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As spring practice gets set to begin for most SEC teams, here's a few thoughts on the nations' best football conference.
Despite high profile players departing, Georgia will be just fine
You would think that a team that is losing a QB who is likely to be the first pick in the NFL Draft and a RB that won't be far behind, would be in for a rebuilding year. That isn't the case for the Bulldogs.
Senior Joe Cox, who has seen sporadic duty during his Bulldog career, was once considered "the future" before Matt Stafford stepped foot on campus. Cox has the ability and, from all accounts, is a more vocal on-the-field leader than his predecessor Stafford. Experience is the only question mark with Cox. He's no Matt Stafford, but with stud incoming freshman WR Marlon Brown joining rising sophomore WR A.J. Green, he probably won't have to be.
Sophomores Richard Samuel and Caleb King are expected to battle tooth and nail for the starting RB spot, replacing likely-first round draft pick Knowshon Moreno. Samuel had a set-back this off-season, undergoing wrist surgery, and will miss spring practice, giving King the spotlight this spring. It's unlikely that Richt would make a decision either way this spring, but King's play will make an impression one way or another.
The remnants of Georgia's injury bug from 2008 will still be lingering as the Bulldogs take the field this spring, as 15 players will miss spring practice recovering from various injuries. The Bulldogs lost 19 scholarship players to season-ending injuries and projected starters missed an eye-popping 50 games last season. Despite the injury woes, Mark Richt still managed to reach the 10-win mark for the sixth time in the last seven years. So, replacing a couple of studs won't be much of an issue.
Auburn needs to find a quarterback
The Tigers ranked 10th in the SEC in passing offense in 2008, due in large part to the ineffectiveness of the spread offense and instability in the coaching staff. Auburn quarterbacks Kodi Burns and Chris Todd combined to throw just seven touchdowns on the season, last in the SEC.
New Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn will open up the quarterback competition this spring, giving Burns, Todd, junior Neil Caudle and freshman Barrett Trotter all an opportunity to earn the spot in spring practice, which starts for the Tigers on March 24.
Malzahn has stated that ideally, he would like to have a starting quarterback named after spring practice, giving the team a chance to become familiar with "the guy." However, freshmen Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley will join the team this summer, and Malzahn has not ruled out starting either one of them at QB when the Tigers host Louisiana Tech on September 5.
Either Burns or Todd needs to improve drastically from last season, or one of the newbie's needs to step up. Otherwise, it might be another long season on the Plains.
For the first time in a long time, there doesn't appear to be any coaches in the SEC on the hot seat. The league has seen five coaching changes over the last two years. That, coupled with the recent success of Urban Meyer, Les Miles, Mark Richt and Nick Saban, has brought much-needed stability to the conference.
Lane Kiffin's early season blunders have been embarrassing for the first-year Vols coach, but none of them are anywhere close to fire-able offenses. However, if his ego continues to write checks that his body can't cash ($1 to Top Gun), it may not be long before some higher up's say enough is enough.
Bobby Petrino's Arkansas Razorbacks don't necessarily have to show a major improvement. Petrino isn't on the hot seat, but more is needed from the O with Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett under center in favor of the recently-graduated Casey Dick. Although, this will mark Petrino's second season in Fayetteville, which is the equivalent of a decade to most coaches, so it's certainly possible that he could up and leave on a whim again. But, he's not on the hot seat.
Surprisingly, Steve Spurrier may be the most likely candidate to not be back in 2010, and it might be on his own accord. Spurrier came back to South Carolina to lead the Gamecocks to the top of the SEC East, and that simply hasn't happened. The Gamecock offense during the Spurrier era has looked nothing like the fun ‘n gun offenses that made Spurrier made famous in the 90's at Florida.
Spurrier told recruits this season that he's "nowhere near retiring" on the recruiting trail this season. But, it's the recruiting trail and he has to say that. Could he throw his hands up in frustration and walk away after 2009? It's not likely, but it could happen.
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Three And Out Archive:
Three And Out - SEC – February 28, 2009