Monday, May 6, 2013
What we learned this spring in the SEC
By Chris Low
1. Saban, Tide not letting up: It's true that Alabama is on the threshold of making college football history, and it's also true that the Crimson Tide are once again oozing with talent entering the 2013 season. But in Nick Saban's world, there are no rearview mirrors, and he doesn't see real well down the road, either. In other words, he's pushing as hard as ever, and that was never more apparent than after the spring game when he said bluntly that some players on Alabama's team were "too comfortable with their circumstances." Complacency is a dirty word in this program, and the good thing for the Tide is that two of their best players are also their best leaders. Getting quarterback AJ McCarron and linebacker C.J. Mosley back for their senior seasons was a huge coup. Two straight national championships were nice, but three straight would be even better.
2. Speeding up the offenses: Everywhere you look -- well, just about everywhere -- they're wanting to play faster on offense, run more plays and keep defenses on their heels so they have a hard time substituting situationally. Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M shook up the SEC a year ago in the Aggies' first season in the league by averaging 558.5 yards and 44.5 points thanks to a fast-break offense that operated at the speed of light. Hugh Freeze livened things up offensively at Ole Miss with a similar offensive approach last season, and more are sure to follow in 2013. Gus Malzahn is back in the league at Auburn, and he's not happy unless the Tigers are running 90 plays a game. Tennessee is speeding up things with Butch Jones taking over as head coach, and even at LSU with Cam Cameron now running the show offensively, the Tigers plan on picking up the pace next season.
3. What talent drain? The SEC had a staggering 63 players taken in last month's NFL draft, including 25 underclassmen. That record haul included 12 first-rounders and 32 players taken in the top three rounds. Losing that much talent would take its toll on any conference, right? You'd think so, but glancing around the league this spring, it's obvious that the SEC won't be hurting for talent in 2013. Stop and think about everybody who comes back. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy last season. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney would have been the No. 1 pick in the draft this year had he been eligible to come out, while Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Tennessee's Antonio Richardson are three of the best offensive tackles in college football. Alabama's Amari Cooper was the country's best receiver by the end of last season, and Georgia's Todd Gurley and Alabama's T.J. Yeldon combined for nearly 2,500 rushing yards as true freshmen.