It’s OK to get excited about what we saw this spring. It’s got to get us through the next three months, so read into the scrimmages and spring "games" all you want.
But be careful not to get carried away. In the end, some of the most important things we needed to learn about teams in the SEC went unanswered.
Yesterday we examined the one thing we didn’t learn from each team in the East. Today we turn our attention to the West.
Alabama: Will complacency set in?
Things look good now, but realistically this isn’t a question that can be answered in the spring, summer or fall. Remember, we didn’t know of some of the deeper issues facing Alabama’s 2014 team until well into the 2015 season. It was then that we heard how some players were more concerned with their draft stock than the scoreboard, as Reggie Ragland put it. Coming off a national championship, it’s natural to worry a little less about the team and think that winning will come naturally. You lose a little bit of the edge that got you a ring in the first place. But that little bit is so often the difference between a disappointing season and a chance at going back-to-back.
Arkansas: Will the run-pass balance shift?
Don’t get caught up in what you saw during the spring game. That was only a fraction of the playbook. What remains to be seen is whether Bret Bielema and Dan Enos shake things up and lean even heavier toward the pass this season. Think about it: running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams are gone, Rawleigh Williams is coming off of a serious injury and suddenly you have Bielema calling the receivers the strength of the team. Granted, Austin Allen has never started at quarterback, but clearly there is confidence in his ability. After what Brandon Allen did last season throwing for 3,440 yards, it would be no surprise to see the offense move away from the ground-and-pound mentality Bielema ingrained his first few years there.
Auburn: Is John Franklin III the answer at quarterback?
Remember what Cam Newton did in his only spring at Auburn? No? My point exactly. Newton wasn’t on anyone’s radar before the 2010 season, and then suddenly he was the Heisman winner. Now does that mean Franklin is in for the same shocking start to his career at Auburn? Of course not. But seeing him throw for only 61 yards in the spring game is a less-than-definitive statement about how good he could be. A junior college transfer, he’s still getting acclimated to life in the SEC. With more time to grasp the offense and add weight to his rather slight frame, we could be looking at a much different quarterback by fall camp.
LSU: Is talk of a revamped offense legit?
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: LSU promises a more open offense next season. That’s not a verbatim quote, obviously, but you get the point. It sounds familiar, because we’ve been hearing the same sentiment for what feels like years now, only for it to never come to fruition. Frankly, it’s impossible to know whether Les Miles and Cam Cameron are serious. They may want to establish a more dynamic passing game, but they also need the quarterback to make it happen. Brandon Harris looked comfortable in the spring game, completing 11 of 16 passes, but that might be fool’s gold. Remember, Harris and Anthony Jennings combined for 420 yards and five touchdowns in last year’s spring game and we all saw how that played out.
Mississippi State: What does the post-Prescott era look like on offense?
Don’t take anything away from Mississippi State’s spring game. Seriously, nothing. That might sound dramatic, but when you are rotating in four new quarterbacks, missing your top three receivers and working in three new starters on the offensive line, then there is nothing to go on. Just look at the mixed bag at quarterback: Nick Fitzgerald played well, but threw two interceptions, Damian Williams was competent but uninspiring, Elijah Staley impressed physically but showed no touch and Nick Tiano was as up-and-down as you wouldd expect from a redshirt freshman.
Ole Miss: How much of the Rebs' resurgence was because of the 2013 Class?
So much was built around the 2013 signing class, and by and large it paid off, winning a Sugar Bowl and lifting Ole Miss to among the SEC’s elite. But the crown jewels of that class -- Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche and Laquon Treadwell -- are all gone now. That’s three first-round talents who suddenly need to be replaced from a roster that felt top heavy to begin with. Hugh Freeze still has plenty of All-SEC caliber players to work with -- Chad Kelly, Marquis Haynes and Tony Conner, to name a few -- but to break through and win the West he will have to show that he’s developed the depth needed to get through a schedule that features Georgia out of the East and Florida State from outside the conference.
Texas A&M: Does life under the radar suit the Aggies?
For the first time in the post-Johnny Football era, things seem to be quiet around College Station, the buzz of the hype machine finally at a manageable decibel. There is no quarterback to swoon over, no rumors of Kevin Sumlin and the NFL to track down. The Aggies aren’t being called the trendy pick to come out of the West, and, frankly, that might be the best thing for them. With what could be the best defense in Sumlin’s tenure and a seemingly stable situation at quarterback with Trevor Knight already penciled in as the starter, it will be interesting to see what this toned-down, drama-free version of A&M football looks like.