SEC Football: 5 Most Interesting Remaining Spring Games of 2014
With massive turnover on offense, many Southeastern Conference teams will be displaying new quarterbacks, among other position battles, in their upcoming spring games.
Whether we like to admit it or not, quarterback is the most important and intriguing position on the football field. A lack of depth or a key injury in the role can send shock waves through the entire team (i.e. Florida, 2013), and with this offseason's turnover, it should be a key position to watch during the conference teams' spring games.
The following list is comprised of four traditional SEC powers that have some questions to answer as well as a cellar-dweller with something to prove. Meander as you may through the previews of the SEC's most interesting upcoming spring games.
Date: April 19, 2014
Time: 2 p.m. EDT
Much like most other SEC squads, head coach Nick Saban will be heavily focused on replacing a talented quarterback. Saban recently told reportersthat senior Blake Sims has "taken some command," adding that redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman and redshirt sophomore Alec Morris have been his main competition.
Don't count out incoming Florida State transfer Jacob Coker, though. Coker, a 6'5", 230-pound native of Mobile, Ala., graduated FSU as Heisman winner Jameis Winston's backup and should be a threat to Sims.
The sheer amount of talent and experience at wide receiver and running back should be enough for a good show, too. Saban's known for meaning what he says, and, and he recently called his trio of running backs in T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry "oustanding."
Look for senior linebacker Trey DePriest to emerge as a leader of the defense, as well as the recovery of fellow linebacker Reuben Foster from a "stinger."
There is likely no college football team that can put the amount of talent on one field that Alabama can, and that reason alone makes Alabama's spring game a can't-miss.
Date: April 19, 2014
Time: 3 p.m. EDT
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn is an all-star. That much is clear. Following a rebound of epic proportions that vaulted the Tigers into the national title game in 2013, expectations couldn't be any higher in Auburn heading into this year's spring game.
Last year's quarterback returns in senior Nick Marshall—though with little to prove, don't expect him to see the field much. Malzahn will, however, likely put Marshall in some passing roles to see if the Tigers offense can find a little more balance in 2014. With the NFL jump of Heisman finalist Tre Mason, the focus will be on Auburn's high-powered running game.
Seniors Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne will be competing for the top spot at running back, the team's star role. With similar builds and backgrounds, this should be a fun competition to watch unfold in the spring game.
The battle in the trenches should be telling as well with starters Dee Ford, Nosa Eguae, Kenneth Carter and Craig Sanders gone from the defensive front. Auburn's defense wasn't exactly special in 2013 and can't afford many steps back.
Last season's national runner-up will have a tremendous amount of attention focused on its spring game, evidenced by the prime-time selection to air on ESPN, and there's little doubt Auburn fans will be there in droves.
Date: April 12, 2014
Time: 1:30 p.m. EDT
When a program just five years removed from a national title wins only four games, its offseason is bound to be interesting. New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper takes the reigns of a squad that finished tied for 112th in scoring offense a year ago but has tremendous talent.
There should be plenty of salivation among Florida faithful to see what early enrollee quarterback Will Grier can show. Grier was the second-ranked high school quarterback in the nation, and considering the struggles at the position a year ago, he'll be garnering plenty of attention. So, too, will Jeff Driskel, the presumed returning starter who was lost early in 2013 to a broken leg.
Focus will also be on the offensive line's performance, as the staples of the front in Jonotthan Harrison and Jon Halapio have moved on. Injuries have plagued this unit, and if Driskel is going to lead a resurgence, it must start here.
Date: April 26, 2014
Time: 3:30 p.m. EDT
Why is a two-win team's spring game one of the conference's most interesting? A top-25 recruiting class is why. That class includes seven early enrollees who will be taking part in the spring game. It is a small sign of hope for the recently hapless Wildcats.
Healthy quarterbacks are a rare commodity in Lexington, so showing off all of them at once will be an exciting thing for Kentucky fans. Incoming 4-star recruit Drew Barker challenges rising juniors Jalen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith, as all three should get plenty of looks at the spring game.
A deep stable of young running backs should also be a fun watch for UK fans. Rising sophomore Jojo Kemp returns as the team's leading rusher, but several others should get their chance to make a statement in the spring game. Early enrollee and 3-star recruit Mikel Horton will likely get plenty of snaps as well.
Date: April 12, 2014
Time: 3 p.m. EDT
For a historic SEC power, the Volunteers are struggling to break into the league's top tier. Tennessee struggled at the quarterback position last season and fell just short of a bowl game once again. Juggling three potential starters, the team just couldn't find a rhythm.
Three becomes four this offseason, as the man who has not yet done wrong, redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson, will have his argument to make during this year's spring game. With redshirt sophomore Nathan Peterman's thumb hopefully healed, there will be a lot of quarterbacks to fit in a limited amount of snaps.
Linebacker A.J. Johnson will be another name to watch as his playmaking ability should be evident from the first snap. Incoming 5-star running back Jalen Hurd's ability and immense future in the SEC is yet another reason to watch.
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