Thursday was a good day for several SEC schools.
So grab your coffee and jump right into today’s edition of SEC Sunrise.
Georgia football gets huge boost
After a lackluster first season in Athens, Kirby Smart got an early Christmas present on Thursday.
Not only did running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel announce their return to Georgia for another season, but Smart also landed the returns of linebackers Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter.
While all the attention was certainly on the returns of the running back duo, here’s something to keep in mind:
Focus will be on Chubb/Michel, but Bellamy, Carter coming back gives Georgia 15 of top 16 tacklers returning on SEC's 4th ranked defense.
— Brandon Zimmerman (@BZSEC) December 15, 2016
The Bulldogs look like the early favorite to win the SEC East next season.
New coordinators at Ole Miss
Hugh Freeze has hired new coordinators on both sides of the ball.
Phil Longo will take over the Ole Miss offense after helping Sam Houston State finish No. 1 in total offense in the FCS. On defense, Wesley McGriff will take over after serving as Auburn’s secondary coach.
2017 could be an interesting season for Freeze, especially after the team finished 5-7 this year.
Something tells me that Rebel fans won’t be happy with another losing season.
Auburn racks up 117 points with two starters suspended
Yesterday, we discussed Bruce Pearl suspending starters Bryce Brown and Horace Spencer after they were arrested for marijuana possession.
So, how did the Tigers to respond to having two key players out of the lineup? By scoring 117 points in a 45-point victory over Coastal Carolina.
But that wasn’t all. Auburn hit 21 three-pointers in the game, which tied the SEC record set by Kentucky in 1990 and Arkansas in 1997.
Danjel Purifoy led the way with 27 points, including going 5-of-10 from behind the three-point line. Nine different players hit a three, so the Tigers had zero problems spreading the wealth around in this game.
It was also a good night for freshman Anfernee McLemore, who came off the bench and added nine points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes of action.
This was certainly a nice boost of confidence for Pearl’s team after losing to Boston College on Monday.
— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) December 16, 2016
Tennessee turns up the defense against Lipscomb
Speaking of teams that were unconscious from three last night, Lipscomb went into Knoxville and scored 58 points on 11 three-pointers. No, that wasn’t for the game. That was just in the first half.
However, it was a tale of two halves as Tennessee held Casey Alexander’s squad to just 19 points in the second half en route to a 92-77 victory.
Things were not going well for the Vols. The Bisons led 58-43 at one point in the first half and were seemingly on their way to hitting the century mark on the night.
But the second half was a different story, and it was freshman Grant Williams that helped Tennessee turn things around.
Williams exploded for 30 points on the night, which was the first time a Tennessee freshman hit the 30-point mark since sharpshooter Chris Lofton did it in 2005.
Alabama and Ole Miss also grab wins
SEC hoops had a rare undefeated night, as Alabama and Ole Miss scored victories on Thursday night as well.
The Crimson Tide won 78-61 over USC Upstate in a game that came at the right time after Avery Johnson’s team lost two straight road games at Texas and Oregon.
As for the Rebels, they were able to hang on to beat Murray State 78-73 in Oxford. Deandre Burnett led the way with 24 points.
It wasn’t an ideal scoreline for Ole Miss after leading by 20 with a little over 10 minutes to go in the game, but like many SEC teams right now, the Rebels are struggling with dropping the hammer and closing out games with authority.
That’s simply a part of the growing process for a lot of SEC teams at this point.
Video of the day
The sports world lost a legend on Thursday when longtime NBA sideline reporter Craig Sager passed away after a long battle with leukemia.
Alabama head coach Avery Johnson commented on the impact that Sager made on his life.
— Nic Gulas (@Nic_Gulas) December 16, 2016
Today’s SEC hoops schedule
No games on the SEC slate tonight, but get ready for a huge batch of games on Saturday.
I’ll have a full preview tomorrow morning.
Audio bowl previews coming
In addition to the written SEC bowl previews (find them here), I’m also doing audio previews with writers and analysts.
We’ve already started recording several of those, and you’ll be able to find them on my new Soundcloud page once they’re released.