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April 22, 2011

SEC West Spring Recap

It's a sad, sad time in the southeast. College football is over until August. What's that you say, football ended in January? Well, perhaps to some. But not to us. Not here. Football ended when spring practices across the SEC came to a close.

Once everyone wrapped up, each coach in the SEC participated in a teleconference with the media. Starting with the western division, these are the highlights of what each coach had to say, focusing on the main issues, exiting spring practice. I did not include Dan Mullen's notes as his portion was already posted here, and I feel we've covered MSU's spring practice pretty well, don't you?

Les Miles, LSU
The biggest issue, of course, is what's happening at quarterback for the Tigers. It appeared Zach Mettenberger, a JUCO transfer by way of Georgia, would be the starter. Now, Jordan Jefferson has stepped up. The other issue is losing playmakers on defense. What's not an issue is Miles himself. He referred to his new offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe as if he was reading his name off a report card.

"I thought our team looked really good in all three phases. I thought there's a great mix between our veterans and our young players."

"I think our defense is playing, that secondary as young they are, as well as they're playing is really an advantage for us.

"I think the linebacking corp had a tremendous spring as well. I think defensively we're going to be a very talented, very capable group."

"On offense, I think Jordan Jefferson had the best spring he'd had since he got here. He's continued to improve. I think Kragthorpe, Steve, has really improved him, and I think the emerging quarterbacks behind, both [Jarret] Lee and Mettenberger, are guys who also had strong springs. We'll continue to compete to play."

More on Kragthorpe: "The former head coach part is really a wonderful piece for me. He comes with some intuitive knowledge of my position, and he's a resource for me. He brings real expertise in how you teach the quarterbacks and how to throw the ball. His approach has really helped the quarterbacks."

And Jefferson: "He gets it out of his hand so, so quickly. He goes through his reads and progressions. There's just much less hesitation in the decision process."

Nick Saban, Alabama
There are fewer questions for Saban than most, as he has a natural replacement for almost every lost starter. The question is who will replace Greg McElroy, either Freshman Phillip Sims or the only one with any experience - AJ McCarron.

"I like the character and attitude of our team. We have a little more maturity and a little more leadership."

What the summer means for qb's: "I think that both guys can continue to make progress. Neither guy has played. One guy not at all, one some as a backup player. I think it's important for those guys to develop the confidence and the knowledge and the experience. How that develops will be key to how far we can go as a team next year."

On playing both: "Until somebody separates, I have no problem doing that. I like both guys, I have confidence in both guys and I think our players do."

"Both guys were effective. Both guys played well. Statistically, you could cut it up all kinds of different ways. But I think just from a leadership and just an execution standpoint, both guys made a lot of progress and both guys did a good job. If they both can play winning football, then they both should be able to make some kind of contribution to our team."

Bobby Petrino, Arkansas
Again, not many issues. Replacing Ryan Mallett is important, but Tyler Wilson should be able to step right in. Knile Davis has the running back spot locked down, and the receivers will be excellent. Petrino's questions where leadership without Mallett and tight end D.J. Williams, and replacing both of his offensive tackles.

"Going into spring, we knew we had a completely new team. I think we took some steps forward in identifying that, but I do think we have our work cut out for us."

On his quarterbacks: "You can't put everything into scrimmages. You have to evaluate all the practices and see who steps up."

"I think they both still have a long ways to go. Another part of their job is to help players around them be better football players, and they showed some leadership qualities. But they have a long ways to go and they have to make themselves better so they can lead by example first."

"Defensively, I think we really showed our maturity and played with technique, running full speed to the ball."

Offensive line: "I think it's gonna be a competition between four guys, very similar to how it was in the spring. They're very, very talented guys with tremendous strength and ability, but they still have a long way to go in learning the speed it takes to compete in the conference."

On receiver depth: "We've got four guys at receiver coming back, and that's a great supporting cast and guys that can help us in the overall leadership of our offense."

On what is now his fourth spring compared to his first spring at Arkansas: "It's like night and day. We flipped on some video form our first year here, and we're obviously a much better football team."

Houston Nutt, Ole Miss
We are, I think, more familiar with the on-goings in Oxford than any other program outside of Starkville, so most of you know the issues - quarterback, lack of depth, injuries, and the defense.

"We don't have that many seniors, but I think they really stepped up for us and showed a lot of leadership."

On the defensive line: "I thought those guys really worked hard and got better as the spring went. I knew we were going to be young there, knowing how many guys we lost."

"I thought Wayne Dorsey really came out of the spring just much more physical, a much better pass rusher."

"There's a lot of names you're not familiar with, but the progress, we're not there yet, but the progress was good."

On quarterbacks: "I feel real good about these three we have on campus. Probably the best three we've had at one time. Randall Mackey had a great spring. You can see why he was a JUCO All-American. He can extend the play, he's very accurate. He's learning the system, he can get up under center better."

"Barry Brunetti got better as the spring went, especially the last week."

"Zack Stoudt is more of a drop back quarterback, and he's got a really strong arm."

"I think, right now, Mackey is ahead, but we'll know for sure about that first 10 days when we get back in August.'

Incoming class important with lack of depth: "You hit a real good point, that's exactly right. We're probably very thin at corner. Had two corners that were gonna sign with us on signing day that backed out."

"C.J. Johnson looks like a sophomore in college, physically. I guess you're right, this will be the most freshmen, number wise, that we've had play."

On the offense with David Lee: "We are adding a few things. We've added a few things here and there, along with some of the things we believe in - the run game and play action. I think it's gonna be a good mixture."

Gene Chizik, Auburn
Where do we start with Auburn? Chizik needs a new quarterback, pretty much an entire offensive line, a few d-linemen, a couple linebackers, a couple receivers, a running back and some leadership. Despite the laundry list of needs, Chizik's time on the conference call was short. In particular, he spoke about the quarterback battle between Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley.

"Obviously we've got a very young football team, a lot of inexperience out there. Every day was very crucial."

"I think that with so many position battles going on, I think the energy level and the focus level at practices were really good."

"I think we've got a long way to go. We made strides, but we've certainly got a long way to go. We've got our work cut out for us. We'll need every bit of summer and two-a-days."

"Our quarterbacks, they did some nice things this spring. We would have liked them to have been a little more consistent, but they both have been in the system long enough now to know what we're trying to accomplish. It's a battle that will continue to move forward."

Who's got the edge: I think Barrett Trotter has a very good understanding of the offense. As far as how he threw the football, his percentage of completions were high. But in this offense it should be, it's designed that way. Clint Moseley is a younger guy that has great ability, a strong arm, a very good idea of the offense, as well. He ran a lot of zone read in high school. He brings a running ability to the offense. More so than Barrett, not that Barrett can't do it. He's [Moseley] got to be more consistent. We'd have liked to see a few better decisions being made. On the opposite of that, we've seen some great throws."


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