10 bold predictions for SEC spring practice
Like the first green leaves on Southern trees, the beginning of spring practice reports sneaks in around us. Vandy, Auburn, Ole Miss, and South Carolina kicked off spring practice this week, with much of the rest of the SEC set to slowly grind back into action. What does it all mean? We’re glad you asked, because we’re going to get spring-time bold right now. Here are 10 bold predictions for SEC spring practice, 2018.
1. SEC teams will decide QB battles early.
Look back at the teams that struggled in 2017, the ones who have new coaches this fall. One common element? Those were often teams that were unclear on who would play QB — and it showed come the fall. When Jim McElwain couldn’t decide between Feleipe Franks or Malik Zaire or anybody else, he started the downfall of his team. Dan Mullen will make a decision. Granted, it might not be public, but there won’t be indecision in 2018 QB battles.
2. It will be apparent exactly how much richer the rich got.
In case you slept through the 2017 season, the biggest dividing line was between the talent-rich SEC and the havens of Alabama, Georgia, and to a lesser extent Auburn. With teams wary of injuring starters, the spring is a good chance to get a look deep into the bench. So UGA lost Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. They’ll replace them with D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien. Or Elijah Holyfield. Or Zamir White, who probably won’t see much action in the spring as he’s rehabbing a significant leg injury. It’s embarrassing how much talent will be on the SEC’s sidelines — and spring practice is a good chance to see just how crazy it is.
3. SEC East eyes should be on Todd Grantham.
Perhaps the most unusual situation for a new coordinator this season will be Grantham at Florida. Making a whirlwind tour from Louisville to Mississippi State to Florida, Grantham has used aggressive defensive tactics to have success opposite big offenses. Florida’s offense might not take flight right away, but Grantham inherits a talented Gators defense and an East that — Georgia aside — is hardly imposing. If Florida is going to rebound quicker than expected, Grantham will have a big role.
4. What is Bryan McClendon doing in Columbia? Running.
A couple years into the Will Muschamp era, things are going well at South Carolina. But most of that good feeling has come from the defensive side of the ball. With QB Jake Bentley back as well as all-world WR Deebo Samuel and a stable of running backs, it’s time for Carolina to assert some sort of offensive identity. How will that go for new play caller Bryan McClendon? Spring is the first chance to see. One smart guess is that USC will recommit to running the football, which has been a struggle in recent years.
5. LSU looking to improve by Myles.
A lousy offense got Les Miles a ticket out of the Bayou, and Ed Orgeron is plainly not going down the same path. Matt Canada brought some life to the play-calling, but not enough to return, so Steve Ensminger’s era will begin this spring. QB Myles Brennan is the guy to watch, and if LSU is looking to move up, he’ll be the man making it happen.
6. Ta’amu is terrific.
You can’t tell the players without a scorecard in Oxford, but even with star QB Shea Patterson at Michigan, the Rebels are still going to be must-watch football. JUCO Jordan Ta’amu emerged after Patterson’s injury to be an even more explosive player, a true dual-threat star. Given the reins for the full season, Rebels fans can’t wait to see more Ta’amu.
7. Mond over Starkel.
So this is bold: Nick Starkel will transfer from Texas A&M before the fall semester. Why? Jimbo Fisher didn’t come from Tallahassee to play small. Starkel is more polished than Kellen Mond, but it’s the dual-threat athleticism of Mond that will win out in the craziest spring QB fight.
8. Alabama keeps both QBs.
Somehow, some way, Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa are both playing for Alabama come fall 2018. I don’t know how it’ll work, but it will.
9. Air Raid Nashville?
Given the loss of Ralph Webb and the return of steady QB Kyle Shurmur, Derek Mason has to realize that a decent 2018 season — which would keep him employed — will rely on a passing game. Footballs will be flying at Vandy this spring, more so than anytime since the Jay Cutler/Earl Bennett days.
10. Two QBs in Lexington?
Meanwhile, Kentucky lost Stephen Johnson, who was a superb dual-threat stop-gap after touted prospect Drew Barker blew out his back and eventually gave up football. The battle in Lexington is between JUCO run-threat Terry Wilson and sophomore Gunnar Hoak, who starred in the 2017 spring game. Sides are being chosen, but given the multiple offense that coordinator Eddie Gran likes to run, what if both end up playing in Lexington? Stranger things have happened.