SEC Spring Football Previews
2007 SEC Spring Analysis
Early Lookaheads -
2008 SEC Insider Spring
Questions & Answers
Begins: March 19 Game: April 12
The early spring buzz ... With a little tweak here and a little
nip/tuck there, the Gators are on the short list for the
national title again. The running game has its back with
USC transfer Emmanuel Moody ready to take the heat off
Tim Tebow, the defensive coaching staff got a fantastic
addition in former Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney as
an assistant, which helps ease the pain of the loss of
Greg Mattison to the Baltimore Ravens, and there's a
slew of excellent freshmen prospects coming in to
provide an even bigger upgrade to the talent level. This
is one of the five best teams in the country again.
The big spring question is ... Has the team matured? Over and
over again last season the youth excuse was used. The
pass defense was the worst in the SEC, but two freshmen
and a sophomore were starting. The run defense was
excellent, but the linebacking corps made plenty of
mistakes, mostly because two sophomores and a redshirt
freshmen were starting and the backups were all
underclassmen. Now this is a mature team on both sides
of the ball with loads of All-SEC and All-America talent
brought together through phenomenal recruiting class
after phenomenal recruiting class. Talent-wise, this is
a faster, better team than the 2006 national champion.
The most important position to watch is ... Running back.
Florida was 23rd in the nation in rushing averaging over
200 yards per game, but that was with Percy Harvin and
Tim Tebow each averaging around 69 yards per game with
RB Kestahn Moore checking in with around 44 yards per
outing. The coaching staff is going to invent new
ways to get the ball in Harvin's hands as much as
possible, but he needs to be used even more as a No. 1
wide receiver. Tebow is always a dangerous rushing
option, but he was beaten up by the end of last year and
shouldn't be running the ball 210 times again. In a
perfect world, he's able to use his accuracy to ramp up
the passing game more, especially with weapons like JUCO
transfer Carl Moore and do-it-all playmaker Chris Rainey
in the mix. All eyes are on Moody, because if he's able
to provide the steady rushing threat that's been missing
for a few years, the Gator offense will be unstoppable.
Spring attitude... National title or bust. Don't get fooled
by all the Georgia hype; the Gators are every bit as
good, if not better. Many will point to the schedule,
facing Miami, at Tennessee, at Arkansas, LSU, Georgia
and at Florida State, as a potential problem, but
Florida will be favored in all of those games, even in
the Cocktail-don't-call-it-a-Cocktail Party. The defense
gets eight starters back with more help on the way, and
the offense returns eight starters including Mr. Heisman,
Harvin, who's going to have a huge year, along with a
few more weapons being welcomed into the mix.
Begins: March 5 Game: April 7
The early spring buzz ... It's Georgia's turn. LSU has come up
with its second title in the last few years, Florida won
the national title last year, and Auburn cranked through
an unbeaten season, but had nothing to show for it in
the end, while Georgia hasn't really been in the
national title hunt late in a season since the Herschel
Walker days. Head coach Mark Richt has cranked out
strong team after strong team, and now he appears to
have his best team yet. Remember, 2007 was supposed to
be a bridge season to this year, and coming off a
red-hot second half, winning seven straight complete
with a blowout of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. Now this is
THE hot team.
The big spring question is ... Is this finally the year
Matthew Stafford becomes the NFL-caliber quarterback
he's supposed to be? The Georgia offense was balanced
and effective throughout last year, but the passing game
was hardly efficient. Knowshon Moreno was the sparkplug
who took the attack to another level, while Stafford was
mostly along for the ride, even though he threw for 200
yards or more in seven games. Overall stats don't tell
the whole story since Stafford was fantastic in the big
games against Florida and Auburn, but he wasn't special.
The O line will be better and more experienced, giving
Stafford more time, and now it's time for the attack to
get more from ...
The most important position to watch is ... Wide receiver. It
was better with Sean Bailey back in the mix, but it
wasn't anything to get too excited about. Now, if
nothing else, there are more weapons to use with star
recruit A.J. Green certain to play a big role in a corps
that gets everyone back but Bailey. Mo Massaquoi isn't
going to be a 75-catch target, but he'll hit a few key
home runs. TE Tripp Chandler is proven and there are
several backups ready to play bigger roles, but overall
there has to be more quality to go along with the
Spring attitude... Don't get caught up in the hype.
Everyone's going to have Georgia in the preseason top
three, if not No. 1, and now the target will be squarely
on its back. For whatever reason, this hasn't been a
program that deals with high expectations all that well,
almost always doing its best work under Richt when no
one is looking for much. The schedule is a killer with
road trips to South Carolina, Arizona State, LSU and
Auburn, along with the Florida game, so step one has to
be to live the one-game-at-a-time cliché, and then hope
things work out.
Begins: March 28 Game: April 21
The early spring buzz ... How much will Joker be coaching the
team and how much will he be handling the offense? The
succession is in place with Joker Phillips to take over
whenever Rich Brooks calls it quits, possibly after this
season, so part of the overall plan has to make sure the
transition of power will go smoothly. Even with the
coaching situation in place, the recruiting season was a
relative disaster compared to the rest of the SEC, so
the team might have to keep overachieving considering it
hasn't exactly capitalized on the recent success.
The big spring question is ... How's the team possibly going
to be better after so many major personnel losses? The
answer might be simple: it probably won't be. You don't
get better by losing QB Andre Woodson, RB Rafael Little,
TE Jacob Tamme, WR Keenan Burton, two key offensive
linemen, and heart-and-soul LB Wesley Woodyard. The D
gets eight starters back, and for the first time in a
while, it'll likely have to carry the team until the
offense gets everything in place.
The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback.
Curtis Pulley was a star recruit a few years ago and was
battling, at least according to the coaching staff at
the time, for the starting job before Woodson became
Woodson. Now he's likely the favorite, but ever so
slightly, ahead of 6-6 Mike Hartline. If nothing else,
there will be more mobility and more of a rushing threat
for the quarterback than there was with Woodson.
Spring attitude... No slipping. After winning eight games
last year and with so much recent success under Brooks,
anything less than another bowl campaign will be
unacceptable. No, this isn't an SEC East contender with
so many holes to fill, and with Florida and Georgia
coming back loaded, but the defense should be better and
the offense should still be able to crank out yards and
points in bunches against the average teams.
Begins: March 20 Game: April 14
The early spring buzz ... This needs to be the year. No,
Steve Spurrier isn't on any sort of a hot seat, but this
is year four of the experiment with little to show for
it with a five-game losing streak ruining 2007. The
recruiting classes have to start kicking in and this
can't just be an also-ran team that sneaks its way into
wins here and there; consistency is a must. Injuries
were a problem, but everyone in the SEC gets beaten up
as the season goes on. Now there's depth, now there are
good starters, and now there's no excuse for Spurrier
not to have a big year with his strongest team since
The big spring question is ... Will there be any defense? Last
year's defense was supposed to be able to get into the
backfield on a regular basis, and was supposed to get to
the quarterback early and often, and didn't. The loss of
superstar LB Jasper Brinkley to a knee injury killed the
run defense, while there weren't nearly enough takeaways
to change the momentum in key games. After the D's
complete collapse in November, all eyes will be on a
group that gets Brinkley back in the middle along with
the entire secondary and three veterans on the line. The
run D won't be the worst in the SEC again, while the
pass defense should be nasty.
The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback.
Spurrier has never been afraid to rotate his
quarterbacks and keep everyone on edge, but that hasn't
worked well so far. Last year is was Chris Smelly, and
then it was Blake Mitchell, and then it was Smelley, and
then it was Mitchell, with plenty of yards put up, but
little in the way of efficiency. Smelley came to USC as
a top recruit with the talent to be a superstar under
Spurrier, but the light hasn't gone on quite yet.
Stephen Garcia has all the tools and could be the
sleeper this spring to win the No. 1 job, while Tommy
Beecher, the third man in the mix throughout last year,
will likely fill the same role.
Spring attitude... It's time. This is Spurrier's program from
top to bottom now with all his guys where he wants them.
With so much returning experience and so many options to
battle for starting spots, the team should be as good
enough to beat anyone in the SEC on the right day. With
a joke of a road schedule until late November
(Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Kentucky) to go along with
layups against Wofford and UAB, there's no reason not to
expect a good year. The schedule, overall, is too tough
to win the East, but that doesn't mean USC can't make
Begins: Feb. 22 Game: March 23
The early spring buzz ... The program needs something, anything
to take the attention off a rough off-season with player
after player getting in trouble. P Britton Colquitt was
booted off the team for getting arrested on drunk
driving charges and leaving the scene of the accident,
LB Dorian Davis and SS Antonio Wardlow got the dreaded
"violation of team rules" tag, and six other Vols
getting in trouble for one reason or another, this
hasn't been a good few months since the Outback Bowl win
over Wisconsin. If that wasn't enough ...
The big spring question is ... With David Cutcliffe off to
Duke, is Dave Clawson good enough to keep the offense
rolling? Cutcliffe is a magician with quarterbacks, and
now Clawson, the former Richmond head man, has to keep
the momentum going with Jonathan Crompton. The
now-junior has experience, but Nick Stephens and B.J.
Coleman will each get long looks. The entire offensive
coaching staff, outside of OL coach Greg Adkins, is
gone, so the O, which was just above-average last year,
has to get better with a ton of new faces.
The most important position to watch is ... Defensive end.
The Vols were awful at getting into the backfield, with
the Wisconsin game an aberration. Now the line has to
replace three starters including both ends. The tackles
should be fine against the run with Demonte Bolden and
Dan Williams good pluggers, but unless a pass rusher
emerges from the outside, the secondary will have
another rough year.
Spring attitude... This is the defending SEC East champions.
Everyone was waiting for the collapse so Georgia could
step into the SEC title game, but it never happened.
Tennessee flashed an attitude that got it through the
last five games, even if it was the light portion of the
schedule, and it needs to keep the momentum going. With
all the off-field problems and with Georgia, Florida,
and even South Carolina looking strong, the expectations
from the media won't be there, but that doesn't mean the
Vols can shoot for anything less than another ten-win
Begins: March 13 Game: March 31
The early spring buzz ... The window might be closed. After
being so close with two five-win seasons in the last
three, the opportunity, at least for the short term, to
get to a bowl game might be gone. There are massive
replacements needed on both sides of the ball, and the
SEC isn't getting any easier. This spring will be all
about the young players looking to make quick names for
The big spring question is ... Can the offense improve enough to
make up for the almost certain drop-off from the
defense? The D loses five players on the front seven,
including linebackers Jonathan Goff and Marcus Buggs,
and even if it's 16th in the nation again, the team
won't go anywhere unless the O can score some points.
Mackenzi Adams and Chris Nickson are veteran
quarterbacks, Jeff Jennings is a decent back, and George
Smith and Justin Wheeler are promising receivers who can
pick up the slack in place of Earl Bennett, who jetted
early for the NFL, but they're all going to struggle
because of the ...
The most important position to watch is ... Offensive
linemen. The Commodore front five was solid in the
running game and strong in pass protection, and now all
the starters need to be replaced including OT Chris
Williams. Five juniors will likely take over with an eye
on improving over the next year to be a jelled unit
going into 2009, but the 2008 team needs everyone to
grow up right away.
Spring attitude... "Nobody respects us." Vandy is used to
being the preseason No. 6 pick in the East, and it'll be
there again without hesitation from all the preseason
prognosticators. There's no pressure on the program with
2009 when the experience will kick in, especially on the
lines, but that doesn't mean this can't be the SEC's
spoiler. With four winnable games against Miami
University, Ole Miss, Duke and Rice, to go along with
games against Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Wake
Forest, a bowl game isn't completely out of the realm of
possibility with a few huge breaks.
Begins: March 13 Game: April 12
The early spring buzz ... In case you've been living under a rock,
or have been leading a more interesting life abroad, you
can't be a college football fan and not be bombarded by
the excitement coming from Tuscaloosa after Nick Saban
loading up with the type of recruiting class you win
national titles with. It's still going to take a year or
two for the haul to fully kick in, but the talent level
has been upgraded in a big way to at least add some
strong young prospects to work in behind all the
veterans. With the bulk of the new talent arriving after
spring ball, look for this to be a spirited early
session with everyone needing to prove themselves or
risk being shoved aside a few months later.
The big spring question is ... What the heck happened to the
offense at the end of the year? It kicked back in
against Colorado in the Independence Bowl win, but it
struggled way too much over the final three games of the
regular season scoring a total of 36 points against
Mississippi State, UL Monroe, and Auburn. The running
game was stagnant and the passing attack inefficient
while turnovers became a killer. Out goes Major
Applewhite to Texas, and in comes new offensive
coordinator Jim McElwain from Fresno State, where he did
a mediocre job of developing talented quarterback
prospect Tom Brandstater and struggled to get the
offense up to WAC standards. Can he light a fire under
the Tide offense and start generate points? The jury's
out, and there's no excuse for the O to not be
appreciably better with the possible exception of ...
The most important position to watch is ... Wide receiver.
D.J. Hall might have been the nation's most
underappreciated receiver over the last few seasons, and
Matt Caddell was a decent target who was good for around
55 yards a game. Mike McCoy is a decent player, but he's
not a true No. 1. Nikita is a physical receiver who'll
step in for Hall early on, but he'll have to battle with
true freshman Chris Jackson, who'll be around for spring
ball. Everyone's just keeping the seat warm for Julio
Jones, arguably the nation's top wide receiver recruit
who'll come in later this summer. Jones isn't just a
potential No. 1 target, he's an All-American-in-waiting.
Spring attitude... Curb the enthusiasm for one more year, but
don't set the expectations too low. This isn't a
national title team yet, but with a relative down year
ahead for the SEC West, with LSU undergoing some big
personnel changes and Auburn switching up offenses, so
getting to the title game isn't out of the question.
Shoot for being 2006 Arkansas, not 2007 LSU.
Spring Practice Begins: April 3 Game: April
The early spring buzz ... The NCAA holds the team's fate in its
hands with the decision on whether or not Ryan Mallett,
the big bomber from Michigan who's applying to be
eligible right away after transferring. Casey Dick is in
place, but if Mallett, one of 2007's top recruits, is
available, the Bobby Petrino offense has its triggerman.
For all the self-righteous anger from NFL types about
Petrino bailing on the Atlanta Falcon sinking ship, it
was the right move for a coach who belongs at the
college level. He might just be the one who takes the
program over a hump that Houston Nutt couldn't.
The big spring question is ... What's going to change right
away on the offense? Without Darren McFadden and Felix
Jones, the running game isn't obviously going to be as
potent, but don't forget that Petrino's Louisville
teams, known for their high-octane offenses, weren't
just about throwing it; they always got mega-production
from the running backs like Michael Bush. Even if it's
Dick at quarterback, there's going to be more passing.
It's not going to be pretty early on, the receivers
simply aren't there, so it'll be about improving each
week and figuring out who can hit the ground running in
The most important position to watch is ... Wide receiver.
The secondary is going to be a huge, huge concern
throughout the offseason, the backfield situation might
be a mess if Mallett isn't eligible, and the offensive
line has to replace some key players, but the biggest
weakness early on could be at wide receiver after losing
Robert Johnson and Marcus Monk, who was never right last
year. Tight end Ben Cleveland needs to be back after
missing last year with a neck problem, and promising
inside target Crosby Tuck has to be a factor after
suffering an injured elbow. Lucas Miller is a big
receiver with big upside, and Reggie Fish is a lightning
quick prospect who'll get a long look on the outside.
London Crawford could be a sleeper now that there's an
opening for him to do more.
Spring attitude... Find something
that works right away. With Western Illinois and UL
Monroe to start the season before dealing with a killer
four game stretch at Texas, Alabama, Florida and at
Auburn, getting to mid-October 3-3 would be a positive.
4-2 would be huge. The schedule is just easy enough to
demand a bowl appearance, but more importantly, this
year has to be about building towards being potent in
2009. For now, the offense has to find an identity in
the pro-style attack, and the defense has to somehow
improve with five key starters gone.
Begins: Feb. 28 Game: March 29
The early spring buzz ... Things
are quickly changing, and Tiger fans are holding their
collective breath. Not only is Alabama laying the
foundation for a potential juggernaut, but the offense
is undergoing a face-life with new offensive coordinator
Tony Franklin installing a spread attack to jump-start
things after averaging a mere 334 yards and 24 points
per game. Losing defensive coordinator Will Muschamp,
one of the nation's hottest young coaches, to Texas
isn't a plus, and now the pressure is on Paul Rhoades to
keep the D among the best in the SEC.
The big spring question is ... Do the Tigers actually have a
quarterback who can run thing thing consistently?
There's no question Kodi Burns is an exciting prospect
who has the experience from a strong Chick-fil-A Bowl to
count on going into spring practices, but the job is
hardly his. JUCO transfer Chris Todd will be on campus
to compete right away, while strong freshman recruit
DeRon Furr will likely be groomed to be a factor in a
few years. It would've been nice if Blake Field was
around to provide a little bit of senior leadership, but
the offense isn't for him so he transferred.
The most important position to watch is ... Defensive tackle.
With Pat Sims jetting to the NFL early and rock of an
anchor Josh Thompson done, there are two glaring holes
in the middle of the defensive line. Unfortunately, the
top tackle prospect for this year, JUCO transfer Raven
Gray, but he's got a bum knee and won't be around until
summer. Until then, fast-rising 290-pound junior
Sen'Derrick Marks will likely slide inside after a good
year at end, and last year's backups, Jake Ricks, Mike
Blanc and Zach Clayton have to be decent. If Marks stays
on the outside, the Tigers could eventually have the
SEC's most fearsome pair of ends if Antonio Coleman
plays up to his promise.
Spring attitude... Win the West.
While Auburn fans always want to hope to be in the
national title chase, to be realistic, the team is in
too much of a transitional period to hope for a trip to
Miami this year, but that doesn't mean it can't win the
SEC title. The conference road slate is a relative dream
facing Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and
Alabama, while LSU, Tennessee and Georgia have to come
to Jordan-Hare. If the offense can come together early
in tune-ups against UL Monroe and Southern Miss, this
could be a fantastic season.
Begins: Feb. 26 Game: March 24
The early spring buzz ... This is
obviously one of the elite of the elite of the elite
programs, and will be for years to come, but this might
be a relative rebuilding season. Make no mistake about
it, anything less than an SEC West title will be a major
disappointment, but head coach Les Miles appears to be
tempering overall expectations a little bit as the team
gears up for what should be a huge 2009. But why?
There's more athleticism and talent here than more than
100 other teams, but ...
The big spring question is ... who will the quarterback be?
Two years ago, LSU had JaMarcus Russell, the eventual
No. 1 pick in the draft, Matt Flynn, an eventual
national title winner, and Ryan Perrilloux, an elite
talent who would end up winning the 2007 SEC title game.
Russell and Flynn are done, and Perrilloux can't stop
being a knucklehead with his third team suspension in
the last year. Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch might not
be an SEC-caliber passer, but he can move a bit, and
Jarrett Lee has even more mobility. Perrilloux might
eventually be back, but the team can't count on him.
The most important position to watch is ... Defensive tackle.
LSU's foundation has come in the middle of the defensive
line with All-America tackle after All-America tackle.
With Glenn Dorsey gone, there's a big hole in the middle
that should be filled by Ricky Jean-Francois ...
eventually. An elite shot putter, he'll miss time this
spring opening up opportunities for Marlon Favorite and
Al Woods to shine. If the tackles can play well, really
well, then Jean-Francois can rotate more on the ends
with Tyson Jackson and Kirston Pittman, who was given a
sixth year of eligibility.
Spring attitude... Rebuilding,
schmebuilding. Yes, the team is in a transition year,
but the schedule is just light enough that a repeat
national championship campaign isn't out of the
question. The four road games are at Auburn, who's
undergoing a massive offense change, Florida, South
Carolina and Arkansas. If the Tigers can beat the Gators
and can beat Georgia in Death Valley, or at least come
up with a split, and get to the SEC title game with one
loss, the national title will still be there for the
Begins: March 2 Game: April 7
The early spring buzz ... The
potential is there for the the Rebels to make major
improvements right away. Ed Orgeron did a decent job of
stocking up the lines with his recruiting classes, and
with OT Michael Oher returning for his senior season,
the O line should be strong while the D line, led by
pass rushing terror Greg Hardy, has tremendous
potential. If star prospect Jerrell Powe finally gets
eligible, it'll give the inside a major playmaker. With
key newcomers for the offensive backfield, head coach
Houston Nutt has nice players to work with.
The big spring question is ... Is Jevan Snead ready? He was
one of the nation's top quarterback recruits for Texas a
few years ago, but Colt McCoy took the job by the horns
and never let it go. Snead transferred to Ole Miss, and
now gives the team its most talented quarterback since
Eli Manning was winging it around. Of course, that's
what many said about Brent Schaeffer, and that was a
The most important position to watch is ... Running back.
Enrique Davis originally was going to Auburn, but
switched to Ole Miss to give Nutt his next star runner.
He has to get his schoolwork in order, and if he does,
he could be a star from day one. Nutt also got a few
other strong running back prospects, so if anyone else,
like Cordera Eason and former UCLA Bruin Jeremy McGee
have any interest in being the main man, they need to
have a big spring.
Spring attitude... Get to a bowl
game. Orgeron set them up, and Nutt will knock them
down. There's no reason to not get a 13th game with a
not-that-bad slate with at least four games that have to
be wins (Memphis, Samford, Vanderbilt and UL Monroe)
meaning it should take two upsets to turn things around.
This team is good enough to do it.
Begins: Feb. 26 Game: March 31
The early spring buzz ... Now the
expectations are there. After years of being a speed
bump for the rest of the SEC, MSU came up with a great
eight-win season in what the coaching staff sees as a
jumping off point and not a culmination. The recruiting
class brought in some instant help, there are decent
running backs and receivers to work with, and the
defense should be even stronger, especially in the
secondary. For the first time in a long time, there are
high expectations, and that's a positive for a program
that hasn't generated much noise since Sylvester Croom
The big spring question is ... is the offense going to show
up? MSU was 113th in the nation in total offense and
passing, and 96th in scoring, with the points mostly
generated from defensive big plays. Anthony Dixon and
Christian Ducre are two good running backs, and Jamayel
Smith and Aubrey Bell are nice targets who could
flourish if there's more quarterback consistency. Losing
three tight ends is a problem, and Tony Burks was a
veteran receiver who'll be missed, but the biggest
problem is at ...
The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Is
there any depth? Michael Henig was a decent starter when
he was able to stay on the field, but he had to retire
with hip injury problems, meaning it's all about Wesley
Carroll. If Chris Relf and Tyson Lee aren't at least
adequate, there will be big, big concerns about the
depth considering Josh Riddell is trying to come back
from a knee injury.
Spring attitude... Keep building
while keeping the underdog attitude. Even with all the
success last year, MSU will still be picked around fifth
in the West, and could even get a few sixth place votes
if some like the potential at Ole Miss. The Bulldogs
can't care about that and have to keep feeding off the
disrespect. Anything less than a bowl game will be
unacceptable with several gimme games, but unless the
offense improves, MSU can get tagged on any given
Saturday. From top to bottom, there can't be any