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Early Scouting Reports: Looking at the Alabama, Auburn, and Missouri Spring Games

Alabama, Auburn, and Missouri all played Spring Games on April 19th, here's a quick run down.

I just love that Saban wears a suit for the Alabama spring games.
I just love that Saban wears a suit for the Alabama spring games.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama Crimson Tide

Nick Saban will enter the 2014 season without a returning starter at QB, and a new offensive coordinator in Lane Kiffin. The starter for the spring scrimmage, Blake Sims was 13-30 with 2 interceptions. He was less than stellar, but Saban lives to be the underdog, and looks for any way possible to motivate his team. Every negative comment will only fuel the fire. Oh, and they are also still loaded at running back, offensive line and wide receiver. Expect to see more of the same ground and pound with Kiffin calling the plays. There is not a single defender on the Alabama schedule that is looking forward to trying to tackle Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, TJ Yeldon, and Jalston Fowler.

Most think Jacob Coker (transfer from FSU) will come in and take over the starting quarterback spot in the fall. Could he be an unkown breakout star like Nick Marshall, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Jameis Winston etc? It 's the type of situation in which Coker will likely by pushed as a Heisman candidate before he even throws a pass.

On defense the Crimson Tide will replace Haha Clinton Dix and Vinny Sunseri in the secondary. CJ Mosley is gone at linebacker as well as several other contributors last season. We have gotten used to the fact that Alabama has four and five star athletes waiting to replace any roster losses, and that will stay true in 2014. Geno Smith and Cyrus Jones look to take their turn as starters in the secondary with some top recruits in the fall. Defense is what Nick Saban does and they looked solid in the spring game.

Auburn Tigers

The recurring theme that we will hear from the Auburn coaching staff will be how much work and improvement Nick Marshall has made in the passing game. Like most of the spring game comments these should be taken with some skepticism. Gus Malzahn has a history of modifying his offense to suit the strengths of his team, and it would not make much sense to me to change the run-heavy play calling. Will they throw more screens and quick passes? I would say yes, but it would really surprise me if they ran the ball less than 60% of the time.

Marshall looked solid but missed on a few throws deep down the sidelines. Cameron Artis-Payne (12 carries 97 yds) looks like he will be a solid replacement for Mason at running back, with Corey Grant getting a few carries.

On defense it is hard to tell if the Auburn has improved because they were playing against the #2's. Holding the second team offense under 100 yds in the spring game does not exactly translate to shutting down an SEC team but they did add a JUCO player at safety. Other than Dee Ford and Chris Davis this group did not lose much from last season.

They focused on running the ball in 2013 because that team had a dominant offensive line and depth at running back led by Tre Mason, who left for the NFL. There was also a lack of experienced wide receivers other than Sammie Coates. Adding D'haquille "Duke" Williams as a juco transfer and a more experienced Ricardo Louis to the group will give them more weapons. Just try not to take too seriously the PR message from Auburn about throwing more, the inside zone and zone read plays will be the staples of this team in 2014 with maybe a few more deep shots.

Here's an example of #1 Duke Williams being a tough cover 1 on 1 in the end zone.

More Highlights and quotes at College and Magnolia

Gus Malzahn Post Scrimmage Press Conference

Missouri Tigers

Maty Mauk looked impressive both throwing the ball and running. After Nick Marshall and Brandon Allen, he probably has the most experience of any returning SEC QB. The big questions for Missouri will be whether they can find consistency at running back and on the defensive line, and how much will they miss Dorial Green-Beckham.

Pinkel Post game interview

Not sure how your second team wins the spring game, but after last season it is hard to criticize anything that the Tigers are doing.

Spring games are mostly for show (recruiting) and gaining experience for the younger players. Coordinators are not going to show much of anything. Just enough base plays and a few tricks to throw at the other side. I will have a breakdown of the Arkansas Spring game after it is played on Saturday April 26th.