Who was the most significant assistant coach addition in the SEC for the 2014 season? We'll let you tell us by going to our SportsNation poll and voting.
Interestingly enough, the guys on the Big Ten blog conducted a similar poll, and three of their five choices are moving over from the SEC -- Doug Nussmeier from Alabama to Michigan, Taver Johnson from Arkansas to Purdue and Chris Ash from Arkansas to Ohio State.
Four of the five candidates we've come up with in the SEC are coordinators. Go cast your vote, and we'll go over the results in the coming days.
Here's a quick look at the five candidates (listed alphabetically):
Jeff Grimes, offensive line coach, LSU: Grimes spent last season at Virginia Tech as the Hokies' offensive line coach, but he's no stranger to the SEC. He was Auburn's offensive line coach from 2009-12 under Gene Chizik and a part of the Tigers' 2010 national championship staff. Grimes, a 20-year coaching veteran, will also assume the role of running game coordinator at LSU. The Tigers return four starters in the offensive line.
Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks, Alabama: Kiffin and Nick Saban may seem like an odd pairing to most, but Saban has long respected Kiffin's mind for the game and his feel for calling plays. He's also a proven recruiter. Kiffin returns to the coordinator ranks after three head-coaching stints. He spent the past three-plus seasons at USC before being fired and was at Tennessee for a season (2009) before that. Kiffin was also the head coach of the Oakland Raiders for the entire 2007 season and part of the 2008 season before being fired.
Jeremy Pruitt, defensive coordinator/secondary, Georgia: Pruitt is back in the SEC after spending last season as Florida State's defensive coordinator. His FSU defense led the country in scoring defense in helping the Seminoles to the national championship. Pruitt, a finalist for the Broyles Award last season as the nation's top assistant coach, was the defensive backs coach at Alabama for three seasons (2010-12) and has been a part of three straight national championship staffs.
Kurt Roper, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks, Florida: After a long association with David Cutcliffe, Roper moves back to the SEC to try and pump some life into a Florida offense that has struggled under head coach Will Muschamp. The Gators have never finished higher than 10th in the SEC in total offense under Muschamp. Roper spent the past six seasons as Duke's offensive coordinator. The Blue Devils set a school record with 54 total touchdowns last season. Prior to going to Duke with Cutcliffe, Roper spent all of his time in the SEC with stops at Tennessee, Kentucky and Ole Miss.
Robb Smith, defensive coordinator/secondary, Arkansas: Smith spent last season in the NFL as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' linebackers coach, but his previous 14 seasons were spent in the collegiate ranks. He was at Rutgers for four seasons and promoted to defensive coordinator in 2012. His defense that season was ranked fourth nationally in points allowed (14.2). Smith was the defensive coordinator at Maine before joining the Rutgers staff. He inherits an Arkansas defense that finished 12th in the SEC in scoring defense in 2013, allowing an average of 30.8 points per game.
The new College Football Playoff is supposed to encourage schools to schedule better nonconference games, as teams try to beef up their schedule strength to earn one of the playoff’s coveted four spots at season’s end.
On Thursday, Texas A&M and UCLA announced that they’ll play each other during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Other schools have announced future marquee nonconference opponents, including Texas A&M vs. USC, Notre Dame vs. Texas, Alabama vs. Michigan State and LSU vs. Oklahoma.
Here are five other nonconference games I’d like to see in the future:
When Meyer was still coaching at Florida, the Crimson Tide and Gators played in two of the most anticipated SEC championship games. The No. 2 Gators beat the No. 1 Tide 31-20 in 2008, and then the Tide turned the tables on No. 1 UF with a 32-13 win in 2009.
Alabama and Ohio State have played only three times in history, with the Tide winning each time, most recently in a 24-17 victory in the 1995 Citrus Bowl.
2. Texas vs. Texas A&M: Perhaps the biggest casualty in conference realignment, Texas and Texas A&M haven’t played each other since the Aggies bolted the Big 12 for the SEC after the 2011 season. Sadly, there are no plans for the in-state rivals to play again in future regular seasons.
The Aggies and Longhorns played each other 118 times from 1894 to 2011, with their annual meeting traditionally being played on Thanksgiving Day. UT won nearly twice as many games as the Aggies (76-37-5), including nine of the last 12 meetings.
With former Louisville coach Charlie Strong taking over at Texas, and Kevin Sumlin building the Aggies into an SEC powerhouse, the game would also pit two of the sport’s best African-American coaches against each other.
3. Oregon vs. Baylor: Two of the game’s most explosive offenses -- and two of its best-dressed teams -- would undoubtedly light up the scoreboard if they ever played. In fact, the contest would probably look more like a track meet.
Under coach Art Briles, the Bears have become the Ducks of the Southwest, with their hurry-up, spread offense and myriad flashy uniforms closely resembling what Chip Kelly and then Mark Helfrich built at Oregon. The Bears and Ducks follow the same blueprint on offense: play fast and score fast.
We hoped to see this matchup in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last season, but alas, it didn’t happen. Oregon and Baylor have never met on the gridiron.
4. Michigan vs. USC: Two of the sport’s traditional heavyweights have faced each other eight times in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio, but only twice during the regular season -- in 1957 and 1958.
The Trojans won the last three meetings in the Rose Bowl, 32-18 in 2007, 28-14 in 2004 and 17-10 in 1990. USC has won six of the past seven meetings overall and holds a 6-4 advantage all-time.
We might have seen this matchup during the regular season if a Big Ten/Pac-12 scheduling partnership hadn’t fallen apart in 2012.
5. Georgia vs. Florida State: UGA coach Mark Richt was a longtime assistant under legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden before taking over the Bulldogs, and he recently poached defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt off the Seminoles’ staff.
The Bulldogs and Seminoles go head-to-head for a lot of recruits every year, and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher upgraded his roster by effectively recruiting South Georgia and Atlanta.
The Bulldogs and Seminoles have played 11 times and only once since 1984 -- UGA defeated FSU 26-13 in the 2003 Sugar Bowl. Georgia leads the all-time series, 6-4-1.
That's down from four head-coaching changes the previous year. In fact, Mason will be the 38th different head coach to coach in a game for one of the current SEC schools since the start of the 2004 season.
Even in the volatile world of the SEC, that's a ton. But change is a part of this league's fabric. With 11 of the 14 head coaches making $3 million or more per year, there is no such thing as a five-year plan anymore. Some would argue there's not even a four-year plan.
One assistant, Arkansas defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, left for a head-coaching gig at Florida Atlantic. His former colleague with the Hogs, Chris Ash, left his post as co-defensive coordinator for the same job at Ohio State.
Georgia's entire defensive staff has a new look, triggered largely by Todd Grantham's move to Louisville as defensive coordinator. Former Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt replaces Grantham along with three other new defensive assistants.
Alabama coach Nick Saban has his fourth different offensive coordinator since coming to Tuscaloosa in 2007. Lane Kiffin, who's no stranger to the SEC after his turbulent 14 months as Tennessee's head coach in 2009, will call the Tide's plays in 2014.
One of the most critical hires was at Florida, where offensive coordinator Kurt Roper comes over from Duke with the mission of resurrecting the Gators' offense.
Here's a rundown of the coaching changes (head coaches and position coaches only; number of new coaches in parentheses):
Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Bo Davis, defensive line
Doug Nussmeier, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Chris Rumph, defensive line coach
Greg Brown, secondary
- Kevin Steele moves onto the field as inside linebackers coach and will serve as special assistant to the head coach. He was the Tide's player personnel director last season.
- Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart will coach the secondary after coaching linebackers last season.
Robb Smith, defensive coordinator/secondary
Clay Jennings, secondary
Rory Segrest, defensive line/specialists
Chris Ash, defensive coordinator
Charlie Partridge, defensive line
Taver Johnson, secondary
- Randy Shannon was promoted to senior associate head coach.
Kurt Roper, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Mike Summers, offensive line
Coleman Hutzler, special teams coordinator
Brent Pease, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Tim Davis, offensive line
Jeff Choate, special teams/outside linebackers
Jeremy Pruitt, defensive coordinator/secondary
Tracy Rocker, defensive line/weak-side linebackers
Mike Ekeler, inside linebackers/special teams
Kevin Sherrer, strong-side linebackers/nickel backs
Todd Grantham, defensive coordinator
Chris Wilson, defensive line
Kirk Olivadotti, inside linebackers
Scott Lakatos, secondary
Craig Naivar, special teams/safeties
Bradley Dale Peveto, special teams/safeties
Jeff Grimes, offensive line/running game coordinator
Bradley Dale Peveto, special teams coordinator
Greg Studrawa, offensive line
Thomas McGaughey, special teams coordinator
MISSISSIPPI STATE (1)
Brian Johnson, quarterbacks
Les Koenning, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
TEXAS A&M (1)
Terry Joseph, secondary
Marcel Yates, co-defensive coordinator/secondary
- Jake Spavital will call plays in 2014 as offensive coordinator. He was the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach last season.
- Clarence McKinney moves back to running backs after calling the plays last season as offensive coordinator.
Derek Mason, head coach
Karl Dorrell, offensive line/quarterbacks
David Kotulski, defensive coordinator/inside linebackers
Marc Lubick, receivers
Keven Lightner, offensive line
Gerry Gdowski, tight ends
Brett Maxie, secondary
Kenwick Thompson, outside linebackers
Frank Maile, defensive line
James Franklin, head coach
John Donovan, offensive coordinator/running backs
Bob Shoop, defensive coordinator/safeties
Ricky Rahne, quarterbacks
Herb Hand, offensive line
Josh Gattis, receivers
Brent Pry, co-defensive coordinator/linebackers
Sean Spencer, defensive line
George Barlow, secondary
In previous weeks, we've broken down several players and position groups to watch this spring. As we lead up to the Bulldogs’ first team workout, this week we'll make five predictions related to the upcoming practices.
Today’s prediction: John Theus locks down the left tackle job
This fall, however, the Bulldogs want more from Theus than what he has delivered in his first two seasons, so this spring would be a good time for him to differentiate himself on the field, as well.
The rising junior became one of the highest-rated offensive line prospects that Georgia has signed under Mark Richt when Theus officially joined the Bulldogs in 2012. He became one of the few true freshman offensive linemen to ever start his first game at Georgia and emerged as a fixture at right tackle that fall, even making a couple of Freshman All-America teams.
Kenarious Gates was a nice insurance policy on the left side of the line while Theus learned the ropes, but now Gates is gone. Richt’s staff signed Theus to someday become their starting left tackle, and with no proven option at the position, now will be the time for Theus to take hold of the job.
He temporarily lost his grip on the right tackle spot last season, playing as a reserve in five of the first six games before returning to the starting lineup down the stretch. Kolton Houston, who along with Mark Beard will probably also get some looks at left tackle this spring, experienced his struggles as starting right tackle, as well.
Those three players look like offensive line coach Will Friend’s best options at tackle, though, so the Bulldogs desperately need to get more consistent play from at least two of them starting this spring.
Theus seemed like the safest bet to become an All-SEC performer this time a year ago, and even if his sophomore season wasn’t the overwhelming success he might have liked, he still has the ability to lock down the left tackle spot and perform well there.
He’ll start doing that this spring.
- Missouri opened spring practice on Tuesday looking to build on the momentum of a 12-2 record last season.
- Spring practice got started at Vanderbilt, and with it the quarterback derby began as well. Presumed starter sophomore Patton Robinette looks to fend off redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary.
- Pro Football Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton has been compared to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and is among Johnny Football's many advocates, calling him "a quarterback savant."
- LSU's first day in pads revolved around the "Big Cat drill," and there was a minor scuffle between DE Lewis Neal and OL Josh Boutte. The Tigers expect to have stiff competition at guard this spring.
- The first of Alabama's two pro days is today. Injured players Anthony Steen and Vinnie Sunseri are aiming for the second pro day on April 8.
- One year after signing a three-year contract, Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo gets a one-year extension.
- Auburn's message on Twitter about the now-tabled 10-second rule? "We're only going to get faster."
- Florida players are excited about the new offense that will be installed this spring.
- Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson chose not to go early into the NFL draft, and as a result he'll be facing greater expectations with the Vols.
- Former Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, now head coach at his alma mater Texas Tech, said he felt conflicted about his time in College Station, Texas.
- If you remember watching Auburn running back Stephen Davis star in the mid-90s, this might make you feel a bit older. His son, Stephen Davis Jr. is a 6-foot-3 safety who is -- surprise, surprise -- favoring the Tigers in recruiting.
- Many coaches favor some form of an early signing period in football recruiting. Georgia's Mark Richt, however, says, "Be careful what we ask for."
- Athlon ranked all 128 NCAA coaching jobs. Florida, Alabama, Georgia and LSU made the top 10.
- Recently engaged Gamecocks QB Connor Shaw is a busy man preparing for the NFL draft.
In previous weeks, we've broken down several players and position groups to watch this spring. As we lead up to the Bulldogs’ first-team workout, this week we'll make five predictions related to the upcoming practices.
Today’s prediction: Jordan Davis makes a move at tight end
Like the prediction we made about redshirt freshman tailback A.J. Turman on Monday, this is another one that seems like common sense.
Depth is an even bigger issue for Davis and the tight ends. All-SEC senior Arthur Lynch just exhausted his eligibility. Jay Rome is recovering from surgery, and coach Mark Richt said last week that he expects him to either miss all or most of spring. Signees Jeb Blazevich and Hunter Atkinson won’t arrive until summer.
If redshirt freshman Davis doesn’t make good use of what should be a ton of reps this spring, that will come off as an enormous disappointment.
The Bulldogs didn’t need him to play last season since Lynch and blocking tight end Hugh Williams were seniors, and Rome was also in the mix, although injuries cut his season short.
The depth chart looks completely different now, and Davis’ combination of speed, athleticism -- he was a distinguished hurdler in high school -- and a steady work ethic should begin to pay off immediately. If anything, he needs to learn to relax a bit, as tight ends coach John Lilly insisted last season that Davis often put too much pressure on himself.
Now is the time for him to settle into the routine of operating with the regulars on offense. Georgia’s coaches said last week that fullback Quayvon Hicks might take some snaps in an H-back role on offense, but otherwise Davis is the lone scholarship tight end available if Rome misses the entire spring.
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Davis certainly looks the part of a pass-catching tight end with the frame to hold more size if necessary. Our prediction is that he develops the confidence this spring to accompany those physical tools, and that he will seize an on-field role for this fall.
With more than 8,500 votes cast in our SportsNation poll, Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason was picked by our readers to throw the most touchdown passes in the SEC in 2014. Mason, who is replacing longtime starter Aaron Murray this fall, grabbed 32 percent of the vote.
It's hard to argue with this one because Mason isn't just talented; he has some quality receivers coming back. Georgia's staff has always been high on Mason, and now he gets his chance to really show what he can do when he isn't planted in Aaron Murray's shadow.
Clearly, Mason has to prove that he can be a leader and show that he's ready to be No. 1, but he'll have a lot of help from guys such as Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley, Chris Conley and Michael Bennett. Oh, and he can just hand the ball off to a stable of running backs -- starting with workhorse Todd Gurley -- when he wants to give his arm a break.
While I think Thompson could have a good year as the Gamecocks' starter, I'd keep my eye on Missouri's Maty Mauk. He filled in well for James Franklin in the middle of last season and has all the tools to be an All-SEC player. He's confident and has earned plenty of respect from his teammates. It will help that he has Dorial Green-Beckham leading a solid group of receivers. Losing L'Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas will hurt, but players such as Bud Sasser, Darius White and Jimmie Hunt could fill in nicely for the Tigers.
I'm also interested in seeing how Marshall improves as a passer. When I spoke with Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee late last season, he told me that he could tell that Marshall was getting more and more comfortable and confident with his throwing ability. He's a great runner, but he wants to be a passer first, and I think we'll see more of his arm in 2014.
- With Missouri getting started, the Columbia Daily Tribune has a mountain of preview content. Among the biggest questions the Tigers must answer this spring: Will Maty Mauk seamlessly replace James Franklin at quarterback?
- Vanderbilt kicks things off with plenty of players changing positions to fit the 3-4 defense that new coach Derek Mason brought from Stanford.
- The LSU Tigers don pads for the first time today in spring practice, and that means it's time for the always popular "Big Cat drill" pitting hand-selected players against one another in a circle of their peers. Also, former Tiger offensive tackle La'el Collins has worked with LSU's new line coach, Jeff Grimes, this spring and says Grimes will hold players to a higher standard.
- SEC officiating coordinator Steve Shaw hopes the debate over tempo in college football won't create division between teams that play fast and teams that prefer a slower game. Keep the focus on what's best for the game, he says.
- Ole Miss defensive players Robert and Denzel Nkemdiche have filed a counter-suit against the man who accused them of beating him at a fraternity party last year. The man sued for $2 million in February, while the Nkemdiches have denied all allegations.
- Texas A&M hasn't practiced that much, but early enrollee receiver Speedy Noil is living up to the hype as one of the top recruits in the nation.
- Former UT coach Johnny Majors is stable four days after a heart valve procedure. The Vols' Corey Vereen, a likely starter at defensive end, seems to be working out a lot at Neyland-Thompson Sports Complex.
- Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has shifted his position responsibility to coaching the secondary for Alabama, which starts practice on Saturday. Smart was coaching linebackers until former NFL star Kevin Steele took over after moving from the personnel office. Elsewehere, the Tide are well-stocked on the defensive line.
- Defensive ends are a position of strength for Auburn, which opens its spring practice on Monday. One big question: Who will take over for Chris Davis as the Tigers' next punt returner?
- Georgia opens practice in one week, and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is the big story. Here are seven ways he is going to make changes.
- Arkansas has just one significant injury this spring -- tight end Mitch Loewen is out with a torn ACL.
- Mark Stoops' transformation of Kentucky includes a dietician who is tasked with getting the players to buy into the idea of healthier eating.
- The SEC is relaxing its limitations on using prerecorded music between plays. That means the Gamecocks' rooster crow will be back for conference games.
Creeping uncertainty after the Sugar Bowl and at the quarterback position makes the Tide, currently 6-1 to win the 2014 national title according to Bovada, a decent bet. Now, 6-1 isn’t exactly going to set you up for life, but for Alabama it isn’t too shabby.
Better act fast, though. That number could drop by August if, say, Jacob Coker comes in during preseason camp and wows. Would you be even a little surprised if that 6-1 shrank to 3-1 by sometime in October?
With Alabama leading the way, here is a look at teams that could see their title odds improve by the fall.
Among the favorites ...
Alabama Crimson Tide (Bovada odds: 6-1)
AJ McCarron’s departure, coupled with the flatlining loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, has created doubt about the Tide for the first time since 2011.
How did Alabama respond to that, to a three-loss season? Oh, just with consecutive BCS titles. What now after a two-game losing streak to close 2013?
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In previous weeks, we've broken down several players and position groups to watch this spring. As we lead up to the Bulldogs’ first team workout, this week we'll make five predictions related to the upcoming practices.
Today’s prediction: Slow and steady on defense
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt hired an entirely new defensive coaching staff this offseason -- most notably new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt -- so not only will the new coaches need time to figure out the capabilities of players at their respective positions, they will use these practices to get a feel for one another and how their different coaching styles fit together.
That’s one of the big reasons spring practice is valuable. There’s no pressure. The Bulldogs don’t play a real game until Clemson visits on Aug. 30, so there is plenty of time for learning without having to worry about being prepared for an opponent each Saturday like they would in the fall.
This is the time each year when Richt’s staff takes another look (and sometimes a first look) at its personnel and begins making initial evaluations on how those players might be able to help during the season. They work on fundamentals. They begin teaching new elements of the scheme they plan to employ -- which is particularly important at Georgia this spring since Pruitt will begin installing his own tweaks to the 3-4 base defense the Bulldogs used under Todd Grantham.
But don’t expect early practice reports to break down how the defense dominated the day. Georgia’s offense is loaded with experienced players and veteran starters, aside from the three starting linemen and a pretty decent quarterback that it must replace. The defense also has experienced personnel returning, but that group wasn’t nearly as effective a season ago, plus it will be learning new roles from brand-new position coaches.
The defense will be a work in progress this spring, which is perfectly understandable and to be expected.
What you want if you’re a Georgia fan is to hear coaches and players discuss the learning process early in these practices, but for such comments to evolve into compliments on how things are coming together as G-Day approaches. And then you’d like to see the group cap off the spring by showing some competence and enthusiasm when it takes the field for the early series at Sanford Stadium on April 12.
There is only so much you can take away from a spring game, but fans want a little something to feel good about as they enter the four-month break before the team returns to the practice field, which is also understandable.
Given his track record in previous stops at Alabama and Florida State, Pruitt deserves the benefit of the doubt. Our bet is that by the end of spring practice, the potential for this group to become a competitive defense will be evident -- even if the players’ and coaches’ heads might be swimming in the early practices.
- As LSU opened spring camp over the weekend, the biggest spotlight was on finding Zach Mettenberger's successor at quarterback. Miles admitted that last year's backup, Anthony Jennings, has the early edge but said the competition is wide open. There are plenty of position changes already. Miles announced that kicker James Hairston plans to transfer after he graduates in May. Oh, and Miles came out against the recently tabled slow-down rule.
- Tennessee had its first spring practice on Friday, and coach Butch Jones was pleased with what he saw. Incumbent QB Justin Worley plans to keep the starting job. And the Vols' defense is getting a lift in more ways than one with the return of big-play linebacker Curt Maggitt.
- This spring, South Carolina is focused on developing cornerbacks, a position that is expected to be thin and young. The Gamecocks opened practice last week but are off for spring break this week and will return to the field on March 18.
- Vanderbilt opens practice on Tuesday, and new coach Derek Mason said this spring is all about finding playmakers.
- Ole Miss has a lot to look forward to in the running game with junior tailbacks I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton battling this spring.
- Could new Texas coach Charlie Strong break through the Texas-Texas A&M standoff? Strong says he's optimistic the longtime rivals will sort out their differences and get back to playing for state bragging rights.
- Alabama's quarterback competition will take top billing this spring. But the Tide also have a couple of starting jobs open on the offensive line.
- After a disappointing 2013 season, coach Mark Richt says he's excited about all the changes at Georgia.
- One of Auburn's biggest spring goals will be improving a defense that ranked No. 79 in the FBS in total defense last season.
- Dan Mullen is in preliminary talks for a one-year contract extension at Mississippi State, sources told The Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger. It would be for 2017-18.
- Florida's move to an uptempo offense is part of an SEC trend.
- Arkansas' Bret Bielema is hoping two new defensive coaches -- coordinator Robb Smith and cornerbacks coach Clay Jennings -- will bring much-needed improvement in the secondary.
In previous weeks, we've broken down several players and position groups to watch this spring. As we lead up to the Bulldogs’ first team workout, this week we'll make five predictions related to the Bulldogs' upcoming practices.
Today’s prediction: A.J. Turman impresses at tailback
Let’s not kid ourselves. Turman, a redshirt freshman, isn’t competing for a starting job.
If Todd Gurley (989 rushing yards, 10 TDs last season, plus 441 receiving and six more scores) is healthy -- or even whatever approximation of full health he operated at for most of last season -- he will not only be Georgia’s starting tailback, he’ll rank among the better backs in the nation.
But Gurley isn’t completely healthy right now. Coach Mark Richt said so last week. Neither is Keith Marshall (246 yards in five games), who is returning from an ACL tear suffered midway through last season. Even if they were healthy, Georgia’s coaches know what those two can do. It would be fine to get them some work during spring practice, but this would be an excellent opportunity to give an unproven player such as Turman a chance to show off.
Considering the two star tailbacks’ situations, and that J.J. Green (second on the team with 384 yards, three TDs) has shifted to cornerback, the Bulldogs have few alternatives. Rising sophomore Brendan Douglas (345 yards, three TDs) is still in the mix, but this represents Turman’s first real shot to prove that he’s an SEC back after a hamstring injury during preseason camp relegated him to a redshirt season and scout-team work in 2013.
The bet here is that he turns some heads. After all, Gurley said late last season of Turman that “he’s always getting better from what I see. He always asks me questions like, ‘What do I do on this? What do I do on that?’ and he actually is really like a beast. Y’all will definitely see.”
Turman better start validating Gurley’s prediction now, because he might never get a better chance. Turman is almost guaranteed to get steady work this spring, but there are no guarantees beyond the next month of practices. Gurley and Marshall figure to be back around 100 percent when the Bulldogs open camp in August, and stud signees Sony Michel and Nick Chubb will be on campus by then, as well.
So there’s no way around it, Georgia will have a crowded backfield in the fall. A sluggish spring might mean that Turman becomes the forgotten man in that race. If he impresses -- and we believe he will -- the competition will be all the more interesting when the backfield arrives at full strength in the preseason.
Spring practices have begun at college football programs across the country, and early 2014 projections are shining a spotlight on a handful of teams that have question marks to answer in the coming weeks. Our Football Outsiders preseason projections won't be complete until after spring position battles settle themselves, but some of the key ingredients are already in place, and we've begun to formulate a pecking order for the fall.
Our drive-based FEI ratings include a number of transition factors that remain to be calculated, but the core piece of the formula is the annual program FEI ratings. Program FEI is a measure of five years of drive efficiency data, weighted for more recent seasons, and it has a strong correlation to the next year's success.
At this point in the offseason, we've also included returning starter data and a specific factor that accounts for the replaceability of the quarterback for those teams that are looking for a new starter this fall.
Here is a look at the top 10 teams for 2014 according to our pre-spring FEI projection model, including their likelihood to contend for one of the four spots in the inaugural college football playoff.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
67 percent likelihood to finish 11-1 or better
In the last quarter century, no program has had more sustained elite success over a five-year period than the Crimson Tide. They are 55-7 against FBS opponents since 2009, and their program rating lead over No. 2 Oregon is greater than Oregon's lead over the No. 10 program, Wisconsin. Anything less than a championship is characterized as a major letdown in Tuscaloosa; coach Nick Saban has hoisted the crystal football at season's end in three of the last five years, and early projections mark Alabama as a favorite once again.
Florida State transfer quarterback Jacob Coker is one of a handful of players looking to claim the starting job this fall, with new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin in the fold. Their schedule this fall doesn't get particularly tricky until November, so whoever ends up the starter will have some time to settle into the role.
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Projecting Impact Teams in 2015 Recruiting
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35