Sallee: Spring Lessons Learned - SEC East
Georgia QB Aaron Murray
Georgia QB Aaron Murray
Posted Apr 24, 2011

Spring practice has wrapped up in the SEC East. Who emerged? What questions remain? CFN SEC columnist Barrett Sallee takes a look at what was learned about the SEC East this spring.

Reach me via e-mail at or on Twitter @BarrettSallee

Spring practice annually gives fans a peek into what their team might look like during the upcoming season. Who's going to start? Who will emerge as a star? Last week, we took a look back at the what was learned in the SEC West. Now that Kentucky's spring practice in the books, it's time to take a look back at what we learned about the SEC East.

Florida has some serious issues on offense
Former offensive coordinator Steve Addazio isn't in Gainesville to be the scapegoat this year, after having been replaced by Charlie Weis on first-year head coach Will Muschamp's coaching staff. If quarterback John Brantley's performance is in the Orange and Blue Debut is an indicator of things to come, his name might become synonymous with Addazio's in Gator infamy before all is said and done. We've seen many programs go from the pro set to the spread, but rarely have we seen a program switch from the spread back to the pro set. For Florida to successfully accomplish that, the Gators need a quarterback that can take care of the football and a running back that can run between the tackles. I didn't see either this spring (but practices were closed, so you never know).

Despite a bad year in 2010, the East is there for the taking for Georgia
Considering the quarterback issues at South Carolina, the offensive ineptitude that Florida showed in its spring game, and the way Georgia's schedule shapes up, the SEC East is there for Georgia's taking. If the Bulldogs beat South Carolina the second week of the season, they absolutely have to get to Atlanta. They don't play Arkansas, LSU and Alabama this season - the three primary contenders in the SEC West. Plus they get Auburn and Mississippi State, the next two in line on the other side of the division, at home. Sure, the Florida game in Jacksonville is always a tough matchup for the Bulldogs, but even if they lose that game, it's hard to find two more losses on the schedule, provided that they get past the Gamecocks. September 10 vs. South Carolina will be the biggest game in Mark Richt's Georgia coaching career, because it will dictate how the rest of the season - and Richt's coaching future - will pan out. Win it, and Georgia is in the drivers seat for the East title. Lose it, and Richt will be looking for new employment in 2012.

Kentucky will be relying on defense
Losing Randall Cobb, Derrick Locke and Mike Hartline is certainly concerning for second-year head coach Joker Phillips. Sure, junior quarterback Morgan Newton looked great in the spring game vs. the second team defense, but it's the first team defense that will decide whether the Wildcats get back to a bowl game for the sixth straight season. If the spring game is any indication, the first team defense will be just fine. Under first-year co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter's aggressive scheme, the Kentucky first teamers allowed just 94 total yards and minus-five yards rushing to the second-string offense. The two defenses in the spring game combined for 10 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and three turnovers. Not a bad sign for the Wildcats.

Stephen Garcia may be a headache, but he's all the Gamecocks have at the moment
Yes, South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia is a constant headache for head coach Steve Spurrier, quarterback coach G.A. Mangus, and pretty much anybody else that's a fan of the Gamecocks. But he is the best option at quarterback on the roster, which is why he hasn't been officially removed from it yet. If Garcia's suspension is lifted, South Carolina will be the favorite to win the SEC East for the second consecutive season. Connor Shaw is a viable backup, but if is thrust into the role of starting quarterback, the division will be even more wide open than it was last season.

Will the real Tyler Bray please stand up?
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray turned heads late last year, leading the Vols to four straight wins to close out the regular season. Not coincidentally, that's precisely when Tennessee's schedule eased up. So what do we really know about Bray? Is he the guy that led Tennessee on a winning streak to become bowl eligible, or the guy that threw for under the Mendoza Line (5-for-30) in the spring game? He's probably somewhere in between. One thing is for sure, with Da'Rick Rogers, Justin Hunter and Tauren Poole on his side of the ball, he has some weapons to rely on should things not click like they did last season. The Vols are probably a year away from serious contention, but if Bray can continue his progression and Tennessee can catch a break or two, I wouldn't count them out in the SEC East.

Vandy is…well…still Vandy
You'd think that a team that has had three head coaches in a 12 month span would be deep in a hole and showing no signs of getting out. In Vanderbilt's case, you'd be right. New head coach James Franklin was brought in to spice up an offense that has been stagnant for decades. The ‘Dores have been ranked 110th in the nation in total offense in each of the last two seasons, so there's nowhere to go but up. 2009 SEC Freshman of the Year Warren Norman will be back at running back after missing most of last season due to a wrist injury, while junior Zac Stacy and sophomore Wesley Tate both are also coming off of injuries that cut their 2010 campaigns short. All three are capable running backs, and if Franklin can catch lightning in a bottle with just one of them, it will jump start that Commodore offense.

Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for He can be reached at, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee

2010/2011 Off-Season Column Archive:
Spring Lessons Learned – SEC East – April 24, 2011
Spring Lessons Learned – SEC West – April 20, 2011
Five Thoughts On Kentucky's Spring – April 14, 2011
Five Thoughts On Bama's Calloway – April 13, 2011
Stephen Garcia, Winning! – April 6, 2011
Stephen Garcia Suspended Indefintely – April 6, 2011
Five Thoughts On Ole Miss' Spring – April 6, 2011
Five Thoughts On Auburn's Spring – April 4, 2011
Real Sports Much Ado About… – March 31, 2011
Ainge's Addictions, And What It Means For UT – March 29, 2011
Five Thoughts On Tennessee's Spring – March 29, 2011
Tressel-Gate Has Only One Conclusion – March 26, 2011
Five Thoughts on Bama's Spring – March 25, 2011
Five Thoughts on Vandy's Spring – March 24, 2011
Five Thoughts on Florida's Spring – March 23, 2011
Bama Star Arrested – March 20, 2011
Five Thoughts on South Carolina's Spring – March 16, 2011
Five Thoughts on Arkansas' Spring – March 15, 2011
Auburn Players Arrested, Dismissed – March 12, 2011
Five Thoughts on LSU's Spring – March 11, 2011
CFN Analysis – The Too Busy Offseason – March 11, 2011
Five Thoughts on Georgia's Spring – March 9, 2011
CFN Analysis – Should Jim Tressel Have Been Fired – March 8, 2011
Five Thoughts on Mississippi State's Spring – March 6, 2011
Wheels On Newton Saga Keep Spinning – February 28, 2011
Six SEC West Spring Storylines – February 24, 2011
Kiffin and the Tennessee Issue – February 23, 2011
Six SEC East Spring Storylines – February 17, 2011
CFN Analysis – The SEC Schedule – February 10, 2011
Ealey Suspension Leaves Georgia In A Bind – February 9, 2011
SEC Signing Day Review – February 3, 2011
CFN Analysis – Signing Day 2011 – February 2, 2011
Dream Team Won't Save Richt – January 31, 2011
Five Thoughts On Kragthorpe – January 24, 2011
Ridiculously Early SEC West Rankings – January 23, 2011
LSU Hires OC Four Years Too Late – January 20, 2011
Ridiculously Early SEC East Rankings – January 19, 2011
CFN Analysis: Cam Turns Pro – January 14, 2011
BCS National Championship Review – January 11, 2011
CFN Analysis: Cotton Bowl – January 8, 2011
Five Thoughts On Why Auburn Wins – January 7, 2011
Five Thoughts On Dan Quinn – January 5, 2011
Tuesday Question: Should Rich Rod Be Fired – January 4, 2011
Five Thoughts on Charlie Weis – January 4, 2011
CFN Analysis: Charlie Weis as the Florida OC – January 3, 2011
CFN Analysis: Outback Bowl – January 1, 2011
CFN Analysis: Gator Bowl – January 1, 2011
CFN Analysis: Capital One Bowl – January 1, 2011
CFN Analysis: Liberty Bowl – December 31, 2010
CFN Analysis: Music City Bowl – December 30, 2010
End Of The Season Accountability – December 27, 2010
Pryor Can't Be Compared To Newton – December 23, 2010
Ranking The SEC Bowl Games – December 19, 2010
Malzahn Makes The Right Move – December 14, 2010
Five Thoughts on Muschamp – December 12, 2010
CFN Analysis: Florida Hires Muschamp – December 12, 2010
CFN Analysis: Cam's Heisman Landslide – December 11, 2010
Five Thoughts On Urban Meyer – December 9, 2010
Meyer Leaves Legacy, Question Marks – December 8, 2010

Click here for the 2010 regular season archive

Click here for the 2010 Three & Out archive