Alabama Football and seven other SEC schools have finished their spring seasons with spring games. Two more SEC schools, Florida and Kentucky decided to not have spring games this year. Alabama Football fans will pore over what was learned about the Crimson Tide this spring. Next in terms of interest is what progress 2021 Crimson Tide opponents have made so far in the offseason.
Without a spring game to review, the Florida Gators will be skipped for now. Bama Hammer will do considerable review of Florida later. This post discusses four Crimson Tide opponents, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State.
Before diving into the four programs, a tip of the hat to Missouri’s Eli Drinkwitz. Drinkwitz was asked to critique quarterback play in the Tigers’ spring game. His initial one-word response was “Blah.” The Missouri head coach elaborated,
We didn’t execute at a high enough level. I thought Connor (Bazelak) made a couple good throws but overall, we can improve.
Drinkwitz’s immediate one-word response was a moment of uncommon candor. Coaches spin messages so frequently, a snippet of sober honesty was refreshing.
The Razorbacks have an advantage of 20 or so starters returning from last season. Balanced against that returning experience is that those starters played on a 3-7 team last season.
The spring game saw the second-team offense outscore the first-team offense. Starting quarterback K.J. Jefferson threw only 11 passes for the first-team offense. He completed six and no doubt could have completed more given receiving targets is a strength for the Razorbacks. Sam Pittman appeared more interested in testing his team’s running game. The Hogs had some success on the ground, though more of it came from the second-team offense. In the opinion of hawgbeat.com, the Hogs’ rushing attack was disappointing in short-yardage situations.
Place-kicking was a bright spot for the Hogs. There were no misses on five field goals and five extra points.
It’s a new and different day on The Plains. Gus Malzahn’s high-school, offensive gimmicks are history. Bryan Harsin might not have been a sexy hire but he could be a good fit for Auburn. The Tigers have asked too much of Bo Nix so far in his career. As much as Gus’ offense relied on rushing, in the last couple of years the Tigers did not have enough offensive line strength to run effectively, placing a big burden on Nix. The spring game showed Harsin plans more downhill football. Tank Bigsby will benefit from the new approach. Taking pressure away from the passing game should help Nix. Will the new approach work? It may depend on how long it takes Harsin to build a solid offensive line. The Tigers basically need a complete offensive rebuild after Gus.
If Coach O and LSU message boards can be believed, the Tigers have a defense again. Also, the Joe Brady offense is back with a pass-heavy approach. LSU has a quarterback competition with four guys seeing action in the spring game. Three of them passed for over 100 yards. SEC football fans already knew Kayshon Boutte was destined for stardom. He caught 11 passes in the spring game. A surprise came from another LSU receiver. Jontre Kirkin caught 16 passes in the spring game. Even though he played for both teams, Kirkin’s output was impressive. A big question for LSU is how Coach O handles the quarterbacks. True freshman Garrett Nussmeier appeared to be the best QB in the spring game. What that means for Max Johnson and Myles Brennan could lead to dissension affecting the entire offense.
Alabama football fans want to know if the Bulldogs are a real threat in the coming season. Will Mike Leach come up with a way to befuddle SEC defenses? Seeking answers from statements by Leach can lead to confusion. It is difficult to determine if Leach has found some new football wrinkle, others don’t see, or does he just talk about innovations to amuse himself.
The Bulldogs’ defense is expected to improve but Leach’s offense was the big problem last season. The offense was ineffective running the ball in the spring game. A quarterback competition between Will Rogers and USM transfer, Jack Abraham will continue in the fall.
Leach’s top receiver from last season, Jaden Walley was hurt early in the spring game. Subsequent reports were the injury was an MCL strain.
If the Bulldogs are anywhere near the No. 8 FBS team as the ESPN FPI calculates, they did not show it in the spring game.
How much trouble will the four teams give Alabama Football next fall? It is too early to guess. As always, it should again be nearly impossible to beat the Crimson Tide, unless it helps beat itself.