One thing we learned about every SEC team in spring practice so far
Now that the NCAA Tournament is over, SEC fans should officially be in spring football mode.
Well, assuming your bracket is busted as well.
But with all the intrigue of March Madness consuming your attention the past few weeks, you might have missed out on some interesting developments in spring camp so far.
Here’s one thing that we learned from every SEC team in spring practice:
Alabama — Tua Tagovailoa is mortal
It turns out that the national championship hero bleeds like the rest of us. Who knew? But in all seriousness, Tagovailoa’s hand injury was a good reminder that while everyone is trying to settle on QB1, injuries happen and sometimes quarterback battles are thrown out the window. That’s why Nick Saban is so desperate to add quarterbacks to the roster. Unfortunately for him, grad transfer Gardner Minshew’s audible to Washington State probably made Tagovailoa’s injury a bit more real. But hey, at least we learned that Jalen Hurts can squat 600 pounds.
Arkansas — Chad Morris is going high-pace, high-tech
So we knew that the Arkansas coach was going to want to come into Fayetteville and install an up-tempo offense. Practices are fast to simulate that. What we also learned is that the first-year coach apparently is a big fan of drones. He’s using one to best capture the aerial view of his new offense, which apparently is nothing new for him. He used it at Clemson and at SMU.
“There’re different levels we will fly it at. Some we’ll fly it at about eight nine foot high to where it kind of gives exactly what the quarterback is looking at,” Morris described via 5NewsOnline. “Other times we fly it extremely high ’cause we want, especially in special teams, we want to get a great top down look, and it moves with the ball.”
Makes sense. Give it a few months before every SEC team has a drone flying around at practice.
Auburn — The Tigers’ offense is murkier than when camp started
There was a decent chance that Jarrett Stidham would be out for the majority of spring because of shoulder surgery. That’s still true. But we don’t know when Stidham is going to be a full-go. We also don’t know what this running game is going to look like. At all.
Besides replacing four offensive linemen, Auburn is still trying to figure out its go-to back. But perhaps an equally-pressing issue is finding a replacement for the versatile Eli Stove, who tore his ACL on the final practice before spring break. Instead of getting answers to position battles and replacements, it just feels like we have more questions.
Florida — Dan Mullen is really ‘running’ things his way
There’s your cliché “new coach doing things his way” headline. Mullen is indeed implementing his own style in Gainesville, which apparently includes running “gassers” with the team. In other words, if someone shows up late or misses a class, Mullen is joining in on the running punishment with his team. Needless to say, that’s an atypical hands-on approach for a coach to take. But what’s to say it won’t make Mullen seem more accountable? Perhaps if Florida’s offense struggles, Mullen will even call his own number and start throwing passes.
Georgia — James Coley is moving on up
We learned on the first day of spring camp that the Georgia assistant got a nice promotion. Not only is Coley the Dawgs’ new quarterbacks coach, he’s also the new co-offensive coordinator. That was the result of Coley getting an enticing offer to become the new offensive coordinator at Texas A&M on Jimbo Fisher’s staff. Instead, Coley got a promotion to stay in Athens. He won’t call plays — Jim Chaney still holds that title — but now he’ll get a chance to work closely with the most intriguing quarterback room in America. Not a bad gig.
Kentucky — E.J. Price wasn’t a happy camper
It’s not surprising to see a few guys step away from the team during spring camp. What you don’t always see is a guy who was expected to have a significant role leave the team and bash the coaching staff on his way out. That’s what Price did. The former USC transfer tweeted things like, ““You can’t preach accountability and you don’t even hold yourself accountable to your players” and, “Mediocre standards equal mediocre results,” both of which were later deleted. Maybe we’ll learn more about the story behind that in the coming weeks.
LSU — The quarterback situation could have more twists and turns
We knew that the Tigers were going to have a quarterback battle in spring camp that likely lasted until the summer. What we didn’t know was that Ed Orgeron was apparently open to the idea of bringing in a transfer quarterback and hinted at the possibility of one of his young quarterbacks transferring at the end of spring.
Orgeron, as he's said before, says #LSU could bring in a transfer QB over the summer. He hints that one of his QBs may leave after spring.
"We’re going to see what happens this spring. Going to discuss that after spring."
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) March 16, 2018
Whether that’s Lowell Narcisse or Myles Brennan remains to be seen. We knew that was a possibility with both in the 2017 class. It now appears more likely that the non-starter out of spring — if there is one — could be on the move. Perhaps the spring game will determine that.
Mississippi State — Nick Fitzgerald is coming along nicely after his foot injury
The assumption was that the senior quarterback was going to take things slowly coming back from his season-ending foot injury. But on the first day of spring practice, Fitzgerald was suited up and running drills albeit in a limited fashion. Fitzgerald participated in seven-on-seven and scout team drills, according to new MSU coach Joe Moorhead. Perhaps the desire to get on the same page with Moorhead pushed Fitzgerald to get back on the field quicker. Maybe Keytaon Thompson’s impressive Taxslayer Bowl added to that. Whatever the case, it was good for Bulldog fans to see Fitzgerald back on the field.
Missouri — Micah Wilson, the receiver?
New Mizzou offensive coordinator Derek Dooley was refreshingly honest when asked about the young backup quarterback.
Backup Missouri QB Micah Wilson taking some WR reps today. OC Derek Dooley quips, “There’s a really good chance he’s not gonna beat Drew out.” Wilson still a QB but staff likes his speed.
— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) March 13, 2018
That’s an interesting move considering Wilson is likely going to be in line to become the starter once Lock graduates. Mizzou is potentially willing to risk Wilson’s development by having him play receiver. Or the other scenario is that Wilson could get hurt playing the position, which would make Mizzou’s dependency on Lock even greater. It’s a testament to Wilson’s athleticism that coaches would even try a move like that. Who knows? Maybe Wilson becomes one of Lock’s favorite weapons before he heads off to the NFL.
Ole Miss — Multiple key injuries on the defensive line
So in order for Ole Miss to not finish No. 123 against the run, it needs a healthy defensive line. Instead, Matt Luke kicked off spring camp a few weeks ago by delivering some bad news on that front. Former 5-star recruit Benito Jones, defensive tackle Austrian Robinson and defensive end Qaadir Sheppard were all ruled out for the spring with various injuries. That’s not ideal for a unit that simply needs to improve in order for Ole Miss to rise above mediocrity in 2018.
South Carolina — Apparently tearing your ACL in spring doesn’t mean your season is over
Maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned, but when I hear “Player X tore his ACL,” I assume that means he’s out for the current/upcoming season. So when I heard that South Carolina wide receiver Chad Terrell tore his ACL, I assumed that was the case. Then I saw Will Muschamp’s quote about the talented sophomore.
“Since the injury occurred so early in the year, we look forward to getting Chad back on the field and helping us this fall.”
Well that’s news to me. If a receiver can overcome a torn ACL and be back on the field in roughly 7-8 months as Muschamp forecasted, I’ll tip my cap to modern medicine. Here’s hoping that Terrell does indeed make a full, speedy recovery.
Tennessee — Jeremy Pruitt doesn’t care about your ‘position’
OK, that might need some context. Besides having virtually every position as “an open competition,” the new Tennessee coach is shaking things up with some of his personnel groups.
Junior Carlin Fils-Aime is switching from running back to cornerback, Princeton Fant from tight end to running back, Ja’Quain Blakely from defensive line to tight end and junior Tyler Byrd is moving back to defensive end. Pruitt added that he wants to see their willingness to embrace these moves. It’s about time Tennessee fans got to discuss position changes without a Jalen Hurd-Butch Jones joke.
Texas A&M — The Aggies are in shape!
I know what you’re thinking. That’s all? They’re in shape? In my defense, we’re only a couple days into Jimbo Fisher’s first spring practice period. And also in my defense, being in shape wasn’t always a given with the Texas A&M teams of old. But Fisher said that the coaching staff “cranked them real hard” in the offseason program and that nobody was cramping or too tired after a fast-paced first practice. That’s a very early victory for the Aggies. Maybe under Fisher, we won’t see them run out of gas in November.
Vanderbilt — New defensive coordinator Jason Tarver has an atypical living situation
It was a big step for Derek Mason to hire someone to actually be the defensive coordinator instead of doing the job himself. Mason took that a step further by letting Tarver move into the spare bedroom above his garage. Really. Talk about getting on the same page. The move is only temporary until Tarver’s family relocates to Nashville. Still, that says a lot about how close Mason and Tarver are and how much trust they have in each other. Let’s see if that yields some better defensive results in 2018.