Will Bielema modify his power system to the personnel in place in Arkansas, or are the Razorbacks set for some growing pains?
This week’s edition of the Thursday Three looks at the top SEC West storylines this spring.
#1 - New Sheriff in Fayetteville
Just a year removed from his anti-SEC comments at Big 10 media days, Bret Bielema has joined the dark side of the force. In one of the most surprising coaching moves of this cycle, he left the Big 10 Champions Wisconsin to take over the reins of one of the worst teams in the SEC last season, Arkansas. The storyline for this spring is to see exactly what the Razorbacks are going to look like under their new signal caller. It’s going to take a while, if it’s even possible, to stockpile the kind of talent he needs to run the power offense he was known for at Wisconsin in the SEC.
#2 - Something Brewing in Oxford?
I’m not the only person in the world who thinks the Rebels are a team to watch in the SEC West next year, but just how good can they be? Hugh Freeze returns almost his entire starting unit on both sides of the ball next season, but the story of the spring is whether or not the Rebels have a backup quarterback for Bo Wallace. Wallace is out this spring after shoulder surgery so the signal caller for the next month or so will be Barry Brunetti. Brunetti saw action last season in the backup role, and though his passing leaves something to be desired, his athleticism brings a different wrinkle to the Rebel offense.
#3 - Pushing the Tempo in Auburn
Calling A&M’s offensive success in their first season in the SEC an “eye opener” wouldn’t be stretching the truth, and other teams plan on doing the same. Freeze at Ole Miss was already a tempo team, and now Guz Malzahn re-enters the mix as the third tempo team in the West. This time around he doesn’t have a defensive coach standing over his shoulder tell him to slow it down, far from it. In fact new Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson is not only okay with the offenses tempo, but thinks it will help his defense. For a league known for it’s defense, the SEC West is beginning to move the Big 12’s way in regards to the spread offense. Four of the seven teams in the West run some version of the spread, the only ones that don’t are LSU, Alabama and Arkansas.
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