Who are the prime candidates to replace the famous/infamous JFF?
Two guys: Kyle Allen and Kenny Hill. Allen is the top-rated QB recruit out of Arizona who enrolled early this Spring, and Hill is the sophomore with a year of the system under his belt. Both are great QBs: Allen is more of a pro-style guy and Hill has some of Manziel's escapability, but knowing Sumlin, he will not be naming his guy until the last minute. We'll be reading a lot about this position battle in August.
How do you envision the offense adjusting without Manziel's unique skill set?
Hopefully by RUNNING THE BALL. We have one of the best offensive lines in the country with four starters returning and some pretty good players battling it out for the fifth spot, plus a solid stable of backs. Tra Carson and Trey Williams give the classic 1-2 punch of a bruiser and a shifty runner, and Brandon Williams is another guy with great speed and receiving skills out of the backfield. Redshirt Freshman James White also reportedly had a great spring. This should enable us to work tight end Cam Clear into the passing game more as we saw in the Chik-fil-A Bowl under Jake Spavital, who is now the sole playcaller on offense.
I would say "the defense can't get worse, right?" but losing Darian Claiborne and Isaiah Golden had to hurt. How concerned are you about this unit after a pretty brutal season?
Very. Claiborne and Golden were both important cogs in the defense. But I think we will see at worst a similar defense and probably a slight improvement over last year just because we had so much youth getting vital playing time in 2013. Playing sophomores with game experience is usually better than sending true freshmen out there, though we still won't have a top-tier SEC defense quite yet. Sophomore Jordan Mastrogiovanni has locked up the middle backer position, we should be able to have a decent rotation on the defensive line, and we've heard that new secondary coach Terry Joseph has been making good strides with the safeties. Our corners are the strength of the defense as DeVante Harris and Deshazor Everett will start together for the third straight year. It might take this unit a few games to find an identity, and facing South Carolina in week one is not going to be easy.
What is the overall mood surrounding the program right now with a the prospect of something of a transitional year coming up?
The mood surrounding the program overall is very upbeat, although the expectations for 2014 are generally tempered a bit. We've got stadium upgrades in the works and recruiting is going very well. Most fans realize that it's probably not the year we make a run at the SEC and would settle for another 8-win season, considering who we've lost from last year.