The 2011 Spring Alphabet
By Paul Myerberg // Mar 11, 2011
I had grand plans of giving a series of storylines for each F.B.S. program heading into the spring, but after doing so for the A.C.C. I came to a few conclusions; one, no one was reading them; two, it didn’t make much sense, as by the time I got to the end — the Sun Belt — those teams would have closed their doors on the spring; three, doing 40 days of spring coverage prior to picking up the Countdown in early May was nonsensical; and four, the breakdowns called for more work than I was really prepared to do at this time of the year. So instead of going piece-by-piece throughout the country, I’ll just pick and choose as the days go by. For now, however, let’s break down the upcoming — at some stops in progress — spring practices as a child would: letter by letter.
Auburn goes for the repeat. Pieces must be replaced: some guy at quarterback, for instance. Several talented options exist on the offensive side of the ball, however, and don’t underestimate the importance of retaining offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
B.Y.U.’s staff shakeup saw Bronco Mendenhall retool on the offensive side of the ball. With a young group, led by quarterback Jake Heaps, ready to lead the Cougars back to double-digit wins, the onus will be coaches like offensive coordinator Brandon Doman, to get on the same page — and fast.
Casey Pachall is next at T.C.U., where he’ll replace a four-year starter at quarterback in Andy Dalton. I don’t envy the shoes he has to fill: Dalton entered the pantheon of T.C.U. quarterback greats over his career, and Pachall must hit the ground running to keep the Horned Frogs in B.C.S. contention.
DaMarcus Smith signed with U.C.F. in February, but reports shortly thereafter suggested he was looking to get out of his signed commitment. Well, he is a quarterback, and U.C.F. does have a young option in Jeffrey Godfrey. George O’Leary is confident he’ll stay, but where will Smith play?
Eligibility for Case Keenum: year six is rapidly approaching, giving Houston’s quarterback a renewed shot at the N.C.A.A. record books. His knee should be completely healed by the fall, which means the Cougars should be back scoring points in bunches.
Freshmen don’t always make an immediate impact, but this group might as first-year players: Jadeveon Clowney will be a fixture on passing downs for South Carolina; it might be tough to break into the rotation, but Florida State’s James Wilder has all the tools to succeed at running back; Brett Hundley might start immediately at quarterback for U.C.L.A.; and Herschel Sims might be Kendall Hunter’s replacement at Oklahoma State.
Georgia’s recruiting class — known as the “Dream Team” — might have purchased Mark Richt a short reprieve, but he won’t be around to see the fruits of his recruiting labor if he doesn’t turn things around in 2011. It all starts in the spring for the Bulldogs.
Hot teams — under the radar teams — heading into the spring among the non-B.C.S. conferences: Southern Mississippi, Ohio, Toledo, Florida International and Hawaii.
Indiana wants to be taken seriously as a football program. The first step after acknowledging this fact is to bring in a coach capable of taking the Hoosiers out of the cellar — cue the entrance of Kevin Wilson, formerly of Oklahoma.
June Jones has already done what seemed to be the impossible: lead S.M.U. out of irrelevance and into conference contention. The next step, one that might be taken in 2011, is to lead the Mustangs to the top of Conference USA and to a national ranking. S.M.U. isn’t that far away from achieving both tasks.
Kellen Moore doesn’t need any major snaps during the spring, right? He’s entering his fourth year in the starting lineup, after all. Think again: losses at wide receiver will make the spring vital for Moore, who must develop a rapport with his new cast of pass-catchers.
Larry Porter didn’t just lose games during his debut season at Memphis, he nearly lost his entire team. Year two finds his seat hotter than any second-year coach in the country. Porter would be wise to spend the spring starting anew with his players and the media, but he can’t afford to tread water — go 1-11, for instance — again in 2011.
Mack Brown made the difficult decision of jettisoning a pair of longstanding members of his tight coaching staff in Greg Davis and Mac McWhorter. Their departure opened up the floodgates, as Texas will enter the spring with countless new faces throughout the staff. No team needs to come together more during the spring.
New digs for Nebraska, Colorado and Utah, each of which changes seats beginning in the 2011 season. Nebraska heads to the Big Ten, Colorado and Utah to the Pac-12, and the transition period begins in the spring.
Ohio State tries to move forward despite the future suspensions of five key players and its head coach. Little could happen on the field during the spring that would overshadow what has transpired in Columbus since December.
Paul Wulff has pointed towards this season as the year Washington State returns to competitive play in the Pac-12. It had better be: youth is no longer an excuse, and Wulff needs to get the Cougars within sight of bowl play to save his job.
Question marks abound at programs whose recent coaching moves have gone far from expected. Consider New Mexico, Purdue, Colorado State and U.C.L.A., among others. The list could go on and on, actually.
Redshirt freshmen looking to make an impact: U.S.C.’s Kyle Prater will give the Trojans two dynamic options in the passing game; L.S.U.’s Ego Ferguson will factor into the defensive line mix; and Nebraska’s Corey Cooper will earn significant snaps in Bo Pelini’s secondary.
Sept. 3, or the first Saturday of the 2011 season. The marquee games pit Oregon and L.S.U. and Georgia and Boise State, both on neutral fields. The whole weekend is marquee for the dedicated viewer, however.
Thursday, Sept. 1, or the first official day of the 2011 season. Only two games feature a pair of F.B.S. competition: Kentucky faces Western Kentucky in Nashville, while North Texas heads to Florida International. In other words, the Sun Belt owns the first night of the year.
Uninspired coaching changes heading into the 2011 season: Colorado and Jon Embree, though he’ll bring the fan base and alumni together in ways Dan Hawkins never could; Maryland’s Randy Edsall, the program’s sixth choice; and Tulsa’s Bill Blankenship, who replaces Todd Graham.
Virginia football has seen better days, but the program should remain confident in Mike London’s ability to get the Cavaliers back playing solid football. The state’s football capital continues to be Blacksburg, where very little stands in the way of a title run for the Hokies.
WAC football might not be long for this world, making 2011 perhaps the last go-round for a conference that has put itself on the map over the last decade. Boise State is already gone, and folks like Nevada, Hawaii and Fresno State will follow suit shortly.
Xaxier Nixon was one of several young linemen to earn starts along Florida’s offensive front in 2010. Three seniors departed after last season, however, meaning Nixon, Jonotthan Harrison and Jon Halapio must step up in the new, Charlie Weis-led U.F. offense during the spring.
Youth ruled the day in 2010 at stops like Arizona State, Louisville and Texas A&M. Despite some losses at the latter spot, the Aggies are confident that the program-wide development made last fall yields a Big 12 run come September.
Zach Mettenberger, L.S.U.’s well-regarded quarterback addition. He might not grab the starting role away from senior Jordan Jefferson, but he should steal snaps during passing downs, given the philosophy espoused by new offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe.
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Tags: Auburn, B.Y.U., Bill Blankenship, Brett Hundley, Casey Pachall, Colorado State, Corey Cooper, DaMarcus Smith, Florida International, Georgia, Gus Malzahn, Hawaii, Herschel Sims, Jadeveon Clowney, James Wilder, Jim Tressel, Jon Embree, June Jones, Kellen Moore, Kevin Wilson, Kyle Prater, Larry Porter, Mack Brown, New Mexico, Ohio, Ohio State, Purdue, Randy Edsall, S.M.U., Southern Mississippi, Spring practice, Texas, Texas A&M, Toledo, U.C.L.A., Virginia, Virginia Tech, WAC, Xavier Nixon, Zach Mettenberger
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