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Spring Preview 2010 - SEC East
Georgia WR A.J. Green
Georgia WR A.J. Green
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Mar 24, 2010


As spring ball is rolling, here are the big questions, the most important positions and more for each SEC East team.

Spring Preview 2010

SEC East Spring Preview
 

2010 Spring Preview  
- 2010 SEC West Spring Preview 
- 2010 SEC Player You Must Know - Kentucky WR Randall Cobb 
- 2010 Spring Question ... Is the SEC title the same as the national title? 
- 2010 SEC Offseason Lookback & Lookahead 
- 2010 SEC East Schedule Breakdown
- 2010 SEC West Schedule Breakdown
- 2010 SEC Composite Schedule  
- 2010 SEC Pre-Preseason Rankings 
- 2010 SEC Recruiting Rankings 
 
By Pete Fiutak

East

Florida
Spring Practice Begins: March 17 Game: April 10

The early spring buzz: And so the backlash begins. While it’s fashionable and easy to rip on the mythology and the legend of Tim Tebow, it wasn’t expected to happen from the inside. After all, Tebow still holds god-like status in Gainesville and will go down as, arguably, the greatest college player to ever wear the uniform (but some runner named Emmitt holds the honor of being the most talented Gator ever). But that didn’t stop WR Deonte Thompson from trying to move on immediately by suggesting that having John Brantley at quarterback might be better for the timing and the rhythm of the passing game. It’s not like the pressure isn’t immense enough for Brantley to deal with, but now his passing skills and his pro-style ability might mean that Thompson really is right. Florida might have a “real” quarterback, as Thompson suggested, and it’ll be interesting to see how the coaching staff uses him.
The big spring question is … Urban Meyer and how he’ll be acting and coaching. Will it be the same controlling coach who micromanages and brilliant has his finger on the pulse of every little aspect of the team, or will he be more relaxed and renewed? With so much turnover and so many question marks, this isn’t really the time to change up coaching philosophies or styles, and there might be no way possible for Meyer to be anything less than his old self. This team has a boatload of talent, made better by the monster recruiting class, and there might be no way for Meyer to do anything but go 100 miles per hour.
The most important position to watch is … running back. Yes, losing Tebow, and Brandon Spikes, and Joe Haden, and Carlos Dunlap, and Aaron Hernandez, and Maurkice Pouncey might make it seem like the Gators are starting from scratch, there are enough good players in place to expect it to be business as usual. But as good as Brantley is, he’s not a runner and he needs help from the running backs. That’s one area that Florida has no problems finding veterans with Emmanuel Moody ready to be even more of a factor (though Gator fans have heard that before) allowing Chris Rainey to become a Percy Harvin-like jack-of-all-trades.
Spring attitude: Win the national championship. There might not be the household names like there were last year, but there’s a boatload of future NFL talents up and down the lineup. Unlike last season when a national title wasn’t enough, the year had to be an all-timer of a statement, the expectations are slightly diminished with some rebuilding needing to be done. Whatever. There’s a trip to Alabama to deal with, but the Gators will almost certainly be favored in the other 11 games. Win the East, win the SEC title, play for the national championship, make it three in five years. Yes, this team is good enough.

Georgia
Spring Practice Begins: March 4 Game: April 10

The early spring buzz: The Bulldogs have to find more explosion and more production on offense, and it’s time to make a few changes to accomplish that. From WR A.J. Green getting the ball in his hands more, including as possibly a punt returner, to the hope for more running from the quarterback, to finding ways to get the ball to the speedy backs in space, the coaching staff isn’t standing pat after the offense sputtered and struggled so much last season. The defense wasn’t a prize, especially when it came to forcing takeaways, and there’s work to be done, but a flashier offense is job one.
The big spring question is … can the defense be more aggressive? The offense is likely to be more consistent with so many veterans in key spots, but the defense still has to provide as much help as possible. Last year the Bulldogs came up with just 12 takeaways and forced an embarrassingly low two fumbles. Only San Diego State (four) came up with fewer than five fumbles. That’s where the new 3-4 scheme comes in putting more speed and athleticism on the field as defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is looking for more big plays and more swarming to the ball.
The most important position to watch is … quarterback. Joe Cox was supposed to be a solid caretaker last season after he took over for Matthew Stafford, and while he was fine, he was hardly special. Logan Gray was the main backup throughout last season and got a little bit of work, but he might be moving to another spot with Aaron Murray a good all-around playmaker able to run and throw equally well and Zach Mettenberger bringing the big-time arm and passing skills. In a perfect world, this is figured out and settled on as soon as possible.
Spring attitude: No excuses. Georgia isn’t as talented as Florida, but it’s easily the second best team in the East and it has the schedule to do some very big things. While there’s a lot of work to be done and there are a lot of concerns, the schedule is too light to ask for anything less than a big season with the toughest road games at South Carolina and Auburn. The Dawgs miss Alabama and LSU from the West and get Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia Tech at home. Again, no excuses.

Kentucky
Spring Practice Begins: March 31 Game: April 24

The early spring buzz: How much, if anything, will Joker Phillips change things around? Rich Brooks did a fantastic job that flew under the radar, surviving various injuries, a lack of talent compared to the rest of the SEC, and few breaks. But the Wildcats were in the mix for bowl games year after year, and Phillips has some big shoes to fill. However, he’s a top-shelf coaching prospect and has to show it early on with some major personnel changes. This is an interesting team with some good pieces to work with, and it could be one of the X factors in the SEC race.
The big spring question is … can UK improve on the offensive line with so much turnover? The running game was solid, and the pass protection was terrific allowing a mere 17 sacks (25th in the nation), but now the line has to replace everyone but right guard Stuart Hines and has to rely on a slew of untested talents. Every spring practice is vital for the cohesion of the front five, but if there are problems, forget about making any big strides this year.
The most important position to watch is … quarterback. Morgan Newton is the most talented quarterback on the roster with excellent size and good mobility, but he was thrown to the wolves as a true freshman and predictably had problems. If he can stand out and take a few steps forward, this could be his offense for the next three years even if Mike Hartline is fine after suffering a knee injury. Ryan Mossakowski is still a factor, but he has shoulder issues and has to prove he’s 100% ready after missing last season.
Spring attitude: Just win with no excuses. If the team could get to a bowl game last year after a nightmare of quarterback problems and disappointing seasons from some key players (with injuries being part of the problem), then nothing less than a winning campaign and another bowl can be accepted. The schedule isn’t awful, missing Alabama and LSU from the West, and getting Georgia and Auburn at home.

South Carolina
Spring Practice Begins: March 16 Game: April 10

The early spring buzz: It’s not really a hot seat year for Steve Spurrier, there’s no real chance he’ll be fired unless it’s an utterly disastrous season, but he could really, really use a big year with a good East run. Spurrier is never afraid to ruffle feathers and make some bold changes, and he’s pushing some buttons in spring ball knowing that the team has to start producing. He has a few good talents to build around in some key spots, but the team has to be far better on the lines, more explosive on offense, and more clutch on defense.
The big spring question is … how fast will the star recruits be in the mix? How about right away? Stephen Garcia is supposed to be the veteran who’ll bridge the gap between the good newcomers and the returning starters, but he’s going to be pushed and pushed hard by Connor Shaw. The freshman will get every chance to win the job, while the running game will be all Marcus Lattimore’s when the super-recruit gets the pads on.
The most important position to watch is … offensive tackle. Finding pass rushers will be vital for the defense that loses Clifton Geathers and Eric Norwood, but there’s no way the Gamecocks can improve without getting far, far better play from an offensive line that has been a disaster under Spurrier. Three starters return including tackles Kyle Nunn and Hutch Eckerson, but they were part of the problem for a front five that allowed 37 sacks. They were young and they needed the work, but they have to be great right away with new O line coach Shawn Elliott needing to get everything in place.
Spring attitude: It’s time to surprise. For years South Carolina has appeared to be on the verge of big things, but it hasn’t happened with one thing or another (with most of the problems coming on the offensive line) keeping the team down. Enough is enough, but with a not-that-bad schedule with three bad road games (Auburn, Florida, and Clemson), and with enough winnable games to assume at least a good bowl, this needs to be when the program makes a turn.

Tennessee
Spring Practice Begins: March 18 Game: April 17

The early spring buzz: There are two ways to look at what has transpired over the last few months. On the one hand, Tennessee has to be a little stunned after the tumultuous, but extremely promising, Lane Kiffin experience. On the other, the soap opera left town, and it took Bryce Brown along the way. Arguably the No. 1 national recruit of last year, the star running back out of Kansas bolted from the Vols and appears to be off to Kansas State. This was going to be a bit of a rebuilding and reloading year no matter what, and now it’s likely to happen without a lot of drama.
The big spring question is … can Derek Dooley do anything right away? You’ll have to forgive the Tennessee veterans for not being all that fired up about what has happened in their careers with a third head coach in three seasons. Dooley didn’t exactly set the world on fire at Louisiana Tech, and while no one is expecting him to win the SEC this season, if he doesn’t take the team to a decent bowl there will be some grumbling. There’s a lot of work to be done, but this is a good enough team to have a decent year.
The most important position to watch is … the entire offensive line Aaron Douglas is the only returning starter to a decent line that did a not-that-bad job. If anything is keeping Dooley awake at night, this is the area with relatively unproven talents Dallas Thomas, JerQuari Schofield, and freshman Ja’Wuan James needing to shine right away. Every practice will be vital for a team that gets Oregon and Florida in Knoxville by mid-September.
Spring attitude: Understand that this is going to be a process. No coach will ever settle for anything less than a good year, but Kiffin commented at times last season that 2010 was going to be a struggle with so much turnover and so many concerns, and now it’s Dooley’s problem. This isn’t going to be a guaranteed bowl season with so many nasty games, and it’s going to take an upset or two to get a 13th game. 7-5 will be a great year, but for Tennessee, that might not seem like anything special.

Vanderbilt
Spring Practice Begins: March 17 Game: April 10

The early spring buzz: After an awful 2009, Vandy was hoping for a good offseason leading the way to a rebound campaign, and then came the pop in Adam Smotherman’s knee. The team needs as many strong defensive players as possible after finishing last in the SEC in run defense, and everything was going to anchor around the strong defensive tackle, the only returning starter up front, but he tore his ACL in practice and is now a question mark to start the season.
The big spring question is … will there ever be an offense? Even in the bowl season of two years ago, the offense didn’t do anything. Last year the attack was abysmal finishing 113th in the nation in scoring and 119th in pass efficiency, but there’s a bit of hope with a few decent playmakers who can play at an SEC level. However, the offensive line has to undergo an overhaul and some receivers need to emerge as playmakers to help out John Cole.
The most important position to watch is … quarterback. The Commodores are trying to find some consistency at the position, but the key will be health. Larry Smith should be the best option, but he’s coming off a torn hamstring. JUCO option Jordan Rodgers, the brother of Green Bay star, Aaron Rodgers, has a good passing arm and will be given every shot to win the job. The offense needs to have one guy become the star who’s able to carry the attack, and he needs to emerge as soon as possible.
Spring attitude: Just keep improving. Vandy has a bad mix and could be in for a bad, bad season. After only winning two games last season, the Commodores will have to pull off a major upset to just equal that mark with the home date against Eastern Michigan the only seemingly certain win. The lines have to undergo a complete overhaul, and there are just enough big losses in the secondary and linebacker to expect more problems. On the plus side, this is a young team that needs to use this season to improve and get experience to get to hit the ground running in 2011.

- 2010 SEC West Spring Preview