Spring football is a time when coaches hope to answer the burning questions that have lingered since the end of the season. Here's a look at the top priority for each SEC school between now and the end of spring football drills.
Can 'Bama bolster its belly on both sides of the ball? On offense, Alabama took losses up the middle with the departure of consensus All-America and Rimington Award winning center Ryan Kelly, SEC Championship Game MVP quarterback Jake Coker, and Heisman Trophy winning tailback Derrick Henry. There is a lot of talent, but little experience at those key positions. On defense, Alabama suffered losses up the middle as well: consensus All-America nose tackle A’Shawn Robinson, consensus All-America middle linebacker Reggie Ragland, and safety Geno Matias-Smith are gone. There are, however, experienced players to fill defensive spots. - Kirk McNair, Bama Mag
Arkansas must replace quarterback Brandon Allen this spring. This may prove problematic seeing as Allen did not had a serious challenger as the top signal-caller in the three years with Bret Bielema as head coach. The heir apparent is his younger brother Austin Allen, a fourth-year junior. Other candidates are sophomore Rafe Peavey and a pair of redshirt freshmen, Ty Storey and Southern Cal transfer Ricky Town. Austin Allen will open the spring with the first team and saw action as the clear backup the last two seasons, but Bielema said the battle is wide open. - Clay Henry, Hawgs Illustrated
Gus Malzahn heads into his fourth season as Auburn’s head coach looking for the right guy to lead his offense. Jeremy Johnson foundered in the starting role last fall. Johnson eventually lost the spot to Sean White, who finished the schedule as the starting QB after being sidelined during the season by an injury. The wild card in the mix is athletic JUCO transfer John Franklin, and wild card No. 2 is redshirt freshman Tyler Queen, a good runner and passer, who is making a comeback from Tommy John surgery. - Mark Murphy, AU Tigers
Who will emerge at quarterback? Treon Harris will be changing positions and that leaves graduate transfer Austin Appleby (Purdue), Luke Del Rio (R-Jr.), Feleipe Franks (Fr.), and Kyle Trask (Fr.). Del Rio should start as the leader in the spring being the player that knows the system best. However, Appleby will be hard to keep off the field because of his extensive experience. But don't count out the freshmen. This group will be in the battle as well and have the most talent in the group. - Bob Redman, Fightin' Gators
There's a new coach in town, Kirby Smart, and possibly a new quarterback in Athens as well. After 15 years, UGA’s firing of Mark Richt means one thing: 10 wins is not good enough any more. So, it seems, it is championship or bust for Smart and his coaching staff. Smart wants a spring sellout, and he’s asking 93,000 folks to see the Bulldogs scrimmage on April 16. All eyes will be on the quarterbacks for the second spring in a row. Everyone will continue to wonder about Nick Chubb’s return as well. - Dean Legge, Dawgpost
The Wildcats have a new offensive coordinator for the third time in as many years as Eddie Gran comes in from the University of Cincinnati. Despite an influx of talent and more experience, UK saw most of its offensive productivity stats take a dip during a disappointing 5-7 campaign in 2015. - Jeff Drummond, All Wildcats
LSU needed a seven-figure salary to lure new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda away from Wisconsin, and he'll spend the spring teaching his innovative concepts. There will be plenty to learn. At Wisconsin, Aranda was known for shape-shifting fronts with four, three, two and even no defensive linemen in a traditional down stance.
Some springs, priorities are jumbled, but not at Mississippi State in 2016. All Dan Mullen must do is replace the program’s most productive and honored quarterback ever, Dak Prescott. A quartet of candidates will audition this spring. Sophomore Nick Fitzgerald was impressive in 2015 backup work, but redshirt junior Damian Williams starts out the spring as his equal. Freak athlete Elijah Staley finally committed fully to football, and redshirt Nick Tiano could turn out to be a steal recruit. - David Murray, Genes Page
The biggest issue for the Missouri football team this spring is improving on an offense that was downright offensive during the Tigers’ 5-7 2015 season. Mizzou averaged just 13.6 points per game, which ranked 128th among Division I schools, but the team now has a new head coach in Barry Odom, a new offensive coordinator in Josh Heupel and a more-experienced quarterback in rising sophomore Drew Lock, who was rushed into action before he was consider to be ready. - Nate Latsch, Black and Gold Illustrated
Ole Miss enters the 2016 season with playoff aspirations, led by one of the top quarterbacks in the country, Chad Kelly. But the Rebels are replacing both tackles along the offensive line, including Laremy Tunsil, a projected top-5 NFL Draft pick. Also of concern is the secondary. Gone are both starting safeties, Mike Hilton and Trae Elston, and there’s concern regarding Tony Conner—once considered a first-round NFL talent. He missed most of last season with a knee injury, which resulted in offseason surgery. - Ben Garrett, OM Spirit
Plenty of storylines surround the first spring for first-year Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp and his new staff, but finding a quarterback is job one. True freshman/early enrollee Brandon McIlwain, a former four-star recruit from Pennsylvania, offers a dual-threat alternative to returning starter Perry Orth, and it'll be intriguing to see how many reps he gets with the first-team this spring.
Tennessee enters 2016 in the most favorable position it's been in since winning the SEC East in 2007. The Vols return 17 starters on a 9-win team poised to be the division favorites heading into September. Two new faces will grace the sideline this spring with tight ends coach Larry Scott and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop joining the staff. Shoop being the splash of the college football offseason should make for a new and grittier dynamic that has been missing from the Vols. However, there are a few questions that will need to be answered. How much different will his defense look than the departed John Jancek's 4-2-5 look? Can Tennessee stay healthy as it hopes to vault into the fall as a national championship contender? This spring will be a good indicator of where the Vols stand in those regards as Butch Jones' program makes a run in 2016. - Cory Gunkel, Inside Tennessee
Kevin Sumlin likely couldn't wait for spring following a disappointing 2015 season and a stormy winter that saw two five-star quarterbacks (Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray) leave the program. Former Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight will make his case for a starting role this spring, battling junior Jake Hubenak. They'll work under new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who led a high-powered offense at UCLA in 2015.
Vanderbilt has got to find answers on offense. In 2015, the Commodores averaged just 15.2 points per game. They will have some help on offensive line with Andrew Jelks, who would have been the best returning lineman for 2015 had he not been injured in preseason. Receivers C.J. Duncan and Jared Pinkney, along with tight end DeAndre Woods, all who were injured early on in 2015, should also help improve offensive production but a more efficient scheme must be installed in the spring. - Don Yates, Vandy Mania