Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
SEC East isn’t gaining any ground on West
Florida coach Will Muschamp is all smiles after their spring NCAA college football scrimmage Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
One final comment, at least for now, before addressing how spring practices went for the SEC Eastern Division teams.
Admittedly, the University of Arkansas put a great spin on its anthracite jerseys, but how can it be a secondary color if there are entire uniforms in anthracite?
Now, back to spring practices.
The SEC East still looks to be weaker than the SEC West. A few teams will likely take a small step back with only Tennessee looking like it might improve. Here is the spring wrap-up in alphabetical order:
FLORIDA The Gators have a new offensive coordinator, Kurt Roper, who installed a no-huddle offense that quarterback Jeff Driskel seemed to like. Apparently Driskel is completely healed from injuries, and he completed 16 of 32 passes for 167 yards and 1 touchdown. All total, 20 Gators had at least one catch. The Gators return seven starters on offense and on defense.
GEORGIA Always a bit of a mystery team, to have that much talent and not win the SEC championship. The Bulldogs return running back Todd Gurley, and he should be on everyone’s Heisman Trophy watch list. Quarterback Hutson Mason was solid, especially down field, but his receivers struggled to get open in short patterns. The Bulldogs return five starters on offense and 10 on defense.
KENTUCKY The Wildcats finish spring practice Saturday. The biggest news has been the renovations of Commonwealth Stadium that will limit spring game attendance to 42,500. The Wildcats return eight on offense and on defense.
MISSOURI The Tigers could slip a bit because of losses on defense. Maty Mauk, who started several games last season, was very good in the spring game, completing 11 of 15 passes for 129 yards. The second team won the game 21-20, but they were spotted 14 points. The Tigers return nine on offense but only four on defense.
SOUTH CAROLINA Honestly, the Old Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, may be the only reason the Gamecocks don’t slip a little bit. Sophomore linebacker Skai Moore is going to be counted on to help heal the hurt of losing Jadeveon Clowney to the NFL. Moore had seven tackles in the spring game. Dylan Thompson may have established himself as the starter going into fall as he tries to fill the big shoes left by Connor Shaw. Thompson was 8 of 11 passing for 128 yards and 1 touchdown. The Gamecocks return eight on offense and six on defense.
TENNESSEE This team looks to be on the rise, especially if it can establish a decent running game, but it has several holes to fill. The good news is the Vols are getting more talented players under Coach Butch Jones. Justin Worley emerged from the spring as the leading candidate to start at quarterback ahead of three others. The defense was much better against the run than against the pass, but that goes back to the Vols’ problem area. The Vols return five on offense and five on defense.
VANDERBILT New Coach Derek Mason has some big shoes to fill trying to replace James Franklin, and he inherits a team with lots of defensive questions. Redshirt freshman running back Ralph Webb had a good spring game, rushing for 114yards on 14 carries, including a 60-yard touchdown run that thrilled the crowd of 8,400. The Commodores return seven on offense and three on defense.
Parting thought: When Franklin left Vanderbilt he took commitments with him to his new school, just like former basketball Coach Cuonzo Martin did when he left Tennessee to take the Cal job. Some seem to believe a recruit commits to a coach, not to the school. Well, who picked up the bills for the recruitment and paid the coach to recruit the athlete?
Sports, Pages 17 on 04/24/2014