This is Part 2 of a two-part series Spring Review series. Part 1, published Monday, is on the SEC West.
Big Story: Meet the “Orange Swarm.” That’s the name new UT defensive coordinator Bob Shoop gave to his unit during a Knoxville radio interview earlier this week. “Nobody will run on the ‘Orange Swarm,’” said Shoop, formerly of Penn State and Vanderbilt. Shoop takes the reigns after the Vols and Jon Jancek split. Shoop only installed a small percentage of his D in the spring, implementing a package each week.
Side story: Eleven Vols were sidelined during spring practice because of injury, but that was a small part of this program’s off-the-field spring. Tennessee’s athletic program was the subject of a sweeping federal lawsuit regarding sexual assaults. And coach Butch Jones found himself embroiled in a Twitter war with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
Rising Star: WR Preston Williams. The five star talent caught seven passes in 2015 as a true freshman despite missing four games with injury. He finished a strong spring with a team-leading three catches for 77 yards in the spring game, proving to be a deep threat.
Eagerly Awaiting: DE Jonathan Kongbo. The No. 1-ranked junior college DE last year promised this spring that the Vols would go undefeated this coming season.
Kickoff: vs. Appalachian State, Sept. 3
Vs. LSU: DNP
Big Story: For the first time since 2001, Gary Pinkel did not run a spring at Missouri, giving way to new head man Barry Odom, a Missouri grad and ex-Memphis DC. The Tigers had a new starting QB this spring, too. Drew Lock took over for dismissed QB Maty Mauk. Lock started eight games as a true freshman last season in place of the shaky Mauk, and he’s now learning under ex-Oklahoma QB Josh Heupel, the Tigers’ OC.
Side story: Missouri lost a whopping four offensive linemen to injury during spring, leaving them with eight healthy scholarship bodies for the spring game. Overall, depth seems to be an issue there. Incoming freshmen Tre’Vour Simms and Trystan Castillo have been told to arrive ready to compete immediately.
Rising Star: DE Charles Harris. The redshirt junior earned second team all-SEC honors last year, finishing with seven sacks and 56 tackles. Odom’s phasing in of the 3-4 defense could accentuate some Harris’ strengths.
Eagerly Awaiting: RB Damarea Crockett. The Little Rock native and fifth-best prospect in Arkansas could help a Missouri RB group with little depth.
Kickoff: at West Virginia, Sept. 3
Vs. LSU: Oct. 1, at Tiger Stadium
Big Story: Two words – Nick Chubb. His status overshadowed coach Kirby Smart’s first spring as head coach. Chubb, a Heisman Trophy hopeful before a significant knee injury ended his season last in October, took carries in non-contact drills during spring. He rarely ran laterally, recovering from an injury that shook up the Heisman race. Sony Michel, the SEC’s third-leading returning rusher, took No. 1 live contact reps.
Side story: In off-the-field spring news, Georgia learned it’ll be down two key contributors on the defensive line for the season opener against North Carolina. Chauncey Rivers (second marijuana arrest) and Jonathan Ledbetter (underage possession of alcohol) are suspended for the game against the Tarheels.
Rising Star: WR Terry Godwin. New offensive coordinator Jim Chaney plans to use the 5-foot-11 sophomore all over the field – outside, slot, potentially in the backfield. Someone has to replace leading receiver Malcolm Mitchell.
Eagerly Awaiting: QB Jacob Eason. UGA isn’t awaiting anything, actually. The five-star Eason enrolled early, participated in spring and is the second/third option behind Greyson Lambert.
Kickoff: vs. North Carolina, Sept. 3 (Georgia Dome, Atlanta)
Vs. LSU: DNP
Big Story: The Gators’ QB hopes rest on a pair of transfers – Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby. The two appear to be well ahead of guys like Feleipe Franks, the coveted, five-star rookie and long-time LSU commitment. Del Rio, the son of Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, is on his third school after stop at Alabama and Oregon State. He’s got the edge heading into preseason camp. Appleby played in 17 games at Purdue.
Side story: A three-man running back competition unfolded during spring drills. Jordan Cronkite, Jordan Scarlett and 242-pound junior college transfer Mark Thompson are vying to replace 1,000-yard rusher Kelvin Taylor. Cronkite got most of the No. 1 reps.
Rising Star: PK Eddy Pineiro. The Gators hope the top-ranked JUCO kicker will help a 9-for-20 field goal mark last season. A video went viral of Pineiro making a 77-yard field goal during a practice. UF swiped Pineiro from Alabama, where he was committed.
Eagerly Awaiting: WR Tyrie Cleveland. The 6-3, 190-pound Texan was ranked as the second-best receiver nationally in the 2016 recruiting class.
Kickoff: vs. Massachusetts, Sept. 3
Vs. LSU: Oct. 8, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (Gainesville, Florida)
Big Story: South Carolina started spring with five QBs. The Gamecocks ended spring with three healthy QBs. Lorenzo Nunez and Perry Orth, two of three QBs to play last season, had their spring cut short because of injury. Brandon McIlwain grabbed the edge over Connor Mitch, a partial starter last season, and Michael Scarnecchia. McIlwain, a dual-threat and dual sport star (baseball), enrolled in January.
Side story: Will Muschamp made at least one thing abundantly clear during spring practice – South Carolina’s secondary needs improving. The coach didn’t feel comfortable in spring playing his cornerbacks in press-coverage, a staple of his system.
Rising Star: WR Bryan Edwards. The four star signee enrolled early in January and made an immediate impact in a Carolina receiver corps that lost all-SEC WR Pharoh Cooper. The 6-3, 200-pound Edwards caught two touchdowns in the spring game.
Eagerly Awaiting: CB Jamarcus King. The Kansas product was ranked as the No. 1 cornerback in the 2016 class.
Kickoff: at Vanderbilt, Sept. 1
Vs. LSU: DNP
Big Story: The Wildcats have to overcome the power fade. Remember in 2014 when UK came to LSU with a 5-1 record? The Tigers crushed the Wildcats 41-3, the start of their 0-6 finish. Last season, UK started 4-1 but ended up 1-6, both years seeing bowl hopes snatched away by archrival Louisville. This looks like another five- to seven-win team. Figuring out how to squeeze out a couple more wins is a must.
Side story: After going 12-24 in three seasons, the honeymoon is definitely over for UK coach Mark Stoops. To his credit, he knows it: “We’re moving into year four and we should be better.” Part of getting better meant firing offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson and replacing him with co-coordinators Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw.
Rising Star: QB Drew Barker. Patrick Towles transferred to Boston College, leaving the job to Barker, who attempted 70 passes last season. The talent around him is experienced, led by receiver Dorian Baker (55 catches, 608 yards) and tailback Stanley “Boom” Williams (855 yards).
Eagerly Awaiting: OT Landon Young. A four-star prospect, Young didn’t enroll for spring football but could still challenge for a starting spot on a line that gave up 30 sacks in 2015.
Kickoff: vs. Southern Miss, Sept. 3
Vs. LSU: DNP
Big Story: The Commodores own one of the SEC’s best defenses, allowing just 350.5 yards and 21.0 points per game last season despite an offense that ranked 116th nationally in yards and 123rd in points per game. The key will be getting that defense off the field with an improved offense. Kyle Shurmur, son of former Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur, started five of last six games in 2015 and appears to have held off his challengers. For now.
Side story: After the success it had under former coach James Franklin, Vanderbilt now expects results in football. Positive results. Vandy’s first year under Derek Mason (3-9, 0-8 SEC) was abysmal, but last year showed some promise. With a few breaks, these Commodores could be back in their first bowl since 2013.
Rising Star: LB Zach Cunningham. Vanderbilt should have one of the SEC’s top linebacker tandems with Cunningham and Nigel Bowden. Cunningham led the Commodores with 103 tackles including 4.5 sacks in 2015 and is a legitimate All-SEC candidate in his junior campaign.
Eagerly Awaiting: DB Joejuan Williams. Recruiting is challenging for Vandy, but the Commodores kept the four-star Williams, Tennessee’s second-ranked prospect, at home.
Kickoff: vs. South Carolina, Sept. 1