Every SEC Team's 2015 Spring Football MVP

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterApril 20, 2015

Every SEC Team's 2015 Spring Football MVP

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    Alabama WR Robert Foster
    Alabama WR Robert FosterButch Dill/Associated Press

    Spring practice is in the books around the majority of the SEC, with a few other schools wrapping up their sessions this spring with spring games.

    For some schools, established stars have taken the next step. Others have seen unknown players step up to the forefront and contend for playing time in the fall.

    Who have been the stars of the spring around the SEC?

    Our picks based on results, talent, scheme and opportunity are in this slideshow.

Florida Gators: QB Will Grier

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    Florida QB Will Grier
    Florida QB Will GrierPhil Sandlin/Associated Press

    Coming into spring practice, Florida redshirt freshman quarterback Will Grier was one of the biggest mysteries in the SEC.

    The pro-style passer from Davidson, North Carolina, came to Gainesville with all of the hype that coincides with being the second-ranked pro-style passer, and that hype only built more in the offseason when Florida hired Jim McElwain as its next head coach. McElwain runs a pro-style offense, and with dual-threat QB Treon Harris as the returning starter, Grier seemed like the natural fit to take over under center for the Gators.

    He looked like he can handle the responsibility.

    Grier completed eight of his 11 passes for 136 yards and led the Gators on three touchdown drives, according to stats Florida released. Florida has massive offensive line issues, but Grier was efficient and consistent when playing behind the first-teamers.

    Harris played well too and certainly will have a role in the offense. But Grier leads the battle exiting the spring and looked like a potential star for the new-look Gators.

Georgia Bulldogs: LB Natrez Patrick

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    Georgia LB Natrez Patrick
    Georgia LB Natrez Patrick247Sports

    With Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera gone, Georgia is looking to retool its middle linebackers in defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's 3-4 system.

    Early enrollee Natrez Patrick made a push to earn plenty of playing time after moving inside for spring practice.

    The 6'3", 259-pound freshman impressed the staff all spring, completing a sack and eight total tackles in the spring game earlier in April.

    "He's done well," head coach Mark Richt said after the spring game. "When you play inside linebacker, you should make some hits and some tackles. I think it's a good fit. I'm not going to speak for Jeremy [Pruitt] and [inside linebackers] coach [Mike] Ekeler as to where he'll ultimately end up, but I think they've liked what they've seen."

    There's a crowded group of linebackers for Patrick to deal with, including Davin Bellamy, UAB transfer Jake Ganus, Tim Kimbrough and Reggie Carter. That might prevent him from earning first-team snaps this season. The future, though, is bright for Patrick in Athens.

Kentucky Wildcats: Stanley "Boom" Williams

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    Kentucky RB Stanley Williams
    Kentucky RB Stanley WilliamsDavid Stephenson/Associated Press

    New offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson was hired to keep the Air Raid system in place at Kentucky, but for it to be most effective, the offense needs to have a threat on the ground.

    Stanley "Boom" Williams is that threat.

    Williams led the Wildcats with 486 rushing yards last season and scored five times, averaging 6.57 yards per carry in the process. Now, though, the 5'9", 200-pounder from Monroe, Georgia, has emerged as more than just a bit-play running back for head coach Mark Stoops.

    According to Kyle Tucker of the The Courier-Journal, running backs coach Chad Scott had some positive thoughts on Williams:

    He's just understanding all the little things that it take. sHe's so talented, he always wanted to just make a big play every play, wasn't really satisfied with getting what was there, wouldn't just stick his foot in the ground and get the tough yards. Now he's understanding that, and because he's understanding that, the defense softens up a little bit and he's in position.

    Add Jojo Kemp to the mix, and Kentucky has a pretty solid one-two punch to soften up the defense and keep those safeties honest. 

Missouri Tigers: DT Harold Brantley

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    Missouri DT Harold Brantley
    Missouri DT Harold BrantleyDenny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    Missouri has become synonymous with fantastic play along the defensive line, and defensive tackle Harold Brantley is the next in line to be a superstar in Columbia.

    The 6'3", 280-pound junior from Hershey, Pennsylvania, is the most experienced player in the trenches this season. He had a key stop on 4th-and-2 in the spring game, according to STLToday.com, and has been the vocal leader of the Tigers defense this spring.

    "I’m tired of hearing them cheer over there!" Brantley said after Missouri's offense scored its first passing touchdown in nearly 250 plays late in spring practice, according to David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune.

    He has the size and skills to be a star anywhere along the defensive line, and he clearly has a high level of expectation for himself and his defense. That bodes well for the new-look defense.

South Carolina Gamecocks: DE Marquavius Lewis

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    South Carolina DE Marquavius Lewis (8)
    South Carolina DE Marquavius Lewis (8)247Sports / Ryan Bethea

    South Carolina finished last in the SEC in sacks in 2014 with just 14, and the No. 1 job for co-defensive coordinators Lorenzo Ward and Jon Hoke this spring was to find a way to generate pressure on a consistent basis.

    That's apparently going to be the job of Marquavius Lewis.

    The 6'3", 266-pound junior college transfer earned the top spot on the depth chart seemingly from the moment he stepped foot on campus and responded well this spring. He earned "defensive player of the spring" honors, according to the list of award winners the school emailed, and has established himself as the force the Gamecocks so desperately needed.

    Will that translate to the fall? That remains to be seen but so far, so good.

Tennessee Volunteers: RB Alvin Kamara

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    Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara
    Tennessee RB Alvin KamaraButch Dill/Associated Press

    Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd established himself as a bona fide stud during his freshman campaign in 2014, but if the Vols are going to step up and become contenders in the SEC East, they need the depth at running back required to remain consistent.

    Enter: Alvin Kamara.

    The junior college transfer got plenty of first-team carries this spring with Hurd nursing an injury and responded by announcing to the world that he's got everything it takes to be a star.

    "He's explosive. Obviously, he does great things on the football field," said quarterback Joshua Dobbs, according to Katie Van Veghel of UTSports.com. "He's very smart and has been a great addition to our football team."

    But it isn't just on the field where Kamara is making his impact. He has stepped on campus and instantly become one of the leaders for the Vols.

    "He's becoming a leader of this football team. He shows up with great consistency and approach every single day," said head coach Butch Jones. "We know what we're getting with him. He's very, very competitive."

    Combine Kamara with Hurd, Dobbs and a deep and talented wide receiving corps, and the Vols offense is set up to be one of the SEC's best in 2015.

Vanderbilt Commodores: DE Caleb Azubike

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    Vanderbilt DE Caleb Azubike
    Vanderbilt DE Caleb AzubikeChristopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

    Vanderbilt defensive end Caleb Azubike moved down to defensive end from linebacker full time following the season, and if the Commodores are going to get back in the mix for a bowl game, it will be up to Azubike to lead the charge and pressure the quarterback consistently.

    The 6'4", 270-pounder is clearly gifted. ESPN.com's Greg Ostendorf pointed out in February that "he doesn't have an ounce of fat on his body." While that's impossible, it does indicate that Azubike is as physically gifted and as dedicated of a worker off the field as any player in the SEC.

    He responded well to head coach Derek Mason taking over the play-calling duties this offseason and is set up for a fantastic senior season in Nashville.

Alabama Crimson Tide: WR Robert Foster

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    Alabama WR Robert Foster
    Alabama WR Robert FosterButch Dill/Associated Press

    Alabama is looking to replace its top three receivers from last year's squad, and it appears well on its way to doing that. 

    The receiving corps looked like a potential strength in the spring game on Saturday, with sophomore Robert Foster leading the way. The 6'2", 194-pounder looked like a star for second-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, catching six passes for 125 yards and looking every bit like a complete receiver similar to former Tide standout Amari Cooper.

    When combined with ArDarius Stewart, the Tide passing game looks like it will be just fine, and coach Nick Saban seems to agree, according to The Tuscaloosa News' Aaron Suttles: "Saban: I was pleased with how Robert Foster and ArDarius Stewart played with a lot of confidence."

    Foster's emergence as a deep threat and possession receiver will help ease the transition for the new quarterback (whoever wins the job), help Kiffin keep his play-calling relatively similar to what it was last year and keep the offense going in the right direction. 

Arkansas Razorbacks: DE Deatrich Wise Jr.

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    Arkansas DE Deatrich Wise Jr.
    Arkansas DE Deatrich Wise Jr.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press/Associated Press

    There's still a week to go before Arkansas wraps up spring practice, but one big question has been answered in Fayetteville.

    The Razorbacks defensive line will be just fine, and defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. is a big reason why.

    The 6'5", 271-pounder entered spring practice as one of defensive coordinator Robb Smith's starters and has joined forces with defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson and others to fortify the trenches after former Hogs Trey Flowers and Darius Philon moved on.

    "The only person who will limit Deatrich Wise is Deatrich Wise," head coach Bret Bielema said following Saturday's scrimmage (five-minute, nine-second mark). "As we go out on the road and recruit defensive ends, you can't get any better than that. He's athletic, strong and very, very powerful kid."

    Are there still position battles in store for the defense? Absolutely. But Arkansas wasn't going to come anywhere close to taking another step forward without filling those holes up front, and Wise has helped do that. Now, it's time for improvement and fine-tuning leading up to fall camp.

Auburn Tigers: QB Jeremy Johnson

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    Quarterback battle? Not at Auburn, even though Jeremy Johnson went through spring practice in a "battle" with redshirt freshman Sean White

    All the true junior did on Saturday during the A-Day Game was complete 14 of 22 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns, according to stats Auburn released. The 6'5", 230-pounder showed off his arm strength, accuracy and comfort within the system early and often at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and he impressed his head coach.

    "I thought Jeremy did some good things," head coach Gus Malzahn said, according to quotes Auburn released. "He has really good command of our offense. He probably held the ball a little too long a couple of throws, but, overall, I thought he did a good job."

    He also wasn't "live," meaning he couldn't show off some of his ability on the ground as a between-the-tackles force similar to former Tiger Cam Newton. Johnson's going to be a star and looked the part in the spring game.

LSU Tigers: QB Brandon Harris

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    LSU QB Brandon Harris
    LSU QB Brandon HarrisButch Dill/Associated Press

    All of the buzz coming from LSU leading up to the Tigers' spring game was the play of junior quarterback Anthony Jennings, who had taken a slight lead over sophomore Brandon Harris in the second installment of their quarterback competition.

    Jennings likely still has a lead after performing well in the game itself, but Harris isn't far behind.

    The Bossier City, Louisiana, native completed 11 of 17 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers, according to stats LSU released, and helped calm the fears of Tigers nation.

    "We threw the football much more in spring ball," head coach Les Miles said after the game. "We did the same in the spring game. I felt that both quarterbacks really executed their throws at a very high level. They still were not perfect, but I think both moved forward and both played great."

    The battle will continue, and Harris' ability to rebound and continue to push Jennings will only help them both this summer. Whoever wins the job will have to earn it, as opposed to last season, when Jennings basically won it based on experience more than anything else.

Mississippi State Bulldogs: RB Dontavian Lee

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    Mississippi State RB Dontavian Lee
    Mississippi State RB Dontavian LeeRogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Quarterback Dak Prescott was fantastic in Mississippi State's spring game on Saturday, but that was expected. 

    What wasn't expected in the spring game—and spring in general—was the play of redshirt freshman running back Dontavian Lee. The 6'1", 220-pounder from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, led all rushers with 53 yards on 11 carries.

    As Jon Weiner of 105.9 in Jackson, Mississippi, notes, his style is similar to that of former Bulldog Josh Robinson: "M-W game dialed up on Watch ESPN app on drive to Ala. Same sound, physical looking MSU team. Dontavian Lee is a truck stick in-waiting."

    He was more of a dark horse to earn carries in a backfield that consists of Ashton Shumpert, Aeris Williams and Brandon Holloway. After his strong showing this spring, his title has changed. Now, he's one of the most productive members of the committee, which will give head coach Dan Mullen even more options this fall.

Ole Miss Rebels: CB Tee Shepard

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    Ole Miss CB Tee Shepard (right)
    Ole Miss CB Tee Shepard (right)Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Is it possible that Ole Miss' defense, which finished last year tied for the SEC lead with 22 interceptions, could be better in 2015 without Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson? 

    Yep, and cornerback Tee Shepard is a big reason why.

    The 6'1", 195-pounder looked the part of a star in the spring game, picking off a pass, breaking up another and making four tackles, and he further solidified a secondary that already includes Tony Conner, C.J. Hampton, Trae Elston, Mike Hilton and others.

    ESPN's Edward Aschoff agrees: "Tee Shepard is going to be a real player at CB for the Rebels. Ole Miss' secondary has a lot of talent in it yet again."

    When combined with the ferocious pass rush that Ole Miss is bound to produce again in 2015, those defensive backs will get plenty of chances to shine. Shepard looked ready to take advantage in the spring game, which bodes well for the fall.

Texas A&M Aggies: RB James White

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    Texas A&M RB James White
    Texas A&M RB James WhiteDavid J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Texas A&M didn't have a spring game thanks to construction at Kyle Field, but that didn't prevent running back James White from becoming a star.

    The sophomore from Pearland, Texas, who's as complete as any running back on Texas A&M's roster, threw his hat in the ring to earn significant carries in an offense that should be more run-based than it was in 2014.

    "James White came to the forefront as a bigger back," head coach Kevin Sumlin said, according to Robert Cessna of The Eagle

    With Tra Carson and Brandon Williams also on the roster, White upped the ante this spring and has opened the eyes of the staff. Will he be the feature back this fall? Probably not. With so many options, Sumlin and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital will likely use all of their running backs in different situations to keep them all fresh. 

    White's emergence gave them even more depth, which should keep the offense clicking at a high level.

    Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

    Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

    Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.


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