Spring is here and with it comes spring football practice. I'm a little late getting in on the discussion here, mostly because I've been busy with basketball and that sueño known as the real world. However, better now than never, so what follows are the five questions I'm most interested in hearing about over the next few weeks, beginning with least important and moving to most.
5. How will we use Tori Gurley and Alshon Jeffery together?
We've already heard one bit of good news out of practice: the coaching staff is working on getting the twin towers on the field at the same time, with Gurley moving to slot receiver. Along with Jason Barnes and a talented group of backups, this could be one of the--if not the--best receiving corps in the conference. It will be exciting to see how they look on the field together.
4. Will special teams play improve?
There are a couple of questions here. First of all, we need to see our kickoff return coverage unit play much better. This needs to be a top priority in 2010; it's very possible to argue that our coverage unit cost us at least one big game last year--Georgia--and hurt us in others. Second of all, I'd like to see an improved return game. We have two of the faster players in the league in Chris Culliver and Bryce Sherman. It's time for us to see these guys take a couple to the house.
3. Who will end spring as the top runningback?
We were crowded at runningback last year and will be more so this year. Candidates for top spot will be Kenny Miles, who started most of last year, Brian Maddox, who started some and played a lot in short yardage situations throughout, Jarvis Giles, who was highly recruited but never broke into the rotation consistently, and Bryce Sherman, a dimunitive speedster. I think the big issue here is probably how much Giles has improved; he's probably the most explosive player of the group, but his decision making and small frame cost him last year. If he is ready to be more of a downhill runner and has put on a few more pounds, he could challenge Miles. There's been talk of moving Maddox to fullback (and last year's fullback Patrick DiMarco to tight end), which I think is a great idea, both for the team and Maddox's NFL prospects. Sherman will likely continue to play in specialty packages. Finally, of course, regardless of what happens in the spring, Marcus Lattimore will get his chance when he gets on campus in the summer.
2. How will the new faces on defense fare?
We return a good bit of talent on D, but a few longtime starters are gone, particularly Eric Norwood, Darian Stewart, and Nathan Pepper. What is more, a few of next year's projected starters, such as Chris Culliver, will be taking it easy this spring as they nurse recovering injuries. This will give us a chance to see how some of the new faces on the depth chart look. I'm especially interested in DeMario Jeffery, D.J. Swearinger, Tony Straughter, Josh Dickerson, Toquavius Gilchrist, and Melvin Ingram.
1. Can we expect improvement from the offensive line?
Despite hitting some road bumps at times, the performance of the offensive line improved last year under Eric Wolford. Can Shawn Elliott complete the job? If so, our offense has the tools and experience in place at the other positions to be one of the best in the league.
This post is intended to be a general conversation starter; please sound off with your own questions / concerns in the comments section.