Actual football is available to discuss? Could this really be?
Well, in the famous words of Allen Iverson, not exactly. “We're sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we're talking about practice.”
Technically, yes, it’s just practice, but this is the SEC. Everything matters in the world’s best college football league, including spring practice. Therefore, we’re going to cover it and talk about it.
Below are all the key dates this spring for all 14 Southeastern Conference teams. You’ll also find some things to look for out of each team’s camp. I’m calling that the “V Three To Look For.”
I’m splitting-up the “V Three To Look For” into two sets of seven SEC teams. The first seven to start spring practice are below in this post. The last seven to start spring practice will follow in the next few days in a separate post.
I also contribute blogs and predictions to MrSEC.com’s Overtime section.
2013 SEC Football Spring Practice Dates
SCHOOL PRACTICE BEGINS SPRING GAME PRO DAY
Georgia March 2 April 6 March 21
Texas A&M March 2 April 13 March 8
South Carolina March 5 April 13 March 27
Tennessee March 9 April 20 March 20
Arkansas March 10 April 20 March 15
Missouri March 12 April 20 March 7 & March 21
Florida March 13 April 6 March 12
LSU March 14 April 20 March 27
Vanderbilt March 15 April 13 March 22
Alabama March 16 April 20 March 13
Ole Miss March 17 April 13 March 7
Kentucky March 18 April 13 March 21
Mississippi State March 21 April 20 March 6
Auburn March 27 April 20 March 5
V Three To Look For (First SEC 7)
1-Who fills the many holes on defense left by Jarvis Jones, Alex Ogletree, John Jenkins, Bacarri Rambo, Sanders Commings, Kwame Geathers and more?
2-Lots of new faces: 13 of 32 signees are already enrolled and expected to participate.
3-Early enroll to watch: DB Tray Matthews (6’0, 194 Fr. from Newnan, GA) – Although many eyes will be on the new highly-rated QB (Brice Ramsey), I’m curious to see the talented Matthews. He has the typical look for Georgia DBs, big and athletic. He’s a Top-100 overall prospect in the 2013 class in numerous recruiting rankings. There are certainly opportunities to get a leg-up in the competition for available playing time with so many departures to the NFL in the secondary.
1-How does Kevin Sumlin manage Johnny football? Will the reigning Heisman Trophy winner have a lesser work-load to keep him healthy and develop QB depth?
2-Big class, big group of spring newcomers: 9 of the 32 signees are early enrolls.
3-Early enroll to watch: TE Cameron Clear (6’6, 270 Jr. from Memphis, TN as a JUCO) – Played freshmen season at Tennessee. 4-star out of high school with huge talent but trouble off-the-field got him dismissed from UT. Spring ball should give us a clue to if he’s right between the ears, and ready to make an impact.
1-All eyes will be on each and every step of Jadeveon Clowney’s spring practices. With all the talk of skipping this season to avoid injury or challenging the NFL draft rules, etc. by the sports media, his health is going to be as big of a focus to many as his play. How will the HBC manage his practice time?
2-What will we learn about the offense without Connor Shaw there, who had foot surgery and is expected to miss the entire spring? Will a running back emerge to take the lead role out of spring?
3-Early enroll to watch: QB Connor Mitch (6’3, 219 Fr. from Raleigh, NC) – Mitch is one of the most accomplished and higher rated QB recruits Steve Spurrier has landed during his time in Columbia. He’s a pro-style quarterback who started four years in high school. He’s from an athletic family. His dad played football at Syracuse, his brother played football at Maryland and his sister played basketball at Duke. He should get a fair amount of reps without Shaw around in the spring. He is one of only 3 of the 21 signees that will get an early jump into practices as early enrolls.
1-Coaching. What will spring practice look like in the new Butch Jones era? How different will the coaching be? Will the fast-paced no-huddle offense be evident in practices? Will returning players be able to flush the yo-yo of changing defenses over the last two years and learn a new one with a return to a base 4-3?
2-Exposure. Will Butch Jones’ efforts to connect with the fan-base lead him to give the media more practice, coach and player access this spring? Or will he fall in line with the paranoia of the rest of the league’s coaches who act like the nation’s security is at risk if someone wonders about a kid getting 2nd team reps instead of the normal 3rd team. I’m not holding my breath though.
3-Early enroll to watch: ATH Jalen Reeves-Maybin (6’1, 200 Fr. from Clarksville, TN) – JRM is one of my favorites in the Volunteers entire recruiting class. I almost feel like he’s been a bit taken for granted or forgotten some because he never wavered from Tennessee. He’s so smart, versatile and athletic. He has the leadership skills that this team needs. Wearing Herman Lathers’ #34 is fitting to fill that role. He’s been referred to as a safety early-on. It will be interesting to see if he gets a look at LB or RB in some experimental looks. He is one of the 5 that have enrolled at Tennessee and will take-part in spring practice from the 21 players in the 2013 class.
1-There’s stability, calm and clear direction in Fayetteville now. What will Arkansas look like in the first spring under the direction of Bret Bielema?
2-How will the offense look like with pro-passing game Jim Chaney as OC, pro-running game Bielema as HC and skill stars Tyler Wilson, Knile Davis and Cobi Hamilton preparing for the NFL Draft?
3-Early enroll to watch: CB Carroll Washington (6’0, 175 Jr. from Baltimore, MD) – He’s one of 5 early enrolls of the 22 signees. All five that are already on the team are junior college transfers. Washington is in an area that needs upgrade. The whole defense does, actually. Bielema will make that a priority. Washington was ranked as one of the top JUCOs in the country and by some, the top CB.
1-Will we see a noticeable improvement in WR Dorial Green-Beckham? With reliable leading receiver T.J. Moe gone, it’s time for the #1 overall prospect in the 2012 recruiting class to play like it.
2-Health. Who will be available? How will they look? Will anyone else get hurt? Part of Mizzou’s struggles in the transition year into the SEC was the rash of injuries. RB Henry Josey (season), QB James Franklin, numerous offensive linemen and many others were hurt at various times last year.
3-Early enroll to watch: QB Trent Hosick (6’1, 230 Fr. from Kansas City, MO) – He’s one of two early enrolls of the 20 signees. Both of those guys are QBs. The other is Eddie Printz; a pro-style quarterback from Marietta, GA. Hosick is a dual-threat type that would seem to fit Gary Pinkel’s offense more naturally.
1-Which talented young players will seize starting spots coming out of spring to replace the 10 impact players that have moved-on like Floyd, Elam, Jenkins, Gillislee, Sturgis and many others.
2-Can Joker Phillips, new WR coach, develop players at a position that’s been a liability for UF for several years? True freshman WR Demarcus Robinson gets a head-start over some other very talented newcomers from the 2013 class. There are four more wide-outs joining in the fall. This is clearly a position of emphasis, as it should be.
3-Early enroll to watch: RB Kelvin Taylor (5’11, 216 Fr. from Belle Glade, FL) – He’s the son of former Florida Gators and NFL great, Fred Taylor. He’s one of the most prolific RBs in the history of high school football in the state of Florida. He rushed for 12,121 yards and 191 touchdowns in his prep career. Florida’s returning backs have been inconsistent, so the opportunity for Taylor to work his way into the mix right away is certainly there. He's part of a big signing class, 32, and a large early enroll group for UF, 8.
Follow me @VinceSports on Twitter and see everything I’m working on in sports. Download the WNML App for your mobile device, so you can hear the “News Sentinel Sports Page” radio sports talk show that I host (weekdays 10am-12pm ET/9-11am CT) at www.sportsanimal99.com.