NCAA Football

Texas A&M Football: Week 5 Spring Practice Stock Report

The Texas A&M football team continues to work its way through spring practice. The Aggies have completed their fifth week of spring practice and continue to work on improving as a team.  

The biggest news of the week comes at the quarterback position, where rising sophomore Kenny Hill has been suspended indefinitely. Hill was arrested for public intoxication and it is unclear when he will be allowed to join the team again. 

With Hill temporarily out of the picture, that means redshirt senior Matt Joeckel and true freshman Kyle Allen are splitting the snaps at quarterback. That will obviously have a negative effect on Hill's ability to win the starting quarterback job in August. 

The Aggies are not going to have a spring game in 2014 or 2015 due to construction on Kyle Field. The practices and scrimmages are the only opportunities that the players will have to impress the coaches. 

 

Impressing On Offense

Allen is receiving more snaps due to Hill's suspension and is making them count. He continues to impress teammates and coaches with his accuracy. The position does not seem too big for Allen, which is rare for a player at his age. 

Hill's suspension has probably accelerated Allen's learning curve, which is not a good thing for Hill. The final decision will not be made until August, but Hill has to be considered the prohibitive favorite to start at quarterback when the Aggies open the season against South Carolina. 

There is some irony in Hill's arrest and suspension. Johnny Manziel was arrested and briefly suspended from the team during the summer before his 2012 Heisman campaign. Whether Hill's arrest is a prelude to greatness or simply a coincidence remains to be seen. 

Tra Carson has been receiving the first-team snaps at running back. Trey Williams has been dinged up and has missed some practice time. The battle for the starter at running back will continue into August.

Redshirt freshman James White has been receiving second-team reps. That means he is ahead of junior Brandon Williams on the depth chart. 

True freshman receiver Speedy Noil is as physically gifted as any football player in the program. If he stays healthy, he will challenge some of the career receiving records at A&M during his three or four years in Aggieland. 

The coaches have been careful about not trying to rush Ricky Seals-Jones back after his knee surgery. Seals-Jones had two touchdowns catches in the "Friday Night Lights" scrimmage.

He has started to become a major factor on third downs and in the red zone. Olin Buchanan of TexAgs.com (subscription required) reported that head coach Kevin Sumlin has been pleased with his progress.

I thought he made a lot of plays Friday night -- big catches, third-down catches. So that's probably the most he has done on his knee.  We just kept him out today. We've got plenty of time with him. The good news is we got to see him become a factor on third down and in the red zone, which we need him to be.   

 

Impressing On Defense

The same name keeps popping up when you ask who has been impressive on the defensive side of the ball for the Aggies. True freshman defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson has been the star of spring practice on that side of the ball.

Isaiah Golden is expected to return to the program shortly after spring practice ends. Whether Golden starts at nose guard in 2014, it is plainly obvious that Henderson will be in the two-deep and will see meaningful minutes at both positions on the interior defensive line. 

Senior safety Howard Matthews continues to progress under the tutelage of secondary coach Terry Joseph. If he can simply be a solid safety for the Aggies in 2014, it would be a huge boost to the defense.  

Redshirt freshman Victor Davis continues to see extensive time at cornerback. The 6'0", 194-pound athlete was recruited as a safety but has impressed the coaches with his play at corner. He could add even more size to the Aggies' secondary. 

Redshirt freshman linebacker Reggie Chevis is an impact player against the run. The questions with him is whether he will be able to defend the pass. At the minimum, Aggie fans should expect to see him play on the goal-line and short-yardage defense in 2014. 

The defense still has a lot of work to do until it can be a average unit in the SEC. However, the progress of multiple members of the 2013 recruiting class is a positive sign for the 2014 season and the future of the program. 

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Georgia Football: RB Keith Marshall Could Redshirt in 2014

Georgia running back Keith Marshall, the latter half (along with Todd Gurley) of the Bulldogs' famous "Gurshall" rushing tandem, is no guarantee to see the field for his junior season after tearing his ACL against Tennessee on Oct. 5 last year.

Per Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraphoffensive coordinator Mike Bobo floated the idea of Marshall taking a redshirt in December of last year, and now, despite Marshall's limited but encouraging involvement in spring drills, the coaching staff is still considering that recourse.

"Right now the plan is to see how far along he is, and then do what's going to be best for him," said running backs coach Bryan McClendon. "That's going to be priority No. 1. To do what's best for him. And that way, I think everybody will be able to sleep good at night."

Marshall was a 5-star recruit and the No. 12 overall player on the 247Sports composite a couple of years ago, ranking ahead of even Gurley, who is now considered the better college player. In their true freshman seasons, Marshall saw 117 carries to Gurley's 222, but he averaged 6.49 yards per attempt (slightly more than Gurley's 6.24) and finished with 759 yards and eight touchdowns.

Redshirting Marshall this year would thin the options behind Gurley, but it wouldn't be the worst idea if Marshall isn't fit to play. It would also stagger their eligibility if Gurley, who is sure to be sought by the NFL after this season, declares early and leaves before 2015.

Even after moving J.J. Green to defensive back this offseason, UGA still has Brendan Douglas—who showed some flashes when forced into action as a freshman last season—around to serve as a competent backup to Gurley. That might not even be necessary, however, as the Bulldogs also welcomes a pair of blue-chip freshman running backs in Sony Michel and Nick Chubb this fall.

A healthy Marshall makes this team better, and Georgia would do well to keep him eligible if he's healthy enough to play. Especially with the league-wide questions at quarterback, there is a void atop the SEC that the Bulldogs aren't crazy to think they can fill. They should put their best team on the field.

But only if that best team is healthy.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Jimbo Fisher Says Jameis Winston 'Hasn't Played Up to His Capability'

Not content with just a Heisman Trophy and a national championship after his redshirt freshman season in 2013, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is tweaking his throwing mechanics this offseason in an effort to generate more power from his hips.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher thinks the change is a good idea.

"[Winston] hasn’t played up to his capability. He’s missed some throws," said Fisher, according to Jared Shanker of ESPN.com. "That’s part of it, you have to grind through it. Not everything is a utopia."

The public can be forgiven for mistaking Tallahassee with utopia. At least after the season it just witnessed. Florida State ran roughshod through the ACC en route to a 14-0 record and a national title, winning its games by an average of 39 points and out-gaining its opponents by an average of 238 yards.

Winston finished his first active year of college football with 4,057 passing yards, 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, completing 67 percent of his passes and logging by far the highest passer rating in the country at 184.55. Despite being left off 115 Heisman ballots completely—the ostensible result of a sexual assault investigation that state attorney Willie Meggs decided not to pursue mere days before the ceremony—Winston won the trophy by the seventh-largest voting margin ever.

But there is always room for improvement—especially for a player in college. Against Auburn in the national championship game, Winston had trouble in the first half with his accuracy and his throwing motion looked a little too labored.

This year, Winston loses receivers Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin, who might both find promising futures in the NFL. Even with Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O'Leary returning, this group of pass-catchers, while still very good, will almost definitely take a step back from last season, when it was probably the best in the country.

If Winston has indeed not reached his capability—which, despite his success, it is fair to say he hasn't—Fisher and QB coach Randy Sanders are wise not to let him rest on his laurels this offseason, especially as he alternates between football practice and pitching for the Florida State baseball team, which requires a different throwing motion.

In 2014, Winston will need to be just as good as, if not better than, he was as a freshman last year.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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5-Star QB Torrance Gibson Will Take Official Visits to Ohio State, Tennessee

Coveted quarterback Torrance Gibson spent spring break touring campuses across the country, creating a stir at every stop along the way. Without hesitation, the 5-star Florida prospect is already busy planning the next phase of his recruitment process.

Gibson, a marquee member of the 2015 class, told 247Sports reporter Bill Kurelic (subscription required) he expects to use official visits with at least a pair of programs.

“Ohio State and Tennessee, those two official visits are for sure," Gibson said.

The news is sure to be received with excitement at both universities. Butch Jones and Urban Meyer have each invested significant time into the pursuit of this promising playmaker.

Gibson's spring break journey included a detour to Knoxville. He visited the Volunteers after already making stops at Auburn, LSU, Clemson and Oklahoma.

It's fair to say Gibson was welcomed on campus with open arms:

Tennessee has quickly become a recruit favorite since Jones took over the program. Despite a lackluster first season at the helm, he assembled one of the country's top 2014 classes.

A haul of more than 30 prospects is expected to go a long way toward changing the Volunteers' culture. However, the class didn't include a quarterback so it's imperative for Tennessee to secure a top talent at the position by the end of this cycle.

Gibson certainly fits the bill.

The 6'4", 200-pound Fort Lauderdale phenom led American Heritage High School to a state title in 2013. His versatile skill set was on display throughout an impressive individual campaign.

He threw for 1,789 yards and 19 touchdowns. Gibson regularly flashed his abilities as a runner, gaining 1,063 yards and 10 scores on the ground.

His efforts have drawn an array of offers and accolades.

Rated the nation's No.1 dual-threat quarterback in 247Sports rankings, Gibson also visited Florida last week. Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and Ole Miss are among teams that extended offers earlier this year.

He hit it off with Jones during his time in Knoxville, leaving him with a desire to see more of the university.

“(Jones) was just telling me how I’d fit in the offense...They’re just waiting on me,” Gibson told 247Sports reporter Ryan Callahan. “He told me I (could be) a key part of their offense and a key part of their ‘Dream Team.’"

Ohio State has been a part of the equation since the early stages of his recruitment. Meyer identified Gibson as a key target after his sophomore season and offered the playmaker last March.

The two-time national champion has an impressive track record with mobile quarterbacks. He developed eventual No. 1 NFL draft pick Alex Smith at Utah and coached Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow in Gainesville.

Braxton Miller, who currently starts for the Buckeyes, rushed for more than 2,300 yards during his first two seasons under Meyer's tutelage. Gibson believes he'd fill a similar role if Ohio State is the eventual choice.

"I could envision taking the place of Braxton (Miller),” he told 247Sports.

Given Gibson's admiration for Meyer, it's no surprise he plans to visit Columbus.

"He's a great coach. Great coach to be around," Gibson told Land-Grant Holy Land. "What he did with the Gators is amazing. He has done the same thing with Ohio State and that's what makes him a great coach."

Gibson hears from several coaches on a constant basis, so there are plenty of other programs attempting to line up official visits. Expect Auburn, Oklahoma, Florida, LSU and Miami to emerge as possible destinations during the remainder of his recruitment.

Ohio State and Tennessee already appear to have their plans in place. It's a significant development that should bring a smile to the faces of Meyer and Jones.

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LSU Football: Freshman Stud Leonard Fournette Will Burst into No. 1 RB Spot

LSU is looking to improve on last season's very solid 10-3 record, and the running back position will be a key component in the Tigers' success.

Jeremy Hill left early for the NFL draft, but Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee will look to step into a larger role this upcoming season.

The X-factor will be freshman sensation Leonard Fournette, who comes to Baton Rouge as the No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2014, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder project what to expect from LSU's running backs next season, and Sallee breaks down why Fournette will emerge as the No. 1 RB.

Watch the video and enjoy.

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital.

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Ohio State Coach Takes Shot at Brady Hoke, Michigan

Given a platform from which to speak and a room full of fans as an audience, Ohio State co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner saw at a fundraiser event in Columbus the perfect opportunity to try out some of his finest, most acerbic stand-up material about "That School Up North."

The result was something even Steve Spurrier—the undisputed King of the Trolls—would likely have given a standing ovation.

Per Marcus Hartman of Buckeye Sports Bulletin, here are a couple highlights from Warinner's shtick about the Michigan Wolverines:

Warinner's comments were made in jest and are nothing to get riled up about. This playful tete-a-tete between Buckeyes and Wolverines has existed for seemingly centuries, and it's part of the reason their rivalry is so great. Both sides of the fence need harmless jabs like this to keep the fire burning.

Having said that, it's important to note, as did John Taylor of College Football Talk, that Ohio State hasn't made a trip to Pasadena since 2009 (just three years after UM's most recent visit), and that Michigan has played in 20 Rose Bowls to Ohio State's 14.

As for the playbook-as-coloring-book routine...it seems justified on the surface given Michigan's noted offensive deficiencies in 2013 and the firing of coordinator Al Borges this offseason. Again, though, that playbook was good enough to rack up 603 yards of offense on 82 plays against the Buckeyes in the last game of the regular season, so perhaps Warinner should think twice before casting stones.

If UM's playbook is written in crayon, OSU's is written in magic marker.

Beginning in 2014, Ohio State and Michigan's rivalry will enter uncharted water, as the schools will for the first time be pitted against one another as members of the same division—the Big Ten East. With this appended wrinkle, the smack talk all offseason and in the run-up to the game should only get better with time.

And that is a good thing for everybody.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Tennessee Head Coach Butch Jones Talks QB Battle, Jalen Hurd and Explosive WRs

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is entering his second season at the helm on Rocky Top, and with that comes a jump in expectations.

Jones already did something that his predecessor Derek Dooley was unable to do, when he notched a signature win over No. 11 South Carolina, 23-21, last season in Knoxville.

His rebuilding effort will continue in 2014 with a boat load of talented skill players. But with no quarterback set in stone and, perhaps more importantly, no returning starters on either the offensive or defensive line, it will be a difficult task.

What are Jones' impressions of his team as spring practice winds down? He sat down with B/R's Barrett Sallee to discuss the Vols:

 

Bleacher Report: The biggest storyline from the outside this spring is your quarterback battle between Justin Worley, Joshua Dobbs, Nathan Peterman and Riley Ferguson. Where does that stand right now?

Butch Jones: I've been very, very encouraged from that position from what I've seen this spring. Justin Worley has really improved greatly, from leadership to his ability to make all of the throws, particularly the deep balls. Dobbs continues to develop, as well as Peterman, and it's been great to get Riley Ferguson getting a volume of repetition. You know, Riley has an innate ability to create plays. I've been very encouraged. We've tried to simulate as many game-speed repetitions as possible.

Their play as a unit has been elevated because of the players around them. Adding Von Pearson and Josh Malone to the receiving corps, Daniel Helm and Ethan Wolf to the tight end crew and then Jalen Hurd in the backfield has really changed the speed of our offense. Even though they're young, that's why we're getting more consistent quarterback play. 

We're going to be extremely patient, take our time and do our due diligence. We'll probably name a starter in [fall] training camp. All of the individuals have progressed, and monumental strides can be taken during the summer months. We're going to be patient, coach, teach and critique, but I've been encouraged.

 

B/R: Last year, the four-man competition went down to game week, even though Worley was getting a heavier load of first-team reps. Do you want to narrow it down to two a little sooner?

Jones: We do. We'll start to narrow it down. It's extremely challenging with four quarterbacks. We will start to narrow it down probably at the end of this week or so.

 

B/R: A lot of people were interested in what 5-star running back Jalen Hurd was going to do this spring coming off a shoulder injury which cost him his senior season in high school. So far, it appears that he's adapting quickly. What pieces of the puzzle have to fall into place in order for him to get first-team carries this fall?

Jones: When you look a Jalen, the first thing you have to keep in mind is that: here's a young man who basically didn't play football last year. He has a lot of growth and maturation to do in terms of his overall development, his body, his strengths and the ability to take the pounding every week in the SEC. It's the mental capacity as well as the physical capacity. With the 14 newcomers we had this spring and the 18 others that will be joining us, they're really changing from kids to adults.

He's still nowhere where he needs to be in terms of overall volume, work capacity and just overall knowledge—knowledge of the offense, understanding defenses, understanding run reads and playing behind pads. What we found in a very short period of time is that he's extremely instinctual, he's a competitor, he's smart and he takes coaching. We're very excited about what he's been able to do. Every time we give him the football, he has a knack of making plays, but there's so much more that has to be developed from the rest of spring all the way through summer and training camp.

 

B/R: How good can wide receiver Marquez North be now that he has some complimentary pieces like Josh Malone and Von Pearson around him?

Jones: It's really aided him in a number of ways. Now teams can't roll coverage to him or double cover him because of the presence of Malone and Pearson. Competition creates growth and development, and he's an extremely competitive player. He's benefitted from a competitive standpoint by having those others here with him.

We've challenged him to really learn the nuances that it takes to be a great receiver. The big thing for him is breaking points. He was really a high school running back and didn't understand playing receiver full-time out on the perimeter. It's the small details. It's the press releases. It's the breaking points in and out of his breaks. It's the overall consistency that we expect him to play with.

 

B/R: With no starters returning on the offensive line, how challenging has that been for you, and are you where you thought you needed to be at this point in spring?

Jones: Well, it's a great challenge. We're still in the overall development of our program, and those are development positions along the offensive line.

We're going to probably end up starting a true freshman at right tackle in Coleman Thomas. Mack Crowder has sort of been the consistent leader up front at center. We made a decision as a football program to redshirt Marcus Jackson last year at left guard. We're going to rely on them. Kyler Kerbyson is an individual who I think has been a pleasant surprise so far during spring football. He's played with an edge, is very competitive, and I've liked what I've seen.

We're going to have to rely on some freshman playing, like Thomas, and I think it'll be a work-in-progress from now all the way through the end of the season.

(Click here to check out the Tennessee Spring Practice Position Battle Tracker.)

 

B/R: There is sort of the same issue along the defensive line, with no returning starters, although there is a little bit more experience there. How is that unit shaping up, and who has stepped this spring?

Jones: Well, right now, there isn't anyone. They continue to be a work-in-progress. Every practice is a teaching opportunity. [Defensive end] Corey Vereen continues to show signs, but his whole deal is consistency and performance—the ability to rush the passer not only in the first quarter, but the fourth quarter. It's a relentless approach that we want our defensive line to play with.

[Defensive end/linebacker] Curt Maggitt, having him back just as a presence on our defense has helped us take tremendous strides in moving forward. Getting him in some different situations has benefitted our defense. We're asking a lot of senior Jordan Williams, moving him around inside. You'll see him play a lot more inside than he ever has, but we are going to move him around. 

The individuals we have along the defensive front are very prideful, eager and want to learn. Every day they come with a workman-like mentality to get better, and I like that. I like that mentality. But it's a situation where we have seven individuals joining us for fall camp in June, so those guys are going to be ready to play, because we don't have much depth there.

I like the progress Vereen is making, and I like the progress Williams is making. I really like the progress Curt Maggitt is making as well.

 

B/R: You mentioned Maggitt's role and what he means, and that sort of leads me into my next question: how important are him and linebacker A.J. Johnson to the development of the new-look front seven?

Jones: We're going to have to rely on their leadership and A.J.'s experience. A.J. is an individual where you know what you're getting with consistency, day in and day out, his preparation, the way he practices and the effort he gives. We're going to demand and expect a lot out of him and Maggitt because, really, they're the individuals in the front seven who have the most experience, have played the most football, and they're the leaders of our defense.

 

B/R: Where did you expect your program to be heading into Year 2 when you got the job at Tennessee, and do you think you can accomplish your goals?

Jones: In one year's time, I think we've taken monumental steps—nowhere where we need to be and nowhere where we expect, but we've come a long way in a year.

You start off the field. We were on course to be the first team in college football to suffer the Academic Progress Rate (APR) penalty. Now, and I've said this is the greatest victory in Tennessee football history, we've crossed that bridge, and we're going to have 96 percent graduation of our seniors. We had a 1,000 on the APR this semester. We've made monumental strides off the field, and that's where it starts.

On the field, our strength numbers last year at this time, even with a veteran front on both sides of the ball, we had zero guys who could squat 600 pounds or more. Right now, we have nine.

I think the foundation has been laid. The standard and expectation has been made, but we only have 13 seniors right now in our football program. Fifty percent of our team is going through spring ball for the first time. Even though the standard and expectations are in place, we still have to go back and define them and continue to work on them just because of the newness and new faces. We've taken great strides from where we started, but we still have a long way to go. 

 

B/R: Do you have any thoughts on the push by Northwestern players to unionize, and what are your thoughts on player compensation?

Jones: I haven't had much time to pay attention to the unionization story and have kind of been in a bunker here trying to make our football team better. In terms of payment of student athletes, the thing I'd like to see explored is the full cost of attendance. I think that's very realistic and would like to see that explored more. As we continue to move our game forward and help the well-being of the athlete, I think that's an element of that in terms of covering the total cost of attendance.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports, and all college statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com.

 


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FSU TE Nick O'Leary in Another Motorcycle Accident, out for Spring

Less than a year after surviving a motorcycle crash that could have easily taken his life, Florida State tight end Nick O'Leary has been involved in another motorcycle accident—this one seemingly less horrifying but serious enough to sideline him for the rest of spring practice with cuts and minor injuries.

"He’s fine, just skinned up," said Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher, according to Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel. "He just wrecked a motorcycle again. Skin and a swollen ankle. He can’t practice but he’ll be fine."

Per Sonnone, O'Leary's crash in 2013 occurred when he was cut off and hit by a black Lexus, which sent him hurtling some 75 feet from his bike and into the windshield of a bus. Though he miraculously walked away from the accident with nothing but minor injuries, it was hoped he had at least learned a lesson about auto safety and mortality.

Apparently, he didn't.

"I can be frustrated, he needs to be frustrated. It’s not important if I’m frustrated," Fisher said after this most recent crash. "What’s important is that he’s frustrated with it and learns his lesson."

O'Leary, the grandson of legendary golfer and 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus, was one of Jameis Winston's most reliable weapons last season, finishing the year with 33 catches for 557 yards and seven touchdowns. In the Seminoles' 51-14 rout of Clemson—the signature win of a signature season—he delivered a hit on safety Travis Blanks that served as a microcosm for the game as a whole:

Unlike last season, Florida State has fostered nice depth behind O'Leary at the tight end position in 2014. Senior Kevin Haplea is back after missing 2013 with a knee injury, and freshman Jeremy Kerr has shown flashes of game-readiness this spring. As long as O'Leary stays safe and recovers as expected this summer, his absence this spring shouldn't much affect the team's fall performance.

But at this point, that's kind of a big if.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Pac-12 Football: Updating Every Team's Quarterback Situation

Every position on the football field is important to a team's overall success, but there's virtually zero chance of becoming elite without an effective signal-caller. In the Pac-12, those special players can be found in nearly every nook and cranny.

As we enter spring practice (or exit, for some), we enter a time when position battles are often decided and the team begins to hone in on exactly what it wants to be throughout the 2014 season.

Quarterback battles typically grab the most headlines, so we're going to update each Pac-12 team's status in regard to the starting signal-caller. Recent years have seen plenty of turnover and numerous battles for the starting gig in the offseason.

But 2014 is a little different, as just two starting seniors—Arizona's B.J. Denker and Washington's Keith Price—are gone from the 2013 campaign.

Still, several teams have wide-open competitions, while others have yet to completely decide on who will start at quarterback when the beginning of the season rolls around. And finally, a few teams have zero doubt as to who will start at signal-caller, and it doesn't take a football depth chart guru to figure out which squads we might be referring to.

Take an updated look now at where each Pac-12 team stands at the quarterback position.

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Pac-12 Football: Updating Every Team's Quarterback Situation

Every position on the football field is important to a team's overall success, but there's virtually zero chance of becoming elite without an effective signal-caller. In the Pac-12, those special players can be found in nearly every nook and cranny...

Begin Slideshow

SEC Football: Updating Every Team's Quarterback Situation

It's, to quote a cliche, out with old and in with the new for Southeastern Conference quarterbacks in 2014. Much of the league's most proven talent at the position is now awaiting the NFL draft or has their diploma, leaving a relative hole at quarterback.

The cupboard isn't completely empty, though. A couple of all-stars in Mississippi return, as well as an injured signal-caller for one of the conference's most elite programs, and a massive amount of talent will step onto SEC campuses for the first time this fall.

With spring practice underway and guys now jockeying for starting roles, let's take a look at each squad's quarterback situation and project who will be taking the first snaps of the teams' first games.

Begin Slideshow

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