Our resident SEC guru, Michael Turner, takes us on an early-April tour of the Southeast and examines some of the issues that will be key on draft days across the college fantasy football landscape. And a couple of other CFFInsiders take a quick peek at some other noise reverberating around the country.
The 92nd ranked passing offense from 2009 may be getting a facelift as the Alabama quarterbacks stole the show at the most recent Crimson Tide scrimmage, and there was a noticeable focus on throwing the ball more often. Starter Greg McElroy threw for 235 yards and a touchdown, while backup A.J. McCarron completed 21-of-28 for 229 yards and three touchdowns.
No doubt a portion of the credit is due to the offseason work of Julio Jones, who is already predicting his “best season yet” after bulking up to 220lbs, cutting his body fat to four percent, and actually speeding up a step or two in the process because he’s “healthy now."
Running back Trent Richardson continues to keep owners of Mark Ingram sweating before we even enter the summer months by leading all rushers in a recent scrimmage with 44 yards and two touchdowns. Ingram rushed nine times for 22 yards.
Ryan Mallett traded in his scooter for a walking boot. Which is a good sign that his recovery from foot surgery is coming along just fine.
Gene Chizik managed to reel in stud quarterback recruit Cameron Newton, who should be the missing on offense link the Tigers could have used last season. Now as if they know who shot JFK or like we’re watching the “Steroids Scandal” all over again, Auburn insists there is a quarterback “competition” and is keeping everything hush hush when the rest of us know this is case closed. Newton’s stiffest competition in spring practice is coming from Neil Caudle, but Barrett Trotter, Clint Moseley and Tyrik Rollison (who recently pulled a Brett Favre) are all also in the mix.
After being moved around to several positions for the past couple of years it appears Mario Fannin has locked up the running back spot by having a great spring, but Onterio McCalebb – who has already put on 10 lbs. and plans to add 10 more – and #2 running back recruit Michael Dyer will be pressing hard.
The Mad Hatter is gunning for another National Title in Baton Rouge, putting his Tigers through “the most physical spring training drills in his six years on the job." Spring practice at LSU started with the focus on the running back battle to replace Charles Scott and Keiland Williams, but as of the Spring Game on March 27th the chatter is all about a potential quarterback controversy. Jordan Jefferson’s inconsistency in 2009 was partially excused due to his age, but when it remained a consistent theme in spring practice, Miles was forced to take a few links out of the leash. Enter Jarrett Lee, who was a part-time starter for the Tigers in 2008. Lee has caused more eyes to be covered in Baton Rouge than hide-and-go-seek time at your local daycare. Lee threw 16 interceptions in 2008, seven of which went for touchdowns the other way. You could hear “here we go again” said collectively amongst the 22,000 plus in attendance for LSU’s Spring Game as Lee threw yet another “pick six”, but he still outshined Jefferson, who completed just 8-of-23 passes with an interception.
Running back Richard Murphy has been limited in spring practice while returning from his knee surgery, and in his absence the backfield battle has roared on between junior Stevan Ridley and redshirt freshman Michael Ford. Ford led all rushers in the Spring Game with 19 carries for 139 yards, but Ridley found the end zone en route to 104 yards on the day. We’re sticking with Ford, but this battle is a long way from being over.
The one to watch in the LSU offense may be converted quarterback Russell Shepard, who finished the spring game with 58 yards on seven carries and three receptions for 29 yards despite the quarterback struggles.
Chris Relf (who was the Bulldogs' second leading rusher last season behind Anthony Dixon) may have started off Mississippi State’s Spring Practice atop the depth chart at quarterback, but head coach Dan Mullen has a full-fledged quarterback battle on his hands after the first week. Redshirt freshman Tyler Russell seems to be the fan favorite to become the starter in Starkville, as he was one of the most highly-rated quarterback recruits to choose Mississippi State in quite some time. Russell will likely win the job due to Relf’s ineffectiveness in the passing game, but don’t be surprised to see a split quarterback situation to get Relf’s legs on the field making plays.
The likely successor to replace Mississippi State’s all-time leading rusher Anthony Dixon would seem to be Robert Elliott, who was the only remaining back on the roster with significant experience following the departures of Dixon and Christian Ducre. However, this may not be the case with the transfer of junior college star Vick Ballard. Redshirt freshmen LaDarius Perkins and Montrell Conner could also make a push here.
If you’re looking for sleepers on your fantasy roster this year, look no further than Bulldog receiver Chad Bumphis, who has had a solid first week of Spring Practice and shown shades of McCluster, Harvin and Cobb; add to that list Marcus Green, who is an oversized receiver lining up at tight end.
The Rebels open up Spring Practice with numerous holes to fill on the offensive side of the ball following the departures of Jevan Snead, Dexter McCluster, andShay Hodge. Quarterback Nathan Stanley opened practice on March 27th as the expected heir apparent to Snead, but fellow sophomore Raymond Cotton may be too talented to keep off the field.
After a disappointing freshman campaign receiver Patrick Patterson has already landed back in coach Houston Nutt’s doghouse, and has been suspended for the remainder of spring practice. This has opened the door for redshirt freshmen Ja-Mes Logan and Jared Mitchell to start making a name for themselves.
I’m going to attempt to write an update about the Florida Gators without saying the “T” word, but the word in Gainesville is that coach Urban Meyer may use two quarterbacks this season much the same as a certain former Gator quarterbacks freshman year when Chris Leak was the starter. Redshirt freshman Jordan Reed (or possibly Trey Burton) will likely spell starter John Brantley on third and short situations to run that famous quarterback dive we’ve all grown accustomed to in recent years. Reed is officially listed and also working out with the tight ends.
Utility man Chris Rainey is likely making a permanent move from “running back” to the slot receiver position after his performance catching the ball in the Sugar Bowl. Rainey’s move will add some needed depth and a dangerous target for Brantley to a receiver group that has been under much scrutiny after losingRiley Cooper,David Nelson and tight endAaron Hernandez. Senior receiver Carl Moore returned to Spring Practice after missing time for “personal reasons." He and freshman Stephen Alli seem to be the two most likely candidates at this time for lining up next to Deonte Thompson.
The backfield seems to be solid for the Gators as both Emmanuel Moody and sophomore Mike Gillislee have both been solid this spring, combining for 154 yards in the most recent Gator scrimmage. Fellow backfield mate Jeff Demps has been focused on track and not present for spring drills.
Who will replace Joe Cox under center has been the consistent headline of the Georgia Bulldogs Spring Camp. Junior Logan Gray wasn’t immediately handed the keys to the Caddy, and is getting competition from redshirt freshmen Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger. Coach Mark Richt has stated that he would like to have more mobility at the quarterback position as opposed to his normal pro-style offense, which doesn’t favor the 6’5” Mettenberger (recently arrested on underage possession charges). Murray, who passed for over 6,000 yards with 84 touchdowns and ran for nearly 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns his junior and senior year of high school (only played 8 games as senior due to a broken leg), is still our favorite to win the job here.
Caleb King missed a little bit of spring practice with a stomach bug, but he and backfield mate Washaun Ealey will be tag teaming the running back duties once again and looking to improve on their 1,312 yards and 10 touchdowns. If sophomore Carlton Thomas can improve on his pass blocking, he may be in line to steal a few carries from the dynamic duo as well.
Minor injuries to receivers Marlon Brown (shoulder) and Israel Troupe (hamstring) caused some uneasiness in Bulldog camp because the lack of depth at the position was exposed. Walk-ons were called in to fill the void in practice with the only remaining receivers outside of stud A.J. Green being Tavarres King and Rantavious Wooten. Either Brown or King will need to live up to the hype of their recruiting ranking so whoever wins this quarterback battle will have an outlet when Green gets doubled down.
The Ole Ball Coach may have finally found his quarterback prodigy at South Carolina to add to the list of those he cranked out down in Gainesville, and no it’s not Stephen Garcia. True freshman and former three-star quarterback recruit Connor Shaw early enrolled back in January, and has done enough work in Spring Practice to have the Gamecock coaching staff considering a quarterback rotation with Garcia (former backup Aramis Hillary has transferred to Coastal Carolina). The ironic thing of it is South Carolina has not put a fantasy worthy quarterback on the field in quite a few years, but this was possibly the year to look to the Gamecocks for a sleeper quarterback pick in your draft thanks the twin towers of Alshon Jeffery and Tori Gurley at receiver (if Alshon can make it class on a regular basis that is).
The running back battle has yet to sort itself out, but one thing is clear:Brian Maddox, Jarvis Giles, and Kenny Miles are not just lying down and crowning super recruit Marcus Lattimore king of the Gamecock backfield. Even with the stiff competition it’s likely Lattimore is the starter on September 2nd when the Gamecocks take on Southern Mississippi, and although he’s keeper material either way he will probably be in a split carry situation with this much talent in the backfield.
Volunteer fans may miss Jonathan Crompton more than initially expected, as will any of you planning on drafting a Tennessee player on your fantasy team this season. The quarterbacks battling to replace Crompton have struggled which will allow defenses to key on the running game that is now without superstar recruit Bryce Brown (we think?).
In the most recent scrimmage junior college transfer Matt Simms led all quarterbacks with an abysmal 6-of-20 for 83 yards and a touchdown, incoming freshman star Tyler Bray was 8-of-13 for 69 yards, and junior Nick Stephens was 3-of-9 for just six yards.
The Bryce Brown saga was sort of like going to a Miley Cyrus concert; a ton of hype, fanfare, and a “handler” trying to make themselves famous, but in the end the words overrated, disappointed, and refund are all we’re left with. With Brown out of the picture the expected replacement was sophomore David Oku who saw action in mop-up duty last year, but it’s been junior Tauren Poole showing out in Volunteer camp with 93 yards on just nine carries in the first scrimmage.
Elsewhere Around the Nation...
With all the talk about the Pokes spreading it out and chucking it this season, don't lose site of running back Kendall Hunter. He should be healthy and the straw that stirs the Cowboys' offense.
When a team can lose the likes of Brian Kelly, Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard yet still look like one of the nation's top offenses it clearly is a program.Zach Collaros, Isaiah Pead, Armon Binns and Vidal Hazelton look like definite fantasy factors. And new coach Butch Jones appears fully capable of keeping the Bearcats growling.
This year's forbidden fantasy fruit may be the Seminole ground game.Lonnie Pryor,Ty Jones, Jermaine Thomas, Chris Thompson and Debrale Smiley could each break out during a given week, but this likely RBBC will be one for owners to avoid.
New Irish head coach Brian Kelly recently opined, "We stink right now." He later went on to say that quarterback candidate Dayne Crist is "sloppy fundamentally." He then took an apparent dig at Charlie Weis when he said, "I've got to look at scaling this back a little bit."
This is no truth to reports that he called this guy "the worst brother in history"
nor that he called this guy the worst coach in college basketball
However rest assured that the fiery Kelly will continue to utilize the Lou Holtz, woe-is-me routine rather than discussing any "decided schematic advantage." And rest assured that the Notre Dame offense will be just fine, thanks in large part to Michael Floyd, the nation's best wide receiver.
It's officially the beginning of the end. News out of Lubbock this spring not only has new coach Tommy Tuberville installing plays that involve something called a tight end, but he's going to give hard-working, overachieving Adam James a shot to play this role.
Mike Leach installed and directed a legendary offense, and now Tuberville is going to do his best to take it apart. Fantasy owners can begin dumping their 40 oz. beverages right about now...