Spring 2014 - SEC East Analysis
Missouri QB Maty Mauk
Spring 2014 - SEC East Team-By-Team Analysis & Breakdown
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SEC West Analysis
Start: March 19, Spring Game: April 12
There really was an excuse. At the end of the day, 4-8 is all that matters, and when that's combined with empty seats and an angry fan base, that's a problem. And yes, it doesn't matter how many major injuries a team might have suffered – Florida and the coaching staff really can complain about all the bumps and bruises – when there's a home loss to Georgia Southern on the resume. But for all of the problems and all of the issues, it's not like the team totally died until the final few weeks. It was competitive against Georgia, it had a shot against South Carolina, and if you throw in the clunker against GSU, four of the losses could've easily have been wins. The difference between 4-8 and 8-4 really might have been the injuries.
Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - The downfield passing game. Tyler Murphy is gone to Boston College after trying to quarterback the sinking team over the second half of last year, but Jeff Driskel is back and he'll be ready to go this spring. He has to both cut down on his ill-timed interceptions and take more chances down the field – that's not going to be easy to marry the two. For a team that averaged just 171 passing yards per game and spent too much time dinking and dunking, new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has to open the offense up a bit.
This spring will be a success if … a few dangerous receivers emerge. The defense will be more than fine again – Will Muschamp won't let that side of the ball struggle – and the running game will be tough and powerful. Quinton Dunbar is the veteran, and he finished second on the team in receiving, but he didn't get into the end zone. Someone else has to scare a secondary.
Start: March 18, Spring Game: April 12
It was close to being a phenomenal year, but Georgia fans are used to that. The Bulldogs have been really, really, really, really, really close to doing some truly special things under Mark Richt, and at some point, the breaks should fall their way – they're way overdue for a national title shot. But this spring there's work to do before even thinking about getting to Dallas. The defense is experienced, but it has to be better. The offense is talented, but it needs some help in a few key spots. The East is winnable, and Georgia is a reload program. This spring has to show something to make the Bulldogs the favorite.
Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - turnover margin. The return game that was such a disaster can't be any worse, and there are several other areas to work on that can't be helped by finally having a healthy roster to play around with. Turnover margin is the biggest deal, considering Georgia was 5-0 when it was even in turnovers or on the plus side, and only beat North Texas, Florida and Appalachian State when it was on the wrong side.
This spring will be a success if … Huston Mason looks like he's an SEC champion quarterback, and if he's not, the stage is set for Brice Ramsey. Or Faton Bauta. It's Mason's gig unless his game goes down the tubes, and with Todd Gurley to hand off to and a sneaky-good receiving corps to make life easier. Aaron Murray wasn't quite legendary, but he was awfully good. Mason has to make the transition seamless.
Start: March 28, Spring Game: April 26
The redshirt season is over, and now it's time to be relevant. No one is expecting Mark Stoops to bring an SEC title to Lexington this season, but he has a veteran team to work with and he's coming off a great recruiting season. There's still a long, long way to go considering the two wins last year came against Alabama State and a Miami University team that went winless, but this spring has to be a step forward. How can Stoops do that? The team has to be sharp and there has to be a sense that things are moving forward.
Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - The Wildcats have to sharpen up the short-to-midrange passing game and they need to create more manageable third down chances. Too often the offense was stopped cold early and had to deal with a third-and-long, and that turned out to be a problem for a passing game that was okay at times, but wasn't consistent. UK converted just 31% of its third down chance – that's a deathblow in the SEC.
This spring will be a success if … Playmakers emerge on both sides of the ball. There's plenty of experience and lots of options, but the defensive front has to be far stronger against the run despite the loss of starting tackles Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble, and the offense needs more pop from the receivers. Every wide receiver who did anything last season is back, and now they need to help out QB Jalen Whitlow. With Maxwell Smith out this spring hurt, Whitlow needs to take the job by the horns or the Drew Barker era - the star recruit - could start sooner than expected.
Start: March 11, Spring Game: April 19
Prove it wasn't a fluke. Missouri showed under Gary Pinkel that it has the ability to rise up and play at the highest of levels, but it wasn't consistently great year after year in the Big 12, and now after an epic 2013, the pressure is on to remain a powerhouse. This spring needs to go a long way to making that happen with so many key parts gone on the defensive front and with six starters needing to be replaced on offense. Florida isn't going to be as bad as it was last season, and Georgia almost certainly won't have the same injury problems. Mizzou created its own breaks last season, but it also received plenty of help. This offseason, the Tigers have to keep the offensive machine rolling to be a factor again.
Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - The secondary has to be tighter, and that's going to be tough to do. The run defense might be seen as a problem after the SEC, but the pass defense was torched for 250 yards or more eight times. Not only are three starters gone from the defensive backfield, including corner E.J. Gaines, but the pass rush from the front four might be a problems without Michael Sam and Kony Ealy bringing the heat from the outside.
This spring will be a success if … the passing game becomes even more dangerous. James Franklin was a good, effective player, but Maty Mauk is a dangerous passer with the potential to take an already great attack and make it blow up. Mauk will be fine, but the problem could be with a receiving corps that loses L'Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas, and has to worry about the future of budding superstar Dorial Green-Beckham, who's going through off-the-field problems after being arrested after police found marijuana in a car on a traffic stop.
Start: March 4, Spring Game: April 12
Don't fall for the loss of the big guys. South Carolina is a powerhouse now, and it needs to look like it this spring. It's a common mistake made by preseason prognosticators when teams lose their most visible stars. South Carolina won't have Jadeveon Clowney anymore, and QB Connor Shaw is done, so the team will probably take a step back, right? Maybe not. The recruiting has been so strong and the talent level so deep that the Gamecocks could be even better after a tremendous 11-2 season. The linebacking corps should be fantastic, the secondary solid, and Mike Davis leads a strong offense behind a line that should be among the best in the SEC.
Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - Start to ramp up the defensive pressure even more. The front seven has to get behind the line throughout this spring and show that there's life without the big guys up front. Even with Clowney, Quarles and Chaz Sutton gone, the South Carolina defense came up with a middling 25 sacks – ten of those came in two games against Vanderbilt and Clemson. The secondary was fantastic – coming up with 12 picks in the final five games – but it was lit up by Aaron Murray and Blake Bortles.
This spring will be a success if … Dylan Thompson can show something special. Shaw was efficient, effective, and he was a pure baller when he had to be, but Thompson has seen his share of time under center and he should be ready to handle the offense without much of a problem. Now he has to be magical. He's not going to run, so he has to be sharp this offseason and prove he can do what's needed to make the offense roll.
Start: March 7, Spring Game: April 12
The energy is there, the future is bright, and there's potential to do something fantastic soon. Butch Jones is about to get hot . Tennessee has been a sleeping giant just waiting to wake up, and there were signs last season that things were about to come around soon, but there's still a long way to go. Even so, the talent level has been ramped up in a big way, and while it might take another year or two before the Vols become SEC championship-good - which would make them nationa title-good - there should be a new excitement this spring now that Jones is starting to make the program the way he wants it.
Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - Push the issue with the passing game. The coaching staff needs to know now who can shine to do more for a passing attack that struggled so much thoughout last year averaging just 165 yards per game through the air and getting next to nothing going down the field. There are plenty of quarterback options, and one has to emerge with both Riley Ferguson and Joshua Dobbs in the fight, but the receiving corps has to be more dangerous. The Tennessee offense has to start scaring someone.
This spring will be a success if … everyone realizes that it's still a process. The Vols are improving, but they're also really, really young. Remember, the great 2014 recruiting class is going to need at least a year, maybe three, before it makes a big impact, but that doesn't mean there won't be some key players emerging from spring ball. There's still a LOT of work to do on both sides of the ball. This could be a far better team, and it might not have too much more to show for it - another stepping-stone campaign wouldn't be that bad.
Start: March 11, Spring Game: April 12
Make this Derek Mason's program and not James Franklin's program managed by Derek Mason. Franklin might have been a force of will, and he was certainly a fantastic head coach for Vanderbilt, but he's a Penn State Nittany Lion now, and Mason can't worry about doing things the old way. Vanderbilt is still a tough program to make into a steady SEC star, but it's going to take Franklin's energy to go along with whatever Mason wants to do to make the program stronger. With so much work to do on defense, there won't be a lot of getting-to-know-you time.
Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - The Commodore offense has to do a far better job of keeping the chains moving. Even with a good quarterback in Austyn Carta-Samuels and an elite receiver in Jordan Matthews, the offense still stalled way too often. While pushing the ball down the field is a must to take a huge step forward, for now, this spring, Mason needs his offense to show it can potentially go on long drives. the O line might be in place to do that.
This spring will be a success if … the team forms a better offensive identity. The offense was able to capitalize in key situations and did what it needed to do against bad teams, but now it's up to Patton Robinette to shine and make the attack grow as the new starting quarterback. He's a veteran who saw some key snaps last year, and considering the defense has to replace seven starters and might be leaky early on, Robinette has to be great in a hurry.
SEC West Analysis