NCAA Football

UCLA Football: 5 Players Needing to Prove Themselves in Spring Practice

Jim Mora's bunch is currently in its second week of spring practice. This period offers the staff a good look at the current state of the football team. For some of the players, this camp will provide an opportunity to impress...

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Nebraska Football: 5 Players to Watch in Cornhuskers' Spring Game

Nebraska football fans can be forgiven if they are a little overwhelmed at this Saturday’s spring game. Trying to keep an eye on both sides of the ball and get a handle on what Nebraska’s strengths and weaknesses in the upcoming season might be as a result is a daunting task.

So, as a public service, here are five players whom fans should be keeping an eye on during the course of the spring game.

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Scouting Report, Video Highlights and Predictions for 5-Star OLB Malik Jefferson

Malik Jefferson is a 5-star linebacker from Texas who is one of the best overall players in the country. An incredible talent, Jefferson has the potential to win a lot of different awards in college.

His fantastic skill set has attracted the nation's best programs. Jefferson has offers from just about every major school in the country, and he could be ready to play immediately as a true freshman.

His talent warrants a closer look.

All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports.Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

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Clemson Football: Week 4 Spring Practice Stock Report

Spring practice is almost in the books for the Clemson Tigers. Next for Clemson fans is the annual spring game which takes place Saturday at 4 p.m.

The most exciting part of the spring game is the quarterback battle. However, that excitement was tempered a bit with Monday's news that freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson suffered a shoulder injury and will miss the spring game, reports Aaron Brenner of the Charleston Post and Courier.

Head coach Dabo Swinney was disappointed in the news, per Brenner:

This is a shame because he was having an outstanding spring. Fortunately, this is not a serious injury. I hate that he will miss the Spring Game; I know a lot of people were anxious to see him make his debut in Death Valley

Fortunately, this doesn't appear to be a serious injury and Watson will be OK for fall camp.

While the quarterback race has been close thus far in the spring, senior Cole Stoudt will have a chance to separate himself from sophomore Chad Kelly with a strong performance Saturday. Look for Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris to split the reps equally between the two. 

While Watson is out for the remainder of the spring, don't count him out—yet.

 

Is Kelly a legitimate threat to win the job? 

For most of the spring, we've heard about the excitement surrounding Watson and Stoudt's experience. But it almost seems like Kelly, the nephew of Hall-of-Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, is an afterthought.

Swinney and Morris both insist this competition is legitimate, and Kelly received both the first and most reps with the first-team offense during Clemson's first scrimmage last week. Does that forebode what the coaches are thinking? Or is it strictly for evaluation purposes as the coaches know what they have in Stoudt?

As it turns out, Stoudt took the most reps with the first-team offense during Monday's scrimmage. 

Last week's scrimmage saw each quarterback make some good plays and some bad plays. 

For Morris, while he would have liked one quarterback to take the reins early, he has been happy with the experience each player is gaining, according to David Hale of ESPN.com:

I was hoping someone would separate himself and make it clear cut that this was the guy. I thought you’d see some quick separation this spring. But it hasn’t happened, and that’s a good thing for us because they’re all three doing really well.

Kelly has a unique skill set. He has a strong arm, is accurate and is a very good athlete. Of the three contenders for the starting position, Kelly provides the best combination of those attributes. Don't be surprised if Kelly is under center when the Tigers head to Athens on Aug. 30. 

 

Vic Beasley believes defense could be one of the nation's best

When senior defensive end Vic Beasley returned to school for his senior season, he did so thinking this team could be special. His return makes Clemson's defensive line one of the best in the ACC. 

But Beasley has his sights set much higher. 

"We can be the number one defense in the country," Beasley told the assembled media after practice last week, per David Hood of TigerNet.com. "I think our front seven is the best in the country."

Those are high expectations, but Beasley has reason to be excited.

Senior linebacker Stephone Anthony returns and looks to wrap up a solid career with a big senior season. 

The defensive line has solid depth and the Tigers, led by Beasley, will be able to pressure any passer in the conference.

And expect linebacker Dorian O'Daniel, a highly regarded freshman last season, to take the field in 2014 and make an impact. O'Daniel has special talent and defensive coordinator Brent Venables can get creative when he is on the field. 

If the secondary comes along, this defense could be special. Led by freshman Mackensie Alexander, the secondary will be young, but possesses loads of talent. 

 

News and notes from the week

Watson isn't the only starter or high-profile player who will miss the spring game. Most notably, starting offensive lineman Eric Mac Lain will miss the contest.

In other injury news, former Clemson star Brandon Thomas tore his ACL last week during his preparation for the upcoming NFL draft, reports Adam Caplan of ESPN. Thomas was viewed as either a first- or second-round pick.

Swinney has no regrets about allowing hits on the quarterbacks in the scrimmages and feels it is the best way to get a quarterback ready for live game action, per Brenner:

We don't get preseason games. It's no different than the NFL, their quarterbacks are live when they have four preseason games. So the first time they're going to be live is when they go to Athens? I don't know when we can have a fair evaluation.

Saturday's scrimmage is more than just a battle between Stoudt and Kelly. Keep an eye on the freshman WRs and Clemson's running game. But don't expect a lot of answers as players look to position themselves for a bigger role come fall camp.  

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: 5 Players Who Need to Turn it Around in Spring Practice

With Alabama past the midway point in spring practice, there are a handful of players who still have work to do in hopes of making a strong impression on coaches heading into the summer.

As Michael Casagrande of AL.com notes, Nick Saban has been quick to emphasize the fact that there is no solid depth chart.  Saban’s message to his players is simply to try to improve on a daily basis.

If you focus on getting better and being the best you can be then you have the best opportunity to get where you want to go, and that's where we want to get, that's where they want to get and we want to work together with them so they have the best opportunity to do that.

Even though the focus isn’t on earning a top spot on the depth chart, a few players could use a strong final two weeks of spring practice in order to stand a better chance of seeing significant reps in the fall.

 

Leon Brown

One of the bigger questions for Mario Cristobal’s offensive line unit entering the spring was filling the left tackle vacancy. 

Senior Leon Brown was the player who started out with the first unit when spring practice began. 

However, Brown was running with the twos after sophomore Brandon Greene was moved up to the first unit this week, as detailed by Cliff Kirkpatrick of the Montgomery Advertiser.

BamaOnline’s Marc Torrence (subscription required) reported that Brown regained a spot with the ones, but that it was at right tackle for the Tide’s first scrimmage last Saturday.

With a decorated class of linemen set to arrive in the summer, Brown is a player who needs to finish strong in hopes of landing a starting role this season.

 

Chris Black

Alabama’s wide receiver group may be the deepest segment on the roster, and the addition of Cameron Sims only bolsters a unit ripe with experience and young talent.

The upperclassmen trio of Amari Cooper, Christion Jones and DeAndrew White are known quantities, and rising newcomers such as Sims and Robert Foster are poised to challenge for a spot in the rotation.

Rising sophomore Chris Black, a former touted recruit in the 2012 class, is entering a critical phase of his career. 

According to Andrew Gribble of AL.com, Black’s name didn’t appear on the stat sheet following the Tide’s first scrimmage.

After earning limited reps last season, Black—who caught eight passes for 79 yards and two scores in 2013—needs to show that he can become a reliable and consistent threat working out of the slot.

 

Defensive Line Unit

While optimism surrounds the Tide’s defensive line unit entering the season, Saban was quick to temper it when asked about the perceived depth at that position last week, according to ESPN’s Alex Scarborough.

“What it looks like on paper?” Saban scoffed. “We’ve never seen these guys play or seen them take on an SEC lineman. That’s how we form public opinion because something appears to be that way and everyone believes it.”

Saban’s point on the lack of actual production is a valid one. However, with young talents such as A’Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen entering their sophomore seasons, their continued development is critical to the success of the defense this season.

 

Ryan Anderson

Alabama returns a pair of starters at linebacker, and rising junior Dillon Lee is in good position to man a third after impressing Saban early in the spring, as noted by Aaron Suttles of the Tuscaloosa News.

Similar to Black’s predicament, third-year sophomore Ryan Anderson—a former 5-star recruit—is surrounded by veterans in front of him and a wealth of incoming studs set to arrive in the summer.

Travis Reier of BamaOnline identified Anderson as a player in Lance Thompson’s segment that needed to make a move in the spring, and that sentiment still applies less than two weeks away from the A-Day game.

 

Maurice Smith

The secondary is another unit that should see a lot of fresh faces this season.  However, it’s also another area where the Tide landed multiple prospects who are arriving with sterling prep credentials.

While veterans Landon Collins, Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams are safe bets to be on the field early and often, the rest of the secondary has more questions than answers.

The situation at corner took a turn for the worse with corner Eddie Jackson suffering a torn ACL in a non-contact drill last weekend, according to Scarborough.

Smith, who saw action in 11 games and recorded 13 tackles and three pass breakups as a true freshman, has the opportunity to seize a role if he can show that he’s fully grasped the playbook and is ready to complete his transition from the prep level.

As Reier details (subscription required), Smith is still running behind veterans such as Bradley Sylve and Cyrus Jones, as well as newcomer Tony Brown.

With Jackson out for the immediate future, Smith is one of a handful of corners who will be counted on to step up and fill the void created by his absence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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