NCAA Football News

Breaking Down the Latest in Alabama's QB Battle

Spring practice is underway at Alabama and the battle to replace AJ McCarron is heating up. Redshirt senior QB Blake Sims is in Tuscaloosa with the Crimson Tide, but Florida State transfer Jacob Coker will arrive in the summer and is expected to win the starting job. 

Replacing McCarron is no small task. Nick Saban is looking for a QB that will minimize mistakes and get the ball to the Crimson Tide's playmakers. Sims has an opportunity to show Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin he has what it takes to lead the Tide in the spring, but Coker might be a better option come summer. 

Check out Matt Scalici from AL.com break down the latest in the Alabama QB battle with Adam Lefkoe

 

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital

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Tennessee Moving Season Opener to Sunday Night Great Move for Program

Tennessee already had a tricky opponent on the schedule for Week 1, and the Vols have decided that they're going to step into the spotlight for that matchup in front of a curious audience.

The Vols announced on Tuesday that their Week 1 matchup with Utah State at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville will be pushed back one day to Sunday, Aug. 31, and will kick off at 7 p.m. on the new SEC Network.

"The atmosphere and energy in Knoxville will be unrivaled," head coach Butch Jones said in a release from Tennessee. "We're also excited about being one of the schools featured on the first weekend of SEC Network football telecasts, and we are looking forward to this tremendous opportunity."

Good move for Tennessee?

No, it's a great move.

The SEC Network will show at least six games on opening weekend, including two on Thursday, Aug. 28 (Texas A&M vs. South Carolina and Temple vs. Vanderbilt), and SEC Nation, the SEC Network's "GameDay clone," will originate from Auburn on Saturday, Aug. 30 before the Tigers host Arkansas.

Opening weekend combined with the launch of the SEC Network on Aug. 14 has allowed the SEC to own opening weekend and create a four-day football festival across the Southeast.

Not only will Tennessee be a part of that festival, it'll now be a featured part in prime time on Sunday night against an opponent that can absolutely spring the upset.

Utah State isn't a power, but the Aggies are tricky.

They should get electric quarterback Chuckie Keeton back after an ACL tear ended his 2013 season prematurely. SEC fans remember the Aggies from their near-upset of then-defending national champion Auburn in the season-opener in 2011, but they've also topped Utah, taken Wisconsin and USC to the wire, and beaten a ranked Louisiana Tech team over the last three seasons.

They're not a pushover by any means, and a good performance by the Vols should resonate across the country. 

Is it a risk?

Sure it is. The first two games on Tennessee's schedule should be considered "tricky," as both Utah State and Arkansas State will make the trek to Rocky Top.

But this Tennessee team needs to know about itself before hitting the meat of its schedule, when it travels to Norman, Okla., in Week 3. Creating a big-game atmosphere on the opening weekend—even if that's a bit of a stretch—will benefit this young Vols team that will play Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama and South Carolina this season.

It needs to be ready, and Utah State on a Sunday night in front of a national audience (and yes, it will be a national audience on the SEC Network once carriage deals are completed) will provide Jones an opportunity to find out a lot about his team.

 

*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. 

 


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Ex-Michigan Safety Josh Furman Will Transfer to Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State has picked up a much-needed addition—and that may be putting it lightly—to the back end of its secondary. Former Michigan safety Josh Furman, who is on track to graduate this spring and should be eligible to play in 2014, confirmed on Twitter that he is transferring to OSU.

Furman, who was conspicuously absent from the online roster Michigan posted this spring, made the confirmation after being asked directly by Jimmie Tramel of the Tulsa World:

Last year's Cowboys defense was stronger than any of Mike Gundy's tenure, finishing No. 6 in the country in the Football Outsiders F/+ ratings. However, it loses both starting safeties—Daytawion Lowe and Shamiel Gary—to graduation, and oft-used backup Lyndell Johnson was reportedly kicked off the team this offseason.

Furman was a Week 1 starter for Michigan last season, finishing the year with three total starts. He made 32 appearances, mostly in a reserve and special teams capacity, during his three active years in Ann Arbor, but the size of his role was in question heading into 2014, which may have played a part in his decision to transfer.

According to Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com, the Wolverines started sophomore Delano Hill, who has only made one game appearance (as a reserve linebacker) in his college career, at one of their safety spots during last Saturday's spring game.

It's hard to gauge exactly how their secondary will shape until 5-star recruit Jabrill Peppers arrives this summer, but the Wolverines aren't oozing depth at the position.

The experience of Furman will be missed.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Odds on Where 5-Star WR George Campbell Lands at Next Level

George Campbell, the No. 1 WR in the 2015 class, is sure to have an impact wherever he lands. The 6'3", 184-pound athlete has the physical talent and technique to make any offense in the country better. 

Campbell had previously committed to Brady Hoke and the Michigan Wolverines, but he decommitted last December. Do the Wolverines still have a chance to bring in Campbell? Clemson is also in the running. After losing a lot of star power to the NFL draft in 2014, can the Tigers reload their roster in 2015 with the supremely talented Campbell?

Check out Adam Kramer break down the odds on where George Campbell will play at the next level. 

 

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital.

Rankings from 247 Sports Composite

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Notre Dame Football: Comparing Everett Golson and Malik Zaire

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame has not named a starting quarterback. Everett Golson and Malik Zaire are jockeying for that position.

Seems simple enough, right?

Who knows when a starter will be named, but let’s dig into the quarterback competition and break down both Golson and Zaire in a variety of categories to try to gain a clearer picture of the position battle.

 

*All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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Florida Football: 5 Players to Watch in Gators' Spring Game

We are just a few days away from the Florida Gators spring game and finally being able to see firsthand what these coaches have been talking about for the last couple of weeks.

If you’re no stranger to spring ball, you’ll know that coaches tend to brag about a lot of their players throughout camp, but it’s sometimes a different story when they take the field in live action.

That’s why the spring game is so important. It gives everybody a chance to display what they’ve been working on in a game-like atmosphere.

Let’s see what the freshman cornerback is truly capable of, how the quarterback looks and if a particular defensive lineman is really ready for an expanded role.

Here are some of the Florida Gators you should really be watching during this year’s spring game. 

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USC Football: Former 5-Star Chris Hawkins Ready to Take Charge in Secondary

USC's secondary is chock full of talent, and the coaches in Troy have been waiting for the next athlete to step up and assert himself as a playmaker. Through four weeks of spring ball, redshirt freshman cornerback Chris Hawkins has risen to the occasion.

With new secondary coach Keith Heyward having an objective eye for his stock, essentially every healthy athlete in the defensive backs corps has had equal opportunity to impress. That's especially important for the corner spot opposite Josh Shaw, which will likely be filled by way of competition. So far, Hawkins is proving that he's ready to live up to his highly touted status out of high school.

And this year, the coaches are definitely paying attention.

"He made a play," Heyward told FoxSports.com's Rahshaun Haylock after Saturday's scrimmage, referring to an interception the cornerback made. "I'm trying to find playmakers."  

Hawkins came into USC as a 5-star talent, but by no choice of his own, he ended up watching the 2013 season from the sidelines instead of participating.

When Anthony Brown got injured before USC's game against Hawaii, Hawkins thought he was going to be chosen to replace Brown. Instead, former defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast called on Devian Shelton, and Hawkins knew then that the decision to redshirt had been made for him.

As fate would have it, Shelton only appeared in that one game for USC and has yet to make any significant contributions since. 

The old regime may have overlooked his immediate value to the team, but Hawkins is making sure to avoid a similar outcome this spring. So far, it seems to be working.

Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox sung the cornerback's praises after Saturday's scrimmage:

Because he's performing so well, Hawkins is a legitimate threat to dethrone Kevon Seymour, who really improved and impressed during the second half of the 2013 season. Hawkins has the pedigree to be a regular starter and a desire to prove that he can live up to the reputation with which he came to USC.

Hawkins elaborated to Haylock about what his goals are for the spring:

I made it a point to send a message on the first day (of spring practice) that this is not the 17-year-old kid anymore. This isn't the young one, the little one. I'm still a pup but I wanted to make it clear...I'm here and I'm here to stay.

During next week's spring game, Hawkins will really have his time to shine. It will be in his best interest to leave a lasting impression on the coaches, as the competition during the fall is only going to intensify when USC's loaded 2014 signing class arrives on campus. After all, 5-star DB/WR Adoree' Jackson is coming, and he won't be denied.

Hawkins needs to use these remaining spring practices to show that he has star quality and to prove that the secondary needs him to be successful. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

4 Unanswered Questions Heading into Georgia's Spring Practice

There are only a few days before the Georgia Bulldogs hit the field for their annual spring game. And for the most part, fans know what to expect from players like Hutson Mason, Todd Gurley, Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera.

They also know young players like Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta, J.J. Green and Tim Kimbrough will have a chance to make a name for themselves before the regular season begins.

But there are a few questions heading into the spring game that need to be answered when the Bulldogs take the field for fall camp.

Here’s a look at four unanswered questions heading into G-Day.

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Michigan Football: Top Performers from the Michigan Spring Game

Fans watched the Michigan football team go through its final workout at Michigan Stadium, but those expecting a game left disappointed.

Earlier in the week Brady Hoke had announced that the spring “game” would consist of a typical practice followed by a scrimmage between the offense and defense. No score was kept and, in a bid to minimize potential injuries, special teams were not part of the proceedings.

But for a fan base still smarting from last season’s 7-6 start, the chance to see Michigan back on the field was a welcome sight.

Many were eager to see the new offense installed by Doug Nussmeier but instead saw some of the same problems that plagued the team last season—interceptions and a porous offensive line.

Despite the limited format of the scrimmage, the performance of some players gave fans hope that Michigan is in the midst of rebounding from last season’s November collapse.

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5 Unanswered Questions Heading into Penn State's Spring Game

Although James Franklin has gotten off to a tremendous start as Penn State's new head coach, there are still some issues he needs to sort out.

For the most part, the Nittany Lions are in good shape. They return an uber-talented quarterback, are loaded with offensive weapons to accommodate him and have some experience on defense as well. 

Nevertheless, there's still a fair share of question marks floating around. From offensive line depth to special teams concerns, Franklin will utilize the 2014 spring game as a way to assess some of the dilemmas that need solving.  

Here are five unanswered questions heading into Penn State's spring game. 

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Why D'haquille Williams Will Take Gus Malzahn's Auburn Offense to the Next Level

Auburn receivers coach Dameyune Craig quickly built a reputation as a top-notch talent-acquisition specialist, having helped reel in players such as quarterback Jameis Winston at Florida State.

So when Craig says a player is a once-in-a-lifetime talent, it’s worth taking note.

That’s precisely what Craig said of D’haquille Williams—rated by 247Sports as the No. 1 junior college transfer in the nation.

Williams quickly became a crown jewel in Auburn’s 2014 signing class, immediately eliciting comparisons to the impact Cordarrelle Patterson had in his one year at Tennessee.

With Williams in the fray, AL.com’s Brandon Marcello reported that Craig has expressed this year’s Auburn receiving corps could potentially be the best in the nation.

For defenses that couldn’t slow down Gus Malzahn’s attack in the first year, the idea of tremendous improvement in Year 2 should be terrifying.

Receiver Sammie Coates, who emerged as Auburn’s go-to target in 2013, returns after finishing with 902 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.  

Now Coates has a running mate who could supplant him as the most dangerous threat in the offense.

It took no time for Williams to draw praise from teammates.

“D’haquille is probably going to be a great player for us this year,” safety Jermaine Whitehead said to AL.com after the second day of spring practice. “He reminds me a lot of Sammie. He can get vertical fast. He also likes to put his foot in the ground and make plays across the field.”

Williams won’t be the only reason for Auburn’s improved passing game.

Because of his breakout season in 2013, it’s easy to forget that quarterback Nick Marshall is now halfway through his first spring practice under Malzahn.

Marshall didn’t enroll at Auburn until summer 2013, meaning he didn’t practice with the program until August.

He quickly claimed the starting position.

However, Tigers coaches quickly realized the need to play to the team’s strengths.

Marshall didn’t have enough reps in Malzahn’s offense to develop fully as a passer, and the Tigers young receivers needed more time to mature.

The result was a reliance on tailback Tre Mason and the run game—including Marshall’s ability to tuck the ball and make defenses pay for focusing too much attention on Mason.

Now Marshall has time to jell with a more seasoned crew, headlined by another big-impact junior college transfer in Williams.

Marshall and Malzahn both like what they’ve seen so far.

Despite enormous expectations surrounding Williams, he is apparently focusing on the little things that make all the difference to Malzahn.

“I just have to adjust to the fast-paced offense,” Williams said to Phillip Marshall of AuburnTigers.com after his second practice. “We ran no-huddle in junior college, but it wasn’t this fast.”

Malzahn declared to AL.com that he wants to press down harder on the gas in Year 2 than he did during his initial season as head coach at Auburn, which yielded an SEC Championship.

Having a talent who lives up to the considerable hype Craig placed on Williams would put Malzahn’s offense on the same level as Oregon’s or Baylor’s.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas Football: 4 Players Who Need to Turn It Around in Spring Practice

Charlie Strong has doled out his fair share of praise to his Texas Longhorns. Others have not been so fortunate, and they need to get things turned out this spring.

Whether it's adjustment issues or coming up a little short of expectations, not every Longhorn player is taking to the new program quite as seamlessly as Quandre Diggs or Cedric Reed

With the significant changes Strong has mandated both on and off the field, the presence of a learning curve is inevitable. As long as the vast majority of the team continues to embrace the new culture, the rest of the group will fall in line.

But if these four Longhorns want to capitalize on the opportunity at hand, they need to make that happen sooner rather than later.

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Ohio State Football: Freshmen Looking to Shine in Buckeyes' Spring Game

With Urban Meyer at the helm, Ohio State has secured the Big Ten's top recruiting class for three consecutive years. Waves of talent have flooded Columbus, Ohio, and after signing back-to-back classes that ranked No. 2 nationally, the Buckeyes are loaded for another title run in 2014.

Surprisingly, though, that young talent hasn't made a strong impact on the field. Despite Meyer's eagerness to get his young players in the fold, Ohio State has kept a lot of its freshmen on the sideline.

After seeing his team finish the 2013 campaign with consecutive postseason losses, Meyer admitted during a press conference in February that the Buckeyes should have played more of their freshmen. He also vowed to correct that mistake moving forward.

That bodes well for a number of true and redshirt freshman.

Opportunity abounds at Ohio State as the Buckeyes are replacing 10 new starters and a few key reserves this spring. Saturday's spring game will serve as a proving ground for a host of first-year players looking to make an impact.

That starts with the freshmen who redshirted last year.

Cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Eli Apple were both rated 4-star prospects coming out of high school. The Buckeyes could have used that kind of talent in the back end of their defense last year—when they ranked No. 110 out of 123 teams in pass defense—but both rode the pine all season.

This spring, they're breaking out as playmakers.

Meyer recently lamented not playing Conley, according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors.

Gareon Conley should have played last year. That’s Gareon’s fault and our fault, and the position coach’s fault, if we’re going to sit here and blame, which I’m not doing. But we’re counting on these guys to go play.

This spring, when Ohio State works its nickel defense, Conley is the second cornerback opposite Doran Grant, according to Tony Gerdeman of The-Ozone.net.

Apple is surging as well. During Ohio State's scrimmage last Saturday, he snagged two interceptions and made a number of impact plays.

Strong spring-game showings will give them momentum before summer conditioning drills.

The same goes for other redshirt freshmen such as linebacker Darron Lee, defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis, center Billy Price and quarterback J.T. Barrett.

Specifically, Lee—who has impressed the coaching staff with his intensity and energy this spring—has secured a spot in Ohio State's starting linebacker rotation. Barrett is battling with redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones to be Braxton Miller's backup.

One lasting impression this Saturday, whether it's a positive or negative one, will have a big impact on the pecking order this fall.

That's when a majority of Ohio State's 2014 recruiting class will join the team, but seven members of that heralded group enrolled early to take part in spring drills.

It didn't take long for some of Ohio State's true freshmen to start turning heads.

Curtis Samuel, a 4-star athlete who came out of high school as an all-purpose back, has thrived in his role as a pure running back. Samuel has showcased his "electric" speed in practice, highlighted by a 50-yard touchdown run during last Saturday's scrimmage.

Four-star wide receiver Johnnie Dixon is another offensive weapon who is showing out. According to Eric Seger of The Lantern, senior wide receiver Devin Smith said that Dixon has "really turned some eyes."

But it's 5-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan—the crown jewel of Ohio State's 2014 class—that has the most to gain.

McMillan is currently working as Curtis Grant's backup at middle linebacker, but defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said that age won't be a factor if he can truly beat out the senior for the starting spot.

To McMillan's credit, he's just trying to pair his incredible physical tools with a solid knowledge of Ohio State's playbook, according to Doug Lesmerises of The Plain Dealer.

“I have a good chance to start, but it’s all going to be wasted if I don’t put in the work right now,” McMillan said. “I can’t be out on the field if I don’t really know what’s going on out there.”

By all accounts, McMillan has looked very good this spring. He, along with some other eager freshmen, will look to showcase that on Saturday.

 

All stats via NCAA.com. All recruiting information via 247Sports.com.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. 
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Why 2014 Spring Game Is SEC Coming-out Party for Butch Jones' Tennessee Team

Their names are yet unknown across the landscape of the SEC, where legends of players grow larger than the stadiums, and legacies are etched in rugged rivalries.

Few fans know the names of head coach Butch Jones' 2014 Tennessee Volunteers, but for the first time in years, you should probably learn them.

There is talent on Rocky Top again, and Saturday's Orange and White Game will be an on-stage dress rehearsal for numerous newcomers with the potential to become household names.

In a league normally unkind to youngsters, the Vols must play them everywhere. Several other little-used players already in the program will be thrust into key roles as well.

Fans at Neyland Stadium on Saturday—and intrigued observers wanting to witness UT's deep, top-10 recruiting class in action on their television sets—will need a roster handy. Depending on who trots out with the first team, the Vols could have as many as 18 new starters.

"It's where we're at in the program," Jones told The Associated Press (via USA Today). "We can't hide it. It is what it is. But I'm encouraged by their youthfulness, their eagerness and the talent that we have and the talent we have coming in."

This group of players is different than any UT has recruited in nearly a decade.

Phillip Fulmer got complacent his past few years in Knoxville, Tenn., and his recruiting suffered because of it.

Even though Lane Kiffin's one full class was highly regarded, it was loaded with paper prospects—recruits lauded by services but not as heavily recruited by some of the nation's top programs for various red flags.

That was painfully evident in retrospect, as 17 of UT's 22 commitments from the 2009 class failed to complete their eligibility in orange.

Derek Dooley wasn't an awful recruiter, but he neglected high school prospects close to home and performed program-crippling numbers gaffes such as failing to sign a single offensive lineman in the 2012 class.

Not only did Jones' first full class go a long way in meeting UT's massive needs, but the Vols also signed depth at virtually every position that lacked it.

At most established programs across the country, spring is a time to mix-and-match players, make position changes and develop depth.

For Jones, this 15-practice session was about upgrading talent and finding starters. Fourteen newcomers arrived midterm as part of a gigantic 32-player recruiting class. At least 11 of them are expected to play immediately, and 10 of those are in the mix to start.

Players expected to be the future of the Vols will be on display for their first spring game, and that will be the vast majority of Jones' team.

Tennessee has rebuilt both sides of the ball from the ground up.

Offensively, running back Jalen Hurd, quarterback Riley Ferguson, receivers Josh Malone and Von Pearson, tight ends Ethan Wolf and Daniel Helm, and offensive linemen Coleman Thomas and Dontavius Blair will see their first live action in front of an audience.

Defensive linemen Owen Williams and Dimarya Mixon, linebacker Jakob Johnson and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley also burst onto the college scene this spring, and they will try to show everybody why coaches are so excited.

Because of all the new players, Jones said it is "critical," per WDEF News, that fans pack the stadium for the spring game to give the youngsters a true preview of what's to come this fall.

A season ago, the Vols surprised the SEC with an upset of No. 11 South Carolina that sent shock waves across the league. But their highest high was followed with a dire dose of reality.

Alabama, Auburn and Missouri all exposed Tennessee for what it was: a team that may have been senior-laden but too far short on talent to compete consistently in the SEC.

When Vanderbilt knocked the Vols out of a bowl game, it soured a season that had once held hope.

That old guard has been razed. After all the "brick by brick" propaganda Jones has preached throughout his tenure, this spring game will be the first glimpse the college football world gets at the first fruits of his rebuilding efforts.

If the '14 recruiting class is truly the start of the turnaround as the prospects have preached, Saturday will be the first chance for everybody to see its origins.

Jones gave ESPN.com's Chris Low a little preview of what to expect:

We only have 13 seniors in the program. We'll be much more talented, but very youthful. It's kind of invigorating, though, because this football team has been willing and they've been eager. We've just got to teach them.

We're still not where we need to be to compete at a high level in this conference, but we have taken great steps in moving forward by increasing our team speed and overall athleticism, and the exciting thing is that there are 18 more newcomers arriving in June.

For all the new Vols, this Saturday is a chance to show everybody for the first time that they have the talent to put Tennessee football back on the map.

 

All recruiting information via 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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. Younger players in particular will hope to gain valuable experience. 

As for others, it could in essence be a reclamation project in terms of reestablishing value in the eyes of the coaches. 

This slideshow will detail five members of the team needing to prove themselves during spring practices. 

 

 

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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.

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