As football programs around the SEC open spring drills this month, the focus in Alabama has been on the quarterback battles in Auburn and Tuscaloosa. But there are plenty of questions surrounding the conference’s other programs. The top five:
Will John Brantley find new life with Charlie Weis?
Brantley considered transferring from Florida after throwing more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (9) last year in a spread-option offense that was ill-suited for his skills. But with Weis now installing the pro-style look he ran at Notre Dame, Brantley has reportedly been re-energized.
Can Dan Mullen keep riding the wave?
Mullen has practically all of his skill players back from Mississippi State’s breakout 9-4 season in 2010, but he faces a rebuilding job in the trenches. Offensive linemen Derrick Sherrod and J.C. Brignone, defensive end Pernell McPhee, and linebackers Chris White and K.J. Wright will be difficult to replace. The transfer of linebacker Brandon Maye from Clemson should help, but Mullen has his work cut out for him in trying to build upon last year’s feel-good finish.
Could Zach Mettenberger be the man at LSU?
Les Miles, as clueless as he is with clock management, deserves a medal for leading LSU to 11 wins last year with Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee at quarterback. The arrival of Mettenberger, a strong-armed junior college transfer and one-time Georgia recruit, has been the source of much anticipation in Baton Rouge. Jefferson, who had a terrible spring last year, has reportedly gotten off to a strong start running a simplified offense installed by new coordinator Steve Kragthorpe, however, and remains the favorite to hold onto the job.
Will Tyler Wilson make Arkansas forget about Ryan Mallett?
Wilson gave a sneak peek of the Razorbacks’ future in October at Auburn, completing 14 of his first 15 passes and finishing with 332 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in relief of an injured Mallett. Now the presumed starter, Wilson still has loads of weapons — Greg Childs, Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Knile Davis all return.
Is Georgia’s starting tailback even on campus yet?
Isaiah Crowell, one of the top running back prospects in the country, is still finishing his senior year in Columbus, but Washun Ealey and Caleb King are fighting this spring to avoid getting leapfrogged on the depth chart this fall. Ealey and King have been moderately productive, but both also have served suspensions within the past four months. With the heat rising under coach Mark Richt, the uncommonly talented Crowell will get every opportunity to follow Trent Richardson, Marcus Lattimore and Mike Dyer as the SEC’s next breakout freshman back.