Bryce Young may be the top quarterback in the country, but Will Anderson got to eat steak because he’s the best football player in America. Shane Beamer hit a home run in the transfer portal, and Georgia’s tight end room is the envy of teams across the league. Meanwhile, Mother Nature had other plans for a pair of scrimmages.
Here’s a handful of takeaways from a busy weekend of spring action across the SEC, starting with Will Anderson and the Tide’s scary pass rush:
Alabama led the nation with 121 tackles for loss and 57 sacks in 2021, but its pass rush looks even scarier this preseason. Will Anderson, Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell, three former five-star recruits, harassed Bryce Young and the Tide’s offensive line on A-Day, recording around a dozen “unofficial” sacks. Anderson was a nightmare and had two sacks on three plays in the first half. He was so disruptive Nick Saban had to literally remove him from the scrimmage just so the Young and the offense could get some plays in.
Turner and Braswell look more comfortable in their second seasons with the Tide, and Saban noted during the game that Alabama has packages to get all three rushers on the field at the same time this fall. While the Tide definitely have some offensive line issues to sort out, and drops were a problem Saturday, too, they could have the first group of pass rushers in the modern era (2000 to today) to eclipse the 60-sack total for a season.
“As far as pass rush, I think one of the biggest things was the younger guys learned the plays,” Will Anderson said after A-Day.
“It was never like, the ability. It was just learning the plays, and I think this year is going to be something special. I think you guys talk about the 2016 defense pass rush, I feel like you guys can definitely get ready to see that again. Because we have a lot of talented young guys on the edge, and in the defensive line room. It’s going to be something special this year.”
The Tide had 54 sacks in 2016. They had 57 last season. Yet that wasn’t deemed a “special” season by Will Anderson. Look out, SEC quarterbacks.
Carolina’s collection of new Spurs looked solid in their debut
Quarterback Spencer Rattler was the marquee addition, but throughout the spring, Antwane ‘Juice’ Wells made plays at receiver. Christian Beal-Smith led Wake Forest in rushing the last two seasons, and looks to be an instant contributor with the Gamecocks, too.
But South Carolina’s portal additions on defense look to be impactful, too. Former Central Michigan all-conference safety Devonni Reed earned the start for the Gamecocks in the spring game after buzz throughout camp for his ability as a downhill thumper and centerfielder. The Gamecocks are also anticipating big things from former NC State edge rusher Terrell Dawkins.
After Saturday’s scrimmage, Beamer told The Athletic, “Last year when we brought in all these transfers, we didn’t miss on any of them. And we feel confident saying the same thing this year with this group. We haven’t missed on any of them. They’re all going to have very impactful roles on our team this upcoming season.”
Bowers, Gilbert & Washington, Oh My!
The Georgia Bulldogs are flush with playmaking talent at receiver, running back and tight end in 2022, but G-Day provided a glimpse specifically at just how loaded Todd Hartley’s tight end room is for the fall.
Even without Brock Bowers, arguably the best tight end in the nation, and Darnell Washington in action Saturday, Georgia’s tight ends still stole the show, with Arik Gilbert catching two touchdowns and four-star freshman Oscar Delp getting targeted close to a dozen times.
Come the fall, Georgia will have a lion, a tiger and bear as their top three options — three former five-stars to boot. All three players are matchup nightmares — both in the red zone and down the seam. The Bulldogs used multiple tight ends more than team in the SEC last season (more than 51% of snaps), and that’s clearly not going to change in 2022.
Two spring games were scrapped due to inclement weather over the weekend. Arkansas already had plans to hold a scripted “scrimmage” rather than its usual Red-White Game, but hard rain forced the Razorbacks inside for a closed indoor practice. There was no tackling and lots of situational red zone work, but mostly, head coach Sam Pittman was left frustrated by practice full of drops.
From what I caught, the most interesting takeaway was the usage of backup quarterback Malik Hornsby, who briefly entered the transfer portal this offseason only to return to the team. A dynamic athlete, Hornsby played plenty of receiver Saturday, catching multiple passes from KJ Jefferson. He also served as the No. 2 quarterback, taking second-straight snaps.
Elsewhere, Mississippi State canceled its Maroon & White Game because of weather, holding a closed indoor scrimmage instead.
I did not get any real eyes on Vanderbilt’s Black & Gold scrimmage but did catch a few highlights, including Mike Wright’s long scramble for a touchdown. The Commodores’ three-way battle for the starting job — Wright, Ken Seals and AJ Swann — is no closer to being decided, though.
Final three SEC spring games
The SEC will complete its slate of 2022 spring games this weekend, as two schools with ongoing quarterback competitions with wrap up camp.
Mississippi State was scheduled to complete spring practice last weekend, but as noted above, its scrimmage was canceled due to weather and rescheduled for Saturday at noon. It’s open to the public, but will no longer be televised or streamed, per Mississippi State’s official football Twitter account.