SEC has a lot of QB questions

SEC has a lot of QB questions

March 15th, 2009 by Darren Epps in Local - Breaking News

By Darren Epps

depps@timesfreepress.com

Before you immerse yourself in the NCAA basketball tournament and start filling out your bracket, let's take a look at the questions facing each Southeastern Conference football team as spring practices get fully under way. Maybe one day we'll be filling out college football brackets.

SEC WEST

Alabama

Start of spring: Last Friday

Spring game: April 18

Spring chatter: The key for Alabama this spring is deciphering the talents of quarterbacks Greg McElroy and Star Jackson. If the competition is close, look for Jackson to win the job. Two reasons: 1. He's younger and will gain from the experience. 2. Given the status of Alabama's rebuilding offensive line, the Tide might need an elusive quarterback. (Completely random note: How cool is Clint Mansell's "Requiem for a Dream" song during Alabama's pregame? Can't wait to hear it again.)

Arkansas

Start of spring: March 24

Spring game: April 18

Spring chatter: Can Ryan Mallett be the next Jevan Snead? The Ole Miss quarterback transferred from Texas and used the talent around him to help the Rebels win nine games. Mallett, a Michigan transfer, gives Arkansas hope for some long-awaited consistency at quarterback. Improved quarterback play, as Snead proved, can transform a middling SEC team into a New Year's Day bowl participant.

Auburn

Start of spring: March 24

Spring game: April 18

Spring chatter: The Tigers should accomplish a lot on offense with coordinator Gus Malzahn allowed to work without much interference from new coach Gene Chizik and the assistants. Tommy Tuberville did not grant Tony Franklin the same latitude. Same with Malzahn under Houston Nutt at Arkansas. But a new offense without the old staff should work. We'll find out this spring.

LSU

Start of spring: Last Thursday

Spring game: April 18

Spring chatter: A crucial spring for new defensive coordinator John Chavis, who is implementing new terminology, schemes and a much more fiery attitude to a defense that was inexplicably woeful last year. If LSU struggles again, it won't be the offense's fault. Jordan Jefferson looks like the next star SEC quarterback, and he's got at least two talented receivers in Brandon LaFell and Terrance Toliver. Coach Les Miles admitted Jefferson would start if the season began this week.

Ole Miss

Start of spring: March 26

Spring game: April 18

Spring chatter: The SEC West favorite in 2009? If so, the Rebels will need to replace the best player on the team last season: mammoth left tackle Michael Oher. A lot of pressure will be on junior college transfer Logan Clair and last year's backup, Bradley Sowell. They need to prove they are capable of protecting Jevan Snead, or prized recruit Bobbie Massie will get a chance to win the job in August. The Rebels would rather ease Massie into the job. It would probably make Snead feel better.

Mississippi State

Start of spring: March 24

Spring game: April 18

Spring chatter: The concern is that Dan Mullen and offensive coordinator Les Koenning won't get as much accomplished this spring for two reasons: 1. The Bulldogs are severely lacking in receivers, a core part of Mullen's spread attack. Six signees at receiver won't arrive until the summer. 2. Highly touted freshman quarterback Tyler Russell won't be on campus for spring drills.

SEC EAST

Florida

Start of spring: March 25

Spring game: April 18

Spring chatter: Who's the next Percy Harvin? The Gators' offense really excelled when Harvin got healthy and re-established himself as a big-play threat. The candidates are Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey and Deonte Thompson. The Gators also need help at both offensive tackle positions, but now we're just being picky.

Georgia

Start of spring: Tuesday

Spring game: April 11

Spring chatter: The quarterback situation has a Peyton Manning/Tee Martin feel to it. At least, that's what Georgia fans keep telling themselves. Joe Cox really needs to establish a rapport with the receivers and take command of the huddle this spring. Tennessee's Martin once told me that he started earning respect from his teammates in the spring of 1998. Cox needs to accomplish the same this spring.

Kentucky

Start of spring: April 1

Spring game: April 25

Spring chatter: A good season for Kentucky fans to finally start paying attention to spring football. What are they going to watch, the NIT? Following quarterback Mike Hartline should be more interesting. He won the Liberty Bowl, the hearts of Kentucky fans and the starting job to close last season. The Wildcats desperately need him to repeat that performance this spring. Kentucky would love to use Randall Cobb in a Percy Harvin-type role instead of at quarterback.

South Carolina

Start of spring: March 5

Spring game: April 11

Spring chatter: For the first time in three tries, quarterback Stephen Garcia is not suspended for spring practice. Maybe these extra practices can help him conquer the mental aspect of the game, because his physical ability is evident. He doesn't have much of a choice: Backups Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher both transferred.

Tennessee

Start of spring: Last Tuesday

Spring game: April 18

Spring chatter: One of the quarterbacks, either Jonathan Crompton or B.J. Coleman (and Nick Stephens, if he returns), must establish himself this spring. There simply aren't enough reps for three quarterbacks in preseason camp. The system is new and there isn't enough time. Dividing the reps three ways in August and beyond isn't going to help anyone, and I guarantee the receivers will protest.

Vanderbilt

Start of spring: Last Tuesday

Spring game: March 29

Spring chatter: It will be interesting to see who asserts himself in the secondary this spring with cornerback D.J. Moore and safety Reshard Langford gone and cornerback Myron Lewis out with an injury. The player to watch is Jamie Graham, who left the basketball team in January to concentrate on football. The coaching staff hopes Graham does more than fill a role in the secondary: They want him to become the next Moore and contribute on offense and special teams.