Spring game sneak peeks: Key newcomers, position battles, breakout prospects

Apr 12, 2024, 07:00 AM ET A lot has actually taken place on the planet of college football because Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines commemorated their championship game win three months ago– not the least of which was Harbaugh leaving for the NFL.Nick Saban, acknowledged as the greatest college football coach of all time, retired from his post at Alabama, triggering a late training carousel domino effect that left Kalen DeBoer in Tuscaloosa, Jedd Fisch at Washington and San José State’s Brent Brennan at Arizona.Georgia scored the top-ranked recruiting class in February, and while there are more modifications ahead as the spring transfer website swings open next week, there is action on the field this weekend in the type of spring games at lots of power conference schools.To catch you up, our college football reporters use some interesting newbies, breakout prospects and position battles to watch on.Jump to a conference: SEC|Huge 10 ACC|Huge 12

Position fight to enjoy: Cornerback– The Crimson Tide will be beginning over at cornerback in Kalen DeBoer’s first season as coach. Both starters from a year back, Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry, are headed to the NFL, likely as first-round choices, and 4 other corners transferred. The odds-on preferred to be Alabama’s leading cornerback next season is USC move Domani Jackson. Nick Saban greatly hired Jackson out of high school, but he picked USC. The previous luxury possibility played only one season at USC on a defense that ranked 121st nationally in scoring.After Jackson,

who knows? Jahlil Hurley returns after redshirting last season and has yet to play a snap in college. Alabama generated three highly rated freshmen– Zabien Brown, Jaylen Mbakwe and Zay Mincey– and all 3 have elite abilities and are pressing to get on the field right away. Mbakwe has actually run a 10.47 100-meter dash.– Chris Low

A lot of intriguing newcomer: Bobby Petrino– Petrino isn’t technically a newcomer, however he’s back in a familiar location as Arkansas’offensive organizer. There aren’t a lot more remarkable storylines in college football than Petrino’s return to Fayetteville, where he was 21-5 in 2010 and 2011 as the Hogs’ head coach before he got into a bike accident with an athletic department subordinate with whom he was having an affair, then misinformed his superiors to cover it up. He was Jimbo Fisher’s offensive coordinator at Texas A&M last season, though it’s up for argument how much of his offense he was running. On The Other Hand, Sam Pittman’s future with Arkansas (4-8 last season) started to come into doubt, particularly after the dismissal of offensive planner Dan Enos in October following a six-game losing streak.By now, Petrino

‘s high-flying offenses and his two straight seasons of 10 or more wins at Arkansas were sorely missed, and the two courses converged. It’s a fascinating gambit: If the Hogs do not win fast enough, a hugely popular interim candidate exists. However if Petrino’s offense is a difference-maker, Pittman (23-25 at Arkansas) will have a shot at getting the train back on the tracks.– Dave Wilson

Most intriguing newbie: QB D.J. Lagway– After representing 74 goals (58 death, 16 rushing) as a senior in high school, Lagway was the big prize of the Gators’ recruiting class. While Graham Mertz is still in Gainesville after a season in which he finished 73% of his passes for 2,903 lawns in addition to 20 touchdowns and simply three interceptions, Lagway is the future.After Florida

‘s very first spring scrimmage, coach Billy Napier complimented Lagway’s ability to learn and retain info, in addition to his ability to take lessons from conferences into practice. “He’s selected it up quickly, and now it’s just the game management piece is next,” Napier stated. Possibly we’ll get a great sample of that in the spring game.– Harry Lyles Jr.

JaCorey Thomas belongs to the mix as Georgia wants to fill some holes in its defensive secondary. John Adams/Icon Sportswire Position fight to view: Free security– While running back Trevor Etienne, who transferred from Florida, is the fancy new addition in Athens, a position battle folks need to be watching is at free security. Malaki Starks returns at strong safety, but his former running mate, Javon Bullard, is off to the NFL. Experienced players, such as Dan Jackson, David Daniel-Sisavanh and JaCorey Thomas, might fill the void, but there are likewise more youthful options, such as Justyn Rhett or luxury KJ Bolden. The Dawgs likewise generated Jake Pope from Alabama.Take it from Starks

, who said previously this week,”That space is extremely competitive. “And do not forget about new defensive backs coach Donte Williams, who can be found in from USC after Fran Brown’s departure to Syracuse. The Bulldogs will figure it out because they always do, however it ought to be an enjoyable battle with lots of skill.– Lyles Many interesting beginner: QB Brock Vandagriff– Vandagriff concerned Kentucky as a graduate transfer from Georgia, where he became part of back-to-back championship game groups in 2021 and 2022. Vandagriff invested this spring taking the majority of the first-team reps and is expected to be the Wildcats’starter. He has 2 years of eligibility remaining and has actually drawn some comparisons within the program to former quarterback Will Levis.Vandagriff is unverified as QB1, however, as he has played in just 13 total games,

completing 12 of 21 passes for 165 lawns and two touchdowns. There is experience behind Vandagriff, as Beau Allen goes back to Kentucky as a graduate transfer following one season at Georgia Southern and another at Tarleton State.– Heather Dinich Breakout candidate: WR Kyren Lacy– Lacy is LSU’s leading returning receiver and is poised to fill the holes left by the departures of Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas. Lacy, who has started 12 games for LSU, was the Tigers’ No. 3 receiver last year, and has captured 54 passes for 826 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons at Baton Rouge.Editor’s Picks 2 Related Coach Brian Kelly stated Lacy utilized to

be”easily distracted at times “however has played with a newfound consistency this spring.”What has occurred here, more than anything else, is he has discovered the best zone to be in as it connects to practicing and preparation,”Kelly stated.” He learned a lot last year watching Malik and BT and the way they pertained to practice every day and performed, and stated, ‘I can do this, too.’ I’m really happy with him and delighted for him since he’s going to have a breakout season because of it.”– Dinich

Most interesting beginner: DE Princely Umanmielen– Lane Kiffin has actually generated a variety of interesting newbies on both sides of the ball and has worked the transfer website in addition to anyone. The 2024 Rebels will have new faces from a number of SEC groups, and they’re depending on Umanmielen to make a significant effect at protective end. Edge rushers are constantly at a premium, and the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Umanmielen has experience and production choosing him. He played 4 seasons at Florida (25 starts) and taped 11.5 takes on for loss, consisting of seven sacks, last season.Kiffin made it a

top priority to get bigger, stronger and faster this offseason, and Umanmielen fits that mold. Kiffin stated this spring that Umanmielen has”ideal size, length and speed to be a really great player, one that you don’t have to state, ‘OK, here’s how we ‘d utilize somebody to sort of conceal a few of the deficiencies,’ which we’ve done a lot here.”– Low

A lot of appealing newcomer: TE Holden Staes– The Vols needed aid at tight end with Jacob Warren and McCallan Castles gone, so they brought in Staes after he spent 2 seasons at Notre Dame. Try to find the 6-4, 242-pounder to become a regular target for first-year starting quarterback Nico Iamaleava.One factor Staes chosen Tennessee was the method the Vols have actually utilized their tight ends under coach Josh Heupel. Staes captured 15 passes for 176 backyards and four goals last season for Notre Dame. He has truly good hands and can make plays in space, however his blocking ability jumped out to the Tennessee coaches as much as anything. Staes is still getting used to the speed of Tennessee’s up-tempo offense, however his adaptability should be a factor in both the death and running games.– Low Ohio State will get its very first take a look at newcomer Will Howard, a Kansas State transfer, under center. Jason Mowry/Getty Images Many interesting beginner: QB Will Howard– Ohio State fans will get their first glimpse of the Kansas State transfer, who got in the spring as the front-runner to take control of at quarterback for Kyle McCord( now at Syracuse). Howard brings the dual-threat aspect back to the Buckeyes’backfield, hurrying for 351 backyards and 9 touchdowns for the Wildcats last season.The pressure is on Ohio State after a 3rd successive loss to Michigan, the reigning national champs. However following an aggressive offseason in the transfer website– combined with the hiring of offensive organizer Chip Kelly– the Buckeyes boast the players to pursue their own national title. Still, their hopes figure to hinge greatly on Howard– or his main competitors for the job, Devin Brown– providing enhanced quarterback play.– Jake Trotter Position battles to watch: Offensive take on and wide receiver– Penn State lost starting tackles Olu Fashanu, a predicted first-round NFL draft choice, and Caedan Wallace from a line that revealed some improvement however did not have the efficiency needed against top competitors. The group added Wisconsin transfer Nolan Rucci, an ESPN top-40 recruit in 2021 from the state, who joins returnees such as Drew Shelton, Anthony Donkoh and J’ven Williams. Shelton is out this spring while recovering from surgery, which has developed strong competition in between Rucci, Donkoh and Williams, which coach James Franklin said would continue into fall camp.Wide receiver likewise will be in the spotlight after a hard 2023 season. KeAndre Lambert-Smith and Harrison Wallace III both return, and Penn State included Ohio State transfer Julian Fleming. Will those three or a group of more youthful players supply the trustworthy targets quarterback Drew Allar requires?– Adam Rittenberg Many appealing beginner: RB Reggie Love III– Love is new to Purdue but not to several of the Boilermakers coaches who signed up with Ryan Walters from Illinois. He had 883 hurrying yards and six goals throughout the past 2 seasons for the Illini, and will offer a strong enhance to Purdue’s lead back Devin Mockobee.Offensive planner Graham Harrell has multiple players who can assault defenses on the ground, as Hudson Card( 203 rush yards, five TDs in 2023) brings more movement than most Air Raid quarterbacks. Although Love had just 15 receptions at Illinois, his pass-catching ability might be enhanced for the Boilers. Other newcomers to watch include defensive back transfers Nyland

Green(Georgia)and Kyndrich Breedlove(Colorado), and defensive line transfer CJ Madden(Georgia).– Rittenberg Most interesting newbie: Head coach Bill O’Brien– What exactly will Boston College look like this year under O’Brien? It’s an interesting question. He’s among the most accomplished playcallers in football, but his history– at Alabama, Penn State and with the New England Patriots and Houston Texans– doesn’t recommend

a guy eager to toss care to the wind and play wide-open, backyard football.But take a look at BC’s 2023 season under Jeff Hafley, which’s when the Eagles were most unsafe, with quarterback Thomas Castellanos getting outside the pocket, winging it downfield and scrambling for backyards on broken plays. In all, 17.4%of BC’s offense began scrambles or tosses outside the pocket, the third-highest rate in the ACC.

So will it be more of the exact same with Castellanos, or can O’Brien assist his QB develop as a pocket passer?– David Hale Breakout candidate: QB Haynes King– One could argue that the same might have been said last spring, but King is still a breakout candidate for the Yellow Jackets. In his first full year as a starter– likewise Brent Key’s first complete season as head coach– King was electric. He completed 62 %of his passes for 2,842 lawns, 27 goals and 16 interceptions, and added 737 yards on the ground with 10 goals, balancing 6.1 lawns per rush.King is among the very best returning quarterbacks in the ACC, and after leading Tech to its first bowl win in 7 years, it’s fair to expect even more in Year 2. If he’s able to restrict turnovers, the Yellow Jackets have an opportunity to take another action in 2024. Saturday’s spring game is one of the most anticipated in Midtown Atlanta in a while, and King is a big factor.– Lyles Cam Ward’s arrival from Washington State brought a shock to Miami’s quarterback room. AP Photo/Young Kwak A lot of interesting beginner: QB Webcam Ward– This is an easy one. Ward’s decision to come to Miami, after initially choosing to get in the NFL draft, isinteresting because it moved the whole discussion around the Hurricanes. Before Ward, who dipped into Washington State the previous two seasons, moved equipments, Miami signed Albany move Reese Poffenbarger to intensify the quarterback space. Now? Miami appears to have among the greatest quarterbacks in the ACC headed into the season.The spring game will be our first opportunity to see how Ward fits into this offense under organizer Shannon Dawson, and how he jells with his receivers. Miami has 2 veterans returning in Xavier Restrepo and Jacolby George, and young skill that could be prepared to emerge in Isaiah Horton,

JoJo Trader, Ny Carr and Ray Joseph. Miami has actually not had consistent quarterback play considering that Tyler Van Dyke was a freshman in 2021. If Ward has the ability to measure up to the expectations, the Hurricanes will have a shot to be in the hunt for the ACC title.– Andrea Adelson Position fight to enjoy: Quarterback– Technically, there’s no fight here. Head coach Pat Narduzzi insists Nate Yarnell is his guy, and Yarnell seems to be eager to flex some muscle in a new up-tempo offense in 2024. But Yarnell has just 2 games of serious work under his belt, and his function as the de facto starter was specified mainly on the back of solid performances against BC and Duke to end last season.That Christian Veilleux, who began six games last season, and Alabama transfer Eli Holstein also are on the roster allegedly just suggests Pitt has depth at the position. But a strong spring game for Yarnell would assist stop any rumblings about a QB fight amongst the fans this summer season, even if Narduzzi is persuaded he has his guy in any case.– Hale Breakout prospect: LB Jaden Keller– A redshirt junior, Keller has grown by leaps and bounds from his arrival as an undersized playmaker in the middle of the field, and yet, Virginia Tech still hasn’t seen the best of him. Keller has made 4 starts in his career and had some great moments, however head coach Brent Pry stated he remains a player the team hopes will emerge as a real star.This spring has actually probably been the closest to that development for Keller, who figures to be the starter at middle linebacker in the fall, and Pry stated Keller has been at his finest throughout the Hokies’scrimmages at Lane Stadium. Expect Keller to place on another show Saturday, this time with fans watching.– Hale Many interesting beginner: QB Brendan Sorsby– Sorsby was tossed into the deep end as a redshirt freshman at Indiana last season, and while he didn’t exactly thrive, he did produce numbers comparable to those of Cincinnati’s Emory Jones– Jones was 68th in Overall QBR, Sorsby 71st– just Jones was a senior.With a senior-heavy line and a skill corps that includes not just

a 1,000-yard rush(Corey Kiner )and go-to receiver (senior Xzavier Henderson )but likewise a wave of appealing transfers, such as Ohio State running back Evan Pryor and explosive UTEP slot male Tyrin Smith, Cincinnati’s offense should enhance a good quantity if it has a quarterback all set to improve with it. Sorsby revealed hints of being that guy last fall, and he could reveal a few more glances in the spring game.– Expense Connelly Position fight to see: Offensive line– New Cougars coach Willie Fritz, who replaces Dana Holgorsen, is quite the appealing newbie, but much of his offending line will be as new as he is. The lone exception is best guard Tank Jenkins, who is returning for his seventh collegiate season(2 at Texas A&M, 4 at Houston ). Houston will want to incorporate three transfers(Dakota White, a 30-game starter at Lousiana Tech; Jake Wiley from UCLA; and Cedric Melton, who got here from Ole Miss)along with five offending linemen the Cougars signed this year. Fortunately is every position is up for grabs after a training modification, but the problem is that’s a great deal of brand-new faces at a key position after a 4-8 season in Houston’s very first year in the Huge 12.– Wilson A lot of appealing beginner: WR Dorian Singer– Singer also fit this billing at USC a year back. He was coming off a brilliant 2022 season at Arizona in which he caught 66 passes for 1,105 yards with 6 touchdowns and was named second-team All-Pac-12. But after transferring to USC last year to capture passes from the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Caleb Williams, Singer’s production regressed. He never ever quite got in sync with Williams the way other USC

receivers did and completed with just 24 catches for 289 yards and 3 scores.In hopes of restoring his 2022 kind, Singer jumped back in the portal and landed at Utah, which was in desperate need of some offending playmakers after finishing No. 120 in the nation in receiving lawns per game( 165.8).– Kyle Bonagura

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