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Around the SEC: Spring Football

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AJ McCarron has been impressive this spring, and Alabama fans are expecting a big season.


According to Travis Reier, Nick Saban is up to his usual spring antics and “Air McCarron” has been unleashed in Tuscaloosa. In this weekend’s scrimmage, McCarron threw the ball over 40 times. People are expecting big things from McCarron this season, but Reier says not to expect Saban to abandon his balanced attack any time soon.

Alabama is trying to find their depth chart at outside linebacker, with depth the major concern right now for the Crimson Tide. However, I doubt that anybody is going to feel too bad for the linebacker unit at Alabama.

A player that wasn’t being touted highly coming into the spring but who’s starting to make plays is Deion Belue. Belue originally signed with Alabama in 2009, but had to go the junior college route before joining the Crimson Tide this spring.


One team that Aggie fans are already familiar with from recent years is Arkansas, and the talk of Fayetteville right now is receiver Marquel Wade. Robert Turbeville wrote that Wade “flat-out put on a show” on Friday during Arkansas’ first scrimmage of the year.

Receiver Marquel Wade has been the talk of Fayetteville.

Knile Davis is still being held out of spring drills after missing last season with a broken ankle, but they say it is for “precautionary reasons.”

The offense has been ahead of the defense so far in practices according to Bobby Petrino, but that’s to be expected at this point. On Friday, Tyler Wilson completed 19 of his 27 passes for over 300 yards in the scrimmage.

One defensive note this spring for the Razorbacks is the move of Tenarius Wright from defensive end to middle linebacker, where right now he’s holding down the starting role. Petrino likes what he’s seen out of Wright so far at the new position, especially in the run game.


According to Phillip Marshall, with Clint Moseley currently sidelined by injury, Kiel Frazier is manning the quarterback position for the Tigers. Moseley is expected back in the coming weeks, and he’ll be in the mix for the starting job. Bot Moseley and Frazier saw time at quarterback last season, but the junior Moseley ended the season as the Auburn starter.

However, with the departure of Gus Malzahn, all bets are off this spring at Auburn, and Moseley finds himself in a quarterback battle again. With Mosely out of the picture, Frazier was impressive in the first scrimmage of the spring for Auburn on Saturday.

The other player to keep an eye on this spring is running back Corey Grant. His breakaway speed is the talk of the Auburn folks, but his elusiveness remains a question.

Defensive end Ronald Powell has picked up where he left off last season.


Defense has been the key word in Gainesville this spring for Will Muschamp’s Gators. Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn said that he could tell the difference right away.

“Even on the first practice I remember walking back with Coach (Will Muschamp) and saying what a difference a year makes from practice one when we first got here and putting in a new package to now having the familiarity not only with the players but them knowing the system and us knowing them,” Quinn said. “It’s now a second year in and for college guys it’s like English 101, did it, and now we’re in English 102. We’re getting more defined and more skilled at our techniques and just playing the game.”

One of the bright spots has been junior defensive end Ronald Powell, who Franz Beard says has been in the backfield all spring in the pass rush.

Even though the Gators were hoping to keep the offensive scheme changes to a minimum under new coordinator Brent Pease, Muschamp says there have been some significant changes and that the 2012 offense will have a very different “look and feel” from last season.

Mississippi State

Dan Mullen doesn't like what he's seen out of his defense thus far this spring.

Paul Jones said that it was the offense that ruled the day on Saturday’s scrimmage at Mississippi State. Dan Mullen even went as far as to say that he was “real disappointed” with aspects of the defense in the scrimmage.

Quarterbacks Tyler Russell and Dak Prescott were both effective under center, and Chris Smith, Brandon Heavens and Arceto Clark have been impressive at wide receiver. Mullen noted that he’s been impressed with the leadership role that Russell has taken this spring.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs aren’t working at full strength. Nickoe Whitley and Corey Broomfield are both out of action right now.

One bright spot on the defensive side of the ball is junior linebacker Deontae Skinner, who has impressed onlookers this spring. Mullen praised the junior defender’s efforts.

"I am really pleased with what (Skinner) has done for us since we've been out here," said Mullen. "He is a guy that went from us being worried to getting a little special teams work and then got a role on defense. Now he is becoming a consistent defensive player and a guy we can keep on the field at his position. If he can do that it will be a huge bonus for us."

Ole Miss

The only other team in the SEC breaking in a first year coach are the Rebels of Mississippi. Hugh Freeze’s new team is six practices into the spring, and right now defense is the story. With their lack of depth at the linebacker position, Webb Lewis says that the Rebels have been using their safeties in the box often this spring. The Rebels have plenty of depth at the safety position.

However, the offense had their say by the end of Friday’s scrimmage. Their spread attack eventually wore down the defense, and they were able to hit some big plays toward the end of the day.

Quick Hitters

- In Athens, the defense has predictably been the story for Mark Richt’s Georgia team, but the Bulldogs have been hit hard with transfers and suspensions. Read more in Gentry Estes’ column “We really have to come together.”

- John Whittle says that in South Carolina, junior receiver Ace Sanders has been one of the highlights of spring football in the absence of the departed Alshon Jeffery.

- In Knoxville, the focus has been on improving Tennessee’s run game from a season ago, and Ryan Callahan writes that Derek Dooley can already see a noticeable difference in the unit.

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