Alabama's Richardson and Shelley celebrate after they defeated LSU in the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in New Orleans

SEC spring storylines


Six straight BCS championships later, the SEC is undeniably the king’s conference of college football. There’s just one problem: the SEC’s vice grip on the BCS championship is going to end.


Captain obvious, I know, but it’s just not wise to be picking against the SEC these days — especially the SEC West, which is home to the last three national champs and could very well make a run for its fourth in 2012. Alabama, Arkansas and LSU will all be in the limelight again as Top 10 teams.

Where the SEC needs some help is the overall depth of the conference, specifically in the East division. When traditional powers are good, the perception of the conference rises, and no team needs to elevate their game like Tennessee. The Vols are in a horrible slump and if Derek Dooley doesn’t turn it around soon, the heat beneath his coaching seat will be rising fast.

But there’s a lot to look forward to this spring in the SEC, including the new additions of Missouri and Texas A&M. Here’s what we’re watching:

The newbies 
Duh. The latest round of conference realignment started at the end of last summer when Texas A&M “resurrected its courtship” with the SEC, which resulted in the Aggies and Missouri joining as the conference’s 13th and 14th members. But now it’s about to get real. Can the former Big 12 members succeed in the SEC? It’ll be a tougher road for A&M right away; the Aggies are breaking in a new coach in Kevin Sumlin and replacing some key starters in what will undoubtedly be the toughest division — again — in college football. Missouri is a foreigner, a Midwest school going to places like Columbia and Gainesville. As spring practices commence, folks in SEC country are going to have a lot of interest in how Mizzou and A&M look.

Memo to the SEC East: let’s be a little more competitive, okay?
The SEC East posted a 6-13 record against the West last season, with half of those wins coming from East division champ Georgia. Granted, the West was top-heavy, housing three of the best five or six teams in college football and the bottom of the East was atrocious. But the last time the SEC East did anything significant was Florida’s 2008-09 BCS championship run. It’s uncertain if the East will improve this year, but it has the potential. Georgia and South Carolina will, again, be getting the preseason pub, but Florida, Vanderbilt — yes, the Commodores — and Missouri can all be considered in that next tier mix. Of course, everybody comes out of spring feeling pretty optimistic, but we’ll be watching to see if any team actually looks like they can challenge the West for the SEC crown — as tough as that may be to gauge.

Arkansas “offensive” O-line 
The Razorbacks managed to net just under 1,800 yards on the ground last season without Knile Davis, who sat out 2011 because of an ankle injury. Not bad for a group run by committee through an offensive line that had its fair share of struggles. Also, the fact that quarterback Tyler Wilson isn’t currently in iron lung after the shots he took last season is a feat within itself. If Arkansas is going to stay par for the course with their offensive production, they need Wilson to stay healthy, which means the O-line has to do a better job of protecting him while providing plenty of holes for the returning Davis. O-line improvement is a must for the Hogs this spring.

Copied and pasted from last year: Alabama, LSU favorites again 
Anyone ready for round two? Or, I guess, round three, maybe four? Months after meeting in the BCS championship game, all eyes will be on the defending national champion, Alabama, and the team that beat the Tide during the regular season but eventually lost when it matter most, LSU. Both lose a ton of talent to the NFL, especially on defense, but there always seems to be plenty of able and willing replacements to step in to starting roles. The quarterback situation for the Tide and Tigers is interesting, too. AJ McCarron showed remarkable improvement in the BCS championship and may be more than a “game manager” for Bama in 2012, and Georgia transfer Zach Mettenberger appears to be the favorite to lead LSU out of its quarterback slump.

Doo(ley) or Die time in Knoxville?
It’s sort of wild to think that Derek Dooley could be out after three years at Tennessee if he doesn’t turn it around and fast, but that seems to be the feeling as the Vols enter spring practice. After a decent inaugural year for Dooley that included a Music City bowl appearance, things took a turn for the worse last season when Tennessee went 5-7, finished last in the SEC East and lost to Kentucky. Woof. The Vols are filled with young talent, not to mention plenty of new coaches, but things haven’t completely come together yet. It’s a shame, too. Dooley’s a likeable (and quotable) coach, but mercy isn’t exactly at the front of everyone’s minds in Knoxville. Plus, there’s a new athletic director in town… who didn’t hire Dooley. It’s time to impress.

Report: Maryland plan to fire Randy Edsall following Ohio State game

COLLEGE PARK, MD - OCTOBER 03:  Head coach Randy Edsall of the Maryland Terrapins looks on from the sidelines during the second half of their 28-0 loss to the Michigan Wolverines at Byrd Stadium on October 3, 2015 in College Park, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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If one report is accurate, this weekend’s game against Ohio State will be Randy Edsall‘s last at Maryland.

Citing multiple sources close to the situation, the website is reporting that Edsall “is unlikely to survive as Maryland’s football coach” beyond this Saturday’s game against OSU.  The site writes that, “[b]arring an unexpected last-minute reversal, Maryland will part ways with Edsall when the floundering Terps enter their mid-season bye week.”

Just this past June, Edsall was on the receiving end of a three-year contract extension from the school as the Terps were coming off a 7-6 campaign in their first season in the Big Ten. This year, however, they’re gotten off to a 2-3 start, including losses the past two games to West Virginia and Michigan by a combined score of 73-6.

Edsall is in the midst of his fifth season in College Park, and the overall results have been decidedly disappointing. Under Edsall’s direction, the Terps have gone 22-33 overall and 10-23 in conference play (6-18 in ACC, 4-5 in Big Ten). Edsall is 0-11 vs. ranked teams in that span.

This is far from the first time Edsall has been rumored to be on the hot seat, but this is by far the closest he’s come to the coaching gallows.

As for the financial ramifications of a dismissal? That new deal signed earlier this year ensured that the hit the school would absorb would be, relatively speaking, mild. From the report:

Edsall’s contract was extended for three years in June — a move aimed at stabilizing his public standing, especially with high school recruits — but just $500,000 of the $7.5 million was guaranteed money; by firing Edsall before his original deal ends Jan. 15, 2017, the school will have to pay him for the remainder of this season and an additional $2.6 million: $2.1 million for next year’s salary and that half-million buyout.

High-ankle sprain and all, SDSU RB D.J. Pumphrey will travel with team

CHAPEL HILL, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Donnel Pumphrey #19 of the San Diego State Aztecs celebrates following a 12-yard touchdown during their game against the North Carolina Tar Heels on September 6, 2014 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
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What’s known is that D.J. Pumphrey will be with his teammates this weekend. What’s unknown is if he’ll join them on the field.

The star San Diego State running back sustained a high-ankle sprain in the Week 5 win over Fresno State. Originally, he was expected to be out for a period of 2-4 weeks.

However, it appears the injury isn’t as bad as originally thought as Pumphrey will travel with the team to Saturday’s game against Hawaii. Pumphrey even took nearly two dozen snaps with the scout team during Wednesday’s practice.

He is expected to be a game-time decision for the Mountain West game.

“He says he’s about 90 percent. That’s his estimation,” head coach Rocky Long said. “If he goes and does another 25 reps [with the scout team Thursday], then he will be cleared to play. So he will be with us in Hawaii. Whether he plays or not has yet to be determined. I assume he will be cleared to play tomorrow.”

However, even if he’s cleared, it’ll be up to Long and his offensive coordinator, Jeff Horton, to decide whether he plays.

Pumphrey currently leads the Aztecs with 429 yards rushing and has scored all four of SDSU’s rushing touchdowns. Last season, he finished fourth nationally with 1,867 yards, while his 20 touchdowns on the ground were ninth.