Tuesday, May 4, 2010
SEC post-spring superlatives
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
Everybody has wrapped up spring practice in the SEC, and it's time to look at some of the superlatives of the last two months:
Best spring game performance: It's hard to pick just one. Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus had two tackles for loss, including a sack, and two quarterback hurries. Florida quarterback John Brantley was 15-of-19 for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Arkansas receiver Jarius Wright had seven catches for 118 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown. Ole Miss backup quarterback Raymond Cotton was 5-of-7 for 178 yards with touchdown passes of 80 and 61 yards, while LSU running back Stevan Ridley rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Cameron Newton moved himself to the top of Auburn's QB depth chart with an impressive spring.
Best performance by a freshman: Florida went all the way out to California to land prized cornerback Joshua Shaw, and he didn't wait long to make his presence felt. Staking a claim to the starting job opposite Janoris Jenkins, Shaw had a team-high eight tackles in the spring game to go along with an interception.
Best performance by an offensive newcomer: Quarterback Cameron Newton arrived at Auburn with a lot of hype. But he was all substance during the spring in playing his way to the top of the depth chart.
Best performance by a defensive newcomer: Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix can't wait to turn safety Damien Jackson loose in the Rebels' defense. Jackson was everywhere this spring after coming over from junior college.
Best position battle: The race to fill Joe Haden's vacated spot at cornerback will extend into the preseason at Florida. Senior Moses Jenkins got most of the first-team work in the spring, but sophomore Jeremy Brown would probably get the nod at this point, assuming his back problems don't flare up in the fall. Shaw may have the most upside. He just needs experience. Sophomore Adrian Bushell also remains a possibility if he can get everything squared away off the field.
Best position move: LSU's Russell Shepard has given up the quarterback thing and is now concentrating fully on receiver. The Tigers need to be concentrating on getting him the ball.
Best spring game atmosphere: Maybe there will come a day again when Alabama doesn't draw 90,000-plus to Bryant-Denny Stadium for an A-Day spring game. But that day doesn't figure to be anytime soon.
Best blowup: The runaway winner was Urban Meyer's "You're a bad guy" lambasting of Orlando Sentinel beat reporter Jeremy Fowler, whose "crime" was correctly quoting receiver Deonte Thompson concerning the differences between Tim Tebow and John Brantley as quarterbacks. Meyer later apologized and said he was simply protecting one of his players.
Best swan song: Georgia redshirt freshman Zach Mettenberger threw a pair of touchdown passes in the Bulldogs' spring game and looked good doing it, but was gone eight days later when coach Mark Richt dismissed him from the team.
Best camera work: Thanks to all of my volunteers on the road this spring who did a little camera work for the video interviews of players and coaches. Showing what a Renaissance man he truly is, even Julio Jones got into the act in Tuscaloosa.
Best quote: "You look at coach [Nick] Saban's first year at Alabama, and he didn't win against us, and now all of a sudden, they've won two years against us, and you hear all sorts of things, like they're going to own Auburn the next couple of years. I'm telling you … that's not going to be the case." -- Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes