Every SEC team is in the middle 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 West at happenings from spring practice thus far:
In focus: Center
Buzz: The biggest question mark for Alabama this spring is the offensive line, particularly replacing Barrett Jones. Jones is arguably the most decorated offensive linemen in college football history, but everyone has been buzzing about his replacement, Ryan Kelly. Kelly has been described as ‘very professional’ and can be ‘100 percent trusted’, according to Cyrus Kouandjio.
In focus: Quarterback
Buzz: Although the Arkansas’ quarterback battle should wage on through the summer and on into fall camp, Tyler Wilson’s backup Brandon Allen has emerged with the slight edge over dual-threat Brandon Mitchell. After all, Allen fits Bret Bielema’s system and ideology on offense as a pro-style passer. He threw for 186 yards and one touchdown in 2012.
In focus: Team’s tempo
Buzz: Gus Malzahn wants to go fast. Even his press conferences are fast and up-tempo, as his spring press conference was timed right at just 10 minutes. Hell, even Auburn’s kickers are going hurry-up, no huddle. Malzahn has to transform the way his team approaches practice and how they actually practice. There is much room for improvement, but Malzahn likes their attitude and how the guys want to succeed this spring.
In focus: Passing game
Buzz: All eyes are on the LSU passing game because of Cam Cameron and Zach Mettenberger. Les Miles has been impressed with Cameron and his offense before the Tigers broke for spring break, and Mett has played well in two scrimmages. Improvement has been shown, and Miles described Mett as ‘more intuitive’. That should have LSU fans very optimistic about an improved offense and passing game next fall. But we’ll wait to see what happens when the lights come on in Tiger Stadium.
In focus: Wide receivers
Buzz: Robert Johnson and Joe Morrow are two receivers Mississippi State is counting on to step into their predecessors’ shoes. Morrow can emerge to become a legitimate deep threat, while Johnson can be the offense’s leading receiver. Both have had great springs thus far in a big position of need heading into 2013.
In focus: The return of DT
Buzz: Former freshman All-American linebacker DT Shackelford has been an impact player this spring. Shackelford has missed two consecutive seasons rehabbing his nasty knee injury suffered in the spring of 2011. With leader CJ Johnson going down this spring with a broken leg, Shackelford’s leadership is invaluable, especially if he can emerge to be the player we all remember.
In focus: Wide receiver
Buzz: Most of the talk this spring has centered on Johnny Manziel, but his future pass catchers are the biggest question mark on offense. The one non-question mark, however, is who Manziel’s go-to player will be. Mike Evans could emerge as the top receiver in the conference this season, and he’s doing Mike Evans things this spring, like hauling in an absurd amount of receiving yards during scrimmages. The 6-5 target is the most reliable receiver in the conference.
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