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SEC Spring Practice Dates/Outlook

brett-bielemaTennessee is still weeks away from the start of spring practice (March 24), but Vanderbilt is right in the middle of it while Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Kentucky and LSU all either have started or will start this week.

Here’s a the complete schedule and a big question question we have for each team:

Start: Feb. 16
Spring Game: March 21
The big question: Coach Derek Mason has gone on record saying that, if given two years, he can figure this out. After last year’s three-win disaster, can Mason get the Commodores back on track or is his tenure going to be a short one in Nashville? He’s taking control of the defense in 2015, but unless there’s consistent play from the quarterback position, it may not matter.

Texas A&M
Start: March 2
Spring Game: None (stadium renovations)
The big question: The Aggies have regularly put up a lot of points under head coach Kevin Sumlin, but will new defensive coordinator John Chavis make them more formidable on that side of the ball? Since the Aggies don’t have too much further to fall in the SEC defensive ranks after last year, the best guess is yes. Chavis has some good young building blocks such as defensive end Myles Garrett, defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson and defensive back Otaro Alaka.

Ole Miss
Start: March 3
Spring Game: April 11
The big question: Will Ole Miss be a perennial contender? The Rebels turned a lot of heads in 2014, winning their first seven games to launch into title contention. Injuries slowed their progress at the end of the year, but Ole Miss clearly has to be thrown into the SEC West conversation right now with the way that Hugh Freeze has upped the talent on the roster.

Start: March 7
Spring Game: April 18
The big question: What will the defense look like under new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele? It was pretty much a constant strength under John Chavis, but The Chief has moved on to Texas A&M and LSU will need to reload a defense that, while returning eight starters, will have to replace a fair amount of NFL-bound talent such as linebacker Kwon Alexander, cornerback Jalen Collins and defensive end Danielle Hunter.

Start: March 7
Spring Game: N/A
The big question: Can Mark Stoops get the Wildcats back to the postseason? The Wildcats certainly are paying him like he’ll be able to with a contract that is scheduled to escalate to over $4 million per year in a few seasons. He has the quarterback in Patrick Towles to do it. He has some good young talent on defense, but he’ll have to replace Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith on defense.

Start: March 10
Spring Game: April 18
The big question: Can Will Muschamp fix Auburn’s struggling defense? The failed Florida head coach returns to his roots as a defensive coordinator with the task of trying to fix one of the worst defenses in the SEC from 2014. The Tigers have some pieces to replace on offense as well, but it’s a good bet that Gus Malzahn will be able to do that. If it all meshes, Auburn could be dangerous in 2015.

Start: March 10
Spring Game: April 18
The big question: Can the Tigers keep reloading on the defensive line? Replacing Michael Sam and Kony Ealy in 2014 went off without a hitch with Shane Ray and Markus Golden picking up right where they left off. Can Missouri do it again? Charles Harris is a name to watch at end this spring.

Nick Saban-1Alabama
Start: March 13
Spring Game: April 18
The big question: Who will the quarterback be? Blake Sims, somewhat unexpectedly, did a nice job of filling in last season, but he moves on after just one season at the helm. Alabama isn’t short on talented options. But it will need somebody like FSU transfer Jake Coker or five-star recruit Blake Barnett to step up and take command of the offense under Lane Kiffin.

Start: March 16
Spring Game: April 25
The big question: Was the end of last year a sign of things to come? Just when it seemed Bret Bielema was never going to win an SEC game, Big 10 Bret started rolling over opponents at the end of the year, winning three of his last four, including wins over Texas, LSU and Ole Miss by a combined total of 78-7. Much of his talent is coming back, including a stacked offensive line and stud running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams.

Start: March 16
Spring Game: April 11
The big question: Can the offense get going under new coach Jim McElwain? Defense was never the problem under Muchamp, but the offense was never consistent. McElwain, the former offensive coordinator at Alabama and head coach at Colorado State, was brought in to fix that. He’ll first need to find a quarterback he can rely on and then build from there.

South Carolina Justin Coleman-1
Start: March 17
Spring Game: April 11
The big question: Can the Ol’ Ball Coach get South Carolina back in contention in the East? After 11 wins per season the previous three years, the Gamecocks came back to reality a bit in 2014 with a 7-6 campaign. SC will have to find a replacement for quarterback Dylan Thompson and running back Mike Davis, but in what should be a fairly open SEC East, it’s hard to rule anything out.

Start: March 17
Spring Game: April 11
The big question: Can the passing game develop enough to take pressure off Nick Chubb and the rushing attack? The Bulldogs’ backfield is loaded, but without some kind of passing game to keep defenses honest, UGA probably can’t be a championship team. Brice Ramsey is the favorite at quarterback going into spring, but there will be some open competition there.

Mississippi State
Start: March 18
Spring Game: April 18
The big question: Can Dak Prescott carry the team in 2015? Nobody in the SEC loses more starters overall than MSU. But, arguably, the Bulldogs also bring back the most important piece in the SEC in Prescott, who will be on early Heisman lists heading into 2015. At times in 2014, he looked like one of the best players in the nation, and the Bulldogs will need that type of effort from him if they’re going to contend in the West again.

Start: March 24Coleman Thomas Jashon Robertson
Spring Game: April 25
The big question: Can the offensive line take the next step? The Vols, especially early, had one of the worst offensive lines in the SEC and possibly the nation in 2014. Seven players with starting experience return and developing options such as Dontavius Blair, Brett Kendrick and newcomers Drew Richmond and Jack Jones give the Vols hope that this unit can become more serviceable in 2015. A lot of the other pieces are in place if the O-line can step up.


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