Each year at this time, the college football world becomes obsessed with what occurred during the spring games. Fans need to relax and be patient, as getting too caught up in the hype of a scrimmage can lead to massive heartbreak in September. Two SEC teams in particular have received huge boosts from spring scrimmages as they head into the 2013 season.
The first of these teams is Texas A&M. The Aggies closed out the 2012 season ranked in the top five and were the only team to defeat national champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Quarterback Johnny Manziel even won the Heisman Trophy for the stellar season he had. However, the Aggies lost several key components of an offense that moved the ball better than anyone last year, and many question how the offense will adjust in 2013.
A&M, to the average observer, looked impressive on offense during its spring game. Manziel made several sharp throws, the offensive line provided great protection for the quarterback and the receivers made several plays as the first-team offense had few problems advancing the ball.
The reason that this performance must not be taken for more than it is, a glorified practice, is very simple. Aside from the offense looking so good against the defensive backups, the defense does not show intensity in this, or any spring game. Quarterbacks are not allowed to be hit, the offensive talent outmatches the defensive talent and defensive players do not play how they would in regular-season games.
Manziel, in this case, was given as much time as he needed to make throws. With the offensive line going against the second-string defensive front, there should be absolutely zero pressure on the quarterback. In the case that a block is missed, however, the defensive player is not allowed to hit the quarterback. This allows the offensive line to play free and not have to worry about picking up blitzes or missing blocks, as they will not result in a potential injury to the quarterback. Understandably, the offensive line is trying to do their job to the best of its ability, but with a mental and physical advantage, there is no way the defense was going to disrupt anything the offense was trying to do.
Texas A&M may put together a good season, but they may not. The spring game must not be what fans or analysts use to determine the route a team’s season will take. Case in point is the next subject: Arkansas. The Razorbacks’ offense put up 70 points in the 2012 spring game, but only managed to score more than 27 points in just three games during the season (Jacksonville State, Louisiana-Monroe and Kentucky).
As for the Razorbacks’ 2013 spring game, there were many more questions that came up than answers. Sure, quarterback Brandon Allen turned in a solid performance and the defensive secondary looked much better than it did last season. However, the answer for the defense and quarterback position did not come in the game. Instead, several more questions arose in the answer’s absence.
Allen, who looked very good in the box score, displayed poor footwork and technique in the pocket. This is something that must improve once the season opens and he faces the best defenses in the nation. The other area of weakness the quarterback showed was against the blitz. Yes, the defense gave blitz looks, but Allen was in no danger of actually being hit. This did not help Allen keep his poise under pressure in the situations, though. This will be something to monitor early in the season, as the Razorbacks are sure to face a lot of pressure when they play the likes of Alabama and LSU.
As for the defensive secondary, it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for its success. This defense was the worst in the SEC against the pass a year ago, and now they are intercepting the Razorback quarterbacks like the best ball hawks in football. There is no way a unit can make that big of a jump in just five weeks of practice. The improvement of the secondary may actually be the result of bad quarterback play.
Razorbacks fans do not need to get too excited about the spring game results, as this season still looks to be dreadful. Bret Bielema has the team moving in the right direction, but a drastic turnaround over last year’s 4-8 record will not happen.