SEC Football

SEC Football: 5 Biggest Storylines Remaining in 2014 Offseason

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterApril 23, 2014

SEC Football: 5 Biggest Storylines Remaining in 2014 Offseason

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    Future Alabama QB Jacob Coker
    Future Alabama QB Jacob CokerStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    April is starting to wind down, and unless you're a Kentucky or Arkansas fan, your team has already wrapped up spring practice. That means several offseason questions—including Georgia's stability at quarterback, Florida's offense and Alabama's new-look defense—have already been answered.

    But several others remain, many of which will have a direct impact on the division, conference and national title races.

    What are the top five offseason storylines remaining in the SEC? Our picks are in this slideshow.

5. Alabama's Quarterback

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    Future Alabama QB Jacob Coker
    Future Alabama QB Jacob CokerStacy Revere/Getty Images

    Wait a minute, shouldn't the Alabama quarterback battle be higher than No. 5 based on Blake Sims' lackluster performance in the spring game?

    No, because Alabama's starting quarterback wasn't playing in the spring game.

    Sims was 13-of-30 for 178 yards, one touchdown and two picks in the spring game, which closed his spring—which had been going well based on closed practice reports—with a thud. What looked like a high bar before isn't so high for Jacob Coker, the rising junior transfer from Florida State who will arrive on campus after finishing his degree in Tallahassee. 

    It may not be a matter of "if" Coker wins the job anymore, it will be a matter of "when." But since the job is still up in the air as of right now, Alabama's quarterback battle will still be interesting to watch this summer.

4. Tennessee's Defensive Line

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    Tennessee DE Corey Vereen
    Tennessee DE Corey VereenJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Wait, Tennessee's quarterback battle isn't on this list but its defensive line is?

    Yep, that's the case.

    Vols' head coach Butch Jones told B/R shortly before spring wrapped up that he was pleased with the downfield consistency of senior quarterback Justin Worley and the upside of redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson. Sophomore Josh Dobbs complicated matters during the spring game, throwing for 199 yards and three touchdowns and adding 59 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

    All of the sudden, deciding on a quarterback is now a "rich man's problem" for Jones.

    Defensive line, however, is not.

    Jones was frustrated with his defensive line all spring, and its lack of depth and inability to be fundamentally consistent bothered him after the spring game.

    "We have some players it's just an overall depth," Jones said in quotes released by Tennessee. "The thing I was kind of disappointed in, in the spring game today, was the drop off from ones to twos. We need to generate outs defensively and we didn't generate very many three and outs today."

    No matter how exotic the offenses get in the SEC, it's still a line of scrimmage league. If Tennessee wants to have a quick turnaround in Jones' second year, it needs that depth up front. It's not there yet.

3. LSU's Quarterback

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    LSU entered spring practice with a two-man race at quarterback between sophomore Anthony Jennings and true freshman early enrollee Brandon Harris. 

    It exited with the same battle, although the roles got reversed in the process.

    Harris wasn't exactly sensational in LSU's spring game, completing just 39.3 percent of his passes (11-for-28), but he tossed for 195 yards and three touchdown passes, while adding 77 rushing yards and another score in stats released by LSU.

    Meanwhile, Jennings struggled, completing nine of 17 passes for 157 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and took four sacks. 

    Harris should enter fall camp as the front-runner based on his strong spring performance. Plus, aside from the game-winning 49-yard touchdown to Travin Dural to beat Arkansas, Jennings has looked apprehensive in the pocket and erratic in the passing game as the No. 1 quarterback in Baton Rouge.

    It's by no means a settled situation though. While the job is likely Harris' to lose, he could make freshman mistakes during fall camp and leave the door wide open for Jennings if he becomes more consistent.

2. Auburn's Secondary

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    Auburn CB Jonathon Mincy
    Auburn CB Jonathon MincyJeff Gross/Getty Images

    Auburn's secondary was a sore spot last year, giving up 257.7 yards per game—the second-worst mark in the conference.

    With two starters gone, one of the primary focuses this spring for head coach Gus Malzahn and defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson was to not only find replacements, but find some consistency for the unit as a whole.

    Junior college transfer Derrick Moncrief looked solid at the boundary safety spot, veteran free safety Jermaine Whitehead is a known commodity and the trio of Jonathon Mincy, Jonathan Jones and wide receiver-turned-cornerback Trovon Reed looked capable with the first-team defense in the spring game.

    But can they be consistent?

    Behind them, there are options. Safety Josh Holsey can play corner if needed, Rudy Ford is a full-time safety after moving over from running back prior to last season and sophomore T.J. Davis and a trio of freshmen will continue to push at corner this fall.

    The reserves need to push the expected starters for the remainder of offseason. A rising tide lifts all boats, and the most valuable thing members of the secondary can give Johnson is options. If that happens, everybody wins.

1. Texas A&M's Quarterback

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    The quest to replace Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M was going to be interesting under normal circumstances, but things got strange toward the end of spring practice. 

    Sophomore dual-threat signal-caller Kenny Hill was arrested for public intoxication and was suspended for the final week of spring practice. Once it wrapped up, Matt Joeckel—a senior who had the most experience of the group—decided to transfer. 

    That left true freshman early enrollee Kyle Allen—the top-ranked pro-style passer in the class of 2014—as the front-runner exiting spring practice because his primary pro-style competition, Joeckel, is gone, and the offense the Aggies ran during the final week without Hill was more suited to his style of play.

    But if the coaching staff wants to keep an offense that's built around a dual-threat quarterback, then Hill will be the guy.

    It should be interesting to see how it shakes out in College Station. The first two weeks of fall camp will be about settling on the guy. Head coach Kevin Sumlin has already proven that he can tweak his offense to fit any style of quarterback, from Case Keenum at Houston to Manziel at Texas A&M.

    Which one will it be? Stay tuned.

     

    * Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports and all college statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.

     


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