HYAMS: Hudson's bubble burst on draft day

Alabama's Ray Hudson had good reason to believe he was one of the top 20 running backs in the nation and certain to be selected in the NFL draft. But 25 backs were taken and he wasn't one of them. He later found out way: He failed the pre-draft physical in Indianapolis and, according to NFL rules, was not eligible to be selected or signed.

``We didn't know,'' said Hudson, who rushed for 638 yards on 92 carries in six games before suffering a small fracture of the leg bone at the knee joint. ``We didn't find out until after the draft.

 

``I know I'm a good player and I know I can play at this level and I'm not worried about it. I'm going to get into a camp. It's just going to be later than I thought.''

 

Hudson was one of the best SEC players not taken in the draft.

 

Tennessee's Michael Munoz, who suffered knee and shoulder injuries in college, wasn't picked and decided to quit the game.

 

LSU center Ben Wilkerson, a first-team All-SEC pick, suffered a knee injury on the last play of the Vanderbilt game went undrafted. Georgia linebacker Odell Thurman called Wilkerson ``one of the best I've ever played against.''

 

Some of the other top SEC players not drafted: Auburn safety Junior Rosegreen, Kentucky quarterback Shane Boyd, Tennessee center Jason Respert and receiver Tony Brown, Florida receiver O.J. Small and offensive tackles Mo Mitchell and Jonathan Colon, Arkansas defensive tackle Arrion Dixon, LSU athlete Marcus Randall, Ole Miss receiver Bill Flowers and guard Doug Buckles,

 

 

The nine SEC underclassmen who turned pro early had mixed draft results. Three were selected in the first round, one in the sixth round and two went unpicked.

 

South Carolina's Troy Williamson, Georgia safety Thomas Davis and Ole Miss center Chris Spencer were first-round picks.

 

Georgia linebacker Odell Thurman went in the second round. Florida's Channing Crowder was a third-round selection while Gator running back Ciatrick Fason went in the fourth round.

 

Vanderbilt had three underclassmen who turned pro early and two weren't drafted – defensive back Dominique Morris and fullback Matthew Tant. Defensive end Jovan Haye was a sixth-round pick.

 

 

The SEC will have seven first-round NFL draft picks next year, according to an early projection by FOXSports.com.

 

The first player to be chosen: Georgia tight end Leonard Pope. How many people had ever heard of Pope before last season? How many had heard of him until today?

 

Pope is projected to be the 12th player taken in Round One. The next pick, 16th overall, will be Auburn offensive lineman Marcus McNeill, followed by Georgia tackle Max Jean-Gilles (17th), Tennessee cornerback Jason Allen (21st), LSU defensive tackle Kyle Williams (22nd), Tennessee defensive tackle Jesse Mahelona (27th) and LSU offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (29th).

 

  

Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges has a tough act to follow – his own.

 

In his first year at Auburn, Borges helped the Tigers go 13-0, win the SEC and mold quarterback Jason Campbell, a probably free agent, into a first-round draft pick. He also coached two of the top five picks in the draft: running backs Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams.

 

Yet, Borges, 49, didn't get an offer for a head-coaching job. He didn't even get an interview or a call.

 

``That was a little frustrating,'' Borges told the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

 

Yet, he's come a long way. He didn't play college football. He pumped gas and drove a water truck before becoming a tire builder. He got his college degree eight years removed from high school. He then became an assistant at his high school alma mater.

 

He has twice been a finalist for national coach of the year while directing UCLA's offense. His first season at Auburn was spectacular. His second? A tough act to follow.

 

``The good news about Auburn is you can replace good players with more good players,'' Borges said. ``Here, you get enough guys where you have a chance.''

 

Auburn's quarterback will be Brandon Cox, an accurate passer with a good pocket presence. The new running back: Tre Smith, Kenny Irons (a South Carolina transfer), Brad Lester (who redshirted last year) or Carl Stewart.

 

 

Mississippi State's basketball program could lose nine scholarship players off last year's NCAA Tournament team.

 

Five senior starters are gone: Lawrence Roberts, Marcus Campbell, Winsome Frazier, Shane Power and Ontario Harper, although Harper might appeal for a sixth year of eligibility. Starting point guard Gary Ervin and three freshmen forwards – Charles Rhodes, Jerrell Houston and Walter Sharpe -- have indicted a desire to transfer.

 

A 10th player, signee Monta Ellis, is considering a jump directly to the NBA. If Ellis departs, State could end up with 10 on scholarship – four returners and six signees.

 

Ervin has received permission to speak with other schools and took an official recruiting visit to SEC West rival Arkansas. But State coach Rick Stansbury told ESPN.com he would not release Ervin to another SEC school. If Ervin goes to Arkansas anyway, he could not be put on scholarship for two years and would have one year of eligibility remaining. With a release, Ervin could be put on scholarship immediately, sit out one season, then play the second season.

 

Last month, Rhodes said he was transferring but Stansbury said he expects Rhodes to return. Houston said he is going to a junior college in Missouri. Sharpe said he more than likely will transfer.

 

  

SEC schools averaged over 22,000 for 12 spring games.

 

That number is 26,500 is you subtract from the equation Kentucky and Vanderbilt, which drew about 1,000 fans.

 

Florida had a school-record 58,500 at its spring game to see the debut of Urban Meyer. South Carolina attracted 38,806 for Steve Spurrier's first Garnett and Gold game. Auburn attracted 38,600. Tennessee had 24,000.

 

That's just another indication of the passion for SEC football in the South.

 

 

Entering the 2004-05 year, Kentucky had won 17 non-men's basketball SEC championships in history.

 

This season, Kentucky has won three SEC titles: Men's basketball, women's tennis and men's golf.

 

For years, Kentucky didn't spend money on any sports but men's basketball and football. Thus, there was no pressure to win in non-revenue producing sports. That's changed under athletic director Mitch Barnhart, whose goal is to provide enough resources for all sports to compete. He has increased the budget for non-revenue sports by 26 percent over the past three years.

 

``It's the right thing to do,'' Kentucky president Lee Todd said of increased funding for all Olympic sports. ``When we send someone out there with Kentucky across their chest, I want them to have a chance to win. I think that's important for the kids.''

 

Barnhart has already replaced six head coaches. But his three highest-profile hires – football coach Rich Brooks, women's basketball coach Mickie DeMoss and baseball coach John Cohen – are a combined 19-72 against the SEC in their two seasons.

 

 

A 40-year-old former Georgia art student who once spent a year painting images of gorillas in Rwanda has come up with a unique tribute to former Georgia coach and athletic director Vince Dooley.

 

Stan Mullins has erected a 14-foot high, 8-foot wide statue of Dooley made of clay. It rests on a black-painted plywood pedestal atop cinder blocks in Mullins' 7,000-square foot, 60-foot high studio just outside of downtown Athens.

 

The statue shows Dooley being lifted onto the shoulders of former players during the 1980 national championship season.

 

``It's a moving tribute but a little embarrassing,'' Dooley said. ``I went out and saw this thing and I was completely taken aback. I mean, I never want to discourage somebody because Stan is extremely persistent and has a great affection for art and for being a Bulldog. At the same time, I can't get too excited from an embarrassment standpoint.''

 

Dooley won one national championship and six SEC crowns as football coach and 20 national titles as athletic director at Georgia.

 

 

Alabama signee Richard Hendrix delivered good news to coach Mark Gottfried.

 

Despite popular contentions to the contrary, Hendrix, a 6-9 Parade All-American, has decided to enroll at Alabama.

 

``His intent was always to go to Alabama,'' said Venard Hendrix, Richard's father. ``He was just checking out his options (regarding the NBA). The decision to go to Alabama never changed.''

 

Hendrix probably would have skipped school had he projected to be taken among the first 15 NBA picks. Stu Jackson, head of the NBA's undergraduate advisory committee, told Gottfried that Hendrix projects to be a middle-to-late second-round pick.

 

With Alabama junior forward Kennedy Winston opting to bypass his senior season and turn pro, Hendrix could jump into the Alabama starting lineup as a freshman along side veterans Chuck Davis and Jermareo Davidson.

 

 

EXTRA POINTS: Tennessee quarterback Rick Clausen is OK after a 10-foot fall from a walkway onto some grass during a social gathering in Knoxville. … Florida has received a basketball commitment from a sophomore guard, 6-5 Nick Calathes of Lake Howell, Fla. Miami, Wake Forest and Florida State also offered.  Kentucky will report a ``minor violation'' for having 16 athletes at the Wildcat Lodge, best known as the home of the school's basketball players, and 12 non-athletes. NCAA rules say you must have one more non-athlete than athlete in a dorm. … For the third time, Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler has been named a team captain. … Florida student Tyler Boehling received an autographed football from coach Urban Meyer and two tickets with hotel accommodations to the 2005 Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville for his winning entry to call the Florida student section ``The Swamp Things.'' … Former Alabama assistant Ronnie Cottrell, who filed a $60 million lawsuit against the NCAA and others because he hasn't been able to find a college job in four years over allegations of NCAA recruiting violations, was hired as head coach at Carroll High School in Ozark, Ala.

 

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Jimmy Hyams is a featured columnist in Tiger Rag and the program director for WNOX in Knoxville, Tenn. Hyams, one of the most respected sports personalities in the SEC, can be reached by e-mail at jimmy.hyams@citcomm.com.


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