SEC West spring football preview

March 2, 2010 

Alabama

PRACTICE STARTS: March 12

SPRING GAME: April 17

KEY LOSSES: LB Rolando McClain, DL Terrence Cody, CB Javier Arenas, K Leigh Tiffin

KEEP AN EYE ON: How loaded was Alabama last season? The Crimson Tide's entire defensive line and three members of their secondary were in Indianapolis for the NFL combine. But shed no tears for Nick Saban, who returns Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, quarterback Greg McElroy and a slew of young talent from three top-five recruiting classes. The Tide have a shot at becoming the first school to win back-to-back national championships since Nebraska in 1994-95.

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Arkansas

PRACTICE STARTS: March 30

SPRING GAME: April 24

KEY LOSSES: RB Michael Smith, G Mitch Petrus, DT Malcolm Sheppard

KEEP AN EYE ON: Quick - name the Razorbacks' backup quarterback. Don't know? Well, fans will have 15 practices to get familiar with Tyler Wilson, who gets the call after Ryan Mallett broke a bone in his left foot. The Hogs hope that will be the last they see of Wilson in 2010 as Mallett, the SEC's leading passer in '09, hooks up with a potent group of receivers that includes tight end D.J. Williams.

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Auburn

PRACTICE STARTS: March 22

SPRING GAME: April 17

KEY LOSSES: QB Chris Todd, RB Ben Tate, DE Antonio Coleman

KEEP AN EYE ON: Auburn's hard-fought loss in the Iron Bowl was tempered a couple of weeks later when junior-college quarterback Cameron Newton announced he was coming to the Plains. The 6-foot-6, 247-pound Newton is built like JaMarcus Russell and has the dual-threat skills that should fit nicely in Gus Malzahn's spread offense. Redshirt freshman Tyrik Rollison and senior Neil Caudle also are in the running, but Newton is expected to emerge from spring drills as the starter.

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LSU

PRACTICE STARTS: Today SPRING GAME: March 27

KEY LOSSES: DE Rahim Alem, FS Chad Jones, T Ciron Black, RB Charles Scott

KEEP AN EYE ON: The Tigers got an early jump on spring practice, which Les Miles promised would feature new drills to emphasize toughness and improve a rushing attack that was LSU's worst in a decade. The Tigers' 1,576 rushing yards were almost half their total from their 2007 national championship season. Though Scott and Keiland Williams are gone, Miles believes Stevan Ridley could be the spark in the backfield. That would help take pressure off quarterback Jordan Jefferson after LSU allowed 37 sacks in '09.

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Mississippi

PRACTICE STARTS: March 27

SPRING GAME: April 17

KEY LOSSES: QB Jevan Snead, RB Dexter McCluster, WR Shay Hodge, DE Greg Hardy

KEEP AN EYE ON: After winning the Cotton Bowl in Houston Nutt's first two seasons in Oxford, the Rebels are in rebuilding mode. Snead surprised some by leaving early for the NFL draft, and there is no clear-cut successor. Nutt will look at sophomore Nathan Stanley and redshirt freshman Raymond Cotton this spring, although junior-college transfer Randall Mackey could get in the mix when he shows up this summer.

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Mississippi State

PRACTICE STARTS: March 23

SPRING GAME: April 17

KEY LOSSES: RB Anthony Dixon, QB Tyson Lee, LB Jamar Chaney

KEEP AN EYE ON: While the Bulldogs must replace career rushing leader Anthony Dixon, their biggest worries are on defense. Dan Mullen hired co-coordinators Manny Diaz from Middle Tennessee and Oklahoma's Chris Wilson to overhaul a unit that was next to last in the SEC in total defense and points allowed. Diaz, a former N.C. State assistant, was known for his aggressive schemes at Middle Tennessee, which led the Sun Belt in sacks and tackles for loss twice in his four seasons.

- Compiled by Joseph Person

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