Spring Football: What We Learned, and What We Expect For the Upcoming Season
With crowds of 90,000 and excess, ‘I’m talking to you Ohio State and Georgia,’ the craze of spring practice and the spring flings with college football programs has once again, came and gone. New coaches were introduced, fan-bases were wowed, and football was played. The unrequited love we have for college football yearns for existence once again. The usual suspects fared well, the Power Five conferences had the usual flair and coaches in the NCAA are ready for another great season.
The depth chart may not be finalized quite yet, but in the early stages, here are five teams and their respectable coaches that look like contenders early in the spring.
5. The Georgia Bulldogs (Head Coach: Kirby Smart) – Kirby Smart leaves “Title-Town,” and heads East to a storied program known for its dominant play in the SEC East, but never able to get past the likes of Nick Saban at Alabama, and more importantly, Smart’s defense. A defensive rock star in the SEC at Alabama, Smart at 40 years old, now takes the helm from Mark Richt who agreed to part ways after 15 seasons as Georgia’s Head Coach. Stepping out of the press box and thrust into the spotlight, Smart will rely on Freshman Jacob Eason (early enrollee) to have an impact while maturing through the season. Soni Michel and Tae Crowder should be an excellent change of pace in the back field, as UGA is no stranger to the two backs system. Using social media (#93KDay) and daring fans to come out for Georgia’s spring game, Smart has brought the intensity back to a program in need of a wake-up call.
4. Michigan Wolverines (Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh) – Jim Harbaugh is no stranger to having a good time, and that’s just what he plans to do. If he’s not ruffling feathers at the SEC, he is most likely planning a series of sub-tweets to fire back from Ann Arbor. The former NFL coach and Michigan alum has the 5th ranked class for 2016 per 247 sports and the No. 1 player in defensive tackle Rashan Gary. John O’Korn, who is a transfer from The University of Houston got the start with the blue team and this should prove to be an early indication of what Harbaugh plans to do in the fall. Shane Morris, another senior on the depth chart saw snaps at QB and wide receiver in the annual Blue vs. Maize contest in Ann Arbor. Achieving 10 wins in his first season back at the college level speaks volumes, and this will be the turning point year for the rebirth of Michigan football. Harbaugh should look to have something say late, I predict an appearance in the College Football Playoff and beating their rival Ohio State this year among other accomplishments on the Harbaugh bucket list.
3. Tennessee Volunteers ( Head Coach: Butch Jones) – Butch Jones’ mantra of “brick-by-brick” might actually be resonating in the hills of Rocky Top. Jones heads into the off-season with one of the most promising groups in all of college football. An Aerospace Engineer major who can recite 70 plus digits of Pi doesn’t hurt and this should be the year for the “Orange and White.” A roster full of depth, upperclassmen, and overall talent at all the skill positions, Tennessee entered the spring with a focus on finishing close games and picking up where they left off in 2015-16. While losing to two programs that went on to be in the end of the year playoff, UT looks to take control of the East region and end a decade of losses with the Florida Gators. With a stable of running backs (Jalen Hurd, Alvin Kamara, and John Kelley) and a very talented defense, now under Coordinator Bob Shoop, it’s SEC title game or bust in Knoxville, and Butch Jones’ job should depend on it. With all the hype, the Vols will reach the SEC title game only to run into strong opposition out of the West and settle for a “side-piece” bowl game,
2. Ohio State Buckeyes (Head Coach: Urban Meyer) – If you have any type of pulse in the college game, then you know Urban Meyer always gets his man and gets everything out of his teams. A winner of the College Football Championship with outspoken Cardale Jones in the inaugural season, Meyer and Quarterback J.T. Barrett will be poised for another playoff run in 2016. Heading into the season as the, go-to guy, and with no quarterback competition, Barrett should be an early Heisman trophy favorite. The anticipation is already in order as the Buckeyes packed a spring practice with 100,000 faithful ‘OH-IO’ screaming fans, yes that’s right, 100,000 for a scrimmage being played. Look for Meyer’s crew to bring back their uptempo style of offense in 2016 that saw them eventual champions in 2014 while posting 44.8 ppg. An offensive line that will be looking to gel throughout the season doesn’t bode well, but with every game Meyer should have OSU contending with all of college football, and the recent excitement around the program serves as an indication of such.
1. Clemson Tigers (Head Coach: Dabo Swinney) – The Clemson Tigers come off a disappointing loss in the National Title Game just months ago, but the future is very bright in Clemson, SC. Deshaun Watson is back with a vengeance to lead his crew back to the College Football Playoff and a shot at redemption. In front of a record 50,000 for the spring game, Clemson got a chance to showcase its young wide receivers group, impact players on both sides of the ball from this past season, and the chip on the shoulders of returning players who are poised for greatness. With the departures of Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd on the defensive line, it will be key for Austin Bryant to have success and guys like Richard Yeargin, along with Carlos Watkins will need to step into assumed roles. All in all, the Tigers will face one imminent threat on their way back to the College Football Playoff and that will be to beat a Florida State team with a QB in De’Andre Francois who rivals in comparison to one James Winston. Beyond one minor bump in the road, the sky is the limit for this Clemson squad to finish wh