Our annual Spring Football Tour is over and, as always, the notebook is full of stuff that will never see the light of day if I don't share it. So, in that spirit, here are Five Things We Learned about the SEC this Spring:
Don't block Jadeveon ClowneyYou'll just make him mad. Everybody remembers the monster hit that the South Carolina defensive end put on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl. But this spring Gamecocks' defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward told me the story behind the story.
You'll recall that the play before the big hit, the officials mistakenly gave Michigan a first down despite a measurement that was clearly short.
"Our bench went crazy and Jadeveon came up to me and said 'Coach! They are cheating! They are cheating!,'" Ward said. "He was mad."
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Ward decided that it would be a good idea to channel that anger. So on the next play he decided to turn Clowney loose and send him straight for the ball.
"When Jadeveon doesn't want to be blocked," Ward said. "He can't be blocked."
Want to pull for someone? Try Auburn's Prosch
Jay Prosch has had a tough journey to get to his senior season at Auburn. A native of Mobile, Ala., he started his career at Illinois. After two seasons in the Big Ten, Prosch requested and was granted a transfer in order to be closer to his mother, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer in 2011. The NCAA granted him immediate eligibility to play for Auburn in 2012.
Iris Prosch died on Sept. 3, the Monday after Auburn's opener with Clemson in Atlanta. Auburn lost that game and went on to finish 3-9, 0-8 in the SEC.
"It's been tough," said Prosch, an impressive physical specimen at 6-0, 255. "Last year was the worst experience I've had playing football. But I think everybody learned from it."
The return of Gus Malzahn as head coach is going to be big for Prosch, who will find his niche as a fullback/H-back in a run-first offense. "He's a physical guy and has better hands than you think," Malzahn said. "That is a critical position for our offense."
A video feature on Prosch and his mom done by The Big Ten Network will tug at your heart, particularly when you realize that last Sunday was Prosch's first Mother's Day without his mom.
Mosely's deflection vs. UGA among Bama's top plays
Alabama has a long list of unforgettable plays in its football history. Here are three:
• Van Tiffin's 52-yard field goal to beat Auburn in 1985.
• Barry Krauss's goal line tackle of Penn State's Mike Guman in the 1979 Sugar Bowl.
• Kenny Stabler's 53-yard run in the mud to beat Auburn 7-3 in 1967.
Somewhere on the list there should be a place for C.J. Mosley's defensive play on the last snap against Georgia in last season's SEC Championship game.
Trailing 32-28, Georgia put on a torrid drive in the final seconds. A 26-yard completion to tight end Arthur Lynch moved the ball to the Alabama 8-yard line. Out of timeouts, Georgia decided to run a play instead of spike the ball. Murray called for a fade pattern into the end zone for Malcolm Mitchell.
Mosley pressured from the outside and battered the ball in the air. Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley caught the ball on the 5-yard line and time ran out.
It's fair to say that play decided the national championship because in January that same Alabama team would easily dispatch Notre Dame in the BCS title game.
"It was just a normal red zone call for us," said Mosley, a rising senior from Theodore, Ala. "The truth is my job was to cover the running back man-to-man. But when Murray threw it I just jumped as high as I could. I thought I had my whole hand on it.
"When I saw the Georgia guy catch the ball I knew the game was over. I couldn't believe it."
Keep an eye on Florida's Purifoy
Loucheiz Purifoy, a rising junior from Pensacola, is Florida's best cover corner. But Purifoy spent the first seven practices in the spring at wide receiver.
"I wanted to put some pressure on our receiving corps because we need to step it up at that position," said head coach Will Muschamp. Florida signed five wide receivers last February and the hope is that one or two of them will give the Gators' the big-play component that they have been lacking at that position. Demarcus Robinson enrolled early and took part in spring practice. He is expected to be a star.
But if the freshmen don't come through this season then Muschamp may lean on Purifoy to go both ways. Florida has gone three straight seasons without a 50-catch wide receiver.
Purifoy will work the first 14 practices at corner in August. Then a decision will be made on how much to use him a wide receiver.
"He has a unique skill set," Muschamp said of Purifoy. "He is very good with the ball in his hands. He has the 'it' factor."
Purifoy losing snaps on defense would be a pretty big concession for Muschamp, the former defensive coordinator.
"He is a really good cover corner," Muschamp said.
Georgia's Gurley, Marshall just getting started
Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall were the best two running backs in the state of North Carolina when they both signed at Georgia in 2012. Marshall, from Raleigh, enrolled early and went to spring practice. Gurley, from the eastern part of the state in Tarboro, arrived last summer.
"We kind of knew what we had in Marshall, because he went through the spring with us," Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "But I didn't do a home visit with Todd. I only knew him by watching film and by reputation."
On the first day that Gurley showed up wearing pads, any concerns the Georgia coaches had about their running game were put to rest.
"I was a little concerned when he fumbled the ball early in practice but then he started bouncing off guys and I'm going 'Wow!'" Bobo said.
Head coach Mark Richt agrees: "It didn't take long to learn that Todd was special."
Gurley's 1,385 yards in 2012 was second only to Herschel Walker's 1,616 in 1980 for rushing yards as a true freshman at Georgia. Marshall added 759 yards.
They combined for 2,144 yards on 339 carries (6.3 yards per carry) and 25 TDs.
"We had no idea that they could do what they did," Bobo said.
Now the two will run behind a veteran offensive line with a quarterback (Aaron Murray) who could become the SEC's all-time leading passer.