Filling big shoes in the SEC this spring

April, 12, 2011
4/12/11
2:00
PM ET
There are holes to be plugged for all teams -- some bigger than others.

In the SEC those holes might seem gigantic until you look at the talent teams are able to reload with, considering the enormous talent pool these schools pick from.

Still, there are shoes to be filled and spring practice is the first step to getting those areas restored.

Here’s a look at some of the shoes that need to be filled and who stepped up this spring:

Alabama
Shoes to fill: QB Greg McElroy
Spring standout: There are actually two guys vying for a shot to replace McElroy. Redshirt sophomore A.J. McCarron is battling freshman Phillip Sims. McCarron entered as the favorite, but Sims hasn’t made it easy. Both totaled more than 200 yards passing and had at least two touchdowns in the most recent scrimmage.

Arkansas
Shoes to fill:
QB Ryan Mallett
Spring standout: Tyler Wilson filled in for Mallett during the first half against Auburn last season and finished with 332 yards and four touchdowns. He threw for more than 400 yards in the Hogs’ latest scrimmage, and it doesn’t look like this offense will look much different.

Auburn
Shoes to fill:
QB Cam Newton
Spring standout: It’s been a tough spring for Auburn’s quarterbacks. Clint Moseley and Barrett Trotter are splitting reps with the first team, but have had to learn from plenty of their mistakes. Both will have to compete with incoming freshman Kyle Frazier this fall.

Florida
Shoes to fill:
S Ahmad Black
Spring standout: Rising sophomore Matt Elam is physically better and has shined at strong safety this spring, but he isn’t the leader Black was. Coach Will Muschamp has challenged the soft-spoken Elam to become that leader.

Georgia
Shoes to fill:
WR A.J. Green
Spring standout: Tavarres King has moved over to Green’s flanker spot and he’s done well under the microscope. He caught three passes for 77 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown in Saturday’s scrimmage.

Kentucky
Shoes to fill:
WR Randall Cobb
Spring standout: La’Rod King was third on the team in receiving last season, and started off the spring as the go-to-guy for quarterback Morgan Newton. King has been the most consistent receiver for the Wildcats this spring and should draw teams’ top defensive backs.

LSU
Shoes to fill:
CB Patrick Peterson
Spring standout: Tyrann Mathieu found ways to get to the ball as a freshman, causing three fumbles, recovering two and recording 50 tackles. And that was all as a backup. He’s been the team’s top corner and has been flying around the field down in Baton Rouge this spring.

Mississippi State
Shoes to fill:
DE Pernell McPhee
Spring standout: So far, it’s been tough finding a replacement. No one has set himself apart as rising juniors Trevor Stigers and Shane McCardell are battling for McPhee’s spot. The two combined for 23 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss in 2010.

Ole Miss
Shoes to fill:
DT Jerrell Powe
Spring standout: This one has been a battle. Senior Justin Smith and sophomore Corey Gaines have had to fight off redshirt freshmen Bryon Bennett and Carlton Martin. All have spent time with the starters, but the freshmen seem to be making quite the push as spring winds down in Oxford.

South Carolina
Shoes to fill:
P/K Spencer Lanning
Spring standout: Like Lanning, senior Jay Wooten can placekick and punt. He’s leading as the Gamecocks’ kicker. He nailed a scrimmage-winning field goal this spring and also appears to be ahead of freshman punter Patrick Fish.

Tennessee
Shoes to fill:
S Janzen Jackson (left school for personal reasons)
Spring standout: Prentiss Waggner moved from cornerback to free safety with Jackson gone. Waggner arrived at Tennessee as a free safety. Though he suffered a hand injury last week, Waggner still took reps in practice.

Vanderbilt
Shoes to fill: LB John Stokes
Spring standout: The Commodores are looking to find someone to play alongside All-SEC linebacker Chris Marve who not only has the talent but can be a leader. There are six candidates, but it appears juniors Archibald Barnes and Tristan Strong, along with sophomore Chase Garnham have emerged as the top candidates.

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