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SEC Spring College Football Practice Update

College football players started reporting for spring practices over the past few weeks, meaning it’s time to take a look at the programs and see what we can expect in the fall. Let’s start by taking a look at the teams in the SEC and then be sure to take a look at our 2010 NCAA football preview. See something you like or dislike in the SEC spring update? Be sure to discuss it on one of the many great SEC forums listed in our NCAA message board directory.

 

Alabama

  • The defending National Champions get pretty cool perks sometimes, like having the Spring Game broadcast live nationally on ESPN. Alabama received headline coverage and over 91,312 people showed up at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the most anywhere this year.

  • Alabama is still clearly loaded on offense after winning the National Title last year. Aside from the usual suspects at receiver, Brandon Gibson stepped up in a major manner (8 catches, 142 yards and a Touchdown) and should see the field next to Julio Jones a lot this fall.

  • Despite the strong receiver play, don’t expect the Tide to forget their roots. Not only were Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram the focus of the offense but the pair combined for 7 catches and 94 receiving yards in the Spring Game as well! Alabama is going to be really tough to stop on offense in 2010.

  • Defensively, the biggest news was that safety Robby Green was suspended for the entire 2010 season by the NCAA for an unspecified violation. This is a big blow because Green was widely expected to start this season, leaving Alabama with a big hole in the spot filled by Justin Woodall in 2009.

Arkansas

  • Quarterback is expected to be a strength for the Hogs in the fall but they ran into some injury issues late in the Spring. Starter Ryan Mallett missed the Spring with a broken foot and backup Jacoby Walker’s impressive Spring Game showing was marred by a potentially severe knee injury, the extent of which won’t be known until mid-May.

  • Former cornerback Rudell Crim was moved to safety and is expected to add some badly-needed speed to the Arkansas secondary, which allowed a 60 yard touchdown in 8 consecutive games last season. Expect Crim to help solidify an improved pass defense.

  • Another benefit to the secondary will be the return of cornerback Isaac Madison, who missed the 2009 season with a torn ACL. Expect Madison to jump into the starting lineup alongside Crim.

  • Junior DE Jake Bequette has been one of the stars of Spring and is being looked at as potential captain material in 2010. Expect Bequette to lead a group of improved defensive ends that should be a foundation for a defensive renewal in Fayetteville.

Auburn

  • The biggest saga of Auburn’s Spring was at quarterback, where a four way battle raged for the three weeks of practice. In the end, there was no formal resolution at the position (though JUCO transfer Cameron Newton is believed to be the first choice) and Head Coach Gene Chizik won’t name a starter until the fall.

  • There also appear to be plenty of playmakers on offense, headlined by receiver Quindarius Carr, who was named the Spring Game’s Offensive MVP after snagging four catches for 152 yards and a touchdown.

  • Defensively, Antoine Carter had a strong Spring at defensive end and should be a force this fall on an improved Auburn defense. Carter was named the Spring Game Defensive MVP.

 

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Florida

  • Despite his well-publicized health-related consternation, Urban Meyer was there from day one of Spring Practice and he couldn’t have been happier with what he saw. Meyer graded his team’s spring effort as a collective ‘A’ and was effusive with his praise to the media.

  • One reason for Meyer’s optimism was the play of junior quarterback John Brantley, who completed 15 out of 19 passes in the Orange & Blue Game for 201 yards and 2 touchdowns. Brantley is much more of a drop back passer than Tim Tebow but he appears to have all of the tools to immediately step in as one of the best quarterbacks in the conference.

  • Redshirt freshman receiver Andre DuBose was much-ballyhooed last fall for his similarities to former Gator Percy Harvin but a hamstring injury cost him the 2009 season. After months of rehab, DuBose appears to be returning to form as an elite playmaker and could be the biggest new impact player in Gainesville in 2010 at both receiver and kick returner.

 

Georgia

  • The Bulldogs began the Spring with three options at quarterback but could enter fall camp with only one scholarship quarterback. Freshman Zach Mettenberger was thrown off of the team after running into legal troubles and junior Logan Gray is reportedly seriously mulling a transfer, leaving unproven frosh Aaron Murray as the only Georgia QB remaining from the Spring race.

  • New defensive coordinator Todd Grantham installed a 3-4 scheme this Spring, which has resulted in a lot of position changes along the D-Line. With significant graduation losses up front, the Bulldogs will be learning on the fly this fall as the new defense still hasn’t been fully implemented after 15 practices this April.

  • Speaking of position changes, former DE and current linebacker Justin Houston was singled out by both head coach Mark Richt and Grantham as a player who excelled in his new role. Expect Houston to become an impact player for the Dawgs in 2010.

 

Kentucky

  • Sophomore tailback Donald Russell was the star of the Spring Game, rushing for 118 yards and 2 TDs on only 9 carries. With a breakout spring performance, he could form an excellent tailback tandem with returning starter Derrick Locke.

  • Senior QB Mike Hartline appears to be the frontrunner to start under center this fall after showing the best grasp of the offense during the Spring. Sophomore Morgan Newton is a much more athletic player but Hartline’s veteran savvy might be enough for him to earn the starting nod in the fall.

  • This Spring also marks the first under new head coach Joker Phillips, who was named as Rich Brooks’ successor three years ago. Phillips made headlines as only the 2 nd black head coach in SEC history but he has repeatedly stated his preference to make headlines by continuing Kentucky’s winning ways after four consecutive bowl seasons in Lexington.



LSU

  • The biggest news coming out of LSU’s L Day was the performance of Russell Shepard, who played a major role in the offense both rushing and receiving. The former top ranked High School quarterback is expected to conjure up thoughts of former Ole Miss Rebel Dexter McCluster in his new role for the Tigers.

  • Right behind the good news about Shepard was the bad news that LSU appears in for another season of the seemingly never-ending quarterback battle between junior Jordan Jefferson and senior Jarrett Lee. Lee pushed Jefferson throughout the Spring but neither player showed much improvement, a serious cause for concern down on the Bayou.

  • Cornerback Morris Claiborne was recognized as one of LSU’s standout defensive performers this Spring and the Tiger coaching staff believes he could give them two elite cornerbacks (along with junior Patrick Peterson) on defense this fall. That could be a big advantage in what should be a pass-happy SEC West.

 

Mississippi

  • While the Rebels spent the Spring preparing for life without quarterback Jevan Snead, they have to wonder what their 2010 fortunes would look like with him under center. Snead went undrafted after entering early and would definitely have benefitted from another year in Oxford.

  • With Snead gone, sophomore Nathan Stanley emerged as the Rebels’ clear-cut starting quarterback and appeared to develop good chemistry with senior receivers Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux.

  • Another major development was the play of junior tailback Enrique Davis, who stepped up in place of departed do-it-all back Dexter McCluster. Expect Davis to be Mississippi’s feature runner this fall.

  • Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix believes that his front seven is as good as any in the entire conference despite losing some serious talent at defensive end. JUCO transfer Wayne Dorsey appears to be the favorite to take over for Greg Hardy and Nix doesn’t expect a drop off.

 

Mississippi State

  • One of the most intriguing battles in the MSU camp was at the quarterback position, where junior Chris Relf appears to have an edge over redshirt frosh Tyler Russell after a decent Spring showing.

  • Both men will benefit from a strong running game and the Bulldogs have to replace superstar tailback Anthony Dixon in 2010. While there will undoubtedly be multiple runners utilized this fall, Vick Ballard and Montrell Connoer appear to be atop the pecking order heading into the fall.

  • MSU drew a state-record 34,127 fans to their spring game. Head Coach Dan Mullen has earned a reputation for prodding the rival Rebels and the final four digits of the Spring Game attendance (41-27) just happened to be the score of the Bulldog’s upset victory over Ole Miss last season. Coincidence? Most certainly not.

 

South Carolina

  • Expect to see sophomore Stephon Gilmore used in all kinds of situations in 2010. After starting at corner as a true freshman last fall, Gilmore is expected to be given the keys to South Carolina’s Wildcat package and function as a kick and punt returner on top of evolving into a top cover corner! Needless to say, he might have the heaviest workload of any player in the country in 2010.

  • Expectations are high in Columbia but the Gamecocks are wary of such talk after failing to live up to their loyal (but often delusional) fanbase’s relentless optimism. While the rest of the SEC East is undergoing some rebuilding, head coach Steve Spurrier has been adamant that his team has to improve. “We’re just barely above average,” he said in regards to a school record 35 wins in the past five years. “We’re mediocre and that’s not good enough for any of us.” Will there be enough improvement to challenge for the division in 2010?

  • Lots of SC’s optimism comes in theory from junior starter Stephen Garcia, who may end up as the only returning QB starter in the division! However, Spurrier has been very vocal in saying that Garcia will have to beat out true freshman Connor Shaw while questioning Garcia’s commitment to excellence. It appears that South Carolina’s chance to take advantage of a down division depend on how badly Garcia wants to live up to the lofty expectations that he brought to Columbia out of high school.

Tennessee

  • The ‘T’ in UT stood for Transfer this Spring as starting lineman Aaron Douglas and assumed starting quarterback Nick Stephens both left the team after practices had begun. Both were expected to be major contributors in the fall and their departures leave the Vols extremely inexperienced at key positions.

  • Stephens’ departure means that the quarterback position will be manned by JUCO transfer Matt Simms or true freshman Tyler Bray, who enrolled early. Bray was slightly more effective in the Spring Game but he is extremely skinny and will have trouble surviving a full season behind a patchwork line.

  • Along with a myriad of new starters on the offensive line, the running game is a major concern as former #1 rated recruit Bryce Brown sat out all Spring while mulling a transfer. That left David Oku and Tauren Poole to carry the weight at tailback. With new coach Derek Dooley planning to rely heavily on the rushing attack in 2010, the O-Line issues and lack of depth at tailback are major concerns.

  • While Tennessee will undoubtedly miss Eric Berry, the play of Darren Myles Jr. was one of the brightest spots of the Spring. Myles picked off a pass in the Spring Game and was singled out by Dooley as a very pleasant surprise. Expect Myles to start next to sophomore Janzen Jackson in the fall.

Vanderbilt

  • Vanderbilt’s offense has been putrid the past few seasons and there was little sign of that changing if you watched their Spring Game. The Commodore offense didn’t score a touchdown until their 13 th possession of the game and were generally awful on offense, much to the dismay of head coach Bobby Johnson.

  • If there has been a bright spot on offense, it has been tailback Kennard Reeves, who was been consistent in his ability to break big plays in practice. Reeves should fill out a strong stable of tailbacks that includes returning contributors Warren Norman and Zac Stacy.

  • Keep an eye on senior DE Theron Kadri, who was consistently praised by both the coaching staff and local media. He could play a big role for Vandy in the fall and appears to have earned a starting role.

 

By Matt Baxendell
CollegeSports-fans.com Staff Writer

 

 


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