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Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Best of the spring in the SEC


Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

How about a few helmet stickers from the spring?

Yeah, yeah, I know. They don't play any games against real opponents, just spring games and scrimmages.

But there's still plenty of material to work with, so here goes:

Best numbers: Did you see some of the receiving statistics the Arkansas receivers put up? Joe Adams and Jarius Wright, in particular, had touchdown-fests this spring. Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is hoping that's good news for his offense and not necessarily bad news for the Hogs' defense.

Best performance by a freshman: Easy choice here. South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore walked onto campus after graduating from high school early and promptly won one of the starting cornerback jobs. Steve Spurrier is also going to give him a shot to play quarterback in certain situations. And if that's not enough, Spurrier said recently on the booster club speaking circuit that Gilmore is one of the best football players to ever come to South Carolina.

Best no-show: For a guy who was supposed to be next in line to take over for Knowshon Moreno, Georgia's Caleb King sure had a pretty mediocre spring. He has gobs of talent. What he's yet to prove is that he has the toughness to be a great running back in this league.

Best comeback: Has to be LSU's Chad Jones. The Tigers tried to play him at too many positions in 2008 and he didn't play up to his potential. But he's at free safety to stay now under new defensive coordinator John Chavis and was a force this spring. Look for him to be a force in the fall as well.

Best surprise: Some thought Alabama's Robby Green was barely big enough to be a cornerback in the SEC. But he played plenty big this spring and laid claim toRashad Johnson 's old safety position. Talk about some big shoes to fill, but Green is smart, tough and driven -- all the qualities Nick Saban likes in a player.

Best surprise II: Florida's found itself a quarterback. OK, a backup quarterback. John Brantley was slinging the ball over the field in Gainesville this spring, and Urban Meyer was impressed enough to say that Brantley would see meaningful action next season. Maybe they'll line Tim Tebow up in the slot and let Brantley throw to him.

Best news: It was actually post-spring, but Auburn receiver signee DeAngelo Benton received word from the NCAA Clearinghouse that he was eligible to play next fall. Benton was a "must-have" for the Tigers.

Best hands: Some of the catches Vanderbilt receiver Terence Jeffers made this spring had his teammates oohing and aahing. The transfer from Connecticut isn't too bad after the catch, either. He's still working toward passing enough credit hours to be eligible in the fall, but Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said at the end of spring that he was somewhat optimistic that Jeffers would make it. The Commodores sure need him to.

Best breakthrough: We'll start with Tennessee defensive end Chris Walker, who's joined in that club by Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Trahan, Georgia running back Carlton Thomas, Kentucky safety Winston Guy and Alabama safety Robby Green.

Best quote: "The feeling around here is that we've got new life. We've got a new coaching staff, a new offense, a new attitude. Coach (Dan) Mullen said everybody was starting back to square one. That changed everybody's attitude, because everybody was going to get a chance to show what they could do," Mississippi State tailback Anthony Dixon on the impact of the new coaching staff.

Best quote II: "The number I'll be looking at is wins. Nobody wants to go through what we did last season," Auburn defensive end Antonio Coleman on how many sacks he'll get in 2009.