What I liked or didn't like after the first wave of SEC spring games
Spring football has come and gone for several SEC teams.
How are you feeling? Better? Worse? Nervous, as usual?
I’m feeling a little of each after watching the first 5 games. Here’s what I liked or didn’t like after the first wave of SEC spring games.
Vanderbilt: QB isn’t biggest issue
I’d feel more nervous if the Commodores’ attack actually revolved around the quarterback. It hasn’t, though. Kyle Shurmur generally fluctuated between solid and a bit above average his final two years, but he was rarely the reason Vandy won. Well, except the past three Tennessee games. He dominated the Vols.
Graduate transfer Riley Neal looked the part during the spring game, and by that, I mean he looked more than capable of managing the offense.
Derek Mason won’t ask Riley (or Deuce Wallace) to become Jay Cutler 2.0. Just do enough to keep the heat off Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
South Carolina: Ryan Hilinski is the future (and maybe not-too-distant)
I watched Jake Bentley and Dakereon Joyner and flashed back to last spring’s A-Day Game with Jalen Hurts. You want to see progress, development in these exhibitions. I saw more of the same from both, which was disappointing.
I wanted to see Joyner stick with his progressions instead of tucking and running. He threw a couple of nice balls but misfired 13 times. I came away with the feeling that he’s a better football player than quarterback.
He isn’t having any part of that conversation, however.
“Not a chance,” he told reporters when asked about a potential position change. “I would have went anywhere else in the country. I would have went to Alabama or Clemson. You know what I’m saying? I came here to play quarterback, and that’s what I’m going to do. I know my coaches believe in me, and that’s that.”
We didn’t see a lot of Bentley, but I noticed he still stayed locked on his primary receiver and forced a couple of throws. He’s far too long to still be doing that, especially in a controlled environment. The latter has been his nemesis and could be the reason Will Muschamp eventually turns the page.
If and when that happens, I like Ryan Hilinski’s chances to get that nod. Sure, the game-plan was overly simplistic, which led to his high completion percentage, and he certainly stared down a receiver or two. But the ball placement was on point and on time, and I particularly liked the variety of throws. It’s easy to understand why Gamecocks fans are excited about his arrival and future.
LSU: The early-enrollees will contribute
The Tigers looked like a team that knows it’s good, rather than one trying to figure that out.
There are holes to fill and time to fill them, but the early-enrollees in particular stated their case.
Siaki Ika, a 4-star DT, looked immovable, yet mobile at 350-some pounds. He had 2 sacks and 3 TFLs. Sure, it was against LSU’s second-team offense, but Ed Orgeron wasn’t kidding or exaggerating when he called it a “dominant performance.”
And Derek Stingley looked like Greedy Williams, staying stride-for-stride on a go route, then flipping his head in time to intercept Joe Burrow’s pass.
— Brooks Kubena (@BKubena) April 6, 2019
Arkansas: Hogs have a playmaker
We still don’t know who will win the QB job.
We do know he’ll have at least one game-breaker.
Trey Knox stole the show with this catch, cut and run. That move was impressive on its own, but remember: Knox is 6-5, 215. He’s going to be much more than a red-zone jump ball threat.
Trey Knox, ladies & gentlemen. pic.twitter.com/VDHwGzw1PB
— Arkansas Razorbacks Football (@RazorbackFB) April 6, 2019
Knox is the best of 4 blue-chip pass catchers in the Hogs’ 2019 recruiting class. It still might take another season, but you can begin to see the offense Chad Morris wants.
Ole Miss: Matt Corral
I don’t know where Ole Miss finds these guys, but I’m already looking forward to watching Matt Corral run around and make plays. Or mistakes.
Whichever happens, it’s going to be wildly entertaining.
.@corral_matt completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 240 yards and a TD in yesterday's Grove Bowl.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) April 7, 2019
Will it lead to a bowl game? That’s Matt Luke’s concern, not mine. I’m here for the TV ratings and TD celebrations.
Corral looked like a young Shea Patterson, right down to the arm sleeve, rolling out, rifling throws (37 of them!). All that’s missing was the “0” after the “2.”
Ole Miss can change quarterbacks, head coaches and offensive coordinators, but one thing remains constant: This offense is a gun-slinger’s dream.
Matt Corral cover photo via @OleMissFB