Spring football can be cruel thing. It provides just enough of the sport to remind most fans of how much of it they actually crave. The difference between the practices and scrimmages during this time of year and the real games played in the fall; it’s roughly the same as reading a cookbook vs. actually eating a meal.
Not to say spring football has no value: It clearly has some. We learned plenty of things during this period of the college football calendar, and there’s no shortage of written pieces recounting that information.
However, what can be frustrating for fans is the long list of questions that didn’t get answered during the spring. This year around the SEC there were plenty of those.
Will Kevin Steele be an upgrade for Auburn?
Last season, the SEC’s biggest free agent acquisition was arguably Auburn’s hire of Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator. The Tigers spent $1.6 million for Muschamp’s services, yet only finished 63rd in the country in defensive efficiency, according to Football Outsiders.
In other words, the contract Auburn gave Muschamp was sketchier than the one UGA gave Ludacris.
That’s ancient history now though. Muschamp left Auburn to become the coach at South Carolina, and Auburn reached over to LSU to pluck his replacement — former Tigers defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
Unfortunately, it’s tough to gauge how well things went for Steele this spring. The fact that the winning side in this year’s A-Day game only scored 19 points seems to be a plus for the defense, but the Auburn offense scored 19 or fewer points in three of its final five games to finish out the 2015 regular season. So is this an example of an improved Tigers defense, or just more of the same lackluster Auburn offense?
It’s probably going to take a game against a real opponent — like the season opener against Clemson — to find that out.
Will Florida improve on offense?
Throughout the spring, Florida coach Jim McElwain had no problem acknowledging Luke Del Rio — an Oregon State transfer — had the edge over the other candidates in the competition for the quarterback spot. That’s great news for Del Rio, but is that good news for the Gators?
As last season’s offensive struggles prove, being the best quarterback on the Florida roster is not the same thing as being a good quarterback.
Del Rio threw for 176 yards and two touchdowns in the Orange and Blue Debut spring game. That performance will almost certainly springboard him into the starting role this fall, but Gators fans will probably have to wait until then to learn if Del Rio’s presence will energize an offense that was only 11th in the SEC in points per game last season.
When will Kirby Smart admit what everyone else sees?
Listening to Kirby Smart talk about his quarterbacks is like hearing someone try to explain why the Star Wars prequels are underrated and misunderstood. He can say whatever he wants, but nobody is buying it.
Smart spent a good portion of his postgame press conference after G-Day making the case for senior Greyson Lambert and redshirt junior Brice Ramsey as strong candidates for the UGA starting job, even though true freshman Jacob Eason outplayed them both — throwing for 244 yards and a touchdown — in his first ever appearance in Sanford Stadium.
How much longer can Smart keep up this charade? It’s apparently going to be a while before Bulldogs fans find out.
Will Leonard Fournette finish what he started?
At one point in the 2015 season LSU running back Leonard Fournette looked like a sure thing to win the Heisman Trophy, and then ended up not even being a finalist.
It was a surprising turn of events, to be sure. The LSU spring game didn’t provide a lot of new information for anyone hoping to find out about Fournette’s chances of bouncing back from last year’s disappointment, either..
Fournette only carried the ball eight times during the game — which is understandable. There’s obviously not a lot of value in putting a heavy workload on a running back during what is little more than a glorified practice.
However, tuning in to watch LSU and not seeing Fournette in action is like watching a Republican presidential debate without Donald Trump. No matter who you root for, his absence makes the entire ordeal a lot less entertaining.
Furthermore, the limited use of Fournette by LSU — much like the unanswered questions at Auburn, Florida and UGA — highlight the conflict between college football fans and coaches during the spring.
The fans are eager to see and learn as much as they possibly can about their favorite team, but the coaches view it as part of their job to reveal as little as possible.
It happens like this every year, and it always serves as a reminder of a simple truth: For most of us, the season can’t get here soon enough.