Making the rounds at SEC spring camps and looking closer at some of the experimentation going on and players getting a look at new positions:
Cyrus Jones, Christion Jones and Dee Hart have all been working with the Alabama defensive backs. The Crimson Tide are looking for more depth in the secondary, particularly at cornerback. John Fulton is out this spring. There’s a decent chance that Christion Jones may end up back at receiver. He tied for second on the team last season with four touchdown receptions and is very good after the catch.
Also, junior Xzavier Dickson has been getting time with the outside linebackers and defensive ends.
The Hogs have moved sophomore Demetrius Dean from tight end to fullback and hope to pair him back there with Kiero Small. Dean was listed at 270 pounds last season, and coach Bret Bielema said Dean would have to continue trimming down. But with Dean’s ability to catch the ball, Bielema said he’s a better fit in this new system at fullback than he would be at tight end.
True two-way players are rare in the SEC, but it sounds like junior Loucheiz Purifoy is going to be a busy young man in the fall. He’s looked good at receiver this spring, and the Gators are hopeful he’ll be that dynamic playmaker they’ve been missing on the perimeter offensively. He’s going to play extensively at receiver, but he’s also not giving up his cornerback duties totally.
Sophomore Antonio Morrison, who made one of the plays of the year last season with his forced fumble in the Florida State game, has shifted over to middle linebacker now that Jon Bostic is gone. Morrison is a terrific talent, but played at just under 220 pounds last season at weakside linebacker. The Gators anticipate him being 230 pounds or more by the start of the season.
Max Garcia has settled in a left guard for the Gators. He transferred in from Maryland and sat out last season. He was a tackle for the Terrapins, but has moved inside at Florida and is working alongside promising sophomore D.J. Humphries, who’s bulked up to more than 280 pounds and is working at left tackle.
So far, so good with Le'El Collins moving from left guard to left tackle, which is really Collins’ natural position. One of the keys was dropping a few pounds, but coach Les Miles has liked what he’s seen to this point.
There’s still a chance that Lamin Barrow could move inside and be the Tigers’ middle linebacker next season after racking up 104 tackles at weakside linebacker a year ago. But D.J. Welter is also getting a lot of work at middle linebacker and could keep Barrow on the outside if Welter wins the middle job. Barrow got work at both middle linebacker and weakside linebacker in Saturday’s scrimmage.
Evan Boehm was one of the SEC’s top freshmen a year ago and started all 12 games at left guard, but he’s been at center all spring and will apparently stay there. The Tigers like having Boehm in the middle of that offensive line. Brad McNulty has traded places with Boehm and is working at left guard. Missouri was forced to play several different combinations in its offensive line last season because of all the injuries up front.
The Vols’ offensive line should be among the best in the SEC in 2013. Four starters return, and all four will have a chance to play in the NFL. The one starting spot open (left guard) has been a battle between junior Marcus Jackson and senior Alex Bullard. Jackson started five games at left guard as a true freshman in 2011. Bullard, a transfer from Notre Dame, has started at guard and center during his career and has also worked some at left tackle this spring.
Sophomore Floyd Raven, who was a cornerback last season, is making strides at free safety for the Aggies. He’s always been a big hitter and intercepted a Johnny Manziel pass in Saturday’s scrimmage.
On the offensive line, the Aggies entered the spring planning to move Jake Matthews from right to left tackle and Cedric Ogbuehi from right guard to right tackle, and that’s the way they’ve been lining up. The two new faces up front are sophomore Mike Matthews at center and redshirt freshman Germain Ifedi at guard.
The Commodores are continuing to build depth on their defensive line, and with a few guys out this spring, they’ve taken a look at Caleb Azubike inside some at tackle. Azubike has bulked up to 270 pounds and had four sacks from his end position last season. Redshirt freshman Adam Butler has also moved from offensive line to defensive tackle.
Senior end Walker May and junior tackle Barron Dixon have been out with injuries this spring, but both will be fine for the fall. The Commodores are also without senior tackle Jared Morse, who’s not in school this semester after a violation of university rules. But there’s optimism that he’ll be back in the fall as well.