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Spring Games: A Lament and Primer Rolled Into One

"Wait, so how are they keeping score again?"

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

If not for a trio of outlying circumstances, my record for spring game attendance would likely be nil rather than three.

I relinquished my chastity, though, because I’m naïve and gullible and once-upon-a-time believed myself destined for collegiate stardom. So when ex-Auburn coach, Tommy Tuberville—or his assistant, or his assistant’s assistant—extended a personal (!), parchment-ed (?) invitation to A-Day my junior year of high school, I had to go. How many recruits are invited to the spring game?! I thought. (As it turned out, the answer was a shitload.) My father, supportive yet rightfully dubious of his 5’10 lineman-son’s ambitions, declined to drive me at first: "Waste of time," he said. But when my 6’3 best friend—he of legitimate reasoning for taking a recruiting visit—needed a ride, dad agreed to the 90-minute trek.

So happened though, pops was right: the day was awful, unsaved even by a bountiful all-you-can-eat spread, and alluring Tigerettes. Tubs’s coaching staff tried its damndest to herd the myriad prospects it’d summoned to town, but the preps collective far outweighed the help; disorganized isn’t even the word. But the absolute worst of it: a scrimmage nigh on three hours, featuring only a smatter—and even that’s generous—of excitable plays; this despite explosive talents abound on a team destined for a decent 9-3 season. If that squad was incapable of compelling scrimmaging, what chance did other teams have at doing such? So as we left, my 6’3 BFF, he then of AU-induced ennui, proclaimed he would never attend Auburn. And I, self-thought to be wholly invested in any and all things CFB, swore off spring game attendance forever …

So my second spring game also occurred in Jordan-Hare. I went because that 6’3 best friend of mine did in fact sign with Auburn, and on this day he was playing in his first spring game, you see. And though my first meal on The Plains was nothing special, I was now promised access to an exclusive "player-guest" buffet, so of course I reneged on my vow. But once the wings and ribs settled in, so to did reality: eats aside, this remained nothing more than a semi-spirited scrimmage. Whether it was the fans’ waning interest reflecting that of the players, or the inverse, I never did figure out. But nonetheless, it was sure to be the last football game I attended outside of autumn or winter. If bearing witness to my bestie fending off Quentin Groves and Sen’Derrick Marks couldn’t keep my eyes from glossing over, seriously, never again …

So my third spring game occurred at my alma mater, a school in Gainesville, Fla., and I was being paid to attend by an outlet. So I mean, I was definitely not not gonna go. The game was actually not a game at all, a lack of able-bodied lineman preventing UF from hosting such. Rather, it was a spruced-up practice session, and it was weird and boring and finally drove home the point that paid for such or not, for me, these things just aren’t worth attending; they’re better viewed through a screen, at 12 p.m. on a Sunday, on ESPN or one of its subsidiaries.

But that’s merely my preferred method of digestion.

For others, though—whether they be curious fans denied observance of practices one through fourteen, or insatiable in their appetite for Whomever U, or merely long for an inexpensive, sports-themed, family outing—spring games/stadium-drills-open-to-the-public serve a purpose, no matter what dolts like me spew out. And yeah, I mean, they’re important for teams and players too: game-like reps, and the occurrence of such in a game-like atmosphere, replete with game-like marching bands and game-like fans and game-like smells. It’s as close to the real deal as possible; or at least, the closest simulation to game-play allowable under NCAA rules.

So I understand why, with this weekend serving as the SEC’s first big wave of spring games, that folks are readying themselves for trips down I-75, or up I-55, or across I-20. Because even if I can’t bear the thought of another Orange and Blue Debut, or an A/B/C/D/E-Day, such events hold merit for kids and alumni groups and perhaps most importantly, the players and coaches.

But no matter if you decide to spectate in-person, or like me, through the tube, here’s a few friendly reminders to get you ready for your team’s spring finale, no matter its format.

Don’t Take Too Much from It. So in an exhibition that’s often as loose as it is competitive, your starting quarterback threw six picks, and in wake of the first-teamer being rested, your second-string running back rushed for like, 450. Though such performances can indeed be foreshadowing for a rougher-than or better-than expected season, in all likelihood, it's nothing more than a signal-caller having some risky fun, and an amped-up tailback benefiting from relaxed defensive play. So no, Dak Prescott’s job isn’t in jeopardy, and no, Alvin Kamara isn’t a Heisman dark horse.

Then Again, That is Concerning. If your starting offensive line gives up multiple sacks and pressures late in the spring, that trend probably continues early in the fall … at least.

There Will Be a Breakout Walk-On Performance, and No, He Will Not Start in the Fall. No matter what Jacob Guy does on Saturday, Florida fans, he’s still destined for the scout team come September.

"Open It Up, Coach $@*%!" Because, technology—and understandable paranoia—save for a flea-flicker or something, the play-calling is likely to be extremely vanilla (a case which, may extend through game three of your team’s season). So accept now that tricky formations and complex motions are not part of the game plan. Perhaps in October.

Enjoy It. It’s easy to bewail spring games in April, but assuredly, come July, I’d kill to watch a live game—no matter it’s shape or substance. So whether you’re an ingrate like me or not, enjoy football while you still have it. Gonna be a while ‘fore we see it again.

SEC Spring Game Schedule:

Saturday, April 11th

Florida (12:30 p.m. ET — SEC Network Plus)

Georgia (2:00 p.m. ET — SEC Network Plus)

Ole Miss (12 :00 p.m. CT — SEC Network Plus)

S. Carolina (12:00 p.m. ET — SEC Network Plus)

Saturday, April 18th

Alabama (2:00 p.m. CT — SEC Network Plus)

Auburn (1:00 p.m. CT — SEC Network Plus)

LSU (1:00 p.m. CT — SEC Network Plus)

Miss. State (11:00 a.m. CT — SECN Alt./SECN+)

Missouri (4:00 p.m. CT — SECN Alt./SECN+)

Saturday April 25th

Arkansas (1:00 p.m. CT — SECN Alt./SECN+)

Tennessee (4:00 p.m. ET — SECN Alt./SECN+)

No Spring Game (Stadium Renovations)

Kentucky

Texas A&M

Already Played It, Boss (March 21st)

Vanderbilt Black (Defense) 38, Gold (Offense) 24 FINAL