Moncrief built on his rookie success in the spring. Last season, he led the team in receptions (31), receiving yards (454), and touchdown receptions (four, which tied for sixth in the nation among true freshmen).

    • Junior honors candidate Jeff Scott, who finished eighth in the SEC in all-purpose yards last year, and senior Devin Thomas, who has seen only limited career action, are the only experienced running backs on the Rebel roster. Seeking to add depth, sophomore WR Tobias Singleton moved to tailback midway through the spring.

    • Junior Barry Brunetti and sophomore mid-year transfer Bo Wallace took the lead in the wide-open quarterback battle in spring and are neck-and-neck entering preseason. Brunetti rushed for a game-high 136 yards (14 att.) and passed for 62 yards (4-of-10) in the Grove Bowl, while Wallace threw for 240 yards (16-of-26) and two touchdowns.

    • In order to insure him more touches, senior QB Randall Mackey moved to receiver during the spring and lined up in multiple positions.

    • On the offensive line, a pair of NFL tackles must be replaced in Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie, who bypassed his senior season to enter the draft. Massie was a fourth-round selection of Arizona, while Sowell signed with Tampa Bay.

    • Five returning offensive linemen have each started five or more games in their career, including junior starting center Evan Swindall. Senior A.J. Hawkins and sophomore Aaron Morris settled in at the guards during the spring, while a pair of potential first-time starters, junior Emmanuel McCray and mid-year JUCO transfer Pierce Burton, have taken the lead at the tackles.

    • Special teams remains a strength of the Rebels, led by 2010 NCAA punting champion and two-time All-SEC senior Tyler Campbell. In addition, senior K Bryson Rose has made 25-of-29 career field goals and 65-of-67 PATs.  

    • In the return game, junior Jeff Scott has established himself as a weapon during his career, ranking 20th in the country in kickoff returns in 2010 and helping Ole Miss finish third as a team nationally in punt returns in 2011.

    MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS

    • Mississippi State is one of only two SEC teams to bring back all ten on-field coaches from last season. The entire-staff continuity is a first in more than a decade (1999-2000) for the Bulldogs.

    • Mississippi State welcomed five newcomers to the spring roster, including three junior college transfers and a pair of high school enrollees. Defensive end Denico Autry (East Mississippi CC), defensive lineman Quay Evans (Morton, Miss. HS), offensive lineman Dylan Holley (Mississippi Gulf Coast CC), offensive lineman Justin Senior (Hargrave Military Academy) and offensive lineman Charles Siddoway (Butte [Calif.] College) all participated in spring drills.

    • All-America candidate and Thorpe Award semifinalist Johnthan Banks continued to show his versatility during the spring. The All-SEC cornerback resumed his role as the primary punt returner (averaged 10 yards per return last season) and even saw some time on the offensive side of the ball. He was targeted twice and caught one pass for 17 yards in the Maroon-White Spring Game.

    • Banks enters the 2012 season tied for second among Mississippi State players in career interceptions. The Maben, Miss., native needs four picks to tie Walt Harris’s school record of 16.

    • The 2012 team will be the first Mississippi State defense to have the same coordinator for a second-consecutive season since Ellis Johnson served in the role from 2004-07. Since then, the Bulldog defense has been lead by Charlie Harbison (2008), Carl Torbush (2009) and Manny Diaz (2010).

    • Dan Mullen enters the 2012 campaign with 21 wins in his first three seasons, the second most in school history (Alllyn McKeen, 26, 1939-41). Mississippi State had only won 21 games over any three-year stretch eight times prior to Mullen’s arrival.

    • The Bulldogs return 13 starters from last season’s Music City Bowl winning team, including seven starters on the defensive side of the ball. Defensively, Mississippi State ranked 17th nationally in scoring, allowing 19.7 points per game.

    • Senior linebacker Cam Lawrence posted a team-leading 123 total tackles last year, ranking 18th nationally and second in the SEC.

    • Offensively, State returns five starters, including all three starting wide receivers for the second-straight year. Seniors Chad Bumphis, Arceto Clark and Chris Smith have combined for 74 career starts and have been the team’s three top receivers each of the last two seasons.

    • Bumphis enters the season with 101 career receptions, good for eighth in school history and 61 shy of David Smith’s (1968-70) record of 162. The Tupelo native needs five touchdowns to reach the school record of 17 held by Eric Moulds (1993-95) and Justin Jenkins (2000-03)

    • Quarterback Tyler Russell solidified his spot as the Bulldogs’ starter during a solid spring. Russell enters the 2012 campaign with the highest passing efficiency (139.74) and yards per attempt (8.6) of any quarterback in school history with 150 attempts. He has 13 career touchdown passes, just four shy of entering the school’s top ten.

    MISSOURI TIGERS

    • The Missouri Tigers held their 2012 Spring Camp from March 6, and concluded it with the annual Black & Gold Spring Game on April 14.  Excitement was in the air all spring from both inside and outside the program, as Mizzou approaches life in the nation’s premier athletic conference – the Southeastern Conference – officially on July 1.

    • Without factoring in injuries, Mizzou stands to take the field this fall with 15 returning starters (including specialists).  That breaks down to seven on defense, six on offense and both specialists.  The defensive returnees include seniors Zaviar Gooden (WLB), Brad Madison (DE), Will Ebner (MLB), Kip Edwards (CB) and Kenronte Walker (SS).  Juniors E.J. Gaines (CB – 1st-team All-Big 12 in 2011) and Andrew Wilson (SLB – led the team with 98 tackles in 2011) are the others.  On offense, returning starters include seniors T.J. Moe (WR), Elvis Fisher (LT), and Travis Ruth (C/G), as well as juniors James Franklin (QB), Henry Josey (TB) and Justin Britt (RT).  Additionally, senior Trey Barrow, who handled both punting and place kicking duties in 2011, is back for one more go-around.

    • Mizzou comes to the SEC with a winning tradition under Head Coach Gary Pinkel, who will be in his 12th year prowling the Tiger sideline in 2012.  Mizzou has won 48 games in the last five seasons, which ranks as 9th-most in the nation from 2007-11 among BCS-AQ conferences.  Additionally, Mizzou’s consistency under Pinkel and his staff has been noteworthy.  Mizzou is one of only six schools from BCS-AQ leagues to have won a minimum of eight games in each of the last six seasons (2006-11).  The other five programs are a who’s who of the nation’s elite – LSU, Oklahoma USC, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

    • Pinkel enters the 2012 as the 8th-winningest active coach in the FBS ranks, with his 158 wins.  In 21 years as a head coach (1991-2000 at Toledo, 2001-present at Mizzou), Pinkel has a 158-91-3 overall record (.633).  With an 85-54 mark in 11 seasons at Mizzou (.612), Pinkel stands 3rd alltime in wins, trailing only College Football Hall of Famers Don Faurot (101 wins from 1935-42, 1946-56) and Dan Devine (93 wins from 1958-70).

    • One of the themes during spring ball was injuries.  Six projected starters missed either all or most of spring drills due to injuries, or due to the rehabilitation process involved with off-season surgery.  Most notable among the missing was junior TB Henry Josey, who was among the nation’s top rushers in 2011 (1,168 yards in 10 games) before suffering a severe knee injury.  Josey is still early in the rehabilitation process and his status for 2012 hasn’t yet been determined.  Joining Josey on the sideline for the entire camp were standout senior defensive linemen Brad Madison (DE) and Sheldon Richardson (DT), who both had off-season shoulder surgery to clean up injuries they played with in 2011.  Both will be full go when camp rolls around in August.

    • On March 13th, junior QB James Franklin – one of the nation’s top dual threats (2,865 passing yards and 981 rushing yards in 2011) – injured his right shoulder in practice and opted to have surgery to correct a torn labrum.  Franklin is expected to return to throwing the ball this summer, and should be ready to go when August hits.  Another likely starter, junior TE Eric Waters, was having an outstanding camp until he was sidelined by a sprained knee late in camp.  He had surgery to repair the injury and is also expected back for two-a-days.  A sixth anticipated starter, senior LT Elvis Fisher, was held out of all scrimmaging as he continued to get stronger every day after missing the entire 2011 season due to a knee injury he sustained last August.  Fisher, who started all 40 games from 2008-10 at left tackle (protecting the blind side of QBs Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert), is expected to be full go come August.

    • Redshirt freshman QB Corbin Berkstresser took over the reins of the #1 offense in Franklin’s absence, and he did a nice job of getting more comfortable in the role as he progressed throughout camp.  He ended camp by completing 13-of-20 passes in the Black & Gold Game for 187 yards and one touchdown, with one interception.  In the previous scrimmage, Berkstresser was 18-of-31 for 255 yards and a touchdown.

    • Other standouts from the Black & Gold Game included reserve QB Ashton Glaser (14-of-25 passing , 213 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs), WR Marcus Lucas (4 receptions, 81 yards), WR Jimmie Hunt (3 receptions, 110 yards, 1 TD) and tailbacks Marcus Murphy (10 rushes, 87 yards) and Kendial Lawrence (6 rushes, 69 yards).  One of Hunt’s receptions went 88 yards for a score.  On the defensive side, LB Donovan Bonner jumped a seam pass and intercepted it, racing 65 yards the other way for a touchdown which led the defensive highlights.  Bonner also had six tackles on the day, ranking as second-most behind fellow LB Darvin Ruise’s game-high eight total tackles.

    • At halftime of Mizzou’s spring game on April 14th, MU Athletics and Nike unveiled an exciting new brand identity which included new uniforms for all sports.  Mizzou’s new football look includes 24 different uniform combinations in total, which breaks down to three jerseys, four pants and two different helmets that can be worn on a given Saturday.  The biggest change was made to Mizzou’s helmet, which had featured various different versions of a block ‘M’ on the side since 1971.  The ‘M’ is now gone from the helmet, and replaced with an oval Tiger logo on both sides of one helmet, while the alternate helmet features the same Tiger logo enlarged with a more artistic look.

    SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS

    • South Carolina is coming off its first 11-win season in school history and its first national top-10 finish. The team also registered a school record six SEC wins, including a 5-0 record against Eastern Division opponents for the first time ever.

    • The Gamecocks return 43 letterwinners, including 13 starters – seven on the offensive side of the ball and six defensive starters.
    • The Gamecocks will open the 2012 season on a four-game winning streak. They had not finished a season with four consecutive wins since 1958 prior to last season’s finish, which included wins over Florida, The Citadel, Clemson and Nebraska.

    • The Gamecocks are a perfect 8-0 over the last two seasons over their top four rivals – division foes Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, and in-state rival Clemson.

    • The Gamecocks return 89 percent of their rushing yards, 64 percent of their passing yards, and 66 percent of their receiving yards from a year ago. In addition, eight of the squad’s top 13 tacklers return for the 2012 season.

    •The Gamecocks return three tailbacks who have rushed for 100 or more yards in a game on a combined 14 occasions. Junior Marcus Lattimore leads the way with eight 100-yard rushing games, while senior Kenny Miles and sophomore Brandon Wilds each have three 100-yard rushing contests.

    • Connor Shaw is the first Gamecock quarterback in the last 40 years to win eight of his first nine starts.

    • The Gamecocks have made several changes on their coaching staff from a year ago. New to the staff are Kirk Botkin (linebackers/Spurs), Grady Brown (secondary), Joe Robinson (special teams/tight ends) and Everette Sands (running backs), along with Joe Connolly (strength & conditioning). Lorenzo Ward will direct the defense as the defensive coordinator, while offensive line coach Shawn Elliott and wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. have been given co-offensive coordinator titles.

    • The Black team, led by Connor Shaw, defeated the Garnet team, 38-24 in front of 34,513 fans at the annual Garnet & Black Spring Game. Connor Shaw finished the day 6-for-7 for 128 yards and two touchdowns. The six quarterbacks combined to complete 39-of-54 passes for 511 yards and six touchdowns.

    • Kenny Miles (offense), Jadeveon Clowney (defense) and Ace Sanders (special teams) were honored as the Joe Morrison Players of the Spring.

    • Senior DeVonte Holloman, who has played safety throughout his Gamecock career, transitioned to the Spur position this spring, while senior Damario Jeffery moved from Spur to linebacker. Both are projected starters at their new positions.

    • The Gamecocks welcomed two-sport standout Bruce Ellington back following a winter spent with the Carolina basketball team as the starting point guard. Ellington plays wide receiver on the gridiron.

    • The Gamecocks have signed the last four “Mr. Football” winners in the state of South Carolina – Stephon Gilmore (2009), Marcus Lattimore (2010), Jadeveon Clowney (2011) and Shaq Roland (2012).

    TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS

    • Tennessee returns 19 of 22 starters on offense and defense, losing just three mainstays from 2011 in NFL Draft hopefuls DL Malik Jackson, TB Tauren Poole and LB Austin Johnson.

    • The Vols open the 2012 in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff vs. NC State at the Georgia Dome on Friday, Aug. 31 in Atlanta. The game will be televised on ESPNU and is the first regular-season Friday game for Tennessee since Sept. 29, 1939 that was also against North Carolina State.

    • In the Vols' Orange & White Spring Game, sophomore Marlin Lane ran for 106 yards including two touchdowns (19 and 39 yards). He gained 103 in the first half alone. Tyler Bray threw for 157 yards (14-of-26) including a touchdown. Al-SEC WR Da'Rick Rogers had five catches for 74 yards while sophomore Jacob Carter had a game-high six catches for 42 yards.

    • On defense, sophomore Justin Coleman had nine tackles while Jaron Toney and John Propst (interception) added seven stops.

    • The Vols Spring Practice Award Winners: John Stucky Off-Season Award: Jordan Williams, Brian Randolph, Ja'Wuan James, Tyler Bray; Harvey Robinson Offensive Surprise Award: Devrin Young;  Andy Spiva Defensive Surprise Award: Gregory Clark, Steven Fowlkes; Big Lick Award: Herman Lathers, Jacques Smith, Da'Rick Rogers, Brendan Downs;  4th Quarter Award: Justin Coleman, A.J. Johnson, Dallas Thomas, Ja'Wuan James; Unsung Hero Award: Willie Bohannon, James Stone.

    • Tennessee’s state-of-the-art Football Training Center is slated to open in Summer 2012, it will be one of the most modern and functional buildings of its kind. The 145,000-square foot building includes an amphitheater-style team room, coaches offices, position meeting rooms, a dining hall, players' lounge, a 7,000-square foot locker room, a 22,000-square foot, multi-level weight room as well as a new training room and hydrotherapy area.

    • The Vols welcome seven new assistant coaches: Sal Sunseri (Defense Coordinator), Derrick Ansley (Cornerbacks), Charlie Coiner (Special Teams/Tight Ends), Josh Conklin (Safeties), Jay Graham (Running Backs), John Palmero (Defensive Line), Sam Pittman (Offensive Line).

    • For just the fourth time in school history, Tennessee will enter October with five games under its belt (2006, 1995, 1990). In the previous three campaigns, the Vols won at least nine games, highlighted by a 1990 SEC Championship.

    • Eight of Tennessee’s opponents earned a big to play in a bowl game last season: NC State (Belk), Florida (Gator), Georgia (Outback), Mississippi State (Music City), Alabama (National Championship), South Carolina (Capital One), Missouri (Independence) and Vanderbilt (Liberty). All but Georgia and Vanderbilt were victorious.

    • For the second consecutive year, Tennessee’s opponents compiled an overall record of 81-71 the previous season. Seven of Tennessee’s opponents had winning records in 2011: NC State (8-5), Florida (7-6), Georgia (10-4), Mississippi State (7-6), Alabama (12-1), South Carolina (11-2) and Missouri (8-5).

    • Three of UT’s opponents finished the 2011 season ranked in the final Associated Press and Coaches’ polls: Georgia (AP-19, Coaches-20), Alabama (AP-1, Coaches-1) and South Carolina (AP-9, Coaches-8).

    • For the fourth consecutive year, the Vols will face two teams that they have never played before in Georgia State and Troy. Last season, the Vols opened new series’ with Montana and Buffalo. Tennessee also played UT Martin and Oregon for the first time in 2010 and took the field against Western Kentucky and Ohio for the first time in 2009.

    TEXAS A&M AGGIES

    •  Senior Dustin Harris enters the 2012 football season as the reigning punt return average statistical champion. The cornerback from Livingston, Texas led the NCAA with a 18.9 average on 18 returns in 2011, with a 72-yard touchdown return against Kansas. Against the Jayhawks, Harris set a school record with 162 punt return yards.

    • Senior Ryan Swope, from Austin, Texas, has career numbers of 180 catches for 2,204 yards and is chasing Jeff Fuller’s school records of 233 catches for 3,092 yards. Fuller’s records would appear to be within range after Swope’s record-setting junior season that saw him set school standards with 89 catches for 1,207 yards.

    • The Aggies led the nation with a whopping 51 sacks in 2011 (six more than the second-best team), and A&M’s top two pass-rushing threats return in 2012. In fact, Texas A&M is the only team in the nation with two returnees that posted 8.5 or more sacks in 2011. Senior Sean Porter led the Big 12 with .73 QBS per game (No. 19 nationally), while junior Damontre Moore chipped in .71 per game (No. 21 nationally).

    • Despite attempting the ninth-most pass attempts in the NCAA FBS, the Aggies did a remarkable job of protecting their quarterback in 2011. In 13 games, A&M allowed just nine QB sacks for a NCAA-low 44 lost yards. Four of five starters return from the 2011 offensive front, including juniors-to-be OTs Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, who have been mentioned as first-round draft picks in several early 2013 mock drafts.

    • The offensive line was penalized for holding just twice in 2011, and enter 2012 with a streak of 11 straight games without a holding call against a lineman.

    • An early 2013 mock draft by SportsIllustrated.com’s Andrew Perloff projected the Aggies to generate three first-round picks in offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews and linebacker Sean Porter. Perloff projected Joeckel to be selected second overall to the Indianapolis Colts to protect QB Andrew Luck’s blindside.

    • Two-time National Coach of the Year finalist Kevin Sumlin is in his first season at Texas A&M after four record-setting seasons at the University of Houston. The former assistant coach at Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Purdue, Minnesota and Wyoming oversaw a Cougar offense that set NCAA FBS records for total offense and passing yards. His Houston teams led the nation in passing, total and scoring offense in two of his four seasons with the Cougars (2009 and 2011).

    • One of the new features to Texas A&M practices under Kevin Sumlin has been the addition of blaring music during workouts. Said Sumlin: “We changed to it last year (at Houston) … and we won 13 games.”

    • Four members of Sumlin’s first coaching staff have been head coaches or coordinators at previous stops: current A&M OC Kliff Kingsbury was UH’s co-OC; current DC Mark Snyder was head coach at Marshall from 2005-09 and has been DC at South Florida, Ohio State and Youngstown State; WR coach David Beaty was OC at Kansas and Rice; LB coach Mark Wallerstedt has been DC at Air Force, North Alabama and Wyoming.

    • Kyle Field was filled to 105.1 percent capacity, averaging 87,183 fans per game, which ranked No. 10 nationally. It was one of four stadiums nationally operating at higher than 105.0 percent capacity. A&M has eight consecutive sellouts, which is a school record. A&M’s current streak of sellouts dates back to the 2010 Nebraska game, which set the school record with an attendance of 90,079.

    • Texas A&M enters the Kevin Sumlin era on the heels of its most prolific offensive season in school history. The Aggies’ offense broke season school records for passing, total and scoring offense in 2011. A&M finished with 3,744 passing yards (old record of 3,661 in 2009) for an average of 291.1 per game (281.6 in 2009); 6,373 total yards (6,055 in 2009) and 490.2 (471.1 in 1990); and 508 points (427 in 2009) and 39.1 (36.7 in 1993).

    • Texas A&M returns 51 letterwinners from last year’s 7-6 squad that won the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. It is the second-most returning lettermen in school history. A&M also returns eight offensive starters and six defensive starters in 2012.

    VANDERBILT COMMODORES

    • With interest high following an appearance in the 2011 AutoZone Liberty Bowl, the largest crowd in nearly two decades watched Team Black notch an impressive 33-0 victory over Team Gold in the Black & Gold Spring Game. Head Coach James Franklin directed the intrasquad game before an estimated audience of 8,500 fans in Vanderbilt Stadium. The second-year head coach reintroduced the spring game to the Vanderbilt campus in 2011. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers threw for two touchdowns and wide receiver Jordan Matthews hauled in two touchdowns for Team Black. Versatile Josh Grady also threw for a touchdown and ran for another.

    • Jordan Rodgers (Sr., QB,  Chico, Calif.) and Walker May (Jr., DE, Birmingham, Ala.) were elected co-captains for the upcoming 2012 season by teammates during spring drills. The team is expected to add additional co-captains during camp in August.

    • Linebacker Archibald Barnes and cornerback Eddie Foster exited the Black & Gold Spring Game with outstanding performances. Foster, a senior playing for Team Gold, contributed eight tackles, three pass breakups and an interception. Barnes, a senior for Team Black, continued an excellent spring with six tackles.

    • Two new coaches added to the staff during the offseason by Franklin roamed the sidelines during spring drills. George Barlow, the former defensive coordinator at New Mexico, will serve as defensive secondary coach/defensive recruiting coordinator. Former Western Michigan coach Josh Gattis joined the Commodores as wide receivers mentor and offensive recruiting coordinator.

    • On offense, the Commodores return nine starters from the 2011 squad, including their leading passer (Jordan Rodgers, 1,524 yards, 9 TDs), top rusher (Zac Stacy, 1,193 yards, 14 TDs), and leading receiver (Jordan Matthews, 41 catches, 778 yards).

    • On defense, Vanderbilt coaches used spring drills to replace four multi-starters lost to graduation after the 2011 season: All-SEC linebacker Chris Marve, All-America DB Casey Hayward, safety Sean Richardson and defensive end Tim Fugger. Junior Chase Garnham is expected to fill Marve's vacancy, while junior Andre Hal is competing to replace Hayward. Juniors Jovan Marshall and Walker May are likely to replace Richardson and Fugger, respectively.

    • The Commodores introduced a "rover" position on defense during spring drills. Junior Karl Butler was one of Vanderbilt's defensive standouts during the spring working exclusively in the hybrid linebacker-safety role.

    • Jordan Rodgers, a six-game starter at quarterback in 2011, finished spring drills in strong fashion and heads into summer off-season conditioning as the team's likely starter as a senior. Rodgers competed with former 2009 Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year Austyn Carta-Samuels during the spring. He also was voted offensive co-captain by teammates at the end of spring practice. A true freshman quarterback from Maryville, Tenn., Patton Robinette, also showed plenty of talent during spring drills.

    • Among the most impressive offensive players during spring practice for the Commodores were redshirt freshmen Josh Grady and Kris Kentera, both recruited out of high school as possible quarterbacks. Grady, from Tampa, Fla., impressed as a wide receiver and wildcat quarterback during the Black & Gold Spring Game. Kentera, from Colorado Springs, Colo., made athleticism and excellent hands while making a strong case for playing time this fall at H-back.

    • For the second straight spring, the Commodores were limited with potential offensive linemen. During the spring game, only eight linemen participated. The limited numbers allowed three young prospects to showcase their talents to the staff: sophomore center/guard Spencer Pulley and Joe Townsend, and redshirt freshman guard Jake Bernstein.

    • Vanderbilt's top three specialists, all back in uniform after starting in 2011, showed improvement during spring drills. Senior Ryan Fowler and junior Carey Spear displayed greater accuracy and leg strength while competing for the primary placekicking duties. Punter Richard Kent, a former walk-on, continued his development and appears ready to put together his finest season as a senior in 2012.