College football finally has somewhat of a pulse again with spring practice getting ready to start for teams, and the chase for an SEC Championship starts this spring.
Fueled by rash and aggressive speculation, we have 10 predictions for the SEC’s spring practice:
1. Texas A&M’s QB battle will linger into fall camp
The quarterback battle everyone’s talking about: who will replace Johnny Manziel? Don’t expect an answer anytime this spring, and Kenny Hill, Matt Joeckel and Kyle Allen will continue their battle through spring and late into fall camp. Remember, Kevin Sumlin didn’t name Johnny Manziel the starter until a couple weeks ahead of game time. Don’t expect 2014 to be any different.
2. Drew Barker will exit spring No. 1 on Kentucky’s QB depth chart
Unlike Texas A&M’s quarterback battle, Kentucky’s will become clearer by May. Early enrollee Drew Barker will exit the spring as the Wildcats’ leading signal caller. The real battle will come between Barker and redshirt freshman Reese Phillips. Aggressive? It may be a little presumptuous to count out returners Max Smith and Jalen Whitlow totally. But I’m feeling quite bold.
3. Auburn will lead the SEC in spring game attendance…again
Auburn made noise last spring when they led the SEC in spring game attendance. Auburn drew 83,401 fans, followed by Alabama’s 78,315. With such an incredible season on The Plains, Auburn fans will show up and lead the SEC in spring game attendance again.
4. Rafe Peavey will earn playing time at Arkansas
Although Brandon Allen enters spring as the Hogs’ starting quarterback, watch for early enrollee Rafe Peavey to turn some heads. I’m not saying he’ll win the starting job this spring, but he’ll earn playing time. He can be an asset in the running game, and he has plenty of arm strength. Peavey is one of those players Bret Bielema is counting on to be a cornerstone of the future.
5. Riley Ferguson exits spring No. 1 on Tennessee’s depth QB chart
We’ve seen Justin Worley, Josh Dobbs and Nathan Peterman compete. Worley is the veteran and the probable starter; Dobbs can be an asset in the running game and is a great looking athlete; Peterman adds nice depth to the position, but based on his start against Florida, I’m not sure he’s the guy. So, that leaves us with Riley Ferguson, who redshirted last season because of an injury. I’m feeling rather bold; the former Elite 11 signal caller exits spring as the leading candidate to be Tennessee’s starter, and that’s bold because it’s primarily based on what we’ve already seen from the other three.
6. LSU exits spring with QB questions
Anthony Jennings is slated to start for the Tigers. However, redshirt freshman Hayden Rettig and early enrollee Brandon Harris will both have something to say about that. We know Les Miles’ never-ending love affair with dual-threat quarterbacks, but from what little we saw from Jennings, it raised questions about the job. Rettig is a pocket passer, and Harris is a dual-threat gem who will push for playing time. The best thing LSU’s quarterbacks have going for them is Cam Cameron. What he did with Zach Mettenberger in one season was truly impressive. I’m still not sold on Jennings, and it’s likely the coaching staff isn’t either.
7. Mark Richt raves about Jeremy Pruitt
Mark Richt pulled a feather out of his cap when he hired Jeremy Pruitt, and it was hands down the best assistant hire in college football. Pruitt has been a part of three straight championships, and he’s proven he can coach up defensive secondaries. His 3-4 scheme fits the Bulldogs’ personnel, and I expect the Dawgs’ defense to make tremendous strides. How will we know? Richt will talk about it this spring. Trading Todd Grantham for Pruitt won’t be an obvious upgrade until September, but Richt will know it this spring.
8. Jeff Driskel takes major strides forward in Florida’s new offense
The last two seasons, Florida tried to turn Jeff Driskel into AJ McCarron when he’s probably more comparable to Nick Marshall. Kurt Roper was hired to fit the scheme to the personnel, not force players into a pro-style offense, which is what Roper’s predecessor tried to do. Roper’s up-tempo offense will feature a mobile Driskel, and it should also allow for quicker decisions and the encouragement of pulling it down and running it when there is room. How much can you truly tell from spring practice or a game? I could tell during last year’s spring game that Driskel’s game hadn’t improved. You’ll know this spring it has.
9. Auburn’s passing game improves
This is the first year in Gus Malzahn’s college coaching career he has a returning starting quarterback to work with. Nick Marshall was one of the SEC’s most improved players in 2013. Still, there was much criticism surrounding the passing game. Marshall often missed open receivers and lacked touch on short to intermediate routes. You all remember the missed throw for a wide open touchdown against FSU. Malzahn knows the Tigers’ passing game has to make strides this spring, and it will. Marshall has plenty of arm strength, and he will gain more touch this offseason ahead of 2014.
10. Cameron Robinson will win a starting job for Alabama
It’s not often true freshmen offensive linemen make major impacts their first year, but Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil proves it can be done. He’s just one example. Alabama early enrollee tackle Cameron Robinson will also prove it this spring. With Cyrus Kouandjio gone at left tackle, it opens the door wide open for Robinson. He’s so big and talented, and he’ll hold his own this spring, eventually winning a starting gig.
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