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Arkansas pushes SEC spring game attendance past 500,000

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The Arkansas Razorbacks were the last of the SEC teams to wrap up their spring football practice schedule this weekend. That meant the hogs had a chance to push the SEC’s nation-leading spring game attendance number past the 500,000 mark with a solid turnout for the spring game. Arkansas reported a spring attendance of 30,546 on Saturday, which took the SEC’s spring attendance figure to 508,994 to cap the spring.

Georgia led all SEC schools with a packed house of 93,000 for its spring game, which featured a concert by Ludacris for the fans (and recruits, definitely for the recruits). Georgia dethroned Alabama from the top spot, where the Crimson Tide had been the previous two years, but Alabama did record its highest spring attendance in that time frame with 76,212 fans coming out to see the defending national champions in action. Tennessee, a perennial strong spring draw, reported a crowd of 67,027.

Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and South Carolina all saw an increase in spring game attendance this year (Kentucky and Texas A&M also recorded attendance figures after not holding spring games in 2015). These five schools combined for an increase of 96,569 fans this spring. That helped counter a downward attendance trend at Auburn and some other mild drops around the conference. Ole Miss did not hold a spring game due to stadium renovations.

The SEC’s total attendance number easily outpaced the number pulled in by the Big Ten, which finished in a firm second place in spring game attendance this season after edging the SEC last spring. The Big Ten’s total spring attendance of 376,049 was pushed by Ohio State’s record-setting 100,189 fans for the Buckeyes’ spring game, which was complimented by the usual respectable crowds at Nebraska and Penn State as well as a program record turnout for Michigan State. The Big Ten’s spring attendance eclipsed the 400,000-fan mark last spring but failed to hit that number this season. Part of that is because Michigan saw a drop-off in the second spring game under Jim Harbaugh by moving from a traditional Saturday afternoon to a Friday night (25,000 fewer fans than 2015) and four Big Ten schools (Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota and Northwestern) not reporting a spring attendance compared to three last year.

The SEC saw a reported 482,762 fans attend spring games in 2014, which was impressive enough considering Texas A&M was unable to hold a spring game due to ongoing renovations to Kyle Field. The SEC’s official attendance number dipped to 408, 566, which again was held back by Texas A&M being unable to hold a spring game due to the renovation project but also because Kentucky did not hold a spring game.

The ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 still have spring attendance numbers to confirm, but there is no chance any of the other three power conferences will come close to rivaling the SEC or the Big Ten. The ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 are all projected to fall under 200,000 fans this spring, although the ACC may come the closest depending on pending results from this past weekend that have yet to be confirmed.

You can see an updated database of spring game attendance on this Google doc, which is updated periodically.

Georgia OL signee D’Antne Demery arrested for allegedly choking girlfriend

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Georgia offensive line signee D’Antne Demery was arrested Saturday night in Athens for allegedly battering his girlfriend.

In the hours after Georgia’s G-Day spring game, officers were called to an Athens Waffle House where witnesses saw Demery place hands on a woman. Police arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, and tracked the victim down at a different establishment.

The Macon Telegraph obtained the police’s account of the incident:

“Upon arrival, both individuals had left the area. Moments later, the victim called 911; advising that she wished to press charges against D’Antne Demery for hitting her. Contact was made with the victim in front of Boars Head (sic). She stated that she and Demery got into an argument; he began to get loud, she started to walk off, he told her ‘walk off again, and Imma show you’. She began to walk away again, at which point, Demery came from behind her; grabbing her on the back of her neck; pushing her against the wall, and also grabbing her by the hair.”

After the first assault, Demery again attacked the victim:

“able to reconnect with the victim, in which he threw her; causing her glasses to fall off, and her phone fell out of her hand; causing it to hit the ground which resulted in a crack to the screen.”

Demery admitted to placing his hands on the woman, and the victim said this wasn’t the first time he had been violent with her. The couple shares a 1-year-old child.

Demery was booked into the Clarke County Jail at 10:52 p.m. Saturday night, where he remains at press time on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass and simple battery.

Demery was a consensus 4-star recruit hailing from Brunswick, Ga. Kirby Smart has not offered comment on the arrest as of press time.

QB controversy in Tuscaloosa? Freshman Tua Tagovailoa impresses at Alabama spring game

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Alabama’s annual A-Day spring game took place at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday and those tuning in to the Crimson team’s last minute 27-24 win over the White team had to be especially impressed with the Tide’s explosive offense under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In particular that comes at the quarterback position, where there might be more of a controversy at the spot than first thought. Incumbent Jalen Hurts was very sharp on his downfield passes but his strong outing (301 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) was overshadowed by true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who simply stole the show down in Tuscaloosa.

The early enrollee signal-caller from Hawaii jumped onto the scene in the first half of the game and wound up completing 17 passes for 313 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while working with both the first- and second-team offenses. You could normally dismiss numbers put up against a team’s second-string defense, this is Alabama we’re talking about so you know it’s coming against numerous future All-SEC players.

Tagovailoa did throw a pick-six in the second quarter but that was mostly because linebacker Terrell Hall made an unbelievable play on a swing pass to snatch the ball out of the air and run it all the way back to the opposite end zone. Freshman tailback Najee Harris (70 yards rushing) as well as stud wide receivers Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster and Jerry Jeudy (134 yards, two scores) also stood out on Saturday.

In all, offense ruled the day as the two quarterbacks combined for over 600 yards through the air. That probably won’t make reviewing film with Nick Saban all that pleasant for members of the secondary next week but was probably good news to most fans after lackluster performances down the stretch to end last season.

Either way, everybody should probably start brushing up on how to pronounce Tagovailoa even if he doesn’t ultimately unseat Hurts as the starter because the young QB has lived up to the early billing by recruiting analysts.

Baylor freshman tailback Abram Smith out for the season with spring ACL tear

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Baylor kicked off the first spring game of the Matt Rhule era on Saturday and wrapped things up with a 65-39 Gold team victory over the Green squad that included a pretty impressive touchdown catch from former basketball player Ish Wainright.

The news wasn’t all rosy in Waco however as after the game Rhule announced that freshman running back Abram Smith would be lost for the 2017 season after suffering an ACL tear in the Bears’ first spring practice.

Smith wasn’t being counted on as being a starter this season but his loss is a fairly big blow to the team’s depth at the position. Returnees JaMycal Hasty and Terence Williams already missed parts of the spring game due to injuries on Saturday, leaving just senior Wyatt Schrepfer to take most of the carries late in the contest.

All three figure to be good to go by the time fall camp rolls around but there’s not much behind them with Smith being lost for the year. A three-star recruit coming out of high school, the early enrollee likely would have seen some snaps in 2017 but will instead have to spend it redshirting on the bench.

Brian Kelly takes the blame for Notre Dame’s struggles last season

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Notre Dame wrapped up spring football with the Irish’s annual spring game on NBC Sports Network on Saturday afternoon in South Bend and front and center was not surprisingly head coach Brian Kelly.

While fans of the team were probably most interested in how quarterback Brandon Wimbush looked, Kelly did go into detail about what the offseason has been like after last year’s disappointing 4-8 campaign. While the coach has been known to be a bit defensive when it comes to the team’s struggles, he did open up during a sit-down interview and was transparent in taking the blame for the way 2016 went.

“When you have a losing season, you have to look at yourself first,” Kelly told NBC Sports’ Jac Collinsworth. “I’ve always felt like there isn’t a bad football team but there is bad leadership and I don’t think I provided the kind of leadership (last year). It starts with yourself.”

Kelly goes on to discuss the significant changes to the Irish coaching staff, how this team is very much a work in progress and how Wimbush is handling taking over as the starting signal-caller.

The Gold team ended up winning the spring game 27-14 over the Blue team behind a strong defensive performance. If Saturday’s outing was any indication, Notre Dame should be much improved this upcoming season and that seems to start from the top on down.