SEC: scrimmage042009

Recapping Ole Miss' spring game

April, 20, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Now the real challenge begins for Ole Miss: Can the Rebels handle the hype, and can they deal with the kind of expectations this program hasn't faced in decades?

What we know for sure exiting the spring is that the Rebels have the quarterback to go as far as they want to. Junior Jevan Snead is one of the top six or seven quarterbacks in the country and was brilliant in the spring game. He finished 11-of-15 for 254 yards and three touchdowns.

It's also clear that this is Snead's team. He was still feeling his way through this time a year ago and had yet to take a snap in an SEC game. But he's a proven commodity now and also a much stronger leader.

Snead shouldn't have any shortage of playmakers around him. He threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Markeith Summers on Saturday and also connected with Dexter McCluster and Shay Hodge on touchdown strikes.

The Rebels are going to move McCluster around again next fall, and he should be a little more durable now that he's gained some weight. He's their go-to guy when they shift into their direct-snap Wildcat package.

The two guys winning the most improved awards for the spring were running back Devin Thomas and defensive tackle Jerrell Powe. Thomas didn't play much last season after struggling with a surgically repaired ankle, but had 68 rushing yards and a touchdown on four carries in the spring game.

Powe is noticeably lighter and moving better than he ever has. He has a chance to be a force in the middle of what's already a deep and talented Ole Miss defensive line. The Rebels had 111 tackles for loss last season, and defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix has the personnel to employ that same attacking style next fall.

It looks like Bradley Sowell enters the fall as the starter at left offensive tackle, replacing Michael Oher. It was an up-and-down spring for Sowell, who was demoted to second team at one point. He may have his hands full when heralded prep school signee Bobbie Massie gets on campus this summer.

There was one bit of bad news coming out of the Ole Miss camp last weekend. Running back Enrique Davis was arrested for disorderly conduct following the spring game on Saturday night, according to a report by Parrish Alford of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

Here's a link to Ole Miss' Web site, which includes a roundup, stats and quotes from the Rebels' spring game.

Recapping Mississippi State's spring game

April, 20, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Dan Mullen's first spring at Mississippi State has come and gone. The spread offense has been installed, as well as the tone Mullen wants to set for the program.

How it all comes together in the fall, especially when you throw in several newcomers expected to play, remains to be seen.

But Mullen couldn't be more pleased with the response from the fans and the way the team responded to him and the new staff this spring. A record crowd of 31,606 showed up Saturday for the Bulldogs' Maroon and White spring game. As a comparison, the Bulldogs had fewer than 10,000 people at Davis Wade Stadium for last season's spring game.

It's going to take some time (and another recruiting class or two) before the Bulldogs will be able to run the spread the way Mullen wants to, but the offense moved the ball pretty well Saturday.

Senior running back Anthony Dixon will undoubtedly be the offensive staple next fall, and he led all rushers with 59 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

Quarterback Tyson Lee finished the game strongly, which was a good sign, and his backup, Chris Relf, hooked up with O'Neal Wilder on a 63-yard bomb to set up a touchdown. Wilder will be a key for the Bulldogs next season, and it looks like junior college newcomer Leon Barry heads into the fall as Mississippi State's go-to receiver. He had eight catches for 125 yards, and Lee looked for him often.

Incoming freshman receivers such as Chad Bumphis, Dennis Thames, Chris Smith and Brandon Heavens will get every chance to show what they can do when they arrive this summer.

Here's a link to the Mississippi State Web site, which has a roundup and stats from the Bulldogs' spring game.

Here's another link to an interesting story about Mullen and how he's gone out of his way to make Mississippi State football a family affair.

Recapping Arkansas' spring game

April, 20, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

The suspense will have to wait until later this week when Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is supposed to release a depth chart coming out of spring practice.

But the Hogs' quarterback battle was a lot closer than probably anybody expected between Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson. Mallett is likely to get the nod, but Wilson proved that he's more than capable. The offensive numbers throughout the spring were impressive, and that continued last Saturday when Mallett and Wilson each threw a pair of touchdown passes in the Red and White spring game.

Sure, there were some unforced errors, and Mallett got himself into trouble some this spring with his footwork. But it's clear that the Hogs are going to be able to run more of Petrino's offense, and the group of playmakers surrounding the quarterback will be deeper, more experienced and more explosive than they were at any point last season.

Receiver Greg Childs had two touchdown catches of 50 and 20 yards in Saturday's spring game, but the receivers took turns this spring scoring from long distance. The sophomore class of Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Childs is extremely talented, and they all complement each other well. That's not even counting senior London Crawford and junior tight end D.J. Williams.

Remember, too, that the Hogs did their damage offensively this spring without top running back Michael Smith, who was out while recovering from hamstring surgery.

Arkansas also appears to be more settled on defense. Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson has more depth to work with, and the players weren't as bogged down in trying to learn the schemes. The linebackers, led by Jerry Franklin and Wendel Davis, should be very good, and redshirt freshman nose tackle Alfred Davis showed he's ready to help with a solid performance in the spring game, including a sack.

Here's a link to Arkansas' official Web site, which has stats and a roundup from the Hogs' spring game.

Recapping LSU's spring game

April, 20, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

The big story lines at LSU's spring game were that nobody got hurt and sophomore Jordan Jefferson tightened his hold on the starting quarterback job.

Otherwise, the Tigers were like everybody else in the SEC on Saturday. They got in and out without showing too much.

LSU coach Les Miles' confidence in his quarterbacks is greater than it ever was at any point last fall, and that confidence showed up in the way they played this spring, particularly Jefferson. He has a much better feel for the offense after starting the last two games a year ago as a true freshman and made the most of his first spring practice.

Charles Scott scored a pair of touchdowns for the White team, made up of first-teamers, and true freshman quarterback Russell Shepard showcased his ability to make things happen while leading the Purple team. Shepard isn't going to unseat Jefferson as the starter, but the Tigers will have a package ready for the multi-talented Shepard, who throws it well enough to be effective and is an absolute blur in the open field.

Defensively, cornerback Patrick Peterson returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown. The Tigers' secondary is deep and talented will allow first-year defensive coordinator John Chavis a lot of flexibility. Harry Coleman, who started last season at strong safety, played most of the spring game at outside linebacker.

Here's a link to LSU's official Web site, which has a roundup, stats and quotes from the Tigers' spring game.

Recapping Tennessee's spring game

April, 20, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Think they're anxious in Tennessee to see where Lane Kiffin and the new staff can take the Vols?

More than 50,000 people showed up to see Saturday's Orange and White spring game, the second-largest crowd to see a Tennessee spring game in school history.

The best news for the offense was that there were several lengthy drives and very few turnovers. Fifth-year senior Jonathan Crompton exits the spring as the guy to beat at quarterback, although Kiffin hasn't named a starter. B.J. Coleman probably had his best scrimmage of the spring last Saturday, so the race continues.

It was hard to get a read on Monte Kiffin's defense, because the Vols didn't show a lot or do much blitzing.

Then again, Kiffin said the offense probably only used about 20 percent of its playbook.

The Vols are still dangerously thin and inexperienced at offensive tackle, which makes protecting the quarterback a dicey proposition.

There should be plenty of competition next fall for touches in the running game. Montario Hardesty, Tauren Poole and Toney Williams combined for 201 rushing yards in the spring game. They will be joined this summer by highly touted runners Bryce Brown and David Oku.

Here's a link to Tennessee's official Web site, which includes final stats from the game.

Recapping Auburn's spring game

April, 20, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

The reason first-year Auburn coach Gene Chizik brought in Gus Malzahn to be his offensive coordinator was to put some pizzazz back into the Tigers' offense, which was difficult to watch a year ago.

Judging from the spring game last Saturday, the Tigers are going to be more explosive next fall. There were five plays of 40 yards or more in the game and two 70-yard touchdowns, including one from freshman running back Onterio McCalebb.

What the game didn't produce (or the spring, for that matter) was a starting quarterback. The race between Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle will spill over into the summer.

Caudle had the better passing numbers Saturday with 161 yards and two touchdowns, but Burns directed the first three touchdown drives. Malzahn said he would look a lot deeper than just the spring game when making a decision on who would be the starter next fall.

Like most teams, Auburn kept many of its bigger name defensive players out of the game. So putting too much stock into the offensive production might be a tad premature.

Here's a roundup on Auburn's official Web site from the spring game, including stats and quotes.

The Tigers practiced one final time Sunday to close out the spring.

Recapping Alabama's spring game

April, 20, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Any questions about who's going to be Alabama's quarterback next season were answered this spring.

It's Greg McElroy's job.

He was the most consistent quarterback for the Crimson Tide this spring. He made the most plays, took care of the ball the best and was the kind of leader Nick Saban is looking for at the quarterback position.

One of the other questions facing Alabama was who was going to help Julio Jones when defenses gang up on the toughest guy to cover one-on-one in the SEC. Well, Mike McCoy caught a touchdown in Saturday's A-Day game, while receiver Marquis Maze and tight end Colin Peek both came up with big plays.

Saban wasn't especially thrilled with his defense, but rest assured that the Tide will be stout next fall. One of the most pleasant surprises of the spring was Robby Green's emergence at safety. The converted cornerback will take over Rashad Johnson's safety spot opposite Justin Woodall.

Here's a link to Alabama's official Web site with a roundup from the A-Day game, including stats and quotes.

One of the things Saban does for spring games is allow select media members to be coaches. They even get to call a play. Sports editor Tommy Deas of The Tuscaloosa News provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Crimson Tide.

Recapping Florida's spring game

April, 20, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

If you showed up at Florida's spring game last Saturday hoping to see a heavy dose of Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes and Joe Haden, then you were probably disappointed.

With at least 10 starters injured and out for the game, Florida coach Urban Meyer took it one step further and went with mostly younger players in the Gators' annual Orange and Blue Debut, which drew an announced crowd of 65,000.

And in doing so, he thinks he may have found a few more playmakers, namely redshirt freshman receivers Frankie Hammond and T.J. Lawrence.

Tebow didn't play much, but backup quarterback John Brantley proved he's ready to step in if needed. Brantley threw three touchdown passes, capping what was a splendid spring for him.

Here's a link to the official stats from the game. Hammond scored a pair of touchdowns.