What we learned about Georgia, Alabama, LSU and the rest of the SEC this spring

NCAAF

With spring soccer wrapped up and the beginning of one other season simply 4 months away, let’s check out what we have realized and what we nonetheless must be taught for every group within the SEC.

What did we discover out concerning the quarterback conditions at LSU, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, amongst different faculties? How will Georgia change all of the expertise it misplaced on protection? What does Alabama must do to return to the highest of the heap? Alex Scarborough and Chris Low break all of it down.

Different spring recaps: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12

East Division

What we realized this spring: For all of the discuss what he wasn’t final season, Stetson Bennett proved that he is a championship quarterback, and that was solely strengthened this spring. He is additionally going to have a couple of prime targets at tight finish, as LSU switch Arik Gilbert confirmed that he is prepared for a breakout season after sitting out final season for private causes. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Gilbert goes to be a matchup nightmare for defenses, and when Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington — each of whom missed the spring practices with accidents — are added to the combination, good luck to groups making an attempt to cowl the Dawgs’ tight ends in 2022.

What we have to be taught by Week 1: No person goes to really feel sorry for Georgia due to all of the dynamic defenders the Dawgs are losing to the NFL, notably within the entrance seven. Eight gamers from final season’s generational protection are headed to the NFL, with 5 taken within the first spherical. That is a ton of expertise exiting, even for a program that has recruited in addition to Kirby Sensible & Co. Who’re the rising stars on this subsequent Georgia protection? There are many candidates, and it helps to have a participant as proficient as defensive deal with Jalen Carter returning. However there are gaps to fill for the defending nationwide champs on protection, which ought to make for a aggressive preseason camp.

What we realized this spring: There is no quarterback drama in Gainesville as Billy Napier takes over in his first season as head coach of the Gators. It is Anthony Richardson‘s job — case closed. Richardson battled accidents a yr in the past and spent a lot of the season as a backup to Emory Jones, who has since entered the switch portal. The 6-4, 237-pound Richardson confirmed off his arm power and different bodily expertise this spring. As vital as Richardson’s expertise is for Florida’s offense, the truth that there shall be no guessing as to who the Gators’ quarterback shall be ought to make for a smoother transition for the brand new teaching workers.

What we have to be taught by Week 1: Stopping the run was an issue for Florida final season, and there have been heavy losses this offseason throughout the line of defense, each to the NFL and the switch portal. Perhaps that is not a nasty factor provided that Florida completed eighty fifth nationally a yr in the past in stopping the run (permitting 163.9 yards per sport). Both means, the Gators are going to be relying on a bunch of recent faces and youthful gamers each at defensive deal with and defensive finish in 2022. It isn’t like Florida hasn’t recruited effectively at these positions. The actual problem will doubtless be depth, extra particularly creating depth throughout preseason camp.

What we realized this spring: As coach Mark Stoops has continued to raise Kentucky’s program to heights the Wildcats have not loved in a long time, the offense has continued to enhance. The return of quarterback Will Levis and working again Chris Rodriguez offers UK probably the greatest one-two punches within the SEC, and it is all the time a plus to have a veteran quarterback returning. The lack of big-play receiver Wan’Dale Robinson to the NFL means different receivers might want to step up, however Stoops is optimistic that the Wildcats’ offense shall be much more balanced and inventive in 2022 with new coordinator Wealthy Scangarello coming over from the NFL, the place he was the San Francisco 49ers‘ quarterbacks coach.

What we have to be taught by Week 1: The Wildcats had been capable of preserve defensive coordinator Brad White after LSU and coach Brian Kelly made a run at him, which was an enormous win for the Huge Blue. Kentucky completed fourth within the SEC in scoring protection a yr in the past (21.7 factors per sport), however the jury remains to be out on whether or not the Wildcats shall be any higher at stopping stronger passing video games, particularly with high pass-rusher Josh Paschal gone. In its three losses final season to Georgia, Mississippi State and Tennessee, Kentucky allowed 910 passing yards, eight landing passes and had no interceptions (with opposing quarterbacks finishing 82.2% of their passes). Making issues worse, the Wildcats tied for a hundred and twenty fifth nationally in turnover margin. They compelled solely 12 turnovers and turned it over 23 instances.

What we realized this spring: No matter who wins the beginning quarterback job, he must be surrounded by loads of expertise on the ability positions. 5-star receiver Luther Burden regarded the half this spring after enrolling early, and he wasn’t the one one to impress. Sophomore Dominic Lovett will play extra within the slot, whereas returning receivers Barrett Banister, Tauskie Dove and Chance Luper all had landing catches within the spring sport. Stanford switch Nathaniel Peat is the favourite to exchange Tyler Badie because the Tigers’ function again.

What we have to be taught by Week 1: Most eyes shall be on the quarterback competitors between sophomore Brady Cook and redshirt freshman Tyler Macon, however the Tigers’ protection beneath first-year coordinator Blake Baker is a extra urgent query. A number of veteran gamers, notably within the secondary, had been lacking this spring whereas recovering from accidents. Missouri added a couple of gamers who ought to assist by way of the switch portal, however it’s a unit that must be significantly higher if the Tigers are going to get pleasure from their first profitable season since 2018. They completed 113th nationally a yr in the past in scoring protection (33.8 factors per sport) and 106th in complete protection (434.7 yards per sport).

What we realized this spring: After beginning 4 completely different quarterbacks a yr in the past, the Gamecocks have their starting QB for the 2022 season. Oklahoma switch Spencer Rattler went by means of spring follow and drew rave opinions from his new teammates about his skill to make large throws down the sphere, put the ball in tight home windows and the way in which he got here in and let his work ethic and efficiency do his speaking. Rattler will give the Gamecocks a dimension at quarterback they have not had in a while, and whereas the expectations shall be off the charts, he is extremely motivated to show that he is actually one of many nation’s elite quarterbacks.

What we have to be taught by Week 1: The Gamecocks nonetheless must show that they’ll run the ball higher than they did a yr in the past, notably across the objective line and in different short-yardage conditions. All 5 offensive line starters from final season are again, however the Gamecocks’ points in working the ball weren’t all on the fellows up entrance. South Carolina ranked ninety fifth nationally a yr in the past in yards per carry (3.78) and scored simply 9 speeding touchdowns in 13 video games. MarShawn Lloyd and Juju McDowell are the returning working backs, however Christian Beal-Smith transferred in from Wake Forest after main the Demon Deacons in speeding final season.

What we realized this spring: The Vols’ offense was excellent in 12 months 1 beneath coach Josh Heupel, particularly as soon as Hendon Hooker established himself because the beginning quarterback. With Hooker again for a second season in the identical system and with the identical coaches, he demonstrated this spring that he has an opportunity to be one of many high quarterbacks within the nation. Hooker threw 31 landing passes and simply three interceptions a yr in the past, and with a whole offseason for the Vols’ passing sport to develop, they need to be capable to broaden their assault and do much more subsequent season, particularly with high goal Cedric Tillman again.

What we have to be taught by Week 1: The vast majority of Tennessee’s defensive starters are again, though deal with Matthew Butler and cornerback Alontae Taylor had been key losses. Both means, the Vols need to discover a solution to get off the sphere on third down and never surrender as many expensive performs on that down. They ranked a hundred and first nationally in third-down protection a yr in the past and had been particularly porous on third down in shut losses to Pittsburgh, Ole Miss and Purdue. It stays to be seen how rather more efficient Tennessee shall be in pressuring the quarterback, and the Vols additionally must show they are often higher within the secondary by way of giving up large performs. They tied for 109th nationally final season by permitting 49 passes of 20 or extra yards.

What we realized this spring: There’s nonetheless some finding out to do on the quarterback place, as neither Ken Seals nor Mike Wright established himself because the front-runner to win the job. Seals and Wright mixed to throw simply 13 landing passes a yr in the past in comparison with 15 interceptions, however the Commodores must play higher round whoever the quarterback is subsequent season. Vanderbilt signed three quarterbacks in its 2022 class, together with three-star AJ Swann, who should not be counted out within the quarterback chase. He threw a landing move within the spring sport to fellow freshman Jayden McGowan.

What we have to be taught by Week 1: It has been a recurring theme for Vanderbilt going again a long time and can once more be an enormous problem as Clark Lea enters his second season as coach: Can the Commodores develop the type of depth essential to be aggressive within the SEC, particularly on the offensive and defensive strains? It definitely did not assist to lose offensive deal with Tyler Steen, who transferred to Alabama. Enchancment within the offensive line shall be important if the Commodores are going to enhance on their 2-10 file from a yr in the past, and the truth is that a number of youthful gamers are going to need to develop up in a rush within the trenches on each side of the ball.

West Division

What we realized this spring: It should not come as a shock, however Alabama coach Nick Saban has found out the switch portal. Slightly than go for wholesale modifications, Saban has opted for an strategy just like NFL free company, filling wants that could not be simply met by means of recruiting. Former LSU All-American Eli Ricks stepped in for Josh Jobe at nook; Georgia’s former main receiver, Jermaine Burton, helped change the manufacturing of John Metchie III and Jameson Williams, and former Georgia Tech All-ACC working again/return specialist Jahmyr Gibbs is lined as much as change Brian Robinson. After what we noticed this spring, Gibbs seems to present Alabama one thing it lacked on the place final season: game-breaking velocity.

What we have to be taught by Week 1: There was no extra evident downside popping out of A-Day than the offensive line. Even when we reduce the first-team unit some slack and acknowledge issues would have been completely different if Bryce Young hadn’t been in a no-contact jersey and will have run, it nonetheless would not account for a whopping 12 sacks allowed. Getting Darrian Dalcourt and Emil Ekiyor wholesome by fall camp ought to assist, as ought to the late addition of former Vanderbilt starter Tyler Steen by means of the portal. Regardless, it is a group value watching if Younger and the offense hope to duplicate final yr’s success.

What we realized this spring: Bryan Harsin remains to be the top coach after an tried coup, and Auburn remains to be taken with getting its tight ends the soccer. Apart from that, there weren’t numerous questions answered. The offensive line, which had a number of key gamers out, struggled, and the receivers did not precisely encourage confidence with their drops throughout final month’s scrimmage. The protection, which misplaced various gamers by means of the draft and the switch portal, seems to be a piece in progress. However, once more, the tight ends determine to have one other large season after catching 12 of the group’s 31 complete receptions on A-Day.

What we have to be taught by Week 1: Give TJ Finley and Robby Ashford credit score for executing the offense in the course of the spring sport. Neither quarterback turned the ball over or appeared overwhelmed by the second. However the reality is that neither gained the job with their efficiency. How might they when Zach Calzada wasn’t round to throw his hat within the ring? The previous Texas A&M starter was sidelined whereas he continues to get better from an harm. When he is again to 100% throughout fall camp, the actual competitors will start and we’ll see who steps as much as change three-year starter Bo Nix, who left for Oregon by way of the portal this offseason.

What we realized this spring: Shedding linebackers Hayden Henry and Grant Morgan — the group’s second- and third-leading tacklers final season — hurts. However the Razorbacks discovered a solution to preserve high tackler Bumper Pool and pair him with a proficient switch in former Alabama linebacker Drew Sanders, who has the flexibility to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. The top end result: a entrance seven that, together with linemen Taurean Carter and Zach Williams, ought to solidify a protection that has been revamped on the again finish.

What we have to be taught by Week 1: Talking of the secondary, there’s work to be carried out there. Through the offseason, it misplaced three starters — Montaric Brown to the NFL draft and Joe Foucha and Greg Brooks Jr. by way of switch to LSU. Getting fourth-year security Jalen Catalon again offers the teaching workers with an anchor to construct round and including former LSU defensive again Dwight McGlothern helps, however Arkansas must see enchancment from backups corresponding to Hudson Clark and Malik Chavis.

What we realized this spring: Brian Kelly inherited a roster full of holes, which is why he was so energetic within the switch portal. However final month’s spring sport was a reminder that LSU is just not with out expertise. Defensive deal with Maason Smith is a star within the making, and freshman offensive lineman Will Campbell is as stable an anchor to construct round as you are going to discover within the SEC. The working again room is effectively stocked with the return of John Emery Jr., and the receivers ought to fare effectively as soon as Kayshon Boutte recovers from final yr’s harm. The massive query is at quarterback, however even then all of Kelly’s choices — Myles Brennan, Jayden Daniels and Garrett Nussmeier — have expertise and have proven they’ve the expertise to compete at a excessive stage.

What we have to be taught by Week 1: It goes with out saying that Kelly must shortly discover his beginning quarterback. Daniels is essentially the most dynamic choice given his skill as a runner, however Brennan is savvy and a superb caretaker of the ball. Nussmeier, in the meantime, has a dwell arm however is unpredictable. Taking a step again, although, the general roster nonetheless wants work between now and fall camp. There are numerous positions which can be too skinny by way of scholarship gamers, together with cornerback, the place Kelly targeted numerous his efforts by bringing in 4 transfers.

What we realized this spring: Perhaps Lane Kiffin, the self-styled “Portal King,” did not must dip into the switch market to search out its subsequent quarterback. Kiffin went again to his previous hang-out of USC and signed former blue-chip prospect Jaxson Dart, who gave the impression to be the front-runner on paper. However then got here the spring sport, our first good take a look at the place and the impression that sophomore Luke Altmyer had the higher hand. Whereas Altmyer ran with the first-team offense, throwing for 2 touchdowns and no interceptions, Dart was with the second group and regarded rusty, particularly within the first half when he overthrew receivers and tossed two picks.

What we have to be taught by Week 1: Dart nonetheless has loads of time to win the quarterback competitors, however what should not be neglected is how the new-look offense jells forward of the season opener towards Troy on Sept. 2. Bear in mind, exterior of the offensive line, there is not a lot continuity. There are transfers just about all over the place: tight finish Michael Trigg, working backs Zach Evans and Ulysses Bentley IV, and vast receivers Malik Heath, Jalen Knox and Jordan Watkins.

What we realized this spring: Linebacker Aaron Brule transferred to Michigan State and defensive again Martin Emerson left for the NFL, however one other offseason with coordinator Zach Arnett in cost is a win for a protection that has the gamers to reach 2022. Including defensive backs Marcus Banks from Alabama and Jackie Matthews from West Virginia helped solidify the secondary. At linebacker, it seems the trio of Jett Johnson, Nathaniel Watson and Tyrus Wheat is poised to be joined by DeShawn Page, who made strides this offseason after transferring from junior faculty and enjoying sparingly final season (11 tackles).

What we have to be taught by Week 1: Whereas the Bulldogs’ neighbors to the north attempt to decide on a quarterback, there aren’t any doubts in Starkville about who’s in cost after Will Rogers threw for 4,739 yards as a sophomore final season. However a query stays: Whom will he be throwing to? Makai Polk took his team-leading 105 receptions and turned professional, and Malik Heath and his 5 landing catches transferred to Ole Miss. The sure-handed Austin Williams is again, however State wants somebody (Antonio Harmon?) to step up.

What we realized this spring: There is no determination imminent at quarterback, however which may not be a nasty factor as a result of not one of the three contenders have taken themselves out of the race to exchange Zach Calzada, who transferred to Auburn. Haynes King, who missed most of final season, certain regarded wholesome when he ran for a 21-yard landing within the spring sport. And LSU switch Max Johnson gave the impression to be snug in his new house when he threw a 40-yard landing move. Freshman Conner Weigman is a wild card within the competitors, however the longer the top-ranked pocket passer within the 2022 class stays within the combine, the extra critical his candidacy turns into.

What we have to be taught by Week 1: Aaron Hansford, the group’s high tackler, is gone. So is DeMarvin Leal, the chief in sacks and tackles for loss. And do not forget Leon O’Neal, a veteran presence within the secondary who was third in passes defended and fourth in tackles. In different phrases: The protection has some holes to fill. The excellent news is that assistance is coming, particularly up entrance, from the Aggies’ No. 1-ranked recruiting class. 4 of their 5 five-star signees play alongside the line of defense, and solely a kind of freshmen — Gabe Brownlow-Dindy — participated in spring follow.

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