Does anybody really remember spring awards? They don’t hand out any hardware for what goes on in March and April.
Nonetheless, we’re still going to honor the highs and the lows of the spring in the SEC:
Best performance: How sharp was Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson this spring? The Hogs’ offensive coordinator, Paul Petrino, said if anybody had a better spring than Wilson, then he was Superman. In four major scrimmages, including Arkansas’ spring game, Wilson threw 16 touchdown passes and completed 75.5 percent of his passes. He threw for 467 yards and three touchdowns in the spring game on 31-of-41 passing, and 404 of those yards came in the first half.
Best performance by a true freshman: They’re churning out great running backs these days at Alabama. T.J. Yeldon looks like he’s going to be the next one. He was sensational in the Crimson Tide’s A-Day spring game with 179 rushing/receiving yards, including a 50-yard touchdown after catching a short pass, breaking a tackle and then outrunning everybody to the end zone. He certainly caught Nick Saban’s attention this spring. At 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, Yeldon can run inside and outside. He catches the ball well, and as Saban noted, is one of those guys who can do everything.
Best explanation: Seven assistant coaches left Tennessee’s staff following last season, and coach Derek Dooley was still hiring replacements just a couple of weeks prior to the start of spring practice. While conceding that it was rare to lose that many assistant coaches in one year, Dooley wasn’t bemoaning the mass exodus. Rather, he said it was a “correction” and equated it to a company starting up and fixing all of the things you don’t get right in the beginning. Then again, maybe all those coaches bolting were doing a little fixing of their own. Dooley clearly needs to show progress in Year 3 if he’s going to be around for Year 4, and the coaches who left made lateral moves.
Best Evel Knievel impersonation: Even though Bobby Petrino’s motorcycle didn’t land at the bottom of Snake River Canyon, it did end up in a roadside ditch -- busting the lid wide open on Petrino’s affair with football staffer Jessica Dorrell. This was a relationship that Petrino wasn’t forthcoming about to Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long. Petrino lost a job that paid him $3.56 million a year. Arkansas lost its head coach, and we’ll find out this fall what all the Hogs might have lost as they attempt to break through in the Western Division race.
Best no-show: Duron Carter wins in a landslide. There have been more questions about this guy, and he’s yet to take a snap for Alabama. No wonder Nick Saban gets riled up every time he’s quizzed about Carter, who was suspended all spring and is obviously not Mr. Accountability in terms of doing everything he needs to do to be a part of Alabama’s team.
Best quote: Steve Spurrier is starting to sound more and more like Spurrier, circa 1996. When asked what he thought about the Georgia game moving from Week 2 to Week 6 this season, he cracked, “I don’t know. I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.”
Best comeback: Back surgery curtailed what looked to be a promising season for Auburn defensive end Dee Ford last year. This spring, he was back as good as new and heads into the fall as one of Auburn’s starters at end along with Corey Lemonier. The Ford-Lemonier combo coming off the edge won’t be a lot of fun for opposing offensive tackles. Speaking of the offensive line, Missouri left tackle Elvis Fisher was granted a sixth year of eligibility and progressed faster than anybody thought he would this spring after tearing the patellar tendon in his left knee prior to last season.
Best spring awakening: LSU went into the spring looking for a middle linebacker, and junior Kevin Minter responded by playing some of the best football he’s played since arriving on campus, according to LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis. South Carolina defensive tackle Byron Jerideau also had a stellar spring and is big enough and athletic enough to wreak some serious havoc. The former junior college transfer didn’t have the impact the Gamecocks had hoped for his first two seasons, but could be poised for a big senior season. Spurrier quipped, “I told him, ‘I hope you’re going to be known for something besides hitting me with the Gatorade bucket after a big win.’ He’s the one who grabs the bucket first, to get his picture in the paper.”
Best position move: Malcolm Mitchell was Georgia’s best deep threat at receiver last season and one of the more impressive true freshmen in the league. But he spent his time at cornerback this spring and looked like a natural. That’s where he’ll play in the fall, although he’ll still get a few snaps on offense. The Bulldogs needed help at cornerback, and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham felt all along that Mitchell could be a difference-maker back there. The truth is that he’s a difference-maker anywhere you put him.
Best quarterback battle: Spring came and went without a few starting jobs being settled around the league, but it’s a dead heat at Florida between sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel. Coach Will Muschamp feels like he can win with both players, which is a pretty good indication that both Brissett and Driskel will end up playing in the fall for the Gators. For the time being, Muschamp is content to let it play out this summer and on into preseason practice. Whoever emerges as the best leader over these next three months is going to end up winning the job.