The SEC had seven spring games yesterday, and here are seven things that stuck out:
1. Not where they need to be: Is it news that Nick Saban is not content with where Alabama is as a team? A crowd of 78,315, the second lowest of the Saban era, was on hand to witness the Tide turn the ball over nine times and watch TJ Yeldon start his Heisman run. For the second straight year, Yeldon was the game’s MVP, amassing 130 yards of total offense with a seven-yard touchdown run. AJ McCarron finished with 223 yards passing, one touchdown and two INTs. Saban on the scrimmage, “I really do feel like we have a lot of the components to develop as a team,” Saban said. “I don’t think we are where we need to be. Too many people too comfortable with their position. That, to me, does not lend itself to great competition or being a great competitor.”
2. Getting physical: The Razorbacks’ new ‘physical’ mentality was on display in the Red-White Game, and more than 50,000 fans, an Arkansas record, were on hand to witness it. It was very evident that QB Brandon Allen will be the starter come fall, as he completed 11 of 16 passes for 158 yards and one touchdown. The Hogs rushed for 185 yards on 56 carries, and the physical running game is a staple of any Bret Bielema-coached team. Overall, Bielema was pleased. “I really, really like the progress we made.”
3. A record crowd: Auburn fans broke an A-Day attendance record with more than 83,400 fans on hand to witness the kickoff to the Gus Malzahn era. And while they kicked off one era, the fans marched on over to Toomers’ Corner and closed another era with an epic final rolling of the Toomers’ Oaks. New RB transfer Cameron Artis-Payne was the offensive player of the game, toting the rock 18 times for 117 yards and a touchdown. He also notched two catches for 47 yards, and he’s a breakout candidate for the Tigers in 2013. The duo of Artis-Payne and Tre Mason is a sexy one-two punch that can take pressure off the starting quarterback. QBs Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace rotated, with Frazier completing 10 of 16 for 125 yards and Wallace finishing 18 of 26 for 191 yards, two touchdowns and one INT.
4. Calling their shots: The LSU offense has been working on the passing game all spring, and yesterday was certainly a celebration of the last two months. Zach Mettenberger finished 12 of 19 for 236 yards with two touchdowns in the first half, and backup Stephen Rivers completed 7 of 10 for 185 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. However, both quarterbacks’ monster numbers came against the second-team defense, but both quarterbacks called their own plays. ”It was tough out there calling plays,” Mettenberger said. ”Coach Cameron allowed us to call our own plays and it was the first time I’ve ever done that.”
5. Cleaning the stadium: The loser of the Maroon-White Game has to clean the stadium Sunday morning, and the losers were the first-team offense and second-team defense. MSU had an announced crowd of 21,000 in attendance, and they watched Tyler Russell finish 13 of 24 for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Jeremy Chappelle and running back Brandon Holloway led the way for the victorious Maroon team. Chappelle caught eight passes for 114 yards and one touchdown, while Holloway rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries.
6. Mauk has bad day: Despite James Franklin returning as Missouri’s starting quarterback, all eyes were on backup Maty Mauk, who had a less than impressive showing in the Black and Gold Game. Mauk finished just 6 of 17 for 72 yards and two INTs, while Franklin finished 9 of 15 in limited time. The starters won the game 21-14, and running back Henry Josey got his first taste of playing in front of the home crowd once more. Josey registered eight carries for 13 yards and one touchdown. Future all-star WR Dorial Green-Beckham caught three passes for 49 yards, including a 35-yard catch and run down the sideline. DE Michael Sam put the finishing touches on a strong spring performance with four tackles and two sacks.
7. Vols getting defensive: Tennessee’s defense won the Orange and White Game. Now, is that because the offense didn’t play well or is it the mark of an improved defense? It’s a little of both. Tennessee is struggling to replace the big three of Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson on offense. Freshman running back Alden Hill was the star of the game from an offensive perspective and rushed for 101 yards on 18 carries. QB Justin Worley finished just 8 of 18 for 123 yards with one touchdown and one INT, while his counterpart Nathan Peterman finished just 9 of 23 for 98 yards. The QB battle will wage on, as neither stood out Saturday. Corey Vereen, Dontavis Sapp and Brian Randolph were the strengths of a harder-hitting and improved Tennessee defense. There could be some growing pains ahead.
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