Taking a trip around the SEC West schools to get updates on the most pressing issues leading into the season.
Do you know who will be Alabama's starting quarterback? If you do, please let us all know in the comments. Nick Saban hasn't named a starter publicly, and the team's first scrimmage was closed to the public and media. While that's typical for Saban and his coaching tree, he also declined to release the quarterback statistics to the great consternation of those who cover the team. Saban at least doesn't sound concerned about the uncertainty at the position, and a fluid quarterbacking situation is nothing new for him.
Everyone outside the program seems concerned about the losses at running back, but those in the program aren't quite so much. Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo are embracing the challenge of stepping up and producing like Knile Davis did last year, and running backs coach/coffee and doughnut impresario Tim Horton doesn't sound worried in interviews. Depth is still an issue, and to that end freshman CB Kelvin Fisher moved to tailback just in case. Preserving depth is also the reason why Johnson might not be a kick returner this fall despite how much the team missed his skills there in 2010.
Yesterday evening, Gene Chizik revealed that Barrett Trotter will be Auburn's starting quarterback for next season. Clint Moseley is second string, while hyped freshman Kiehl Frazier has settled in a third string. Chizik cited the measurable, in Trotter's experience, and the un-measurable, as in Trotter's leadership, as factors in the decision. He used the "gives us the best chance to win" and team management rationales, and he even praised the three quarterbacks' work. Oddly, he didn't actually endorse the level of play any of the three showed. WR Emory Blake picked up that slack for Chizik on that front though.
A few weeks ago, Russell Shepard's eligibility came into question due to his housing arrangements. He had moved in with his girlfriend, an LSU athletics employee, and there was a question as to whether he was living rent free while also receiving his housing stipend (an NCAA no-no). Les Miles said back then that he anticipated that Shepard wouldn't miss any time, but he changed his tune earlier this week when talking to CBSSports.com. He now is saying that he doesn't know whether Shepard will miss time, a big change from his earlier confidence. Never one to clear things up nicely, Miles promised he'd either be "forthcoming" or "honestly deceptive" on the matter in the future.
The matter of the Rebels' quarterback position appears to be the exact opposite of Auburn's: no starter has been selected, and the head coach is effusive in his praise of his three contenders. On Wednesday, Houston Nutt highlighted Randall Mackey's good play. Yesterday, he was high on Barry Brunetti ("jumped back up today") and Zack Stoudt ("threw the ball really well"). There really is no way to tell at this point who, if anyone, is the front runner. The team did get a boost when Boston Red Sox draft pick Senquez Golson spurned MLB for now to head to Oxford and play cornerback.
Despite the big improvement in record last year, the Bulldogs' offense actually regressed some and ended up near the bottom of the league. To that end, the team is searching for ways to increase the number of big plays it makes in 2011. One possibility is through the use of hybrid players on offense, with receiver Chad Bumphis taking Wildcat snaps and RB LaDarius Perkins playing some slot receiver. Dan Mullen would like everyone to know that Bumphis "could play quarterback" and "throws as good as most of our guys do". I'm hoping that's merely an endorsement of Bumphis and not a commentary on how Chris Relf's passing ability is looking at the moment.