Spring football is upon us.
It’s not quite Saturday afternoon, regular-season football that we’ll enjoy this fall, but since there hasn’t been any college football since Alabama beat Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship, you had better get your fill of the five spring games around the Southeastern Conference on Saturday, April 13.
CSS will broadcast the Ole Miss Grove Bowl Game live at 2 p.m. ET Saturday and will tape delay the Vanderbilt Black & Gold Game at 8 p.m. ET. Tune in for those two events and enjoy this list of burning questions about the spring games happening Saturday.
Kentucky: Will the fans show up to see new head coach Mark Stoops attempt to turn around Kentucky’s football program?
Last year the Kentucky Blue-White Spring Game drew a reported 4,500 fans. This year the University reported that 42,000 fans gobbled up free tickets to Saturday’s game.
You’re not going to be able to tell much about Stoops and how he’ll affect the football team in 2013 from a spring game, but if 42,000-plus fans show up you’ll see an unprecedented change in Kentucky sports; fan support for the football team.
Ole Miss: Where does linebacker D.T. Shackelford fit in and how will his return affect the Rebels?
Shackelford hasn’t played for two seasons after missing both because of knee injuries. He’s healthy now and anxious to play in a spring game under head coach Hugh Freeze.
Mike Marry and Denzel Nkemdiche are entrenched at two of the linebacker spots with Shackelford slated for the third. Watch how Shackelford works with Marry and Nkemdiche and get a feeling for the energy he exhumes as he tries to make an impact during his final season at Ole Miss.
South Carolina: What will the Gamecocks do at running back?
The post-Marcus Lattimore era is upon the South Carolina Gamecocks and the backfield is ripe with willing candidates to take over as the workhorse.
Sophomore Mike Davis and redshirt sophomore Brandon Wilds are the front-runners, and both have seemed pretty much neck-and-neck as spring practices move forward. But Davis may be inching away from Wilds as an explosive combination of speed and power.
Expect both to get tons of touches in the 2013 season, but Saturday’s Garnet & Black Spring Game could be an early indication of just who will be used more and how each will be featured.
Redshirt freshman Kendric Salley will also see time in Saturday’s game and could show off enough to make head coach Steve Spurrier’s decision even more difficult.
Texas A&M: The easy move here is to tell you to watch Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Can he continue to grow and build on his freshman season?
But that’s what everyone is going to tell you.
Where you should really focus is on the offensive line, and that will directly tie into Manziel’s success in 2013.
The Texas A&M offensive line played extremely well in 2012 but lost star Luke Joeckle and Patrick Lewis. Jake Matthews is moving from right tackle to left to replace Joeckel and Cedric Ogbuehi is moving from right guard to right tackle.
Mike Matthews is taking over at center for Lewis and redshirt freshman Germain Ifedi will play right guard. Jarvis Harrison is the only player returning to his 2012 position on the offensive line that returns three starters.
How will all these adjustment work out for the Aggies?
Vanderbilt: Is the decision already made at quarterback?
Quarterback Jordan Rodgers led Vanderbilt to nine wins last season but is no longer under center for the Commodores. Austyn Carta-Samuels transferred to Vanderbilt prior to last season after starting two years at Wyoming. Is he inked in as the heir apparent or can redshirt freshman Patton Robinette make a competition out of the quarterback position?
Head coach James Franklin told The Tennessean Wednesday that the quarterback position is an area of concern for him.
Carta-Samuels has fantastic arm strength which will come in handy when throwing to one of the best receiver duos in the country in Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. Robinette is a dual-threat quarterback who jumped in and quickly learned the offense last year and should truly benefit from another series of spring sessions.
Early enrollee Johnny McCrary and Josh Grady, who is switching positions from wide receiver to quarterback, will also be in the mix Saturday.