SEC Football Q&A: Should Alabama Fans Be Concerned About the Tide QB Situation?

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterApril 19, 2016

Alabama QB Blake Barnett
Alabama QB Blake BarnettMarvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

With the exception of Arkansas, the spring practices around the SEC are in the books, and we've entered what former South Carolina and Florida head coach Steve Spurrier calls "talkin' season."

So let's talk.

Spring games have given us a glimpse of where each team stands heading into summer workouts, position battles are raging and preseason predictions will soon be flying.

What should we make of Alabama's quarterback situation? Just how good is Georgia? Those questions and more are answered in this week's edition of SEC Q&A.

KP @anythingbutkev

@BarrettSallee how much can we glean from the Alabama QBs' spring game performances?

Not much, because some monster named Tim Williams decided to pay mortgage in the Alabama backfield, which made it difficult for the quarterbacks to get going.

It's easy to panic if spring games don't go well, because unlike 10-15 years ago, they are the only real points of reference that fans and media have to base projections on for most schools who have closed practices. In years past, we could say, "Well, Player X didn't have a great spring game, but he tore up a couple of scrimmages."

Because of that, every team in America is either going to win the national title or fire its whole staff—with no room for an opinion anywhere between those two takes.

Alabama's quarterbacks will be fine. 

No, veterans Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell didn't look great, but the younger players—redshirt freshman Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts—did, at times.

Alabama QB Jalen Hurts
Alabama QB Jalen HurtsMarvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Barnett made a couple of big-time throws, including one over a linebacker and under the safeties to Xavian Marks in the fourth quarter. Hurts' athleticism was apparent early, and he fit some throws in tight windows on the run, including a couple to Cam Sims. 

"I think both guys made some good throws," head coach Nick Saban said in quotes released by Alabama. "Both guys showed their athleticism in terms of the ability to stretch plays. They certainly look faster and quicker in terms of how we are moving on offense when those two go in there."

The older players are caretakers, while the younger players have the upside. Yes, the older players need to at least provide a threat, and Bateman has a bit more upside than Cornwell due to his own athleticism. But Barnett and Hurts looked fine considering the defense they were asked to go up against.

Plus, this is par for the course for Alabama. 

Blake Sims looked awful two spring games ago when he completed 13 of 30 passes, tossed one touchdown and two picks (and could have had one or two more). Jake Coker went 14-for-28 for 183 yards, a touchdown and a pick last year, per Roll Bama Roll.

How did those two seasons work out? Two SEC titles, two College Football Playoff berths and a national title.

Alabama still has offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin—the ultimate ace up a coaching staff's sleeve.

Kiffin will make it work.

Not really. 

While quarterback Jacob Eason looked awesome in the spring game and should be the starting quarterback from the get-go (as mentioned in the story you responded to), the quarterback battle isn't Georgia's biggest problem.

The line of scrimmage is—on both sides of the ball.

Georgia has questions at both tackle spots on the offensive side of the ball, although the arrival of Rhode Island graduate transfer Tyler Catalina this summer should help. On the defensive side, injuries decimated the line during spring practice, virtually all key contributors on the projected two-deep are underclassmen and Georgia won't have the luxury to rotate nine or 10 players up front.

"We have to do a better job of being physical in all areas, especially up front along the offensive and defensive lines," Smart said. "First of all, we're not as big as we need to be, but we don't play as tough and as physical as we need to. The good news is that we have time to lift weights and get stronger in our summer program."

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart
Georgia head coach Kirby SmartBrett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Because of those issues, it's hard to imagine scenarios in which Georgia handles tough, physical defensive fronts like the ones that Ole Miss, Florida, Auburn and Tennessee boast. It might win some of those games, but it's hard to trust them at this point. 

That same question exists on the defensive front, where the Bulldogs will square off with some punishing, physical rushing attacks throughout the year.

Georgia is going to be in the mix for the East, for sure. But it's impossible to move them over Tennessee at this point, since Tennessee looked like it solved its biggest issue (wide receiver) during its spring game.

David Waters - Gators Breakdown @GatorDave_SEC

@BarrettSallee What is the trajectory of Tennessee if they don't win the East in 2016?

It's hard to say exactly what the trajectory of any team will look like in December without knowing the specific circumstances. For instance, if Tennessee doesn't win the East but goes 9-3 and Joshua Dobbs misses several key games due to injury, I'd say that the trajectory is actually still moving forward. 

But if all rosters stay relatively intact throughout the year in the SEC East and Tennessee doesn't make it to Atlanta, it will be a disappointment, and Tennessee will go from "building brick-by-brick" during the first three seasons of Butch Jones' tenure to stuck in neutral (or in reverse if the season is a complete debacle).

Tennessee WR Preston Williams
Tennessee WR Preston WilliamsRandy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Everything is set up for Tennessee to be successful and win the East for the first time since 2007.

The roster is loaded with depth and experience—which is something that hasn't existed on Rocky Top since the Phillip Fulmer era. The passing game should be better thanks to the emergence of Preston Williams and Jeff George outside. The Vols get Florida at home early in the season and get Alabama at home after it plays a physical road game with Arkansas.

Anything less than an SEC East title shouldn't be accepted by Jones, the players or the fanbase—assuming there aren't any catastrophic injuries or suspensions.

If the Vols miss Atlanta, the bus will be put in neutral, and Georgia and Florida could go zooming right by.

Chris @RealKyleMooney

@BarrettSallee who would be your dark horse for SEC defensive player of the year and why?

I'm not sure how much of a dark horse he is because a lot of people know about him, but Texas A&M defensive tackle Daylon Mack could be this year's version of former Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

With Myles Garrett dominating attention outside and Daeshon Hall gobbling up his fair share of attention on the other side of the defensive line, Mack will have plenty of opportunities to bring pressure up the middle and become the monster in the middle of what should be a phenomenal Aggie defensive front.

Does he qualify as a dark horse?

I'd say yes, considering the favorite to win the award is Garrett. But Garrett will get the "Jadeveon Clowney treatment" this year, which means teams will shy away from him as much as possible, just as they did during Clowney's final year at South Carolina in 2013. 

Mack will be a force against the run and a nightmare to opposing quarterbacks who will be forced to get on the move quickly, and he'll live up to his lofty 5-star expectations as a sophomore in College Station.

That could result in Defensive Player of the Year honors if things break right for him.

Texas A&M DT Daylon Mack
Texas A&M DT Daylon MackBob Levey/Getty Images

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.


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