Articles By Steven Lassan

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Mike Riley was a surprise hire at Nebraska, and the former Oregon State coach enters his first spring practice in Lincoln with key personnel question marks to address. The Cornhuskers return 12 starters, including quarterback Tommy Armstrong and standout defensive tackle Maliek Collins, but receiver Kenny Bell and running back Ameer Abdullah must be replaced. On defense, Nebraska has room to improve after allowing 5.5 yards per play in Big Ten games last season.

 

5 Storylines to Watch in Nebraska’s Spring Practice

 

1. Tommy Armstrong’s Development

In his first full season as Nebraska’s starter, Armstrong threw for 2,695 yards and 22 scores. He also rushed for 705 yards and six touchdowns in 13 games. Armstrong showed progress throughout 2014, which included his first 300-yard performance (USC). Riley and coordinator Danny Langsdorf will adapt to their personnel, but it’s notable Oregon State ranked first or second in the Pac-12 in passing in 2012 and 2013. Armstrong should still have opportunities to run in 2015. However, the offense needs him to develop more as a passer.

 

2. Replacing Ameer Abdullah

Ameer Abdullah finished a standout career at Nebraska with his third consecutive 1,000-yard season. Nebraska isn’t hurting for options at running back to replace Abdullah’s production, but which player will emerge as the go-to back? Senior Imani Cross has the most experience, while Adam Taylor and Terrell Newby are two other capable backs for Langsdorf to use in 2015.

 

3. Rebuilt Offensive Line

Three starters – Jake Cotton, Mark Pelini and Mike Moudy – expired their eligibility after the Holiday Bowl. Despite the personnel losses, the Cornhuskers are in relatively good shape up front. Alex Lewis earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors last season and returns to anchor the left side at tackle. Zach Sterup started 10 games in 2014 and should start at right tackle. The interior spots are up for grabs and should be the focus of spring ball. There’s experience returning in the way of Paul Thurston, Zach Hannon, Chongo Kondolo, Ryne Reeves, Dylan Utter and Givens Price, while redshirt freshmen Nick Gates, Tanner Farmer and Jerald Foster are also expected to push for time and add quality depth to the trenches.

 

4. Replacing Randy Gregory at DE

The biggest question mark for new defensive coordinator Mark Banker is the defensive end position. Randy Gregory was the unit’s top player over the last two years and accounted for seven of the Cornhuskers’ 29 sacks in 2014. The line isn’t overflowing with proven depth, but Greg McMullen and Jack Gangwish are experienced and should anchor the starting spots. However, Banker needs to develop depth here this spring. Will Joe Keels emerge as a key contributor in his second year in Lincoln? Players like redshirt freshman Freedom Akinmoladun, A.J. Natter and Peyton Newell need to provide quality snaps in 2015.

 

5. Find the Right Mix in the Back Seven

Banker inherits a defense that ranked fourth nationally in pass efficiency defense last season but allowed 206.8 rushing yards in Big Ten contests. Gone from last season’s unit are linebackers Zaire Anderson and Trevor Roach, along with cornerback Josh Mitchell and safety Corey Cooper. How will Banker solidify the linebacking corps and secondary this spring? Michael Rose-Ivey is back after missing 2014 due to a knee injury and could step into a starting role. Banker has options, but he just needs to find the right mix.

 

Pre-Spring Outlook on Nebraska in the Big Ten:

 

Wisconsin is the early favorite in the Big Ten West Division in 2015. Can Nebraska close the gap this spring? The scheme transitions on both sides of the ball present a challenge for contention in the West, along with a schedule that features a crossover game against Michigan State and a road trip to Minnesota. Riley is a good coach that won a tough place (Oregon State). If the personnel blends with the new schemes, Nebraska has a chance to win nine games in 2015.

Teaser:
Nebraska Cornhuskers 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Monday, March 23, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Baylor Bears, College Football, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/baylors-410-pound-ol-laquan-mcgowan-catches-pass-spring-game
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Baylor’s LaQuan McGowan is a very large man. According to the school’s official roster, the Texas native is 6-foot-7 and 410 pounds.

 

In the Cotton Bowl loss to Michigan State, McGowan showed off his athleticism by catching an 18-yard pass for a score.

 

And here’s the best part of this story: The coaching staff plans to give him more snaps at tight end this year.

 

McGowan added to his highlight reel with a catch in Baylor’s spring showcase:  

 

 

Teaser:
Baylor's 410-Pound OL LaQuan McGowan Catches a Pass in Spring Game
Post date: Monday, March 23, 2015 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-2015-spring-football-preview
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Alabama enters 2015 with high expectations, as coach Nick Saban’s team has the best roster in college football and has won 10 games in seven consecutive seasons. Last year ended on a down note with a loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, but the Crimson Tide figure to be back in the playoff mix once again. With plenty of victories on the recruiting trail over the last few years, the roster has a wealth of talent at every position. This spring is all about settling on a quarterback, reloading at receiver and addressing a few holes in the secondary.

 

5 Storylines to Watch in Alabama’s Spring Practice

 

1. Jake Coker’s Job to Lose?

After transferring from Florida State last offseason, Jake Coker was expected to win the starting quarterback job over Blake Sims. However, Sims started all 14 games, and Coker threw only 59 passes in relief duty. Sims expired his eligibility, which means it’s Coker’s job to lose this spring. He will be pushed by talented freshmen Blake Barnett and David Cornwell, along with Cooper Bateman and Alec Morris. Will Coker claim the job this spring? Or will the battle extend into the fall?

 

2. New Options at Receiver

Amari Cooper was the best receiver in college football last season, and he caught 124 of Alabama’s 290 pass attempts in 2014. Not only does coordinator Lane Kiffin have to replace Cooper, but Christion Jones (19 catches) and DeAndrew White (40) also depart. This spring is all about finding the next wave of standouts at the receiver spot. Talent isn’t an issue here, starting with tight end O.J. Howard and receivers Chris Black, Robert Foster and Cam Sims. Keep an eye on true freshman Calvin Ridley once he arrives on campus this summer. How quickly can Alabama reload at receiver?

 

3. New Starters on the Offensive Line

Three starters are gone from an offensive line that allowed only 16 sacks in 2014. Much as the case at receiver, Alabama has talent and options to restock. The rebuilding effort starts with rising star Cam Robinson at left tackle, while center Ryan Kelly is one of the best in the SEC. Finding three starters shouldn’t be a problem for line coach Mario Cristobal, especially with experienced options like Alphonse Taylor, Dominick Jackson and Bradley Bozeman available. Redshirt freshman Ross Pierschbacher is also expected to factor into the mix. Finding a starting five and allowing this unit time to jell will be critical for Alabama’s chances at a national title in 2015.

 

4. Finding the Right Mix in the Secondary

For the second offseason in a row, Alabama’s secondary will take the spotlight on the defensive side in spring ball. The Crimson Tide allowed 19 passes of 30 or more yards last season, and there’s question marks at cornerback and safety that must be addressed. Landon Collins and Nick Perry depart at safety, while the cornerback spot opposite of Cyrus Jones is up for grabs. Will sophomore Hootie Jones claim a starting spot to help alleviate the loss of Collins? Will Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey emerge at corner? Or will incoming freshmen Minkah Fitzpatrick and Kendall Sheffield push for snaps in the fall?

 

5. Replacing Trey DePriest at Linebacker

Alabama’s front seven has a chance to be the best in the nation in 2015. There are a few holes to address, but once again, talent is there to fill the gaps. Trey DePriest and Xzavier Dickson depart at linebacker, and this should be an opportunity for Reuben Foster, Shaun Dion Hamilton or Rashaan Evans to stake their case for more snaps.

 

Pre-Spring Outlook on Alabama in the SEC:

 

It seems like a broken record, but it’s worth mentioning again: Alabama’s roster is overflowing with talent. The Crimson Tide has won the “recruiting championship” five years in a row. Winning the national title is within reach, but Nick Saban’s team needs a quarterback to emerge, along with options at receiver to replace Amari Cooper. The defense will rank among the best in the nation once again. But the secondary – especially without Landon Collins – remains a concern. Road trips to Georgia and Auburn are the toughest games on the schedule and could determine just how high this team climbs in the playoff picture.

Teaser:
Alabama Crimson Tide 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Thursday, March 19, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/florida-state-seminoles-2015-spring-football-preview
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Florida State’s three-year run from 2012-14 was one of the best in college football. The Seminoles won 39 games during that stretch, claimed the national championship after the 2013 season and made the playoffs last year. It’s hard to stay at the top of the nation with personnel losses and early entries to the NFL Draft, and coach Jimbo Fisher will have a busy spring ahead if Florida State is going to win at least 12 games for the fourth season in a row.

 

5 Storylines to Watch in Florida State’s Spring Practice

 

1. Quarterback Battle

There’s no doubt all eyes in Tallahassee will be on the quarterbacks this spring. Jameis Winston leaves big shoes to fill, and junior Sean Maguire enters spring ball as the favorite to win the job. Maguire made one start in 2014, completing 21 of 39 passes for 304 yards against arguably the nation’s No. 1 defense (Clemson). He will be pushed by redshirt freshman J.J. Cosentino, sophomore John Franklin III and incoming freshmen De’Andre Johnson and Deondre Francois.

 

2. Reloading the Receiving Corps

Talent certainly isn’t an issue here. Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane ranked among the top six receivers in last year’s signing class by 247Sports Composite. The Seminoles also inked George Campbell (No. 19 overall prospect), Da’Vante Phillips (No. 99) and Auden Tate (No. 265) in 2015. Which players will emerge to help replace the production lost by Rashad Greene? Also, who steps up at tight end to replace Nick O’Leary? Redshirt freshmen Ryan Izzo and Mavin Saunders are two names to watch.

 

3. Offensive Line Replacements

Four new starters are slated for Florida State’s offensive line in 2015. This unit struggled at times in 2014 but was bolstered late by the addition of tackle Roderick Johnson into the lineup at left tackle. Johnson is expected to anchor that side of the line once again, but the other four spots are up for grabs this spring. Junior college recruits Chad Mavety and Kareem Are redshirted last season and are expected to prominently factor into the mix.

 

4. Focus in the Front Seven on Defense

After leading the ACC in fewest yards per play allowed in 2013 (4.1), Florida State’s total jumped to 5.5 in 2014. And even though seven starters are back for 2015, there will be growing pains on this side of the ball. Linemen Mario Edwards (DE) and Eddie Goldman (DT) earned first-team All-ACC honors last season and will be playing on Sundays next year. Who emerges as a key contributor in the trenches? Will tackle Demarcus Christmas or end Lorenzo Featherston have a breakout season?

 

5. Reloading the Cornerback Position

Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams departed Florida State for the NFL, leaving a big void at cornerback this spring. Much like the other positions mentioned here, the Seminoles aren’t hurting for talent, just need a few names to emerge. Jalen Ramsey is expected to slide to cornerback, which should solidify one spot. Converted running back Ryan Green and Marquez White are two players to watch, but freshmen Tarvarus McFadden, Marcus Lewis, Calvin Brewton and A.J. Westbrook also factor into the battle throughout the offseason.

 

Pre-Spring Outlook on Florida State in the ACC:

 

With the talent in place, combined with one of the top coaches in the nation, it’s tough to count out Florida State from contending for a playoff spot in 2015. However, the Seminoles are likely to take a small step back in the win column. Even if Sean Maguire performs at a high level this season, this team still has concerns on the offensive line and on defense. Running back Dalvin Cook will be an All-American candidate and figures to shoulder more of the offensive workload next year. Road trips to Clemson and Georgia Tech could determine whether Florida State wins the Atlantic or falls in second behind the Tigers. A finish among the top-10 teams in the nation wouldn’t be a surprise. But the Seminoles seem like a team poised to rebuild in 2015 – and contend for the national title again in 2016.

Teaser:
Florida State Seminoles 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Thursday, March 19, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/arkansas-razorbacks-2015-spring-football-preview
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Arkansas opens its third set of spring practices under coach Bret Bielema hoping to improve off last year’s 7-6 record. This team showed considerable progress in 2014 and is poised to take another step forward with 14 starters back in the mix. Bielema will have a new offensive play-caller with former Central Michigan coach Dan Enos hired to replace Jim Chaney. However, the formula for success in Fayetteville isn’t going to change, as the Razorbacks remain a run-first and defense team in 2015.

 

5 Storylines to Watch in Arkansas’ Spring Practice

 

1. Development of the Passing Game

Arkansas showed marked improvement with its passing game in coach Bret Bielema’s second year. After averaging just 148.5 yards per game in 2013, the Razorbacks improved that total to 188 in 2014. Quarterback Brandon Allen was hindered by a shoulder injury in 2013 but stayed healthy until late in the year and finished with just six interceptions on 339 attempts. Allen should take another step forward in his development this spring, especially with the return of tight end Hunter Henry and receiver Keon Hatcher. How much of an impact will new play-caller Dan Enos have on the offense in 2015? It’s up to Enos and Allen to continue to build off a solid 2014 season by the offense.

 

2. Shuffled Offensive Line

With four starters returning, the Razorbacks should have one of the SEC’s best offensive lines in 2015. But there’s a couple of tweaks coming to the front five this spring, as guard Denver Kirkland has shifted to left tackle, and Dan Skipper is shifting from left tackle to the right side. This move should only strengthen the offensive line, but this spring will be about meshing all of the pieces together and building a cohesive group once again.

 

3. Development of Wide Receivers

In addition to Brandon Allen’s development, Arkansas needs its receiving corps to take a step forward to help the passing game grow in 2015. Keon Hatcher (43 catches in 2014) is the leading target, and tight end Hunter Henry is one of the best in the nation. But who steps up to replace A.J. Derby as the No. 2 tight end and who emerges as a solid No. 2 or No. 3 option for Allen at receiver?

 

4. Restocking the Trenches

Robb Smith was one of the SEC’s top coordinator hires last season, and the Arkansas defense allowed only 28 points in its last four contests. In order for Smith to build off that total in 2015, he needs to find a few replacements for standouts in the trenches. Trey Flowers (six sacks) and tackle Darius Philon (11.5 tackles for a loss) have departed, leaving a void up front. It’s up to players like JaMichael Winston (DE) and Taiwan Johnson (DT) to pickup the slack in the trenches. Perhaps this unit won’t have an All-SEC player, but the overall depth and ability to rotate will be a strength.

 

5. Replacing LB Martrell Spaight

Spaight was one of the SEC’s most underrated defenders in 2014. In 13 contests, Spaight recorded 128 tackles (10.5 for a loss) and earned first-team All-SEC honors. Brooks Ellis (72 tackles) should be the leader of the linebacking corps in 2015, but sophomore Khalia Hackett is a name that will be watched closely in spring ball.

 

Pre-Spring Outlook on Arkansas:

 

The SEC West is not only the toughest division in college football, but it’s also one of the most intriguing races to watch in 2015. Arkansas made considerable progress in Bielema’s second year and showed improve once again in 2015. But the schedule isn’t easy, featuring crossover games against likely top 25 teams in Missouri and Tennessee, along with road trips to Ole Miss, LSU and Alabama. How high the Razorbacks can climb in the West likely depends on the development of the passing game and how quickly the defense can reload in the front seven. 

Teaser:
Arkansas Razorbacks 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Wednesday, March 18, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/georgia-bulldogs-2015-spring-football-preview
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Georgia opens spring practice as the early favorite in the SEC East. The Bulldogs just missed on a division title last season and return 12 starters for 2015. Coach Mark Richt’s team will be busy this spring, as this team has question marks on both sides of the ball and three new coaches are spending their first spring in Athens. Offensive play-caller Brian Schottenheimer was the biggest coaching move from the offseason, but Rob Sale (offensive line) and Thomas Brown (running backs) are also under the spotlight.

 

5 Storylines to Watch in Georgia’s Spring Practice:

 

1. The Quarterback Battle

Hutson Mason has expired his eligibility after starting all 13 games for Georgia last season. Mason threw for 2,168 yards and 21 scores in 2013. Replacing Mason is a three-way battle, headlined by Brice Ramsey (24 of 39, 333 yards, 3 TDs). The sophomore has the edge in experience, but Faton Bauta and redshirt freshman Jacob Park will push for time.

 

2. Replacing David Andrews at Center

The lone departure on Georgia’s offensive line was a big one. Center David Andrews expired his eligibility after earning All-SEC honors last season. Who steps up to replace Andrews? It’s expected Isaiah Wynn and Hunter Long will have the first opportunity to fill the void at center.

 

3. Options at Receiver

Chris Conley and Michael Bennett depart after catching 73 of Georgia’s 217 passes last season. Malcolm Mitchell missed nearly all of 2013 due to a knee injury and returned in 2014 to catch 31 passes for 248 yards and three scores. Can Mitchell regain the form from his first two seasons (85 catches)? And what other receivers will emerge as key targets in 2015? Will Justin Scott-Wesley return to full strength after only playing in six games last year?   

 

4. Secondary Shuffling

The Bulldogs ranked near the top of the SEC in pass defense, limiting conference opponents to just 10 passing scores in eight games. But this unit loses top cornerback Damian Swann, and coordinator Jeremy Pruitt isn’t afraid to mix and match personnel. Will Aaron Davis and Devin Bowman start at corner? Or can Malkom Parrish claim a starting job in his second year on campus? The safety spots are also up for grabs, with Quincy Mauger and Dominick Sanders as the favorites.

 

5. New Faces on the Defensive Line/Linebacking Corps

Three seniors depart from a defensive line that allowed 172.9 rushing yards in SEC contests in 2014. And it’s a safe bet coach Mark Richt and line coach Tracy Rocker are only writing their spring depth chart in pencil here. Freshman Jonathan Ledbetter will participate in spring ball, but No. 1 recruit Trenton Thompson won’t arrive until this summer. At linebacker, standouts Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera must be replaced. Junior college recruit Chuks Amaechi is a name to watch, along with the development of sophomore Lorenzo Carter.

 

Pre-Spring Outlook on Georgia:

 

As we mentioned above, Georgia is the very early No. 1 pick in the East. But is that almost by default? Florida has a new coach (Jim McElwain), Missouri has significant personnel losses, and Tennessee might be a year away. Georgia’s schedule certainly doesn’t provide many breaks, as this team has road trips to Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia Tech, along with a home date against Alabama. The Bulldogs have one of the league’s best players (running back Nick Chubb) and four starters back on the offensive line. The defense returns six starters, but there are question marks in each unit as spring practice opens. The quarterback battle is the biggest storyline to watch this offseason, along with the development of the offense under new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Even with question marks on both sides of the ball, Georgia has enough returning talent and potential to be a top 10 team in 2015.

Teaser:
Georgia Bulldogs 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Wednesday, March 18, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/clemson-tigers-2015-spring-football-preview
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Clemson has won at least 10 games in a row in four consecutive seasons and enters the spring as one of the favorites to win the ACC in 2015. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is a rising star and is expected to return at full strength from ACL surgery by the fall. In addition to Watson, the offense is loaded with talent at the skill positions, including Artavis Scott and Mike Williams at receiver, along with Wayne Gallman at running back. Play-caller Chad Morris left to go to SMU, but coach Dabo Swinney promoted from within (Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott) to ensure continuity.

 

The defensive side of the ball is undergoing renovations with the loss of several key players. Only two starters return from a group that was arguably the best defense in the nation in 2014. While the losses are heavy, there’s young talent in place to prevent a major drop in production.

 

What’s ahead for the Tigers this spring? I asked David Hood (@MDavidHood) of TigerNet.com to help us preview Clemson and answer some of the key questions and storylines to watch:

 

1. With Chad Morris leaving to be the head coach at SMU, the focus shifts to co-coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott to keep Clemson’s offense among the best in the ACC. Should this be an easy transition for the Tigers? Or will Clemson’s offense take a step back without Morris calling the plays?

 

Clemson scored 40 points in the Russell Athletic Bowl win over Oklahoma, and with Tony Elliott calling the plays the offense moved the ball pretty well. Both Elliott and Scott have spent the last few years calling the plays in the scrimmages and the spring games and learning the art of calling plays under Morris, and head coach Dabo Swinney made the transition easier by saying that the offense is a "Clemson offense" and not changing the scheme or plays. As long as quarterback Deshaun Watson is healthy, the offense shouldn't miss a step without Morris.

 

2. The offensive line loses three starters from a unit that allowed 27 sacks last season. How big of a concern is this for Clemson with quarterback Deshaun Watson recovering from a knee injury? Also, can true freshman Mitch Hyatt factor prominently into the offensive line rotation this year?

 

I think this is the biggest concern on the offensive side of the ball. The good news is that two of the new starters - left guard Eric Mac Lain and right tackle Joe Gore - have each started games over the last few seasons and have played significant snaps. Add in center Ryan Norton and left tackle Isaiah Battle and the Tigers have plenty of experience at four of the spots. That leaves right guard Tyrone Crowder to prove he belongs. If the Tigers get back center Jay Guillermo - who is out this spring - Norton can move to the right guard spot and Clemson would then have five starters who have started games in the past. Mitch Hyatt has all the tools and came to camp at 282 pounds, and he will see action this season. His best position is left tackle, but with Battle (who has NFL talent) in front of him those snaps will be limited. If he sees action, it could be at the right tackle spot. Gore didn't impress against Georgia and South Carolina State last season, and another rough start might mean Hyatt gets thrown into action early.

 

3. In terms of skill talent, Clemson should have one of the best groups in the ACC next year. Is this Wayne Gallman’s job to lose at running back? Or will the Tigers use a committee approach? And at receiver, how much more involved will Artavis Scott be in 2015?

 

The job is Gallman's to lose. For now. Tyshon Dye missed the first part of the season in 2014 recovering from an Achilles tear and didn't make an appearance until late October. Swinney has said that Dye - who is a bigger back - fits more into Clemson's style of attack and that Dye just needed a spring practice to get fully invested in the offense and completely healthy. He is getting that chance this spring, and will push Gallman for that starting spot. However, Elliott told us last week that because Clemson wants to run 80-plus plays per game there will be plenty of playing time for everybody. Artavis Scott came on strong at the end of last season, and you have to figure he will be even more involved in the offense this season. He is playing in Sammy Watkins' old spot, and Elliott can get him the ball on the run, in the Wildcat, orbit motion and down the field.

 

4. The defensive line was hit hard by departures, including standouts in end Vic Beasley and tackle Grady Jarrett. But this unit returns a rising star in Shaq Lawson at end and some promising talent from the recruiting class. How big of a drop-off will there be in 2015 for this group?

 

There isn't too much of a drop-off in terms of talent - the Tigers have recruited well the past few years - but will sorely lack in experience. There will be new starters across the board in the front seven, and despite the talent I am sure there will be growing pains. But don't expect too much of a drop-off. While earning the title of the nation's number one ranked defense probably isn't feasible, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that this group can still be Top 20 nationally.

 

5. Outside of Lawson and cornerback Mackensie Alexander, who are a few players that might step up on defense this year to help replace some of the departed standouts from 2014?

 

Defensive tackles Carlos Watkins and D.J. Reader have both started games, as have linebackers Ben Boulware and B.J. Goodson. Boulware started for Stephone Anthony in the bowl game and returned an interception for a touchdown, and he is a tackling machine whenever he's on the field. He's also a fan favorite with his reckless style of play. Safety Jayron Kearse came to camp at 6-4, 217 pounds and appears ready to take that next step into elite playmaker after a solid season last year. There are also some freshmen in Christian Wilkins and Albert Huggins - both highly-recruited defensive linemen - who could see major playing time. 

 

- Visit TigerNet.com for the latest Clemson news and analysis for the 2015 season.

 

Clemson’s Pre-Spring Outlook in the ACC Atlantic:

 

Despite the personnel losses and movement on the coaching staff, Clemson is still one of the favorites to win the ACC and should push for 10 wins in 2015. The Tigers and Florida State are considered the No. 1 and No. 2 teams (in some order) in the Atlantic next season. The transition from Chad Morris to Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott will be a key storyline to watch in the fall. However, there’s no question the offense is loaded with talent with quarterback Deshaun Watson and talented skill players. The offensive line is the biggest concern for Scott and Elliott this spring. The defense must be revamped, but coordinator Brent Venables should be able to quickly reload to prevent a major drop in production. With Florida State visiting Death Valley in 2015, the road to the Atlantic Division title is favorable for the Tigers.

Teaser:
Clemson Tigers 2015 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Wednesday, March 18, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/washington-and-chris-petersens-offseason-uncertainty-grows-cyler-miles-absence
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Washington coach Chris Petersen was already planning on a quarterback battle this spring, but the outlook for the Huskies’ starting job was slightly altered with the announcement Cyler Miles would not participate in spring practice. According to a release from the school, Miles is taking a voluntary leave of absence. And a report from the Seattle Times indicated Miles does not plan on suiting up for the Huskies in 2015.

 

With Miles not expected to play for Washington next season, the starting quarterback position for Petersen’s second team in Seattle is down to three candidates: Jeff Lindquist, K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jake Browning.

 

Lindquist started the 2014 opener and finished the season with 162 passing yards and one score. While the edge in experience has to go to Lindquist, Carta-Samuels and Browning have to be considered the early favorites to take the first snap of 2015.

 

Carta-Samuels and Browning were touted prospects coming out of high school, as Carta-Samuels ranked as the No. 223 overall recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite, while Browning – the No. 71 prospect in the 2015 rankings – enrolled in time to compete for spring ball.

 

While the quarterback battle is going to receive plenty of attention this offseason, this uncertainty at this position only underscores why Washington could be in for a rebuilding year in Petersen’s second season.

 

The defense returns only four starters, and there’s heavy losses to replace in the front seven with the departure of linebacker Shaq Thompson, tackle Danny Shelton and rush end Hau’oli Kikaha. On offense, Washington returns just two starters on the line and needs more playmakers to develop at receiver.

 

The schedule also features few breaks, as Washington catches USC, Arizona and Arizona State in crossover play from the South Division. The Huskies also have road dates at Stanford and Boise State.

 

Petersen’s first year wasn’t necessarily the big debut most expected. And as he heads into 2015, the Huskies are dealing with significant roster question marks on both sides of the ball.

 

There’s no doubt the spotlight is clearly on Browning and Carta-Samuels this spring. Both quarterbacks are talented, but it’s hard to see Washington taking a step forward in the win column in 2015 if some of the other holes aren’t addressed or replacements are found this offseason.

 

With a solid recruiting class inked for the 2015 haul, talented young quarterbacks and a good coach in Petersen, better days should be ahead for this program. However, with a freshman likely to start under center, combined with losses in the line of scrimmage, the Huskies appear to be a team in transition - with an eye to the future. 

Teaser:
Washington and Chris Petersen's Offseason Uncertainty Grows With Cyler Miles' Absence
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/tulane-unveils-new-black-jerseys-and-helmets-2015
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Tulane is adding a new jersey and helmet to its uniform rotation for 2015. While the new gear hasn’t been officially announced by the school, images are already circulating of the Green Wave’s new jerseys and helmets.

 

The black jerseys aren’t new for coach Curtis Johnson’s team, but the uniform now features blue numbers. And the helmet appears to feature a new matte look for the team.

 

Here’s a look at Tulane’s new black jerseys and helmets for 2015: 

 

 

Teaser:
Tulane Unveils New Black Jerseys and Helmets for 2015
Post date: Monday, March 16, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-tens-pre-spring-top-15-player-rankings-2015
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The national perception of the Big Ten shifted at the end of the 2014 season thanks to Ohio State’s national championship and Michigan’s hire of Jim Harbaugh as the program’s new coach. While the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is only going to increase in intensity with Harbaugh going up against Urban Meyer, don’t forget about Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. The Spartans return some of the league’s top talent with quarterback Connor Cook and defensive end Shilique Calhoun in 2015. 

 

With spring practice underway, it’s never too early to look ahead at 2015. Here’s a quick (and very early) primer on the Big Ten’s top 15 players for 2015. This list takes into account production so far in career, as well as a slight projection for the upcoming year. Of course, this list is all subject to change later this summer as depth charts and personnel shift during spring practice.

 

Big Ten’s Pre-Spring Top 15 Players for 2015

 

1. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 55 tackles, 21 TFL, 13.5 sacks, 4 FF

 

Bosa was a disruptive force for Ohio State’s defense last season, leading the Big Ten with 13.5 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss. He should be one of college football’s top defenders in 2015. 

 

2. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 3,214 yards, 24 TDs, 8 INTs

 

Cook will have to find a new go-to receiver with Tony Lippett out of eligibility, but the senior enters 2015 as the top quarterback in the Big Ten. Cook has guided Michigan State to 24 wins (including two huge bowl victories) over the last two years.

 

3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 1,878 yards, 18 TDs, 28 catches, 220 yards

 

Elliott closed out the 2014 season on a tear, rushing for at least 220 yards in each of the final three games to help Ohio State win the national championship. The Missouri native is one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman in 2015.

 

4. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 2,977 yards, 12 TDs, 15 INTs

 

Sure, Penn State’s offense struggled in 2014, but let’s not forget Hackenberg threw for 2,955 yards and 20 scores as a true freshman in 2013. With a little more help from his offensive line, Hackenberg – one of the top NFL prospects in the 2016 draft (if he wants to come out early) – should rebound in 2015.

 

5. Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 39 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 8 sacks, 1 FF

 

Calhoun turned down the NFL for one more season in East Lansing. Over his three-year career with the Spartans, the New Jersey native has accumulated 16.5 sacks and 29 tackles for a loss.

 

6. Anthony Zettel, DT, Penn State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 42 tackles, 17 TFL, 8 sacks, 1 FF

 

Zettel was quietly one of the nation’s most productive defensive linemen last season. He recorded 42 tackles (17 for a loss) and eight sacks in 13 games. Zettel earned Athlon Sports All-America honors after the 2014 campaign.

 

7. Jack Conklin, OT Michigan State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Conklin is a former walk-on that has emerged as one of the nation’s top offensive linemen over the last two years. The Michigan native has started 26 games for the Spartans and earned fourth-team All-American honors by Athlon Sports in 2014.

 

8. Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 81 tackles, 16.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 2 INT, 3 PBU

 

Lee is one of the nation’s top rising stars on the defensive side of the ball. He recorded 81 tackles last season in his debut, including a standout performance (7 tackles, 2 sacks) in the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama.

 

9. Ohio State Quarterbacks

All three Ohio State quarterbacks could individually rank in this space. But for now, let’s just slide a placeholder into the rankings and update prior to fall practice.

 

10. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Decker was the lone returning starter on Ohio State’s offensive line and anchored a group that showed steady improvement over the course of 2014. The Ohio native has started 29 consecutive games entering the 2015 season.

 

11. Jack Allen, C, Michigan State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Allen and teammate Jack Conklin helped anchor a Michigan State offensive line that allowed only 11 sacks last season and paved the way for rushers to average 5.2 yards per carry. Allen enters 2015 with 35 career starts.

 

12. Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 92 tackles, 2 TFL, 6 INT, 6 PBU

 

Bell turned in a breakout season in his first full year as a starter, finishing second on Ohio State’s defense with 92 tackles. His six interceptions tied for first in the Big Ten, which included three picks over the final four games.

 

13. Briean Boddy-Calhoun, CB, Minnesota

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 51 tackles, 2 TFL, 5 INT, 9 PBU, 2 FF

 

Boddy-Calhoun was one of the leaders for a stingy Minnesota secondary last season. The Delaware native led the Golden Gophers by picking off five passes and his 14 defended passes ranked second in the Big Ten.

 

14. Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 45 tackles, 14 TFL, 4.5 sacks

 

Collins isn’t a household name yet, but the Missouri native is poised for a breakout year as the anchor for Nebraska’s defense. In his first full season as a starter in 2014, Collins recorded 45 tackles (14 for a loss) and 4.5 sacks. He has the talent to push for All-American honors in 2015.

 

15. William Likely, CB, Maryland

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 83 tackles, 4 TFL, 6 INT, 9 PBU

 

Likely was a first-team All-Big Ten selection after a standout 2014 campaign, which featured a big-play effort on defense (six interceptions) and on special teams (two return touchdowns.

 

Other Players to Watch in Spring Practice

 

Ja’Whaun Bentley, LB, Purdue

Bentley emerged as one of Purdue’s defensive leaders as a true freshman, ranking second on the team with 76 tackles.

 

Vince Biegel, LB, Wisconsin

Biegel was on the cusp of making the top 15. He was one of the Badgers’ top defenders in 2014 after recording 16.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks.

 

Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers

Carroo just missed the top 15 player rankings. How will the senior perform with a new quarterback and play-caller in 2015?

 

Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin

Melvin Gordon will be missed, but Wisconsin is in good shape in the backfield with Clement returning for his junior season. Over the last two years, Clement has rushed for 1,496 yards and 16 scores. He should easily eclipse the 1,000-yard mark with more carries in 2015.

 

Imani Cross, RB, Nebraska

Will Cross replace Ameer Abdullah? Or will the Cornhuskers turn to Adam Taylor or Terrell Newby?

 

Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana

UAB transfer should be a solid replacement for Tevin Coleman.

 

Wes Lunt, QB, Illinois

Has the talent to be one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Can he stay healthy?

 

Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State

Primed for a bigger role on Michigan State’s defense after recording 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks as a true freshman in 2014.

 

Drew Ott, DE, Iowa

Earned second-team All-Big Ten honors by the league media in 2014 and will be the leader for a defensive line that must replace both starting tackles this offseason.

 

Paris Palmer, OT, Penn State

Junior college recruit is a key piece in Penn State’s hopes of improving the offensive line in 2015.

 

Jabrill Peppers, CB, Michigan

Five-star recruit was forced to redshirt due to injury after three games in 2013. Should be an impact defender for new coach Jim Harbaugh in 2015.

 

Anthony Walker, LB, Northwestern

Florida native started seven games as a redshirt freshman and impressed by recording 51 tackles and a team-high nine for a loss.

Teaser:
Big Ten's Pre-Spring Top 15 Player Rankings for 2015
Post date: Friday, March 13, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/secs-pre-spring-top-15-player-rankings-2015
Body:

The SEC hasn’t won a national title in the last two seasons, but this conference is still the best in the nation. And the two-year drought certainly won’t last much longer with the talent flowing to the 14 teams over the last few years on the recruiting trail.

 

With spring practice underway, it’s never too early to look ahead at 2015. Here’s a quick (and very early) primer on the SEC’s top 15 players for 2015. This list takes into account production so far in career, as well as a slight projection for the upcoming year. Of course, this list is all subject to change later this summer as depth charts and personnel shift during spring practice.

 

SEC's Pre-Spring Top 15 Players for 2015

 

1. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 3,449 yards, 27 TDs, 11 INTs, 986 rush yards, 14 TDs

 

Prescott earned first-team All-SEC honors and guided Mississippi State to one of the best seasons in school history last year. He also led the SEC by averaging 341.2 total yards per game.

 

2. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 50 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 INT, 13 PBU

 

Hargreaves III has earned back-to-back first-team All-SEC honors and is one of the nation’s top lockdown cornerbacks.

 

3. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 1,547 yards, 14 TDs, 18 catches, 213 yards, 2 TDs

 

Todd Gurley’s suspension and ACL tear didn’t derail Georgia’s offense, as Chubb emerged as one of the nation’s top running backs in the second half of 2014. Chubb averaged 165.4 rushing yards over the last eight games.

 

4. A’Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 49 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 FF

 

Robinson won’t record monster stats on Alabama’s defensive line, but he’s excellent at the point of attack and a critical piece in the rush defense.

 

5. Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 35 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks

 

Nkemdiche has been a steady force on Ole Miss’ defense over the last two years. However, entering his junior campaign, Nkemdiche appears primed for his best season in Oxford.

 

6. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 72 tackles, 20.5 TFL, 10 sacks

 

Barnett was one of the nation’s top freshmen in 2014 and led all SEC defenders with 18 tackles for loss in conference games. Here’s the scary part for the rest of the SEC: He’s only going to get better in 2015.

 

7. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Tunsil is recovering from a significant leg injury suffered in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. The Florida native has earned All-SEC accolades in back-to-back seasons, including first-team honors in 2014.

 

8. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 48 receptions, 632 yards, 5 TDs

 

Treadwell’s 2014 campaign was cut short by a significant leg injury. However, all signs point to the junior returning to full strength by the fall. He should be the SEC’s No. 1 receiver next year.

 

9. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 1,034 rushing yards, 10 TDs, 7 catches, 127 yards

 

Fournette is primed for a monster sophomore season. After rushing for 1,034 yards as a freshman and splitting time with Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard, Fournette should see over 200 carries in 2015. 

 

10. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 53 tackles, 14 TFL, 11.5 sacks

 

Garrett ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the 247Sports Composite last season and certainly didn’t disappoint in his debut. In 12 games, Garrett led all Texas A&M defenders with 11.5 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss.

 

11. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Robinson started all 14 games as a true freshman at left tackle last season. He should push for All-America honors in 2015.

 

12. Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 69 catches, 1,136 yards, 9 TDs

 

Cooper is one of the nation’s top all-around players. In addition to his 69 receptions last season, Cooper rushed for 200 yards, passed for 78 yards and was South Carolina’s leading punt returner (75 yards on 15 attempts).

 

13. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 990 yards, 11 TDs, 5 catches, 133 yards, 2 TDs

 

With T.J. Yeldon off to the NFL, Henry is now the No. 1 back for the Alabama offense. Expect Henry to rush for 1,000 yards for the first time in his career this season.

 

14. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 95 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF

 

Ragland is Alabama’s top returning tackler (95) and is one of the leaders for a defense that should have one of the nation’s best front sevens in 2015.

 

15. Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 436 passing yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT

 

Yes, this is a projection based on the 2015 season. Johnson should thrive in coach Gus Malzahn’s offensive scheme and will be one of the top breakout players in the nation.

 

Players to Watch in Spring Practice

 

Otaro Alaka, LB, Texas A&M

Alaka registered 33 tackles in 12 games last season. The sophomore should play an even bigger role in Texas A&M’s defense in 2015.

 

Lorenzo Carter, LB, Georgia

Carter is a rising star as an outside linebacker in Georgia’s 3-4 scheme, recording 41 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a true freshman in 2014.

 

Alex Collins/Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas

Collins and Williams just missed the top 15 rankings. This duo will once again rank as of the top running back combinations in college football next year. 

 

C.J. Hampton, S, Ole Miss

Emergence of Hampton should help the Rebels replace standout safety Cody Prewitt and cornerback Senquez Golson.

 

Jason Hatcher, DE, Kentucky

Hatcher is a key piece in Kentucky’s rebuilding efforts on the defensive line in 2015. With Za’Darius Smith and Bud Dupree departing, Hatcher will be tasked with getting after the quarterback more next year.

 

Jerald Hawkins, OT, LSU

Hawkins is slated to move from right tackle to the left side to replace La’el Collins in 2015.

 

Hootie Jones, S, Alabama

Who steps up to replace Landon Collins? Jones – the No. 50 prospect in the 247Sports Composite – should be primed for a bigger role in the secondary.

 

Denver Kirkland, OT, Arkansas

Kirkland is set to move from guard to left tackle in 2015. The junior will anchor the Arkansas offensive line with right tackle Dan Skipper.

 

Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn

Lawson missed all of 2014 due to a torn ACL. Expect the sophomore to thrive under new coordinator Will Muschamp after recording four sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss in 2013.

 

Marcus Loud/Charles Harris, DE, Missouri

Are Loud and Harris Missouri’s next standouts at defensive end?

 

Cam Sutton, CB, Tennessee

Sutton and teammate Curt Maggitt could easily make the top 15 of this list by the end of 2015.

 

Ralph Webb, RB, Vanderbilt

Despite a struggling passing offense, Webb managed to nearly record 1,000 yards in his Vanderbilt debut. Should be more involved with the offense in 2015.

 

De’Runnya Wilson, WR, Mississippi State

Wilson is Dak Prescott’s go-to target after catching 47 passes for 680 yards and nine touchdowns in 2014. He’s also an emerging star in the SEC.

 

David Williams, RB, South Carolina

With Mike Davis off to the NFL, Williams could assume the No. 1 role in South Carolina’s backfield. He averaged 5.7 yards per rush in limited opportunities in 2014. 

Teaser:
SEC's Pre-Spring Top 15 Player Rankings for 2015
Post date: Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12s-pre-spring-top-15-player-rankings-2015
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The 2015 Pac-12 season is shaping up to be another year filled of intrigue in both division races. Oregon is the favorite in the North, but the Ducks have question marks on both sides of the ball. And the expected replacement for quarterback Marcus Mariota – Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams – won’t arrive until this summer. In the South Division, five out of the six teams have a strong case to be picked No. 1 in the league this year. Colorado is improving, but the Buffaloes are probably a year away from getting back into bowl contention.

 

With spring practice underway, it’s never too early to take a look at the top returning players in the Pac-12 for 2015.

 

Here’s a quick primer on the top 15 players in the Pac-12 for next season, as well as a few names to watch. 

 

Pac-12's Pre-Spring Top 15 Players for 2015

 

1. Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 163 tackles, 29 TFL, 14 sacks, 6 FF

 

Wright was the best defensive player in college football last season and a big reason why Arizona won the South Division and played for the Pac-12 Championship. 

 

2. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 88 tackles, 8 TFL, 1 INT, 7 PBU

 

Jack didn’t see much time on offense last season – only 28 carries – but he continued to provide plenty of punch for the UCLA defense. Jack was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection and is now the leader for the linebacking corps after Eric Kendricks expired his eligibility.

 

3. Cody Kessler, QB, USC

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 3,826 yards, 39 TDs, 5 INTs

 

Kessler loses standout receiver Nelson Agholor, but he opens spring practice as the Pac-12’s top quarterback after tossing 39 touchdowns to just five interceptions in 2014.

 

4. Su’a Cravens, LB/S, USC

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 68 tackles, 17 TFL, 5 sacks, 3 INT, 9 PBU

 

Cravens is one of the most versatile defenders in college football. The California native plays a hybrid safety/linebacker role for coordinator Justin Wilcox and has seven interceptions and 18.5 tackles for a loss in two years with the Trojans.

 

5. Max Tuerk, C, USC

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Tuerk anchors a young and improving USC offensive line entering 2015. The California native enters spring practice with 33 career starts and earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2014.

 

6. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 81 tackles, 13 TFL, 4 sacks, 4 PBU, 1 FF

 

Buckner turned down the NFL for one more season in Eugene. With Arik Armstead off to the next level, it’s up to Buckner to shoulder more of the workload in the trenches this year. There’s no doubt Buckner is up to the task.

 

7. Jared Goff, QB, California

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 3,973 yards, 35 TDs, 7 INTs

 

Goff is one of the nation’s rising stars at quarterback and is only going to get better with another offseason in coach Sonny Dykes’ offense. Goff led all Pac-12 quarterbacks (conference-only games) by averaging 341.1 yards per contest last year.

 

8. Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Stanford has placed a lineman on the Pac-12’s first-team unit for seven consecutive years. It’s a safe bet to pick Murphy to extend that streak to eight in 2015.

 

9. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 1,365 yards, 18 TDs, 16 rec., 158 yards, 1 TD

 

Freeman might not lead the Pac-12 in rushing due to a healthy Thomas Tyner as his backfield mate, but the sophomore might have the most overall talent of any running back in the conference.

 

10. Devontae Booker, RB, Utah

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 1,512 yards, 10 TDs, 43 rec., 306 yards, 2 TDs

 

Booker might be one of the nation’s most underrated players. Despite a struggling Utah passing offense last season, Booker ranked second in the Pac-12 with 1,512 yards and 10 scores. He should be the catalyst for Utah’s offense once again this year.

 

11. Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 1,575 yards, 9 TDs, 26 rec., 201 yards, 2 TDs

 

Perkins quietly led all Pac-12 rushers with 1,575 yards last season, which included 190 against Oregon, 194 against Kansas State and 137 over Arizona. With quarterback Brett Hundley off to the NFL, Perkins may have to shoulder even more of the workload in 2015.

 

12.  Adoree’ Jackson, CB/WR, USC

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 49 tackles, 4 TFL, 10 PBU, 10 receptions, 138 yards, 3 TDs

 

Jackson is a name that could easily climb this list by the end of the 2015 season. Coach Steve Sarkisian hopes to get him a handful of snaps on offense after catching three of his 10 passes for scores in 2015. However, Jackson will be tough to remove on defense, as he broke up 10 passes and made 49 stops in 13 games last season.

 

13. Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 3,793 passing yards, 28 TDs, 9 INTs, 291 rush yards, 2 TDs


Solomon had his share of ups and downs in 2014 but still finished with 28 touchdowns to nine interceptions in his first year as the starter. Getting Solomon back to 100 percent after a late-season ankle injury should help the sophomore take a step forward this offseason.

 

14. Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 1,375 yards, 16 TDs, 12 receptions, 90 yards, 1 TD

 

Wilson was the other standout freshman performer for coach Rich Rodriguez in 2014. In 13 contests, Wilson rushed for 1,375 yards and contributed 16 rushing scores. His numbers should only climb in 2015.
 

15. Nelson Spruce, WR, Colorado

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 106 catches, 1,198 yards, 12 TDs

 

Spruce made sure Colorado’s passing game didn’t miss a beat without Paul Richardson at receiver. The California native tied Washington State’s Vince Mayle for the Pac-12 crown in receptions (106), while Spruce tied two other players for first in touchdown receptions.

 

Players to Watch

 

Ishmael Adams, DB, UCLA

Adams was on the cusp of making our pre-spring top 15 players. The first-team All-Pac-12 defensive back could crack the list with a strong 2015 season.

 

Vernon Adams, QB, Oregon

Eastern Washington transfer won’t arrive on campus until this summer. Where does Adams fall in the pecking order of Pac-12 quarterbacks?

 

Budda Baker, S, Washington

Baker was a standout freshman for coach Chris Petersen and is only going to improve with another offseason in Seattle.

 

D.J. Foster, RB/WR, Arizona State

With the emergence of Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage, Arizona State plans to shift Foster into a hybrid running back/receiver role in 2015.

 

Peter Kalambayi, LB, Stanford

Should play a bigger role in the defense after recording 9.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks in 2014.

 

Gabe Marks, WR, Washington State

Marks is back in the mix for Washington State after a redshirt year in 2014. He caught 74 passes in 2013 and could push for the team lead in receptions, yards and touchdowns in 2015.

 

Gionni Paul, LB, Utah

Miami transfer had his 2014 season cut short by injury. However, Paul (when healthy) is an impact defender for coach Kyle Whittingham’s defense.

 

JuJu Smith, WR, USC

Smith is the likely replacement for Nelson Agholor after catching 54 passes for 724 yards and five scores in 2014.

 

Storm Woods, RB, Oregon State

Woods closed out 2014 by rushing for 128 yards against Oregon. Will he be a bigger part of the new offense under coach Gary Andersen?

Teaser:
Pac-12's Pre-Spring Top 15 Player Rankings for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Iowa Hawkeyes, Big Ten, News
Path: /college-football/iowa-qb-jake-rudock-transferring-michigan-his-next-stop
Body:

Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock is leaving the program and will be eligible to compete in 2015 at another FBS program as a graduate transfer. But this is where the intrigue begins. Could Michigan be a possible landing spot for Rudock?

 

According to FoxSports.com’s Bruce Feldman, Rudock is taking a visit to Ann Arbor next week to explore a possible transfer to Michigan.

 

Rudock started the last two seasons for the Hawkeyes and threw for 4,819 yards in that span. He also tossed 34 touchdowns and completed 60.3 percent of his throws.

 

New Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh opened spring practice with a major question mark at quarterback. Junior Shane Morris is considered the frontrunner, but freshmen Alex Malzone and Zach Gentry, along with sophomore Wilton Speight are pushing for time.

 

Although all four of those quarterbacks will have an advantage in learning the offense, Rudock is a two-year starter and would be Michigan’s most-established option at the position if he transfers to Ann Arbor.

 

For Iowa, Rudock’s transfer clearly means C.J. Beathard is the team’s starter in 2015. Beathard has played in 14 games over the last two years and has thrown for 824 yards and six scores.

 

Beathard was going to push Rudock for time this spring, especially since the Tennessee native has a stronger arm and the potential to provide Iowa's offense with more of a downfield passing threat.

 

However, Rudock’s transfer means Beathard is the man to beat for coach Kirk Ferentz this spring.

 

And Rudock could be starting in the Big Ten – just not with the Hawkeyes. Michigan needs an answer at quarterback. Harbaugh clearly subscribes to the theory that you can never have enough quarterbacks. A two-year starter that’s already proven commodity in the Big Ten would be a good asset for Harbaugh to have in his first year at Michigan.

Teaser:
Iowa QB Jake Rudock is Transferring - Is Michigan His Next Stop?
Post date: Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 10:28
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/bo-pelini-driving-little-weird-these-days
Body:

Former Nebraska (and current Youngstown State coach) Bo Pelini is driving a little strange these days. Or maybe it's just the rain. 

 

Thanks a quick video from his son Patrick, Pelini was filmed driving in an interesting (and quite hilarious) position, along with a little background music from The Carpenters.

 

Check out Pelini’s awesome driving technique:

Teaser:
Bo Pelini is Driving a Little Strange These Days
Post date: Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 09:34
Path: /college-football/big-12s-pre-spring-top-15-player-rankings-2015
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The Big 12 should be an interesting league to follow in 2015. Although the conference was left out of the final four of the college football playoff last season, Baylor and TCU will be back in the mix once again in 2015. And of course, the league should have depth with Oklahoma and Texas looking to rebound, as well as an Oklahoma State team that is set to improve behind sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph.

 

With spring practice underway, it’s never too early to take a look at the top returning players in the conference for 2015. The Big 12 has a Heisman candidate in TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, as well as some of the nation’s top linemen in Spencer Drango (OT) and Shawn Oakman (DE).

 

Here’s a quick primer on the top 15 players in the Big 12 for next season, as well as a few names to watch.

 

Big 12's Pre-Spring Top 15 Players for 2015

 

1. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 3,901 yards, 33 TDs, 10 INTs, 707 rush yards, 8 TDs

 

Boykin was one of the nation’s most-improved players last season and enters 2015 as one of the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy.

 

2. Spencer Drango, OT, Baylor

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Drango enters 2015 as one of the top offensive linemen in the nation. The Texas native showed no rust from a back injury that sidelined him for the final four games of 2013, as Drango earned first-team All-Big 12 and second-team Walter Camp Football All-America honors.

 

3. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 1,713 yards, 21 TDs, 15 catches, 108 yards

 

Perine was one of college football’s top freshman in 2014. He rushed for 1,713 yards, including a single-game record of 427 against Kansas in late November. Perine should be the focal point of Oklahoma’s offense in 2015.

 

4. Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 51 tackles, 19.5 TFL, 11 sacks, 3 FF

 

Oakman is a physically imposing figure off the edge at 6-foot-9 and 280 pounds. He registered 11 sacks anchoring Baylor’s defensive line last season, including five over the final four games.

 

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5. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 49 tackles, 17 TFL, 11 sacks, 1 FF

 

Ogbah quickly emerged as one of the Big 12’s top defenders in his first full season as a starter. His 11 sacks ranked second in the Big 12 in 2014. Ogbah delivered in big games, recording two sacks against Florida State, one against Baylor and two against TCU.

 

6. Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 37 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 2 sacks

 

Billings is quietly one of the league’s top defenders. At 300 pounds, the Texas native has the size to plug the middle, while also possessing the ability to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines (11.5 TFL in 2014).

 

7. Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 68 tackles, 17 TFL, 9 sacks, 2 FR

 

Striker finished 2013 on a tear by recording three sacks against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and the Florida native picked up where he left off in 2014. Striker registered nine sacks and his 17 tackles for a loss ranked third among Big 12 defenders.

 

8. Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Clark is the anchor for an underrated Texas Tech offensive line. The Texas native enters 2015 with 38 consecutive starts and earned first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2014.

 

9. Cody Whitehair, OT, Kansas State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Whitehair shifted from guard to tackle and continued to anchor Kansas State’s offensive line in 2014. The Kansas native earned second-team All-Big 12 honors in each of the last two seasons.

 

10. Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 92 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PBU

 

Joseph and teammate Daryl Worley anchor a secondary that should be near the top of the Big 12 in 2015. Joseph ranked second on West Virginia’s defense with 92 stops in 2014.

 

11. Zack Sanchez, CB, Oklahoma

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 43 tackles, 6 INT, 8 PBU

 

Sanchez has started all 26 games in his two years with the Sooners. The Texas native also has eight interceptions in his career and tied for sixth among Big 12 players in 2014 with 14 passes defended.

 

12. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 64 receptions, 1,119 yards, 11 TDs

 

Coleman emerged as Baylor’s No. 1 receiver last season, averaging 17.5 yards per catch in 10 contests. In two years with the Bears, Coleman has 13 touchdown catches and was one of only three receivers in the Big 12 to average at least 100 receiving yards per game in 2014.

 

13. Shock Linwood, RB, Baylor

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 1,252 yards, 16 TDs

 

Even though Baylor has one of the nation’s top passing offenses, don’t forget about Linwood’s production. In his first year as the starter, Linwood rushed for 1,252 yards and 16 scores.

 

14. Pete Robertson, LB, Texas Tech

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 81 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 12 sacks, 3 FF

 

Robertson is a key piece in new coordinator David Gibbs’ rebuilding effort on defense. The senior earned second-team All-Big 12 honors after leading the conference with 12 sacks in 2014.

 

15. Dante Barnett, S, Kansas State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 77 tackles, 4 TFL, 3 INT

 

Barnett has been a steady presence as a starter in Kansas State’s secondary in each of the last two years. He has seven interceptions in that span and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2014. 

 

Seven Names to Watch This Spring

 

Dravon Henry, S, West Virginia

Rising star in West Virginia’s secondary recorded 45 tackles and two interceptions as a true freshman last year.

 

Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

Five-star recruit likely to make an instant impact for a Texas defense losing linebackers Steve Edmond and Jordan Hicks.

 

Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State

Lazard didn’t disappoint as a true freshman, catching 45 passes for 593 yards and three scores.

 

Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State

Lee was an impact freshman for K-State last season, recording 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble. He should play an even bigger role in the defense in 2015.

 

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

Tossed 14 scores over the final three games of 2014. Can he beat out Davis Webb for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart?

 

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

Was a key cog in Oklahoma State’s late-season improvement. Will only get better as a sophomore.

 

Ranthony Texada, CB, TCU

Started all 13 games as a redshirt freshman last season. Texada is now one of the leaders for a TCU secondary replacing standouts Kevin White (CB), Sam Carter (S) and Chris Hackett (S).

Teaser:
Big 12's Pre-Spring Top 15 Player Rankings for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-qb-dak-prescott-attacked-spring-break-concert
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Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott and teammates Damian Williams and Torrey Dale were attacked during a concert on spring break in Panama City, Fla, but all three players avoided major injuries from the incident. According to SunHerald.com, Prescott does not plan on pressing charges.

 

Prescott tweeted this on Monday night after news about the incident surfaced:

Williams added this on Monday night:

Photos emerged following the incident, which appeared to show Prescott suffering from a few cuts:

There's also video from the incident:

Teaser:
Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott Attacked at Spring Break Concert
Post date: Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 00:37
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-15-quarterback-battles-watch-spring-practice-2015
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Quarterback battles are easily one of the biggest storylines in any college football offseason. And it’s even more under the microscope in 2015, as the position lost several top performers, including Florida State’s Jameis Winston, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Baylor’s Bryce Petty and UCLA’s Brett Hundley.

 

With spring practice already underway for a handful of teams, it’s time to preview the biggest (and most important) quarterback battles for 2015 spring practice. Ohio State’s battle will garner all of the attention, but because of injuries, it’s unlikely the job will be settled until the fall. Alabama needs a big spring from Jake Coker to replace Blake Sims, while Sean Maguire opens practice at Florida State with an edge on J.J. Cosentino.  

 

College Football's Top 15 QB Battles for Spring Practice

 

1. Ohio State


The Contenders
Cardale Jones (Junior)
Braxton Miller (Senior)
J.T. Barrett (Sophomore)

Urban Meyer has a good problem on his hands. The Buckeyes have three quarterbacks capable of winning the Heisman Trophy. Injuries to J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller make it unlikely a pecking order is determined this spring.

Who Takes the First Snap of the 2015 Season: Jones    

 

2. Alabama

 

The Contenders

Jake Coker (Senior)

Blake Barnett (Freshman)

David Cornwell (Redshirt Freshman)

Alec Morris (Junior)

Cooper Bateman (Sophomore)

 

Florida State transfer Jake Coker was the favorite to win the job last season but was unable to beat out Blake Sims. It’s Coker’s job to lose again this spring. Freshmen Blake Barnett and David Cornwell might be his biggest challengers.

 

Who Takes the First Snap of the 2015 Season: Coker

 

3. Florida State

 

The Contenders

J.J. Cosentino (Redshirt Freshman)

Sean Maguire (Junior)

John Franklin III (Sophomore)
De’Andre Johnson (Freshman)

Deondre Francois (Freshman)

 

Sean Maguire has one start under his belt, throwing for 304 yards and one touchdown in a 23-17 overtime win over Clemson – arguably the best defense in college football – in 2014. Maguire is the safe pick here, but the upside is with J.J. Cosentino and Deondre Francois.

 

Who Takes the First Snap of the 2015 Season: Maguire

 

4. Notre Dame

 

The Contenders

Everett Golson (Senior)

Malik Zaire (Sophomore)

 

Golson started all 12 of Notre Dame’s regular season matchups, but was passed by Zaire on the depth chart prior to the Music City Bowl. In the upset win over LSU, Zaire passed for 96 yards and added 96 more on the ground. He’s the man to beat in spring practice.  

 

Who Takes the First Snap of the 2015 Season: Zaire

 

5. Oregon

 

The Contenders

Vernon Adams (Senior)

Jeff Lockie (Junior)

Travis Waller (Freshman)
Morgan Mahalak (Redshirt Freshman)

Ty Griffin (Sophomore)

 

The Ducks make an appearance here in the quarterback battle column, but it would be a major surprise if anyone unseats Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams. The senior has a chance to be one of the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks in 2015.

 

Who Takes the First Snap of the 2015 Season: Adams

 

6. LSU

 

The Contenders

Anthony Jennings (Junior)

Brandon Harris (Sophomore)

Justin McMillan (Freshman)

 

Upgrading the passing attack should be the top priority for LSU this spring. The Tigers completed only 50 percent of their passes and ranked last in the SEC in passing offense. Jennings posted a 48.9 completion percentage, while Harris didn’t get on the field much in the second half of 2015. LSU should know what it has in Jennings. It’s time to see what this team has in Harris.

 

Who Takes the First Snap of the 2015 Season: Harris

 

7. Georgia

 

The Contenders

Brice Ramsey (Sophomore)

Jacob Park (Redshirt Freshman)

Faton Bauta (Junior)

 

Georgia’s offense should revolve around running back Nick Chubb, but contending for the SEC title could depend on how quickly this battle is settled. There’s a new play-caller in Brian Schottenheimer, so there’s a clean slate among this group. The upside is with Park. Experience edge goes to Ramsey.

 

Who Takes the First Snap of the 2015 Season: Ramsey

 

8. Michigan

 

The Contenders

Shane Morris (Junior)

Alex Malzone (Freshman)

Wilton Speight (Sophomore)

Zach Gentry (Freshman)

 

Michigan’s offense will show improvement under new coach Jim Harbaugh. But how much improvement? That depends on the development of the quarterbacks. Morris has the edge in experience (43 of 87, 389 yards in career), but Zach Gentry and Alex Malzone are both part of Harbaugh’s first signing class in Ann Arbor.

 

Who Takes the First Snap of the 2015 Season: Morris

 

9. Oklahoma

 

The Contenders

Trevor Knight (Junior)

Bake Mayfield (Junior)

Cody Thomas (Sophomore)

Justice Hansen (Redshirt Freshman)

 

Knight appeared poised for a breakout season in 2014, but he never was able to capitalize off of a strong Sugar Bowl performance against Alabama. Mayfield sat out due to transfer rules from Texas Tech, while Thomas started the final three games of the regular season. New coordinator Lincoln Riley is an Air Raid disciple. That may give Mayfield a slight edge for the job.

 

Who Takes the First Snap of the 2015 Season: Mayfield

 

10. UCLA

 

The Contenders

Josh Rosen (Freshman)

Jerry Neuheisel (Junior)

Asiantii Woulard (Sophomore)

 

Brett Hundley leaves big shoes to fill at UCLA, and there’s an intriguing battle ahead this offseason. Rosen – the No. 12 prospect in the 247Sports Composite – is battling Jerry Neuheisel – the son of former coach Rick Neuheisel. Rosen has the edge in talent and enrolled in time to compete in spring practice.

 

Who Takes the First Snap of the 2015 Season: Rosen

 

11. Ole Miss

 

The Contenders

Chad Kelly (Junior)

Ryan Buchanan (Sophomore)

DeVante Kincade (Sophomore)

 

This quarterback battle is one of the toughest to project on this list. Kelly – a former Clemson quarterback – has the edge in talent but Kincade and Buchanan have worked in coach Hugh Freeze’s system for the last two years.

 

Who Takes the First Snap of the 2015 Season: Kelly

 

12. Florida

 

The Contenders

Treon Harris (Sophomore)

Will Grier (Redshirt Freshman)

 

New coach Jim McElwain’s background on offense is going to pay dividends for the Gators. Harris threw for 1,019 yards and nine scores in nine games last season, while Grier – the No. 48 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite – spent last year as a redshirt.

 

Who Takes the First Snap of the 2015 Season: Grier

 

13. Louisville

 

The Contenders

Reggie Bonnafon (Sophomore)

Will Gardner (Junior)

Pat Thomas (Junior)

Lamar Jackson (Freshman)

Kyle Bolin (Sophomore)

Tyler Ferguson (Junior)

 

Three quarterbacks – Bonnafon, Bolin and Gardner – all made starts for Louisville in 2014. Bonnafon and Gardner suffered knee injuries, which allowed Bolin to start against Georgia in the Belk Bowl. Ferguson is a transfer from Penn State and completed 10 of 15 passes for 155 yards for one score with the Nittany Lions in 2013.

 

Who Takes the First Snap of the 2015 Season: Ferguson

 

14. Baylor

 

The Contenders

Seth Russell (Junior)

Chris Johnson (Sophomore)
Jarrett Stidham (Freshman)

 

Technically, there’s a quarterback battle with Bryce Petty departing. However, all signs point to Seth Russell as the favorite. True freshman Jarrett Stidham is a name to watch for the future.

 

Who Takes the First Snap of the 2015 Season: Russell

 

15. Texas

 

The Contenders

Jerrod Heard (Redshirt Freshman)

Tyrone Swoopes (Junior)

Kai Locksley (Freshman)

 

This position is under the spotlight after Texas averaged only 21.4 points per game in 2014. Swoopes had some promising efforts but threw for only 257 yards and five interceptions over the last two games. Heard – the No. 72 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite – is off a redshirt season and ready to push for the starting job.

 

Who Takes the First Snap of the 2015 Season: Heard

 

Other Key QB Battles to Watch in Spring Practice

 

Boise State

Boston College

Iowa

Kansas State

Marshall

Maryland

Oregon State

Rutgers

South Carolina

Texas Tech

Utah State

Washington

Washington State

West Virginia

Vanderbilt

Teaser:
College Football's Top 15 Quarterback Battles to Watch in Spring Practice 2015
Post date: Monday, March 9, 2015 - 10:45
Path: /college-football/accs-pre-spring-top-15-player-rankings-2015
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The ACC is losing some significant star power with the departure of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley, Louisville safety Gerod Holliman and Miami running back Duke Johnson (just to name a few).

 

All 14 teams in the ACC will be busy this spring filling key personnel question marks for 2015, and the loss of several star players shows why most preseason rankings have Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech all outside of the playoff picture.

 

As spring practice begins around the ACC, it’s never too early to take a peek at what’s ahead in 2015. Here’s a quick primer on the top 15 players in the ACC for next season, as well as a few names to watch. 

 

ACC's Pre-Spring Top 15 Players for 2015

 

1. James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior
2014 Stats: 1,765 yards, 26 TDs

Conner was the ACC’s Player of the Year in 2014 and will remain the centerpiece of Pittsburgh’s offense in 2015. 

 

2. Jalen Ramsey, S, Florida State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 79 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 INT, 12 PBU

 

Ramsey’s all-around ability is a huge asset for Florida State’s defense. He led the team with 12 pass breakups last season and could slide to cornerback to help replace the production lost by P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby.

 

3. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 54 tackles, 2 INT, 15 PBU

 

Fuller has a variety of accolades in just two seasons with the Hokies. The Baltimore native was the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and earned All-America honors last year. He should lead a tough Virginia Tech defense in 2015.

 

4. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 78 receptions, 1,261 yards, 8 TDs

 

Boyd has started his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and has grabbed 15 touchdown receptions in two years. The Pennsylvania native will be the ACC’s No. 1 receiver in 2015.

 

5. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore
2014 Stats: 1,008 yards, 8 TDs, 22 rec., 203 yards

Cook is primed for a monster season as Florida State’s go-to back. As a true freshman in 2014, Cook led the team with 1,008 yards. All-America honors in 2015 would not be a surprise. 

 

6. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 93 of 137, 1,466 yards, 14 TDs, 2 INTs

 

Watson could be the No. 1 player on this list by the end of the 2015 season. He’s recovering from ACL surgery, but the sophomore lived up to his recruiting hype by throwing for 1,466 yards and 14 touchdowns in limited action last year.

 

7. Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior
2014 Stats: 1,719 passing yards, 18 TDs, 6 INTs, 1,086 rush yards, 8 TDs

 

Thomas is the perfect fit as the catalyst in Georgia Tech’s option offense. The Alabama native led the team with 1,086 rushing yards last season and connected on 14 pass plays of 30 yards or more.  

 

8. Dadi Nicolas, DE, Virginia Tech

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 72 tackles, 18.5 TFL, 9 sacks

 

Nicolas had a breakout season in his first full year as a starter. After recording four sacks in 2013, Nicolas upped that total to nine and ranked second among ACC defenders with 18.5 tackles for a loss.

 

9. Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 270 of 428, 3,068 yards, 21 TDs, 9 INTs, 788 rush yards, 13 TDs

 

Williams will miss spring practice due to a hip injury, but the senior isn’t expected to miss any snaps in the fall. He ranked second among ACC quarterbacks (conference-only games) by completing 62.9 passes last year. Williams ranked second in the ACC by averaging 296.6 total yards per game. 

 

10. Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 221 of 378, 3,198 yards, 26 TDs, 12 INTs

 

Kaaya started all 13 games as a true freshman and guided Miami's offense to an average of 29.2 points per game. The California native is only going to get better as a sophomore, which is critical for a team dealing with key losses on defense (Denzel Perryman), at running back (Duke Johnson) and on the offensive line.

 

11. Jeremy Cash, S, Duke

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 111 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 2 INT, 7 PBU, 4 FF

 

Cash sat out spring ball due to knee injury, but the senior is expected to be at full strength by the fall. He’s one of the top defensive playmakers in the ACC after recording four forced fumbles and two picks last season.

 

12. Jacoby Brissett, QB, NC State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 2,606 yards, 23 TD, 5 INTs, 529 rush yards, 3 TDs

 

Brissett turned in a solid all-around in his debut at NC State, and bigger and better things should be coming for the senior in 2015. The Florida transfer did not throw an interception over the last three games of 2014.

 

13. Quin Blanding, S, Virginia

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 123 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, 3 INT, 6 PBU

 

Blanding certainly lived up to his five-star recruiting hype coming out of high school. On his way to earning second-team All-ACC honors, Blanding led the team with 123 tackles and tied for first on the defense with three interceptions.

 

14. Luther Maddy, DT, Virginia Tech

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 9 tackles

 

Maddy missed nearly all of 2014 due to a knee injury. In 2013, he recorded 55 tackles (13.5 for a loss) and 6.5 sacks. If Maddy is healthy, he will rank higher on this list in the fall.

 

15. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 21 tackles, 2 TFL, 6 PBU

 

It’s a little bit of a projection to put Alexander here, but he’s poised for a breakout year after starting all 13 games last season. According to Clemson’s game notes, Alexander ranks first in school history in snaps by a freshman. 

 

Six Names to Watch in Spring Practice

 

KeShun Freeman, DE, Georgia Tech

As a true freshman, Freeman’s emerged as one of Georgia Tech’s top defensive linemen in 2014. He should make an even bigger impact in 2015.

 

Rod Johnson, OT, Florida State

Rising star anchored the left side of Florida State’s line for the final five games of 2014 - as a true freshman.

 

Artavis Scott/Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

This duo combined for 133 catches for 1,995 yards and 14 scores last season. It’s a good bet one of these receivers rank on the top 15 players for the ACC at the end of 2015.

 

Cam Serigne, TE, Wake Forest

Serigne was a bright spot for a struggling Wake Forest offense last season. He caught 54 passes for 531 yards and five scores.

 

Wyatt Teller, OL, Virginia Tech

Teller moved from the defensive line to the offensive line in 2013 and started the last six games in his redshirt freshman season. Virginia Tech’s offensive line is a huge question mark entering 2015. Teller is one of the few certainties heading into this season.

 

Joseph Yearby, RB, Miami

Duke Johnson leaves big shoes to fill, but Yearby is capable of handling the starting role in 2015.

Teaser:
ACC's Pre-Spring Top 15 Player Rankings for 2015
Post date: Monday, March 9, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/michigan-wolverines-2015-spring-football-preview
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Michigan enters spring practice with question marks on both sides of the ball, but that’s not the main storyline in Ann Arbor. The return of Jim Harbaugh to the Maize and Blue has the Wolverines back on the rise in the Big Ten. Harbaugh has been a successful coach at each of his three stops, including a 29-21 mark at Stanford. Needless to say, it won’t be long before Harbaugh has Michigan back into Big Ten title contention.

 

What’s ahead for the Wolverines in Harbaugh’s first spring practices? I asked Joshua Henschke (@JoshuaHenschke) of MaizenBrew.com to help us preview Michigan and answer some of the key questions and storylines to watch.

 

1. What’s a realistic goal for Michigan in Jim Harbaugh’s first season? There’s no doubt Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in the Big Ten, but does he have the talent to produce a three or four-game improvement in the win column in 2015?

 

I think the best, and most realistic, goal for Jim Harbaugh this season is to show that this team has a pulse. The talent is certainly there, but there were obvious developmental issues that plagued the team under former head coach Brady Hoke. I think it's a bit unrealistic for Michigan to compete amongst the cream of the Big Ten crop right away, but an eight- or nine-win season is certainly not out of the picture. The home schedule is favorable, which includes both Michigan State and Ohio State at home, and Notre Dame is no longer on the schedule. The opportunity to make some noise is there, but the true question is whether it can all come together in such a short amount of time.

 

2. Shane Morris is the team’s most experienced quarterback heading into spring practice, but how secure is his lead for the No. 1 job? Out of the inexperienced options – Alex Malzone, Zach Gentry and Wilton Speight – which one is the biggest threat to Morris?

 

Logic says that Speight would be the biggest threat to Morris due to him being a returning player ready to play after a redshirt year. Granted that every quarterback will get a fresh start by having to learn a new offensive scheme, at face value it seems like its Morris' job to lose. However, and this is my own darkhorse pick, don't count out Malzone the true freshman, either. From all accounts, he has been impressing coaches so far and will have the winter and spring under his belt due to him being an early enrollee. These spring practices will be very valuable to the young quarterback. No matter which way it goes, it'll be an interesting decision to keep an eye on.

 

3. With the loss of receiver Devin Funchess, and the uncertainty at running back, the skill positions will be two areas of intrigue this spring. Are there any players primed for a breakout year to replace Funchess at receiver? What type of impact can USC transfer Ty Isaac have at running back?

 

Michigan returns a couple familiar faces to their wide receiver group this season. Funchess didn't do much last season statistically, so there's certainly a chance for someone to step in and see some passes thrown his way. Someone that comes to mind immediately is redshirt freshman Moe Ways. A local guy out of Detroit Country Day high school, I was always a fan of his highlight tape coming out of high school. With the path in front of him a bit packed last season, Funchess' loss means that Ways could certainly get an opportunity to see major playing time in 2015.

 

As far as the running backs go, it would not be a surprise if Isaac is named the starter. With his redshirt year due to NCAA transfer rules, he has put on weight and weighs about 240 pounds, which is great for a running back his size. He is a former five-star recruit in high school so he definitely has a high ceiling. Of course, you have the original crew of Derrick Green who is returning from a broken clavicle, De'Veon Smith and Drake Johnson who is recovering from a second torn ACL. The returning players haven't exactly lived up to the hype, but Green was performing much better in the games leading up to his injury. I think there will be a healthy mix of running backs that will be used this season. However, Michigan is certainly looking for "the guy" to carry the load, something it hasn't seen since the days of Mike Hart.

 

4. Lost in the offensive troubles was a defense that allowed just 4.8 yards per play in 2014. Can this unit be as effective (or better) in 2015?

 

There's plenty of reasons to be hopeful about the defense, mainly due to the fact that it returns most of its starters from a year ago. The obvious big loss is linebacker Jake Ryan, but a guy like Joe Bolden or Ben Gedeon should fill that role and do well there. If new defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin is all that he is hyped up to be, there's certainly a chance for Michigan's defense to be much better than what it was a year ago. The younger players have experience, it returns a healthy Jabrill Peppers and I believe the moves Harbaugh has made on the defensive side of the ball will have an excellent impact.

 

5. What type of impact will a healthy Jabrill Peppers have in Michigan’s secondary? Does he fit in at cornerback or safety in coordinator D.J. Durkin’s scheme?

 

I kind of touched on it a little bit in my previous answer, but having a healthy player like Peppers back is huge for Michigan. Durkin has told reporters that he plans on using Peppers at both cornerback and safety. I still believe we will see him mainly at safety because the needs for him at that spot far outweigh the needs at corner. Having him back adds another element to the Michigan defense. I can recall last spring and the little he played last season just how much of a better player he was compared to the rest of the Michigan defense. That's not an insult to the rest of the players, but he's just that talented. Now, it's time to see that unfold on the field.

 

- Follow @MaizenBrew for the latest news and analysis on Michigan for the 2015 season.

 

Athlon Sports Pre-Spring Outlook on Michigan:

 

There’s no doubt Michigan is going show improvement in 2015. Harbaugh is one of the nation’s top-10 coaches, and the Wolverines will get back to the postseason. How high this team can climb in the standings depends on the development of the quarterback position, as well the continued improvement from the offensive line and skill players. The defense has a few holes, but this unit should be among the best in the Big Ten. Ohio State and Michigan State should be picked higher in the West Division, but after the Buckeyes and Spartans, there’s an opportunity for Michigan to claim the No. 3 spot and build to an even better 2016.

Teaser:
Michigan Wolverines 2015 Spring Preview
Post date: Friday, March 6, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-storylines-watch-2015-spring-practice
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College football’s 2015 season doesn’t officially start until September, but the national championship race is already underway with the start of spring practice. Offseason workouts aren’t necessarily going to provide the best answers to any preseason concerns, especially as most freshmen won’t arrive on campus until the summer.

 

However, spring practice is the first glimpse of how teams are handling personnel or scheme changes and which players are ready to emerge in 2015. Every team in the FBS ranks has an intriguing storyline to watch in spring ball. Let’s take a look at the top 10 across the landscape, as well as a few others to keep on the radar over the next several weeks.

 

Conference Spring Outlooks:
ACCBig 12Big TenPac-12 NorthPac-12 SouthSEC EastSEC West

 

College Football's 10 Biggest Storylines to Watch in Spring Practice

 

1. Alabama’s Rebuilding Effort on Offense

Talent certainly isn’t an issue at Alabama. The Crimson Tide has claimed each of the last five recruiting championships, but there’s a lot of work ahead for coach Nick Saban this spring if Alabama wants to win the 2015 national title on the field. The defense has holes in the secondary and needs to limit the big plays allowed by opposing passing offenses. However, the biggest concern in Tuscaloosa this spring has to be what transpires on offense. Is Florida State transfer Jake Coker ready to claim the starting quarterback job? Or will a freshman – Blake Barnett or David Cornwell – earn the nod under center? Additionally, Alabama needs Kenyan Drake to return at full strength at running back, replace its top three receivers - including standout Amari Cooper - and rebuild an offensive line that returns just two starters.  

 

2. Ohio State’s Small Offseason To-Do List

Repeating as a national champion in college football is hard. Only one team (Alabama) since the start of the BCS era has been able to go back-to-back. Ohio State enters 2015 as a clear favorite for the No. 1 ranking. Fourteen starters are back for coach Urban Meyer, and this team has only a few glaring concerns. The quarterback battle will garner most of the preseason attention, but Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett are on the mend from injuries. Cardale Jones has a chance to increase his hold on the No. 1 spot – at least until fall practice starts. Outside of the quarterback battle, Ohio State needs to bolster its options at receiver and find replacements for defensive standouts Michael Bennett (DT) and Doran Grant (CB).

 

3. TCU and Baylor Battle for Control of the Big 12  

The debate over TCU and Baylor will continue into the 2015 season. The Horned Frogs and Bears are the front-runners for the top spot in the Big 12 next year, and both teams should be in the mix for a playoff berth. But which team is the favorite to win the Big 12? Perhaps this spring will provide some clarity to the personnel issues surrounding both teams. TCU has to rebuild its back seven after the departures of linebacker Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet, along with defensive backs Kevin White (CB), Sam Carter (S) and Chris Hackett (S). The Bears must replace quarterback Bryce Petty and linebacker Bryce Hager. Which team can fill its personnel concerns this offseason?

 

4. Auburn’s Defense

Even though Auburn played for the national championship at the end of the 2013 season, defense has been a weak point for this team over the last two years. The Tigers gave up 6.4 yards per play in SEC action last season, but the addition of Will Muschamp as the new defensive signal-caller provides plenty of optimism for this unit. In addition to Muschamp’s arrival, getting defensive end Carl Lawson back in the mix is a boost to the pass rush. How much improvement can Muschamp coax out of Auburn’s defense this spring? 

 

5. Texas A&M’s Defense Under John Chavis

Defense has been Texas A&M’s biggest weakness since joining the SEC in 2012. The Aggies have allowed over six yards per play in conference games in two out of the last three seasons. However, coach Kevin Sumlin is taking steps to fix this unit. Former LSU coordinator (and arguably one of the top defensive minds in college football) John Chavis was hired this offseason to lead the Aggies’ defense. Chavis inherits a unit that needs a lot of work, but there’s also a lot of promising talent. 

 

6. Jim Harbaugh’s Return to Michigan

After a 20-18 record over the last three years under Brady Hoke, Michigan needed to hit a home run with its coaching hire. The Wolverines did exactly that, luring former Wolverine quarterback Jim Harbaugh from the NFL to hopefully lead the program back to national promience. Harbaugh is a proven winner on the collegiate and NFL level, and his arrival in Ann Arbor should at least help Michigan return to a bowl in 2015. Harbaugh’s first spring leading the Wolverines has plenty of intrigue and personnel concerns. Michigan needs to find a quarterback and develop its skill talent, while a young offensive line is looking to take the next step in its progression. Harbaugh won’t answer all of his personnel concerns in 2015. However, there’s no doubt this team will be better next season.

 

7. Question Marks at Oregon

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich has won 24 games over the last two seasons, but this spring might be the toughest period of his tenure. With quarterback Marcus Mariota, left tackle Jake Fisher, center Hroniss Grasu, cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, end Arik Armstead and a couple of other key contributors from the Ducks’ national championship runner-up team, Helfrich and this coaching staff have more holes to fill on the roster than the last two offseasons. Expected starting quarterback (and Eastern Washington transfer) Vernon Adams won’t arrive until the summer, which means the battle for the No. 1 job will continue into fall practice. Only five starters return from a defense ranked last in the Pac-12 on third-down stops and 10th in the league against the run. The Ducks should be the favorite in the Pac-12 North, but this team needs a productive spring to be considered a preseason national title contender. 

 

8. Quarterback Battles

In Athlon’s pre-spring top 25 for 2015, seven of the top 10 teams enter offseason workouts with some uncertainty at quarterback. Ohio State has three Heisman candidates vying for snaps, while Baylor should be able to plug Seth Russell into Bryce Petty’s spot and keep the offense performing at a high level. Auburn’s offense is in good hands with Jeremy Johnson, but this is his first spring as the starter. Jobs at Georgia, Florida State, Oregon, Alabama, Notre Dame, LSU, UCLA and Ole Miss are up for grabs. Will a front-runner emerge in spring practice?

 

9. Oklahoma and Texas Searching for Answers

It’s rare to see Oklahoma and Texas both picked outside of the top three in a Big 12 preseason poll, but it could happen in 2015. The Longhorns finished 6-7 in coach Charlie Strong’s first season, and this team may need another recruiting class (or two) before it can challenge for the league title. The quarterback position will be under the spotlight this spring, as starter Tyrone Swoopes needs to develop or redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard will get an extended look under center. At Oklahoma, Bob Stoops revamped his coaching staff after a disappointing 8-5 season. New play-caller Lincoln Riley is an Air Raid disciple, but running back Samaje Perine is still the catalyst for the offense. While Perine should push for All-American honors in 2015, big questions remain about the supporting cast. Will Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield win the quarterback job? Who steps up on the offensive line? And on defense, the Sooners allowed nearly 30 points per game in conference action. Will this unit show improvement this spring? It’s a big offseason for both Oklahoma and Texas in the quest to get back to the top of the Big 12.

 

10. Florida State and Clemson…Simply Reloading?

Most pre-spring rankings have the projected ACC champion outside of the four projected playoff teams in 2015. But could that change by the fall? Florida State and Clemson have combined for just six losses over the last two seasons and could factor into the playoff mix if key replacements are found for departed personnel. This spring is the first opportunity for the Seminoles to replace quarterback Jameis Winston, four starters on the offensive line and address a defense that finished ninth in the ACC in points allowed. There are some similiarities between Florida State and Clemson this spring, as the Tigers need to restock a front seven that was decimated by departures, as well as rebuild the offensive line to protect sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson. The first opportunity for Florida State and Clemson to reload – and get back into contention for the playoffs – starts this spring. 

 

Other Storylines to Watch:

 

Boise State: Who steps up to replace running back Jay Ajayi?

 

BYU: How quick can quarterback Taysom Hill get back to 100 percent?

 

LSU: Will the offense develop any consistency in the passing game?

 

Miami: The question that seems to pop up every year (at least recently in Coral Gables): Is Miami ready to win the ACC Coastal? Defensive improvement would be a good place to start.

 

Notre Dame: Will Malik Zaire unseat Everett Golson for the No. 1 quarterback spot? Will the defense improve in coordinator Brian VanGorder’s second season?

 

Penn State: How far will the offensive line progress after allowing 44 sacks in 2014?

 

Stanford: The Cardinal defense is in need of major repair with only four returning starters. And is this the offseason that quarterback Kevin Hogan takes the next step in his development?

 

Tennessee: Are the Volunteers ready to challenge Georgia and Missouri in the SEC East next year? Let’s see how far the offensive line progresses in spring ball.

 

UCLA: Will true freshman Josh Rosen win the starting quarterback spot?

 

USC: Can the Trojans find a couple of receivers to replace standout Nelson Agholor?

 

Virginia Tech: Can the Hokies develop their offensive line and passing attack?

 

Wisconsin: Can new coach Paul Chryst help quarterback Joel Stave and an unsettled receiving corps develop after struggling last season?

Teaser:
College Football's Top 10 Storylines to Watch in 2015 Spring Practice
Post date: Friday, March 6, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2015-spring-preview-and-power-rankings
Body:

Spring practice is already underway for a handful of college football teams, and the offseason workouts and scrimmages provide the first glimpse of how all 128 teams will look in 2015.

 

The Big Ten is home to college football’s defending national champs (Ohio State), as well as a cast of intriguing teams in 2015. Michigan State should be among the top-10 teams in the nation, while Michigan and Nebraska hope to take a step forward under new coaches. Penn State should be better in the second season under coach James Franklin, but the Nittany Lions have some key personnel issues to address this offseason.

 

What are the key questions and storylines shaping all 14 teams in the Big Ten and outlook for 2015? Let’s take a quick look at the 14 teams and the priority list for each coach.

 

Big Ten Spring Preview and Storylines to Watch

 

(Teams listed by pre-spring power rank)

 

East Division

 

1. Ohio State

2014 Record: 14-1 (8-0 Big Ten)

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 7

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Tim Beck (Co-Offensive Coordinator)

Tony Alford (RBs)

 

Ohio State’s Spring Priorities

 

1. Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers

There’s little doubt quarterback play is going to garner most of the preseason attention. But it’s unlikely there will be much clarity here, as J.T. Barrett (leg) and Braxton Miller (shoulder) continue to recover from 2014 injuries. Cardale Jones has a chance to secure his lead in the quarterback derby while both are out, but all three will have a chance to push for the job in the fall. Much like the quarterback position, the receiving corps isn’t hurting for options. However, replacements must emerge for Devin Smith and Evan Spencer.

 

2. Reinforcements on the Defensive Line
Ohio State’s defensive line should be one of the best in the nation in 2015, but coach Larry Johnson has to restock this unit after the departures of ends Steve Miller and Rashad Frazier, along with standout defensive tackle Michael Bennett. Finding help for end Joey Bosa and tackle Adolphus Washington will be a key for the Buckeyes’ hopes of repeating in 2015.

 

3. Replacing CB Doran Grant

The Buckeyes aren’t losing a ton from last year’s team, but cornerback Doran Grant won’t be easy to replace. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors after recording 63 tackles and nine pass breakups in 2014. Young talent is available here, but the defense is looking for players to emerge outside of Eli Apple at the position. 

 

2. Michigan State

2014 Record: 11-2 (7-1 Big Ten)

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 7

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Harlon Barnett (Co-Defensive Coordinator)

Mike Tressel (Co-Defensive Coordinator)

Mark Snyder (LB/Special Teams)

 

Michigan State’s Spring Priorities

 

1. Playmakers at Receiver
Quarterback Connor Cook must find a new go-to target after standout receiver Tony Lippett expired his eligibility after the Cotton Bowl. Keith Mumphery also departs after catching 26 passes last year. Who steps up at receiver this spring for Cook? Will it be Aaron Burbridge or A.J. Troup? Or will tight end Josiah Price become an even bigger part of the offense in 2015?

 

2. Settling the Order at Running Back

Jeremy Langford finished his career at East Lansing with an effective senior year (1,522 yards and 22 scores). The Spartans need to find a new go-to back this spring, but this offense isn’t hurting for options. Delton Williams, Gerald Holmes, Madre London and incoming freshman L.J. Scott (will arrive in East Lansing this summer) are plenty capable of keeping the ground attack performing at a high level. How will the pecking order develop this spring?

 

3. Keep the Momentum on Defense

Michigan State’s defense was one of the best in the nation under former coordinator Pat Narduzzi. With Narduzzi taking the head coach job at Pittsburgh, coach Mark Dantonio promoted Harlon Barnett and Mike Tressel into the co-defensive coordinator role. Barnett and Tressel’s job was made easier with the return of end Shilique Calhoun, but the secondary loses cornerback Trae Waynes and safety Kurtis Drummond, and the linebacking corps loses Taiwan Jones. This spring will be the first opportunity for the new co-coordinators to find replacements for the key departures.

 

3. Penn State

2014 Record: 7-6 (2-6 Big Ten)

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 6

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

None

 

Penn State’s Spring Priorities

 

1. Offensive Line

Keeping quarterback Christian Hackenberg upright in the pocket is Penn State’s top priority in 2015. The offensive line was hit hard by youth and injuries last year and surrendered 44 sacks in 13 contests. Line coach Herb Hand is one of the best in the nation, and this unit should show improvement in 2015. Junior college recruit Paris Palmer should help alleviate some of the concerns at tackle.

 

2. Reload the DE Spots
Both lines of scrimmage will be under the microscope for Penn State this spring. The Nittany Lions must replace ends Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan after the duo combined for nine sacks last season. Garrett Sickels and redshirt freshman Torrence Brown are two names to watch as line coach Sean Spencer looks to restock at defensive end.

 

3. New Kicker

Don’t overlook the loss of kicker Sam Ficken this spring. Penn State had eight kickers on last year’s roster (not all scholarship players), with Chris Gulla listed as Ficken’s backup. The Nittany Lions played in seven games decided by one score or less last year. A reliable kicker can make a big difference in close games.

 

4. Michigan

2014 Record: 5-7 (3-5 Big Ten)

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 6

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Jim Harbaugh (Head Coach)

Tim Drevno (Offensive Coordinator)

D.J. Durkin (Defensive Coordinator)

 

Michigan’s Spring Priorities

 

1. Quarterback Battle

New coach Jim Harbaugh is going to make a difference with Michigan’s offense in 2015. But in order for the Wolverines to make a big jump on the stat sheet, quarterback play has to improve. Who will get the call under center for Harbaugh? Will it be Shane Morris? Or will freshmen Alex Malzone and Zach Gentry or Wilton Speight push for starting time?

 

2. Find a Few Playmakers

Top receiver Devin Funchess left for the NFL, and Michigan finished 2014 ranked ninth in the Big Ten in rush offense. Quarterback play has to improve for the offense to take off, but the Wolverines also need more from their skill players. USC transfer Ty Isaac could help the rushing attack, and this is a big spring for receivers Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson and Freddy Canteen.

 

3. More Progress on Defense
Lost in Michigan’s offensive woes was a defense that limited opponents to 4.8 yards per play in 2014. New coordinator D.J. Durkin comes to Ann Arbor after a solid stint at Florida and is regarded as a rising star in the coaching ranks. His biggest spring goals will be to find a replacement for standout linebacker Jake Ryan, restock the defensive end position and settle the options in the secondary. Is talented redshirt freshman Jabrill Peppers a cornerback or safety?

 

5. Rutgers

2014 Record: 8-5 (3-5 Big Ten)

Returning Starters: Offense – 3, Defense – 6

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Ben McDaniels (Offensive Coordinator)

Phil Galiano (Special Teams/Tight Ends)

Anthony Campanile (WRs)

 

Rutgers’ Spring Priorities

 

1. New Play-Caller on Offense
Ralph Friedgen’s one season with the Scarlet Knights was a successful one, and Ben McDaniels will inherit an offense with just three returning starters in 2015. McDaniels was the team’s receivers coach in 2014 and has never called plays on the FBS level. What changes will McDaniels implement in 2015?

2. QB Battle
The first priority for McDaniels this spring is to settle the quarterback battle between Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig. Laviano completed 11 of 28 passes for 107 yards last season, while Rettig sat out 2014 as a result of transfer rules from LSU.

3. Defensive Improvement

Rutgers ranked last in the Big Ten by allowing 6.4 yards per play (all games) last season. Coordinator Joe Rossi has work to do at each level, as the defense must replace contributors like end David Milewski, linebacker Kevin Snyder and defensive backs Gareef Glashen and safety Lorenzo Waters.

 

6. Maryland

2014 Record: 7-6 (4-4 Big Ten)

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 4

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Keith Dudzinski (Defensive Coordinator)

Terry Richardson (RBs)

 

Maryland’s Spring Priorities

 

1. Replacing C.J. Brown at QB
The Terrapins’ quarterback battle probably won’t be settled until the fall, as Caleb Rowe won’t participate this spring due to his recovery from a torn ACL. However, while Rowe is sidelined, Perry Hills and Shane Cockerille will battle to claim an early lead in the quarterback race.

 

2. Settle the OL
While quarterback play is a concern, a bigger priority for Maryland this spring has to be an offensive line that allowed 36 sacks in 2014. Center Sal Conaboy and guard Silvano Altamirano depart after each started 13 games last season. Expect to see redshirt freshmen Damian Prince and Derwin Gray push for snaps this spring.

 

3. Rebuild the Front 7 on Defense
New defensive play-caller Keith Dudzinski is going to be a busy man this spring. The Terrapins lost several key players from last year’s front seven, including ends Andre Monroe and Keith Bowers, tackle Darius Kilgo and linebackers Cole Farrand and L.A. Goree. How quickly can Maryland reload here this offseason?

 

7. Indiana

2014 Record: 4-8 (1-7 Big Ten)

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 6

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

None

 

Indiana’s Spring Priorities

 

1. Getting the Passing Game Back on Track
An injury to starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld hampered Indiana’s offense last season. Sudfeld is expected to return at full strength from a shoulder injury suffered in 2014, and this spring is the first chance to work with the revamped receiving corps. The Hoosiers brought in plenty of help for Sudfeld, as junior college recruit Camion Patrick and UAB transfer Marqui Hawkins should help bolster a young receiving corps.

 

2. Defensive Improvement

If Indiana wants to contend for a bowl in 2015, the defense has to improve – significantly. The Hoosiers allowed 6.4 yards per play in Big Ten action last year and gave up 16 passing touchdowns in conference games. The front seven has reasons to be optimistic for improvement, but the secondary must replace both starting cornerbacks from last season. 

 

3. Jordan Howard Replacing Tevin Coleman

Tevin Coleman will be missed in Bloomington, but Indiana found an excellent replacement in UAB transfer Jordan Howard. The former Blazer will get his first chance to work with the Hoosiers’ solid offensive line this spring. How quickly will he mesh with the returning personnel? 

 

West Division

 

1. Wisconsin

2014 Record: 11-3 (7-1 Big Ten)

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 7

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Paul Chryst (Head Coach)

Joe Rudolph (Offensive Coordinator)

 

Wisconsin’s Spring Priorities

 

1. Develop the Passing Game
Melvin Gordon has departed at running back, but there’s a capable replacement in Corey Clement. The passing game is a bigger concern for coach Paul Chryst, as the Badgers managed only 150 yards per game through the air in conference action in 2014 and completed 53.9 percent of their passes. Quarterback Joel Stave has to take a step forward in his development, while the coaching staff also has to find another receiver or two to take the pressure off of Alex Erickson.

 

2. Restock the OL
Wisconsin had one of the nation’s top offensive lines last season, but there’s work ahead for Chryst this spring. Three starters – Dallas Lewallen, Kyle Costigan and Rob Havenstein – have departed after a successful career in Madison. Two starters – Tyler Marz and Dan Voltz – will be solid players to build around, but who steps up to replace the three departures?

 

3. New Faces in the Front Seven
The Badgers owned one of the best defenses in the Big Ten last season, limiting conference opponents to just 4.8 yards per play. Seven starters are back for 2015, but there are a few key holes to address. Linemen Warren Herring and Konrad Zagzebski and linebackers Michael Trotter and Marcus Trotter are gone. There’s plenty of talent to keep this defense performing at a high level, but the depth must be restocked after player departures.

 

2. Nebraska

2014 Record: 9-4 (5-3 Big Ten)

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 6

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Mike Riley (Head Coach)

Danny Langsdorf (Offensive Coordinator)

Mark Banker (Defensive Coordinator)

 

Nebraska’s Spring Priorities

 

1. New Coaching Staff, New Schemes

New coach Mike Riley inherits a good roster, and there’s enough talent to push for the West Division title in 2015. But as with any coaching change, there will be tweaks to the schemes on both sides of the ball. This spring is the first opportunity to get a look at how different the Cornhuskers will look in 2015.

 

2. Tommy Armstrong’s Development

Riley and coordinator Danny Langsdorf had plenty of success on offense at Oregon State. Quarterback Sean Mannion just finished his career as the Pac-12’s all-time passing leader. This spring will be a big one for quarterback Tommy Armstrong under the new staff. In his first full season as Nebraska’s starter, he completed 53.3 percent of his throws, 2,695 yards and 22 scores. How much will Armstrong improve over the spring?

 

3. Replacing Randy Gregory at DE

Even though Gregory had a knee injury in 2014, he was still one of the Big Ten’s most disruptive defenders. In 11 games, Gregory registered seven sacks, 8.5 tackles for a loss and one forced fumble. The Cornhuskers aren’t stocked with a ton of options this spring at defensive end, so it’s a critical time for players like Jack Gangwish, Joe Keels and A.J. Natter (if healthy) to join Greg McMullen as key contributors at the position.

 

3. Minnesota

2014 Record: 8-5 (5-3 Big Ten)

Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 7

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

None

 

Minnesota’s Spring Priorities

 

1. David Cobb’s Replacement
Running back David Cobb was the driving force behind a Minnesota rushing attack that generated 215.5 yards per game last season. Cobb has expired his eligibility, and the battle to replace him will start this spring. Berkley Edwards, Rodrick Williams and talented redshirt freshman Jeff Jones will compete to determine the pecking order in the backfield.

 

2. More Consistency from QB Mitch Leidner

In his first full season as Minnesota’s starting quarterback, Leidner completed 122 of 237 passes for 1,798 yards and 11 scores. He also rushed for 452 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Golden Gophers need more from Leidner in 2015, but his job would be made easier if…

 

3. Finding Receivers

…Minnesota can find a few receivers this spring. This unit is the biggest concern for coach Jerry Kill, as tight end Maxx Williams and receivers Isaac Fruechte and Donovahn Jones have departed Minneapolis. This is a big spring for Drew Wolitarsky, KJ Maye, Eric Carter and Melvin Holland.

 

4. Iowa

2014 Record: 7-6 (4-4 Big Ten)

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 6

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Brian Ferentz (Run Game Coordinator)

Seth Wallace (CBs/Nickel Backs)

LeVar Woods (Tight Ends)

 

Iowa’s Spring Priorities

 

1. Settle the QB Position
Will it be Jake Rudock or C.J. Beathard starting for Iowa in 2015? The first shot at answering that question could come this spring. Rudock threw for 2,436 yards and 16 touchdowns, but Beathard has a stronger arm, which would allow Iowa to stretch the field more – if he’s the starter.

 

2. Replacing the Offensive Tackles
The Hawkeyes have a good core of starting linemen returning in 2015, but tackles Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal are huge losses. Scherff was among the nation’s best at his position, while Donnal started 13 games in 2014. Who steps up at the offensive tackle spots this spring?

 

3. Reloading at Defensive Tackle
The trenches will be an area of focus this spring in Iowa City. Not only must the Hawkeyes rebuilt the offensive tackle position, but the defensive tackle spot is a major concern. Gone are standouts Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat, and backups Jaleel Johnson and Nathan Bazata combined for just 15 tackles in 2015. 

 

5. Illinois

2014 Record: 6-7 (3-5 Big Ten)

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Mike Phair (Co-Defensive Coordinator)

 

Illinois’ Spring Priorities

 

1. Solidify the OL
If the Fighting Illini can keep quarterback Wes Lunt healthy, the offense should easily surpass last year’s 25.9 points per game mark. The offensive line gave up 37 sacks last season, and the left side must be revamped with the departure of tackle Simon Cvijanovic and guard Michael Heitz.

 

2. Getting Defensive
In coach Tim Beckman’s three seasons at Illinois, the Fighting Illini has allowed at least 5.8 yards per play each year. Beckman is turning to former NFL assistant Mike Phair to help Tim Banks coordinate the defense. Seven starters are back on defense, but this unit needs to generate a better pass rush and show improvement against the run.

 

3. Consistency on the Ground
Running back Josh Ferguson is a solid all-around back for the Fighting Illini, recording 735 yards and eight scores on the ground last season. He also caught 50 passes for 427 yards and two touchdowns. However, Illinois needs a little more from its ground attack. In Big Ten games, the Fighting Illini averaged 3.6 yards per carry. 

 

6. Northwestern

2014 Record: 5-7 (3-5 Big Ten)

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 10

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

None

 

Northwestern’s Spring Priorities

 

1. Quarterback Battle

The Wildcats open spring practice with three quarterbacks vying for the starting job. Zack Oliver has the most experience of the signal-callers, but Matt Alviti and talented redshirt freshman Clayton Thorson will push for time.

 

2. Rebuilding the OL
In eight Big Ten games last season, Northwestern allowed 24 sacks. The Wildcats have some work to do up front this spring, as two key starters depart in center Brandon Vitabile and tackle Paul Jorgensen. The development of this group will be critical for Northwestern’s bowl hopes in 2015.

 

3. Finding a Pass Rush
The Wildcats tied for last in the Big Ten with just nine sacks generated in eight conference games. The defense held opponents to a respectable 5.3 yards per play in Big Ten action, and with 10 starters back, improvement should be expected. Boosting the pass rush is critical for Northwestern to help elevate the defense even higher in the rankings for 2015.

 

7. Purdue

2014 Record: 3-9 (1-7 Big Ten)

Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 7

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Terry Malone (TEs)

 

Purdue’s Spring Priorities

 

1. Settling the QB Position

Austin Appleby and Danny Etling shared the quarterback job last season and combined to throw 16 touchdowns to 16 interceptions. Both players will have a chance to win the starting spot this spring, but redshirt freshman David Blough also joins the competition.

 

2. Find Playmakers

While the quarterback job remains uncertain, Purdue also has to develop more options at running back and receiver to help out the offense. Top running backs Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert are gone, leaving Keyante Green (199 yards) as the team’s top returning rusher. Hunt was also the team’s leading option in terms of catches (48), and top receiver Danny Anthrop (616 receiving yards last season) is coming off a torn ACL.

 

3. Step Forward on Defense

In coach Darrell Hazell’s two seasons with the Boilermakers, Purdue has ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten in yards per play allowed in back-to-back years. There’s reason for optimism with seven starters returning, but key players like end Ryan Russell and safety Landon Feichter must be replaced. Can this unit take a step forward in the spring?

Teaser:
Big Ten 2015 Spring Preview and Power Rankings
Post date: Thursday, March 5, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/sec-west-2015-spring-preview-and-power-rankings
Body:

Spring practice is already underway for a handful of college football teams, and the offseason workouts and scrimmages provide the first glimpse of how all 128 teams will look in 2015.

 

The SEC West is college football’s toughest division and the going isn’t expected to get any easier in 2015. Alabama and Auburn appear to be the early favorites, but any of the seven teams have a case to be picked at the top this preseason. This spring, quarterback battles will be under the spotlight at Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU, while defense is the focus at Auburn and Texas A&M.

 

What are the key questions and storylines shaping all seven teams in the SEC West and outlook for 2015? Let’s take a quick look at the 7 teams and the priority list for each coach. 

 

SEC West Spring Preview and Storylines to Watch

 

(Teams listed by pre-spring power rank)

 

1. Alabama

2014 Record: 12-2 (7-1 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 2, Defense – 7

 

Key Coaching Changes:

Tosh Lupoi (LBs coach)
Mel Tucker (DBs coach)


Alabama’s Spring Priorities

 

1. Jake Coker’s Offense
After transferring in from Florida State last offseason, high expectations surrounded Jake Coker in the quarterback battle. However, Blake Sims edged Coker for the starting job. This spring is Coker’s chance at claiming the job once again, but he will be pushed by David Cornwell, Blake Barnett and Cooper Bateman. This is Coker’s job to lose.

2. New Targets at WR
Amari Cooper was the best receiver in college football last season, catching 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 scores. And Alabama isn’t just replacing Cooper, as DeAndrew White and Christion Jones are also out of eligibility. Which players will emerge this spring at receiver?

3. Secondary Issues
Alabama’s defensive backs allowed 19 plays of 30 yards or more last season, which ranked near the bottom of the SEC. This unit has room to improve in 2015, but safeties Landon Collins and Nick Perry must be replaced. At cornerback, will Cyrus Jones, Tony Brown, Eddie Jackson and Marlon Humphrey provide the secondary with more consistency to eliminate the big plays?

 

2. Auburn

2014 Record: 8-5 (4-4 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 7

 

Key Coaching Changes:

Will Muschamp (defensive coordinator)
Travaris Robinson (DBs coach)
Lance Thompson (LBs coach)


Auburn’s Spring Priorities

 

1. Will Muschamp Takes Over the Defense
After giving up 32.8 points per game in SEC contests last season, coach Gus Malzahn decided to make big changes to his defensive staff. Three new coaches join Auburn for 2015, including former Florida coach Will Muschamp as the team’s new coordinator. Muschamp should make a big difference with this unit, and there’s a solid core of talent in place with seven starters returning. This spring is Muschamp’s first opportunity to put his system in place.

2. Carl Lawson’s Return at DE
In addition to Muschamp’s arrival, one of the biggest reasons for optimism for Auburn's defense is the return of end Carl Lawson from injury. Lawson missed all of 2014 due to a torn ACL but is expected to participate in spring practice. Even though the sophomore won’t take a full load of snaps in the spring, getting Lawson back in the mix and knocking off the rust will be beneficial for the fall.

3. Reloading on Offense
Auburn returns only five starters on offense, but there’s not much concern about how this unit will perform in 2015. Quarterback Jeremy Johnson is a breakout candidate, the backfield is loaded with talent - including junior college recruit Jovon Robinson - and there’s enough of a core in place on the offensive line to withstand the departure of center Reese Dismukes. 

 

3. LSU

2014 Record: 8-5 (4-4 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 6

 

Key Coaching Changes:

Kevin Steele (Defensive Coordinator)
Ed Orgeron (DL coach)
Tony Ball (WRs coach)


LSU’s Spring Priorities

 

1. Improvement in the Passing Game
Total yardage isn’t necessarily the best way to judge an offense’s effectiveness, but LSU averaged only 140.6 passing yards per game in SEC contests. Both quarterbacks – Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris – struggled to consistently move the offense through the air. Jennings will open spring ball as the starter, but can he show improvement after completing only 48.9 percent of his passes in 2014?

2. Reloading at DE
LSU has been a factory for talent at defensive end in recent years. However, the pass rush has dipped over the last two seasons, and the Tigers finished 2014 with just 19 sacks. Ends Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter have departed Baton Rouge, leaving new coordinator Kevin Steele and line coach Ed Orgeron with a few holes to fill at end. Who steps up here this spring?

3. Depth at RB/WR
There’s no doubt running back Leonard Fournette will be one of the nation’s leading rushers in 2015. But with the departure of Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee, coordinator Cam Cameron needs to restock the depth behind Fournette this spring. At receiver, Travin Dural produced plenty of big plays in 2014. Can the Tigers find a consistent No. 2 and No. 3 option? This is a big spring for Trey Quinn, Malachi Dupre and John Diarse at receiver.

 

4. Ole Miss

2014 Record: 9-4 (5-3 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 7

 

Key Coaching Changes:

Corey Batoon (Sp. Teams/Safeties)

 

Ole Miss’ Spring Priorities

 

1. Quarterback Battle
With Bo Wallace expiring his eligibility, the Rebels open spring with a three-way battle for the starting quarterback spot. Junior college recruit Chad Kelly will have a shot to unseat DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan, but none of the three players have a career start. Will coach Hugh Freeze find an answer at quarterback this spring?

2. Shuffling the OL
The offensive line was a concern for the Rebels heading into 2014, and this unit had its share of struggles, giving up 31 sacks and clearing the way for rushers to average only 3.9 yards per carry. Improving this unit is critical for Ole Miss’ chances at moving up in the West Division pecking order, but injuries are a factor. Tackle Laremy Tunsil and guard Aaron Morris are recovering from significant leg injuries. Major improvement this spring with Morris and Tunsil sidelined is unlikely, but it’s critical for Freeze to get a look at his options.

3. Filling the Voids in the Secondary
The Rebels return seven starters on defense and should once again be among the best in the SEC. But if there’s one concern for coordinator Dave Wommack, it has to be in the secondary after the departures of cornerback Senquez Golson and safety Cody Prewitt. The cupboard isn’t bare though, as C.J. Hampton and Tony Conner are back at safety, and cornerback could be addressed with the return of Tee Shepard from injury. Junior college recruit Tony Bridges will also provide help at cornerback.

 

5. Arkansas

2014 Record: 7-6 (2-6 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 9 , Defense – 5

 

Key Coaching Changes:

Dan Enos (Offensive Coordinator)
Vernon Hargreaves (LBs coach)
Jemal Singleton (RBs coach)


Arkansas’ Spring Priorities

 

1. Continued Improvement in the Passing Game
New coordinator Dan Enos shouldn’t have to change the formula for success for the Razorbacks. Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams form one of the nation’s top duos at running back, and the line is one of the best in the SEC. But for Arkansas to take the next step in the West, the passing game has to take another step forward. Quarterback Brandon Allen returns, and top targets Keon Hatcher (WR) and Hunter Henry (TE) are also back. Can the Razorbacks find a couple more options to help the passing game grow in 2015?

2. Reloading on the DL
Not only is Arkansas losing its best pass rusher (Trey Flowers), but its best defensive tackle (Darius Philon) bolted early to the NFL. Coordinator Robb Smith has to restock the trenches this spring and will be looking for development from players like JaMichael Winston (DE), Taiwan Johnson (DT) and Bijhon Jackson (DT).

3. Replacing Martrell Spaight
Spaight may have been one of the SEC’s most underrated players in 2014. In 13 games, Spaight recorded 128 tackles (10.5 for a loss) and forced two fumbles. Brooks Ellis (72 tackles) is the top returner at linebacker, but this will be an area of focus as Smith and new linebacker coach Vernon Hargreaves look to replace Spaight in 2015.

 

6. Texas A&M

2014 Record: 8-5 (3-5 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 6

 

Key Coaching Changes:

John Chavis (Defensive Coordinator)
Aaron Moorehead (WRs coach)
Dave Christensen (OL/Run Game Coordinator)


Texas A&M’s Spring Priorities

 

1. Getting Defensive
It’s no secret the defense has been Texas A&M’s biggest problem since joining the SEC. However, coach Kevin Sumlin took a big step in fixing the defense by hiring John Chavis away from LSU. Chavis is one of the best defensive signal-callers in the nation and inherits a unit with some promising young talent. How far can Chavis get this defense to improve in the spring?


2. Kyle Allen’s Time to Shine
Allen ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the 2014 247Sports Composite and didn’t disappoint in his first season in College Station. He started the final five games of 2014 and finished the year with 1,322 passing yards and 16 scores. Allen is entrenched as the starter this spring, but touted freshman Kyler Murray arrives this summer. Can Allen solidify his place at the top of the depth chart?

3. Revamped OL
New line coach Dave Christensen inherits a unit that returns three starters but must replace standout tackle Cedric Ogbuehi. The Aggies allowed 26 sacks last season and need to shuffle the starting five with Ogbuehi, Garrett Gramling and Jarvis Harrison leaving College Station. Center Mike Matthews is a good building block, but how will Christensen build the starting five? This spring is his first opportunity to work with this group. 

 

7. Mississippi State

2014 Record: 10-3 (6-2 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 3

 

Key Coaching Changes:

Manny Diaz (Defensive Coordinator)


Mississippi State’s Spring Priorities

 

1. New Faces on the OL
The Bulldogs return only four starters on offense in 2015, but quarterback Dak Prescott turned down the NFL for one more season in Starkville. Prescott’s return is huge for Mississippi State’s hopes of another 10-win season, and the focus of spring should be revamping the line to protect their senior quarterback. Three key linemen departed from the 2014 team, including standout center Dillon Day and guard Ben Beckwith. Junior college recruit Martinas Rankin should help replace left tackle Blaine Clausell.

2. Replacing Josh Robinson
Josh Robinson left Starkville for the NFL after a successful 2014 season. Robinson rushed for 1,203 yards and 11 scores last year, while Prescott was the team’s second-leading rusher with 986 yards. The battle to replace Robinson begins this spring, as Brandon Holloway, Ashton Shumpert and Aeris Williams will compete for carries.

3. Manny Diaz Returns to Coordinate the Defense
Geoff Collins left to become the co-defensive coordinator at Florida this offseason, and coach Dan Mullen turned to a familiar face to lead Mississippi State’s defense. Manny Diaz is back after leaving for Texas in 2011. Diaz will be a busy man this offseason, as the Bulldogs return only three starters and suffered significant losses at each level of the defense. This spring will be his first opportunity to find replacements for big names like end Preston Smith and linebacker Benardrick McKinney.

Teaser:
SEC West 2015 Spring Preview and Power Rankings
Post date: Tuesday, March 3, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/oregon-state-new-helmet-2015-spring-practice
Body:

Oregon State is slated to open spring practice on Tuesday, March 3, and there’s plenty of optimism surrounding the team with the hire of new coach Gary Andersen.

In addition to the new era of Oregon State football, the Beavers plan to unveil a new helmet for spring practice.

The Twitter account of Oregon State equipment’s team tweeted out this picture on Monday night of the helmets: 

Who knows how much Oregon State will wear these helmets in the regular season, but this variation (with a tip of the cap to the past) is a pretty solid look for the program.

Teaser:
Oregon State Unveils New Helmet for 2015 Spring Practice
Post date: Tuesday, March 3, 2015 - 10:34
Path: /college-football/south-carolina-coach-steve-spurrier-joins-twitter-internet-rejoices
Body:

College football coaches use Twitter accounts for various reasons, and some are better follows than others.

However, the Internet rejoiced on Monday, as South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier joined Twitter. Who knows how Spurrier will use this account, but he’s one of the best quotes in college football and perhaps this will produce a few gems along the way.

 

The Ol’ Ball Coach can be followed at Twitter.com/@SC_HBC

Here’s proof of Spurrier’s account:

And of course, Spurrier's Twitter account generated some fun conversation:

Teaser:
South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier Joins Twitter, Internet Rejoices
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 12:12
Path: /college-football/sec-east-2015-spring-preview-and-power-rankings
Body:

Spring practice is already underway for a handful of college football teams, and the offseason workouts and scrimmages provide the first glimpse of how all 128 teams will look in 2015.

 

Georgia is the early favorite in the SEC East for 2015, but the Bulldogs will be pushed by Florida, Missouri and Tennessee. The Volunteers are a team on the rise under coach Butch Jones, while the Gators have the talent to rebound in coach Jim McElwain’s first year. The Tigers have key personnel losses to address, but coach Gary Pinkel’s team always seems to find the right answers to reload the roster.

What are the key questions and storylines shaping each SEC East’s roster and outlook for 2015? Let’s take a quick look at the seven teams and the priority list for each coach. 

 

SEC East Spring Preview and Storylines to Watch
 

(Teams listed by pre-spring power rank)

 

1. Georgia

2014 Record: 10-3 (6-2 SEC)
Returning Starters:
Offense – 6, Defense – 6

Key Coaching Changes:

Brian Schottenheimer (offensive coordinator)

Rob Sale (OL coach)
Thomas Brown (RB coach)

 

Georgia's Spring Priorities


1. Quarterback Battle
New play-caller Brian Schottenheimer doesn’t need to overhaul the offense with Nick Chubb leading the way at running back, but the Bulldogs have question marks in the passing game. Who will replace Hutson Mason at quarterback? Will it be Brice Ramsey (24 of 39 for 333 yards last year)? Or will Faton Bauta or Jacob Park push for the job this spring?

2. Who Emerges at WR?
The Bulldogs are losing their top two receivers (Chris Conley and Michael Bennett) from last year. If Malcolm Mitchell can stay healthy, he could be one of the top receivers in the SEC. While Mitchell and tight end Jeb Blazevich are solid targets, Georgia needs a few more playmakers to emerge this spring.

3. Development of the Secondary
Georgia’s secondary entered last season with plenty of question marks but allowed only 10 touchdown passes in SEC contests. This unit loses only two key players from the 2014 depth chart and the overall experience and snaps in coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s defense should help the secondary improve in 2015. How will this unit replace cornerback Damian Swann after he earned second-team All-SEC honors last year?
 

 

2. Missouri

2014 Record: 11-3 (7-1 SEC)
Returning Starters: Offense - 6, Defense - 6

 

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Barry Odom (defensive coordinator)

Ryan Walters (Safeties coach)

 

Missouri’s Spring Priorities


1. The Next Standouts at DE?
Missouri consistently produces standouts at end under line coach Craig Kuligowski. Will that trend continue in 2015? The odds are in the Tigers’ favor, but this is a big spring for Marcus Loud, Charles Harris and Rocel McWilliams. Junior college recruit Marcell Frazier will arrive this summer.

2. New Targets for QB Maty Mauk
In his first season as a starter, Maty Mauk had his share of ups and downs. Mauk completed only 48.9 percent of his throws in SEC games but also limited his interceptions to just four over the final seven contests. How much will Mauk improve this offseason? It’s critical for the junior to take the next step for Missouri to contend in the East.

3. New Receivers
Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and Darius White all depart, leaving Nate Brown (five receptions) and Wesley Leftwich (three receptions) as the top returning wide receivers. Mauk’s development could be tied to how quickly Missouri can reload in the receiving corps.
 

 

3. Tennessee

2014 Record: 7-6 (3-5 SEC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 8

Key Coaching Changes:

 

Mike DeBord (offensive coordinator)


Tennessee’s Spring Priorities


1. Improving the OL
Tennessee allowed 43 sacks in 13 games last season. But there’s reason for optimism in 2015 with the return of four starters and improved depth. How much will this group progress? This spring will provide the first glimpse for coach Butch Jones.

2. Development of QB Joshua Dobbs
New coordinator Mike DeBord is tasked with getting quarterback Joshua Dobbs to the next level in his development. Dobbs threw for 1,206 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 469 yards and eight scores over the final six games. If the junior takes another step forward this offseason, he should be in the mix for All-SEC honors in 2015.

3. Next Step on Defense
After allowing 6.1 yards per play in SEC-only contests in 2013, the Volunteers lowered that number to 5.4 in 2014. With eight starters back, it’s possible Tennessee takes another noticeable jump in defensive production. End Derek Barnett is one of the nation’s rising stars at defensive end, and the addition of tackle Kahlil McKenzie is another example of how the team’s talent level has improved under coach Butch Jones.  

 

 

4. Florida

2014 Record: 7-5 (4-4 SEC)
Returning Starters:
Offense – 4, Defense – 7

Key Coaching Changes:

Jim McElwain (head coach)
Doug Nussmeier (offensive coordinator)
Geoff Collins (defensive coordinator)
Randy Shannon (co-defensive coordinator, LB coach)


Florida's Spring Priorities


1. Quarterback Battle
Treon Harris started the last six games as a true freshman last season and passed for 1,140 yards, nine scores and 10 picks. Can he build on his freshman campaign or will he be pushed for time by redshirt freshman Will Grier?

2. Rebuilding the OL
While the quarterback position will garner most of the offseason storylines, the offensive line could be a bigger problem spot for Florida in 2015. Only one starter (Trip Thurman) is back, as this unit must replace center Max Garcia, left tackle D.J. Humphries, guard Tyler Moore and tackle Chaz Green. How will this unit jell in the spring?

3. Replacing Dante Fowler
With seven starters back, the defense should once again be the strength of this team. But the Gators have one critical void to address, as end Dante Fowler left early for the NFL. Fowler led the team with 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss in 2013.  

 

 

5. South Carolina

2014 Record: 7-6 (3-5 SEC)
Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 6

Key Coaching Changes:
 

Jon Hoke (Co-defensive coordinator)


South Carolina’s Spring Priorities


1. QB Battle
Dylan Thompson departs after guiding South Carolina to a 7-6 record in his only full season as the starter. Sophomore Connor Mitch (2 of 6 in 2014) holds the inside track to replace Thompson, but the battle in Columbia is far from finished. Can Perry Orth, Michael Scarnecchia or incoming freshman Lorenzo Nunez unseat Mitch this offseason?

2. Restock the OL
South Carolina has significant personnel losses at each offensive unit. But the offensive line might have the biggest shoes to fill with the departure of standouts Corey Robinson (LT) and A.J. Cann (guard). Could Brandon Shell flip from right tackle to the left side?

3. Finding Answers on Defense
South Carolina’s defense ranked 12th in the SEC by allowing 30.4 points per game in 2014. Coach Steve Spurrier is turning to a familiar face in Jon Hoke to find some answers this spring. Six starters are back from last season, and a handful of young players should benefit from another spring to develop. Improving the pass rush and secondary will be two areas of specific focus for Hoke.
 

 

6. Kentucky

2014 Record: 5-7 (2-6 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 6

Key Coaching Changes:

Shannon Dawson (offensive coordinator)
Andy Buh (OLB coach)

 

Kentucky’s Spring Priorities


1. Replacements at Defensive End
Mark Stoops and coordinator D.J. Eliot have some major renovations ahead at end this spring. Gone are Za’Darius Smith and Bud Dupree, two standout performers who recorded 12 of Kentucky’s 27 sacks last season. Junior college recruit Alvonte Bell could help, but he won’t arrive until this summer. Expect junior Jason Hatcher to play a key role in replacing Dupree and Smith.

2. Patrick Towles
In his first full season as the starter, Towles threw for 2,718 yards and 14 scores and added 303 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Can he take the next step in his development this spring? Redshirt freshman Drew Barker was a touted prospect from the 2014 signing class and will have a chance to push for the job this offseason.

3. Improvement on the OL
Only one team (Tennessee) allowed more sacks in SEC games than Kentucky last season. The Wildcats gave up 27 sacks in eight games and must replace left tackle Darrian Miller this spring. This is a big spring for returning starters Zach West, Jon Toth, Ramsey Meyers and Jordan Swindle to build chemistry for 2015.

 

 

7. Vanderbilt

2014 Record: 3-9 (0-8 SEC)

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 9

 

Vanderbilt’s Spring Priorities


1. Find a Quarterback
New coordinator Andy Ludwig inherits an offense that managed only 12.8 points per game in SEC contests. Improving the offense starts with finding a quarterback. The Commodores aren’t hurting for options under center, as three players have started a game and Shawn Stankavage is ready to push for time after a redshirt year. Can Ludwig settle on a clear No. 1 passer?

2. Development at WR
New receivers coach Cortez Hankton opened spring practice looking for more playmakers. With inconsistency at quarterback, evaluating the Vanderbilt receiving corps isn’t easy, but only two receivers – C.J. Duncan and Latevius Rayford – caught more than 20 passes in 2014. Can young players like Caleb Scott, Ronald Monroe, Rashad Canty and Trent Sherfield emerge as threats to help Duncan and Rayford in 2015?

3. Derek Mason’s Defense
In addition to his duties as the head coach, Derek Mason is now Vanderbilt’s defensive coordinator. That’s a lot on Mason’s plate, but as his tenure at Stanford showed, he’s one of the nation’s top defensive signal-callers. With Mason having a full spring to work with a unit that returns nine starters, how much can the Commodores’ defense improve in 2015?

Teaser:
SEC East 2015 Spring Preview and Power Rankings
Post date: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 11:30

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