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SEC East spring football update: Who’s making a move?

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Every SEC team is in the middle or near the end of a grueling spring practice, and several themes are unfolding for each team, as new players have emerged and position groups are getting stronger because of it.

Let’s take a look around the SEC East at happenings from spring practice thus far:

Florida

In focus: Running backs
Buzz: Replacing Mike Gillislee was the most important aspect of spring practice, followed closely by an improved passing game. But rising sophomore Matt Jones has stepped into the driver’s seat to replace Gilly. Backing up Jones will likely be early enrollee and super talented Kelvin Taylor and Mack Brown, who has yet to show he’s worthy to be a #1 back. Brown has tremendous upside, but the switch hasn’t flipped yet. But the combination of Jones, Taylor and Brown gives Florida a formidable trio entering fall camp that can take the pounding of SEC play.

Georgia

In focus: New-look defense
Buzz: Georgia lost eight starters from a very underachieving yet star-studded defense, and the Bulldogs have to have young guys step up. One early enrollee who has accomplished that in the last month is safety Tray Matthews. Matthews has electrified the team with his play and bone-crushing hits. Todd Grantham has never had a true freshman start on defense, and Matthews should become the first. Grantham has also shuffled the defensive line around, moving John Taylor to defensive end with Mike Thornton making a big push at nose tackle. I think this unit will surprise people this season.

Kentucky

In focus: Offense
Buzz: Kentucky wants to strike teams through the air, as new offensive coordinator Neal Brown’s offense led the Big 12 (Texas Tech) in passing last season. While the Cats are very thin at receiver and may not have enough bodies to have the type of offense they want right away, they do have a bevy of solid running backs. Ironically, the Red Raiders finished dead last in rushing, but Brown will have to get the stable of backs more involved in the offense. Currently, Max Smith, Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles are battling for starting quarterback gig.

Missouri

In focus: Quarterback
Buzz: James Franklin spent his spring break with quarterback guru and coach George Whitfield. Franklin is in a battle with Corbin Berkstresser and freshman Maty Mauk, who most consider to be the future of the program. All three will likely battle on into fall camp, but the one player who can help all three out the most is a healthy Henry Josey. Franklin should be the favorite to start the season, regardless of how spring transpires.

South Carolina

In focus: Complementing Clowney
Buzz: Every coach and quarterback who lines up opposite Jadeveon Clowney knows they have double-team help, but the defense’s success could hinge on others complementing Clowney. Returning tackle Kelcy Quarles (6-4, 300 pounds) is emerging as a real player this spring, oddly led by his yoga class. Along with Quarles, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward can rely on senior Chaz Sutton. Sutton notched seven tackles for loss and five sacks in 2012, and his role is even bigger this season: give USC another threat getting after quarterbacks.

Tennessee

In focus: Quarterback
Buzz: Currently Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman are the two battling for the job, with Worley leading the pack. After all, Worley has the most experience, as Peterman redshirted, but Peterman could be the ideal signal caller for Butch Jones’ offense. With a stout offensive line and solid running game, either Worley or Peterman would be fine as the opening day starter. The biggest question surrounds who exactly will catch their passes.

Vanderbilt

In focus: Running backs
Buzz: The backbone of the Vandy offense is gone in running back Zac Stacy. Stacy grew into a potent back and the SEC’s most underrated player. Now, Wesley Tate, Brian Kimbrow and Jerron Seymour carry on the tradition. Each combined for 121 rushing yards on 17 direct snaps in the Wildcat in last Saturday’s scrimmage. Tate is likely the every-down back for the offense, with Kimbrow being a legit change-up with homerun speed.

Photo Credit: Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports





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Comments 3

  1. UF’s RB’s are going to have fun running behind an OFF LINE with no depth….Spring game will not be an actual spring game due to 6 out of 11 lineman out with injuries. That is scary and will turn a great RB into average at best….We will see how this plays out

  2. Driskel is UF greatest liability. The RB’s will be fine.

  3. qastor
    Commented : 1 year ago

    The jury on the USC defense is still out. I’ve heard good things from every position except LB, which everyone knows is a hole we need to fill. I think Clowney, Quarles, and Sutton will be fine on the line. I think Kelsey Griffin will come in and be a serviceable player, if not a force from day 1. Our secondary is young but VERY athletic. Our LB’s are our question mark right now.