Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Spring developments: Eastern Division
By Chris Low
Spring practice wraps up for two SEC teams this Saturday when Florida and Georgia hold their spring games.
Granted, Auburn is just getting started, but let’s take a look at some promising developments and/or pleasant surprises for teams this spring.
We’ll start with the East and come back later today with the West:
Mason delivers: With Aaron Murray returning for his senior season, the only quarterback situation in the league that compares to Georgia’s is South Carolina’s with Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson. Junior Hutson Mason has confirmed this spring what everybody in Athens already knew, that he’s ready to step in at a moment’s notice and lead that offense. Mason would be starting for a lot of other SEC clubs, and Georgia’s coaches and players have complete confidence in him if something should happen to Murray.
Florida’s left side: The Gators struggled in pass protection last season, but have a new look on the left side and like what they’ve seen this spring. Sophomore D.J. Humphries has settled in at left tackle and junior Max Garcia at left guard. Humphries was pegged as the Gators’ left tackle of the future when they signed him last year. He has a chance to be special. Garcia is a transfer from Maryland and is sliding inside after playing left tackle for the Terps in 2011. Look for the Gators to be much better at protecting the passer in 2013.
Dupree finds a home: The shoulder injury that ended senior defensive tackle Donte Rumph’s spring was unfortunate, but it still looks like Kentucky could be pretty formidable up front defensively next fall. A big reason why is the way junior Alvin “Bud” Dupree has blossomed at end in the Wildcats' new scheme after bouncing around between various linebacker spots last season. He’s a natural pass-rusher, and should improve on his team-leading 6.5 sacks from a year ago.
Vanderbilt’s improved depth: The Commodores are deeper and bigger on both sides of the ball up front, which was a priority for coach James Franklin and his staff. They were able to redshirt all of their offensive line signees from a year ago, and tackle Andrew Jelks and guard Barrett Gouger are both pushing for starting jobs. All five of the redshirt freshmen will be factors in the two-deep, something Vanderbilt didn’t have on the offensive line this time a year ago.
Quarles makes a move: All those teams who try and load up on Jadeveon Clowney next season might be sorry if they don’t remember to block the guy next to him on South Carolina’s defensive line. Junior tackle Kelcy Quarles has gone from being a good player to a player who could be an All-SEC performer in 2013. He’s using his hands better. He’s rushing the passer better, and he’s making an already loaded South Carolina defensive line that much more difficult to block.