In the vaunted SEC, it's never too early to talk football.
While there's still several months to go before a meaningful snap is taken, the spring games offer fans something to cheer about as well as bring intriguing storylines to the forefront in terms of position battles.
ALABAMA - Sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon shined for the defending national champion Crimson Tide, racking up 129 total yards (69 rushing, 60 receiving) with a touchdown, earning the Dixie Howell Award for the game's most valuable player for the second straight year. A.J. McCarron had an up-and-down afternoon, completing 19-of-30 passes for 223 yards and touchdown, but he also tossed a pair of interceptions. Linebackers C.J. Mosley and Tana Patrick led the defense with nine and eight tackles, respectively. The game was played in front of a crowd of 78,315 at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the sixth-largest for a spring game in school history.
ARKANSAS - The Razorbacks' offensive attack was sharp, tallying 540 total yards and 27 first downs. With the departure of Tyler Wilson, the competition between Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell as the team's next signal-caller has started, with Allen completing 11-of-16 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown, and Mitchell going 12-of-17 for 138 yards and a score. Patrick Arinze piled up 66 rushing yards on nine carries, while Javontee Herndon (six receptions, 85 yards), Demetrius Wilson (four receptions, 70 yards, TD) and Keon Hatcher (five receptions, 60 yards) were all impressive in the passing game.
AUBURN - The Tigers are another squad with an open quarterback competition, with Jonathan Wallace (18-of-26, 191 yards, two TDs, INT) and Kiehl Frazier (10-of-16, 125 yards, TD, rushing TD) both putting forth strong showings. Junior college transfer Cameron Artis-Payne was named the game's offensive MVP after racking up 164 total yards (117 rushing, 47 receiving) and a touchdown. Tre Mason, who rushed for 1,002 yards last season, carried the ball 11 times for 60 yards. Sammie Coates (four receptions, 84 yards) was the top wideout. A whopping 83,401 were in attendance, marking the highest-recorded showing in the nation this spring.
FLORIDA - Due to numerous injuries along the offensive line, Florida head coach Will Muschamp opted simply to hold practice during the team's originally-scheduled April 6 spring game.
GEORGIA - Aaron Murray, who is expected to be one of the top quarterbacks in the nation this fall, threw for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 12-of-18 passing, while backup Hutson Mason (16-of-27, 191 yards, TD) also had a big afternoon. While Todd Gurley (1,385 yards, 17 TD in 2012) rushed the ball just four times for 25 yards, Kyle Karempelis accounted for 89 yards on 13 carries. Jonathan Rumph had 98 receiving yards and two touchdowns, including a 37-yard scoring strike from Patrick Welch. Kosta Vavlas recorded 12 tackles to spark the defense, while John Taylor had a pair of sacks.
KENTUCKY - First-year head coach Mark Stoops has a more wide-open quarterback competition than most, as the Wildcats sent five different signal-callers to the field in their spring fling, with Jalen Whitlow (17-of-28, 193 yards, two TDs) and Maxwell Smith (11-of-18, 108 yards, TD) garnering the most snaps. Reese Phillips was also impressive under center, completing 10-of-12 passes for 75 yards and a score. Dyshawn Mobley (79 yards) was one of four players to rush for at least 40 yards, while in the receiving game, Demarco Robinson (93 yards), Rashad Cunningham (80 yards) and A.J. Legree (68 yards) each scored and caught at least six passes.
LSU - In just one half of action, senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns, doing so on 12-of-19 passing, while backup Stephen Rivers (7-of-10, 185 yards, two TDs) was also stellar. Odell Beckham made big plays all afternoon, finishing with six receptions for 202 yards and two touchdowns, including a 79-yard scoring strike from Mettenberger in the second quarter. Jarvis Landry (six receptions, 132 yards) also contributed to a big receiving day. Jeremy Hill showed tremendous burst in the backfield, gaining 102 yards on 13 carries. On the defensive side of the ball, Danielle Hunter racked up eight tackles, including a pair of sacks.
MISSISSIPPI STATE - Tyler Russell wasn't particularly accurate (13-of-24), but he finished with 179 yards and two touchdowns while adding 24 yards on the ground. MSU's rushing attack appeared to be in midseason form, as Brandon Holloway (128 yards) and Derrick Milton (99 yards) each plunged into the end zone twice. Jeremy Chappelle hauled in eight balls for 114 yards and a touchdown, while Brandon Hill (22 yards) emerged as a red-zone threat, with both of his receptions resulting in scores. Anthony Dixon had just one catch, but it went for a 65-yard touchdown.
MISSOURI - Senior quarterback James Franklin failed to impress in limited action, completing 9-of-15 passes for 80 yards with no touchdowns, while Corbin Berkstresser (9-of-18, 93 yards, zero TDs, two INTs) fared even worse. Neither Marcus Murphy (28 yards) nor Henry Josey (13 yards) found much running room on the afternoon, although both managed to reach the end zone. Dorial Green-Beckham led the receiving corps with 49 yards. The game was dominated by defensive play, with Michael Sam contributing two sacks, and Xavier Smith and Matt Hoch each logging an interception.
OLE MISS - The Rebels scaled back their spring game due to a number of injuries (including to starting quarterback Bo Wallace), playing an abbreviated contest before turning to regular practice drills. In Wallace's absence, both Robert Ratliff and Barry Brunetti combined to complete just 6- of-24 passes while each tossing an interception, although Maikhail Miller (7- of-11, 46 passing yards, 60 rushing yards) and Khalid Purnell (2-of-2, 40 yards, TD) were much more impressive. Ja-Mes Logan caught five balls for 101 yards. Denzel Nkemdiche tallied 10 tackles to spearhead a dominating defensive effort.
SOUTH CAROLINA - Despite the Gamecocks' reputation as a stout defensive squad, it was the offense that shined in the spring game, with the two sides combining for 74 points and nearly 700 yards of total offense. Five different quarterbacks came together to throw for 523 yards, with Dylan Thompson, Austin Hails, Brendan Nosovitch and Connor Mitch each tossing touchdowns, although none of them are expected to supplant Connor Shaw as the starter, despite the fact that he is still recovering from offseason foot surgery. The quarterbacks spread the wealth to 17 different receivers, with Jerell Adams (five receptions, 113 yards, two TDs) leading the way. Kedric Salley (47 yards) and Mike Davis (40 yards) each had a rushing score.
TENNESSEE - The Vols are in search of their new quarterback following the departure of Tyler Bray, although neither Nathan Peterman (9-of-23, 98 yards) nor Justin Worley (8-of-18, 128 yards, TD, INT) did much to impress first-year head coach Butch Jones. Worley did manage to complete a 58-yard touchdown pass to Cody Blanc, however. Alden Hill led the squad with 101 rushing yards on 18 carries, while senior Rajion Neal was limited to 34 yards on 11 totes. True freshman Corey Vereen certainly made his presence known, recording four sacks in just one half of action.
TEXAS A&M - Not surprisingly, reigning Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel was outstanding. While his rush attempts were limited (three carries for 18 yards), he was nearly flawless with his passes, going 24-of-30 for 303 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Receivers LeKendrick Williams (seven receptions, 105 yards), Derel Walker (five receptions, 79 yards) and Mike Evans (five receptions, 73 yards) were each able to take advantage of Manziel's big day. Trey Williams and Brandon Williams combined for 126 rushing yards on 14 carries. The Aggies come into the 2013 campaign with high expectations, which showed with a school-record attendance for a spring game (45,212), and a nationally-televised spot on ESPN.
VANDERBILT - Austyn Carta-Samuels, who is expected to take over as the Commodores' starting quarterback following the loss of Jordan Matthews, impressed under center with 196 yards and a touchdown on 14-of-20 passing, although he was victimized by four sacks. Carta-Samuels' lone touchdown strike was to Jordan Matthews (six receptions, 60 yards), who is looking to build on a First Team All-SEC campaign in 2012 (94 receptions, 1,322 yards, eight TDs). Vandy is searching for a replacement to former starting running back Zac Stacy, the most productive rusher in school history, and Wesley Tate emerged with the best showing out of the backfield with nine carries for 59 yards and a score.