NCAA Football News

LSU Spring Game 2014: Recap, Highlights and Analysis

The 2014 LSU spring game was a resounding success as fans from around the state descended on Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge to get a first look at the future of the program while White defeated Purple, 42-14.

Gone are the days of Zach Mettenberger tearing up the Tigers secondary with weapons like Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. In their place Saturday was a fresh quarterback duel largely dominated by the defensive side of the ball.

Said defense flustered the quarterbacks all day long, as linebackers Deion Jones and Kwon Alexander tallied interception returns for touchdowns. The signal-callers in action swapped sides multiple times, but the White squad emerging victorious was a forgone conclusion with so many potential starters on that side.

The nation also finally got a look at the school's new helmet decal, via LSU's Sports Information Director, Michael Bonnette:

Several important names were in attendance, such as major signees like Malachi Dupre, according to 247 Sports' Shea Dixon: 

Even New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan made an appearance, as captured by Sharief Ishaq of WDSU-TV:

Fans themselves came out in droves, via ESPN's Gracie Blackburn:

Despite the scope of the event, coach Les Miles said beforehand that it was not something that would cement any positional battles.

"Not really, to be honest with you,” he said, per Scott Rabalais of The New Orleans Advocate. “We’re going to watch the competition. It’s a key scrimmage. But there’s also a lot of time left before we get to playing time.”

Let's see if any of Miles' players changed his mind on Saturday.

In typical spring game fashion, things starting in a boring manner. The game utilized a make-it, take-it approach with different clock rules to boot:

After a couple of punts got things started, the major storyline came into focus—the battle for the No. 1 spot on the quarterback depth chart between freshman Brandon Harris and sophomore Anthony Jennings.

As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee points out, Harris entered the spring game poised to steal the gig:

Jennings did little to help himself in the early going. Leading the White team—composed mostly of starters—he tossed an early interception that the Purple's Jones took to the house for a touchdown.

Defense predictably ruled the opening quarter, as LSU's strong stable of defensive backs and rushers flustered both signal-callers. The sides combined for less than 75 total yards of offense, and the numbers from the quarterbacks were simply ugly, via ESPN's David Ching:

Harris would respond later in the second quarter with a 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end DeSean Smith. He quickly followed that up with an impressive 41-yard scramble before he found fullback Connor Neighbors for a five-yard touchdown pass.

Jennings' response? Another pick six, this time by Alexander to give the White a 21-7 lead with five minutes left in the second quarter.

Smelling blood in the water, Harris beautifully orchestrated one final drive in the second half and threw his third touchdown, with Travin Dural the recipient from 21 yards away. For those keeping count, Harris threw three scores in one quarter of action to stake his claim:

After the break, Jennings came out determined and hooked up with Dural for a 13-yard score on the first drive to make it 35-7 in favor of the White.

The good vibes ended quickly, as Harris took little time to hit Rob Bolden for a gain of 37 yards and John Diarse for another 33 before taking it in himself from four yards out on a designed keeper.

Harris was then pulled from the contest so Hayden Rettig could get some reps. After promptly fumbling the first snap, he smoothly recovered and hit Dural for a 47-yard gain:

By then it was clear—Dural is set to have a major impact for the Tigers next season.

Running back Kenny Hilliard rumbled into the end zone shortly after to make it 42-14, the final score as the running clock expired shortly thereafter.

Ross Dellenger of The Advocate revealed the official spring awards list:

Looking back, it's easy to get very excited about LSU's chances in the SEC next year. It'll clearly be a team that relies on its defense to win games, but the allure of Harris winning the starting gig and making big plays in tandem with Dural while backed by a stable of quality runners is hard to ignore.

On the flip side, an elite pass rush led by defensive end Danielle Hunter—who tallied half a dozen pressures overall and two sacks in the first half—looks to have what it takes to contend in the SEC in 2014.

 

Note: Statistics courtesy of LSU's Twitter account and The Advocate's Dellenger.

 

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LSU Unveils New Tiger Logo on Football Helmets for Spring Game

With the LSU Tigers set to play in their spring game on Saturday, the team officially displayed its new logo on its football helmets.

The Tigers are changing their logo from the one below.

[Twitter]

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Michigan Spring Game 2014: Recap, Highlights and Analysis

After a 2013 season that failed to meet rising expectations, Michigan's spring game in 2014 wasn't encouraging. The team's offense struggled to make headway throughout the afternoon while the defense reigned supreme.

Incumbent starting quarterback Devin Gardner, who is immersed in a fierce competition for the starting job this upcoming season with Shane Morris, couldn't have gotten off to a worse start. On the first play of scrimmage, Gardner tossed an interception to Jourdan Lewis, as shown by the Big Ten Network:

As pointed out by Kyle Bogenschutz of Michigan.Scout.com, it highlighted Gardner's interception-ridden 2013 campaign in which he tossed 11 passes that ended up in the hands of the enemy:

Gardner continued to struggle early, showing excellent velocity on his passes but failing to hit the mark more often than not. And he wasn't the only recognizable offensive player to run into trouble, per Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com:

These early difficulties highlighted something head coach Brady Hoke said before the spring game in a sideline interview with Lisa Byington of the Big Ten Network: "We need a lot of work. We have a lot of youth on our team [...] as many reps as we can get..."

Gardner did show off his abilities after the initial surge of poor throws, however, with a 30-yard bomb to Freddy Canteen that displayed beautiful touch. Unfortunately, big plays on offense were rare throughout the afternoon.

By the time Morris got his first chance to run the offense, Gardner's stat line looked like this, according to BTN's Matt Shepard: 2-of-7 passing for 53 yards with one interception and zero touchdowns.

Morris didn't fare much better, and Lewis victimized him with his second interception of the day, just as he did Gardner earlier in the scrimmage.

In addition to the passing woes, Larry Lage of The Associated Press noted Michigan's running backs didn't find any running lanes against the team's defensive front:

Baumgardner added:

The offensive line's struggles continued throughout the spring game, culminating with this big play by defensive lineman Willie Henry:

It's always easier for defenses to stand out early in the offseason, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that Michigan's defense showed up stronger than its offense on Saturday. However, given the real struggles this team had scoring the ball last year against top competition, it is a bit worrisome that the offense was so inept.

The fact that neither Gardner nor Morris was able to generate any positive buzz will likely be a deep well of contention for fans to draw from as summer approaches. The offensive line was atrocious from start to finish.

There are still many positions up for grabs, and nobody has any idea what the final depth chart will look like when the Wolverines take on Appalachian State on August 30. 

Thankfully, there is still plenty of time for Hoke and his capable staff to iron out the kinks. That said, given the incredible amount of youth and inexperience, fans should mentally prepare themselves for another frustrating season.

If the team overcomes the obvious offensive woes we saw on Saturday, however, then there's a chance for success—not only within the Big Ten, but nationally as well.

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OSU Mascot Brutus Attempts to Block Field Goal at Student Appreciation Practice

During Ohio State's Student Appreciation practice, Brutus decided to sacrifice his body to make a play.

As you can see in the photo above, Brutus laid out trying to block a field goal in what looked like an incredibly fun day of practice.

[Twitter, h/t BTN.com]

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LSU Spring Game 2014: Live Game Grades and Analysis

The first half of the LSU spring game has featured plenty of scoring, some of which has come from the defense. The second half had a running clock, but that did not slow down the passing attack. The white team, which included mostly the first unit players, defeated the purple 42-14.

 

Second half analysis for the LSU Tigers

Pass Offense: Jennings and Harris were both were impressive. Jennings tossed a touchdown pass to Travin Dural for the white team and Harris walked into the end zone off a bootleg. Hayden Rettig looked sharp in his limited snaps. Dural made difficult catches throughout the half in tight spaces. Rob Bolden and John Diarse also caught a pass.

Run Offense: LSU was able to establish some success on the ground  in the fourth quarter, ending a Rettig-lead drive with a touchdown rush from Kenny Hilliard. The offensive line for both the purple and white squads showed much improvement in the second half. 

Pass Defense: LSU's pass defense was not as sharp as it was in the first half, yet still performed admirably. Jennings, Harris and Rettig fit the ball in tight windows. LSU fans should be pleased with the performance of the defensive backs even with a few sitting out due to injury. 

Run Defense: The purple squad defensive line wore down in the fourth quarter, which came to no surprise. They had been on the field for most of the game. The white squad, like it had all day, dominated the line of scrimmage defensively.  

Special Teams: LSU remained perfect on extra points. 

Coaching: Miles switched Jennings back to the white squad and Harris to the purple. They both performed well. Cameron called mostly passes in the third quarter and mainly kept it on the ground in the fourth. Chavis put an impressive Ronnie Fiest at linebacker with the white squad to start the second half. 

First half analysis for the LSU Tigers

Pass Offense: Quarterback Anthony Jennings played for the white team in the first quarter and the purple for the second. He threw a interception to linebacker Debo Jones, which was returned 67 yards for a touchdown. In the second quarter, Kwon Alexander jumped an out-route for an easy pick-six. Jennings struggled to get in a rhythm and completed only six passes.

LSU's Brandon Harris was first to take the field with the purple squad. He started off 1-for-7 for three yards, but when heated up when he switched over to the white. The freshman impressively finished 8-of-18 for 122 yards and three touchdowns, throwing the ball where only his receiver could catch it. His most impressive trait was was ability to step up in the pocket and let the play develop. 

Run Offense: The Tigers have struggled to get anything going on the ground. LSU has only produced 71 yards on 28 carries from running backs, with no rush of over 10 yards. The Tigers have only three scholarship players taking snaps at running back in Terrence Magee, Kenny Hilliard and Melvin Jones. The offensive line for both teams have been average. The best rush was a Harris scramble for 41 yards.

Pass Defense: The LSU pass defense was dominant in the first half. Jones and Alexander's interception returns were impressive, but the entire secondary for both units showed great physicality in man coverage. The LSU receivers struggled to get separation. Danielle Hunter was a menace on the pass rush, raking in two sacks. All of Harris' touchdown passes were on perfectly thrown passes. 

Run Defense: LSU's run defense has been stout. Defensive tackles Christian LaCouture and Quentin Thomas of the white team and Maquedius Bain and Greg Gilmore of the purple have done a superb job of holding the point of attack. 

Special Teams: LSU punted eight times in the first half due to the offensive struggles early. To avoid risking injury, plays were blown dead soon after the ball was caught by the returner. LSU had Ed Paris, Tre'Davious White, John Diarse and Dural all catch punts. Paris fumbled his only attempt, which eventually led to a Harris touchdown pass. The LSU kickers were perfect on extra points and no field goals were attempted.   

Coaching: Les Miles had the decision to switch to putting Harris with the white team, which ignited the offense. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron called mostly pass plays, but was able to keep the defense honest with the run. Defensive coordinator John Chavis kept his playbook simple, rarely calling blitzes. 

 

 

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Kevin Dillman to Nebraska: Cornhuskers Land 3-Star QB Prospect

The Nebraska Cornhuskers scored a major recruiting victory on Saturday by landing Swedish quarterback Kevin Dillman during his visit to Lincoln.

Dillman announced his commitment via Twitter:

Dillman told the media during his visit that his relationship with Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck and the overall quality of his visit were strong factors in his decision, according to Mike Schaefer of 247 Sports:

"Me and my family are on a visit and it's been a great visit," Dillman said. "I've had a relationship with coach (Tim) Beck for a long time. They did a great job of recruiting me."

A 3-star composite quarterback out of Denton, Texas (Guyer High School), Dillman was a coveted prospect who received offers from schools such as Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas and California. He totaled 13 offers and was the No. 238-ranked player in the country and No. 9 dual-threat quarterback. 

Standing at 6'4" and 220 pounds, Dillman's dual-threat skill set makes him an ideal fit in the Cornhuskers offense upon arrival. He was once a 5-star prospect at 247 Sports, but an Achilles injury his junior year seemingly impacted the rating as he missed time, according to Adam Boedker ofThe Dallas Morning News.

As ESPN's Max Olson illustrates, Dillman is quite the intriguing story:

Dillman came to America from Sweden as a foreign exchange student his freshman year, impressed coaches, went back and became a full United States citizen and is now the Cornhuskers' next big thing under center.

Speaking of Nebraska, the big signing is the seventh for the Cornhuskers in the 2015 class, which puts them at No. 2 in the Big Ten and No. 11 overall—up four spots in 247 Sports' rankings.

Dillman will have to battle the likes of Tommy Armstrong and others at the position once he arrives on campus, not to mention help to fill the shoes of names of past greats such as Taylor Martinez in one of the nation's top conferences.

 

Note: All info courtesy of 247 Sports.

 

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Oklahoma State Football: 5 Players Who Have Stepped Up This Spring

With the Orange Blitz spring practice blowout happening this weekend, now is the time to assess which players have shown the most improvement during this early portion of Oklahoma State football.

Now, obviously lots of players are going to improve, that's the point of practice; however, I've tried to narrow it down to five players who have either stepped into a new leadership role or shown a surprising spike in development.

Let's get on to the five players who have made a big impact this spring.

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