Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring fever (the good kind)

Spring football is a lot like spring training -- it's great to finally get a look at everyone in uniform, but the results don't mean a whole hell of a lot.

That said, it's all we've got until fall, so let's take a look around at some notable situations and see where things stand.

* While most of the talk regarding the USC quarterback battle has revolved around Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain and stud freshman Matt Barkley, the man working exclusively with the first team in the Trojans' spring game was sophomore Aaron Corp. And while Mustain and Barkley both struggled, Corp finished a solid 8-for-13 for 70 yards. Unless Pete Carroll's comments AND actions are to be considered a smokescreen, it appears that the little-known Corp will be running the show. As for the linebacking corps ... well, it'll be inexperienced. Chris Galippo, supposedly the next big thing in the middle, is out for the spring with mono but is still expected to start between former backups Michael Morgan and Malcolm Smith.

* It would be safe to assume that Texas Tech's defense will have to improve this season for the Red Raiders to come close to duplicating last year's success, considering that both Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree have departed. That's going to be just a bit more difficult, though, with the news that defensive end McKinner Dixon, who led the team with nine sacks last season, has been suspended indefinitely for his academic performance. This is nothing new for Dixon, who flunked out of school during his freshman year in 2005 only to return after a year at a community college, but Mike Leach apparently decided that he'd seen enough. He didn't completely close the door on a possible return, but it doesn't appear likely.

* Arizona State freshman Jack Elway (yes, that one) has decided to quit football but will continue his academic career at ASU. Elway was involved in a five-way battle to replace Rudy Carpenter this spring, but was considered a longshot to beat out last year's backup, Danny Sullivan. It appears that Sullivan has a fairly firm grasp on the starting job heading into the sun Devils' spring game this weekend.

* I briefly mentioned this in my post(s) on Greg Paulus, but Tate Forcier put on a show in Michigan's spring game by going 11-of-14 with four passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and no interceptions. Barring an injury or some other unexpected development, Forcier will start the Wolverines' opener against Western Michigan.

* No one thought it'd be easy for Georgia to replace both Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno in the backfield, but the offensive performance in the Bulldogs' spring game still couldn't have been what fans were hoping for. Joe Cox struggled but is still the front-runner to start at QB in the fall, while Moreno's heir apparent, Caleb King, is competing with microscopic redshirt freshman Carlton Thomas and sophomore Richard Samuel (currently out with a wrist injury). Mark Richt said he expects that battle to last into the season.

* Freshman QB Russell Shepard has been unstoppable on the ground in LSU's spring practices, but sophomore Jordan Jefferson still has a firm grasp on the starting job. Les Miles has also been giving Shepard snaps at receiver in an effort to get him on the field, but it's unclear whether he'll play there regularly if he doesn't beat out Jefferson.

* Alabama has some serious rebuilding to do on offense, but junior Greg McElroy is solidifying at least one spot by running away from dual-threat freshman Star Jackson in the QB competition. Sophomore Mark Ingram looks have a slight lead on Terry Grant and Roy Upchurch at running back, but five-star recruit Trent Richardson could change things quickly when he arrives in the fall. The offensive line is still a work in progress, with several players trying out at various spots in an attempt to fill three vacated positions. Regardless of how many five-star recruits Nick Saban has compiled, it's gonna take some time for the Tide offense to jell.

* Ohio State running back Boom Herron (nickname required in order to replace Beanie Wells), who filled in last year while Wells was injured, appears likely to start while sharing carries with speedster Brandon Saine. With the way the Buckeyes' offense struggled last year in Wells' absence -- and with the loss of top receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline -- Terrelle Pryor will have to carry an extremely heavy load for OSU to make a run at another national title game.

* Florida's spring scrimmage has essentially turned into a JV game, as the Gators are holding out numerous starters -- including defensive end Carlos Dunlap, running back Emmanuel Moody and linemen Maurkice and Mike Pouncey -- with injuries. Nothing appears too serious, and for a team that will almost certainly open the season at No. 1 in both polls, there's little reason to risk further damage.

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