SEC: Sheldon Richardson

Missouri Tigers spring wrap

May, 6, 2013
5/06/13
7:30
AM ET
2012 record: 5-7
2012 conference record: 2-6 (fifth, Eastern Division)
Returning starters: Offense: 8; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

QB James Franklin, RB Henry Josey, RB/RS Marcus Murphy, WR Dorial Green-Beckham, OL Evan Boehm, DE Kony Ealy, LB Andrew Wilson, CB E.J. Gaines

Key losses

RB Kendial Lawrence, WR T.J. Moe, OT Elvis Fisher, DT Sheldon Richardson, LB Zaviar Gooden, LB Will Ebner, CB Kip Edwards

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Kendial Lawrence (1,025 yards)
Passing: James Franklin* (1,562 yards)
Receiving: Marcus Lucas* (509 yards)
Tackles: Andrew Wilson* (79)
Sacks: Michael Sam* (4.5)
Interceptions: Kip Edwards (2)

Spring answers

1. Henry’s health: After missing all of last season because of a devastating knee injury that occurred halfway through the 2011 campaign, many weren’t sure how running back Henry Josey would respond this spring. But he shed his knee brace early and craved contact from Day 1. He didn’t care if he left spring as the starter -- he just wanted to prove to himself that he was ready to play again. Coach Gary Pinkel says he ran a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash before spring, and Josey insists he's at 100 percent.

2. DGB's maturity: It sounds like last year’s top recruit is really getting it in Columbia. The offense wasn’t totally in sync this spring, but that didn’t stop Green-Beckham from making some good noise at receiver. He dealt with an ankle injury early, but bounced back well and it appears he showed that he’s ready for more responsibility and passes thrown his way this fall. His development is crucial to Mizzou’s offensive improvement.

3. Replacing Richardson: One person won’t replace the Tigers’ first-round defensive tackle, but it sounds like the team should have a lot to work with up front this fall, starting with junior Matt Hoch, who can play either nose guard or tackle. He might have had the best spring of any Mizzou defender and found ways to make plays. He’ll also have help from talented ends Kony Ealy and Michael Sam. Harold Brantley and Lucas Vincent also had solid springs inside.

Fall questions

1. Quarterback controversy: Franklin might have looked sharper and was the starter leaving spring, but redshirt freshman Maty Mauk is right behind him. He had a rough spring game, but has all the tools to be very good in the Tigers’ offense. They shared reps with Corbin Berkstresser, who is still in the hunt after serving as Franklin’s backup last year. Pinkel was very quiet about the race for most of spring, and this one will continue to go through fall camp.

2. Linebacker work: Losing two starters hurt the Tigers, and they’ll try to replace those bodies with younger, unproven players. Andrew Wilson and Donovan Bonner are both seniors, which helps, but there isn’t much game experience around them. Redshirt sophomore Kentrell Brothers made strides this spring, and the coaches expect more out of Darvin Ruise, who primarily played on special teams last year. Tackling was a problem last year, so this group has to improve there as well.

3. Protection issues: The offensive line might be healthier this spring, but has had a lot of issues with protection. It stunted the growth at times for an offense that desperately needs to improve in 2013. Evan Boehm might be Mizzou’s top lineman, but he moved to center and is still trying to get a handle on his new position. Veterans Justin Britt, Max Copeland and Mitch Morse are back, but there were still communication issues and protection problems that have to get corrected during fall camp.
It’s always revealing to go back and see where the top NFL draft picks from the SEC were ranked coming out of high school.

Of the 12 SEC players drafted in Thursday's first round, nine were selected as ESPN 150 prospects. And of those nine, six were ranked among the top 60 prospects nationally when they were going through the recruiting process in high school.

That’s not a shabby percentage by the ESPN recruiting folks.

Last year, six of the nine SEC players going in the first round were unranked nationally by ESPN coming out of high school. So it's never an exact science.

The highest-ranked player this year taken in the first round was Florida safety Matt Elam, who was the No. 9 overall prospect in the 2010 class and the No. 2 athlete. That same year, Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner was the No. 16 overall prospect and the No. 2 cornerback, while Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was No. 25 overall and the No. 3 defensive tackle.

The lowest-ranked of the SEC’s 12 first-rounders this year was Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, but his issues were academic-related.

Alabama offensive guard Chance Warmack also flew under the radar coming out of high school. He wasn’t even ranked among the top 30 prospects in the state of Georgia by ESPN, and said the home-state Bulldogs didn't offer him a scholarship.

Here’s a breakdown of all 12 SEC players taken in the first round, including their national rank by ESPN coming out of high school, their position rank, other players ranked ahead of them, their grade and where they’re from:

Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (No. 2 to the Jaguars): No. 83 overall in class of 2010, No. 6 offensive tackle. Three of the tackles ranked ahead of Joeckel signed with SEC schools -- No. 2 Ja’Wuan James (Tennessee), No. 3 Ian Silbermann (Florida) and No. 4 Chaz Green (Florida). Grade 81. Arlington, Texas

Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU (No. 6 to the Browns): Unranked nationally in class of 2009, No. 34 outside linebacker. Among the outside linebackers signing with SEC schools that were ranked ahead of Mingo that year were Chase Vasser (Georgia), Greg King (Tennessee), Chaun Gresham (South Carolina), Nigel Mitchell-Thornton (Tennessee), Jerod Askew (Tennessee), Dexter Moody (Georgia) and Tana Patrick (Alabama). Grade 78. West Monroe, La.

Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (No. 9 to the Jets): No. 16 overall in class of 2010. No. 2 cornerback. The only cornerback ranked ahead of him nationally that year was Lamarcus Joyner, who signed with Florida State. Grade 84. Millbrook, Ala.

Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama (No. 10 to the Titans): Unranked nationally in class of 2009. No. 16 offensive guard. No. 35 in the state of Georgia. Eighteen other players who signed with SEC schools that year from the state of Georgia were ranked ahead of Warmack. Grade 79. Atlanta.

D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama (No. 11 to the Chargers): No. 12 overall in class of 2009. No. 1 offensive tackle. Offensive tackle Eric Fisher, who was the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s draft, was also in the 2009 class, but was unranked nationally as a defensive end. Grade 86. Foley, Ala.

Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri (No. 13 to the Jets): No. 107 overall in class of 2009. No. 8 defensive tackle. The three defensive tackles ranked ahead of him that year who signed with SEC schools were No. 2 Gary Brown (Florida), No. 4 Josh Downs (LSU) and No. 7 Chris Davenport (LSU). Grade 81. St. Louis, Mo.

Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia (No. 17 to the Steelers): No. 59 overall in class of 2009. No. 6 outside linebacker. No. 7 in the state of Georgia. Jones signed with USC out of high school before transferring to Georgia. The No. 1 outside linebacker nationally that year was Manti Te’o. Grade 82. Columbus, Ga.

Eric Reid, S, LSU (No. 18 to the 49ers): No. 71 overall in class of 2010. No. 7 safety. The No. 1 safety nationally that year was Jonathan Dowling, who signed with Florida. Grade 81. Geismar, La.

Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida (No. 23 to the Vikings): No. 25 overall in class of 2010. No. 3 defensive tackle. The only two defensive tackles ranked ahead of him that year were No. 1 Dominique Easley (Florida) and No. 2 Taylor Bible (Texas). Grade 83. Philadelphia, Pa.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee (No. 29 to the Vikings): Unranked nationally and at his position in class of 2009. Patterson didn’t qualify academically and spent his first year out of high school attending North Carolina Tech and then played two seasons at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College before transferring to Tennessee. Rock Hill, S.C.

Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia (No. 30 to the Rams): No. 29 overall in class of 2010. No. 4 safety. Ogletree started out at safety at Georgia before moving to inside linebacker. Grade 83. Newnan, Ga.

Matt Elam, S, Florida (No. 32 to the Ravens): No. 9 overall in class of 2010. No. 2 athlete. Ranked as an athlete that year by ESPN. The No. 1 athlete was Ronald Powell, who also went to Florida. Grade 86. Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Lunchtime links

April, 24, 2013
4/24/13
12:00
PM ET
Checking out some SEC links in the mid-week.
ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has put together his latest "Grade A" draft, in which he presents the best pick for every team in the upcoming NFL draft.

He has 12 SEC players going in the first round, which would tie the record for a conference. The ACC produced 12 first-round selections in 2006.

In Kiper's "Grade A" draft, the first three players to come off the board are from the SEC -- Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel and Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.

Below are the 12 SEC players Kiper has being taken in his "Grade A" draft:
Next week's NFL draft could be a special one for the SEC.

If you check recent mock drafts from ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay , the SEC could be in for a record first day in New York City. Kiper's recent mock draft has a record 13 SEC players being drafted in the first round and 21 going within the first two rounds. McShay has 11 SEC players going in the first round.

Here's a look at the 10 SEC players who were invited to next week's draft, which will be televised on ESPN on April 25 at 8 p.m. ET.
Surprisingly, Georgia linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, who are both projected to be first-round draft picks, didn't make the list.

Lunchtime links

April, 12, 2013
4/12/13
12:00
PM ET
We're getting closer and closer to Sunday at Augusta.

Todd McShay's Mock Draft 5.0

April, 11, 2013
4/11/13
4:10
PM ET
We have more mock drafts for you as we get closer and closer to this month's NFL draft.

This time, draft expert Todd McShay has his Mock Draft 5.0 Insider for your reading pleasure. In Mel Kiper Jr.'s Mock Draft 4.0 Insider, he projected a record 13 SEC players would be taken in the first round. McShay has 11 going in the first round, including four in the top 10.

Like Kiper Jr., McShay has Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel going first overall to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Here's a look at where McShay has all 11 SEC players going in the first round:

No. 1: Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (Kansas City Chiefs)
No. 8: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama (Buffalo Bills)
No. 9: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (New York Jets)
No. 10: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida (Tennessee Titans)
No. 14: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri (Carolina Panthers)
No. 15: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU (New Orleans Saints)
No. 16: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee (St. Louis Rams)
No. 17: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia (Pittsburgh Steelers)
No. 19: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama (New York Giants) No. 22: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama (St. Louis Rams)
No. 23: Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia (Minnesota Vikings)

Opening spring camp: Missouri

March, 12, 2013
3/12/13
11:00
AM ET
Schedule: The Tigers open spring practice today at 4:30 p.m. ET and conclude the spring on April with their annual Black & Gold Game on April 20 at 2 p.m. ET in Memorial Stadium.

What's new: After spending 12 years as a Missouri assistant, offensive coordinator David Yost resigned after the 2012 season and was named the inside receivers coach at Washington State. Josh Henson was then promoted from co-offensive line coach to offensive coordinator, while Andy Hill was promoted from wide receiver coach to quarterbacks coach/associate head coach. Pat Washington, who coached at Kentucky in 2012, was hired as the Tigers' new receivers coach.

On the mend: Running back Henry Josey is still recovering from the devastating knee injury he suffered halfway through the 2011 season, but coach Gary Pinkel recently said that Josey ran a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash and should be able to go through spring camp. Offensive linemen Justin Britt and Taylor Chappell are also recovering from knee injuries, but could be at full strength later this spring. Fellow lineman Anthony Gatti is recovering from recent ACL surgery and could also return in late spring. Defensive end Markus Golden is playing with a hand cast this spring, while wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham rolled his ankled during offseason workouts and is currently in a walking boot.

On the move: Green-Beckham is moving from the inside "Y" receiver spot to the outside "X" spot. With redshirt freshman tight end/Y Sean Culkin back from injury, Green-Beckham was moved outside, where he should be more of a deep threat for the Tigers. Sophomore Ernest Payton has moved from cornerback to safety. Senior linebacker Andrew Wilson has moved from strong side linebacker to middle linebacker. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jordan Williams has moved from tackle to center.

Question marks: With Sheldon Richardson gone, the Tigers are looking for someone to step in and help fill that void. Mizzou might have to replace Richardson by committee this year. Junior Matt Hoch (defensive tackle) and Lucas Vincent (nose guard) will get the first shots at filling the middle. Vincent was Richardson's backup last year, but still has a lot of room to grow on the field. Hoch had a decent 2012 season and the staff is excited about redshirt freshman Harold Brantley. With the heavy amount of ends, the Tigers could move some guys inside to help with depth. Wide receivers Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington are listed as starters this spring, but after underwhelming 2012 seasons, they will be battling for their spots this spring. Also, keep an eye on Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt at the "H" receiver spot. One of them has to solidify that spot this spring. Really, the offense in general has a bunch of question marks, but the biggest one of all might be at quarterback, where James Franklin will be in a heated competition with redshirt freshman Maty Mauk and sophomore Corbin Berkstresser. Franklin's history of injuries could keep the concern level around him high.

New faces: Mizzou welcomed quarterbacks Trent Hosick and Eddie Printz, who enrolled early this spring. Wide receiver Darius White sat out last season after transferring from Texas during the offseason. The Tigers might have a lot of bodies at receiver, but the coaches are very excited about his potential, and he could push for real time this spring.

Key battle: Franklin's past injuries can't be overlooked, and after the season he had in 2012, the coaches have to get his current backups ready for the 2013 season. Franklin enters the spring as the starter, but he'll have to earn it throughout the next two months because the staff is very excited about the potential Mauk has. He's been compared to former Mizzou QB Brad Smith and people around the program feel he can run the offense as well as anyone. Word is that Mauk is really going after the No. 1 spot, so Franklin will be constantly looking over his shoulder this spring. Berkstresser got good experience last year and should be even more comfortable in Mizzou's offense. Getting more confidence at the QB spot is critical heading into the offseason.

Breaking out: Keep an eye on senior cornerback Randy Ponder. The former walk-on has had a lot of time to watch others and should be prepared for his starting role opposite shutdown corner E.J. Gaines. Brantley could be a big player at defensive tackle. He has packed on the pounds and with the position not solidified, the coaches are expecting a lot from him. Culkin should push Eric Waters for the starting spot at the "Y." The coaches are really excited about him and they didn't really want to redshirt him last year.

Don't forget about: Josey had to sit out all of last year, and while Kendial Lawrence rushed for more than 1,000 yards, the offense missed the home run presence Josey brought to the offense in 2011. Josey was the Big 12's best rusher before he went down halfway through the season in 2011, and the Tigers need him to be back to his old ways this fall. Things are starting off right for Josey, who will participate in drills this spring.
With the NFL draft getting closer and closer, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. is making sure he feeds everyone with as much info as possible.

More than a month after showcasing his second mock draft, Kiper has updated things in his Mock Draft 3.0 Insider. It should come as no surprise that his latest mock draft is loaded with SEC talent, as he has 13 players going in the first 32 picks.

His top 10 has five SEC players in it. Kiper has Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel going first overall to Kansas City, while Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is set to go third to the Oakland Raiders. Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner is slotted to go fourth to the Philadelphia Eagles, Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones is picked to go eighth to the Buffalo Bills and LSU defensive end/ outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo is heading to the New York Jets at No. 9.

Here's where Kiper sees SEC players going in next month's NFL draft:

1. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M -- Kansas City Chiefs

3. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida -- Oakland Raiders

4. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama -- Philadelphia Eagles

8. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia -- Buffalo Bills

9. Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU -- New York Jets

12. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee -- Miami Dolphins

15. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri -- New Orleans Saints

18. Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama -- Dallas Cowboys

20. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama -- Chicago Bears

21. Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia -- Cincinnati Bengals

22. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee -- St. Louis Rams

26. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama -- Green Bay Packers

32. Matt Elam, S, Florida -- Baltimore Ravens

Lunchtime links

March, 11, 2013
3/11/13
12:00
PM ET
DeAndre Jordan made Brandon Knight look foolish with his monster dunk over him, but it was no Pippen over Ewing.

Todd McShay's Mock Draft 3.0

March, 6, 2013
3/06/13
4:30
PM ET
The NFL draft is creeping closer and closer, and now that pro days are sprouting up all around the country, it's time to check in on what resident draft guru Todd McShay has to say about next month's draft.

His new mock draft is out and the SEC has quite a few familiar faces inside the first 32 picks of the draft, especially within the top 10.

Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel is the highest-slotted SEC player, checking in at No. 2 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. A word of advice for Joeckel: Sunscreen!

The SEC then takes picks No. 3 and No. 4, with Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who really has shot up draft boards in recent weeks, going No. 3 to the Oakland Raiders, and Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner going fourth to the Philadelphia Eagles. And he has LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo going ninth to the New York Jets.

Former SEC players took 12 of the the first 32 picks in McShay's mock draft.

Here's where SEC players landed:

2. Luke Joeckel, LT, Texas A&M -- Jacksonville Jaguars

3. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida -- Oakland Raiders

4. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama -- Philadelphia Eagles

9. Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU -- New York Jets

14. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri -- Carolina Panthers

15. Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia -- New Orleans Saints

17. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia -- Pittsburgh Steelers

18. Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama -- Dallas Cowboys

20. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee -- Chicago Bears

21. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama -- Cincinnati Bengals

26. John Jenkins, DT, Georiga -- Green Bay Packers

27. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee -- Houston Texans
Now that you've seen Mel Kiper Jr.'s updated Big Board, take a look at where his position rankings stand Insider after the NFL combine. In his last batch of rankings, 28 SEC players made the cut, and the league was represented by at least one player at every position, except fullback.

In Kiper's post-combine rankings, 26 SEC players were listed. Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, Tennessee offensive guard Dallas Thomas, South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger, and Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden were left off this time. The head-scratcher to me is the absence of Gooden, who was ranked fourth at outside linebacker in Kiper's pre-combine rankings. He blew up the combine and proved to have the best speed of any of the linebackers working out and showcased tremendous strength and athleticism.

Making it on Kiper Jr.'s list this time were Texas A&M running back Christine Michael, Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg and Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter.

Here's where Kiper put SEC players in his post-combine position rankings:

Quarterbacks

4. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas

Running backs

1. Eddie Lacy, Alabama

3. Christine Michael, Texas A&M

Fullbacks

None

Wide receivers

2. Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee

4. Justin Hunter, Tennessee

Tight ends

3. Jordan Reed, Florida

5. Chris Gragg, Arkansas

Offensive tackles

2. Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

4. D.J. Fluker, Alabama

Offensive guards

1. Chance Warmack, Alabama

3. Larry Warford, Kentucky

Centers

3. Barrett Jones, Alabama

Defensive ends

2. Barkevious Mingo, LSU

Defensive tackles

1. Sharrif Floyd, Florida

4. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri

Inside linebackers

2. Alec Ogletree, Georgia

3. Kevin Minter, LSU

5. Jon Bostic, Florida

Outside linebackers

1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia

5. Cornelius Washington, Georgia

Cornerbacks

1. Dee Milliner, Alabama

4. Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State

Safeties

2. Matt Elam, Florida

4. Eric Reid, LSU

Kickers

2. Caleb Sturgis, Florida

Punters

2. Brad Wing, LSU
Now that the NFL combine is over, we know a little bit more about the draft stocks of many players looking to make the jump to the NFL.

All that running, jumping, catching and throwing in Indianapolis can make a big difference for the majority of guys, and a lot of players saw their stock rise and fall after a few hours of moving around inside Lucas Oil Stadium.

NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. kept a close eye on everyone out there and has updated his Big Board Insider to reflect the performances from the few days in Indy. After the NFL combine, Kiper has 11 SEC players among his top 25 players, including six in his top 10. Before the combine, he had 12 SEC players in his rankings.

Who fell? Well, Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore took quite the stumble after a very rough outing at the combine. Moore went from No. 3 on Kiper's Big Board to unranked. He had a slow 40-yard-dash time of 4.95 seconds, and was weak on the bench press, doing just 12 reps at 225 pounds. That was the lowest of the 37 defensive linemen working out. Moore needs a strong pro day to get back in the good graces of everyone keeping a close eye on the draft.

While Moore tumbled down and out of Kiper's rankings, Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd made a major jump, moving from No. 8 to No. 2. His 4.92 in the 40 was huge for him, and with Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei not being able to work out because of a heart condition, Floyd is now considered the top defensive tackle in the draft.

Even though Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones didn't work out in Indy, he's still at the top of Kiper's board.

Here is where the 11 SEC players rank on Kiper's updated Big Board:

1. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (Last week: 1)

2. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida (LW: 8th)

5. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (LW: 2)

6. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama (LW: 6)

7. Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU (LW: 12)

9. Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama (LW: 9)

17. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee (LW: 21)

19. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri (LW: 15)

20. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama (LW: 16)

22. Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia (LW: 18)

25. Matt Elam, S, Florida (LW: 25)

Lunchtime links

February, 27, 2013
2/27/13
12:10
PM ET
Checking out some links on a Wednesday.

SEC spring preview: Eastern Division

February, 25, 2013
2/25/13
10:17
AM ET
We're taking a look at key storylines for all seven teams in the SEC Eastern Division.

Chris will take a look at the main issues in the Western Division on Tuesday.

FLORIDA GATORS

Spring start: March 13

Spring game: April 6

What to watch:
1. Rebuilding at linebacker: The Gators have to start figuring out the linebacker situation. Do they go with redshirt junior Michael Taylor in the middle, who’s a run-stuffer but has to come off the field in passing downs? Or do they try sophomore Antonio Morrison, who played outside at 218 pounds as a freshman and has hopefully bulked up a bit? The most likely scenario is Morrison, which means UF has to find a weakside linebacker. That could be freshmen early enrollee Daniel McMillian or Alex Anzalone. The strongside starter should be, at least entering the spring, redshirt junior Neiron Ball.

2. Robinson's growth: One of the most scrutinized players this spring will be receiver Demarcus Robinson. He was the only one of UF’s five receiver signees to enroll early and he’ll be given every chance to win a starting spot. UF’s receivers have been below average for the past three seasons and the Gators desperately need someone to become a consistent playmaker. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Robinson, who caught 53 passes for more than 1,000 yards and scored 15 touchdowns as a senior at Fort Valley (Ga.) Peach County, is going to be under a lot of pressure to produce.

3. Driskel's confidence: Quarterback Jeff Driskel returns for his second season as a starter, and it’ll be interesting to see how much he improves on his decision-making, release and accuracy. He’s sure to benefit from not splitting reps 50-50 any longer. But just as important as Driskel’s development is what happens behind him with redshirt junior Tyler Murphy and redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg. Neither has thrown a pass in a college game. Why is that important? Because Driskel has not been able to stay healthy in his first two seasons in Gainesville. He missed starts as a freshman and sophomore because of ankle injuries. UF was lucky in 2012 to have Jacoby Brissett, who had played significantly as John Brantley’s backup in 2011. With Brissett transferring to NC State, the Gators no longer have that luxury.

-- Mike DiRocco, GatorNation

GEORGIA BULLDOGS

Spring start: March 2

Spring game: April 6

What to watch:
1. Rebuilding the defense: Georgia begins its transition to a completely new collection of defensive talent this spring. No longer are Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, Shawn Williams, Bacarri Rambo and John Jenkins on the roster. In fact, the Bulldogs must replace a total of 12 defensive players who were either full-time starters or key contributors, and at some positions, the possible replacements have little to no college experience. That makes this a pivotal time for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to begin identifying which players will fill those roles, as the Bulldogs will have little margin for error when they open the season against Clemson’s explosive offense Aug. 31. Some names to watch this spring: Josh Harvey-Clemons, Sheldon Dawson and Jonathan Taylor.

2. Developing the youngsters: The good news for Grantham and the other defensive coaches is that they brought in a number of January enrollees who should be able to help immediately. Junior college transfer Chris Mayes and John Atkins hope to fill the void left by Jenkins and Kwame Geathers at noseguard. Ryne Rankin and Reggie Carter will immediately enter the mix at linebacker. And cornerback Reggie Wilkerson and safeties Tray Matthews and Quincy Mauger can help address Georgia’s depth shortage in a secondary that lost four key players. Georgia’s 13 early enrollees -- more than twice as many January enrollees as Georgia coach Mark Richt has ever brought in before -- will help fill needs on both sides of the ball, but the defense is where the newcomers were most necessary.

3. Offensive line reps: For the most part, Georgia used the same starting lineup along its offensive line throughout the 2012 season and each of those starters should return this fall. But two of those starters -- right guard Chris Burnette and right tackle John Theus -- underwent surgeries during the offseason and will miss all or part of spring practice. There was a good chance that offensive line coach Will Friend was going to deploy more players in his line rotation this fall anyway, but the valuable practice reps that will be available with Burnette and Theus sidelined might make a deeper rotation even more likely. Someone still has to take advantage of the opportunity, however.

-- David Ching, DawgNation

KENTUCKY WILDCATS

Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
1. Getting used to new coaches: New coaches are roaming Kentucky’s football facility this spring. Mark Stoops brings a more defense-minded philosophy to Lexington, but his coaches will have to get things going on offense if the Wildcats are going to improve in 2013. There are always awkward moments when transitioning to a new staff, but now’s the time to create valuable trust on both sides.

2. Finding offensive playmakers: Stoops might have a strong defensive background, but the Wildcats have to find answers on offense. Injuries were an issue last year, but for two straight years the Wildcats had real problems finding consistent playmakers on offense. Quarterback Maxwell Smith returns, but he needs more than just wide receiver La’Rod King to help him. Getting running back Josh Clemons back would be big, but expect the coaches to turn to a young group of receivers and running backs.

3. Tougher team: One thing Stoops wants from his players is a tougher identity. Stoops wants to build a stronger team from the ground up. He’s taking a page from Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin when it comes to preparing his new team. This spring, we’ll see just how much of an emphasis the coaches put on the weight room and conditioning before hitting the football side of things.

MISSOURI TIGERS

Spring start: March 12

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
1. Josey's rehab: The Tigers will be keeping tabs on running back Henry Josey, who missed all of 2012 after suffering a devastating knee injury midway through the 2011 season. He was the Big 12’s best running back before his injury and Mizzou needs him back. The staff has had to be patient, but this could be a crucial time in his rehab, as he looks to get his football legs back.

2. Rebuilding the front seven: Mizzou must replace a lot in its front seven. Star defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson’s absence leaves a gaping hole up front, while linebackers Will Ebner and Zaviar Gooden must be replaced. Lucas Vincent will be first in line to take Richardson’s spot, while Darvin Ruise, Donovan Bonner and Michael Scherer are three players to watch at linebacker.

3. Toughening up: Injuries ravaged Mizzou’s offense last year, but it’s clear that Mizzou wasn’t in the playing shape that it would have liked to be in during its first year in the SEC. Injuries are part of the game, but gaining that toughness factor this spring will go a long way for the Tigers in 2013. The SEC is more than just a grind, and the Tigers found out the hard way that conditioning in this league is a little different than in the Big 12.

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS

Spring start: March 5

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
1. New backfield options: Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles are gone, so the Gamecocks will have to turn to their younger backs. Brandon Wilds missed the 2012 season with an ankle injury but should return this spring. Rising sophomore Mike Davis has all the tools to be a big-time player for the Gamecocks and could be the top option in the Gamecocks’ backfield. Shifty Shon Carson also returns from a knee injury, so South Carolina will have a solid group to work with this spring.

2. QB controversy: Quarterback Connor Shaw might be tabbed as the starter, but with him out for the spring, Dylan Thompson will take the first-team reps. Thompson proved to be very valuable last year, and both will play this fall. Thompson has become one of the most vocal players on the team and is a strong leader. A good spring could bring some real controversy to the position.

3. Holes at linebacker: South Carolina will be without its two-deep at linebacker and “Spur” DeVonte Holloman is gone. That means there’s a lot of work to be done when it comes to finding viable replacements. Sharrod Golightly will get the early crack at the Spur, and keep an eye on Kaiwan Lews, who was a true freshman last year and has a lot of potential to work with.

TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS

Spring start: March 9

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
1. New coaches on the block: With Butch Jones in town, the Vols have to get used to their third head coach in five springs. Jones and his staff have helped bring some much-needed energy to the program since arriving, but now it’s time to develop vital on-field chemistry between the coaches and players.

2. Receiving help: The Vols’ offense took at major hit at receiver. Juniors Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson made the leap to the NFL, while deep threat Zach Rogers and tight end Mychal Rivera graduated. Tennessee will now turn to a host of inexperienced receiving targets, including rising sophomore Alton Howard and early enrollee Paul Harris.

3. Quarterback battle: With Tyler Bray leaving for the NFL, Tennessee will work with rising junior Justin Worley and redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman. Worley has the edge when it comes to game experience, but with a new staff, this battle will be wide-open. They will also need to make strides before freshmen Joshua Dobbs and Riley Ferguson get on campus this summer.

VANDERBILT COMMODORES

Spring start: March 15

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
1. Replacing Rodgers: Quarterback Jordan Rodgers is gone. The good news is Austyn Carta-Samuels has good experience after starting two years at Wyoming before transferring to Vandy. Redshirt freshman Patton Robinette is someone the coaches also are excited about, especially with his dual-threat ability, and should really push Carta-Samuels the whole spring.

2. Running back battles: The Commodores lost star running back Zac Stacy, so veteran Wesley Tate, who has bounced around positions, and rising sophomore Brian Kimbrow, who has the do-everything look to him at running back, will share reps. Warren Norman and Jerron Seymour also return, making for quite the talented backfield.

3. Keeping the edge: Now that another very successful season under James Franklin is over, the Dores have to continue to keep the edge that got them to where they are. It might sound like a broken record, but Vanderbilt still has to prove that it isn’t the Vandy of old. People are certainly taking the Dores more seriously, but keeping that edge is important for more growth.

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