Spring football is winding to a close around the South, leaving behind impressions that we will ponder throughout the summer months.
What are the most important lessons that we have learned in the SEC this spring? Our staff writers offer their thoughts:
Edward Aschoff: It's tough to figure out what exactly was the most important thing we've learned about SEC teams this spring. It's easy to do it team by team, but the most important thing we've learned from spring practice, thus far? I guess I'll go with the fact that we learned that just about every team in the conference is pretty comfortable with its current quarterback situation. Not every battle is set, but the majority of them are and even some that aren't officially settled are still making head coaches happier. Jim McElwain appears to be pretty happy with Feleipe Franks taking the lead at Florida. Jalen Hurts looks like a better drop-back passer at Alabama. Jacob Eason still very much has his starting spot at Georgia, but the push from freshman Jake Fromm has made him a better player and leader. Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason thinks Kyle Shurmur is one of the league's most underrated players, and Shea Patterson should be a stat machine at Ole Miss. Get ready for some fun passing numbers this fall!
David Ching: This isn't necessarily a lesson I learned this spring, but the last several weeks have provided another reminder that no SEC program seems to get more of an annual offseason buildup than Georgia. I'm not even saying this year's optimism is totally unfounded, but once again we have the Bulldogs getting SEC East championship hype in April. Last year actually marked the end of an eight-year run where media members picked Georgia to finish either first or second in the East at the conference's annual media days extravaganza (the Bulldogs finished in a three-way tie for second at 4-4 in conference play). But even after a mediocre debut season for coach Kirby Smart, an outstanding signing class has optimism brimming again in Athens. Folks seem to be diving head-first back into the Georgia pool despite reasonable questions over whether this is a championship-caliber team. It would not be at all surprising to see a new streak start at media days this year, whether the Bulldogs deserve it or not.
Sam Khan Jr.: Jarrett Stidham is who he thought he was. Auburn's acquisition of the former Baylor quarterback in the 2017 recruiting class jump-started discussion of the Tigers' chances of contending for the SEC West title. While it's a little too early to be making those types of declarations (lest we forget the 2015 offseason hype machine that fell flat), what Stidham showed in Auburn's annual A-Day spring game confirmed what many already know about the Texas product: He's talented, he's accurate and his skills could make him a perfect fit for this offense. He was an impressive 16-for-20 passing for 267 yards and had a rushing touchdown (on a heads up play after a running back fumbled) and while it's unwise to make sweeping generalizations based on spring games, we have seen Stidham play enough (during his freshman season at Baylor) to know he's highly-skilled quarterback who can play at a high level. There's plenty of reason for optimism on the Plains.
Alex Scarborough: Although it's tempting to go with the emergence of Stidham and what that could mean to Auburn's offense, I'll try going another direction: Franks. In front of 48,000 fans, Florida's redshirt freshman appeared to take a sizable lead in the Gators' quarterback competition, throwing for 119 yards in a touchdown in only a half of play during the spring game. But it wasn't his numbers that were most impressive, it was his talent. The former top-five-ranked pocket passer in the 2015 class showed that he's simply more gifted a thrower than his predecessors Luke Del Rio, Austin Appleby and Treon Harris. And if he can bring that missing element of a downfield passing game into the equation with that quality group of receivers, it could spell big things for a team that's won the East with a middling offense the past two seasons.