Spring games in the SEC are over and done with, but before we head into what is always a long football-less offseason, let's run down some of the takeaways for each school. Key starters must be replaced, and position battles abound. Then there are the sure bets, like Johnny Manziel or the scary brilliance of Nick Saban's Crimson Tide.
No other team in the country can match up with this wide receiver corps from 1-6. Now that we've had a chance to see all of them on the field on the same day, I'm convinced this is the best corps in the country.
Especially terrifying with A.J. McCarron back to run the show. He threw 30 touchdowns against just three interceptions while completing 67.2 percent of his throws last season.
And in completely unsurprising news, Nick Saban managed to be displeased with his wealth of riches. So summer workouts and fall camp will not be canceled this year. (Via RBR.)
"I wasn't happy with any of those teams at this point," Saban said. "If I was happy with them, we wouldn't have summer conditioning, we would not have fall camp, we wouldn't have 30 practices to get ready for our first game against Virginia Tech. We'd just pack it in and say, 'All right, let's go to Atlanta and play the game.' We're not there yet."
When Johnny Manziel isn't offending columnists for doing completely inoffensive things, he likes to play a little football. He was fantastic in A&M's spring game, and even went so far as to serve as a lead blocker on a running play:
Johnny threw a lot of passes for a billon yards, a million touchdowns and no interceptions. He also had a key block on a fabulous Brandon Williams cut-back for a touchdown. Spring game stats aren't important; but Johnny looked even more accurate as a passer, had better form in the pocket, and was throwing some rockets behind unlimited protection. Johnny is going to be even better in 2013. College football, watch out. Johnny-mania has just begun.
So yeah, he's still really good. Not that there was any doubt about this.
Is Tigers running back Jeremy Hill on the verge of a breakout season? The sophomore impressed during LSU's spring game, and he is coming off a solid freshman campaign:
The biggest takeaway from the offense today was that OMG JEREMY HILL. He ran hard. He ran fast. He used his feet. He used his hands. He did everything he could to look like as good of a running back as LSU has had in some time. The playcalling even tried to keep him involved a lot in the passing game with a number of screen passes...
Hill finished 2012 with 755 yards rushing, which led the team and is the fourth-highest rushing yardage total by a freshman in school history. He did that despite carrying the ball a total of 13 times over the first six games. Over the second half of the season, though, he became a major contributor and went for 100 yards or more in a game four times.
The Gators know that Jeff Driskel will once again man the helm at quarterback in 2013, but beyond him, not much has been settled. Jacoby Brissett transferred during the offseason, leaving the team with alarmingly little experience among its backups. For now, junior Tyler Murphy appears to be in line for the backup role, but as Alligator Army noted, he did not impress during the Gators' spring game:
For my money, the most important sequence of Florida's spring ... whatever that was on Saturday was what happened when Tyler Murphy helmed the first-team offense for a scrimmage session. Instantly, there was a fumble return by Brian Poole that would have gone for a touchdown had the play happened on a fall Saturday; before he was mercifully removed from the controls, Murphy would've taken a few sacks had his jersey been Georgia red instead of DO NOT TOUCH red.
And while Murphy is a junior, he has yet to play a snap in a regular season game for Florida.
The Bulldogs lost starting safeties Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo, as well as a multi-year starter at one of the cornerback spots, and those departures left a significant void to be filled on the UGA defense. But Georgia might be fine without them:
If you had told me that our starters at the end of spring practice would put everyone's fears to rest, I would've found it hard to believe. After all, we're talking about replacing one of the greatest safety duos in school history, and a 3 year starter at corner. But my fellow Dawg fans, I'm here to tell you today, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews are the next generation of great Bulldog defenders.
Those two are inexperienced, though -- Harvey-Clemons is a sophomore, while Matthews is a true freshman.
As for the backs, both Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis looked good, but Davis was exceptional. He seems to have just a tad more quickness and downhill speed than his counterpart, and that may be enough to earn him the starting spot, not to mention make a bid at an All-SEC-type season. Davis also made a very nice catch on a swing pass, assuaging one concern from last year. In any event, we're going to have a good one-two punch with these two.
Davis averaged 5.3 yards per carry as a freshman in 2012. Wilds missed last season because of an ankle injury, but in 2011 he finished third on the team with 486 yards rushing.
Asked how a team that had the talent it had offensively in 2012 couldn't even make a bowl game, Ja'Wuan James paused for a few seconds. "It was lack of leadership, I hate to say," adding that he's convinced that'll be different now. Players are allowed to have fun again. Coaches and players are developing better relationships.
Butch Jones is doing what he can to reinvigorate the program, and there are signs of progress -- particularly on the recruiting trail, where the Vols already have nine commitments in their 2014 class.
The excitement of a new coaching staff, some good weather and a post-game ceremony at Toomer's Corner all contributed to a record crowd at A-Day in Auburn. More than 83,000 fans turned out, and that is a figure unlikely to be topped by any other school this spring.
Auburn held its first A-Day game of the Gus Malzahn era Saturday, with 83,401 fans filling Jordan-Hare Stadium nearly to capacity. The spring game crowd was a record for the Tigers and is the current high-water mark nationally for spring game attendance this year.
The Commodores lost a lot of starting experience off its defensive line, but the unit acquitted itself well during the Black & Gold Game:
The 12 sacks and 19 tackles for the loss totaling minus-104 yards on Saturday summarized the progress made by the young players and a few veterans in creating more of a push up front this spring.
Missouri's first season in the SEC was a rough one -- the Tigers won just two conference games. They will need better performances in a number of areas, including wide receiver. And Dorial Green-Beckham, the top receiver prospect in the 2013 class, may be ready to deliver a big season:
Dorial Green-Beckham really could become an ace-in-the-hole this year. For the most part, he lined up isolated and wide left, and Missouri is pretty clearly going to try to get single coverage on him as much as possible. And when they get that, he's going to have quite a few easy pitch-and-catch opportunities. Mizzou quarterbacks didn't go to him a lot yesterday, but part of that is because the first-string WRs really weren't on the field much after the first quarter (which went by in a blink).
Green-Beckham had a relatively quiet freshman season, catching 28 passes for 395 yards and five scores.
Kentucky fans are fired up, for starters. Jalen Whitlow started seven games under center for the Wildcats last year, but he's no lock to be the starter in 2013. To that end, he did himself a favor with a productive performance last weekend:
Jalen Whitlow, who seems to be one of those kids you can never count out, is getting rightful praise for his play in the game. The UK Internet is abuzz with calls for him to start based on his dual threat capabilities that were in full display Saturday. Statistically, he had the best game of the three UK QB's vying for the starting slot.
Whitlow and Maxwell Smith, who shared time in 2012, are the primary competitors for the starting position.
Bret Beilema's first season comes with challenges -- he must replace starting quarterback Tyler Wilson, and the team lost its top two rushers from 2012. But Arkansas Expats was encouraged by what they saw from the running backs during the Red-White Game on Saturday:
Anyone still scared of depth at running back? I'm not. Five Razorbacks carried the ball at least six times and four of them averaged over 3 yards per carry. Admittedly, you have to be careful about how strictly you interpret the stats since the first string played against the first string and second against second. But it was still nice to see Kody Walker look like an able back, and not just in short yardage situations like we saw in his freshman year.
Sophomore Jonathan Williams, who had 241 yards on the ground in 2012, is the team's leading returning rusher.
The Grove Bowl was more practice than game, making it more difficult to evaluate how players performed. The Rebels' defense generally controlled the action, but there were standouts on the offensive side, like wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan.
"Ja-Mes probably had the best spring of anybody," head coach Hugh Freeze said afterward. "He was solid every single day, and he made some nice plays today."
At Mississippi State, spring football has consequences:
"We've had a really good spring and it was great to end it with this great crowd here. Good for the Maroon Team to get the win. It's a big deal to those guys because now they don't have to come back to the stadium and clean tomorrow," head coach Dan Mullen said. "The White Team - and any of those fans that were supporting the white team - have to be here at 10 a.m. to clean the stands."
The fans too? That's harsh, coach.