Alabama, Auburn and Missouri played their spring games today, and let’s review the two main takeaways from each game:
Offense has major questions: Yes, it’s just a spring game, but Alabama’s offense looked shaky. The Tide are stacked at the skill positions — running back and wide receiver, but many questions remain at quarterback and offensive line. The quarterbacks struggled. Blake Sims finished just 13 of 30 for 178 yards and threw two INTs, and neither Cooper Bateman nor Alec Morris looked like they were ready. Jacob Coker is coming this summer, and he could be the single piece that makes the offense click. All spring we heard about how Sims had played so well, but we just didn’t see that today.
Special teams aren’t special: The Tide missed a field goal and had another blocked in the first half. Backup QB Alec Morris also had punting duties. Incoming kicker JK Scott could be one of the most important freshman in 2014, because he could handle the kicking duties immediately. Alabama has been great on special teams during the Saban era, but they are a question mark right now.
Marshall is more consistent: Auburn’s first-team offense played against the second-team defense, but it was noticeable that Nick Marshall has made an improvement this spring. Marshall missed a couple sideline throws early in the game, but overall, the shorter to intermediate passes looked crisper and sharper. He’s not a finished product — far from it, but that’s great news for Malzahn and Auburn. Marshall finished 13 of 22 (59.1 percent) for 236 yards and four touchdowns.
New playmakers: Running back Cameron Artis-Payne should be the guy to replace Tre Mason. The former JUCO No. 1 running back flashed speed and vision. He reminds me much of former AU running back Ben Tate. CAP is tough and physical and should be an every-down back for the Tigers, and Corey Grant can be an offensive changeup. We knew about Artis-Payne last season, but he’ll play such a bigger role in 2014. One newby you will know come fall is JUCO transfer D’haquille Williams. Williams has nice hands, and he’s a big, physical receiver who uses his body well, especially on the touchdown reception from Marshall on a fade route. With Sammie Coates and Williams on the outside, how could the passing game not improve and be more explosive?
Mauktober is now: Maty Mauk concluded a sharp spring Saturday. In three major scrimmages, Mauk finished 41 of 64 (64 percent) for 446 yards and one touchdown. Mauk connected with Darius White right down the seam for a 38-yard completion, and Mauk scored the first-team offense’s only touchdown on a three-yard keeper. Although the first-team offense struggled in the red zone, the offense will be fine, headlined by Mauk, a deep backfield and veteran offensive line.
Mr. Golden: Missouri is the SEC’s Defensive Line U right now, and even though Kony Ealy and Michael Sam are both gone, the unit shouldn’t skip a beat. Markus Golden reminded us why he was such a force last year. He recorded two tackles for loss and one sack on Corbin Berkstresser. His counterpart Shane Ray also recorded a sack, and Missouri will be dangerous off the edge once more.
Photo Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports