Tag:Spring Practice Primer
Posted on: March 5, 2012 12:42 pm
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Spring Practice Primer: Illinois



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Illinois.

Spring Practice Starts: Wednesday, March 7

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14

Returning Starters: Six on offense, seven on defense, one specialist

Three Things To Watch For:

1. A brand new coaching staff. Ron Zook and just about his entire coaching staff is gone (defensive line coach Keith Gilmore returns) and Tim Beckman is now the man in charge of Illinois football. Which means that not only will spring practice be the first chance for Beckman and his coaching staff to see his new team at work, but also the time to begin implementing a new system on both sides of the ball. There's no way the team will learn everything over the course of a few weeks, but the process begins now.

2. The quarterback battle. Odds are Illinois won't know who its starting quarterback is until the end of the summer, but the battle will begin this spring. Nathan Scheelhaase has been the starter the last two seasons, but he regressed a bit in 2011, and now that there's a new playbook, he isn't guaranteed to retain his starting job. Scheelhaase will be competing with Reilly O'Toole for the job, though if Tim Beckman's time at Toledo teaches us anything, it's that he's not afraid to go with two quarterbacks if needed.

3. The Star Position. Tim Beckman brought in Tim Banks as his defensive coordinator, and Illinois will be running a 4-2-5 defense that includes the "Star" position. Which is a hybrid of a linebacker and a safety. It'll be an interesting battle to see who claims the position, though outside linebacker Ashante Williams is probably the favorite. Williams may get some competition from safety Supo Sanni and incoming freshman TaJarvis Fuller, a playmaker out of Florida. Those two would be well-served to make an early impression over the next few weeks.

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Posted on: March 3, 2012 5:47 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Arizona

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Arizona.

Spring Practice Starts: March 5

Spring Game: April 14

Returning starters: Six offensive, five defensive, two specialists.

Three Things To Look For:

1.  Is Matt Scott as snug a fit for Rich Rodriguez's offense as he seems to be? Many college football fans have probably forgotten about Scott, but that's not his fault; the fifth-year senior and de facto Wildcat starter made highly successful cameos in both 2009 and 2010 before injuries and the emergence of Nick Foles consigned him to the bench. Though he's not going to be Pat White or Denard Robinson, Scott has more than enough mobility to be a weapon on the run -- his two 2010 starts yielded more than 130 combined yards on the ground -- and sufficient accuracy to keep defenses plenty honest. In short, Scott should be exactly the sort of quarterback Rodriguez would have wanted to inherit, a sort of Tate Forcier-type with vastly more experience (and vastly less, you know, academic ineligibility and such). If spring camp shows signs that Scott's picking the offense up as quickly as Rodriguez would want, the Wildcat offense could be something dynamic come the fall.

2. Are you sure? Who are the difference-making skill-position players? If Rodriguez was handed a nice housewarming gift in the person of Scott, on paper he hasn't been nearly as lucky at running back or wide receiver. Both the Wildcats' leading rusher from a year ago (Keola Antonin) and receiver (All-American Juron Criner) have departed, not to mention the team's second- and third-leading receivers as well--2,232 receiving yards in all. The good news is that rising sophomore Ka'Deem Carey should be ready to build on a promising debut season in the backfield, and that 6'4" senior Dan Buckner should have a breakout season in the receiving corps; the bad news is that if they're not, Scott may be forced to shoulder a heavier load than even he's capable of carrying.

3. Can the defense stay healthy? With Rodriguez's old ace defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel back in his staffing fold -- a failing at Michigan that, more than any other individual factor, led to Rodriguez's downfall in Ann Arbor -- the Wildcats shouldn't lack for defensive know-how. And in safety tandem Adam Hall and Marquis Flowers, defensive linemen Justin Washington and Kirifi Taula, and linebacker Jake Fischer, Castell will have some tools to work with. But that assumes those tools stay healthy--Fischer tore an ACL in spring camp 2011 and missed the entire season, a blow from which the linebacking corps never seemed to truly recover. If Casteel can get out of this spring with all of his key pieces intact, the Wildcats should be able to take a step forward on the defensive side of the ball in 2012.

To check in on the rest of the Pac-12 and other BCS conferences, check out the Spring Practice Schedule

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 3:08 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Oklahoma



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Oklahoma.

Spring Practice Starts: Monday, March 5

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14

Returning Starters: Eight offense, seven defense, both specialists

Three Things To Watch For:

1. Utilizing the Belldozer. One of the best things Oklahoma fans heard over the winter was that Landry Jones would be returning for another season. Still, we know what Oklahoma is going to get from Jones in 2012. What we can't be sure of is the role Blake Bell is going to play. In Oklahoma's final 6 games Bell rushed for 13 touchdowns and was seemingly unstoppable in short-yardage situations. You have to think that the Sooners are going to create more packages for Bell to utilize his abilities. Much like Florida did with Tim Tebow when Chris Leak was still around in 2006 and that worked out well for the Gators.

2. A shift in the defense. Mike Stoops is in as defensive coordinator and Brent Venables has left for Clemson. Here's what I feel confident in saying about the Oklahoma defense this season: with Stoops around, a talented secondary that was already one of the best in the Big 12 is going to get even better. The question is how Venables' absence will affect the linebackers and defensive line, with linebackers in particular being a Venables specialty. Spring practices will give us all our first clue as to how things will shake out.

3. Can a running back emerge? Dominique Whaley was a pleasant surprise for the Sooners in 2011, leading the team in rushing with 627 yards even though his year ended early thanks to a broken ankle. Because of that ankle, Whaley won't be participating in spring practice. Which means there are plenty of reps to go around for guys like Roy Finch, Brennan Clay, and incoming freshman Alex Ross. It would be a bonus for the Sooners if one of these backs steps up and shows they're capable of taking on a big role in the offense should Whaley have trouble coming back from injury.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the opening kick of the year all the way through the offseason, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 11:58 am
 

Spring Practice Primer: Nebraska



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Nebraska.

Spring Practice Starts: Sunday, March 4

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14

Returning Starters: Seven on offense, seven on defense, both specialists.

Three Things To Watch For:

1. Finding replacements on defense. The Cornhuskers may have seven starters returning on the defensive side of the ball, but there are also four pretty big departures that need to be replaced. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, linebacker Lavonte David and defensive tackle Jared Crick are all gone. That's one key player on each level of the defense and none will be easy to replace. Though having Cameron Meredith on the defensive line will make the loss of Crick easier to absorb. That being said, Dennard and David were two of the best defenders in the Big Ten last season. It's not easy to just plug in new playmakers of that caliber, and as if the job wasn't hard enough, Nebraska will also be breaking in a new defensive coordinator this season. John Papuchis was promoted to defensive coordinator after Carl Pelini left to take the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic.

2. Rediscovering the T-Magic. Taylor Martinez's first two seasons as Nebraska's quarterback have been a bit of a roller coaster. He was able to stay healthy last year, but he also completed only 56% of his passes, which was actually lower than the 59% he completed as a freshman. Martinez's yards per attempt went down over a full yard as well. Some of this was likely due to it being Martinez's first year in Tim Beck's system, and Nebraska is hoping Martinez will improve in his second season under Beck. In fact, if Nebraska wants to make a serious run at a Big Ten championship in 2011, they'll need him to. So it's important for Martinez to have a strong spring and make sure that the Cornhuskers head into the summer with a clear cut leader at the quarterback position.

3. Giving Burkhead a breather. Rex Burkhead had a great season for Nebraska in 2011, rushing for 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns en route to making the All-Conference team. While there's no reason to believe Burkhead won't have another solid season in 2012, Nebraska would be better served to find a bit more depth at running back to keep Burkhead fresh. In Nebraska's first 8 games, Burkhead averaged 110.25 yards per game, but that number dropped to 95 yards per game over Nebraska's final five contests. The Huskers went 2-3 in those games. So if backs like Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green can show that they're capable of taking some carries this spring, it could go a long way in the fall.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the opening kick of the year all the way through the offseason, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview.

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Posted on: March 1, 2012 5:52 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 5:59 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Cincinnati



Posted by Chip Patterson


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Cincinnati.

Spring Practice Started: Thursday, March 1

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14

Three Things To Look For:

1. Munchie Legaux's encore. Junior quarterback Munchie Legaux had a chance to get comfortable under center in 2011, appearing in seven games and starting in the final three. When Zach Collaros went down with an ankle injury that kept him out for the remainder of the regular season, Legaux stepped in to help the Bearcats claim a share of the Big East title. At times, Legaux was brilliant on the field. He used his athleticism and creativity to keep plays alive, throwing for 749 yards and adding 185 on the ground. But there were also four interceptions in the last four games, and a 47.4 completion percentage on the season. Spring practice will be Legaux's first chance since then to prove he is ready for permanent starting job. Head coach Butch Jones has named Legaux the first-stringer to start workouts, but has described the competition as "wide open."

2. Looking for defensive playmakers. Even after Zach Collaros' ankle injury, the Bearcats' defense helped keep them in games by holding the opposition from reaching the end zone. Cincinnati ranked third in the Big East and No. 20 nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 20.3 points per game. A big part in their defensive success came from fantastic individual playmaking from All-Big East talent like linebacker JK Schaffer and defensive tackle Derek Wolfe. The Bearcats actually allowed an average of 356.4 yards per game, but thanks to playmaking and a Top 10 turnover margin (0.92/game) they were able to step up when it counts. Schaffer and Wolfe are gone now, and the unit will need more playmakers in 2012 to avoid paying the penalty for 300+ yards allowed per game.

3. Butch Jones back under the microscope. Jones' first two seasons as the Bearcats' head coach encompassed the entire spectrum of success. His arrival was accompanied with a drop from back-to-back conference titles to 4-8. The Big East free-fall had Cincinnati fans panicking until Jones delivered a 10-win season and share of the 2011 Big East title. The need for reloading talent is strong now as it has been since Brian Kelly's tenure, and the onus begins to fall on Jones now that "his guys" are starting to hit the field.

Catch up on all the latest Spring Practice Primers and Spring Game dates at our Spring Practice Home

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Posted on: March 1, 2012 5:29 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 5:30 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Indiana



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Indiana.

Spring Practice Starts: Saturday, March 3

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14

Returning Starters: Eight on offense, nine on defense, both specialists.

Three Things To Look For:

1. Growing pains. Indiana has more starters returning than any other school in the Big Ten this season. Now, considering the Hoosiers went 1-11 last season, there are two different ways you can look at that information. I'm inclined to believe that Kevin Wilson is hoping this is a good thing for his second year in Bloomington, and is hoping that the experience gained last season will lead to better performances this season. Of course, it's important to realize that this is still an extremely young team. Even with so many returning starters, there are still only three seniors projected to start in 2012. So the growing pains are still going to be there.

2. The development of Tre Roberson. Roberson was an intriguing player last season. He received a lot more time at quarterback over the final half of the year as Wilson looked to get his quarterback of the future some experience, and he was just as inconsistent as you'd expect. What will truly be interesting this spring, though, is to see what kind of improvements Roberson can make under new offensive coordinator Seth Littrell. Littrell comes to Indiana from Arizona, where he was in charge of one of the most prolific passing attacks in the country last season.

3. A deeper defense. While Indiana has nine returning starters on defense, that doesn't mean all of them will be starting in 2012. It will be interesting to see the battles that take place this spring as the Hoosiers welcome five new players from the juco ranks on the defensive side of the ball. While we can't be sure which players will lay claim to the starting positions, at the very least it gives Indiana some depth on the defensive side of the ball. Something a unit that gave up 37.3 points a game last year desperately needs.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the opening kick of the year all the way through the offseason, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview.

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Posted on: March 1, 2012 4:13 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Northwestern



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Northwestern.

Spring Practice Starts: Saturday, March 3

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14

Returning Starters: Five on offense, five on defense, both specialists.

Three Things To Look For:

1. Can Kain Colter take over the starting quarterback job? When Northwestern was without Dan Persa last season, Colter did an admirable job filling in. Even after Persa returned Colter continued to see time on the field, though mostly as a running and receiving threat, tallying 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Northwestern offense. The question, though, will be whether or not Colter can take on full-time responsibilites as a passer. There's reason to believe he can, because even though he only threw 82 passes last season, he completed 67% of them and had 6 touchdowns with only 1 interception. Still, he'll have to prove it this spring or Pat Fitzgerald may be forced to look in a different direction.

2. Another playmaker on offense must emerge. While Colter is likely to be the focal point of the Northwestern offense in 2012, his life would be a lot easier if somebody else on the Wildcats offense stood up to help carry the load. Whether it's running back Treyvon Green or receiver Demetrius Fields, somebody will have to step up to replace the talent lost to graduation and Colter's likely move.

3. Northwestern needs to stop somebody. A major problem in Evanston the last few seasons has been the defense and its inability to keep opponents off the board. Against Big Ten competition last season, Northwestern's defense allowed 32.75 points a game. I repeat, that was against Big Ten offenses. If there's reason to be optimistic, it's that the Wildcats played a lot of freshman and sophomores on defense toward the end of the season, so hopefully that experience will lead to improvement in 2012.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the opening kick of the year all the way through the offseason, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview.

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Posted on: March 1, 2012 1:51 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: LSU

Posted by Jerry Hinnen


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at LSU.

Spring Practice Starts: March 2, or a day after it had been scheduledthat date two days after the start had originally been scheduled. Les Miles has said the delay is due to getting new defensive backs coach Corey Raymond up to speed.

Spring Game: March 31

Returning starters: Seven on offense, five on defense, both specialists.

Three Things To Look For:

1.  Is Zach Mettenberger ready to take over at quarterback? Miles has made no secret of his expectations for the former Georgia and JUCO quarterback, saying he expects the Tigers to immediately take a step forward in the passing game thanks to the big-armed senior--not that with Jordan Jefferson (fresh off his rock-bottom performance at the NFL Draft combine) finally relinquishing the reins, there's really anywhere for that passing game to go but up. But for the Tigers to live up to their preseason No. 1 ranking, Mettenberger will have to live up to his advance hype and then some. Unlike during the days of his Jefferson-Jarrett Lee platoon, Miles won't have many options if he doesn't; none of the other three quarterbacks on the roster (including brother-of-Phillip Stephen Rivers, a redshirt freshman) have taken a college snap or come with much in the way of advance hype. (In retrospect, maybe it's no surprise Miles lost his cool over Gunner Kiel's decision to go to Notre Dame instead.) 

2. Can anyone fill the shoes of Rueben Randle? The Tigers aren't exactly hurting at wide receiver, not with Odell Beckham Jr. looking to build on a highly promising freshman season and the brutally underused Russell Shepard bound to get the attention of his coaching staff one of these years. But both players are more the shifty, undersized type that thrived on Randle opening up coverage underneath than a replacement for Randle's 6'4" downfield presence; Beckham's 11.6 yards per-reception average in 2011 was nearly 6 yards shy of Randle's (outstanding) mark, for instance. And outside of Beckham and Shepard, no other wideout on the team finished in double-digits for receptions in 2011. Mettenberger's deep touch is nice, but it won't do a whole lot for the Tigers if someone -- sophomore Landry Fields, maybe, or junior Kadron Boone -- can't put it to use down the field. 

3. How will the Tigers react to their BCS debacle? Even without the likes of Jefferson, Randle, or Morris Claiborne, there's still no roster in the FBS more fully stocked with talent than this one. (It won't surprise anyone if the Tigers' entire starting defensive line -- Barkevious Mingo, Anthony Johnson, Bennie Logan, and Sam Montgomery -- ends up starting in the NFL as well.) Miles has been a master motivator in the past, and if he turns his team's faceplant in the Superdome into a rallying point and driving force, there's no reason they can't run the regular season table again. But if it instead becomes a black cloud that hangs over their spring drills and results in half-hearted efforts from player and coach alike, the Tigers don't have to look any further than the previous team to lose a national title game to Alabama -- Mack Brown's Texas, still struggling to recover from their loss in Pasadena -- to see how damaging the consequences can be.

To check in on the rest of the SEC and other BCS conferences, check out the Spring Practice Schedule

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the opening kick of the year all the way through the offseason, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com