NCAA Football News

Florida State Football: Top Performers from the Seminoles' Spring Game

Jameis Winston led the Garnet team to a 31-14 win over the Gold team in Florida State's annual spring game Saturday, throwing the ball 56 times—more attempts than he had in any single game during his Heisman campaign in 2013—for 27 completions, 396 yards and two touchdowns.

The pass-heavy attack can be attributed to multiple factors.

First, the team's presumed top four running backs, Karlos Williams, Ryan Green, Mario Pender and Dalvin Cook, all sat out the game for various reasons. But second, the team is auditioning a new cast of young receivers for important offensive roles, and head coach Jimbo Fisher was curious to see what he had in camp before blue-chip freshmen Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph arrive this summer.

Despite a sluggish start that saw Winston complete just 13 of his first 31 passes, Fisher was not disappointed with his young-but-merging group of receivers, per Kareem Copeland of the Associated Press:

The more they play together ... the more you're going to know each other. Early, they didn't get open as well, but that's kind of expected. But as the game went on they gradually made more plays and did things and we helped them get open with some formations and different things we did. I'm not disappointed in them.

You relax and you realize the sky's not falling, the world's not coming to an end. Relax and play and play up to your capabilities.

That group was one of the biggest stories going into Saturday's spring game, but elsewhere, a few other players made the day their own.

These were the three brightest stars.

 

Third Star: LB Matthew Thomas

According to the 247Sports Composite, Matthew Thomas was the eighth-best player and second-best linebacker in the 2013 recruiting class. After a shoulder injury ended his freshman season in October, though, his opportunity to become a meaningful defensive player was delayed for at least one more season.

If Thomas' play in the spring game was any indication, however, the wait won't be much longer than that. He recovered a Jameis Winston fumble, stuck out to Warchant.com after hunting down Freddie Stevenson and impressed Brandon Mellor of Seminoles.com with his playmaking instincts throughout the game:

This is precisely what FSU fans wanted (needed?) to see from Thomas, from whom much is expected in 2014 and beyond.

The rotations at linebacker are unsettled, with Terrance Smith being the only surefire starter, and Thomas is competing with such players as Ukeme Eligwe, Reggie Northrup and E.J. Levenberry for a chance to start. The whole group played well Saturday, however, so Thomas has not locked up a spot.

One thing that might help him? The addition of even more weight. According to Dustin Tackett of Tomahawk Nation, Thomas said after the game that he is planning on getting to up to 235 pounds next season (after being listed at 224 in 2013):

Already a dangerous combination of height (6'3"), bulk and speed, a good summer of workouts would make Thomas a safe bet at seeing action, a good bet at starting and an intriguing bet at becoming an All-ACC-type player in 2014.

 

Second Star: WR Rashad Greene

There is nothing loud about Rashad Greene's game; Kelvin Benjamin was the sexy receiver last season and is now likely to become a first-round NFL draft pick, while Greene is known better by FSU fans and ACC coaches than casual observers of the sport.

Because of such things, it is easy to forget that Greene has led the Seminoles in catches and yards in each of the past three seasons, and he stands poised to make it a clean sweep by doing so a fourth time in 2014. Now the undisputed No. 1 receiver on the depth chart, he and Winston might both be in store for All-American years.

That became painfully clear Saturday, when Greene was his normal, dominant self, racking up 11 catches (all from Winston) for 127 yards and a touchdown. Yes, he was wearing a green non-contact jersey for precautionary reasons, but that does not provide an excuse to the secondary for how often he got open.

To boot, Greene was also presented the Matt Schmauch Academic Achievement Award during a break in the game:

Greene is the type of player championship teams are made of—both on and off the field. He didn't need to prove that to anyone Saturday, but with certain fans uneasy about the losses of Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, it wasn't a bad idea to remind them.

Consider this reminder received.

 

First Star: DL Ro'Derrick Hoskins

Defensive end might be the keystone position for Florida State in 2014.

Mario Edwards and Eddie Goldman are being counted on to reach their potentials on the outside, which should help compensate for the loss of Timmy Jernigan at tackle. Behind them, though, there are questions about depth in the rotation, especially with Chris Casher playing the hybrid DE/LB role vacated by Christian Jones.

On Saturday, redshirt freshman Ro'Derrick Hoskins—himself a converted linebacker—silenced some of those questions and had the best game of anyone on the roster. He finished with two sacks and took an interception off Sean McGuire back 63 yards for a touchdown, sticking out as a breakout star to both Noles247.com and broadcaster Gene Deckerhoff:

Barring injury, Hoskins will almost definitely not start a game next season. Edwards and Goldman have those jobs locked up.

However, if he continues to come on as he did Saturday, Hoskins can earn a progressively bigger role behind that starting duo. If he does, it would benefit not just himself (by virtue of real-time reps) but the team, which would not, as predicted, be relying too heavily on the contributions of its first-team defensive ends.

This could be a nice development for FSU's defense.

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5-Star DE Jashon Cornell Sets His College Decision Date

Jashon Cornell plans to kick off his senior year with a commitment.

The menacing defensive end from Minnesota will unveil his collegiate intentions Aug. 28, the first day of school at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, per 247Sports reporter Steve Wiltfong. Cornell is currently considering dozens of scholarship offers from across the country.

He is rated the nation's No. 3 weak-side defensive end in 247Sports' composite rankings. Cornell comes in at No. 30 among all 2015 prospects, earning his status as a 5-star recruit.

The 6'4", 270-pound playmaker punished opponents throughout his junior season. He secured 70 tackles and 15 sacks in 10 contests, commanding double-team blocking assignments throughout the fall.

Cornell collected 20 tackles for loss and also scored on a fumble recovery return during a dominant campaign.

With his announcement date four months away, coaches still have a significant span to promote their respective programs to the pass-rusher. The goal for many teams is to line up a campus visit with him during the summer.

Cornell has been a frequent traveler this year, with trips to Notre Dame, Northwestern, Mississippi State, Minnesota and Iowa. Plenty of squads are attempting to keep him in Big Ten Conference territory. Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State are among those in the mix. Stanford, Texas and USC present options elsewhere if he elects to leave the region.

Wiltfong reports Cornell will spend time visiting schools along the West Coast "soon."

In 247Sports' Crystal Ball projection, 79 percent of experts predict he'll end up at Notre Dame. Michigan follows behind with 14 percent of total prognostications.

The race for Cornell's commitment has been underway for a while. With an ending in sight, expect his recruitment to heat up in a hurry.

 

*Recruit information and statistics courtesy of 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.

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Report States Market Value for College Football Player Is $178,000 Per Year

A March 2014 study conducted by Drexel University and the National College Players Association has found that the annual fair market value of an average college football player between 2011 and 2015 is $178,000, per Mark Coba of NBC News:

The March survey, from the National College Players Association and Drexel University, said that the projected fair market value of the average college football player is $178,000 per year from 2011 to 2015, while the projected market value for the average college basketball player for the same time is $375,000.

The report also said that football players with the top 10 highest estimated fair market values, like Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, might be worth as much as $547,000, during the year 2011 to 2012.

The NCPA was founded by Ramogi Huma, who joined forces with Kain Colter to form the College Athletes Players Association earlier this year and recently won a huge victory when the National Labor Relations Board deemed Northwestern football players were employees of—not just students at—the university, according to ESPN.com.

However, it is important to note that pay-for-play is not one of CAPA's primary, explicit goals. The organization argued in January for "cost of attendance" stipends and the right to "be compensated for commercial sponsorships consistent with evolving NCAA regulations," per Teddy Grenstein of the Chicago Tribune.

"A lot of people will think this is all about money; it’s not,” Colter said at the time. "We’re asking for a seat at the table to get our voice heard."

These newly published numbers are staggering, however, and given Huga's connection to both the NCPA and CAPA, it is reasonable to think they might be used in pro-compensation arguments in the near future.

Here are some other important findings from the report, published on the NCPA's official website:

  • The average full athletic scholarship at an FBS school left “full” players with a scholarship shortfall (out-of-pocket expenses) of $3285 during the 2011-12 school year.
  • FBS football and men’s basketball players would receive full athletic scholarships plus an additional $6 billion between 2011-15 if not for the NCAA’s prohibition of a fair market.
  • The lost value over a four-year career for the average FBS football and men’s basketball player is $456,612 and $1,063,307, respectively.
  • The lost value over a four-year career for the average football and men’s basketball player in the six BCS conferences is $715,000 and $1.5 million, respectively.
  • University of Texas football players will be denied approximately $2.2 million, incur scholarship shortfalls of over $14,000, and live below the federal poverty line by $784 per year between 2011-15.

Like so many developments since the formation of CAPA in late-January, it remains to be seen how, exactly, these numbers will be used. The association is still in its early phases, teaching itself how it will operate and whom it will preside over.

Still, it seems like the days of unpaid college athletes are just about numbered. The earning potential is too big to ignore.

"The bidding war for athletes would likely be in the millions," said Ellen Staurowsky, a professor of sports management at Drexel University and co-author of the report, according to Coba's story.

For how long can we not address those numbers?

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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SEC Football: 4 Teams Having the Best Spring Camp

As players jockey for starting positions and coaches experiment with new schemes and formations, teams across the Southeastern Conference are building toward the 2014 football season. The losses on both sides of the football, but particularly on offense, are acute, and the need to rebuild is significant.

Through key injuries or emerging players, new schemes and coordinators, spring camps have a massive impact on the performance of teams during the regular season. This year's sheer amount of questions that teams have to answer makes that even more true in 2014.

Several teams have either answered those questions outstandingly, have had leaders emerge or simply are fulfilling expectations, and those great spring performances follow.

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No News Is Good News for Your College Football Team This Offseason

Boredom is not sexy. It does not sell. It does not entertain the masses. But when it comes to the college football offseason, boredom—or perhaps silence is the more appropriate term—is everything you should hope for.

As soon as the last light goes out on national signing day, and your head coach ties one final bow on his annual WWE-ish “look at how good we are!” speech, you don’t want hear from him until fall.

The occasional spring football headline is unavoidable. Maybe it’s a video game stat sheet from a quarterback in a scrimmage against tackling dummies or a slight hamstring tweak that will have no impact on the actual season.

And then, of course, there’s the annual "Gathering of the Quotes," better known as conference media days. Sometime in summer you will hear how strong the team got (again), how [insert young hopeful quarterback here] got better and how a coach, shockingly, really likes his team.

But that’s it. Anything else on the headline front will likely spell trouble. Outside of a few faint (and mostly unnecessary) news items here and there, you should not crave storylines until September.

If there’s any other noise—outside of the release of a new uniform you will likely despise—it likely won’t be greeted with applause. While that might seem pessimistic, it’s simply stating the obvious: Football is still remarkably dangerous—even in its condensed, slowed, spring form—and young people often make spectacularly dumb mistakes during some of the most volatile years of their lives.

As is the case with most breaks between seasons, we were recently reminded just how valuable a headline-less offseason can be in one week alone.

Arguably the most physically gifted player in all of college football—and some would argue the best returning wide receiver in the country—Dorial Green-Beckham was booted from the Missouri Tigers after his latest legal run-in.

After being suspended indefinitely following an incident at a Columbia apartment—one that came with no official charges but featured some rather terrifying details—Missouri announced it had dismissed him from the program.

Head coach Gary Pinkel addressed the following in a release sent out by the school (h/t ESPN):

"This decision was made with the best interests of all involved in mind," Pinkel said in a statement. "Dorial's priority going forward needs to be focusing on getting the help he needs. As we have all along, we will continue to do everything we can to assist Dorial and his family. We care deeply about Dorial and his well-being, but hopefully he can benefit from a fresh start."

Green-Beckham had been involved in two other offseason issues prior to his latest, both involving marijuana. The latest came in January of this past year, which likely forced the Tigers into making a swift decision.

Unfortunately, such shocking offseason developments really aren’t all that shocking. While the particular details surrounding Green-Beckham’s situation are difficult to read and should by no means serve as a representation of the sport, the terms “suspended” and “dismissed” have become exhausted offseason terms.

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson served as last year’s high-profile departure. Golson was suspended for what he later referred to as “poor judgment on a test.” After missing the 2013 season, Golson is back in South Bend and just threw for 154 yards in Notre Dame’s spring game.

The two situations are obviously vastly different, but they also highlight the wide variety of trouble that young people can find themselves in, especially on a college campus.

You were in college once, and you know the stupidity that can easily (or perhaps did easily) fall into your lap. When 18- to 22-year-olds get free time on a campus that is built around nightlife, things happen. It can be much more than that—as it was with Green-Beckham and has been with so many others—but it’s a starting point.

This, unfortunately, is where most offseason headlines start and end.

If it’s not an arrest, suspension or violation of team rules—which is a really polite way of saying “failed drug test” 99 percent of the time—then it’s likely a serious injury that has your team in the news.

At about the same time it was learned Green-Beckham would not playing for Missouri in 2014, Texas announced that its likely starting quarterback, David Ash, would miss the rest of the spring due to a broken bone in his left foot.

Via the Associated Press:

The school said Friday that the senior fractured a bone in his left foot during spring practice and will undergo surgery next week. Head football trainer Anthony Pass says that will put Ash out of action for the rest of the spring workout season, but he is expected to return to action in time for preseason camp.

Ash, who missed most of last season due to concussion-related symptoms, has been unable to realize his wealth of potential at the position. Although early returns seem promising for his availability for fall camp, this latest news is without question another roadblock in his development.

There’s a clear-cut difference between injury and misbehavior, one that is so blatantly obvious it requires no further disclaimer. In the case of your team, however, this is what the offseason has become: a buffet of mainly negative storylines that can be increasingly difficult to stomach.

The only hope is that you won't have to stomach it.

Now that realignment has been put in the rearview—and thank goodness for that—the spotlight often shifts to the negative in the sport. It’s unavoidable, alarmingly consistent and rarely absent for too long. The news that often comes from this time period can mean nothing but bad things.

There’s no possible way to predict bad decisions or unfortunate noncontact knee injuries. All you can do is hope that your team is content with an offseason slumber.

While quiet won't make the months without football pass any more quickly, the likely alternative won’t be good for business. Silence is golden.

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Expect Georgia to Play More Hurry-Up Offense with QB Hutson Mason

Georgia's offense is loaded with weapons in 2014, with running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, and wide receivers Michael Bennett, Chris Conley, Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley all slated to return this fall.

The one new piece of the puzzle, redshirt senior quarterback Hutson Mason, looked like he could be more of a difference-maker than caretaker during Saturday's spring game in Athens.

Mason looked sharp in his first and only spring game as the starting quarterback in Athens, completing 18 of 27 passes for 241 yards and one touchdown.

He was accurate with the deep ball, seemed to have the back-shoulder fade mastered and hit his timing routes on time and on target for the majority of the afternoon, reassuring Georgia's coaches, players and fans that the void left by legendary quarterback Aaron Murray won't be difficult to fill.

But the offense did look a bit different on Saturday, specifically due to the faster pace of play displayed by the first-team offense. Head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo have always had no-huddle elements in their game plans, but the Bulldogs routinely hurried up to the line during the spring game, giving a bit of a glimpse into the future of the offense.

It wasn't an accident.

"The tempo of the offense was outstanding," Richt said. "I think Hutson really enjoys tempo and a faster pace. He handles that very well."

Mason wasn't as committal on his preference as his head coach was, but he is comfortable enough with the increased emphasis on tempo and its benefits.

"I like it, but I think there are some pros and cons to it," he said. "It's hard to realize what the defense is doing when you go fast because you don't really see if they're blitzing because they don't really get lined up. But, over an amount of time, a defense has to cover a lot and run sideline-to-sideline. If we're in good enough shape, it can really wear down a defense."

Mason felt that the tempo wore down some of his teammates on the unusually hot April day.

"It was hotter out than we thought, so running no-huddle with receivers was tough," he said in postgame quotes released by Georgia. "The guys got gassed but it was good to see them push through it. I still feel like we left some deep balls out there."

Through only 15 practices with the first-team offense, consider the tempo aspect of Georgia's offense a work in progress. The receivers first had to get further acclimated to Mason just as the quarterback, after the 6'3", 202-pounder from Marietta, Ga. got two-and-a-half games as the No. 1 quarterback to close out last season after Murray's ACL injury.

The tempo aspect is part of the fine-tuning phase of the installation, which won't come until later this summer—when Mitchell (ACL, leg) and Scott-Wesley (ACL) should come back from their injuries. If spring was any indication, an increased attention to a faster pace will be a big part of Georgia's game plan in 2014.

If Georgia can mix in tempo into a game plan that should feature the punishing running style of Gurley, the versatility of Marshall and the deep and talented receiving corps, it will be tough to stop.

Will the Bulldogs go as fast as other SEC tempo teams like Auburn, Texas A&M and Ole Miss? No. The coaching staff will likely pick and choose its spots, but expect those spots to be more frequent in 2014.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and spring game information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 


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Breiden Fehoko Commits to Texas Tech: Red Raiders Land Versatile 4-Star Defender

Texas Tech emerged from a crowded field of contenders to claim a commitment from Breiden Fehoko on Monday. The 4-star defensive tackle from Hawaii announced his decision on Twitter:

Fehoko is the first defensive lineman to join the 2015 Red Raiders recruiting class, which now features six players. His decision follows a Sunday pledge from 3-star Texas linebacker D'Vonta Hinton.

The 6'3", 290-pound prospect hails from Farrington High School in Honolulu. The school has produced several collegiate linemen in the past, including eventual NFL draft picks Vince Manuwai (Jacksonville Jaguars), Mario Fatafehi (Arizona Cardinals) and Jesse Sapolu (San Francisco 49ers).

Fehoko fielded offers from several schools, including many from beyond the West Coast. Alabama, Clemson and Ole Miss extended scholarships, while Pac-12 possibilities include Oregon State, California and Arizona State.

He ultimately settled on Texas Tech, providing a big boost to head coach Kliff Kingsbury's recruiting efforts. The Red Raiders reel in an explosive defender who can line up anywhere along the interior and sustain effectiveness.

Fehoko was an absolute force during his junior season at Farrington. He recorded 103 tackles, including 20 for loss, and 24.5 sacks.

His ability to create turnover opportunities was staggering last fall. Fehoko forced 12 fumbles while obliterating plays in the backfield.

He is the country's No. 9 defensive tackle recruit and No. 61 overall prospect in 247Sports' composite ranking.

Texas Tech now holds commitments from three players who rank among the top 10 at their respective position in the 2015 class. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham is the nation's No. 2 dual-threat passer, while offensive lineman Lio Lafaele is rated eighth nationally among junior college tackles.

The Red Raiders rate 22nd nationally and sixth among Big 12 Conference members in 247Sports' composite team rankings. Fehoko ensures the defensive front will feature a ferocious element for years to come.

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Miami Linebacker Denzel Perryman Lays Huge Hit During Spring Game

Denzel Perryman's hit on running back Gus Edwards fired up his Miami teammates, and it's easy to see why.

The 6'1", 240-pound linebacker smashed Edwards to the ground during the Hurricanes spring game.

Of course, the Miami coaches would probably prefer their players to not lay out their teammates like that during spring ball.

One thing is certain after seeing this hit: Perryman now has bragging rights over Edwards in the locker room.

[ACC Digital Network, h/t Next Impulse Sports]

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Notre Dame Football: Top Performers from the Irish's Spring Game

The dust has settled inside Notre Dame Stadium. Or perhaps that was mostly dirt, with the natural grass surface getting one last run before it's ripped out and replaced by a synthetic surface after graduation in May. 

Either way, with the 85th Blue-Gold game complete and spring practice in the books, there's plenty to take away from the offense's 63-58 victory over the defense. Let's take a look at some of the top performers from Saturday's scrimmage. 

 

Malik Zaire

The story of Saturday's game was definitely the Irish's backup quarterback, Malik Zaire. The rising sophomore started the game at quarterback for the Blue, then marched the offense down the field for an impressive touchdown drive, which included two big chunk pass plays, delivering strikes to C.J. Prosise and Will Fuller before Cam McDaniel punched in the touchdown. 

Zaire hit big passes to Chris Brown and Prosise his next time out, the highlights of his 18-of-27 performance that tallied 292 yards and two touchdowns. While he wasn't perfect—Brian Kelly would've liked Zaire to do a better job running the two-minute drill before half—it was a great sign that the quarterback position is as healthy as it's been under Kelly. 

 

Greg Bryant

Greg Bryant's 51-yard run was the biggest play of the day, and the rising sophomore more than doubled every other back's output on the afternoon. One of the most highly anticipated freshman in 2013, Bryant's spring game performance was a breakout Irish fans have waited for since last August. 

Again, Bryant wasn't perfect. His big run erased some ineffective carries. But after home run threat George Atkinson departed early for the NFL draft, watching Bryant get his afternoon kickstarted by running the delayed counter handoff that Atkinson ran so effectively was fitting. 

 

Jaylon Smith

Jaylon Smith spent most of the afternoon watching the game from the sideline. But the fact that the Irish's best defensive playmaker still managed to make six tackles gives you an idea that the soon-to-be sophomore is going to make a ridiculous amount of plays in Brian VanGorder's new system. 

Smith's cameo featured him at both his traditional position outside as well as manning the Will linebacker position. Kelly talked after the game about Smith's versatility growing this spring. 

"He has an understanding of how to play this defense both inside‑out and outside‑in and that he had no knowledge of going into the spring," Kelly said. "That's a smart football player, and a guy that now is an asset to our defense in a manner that he never was before."

If he can stay healthy, you might as well chalk Smith up with 110 tackles next season.  

 

Romeo Okwara

Spring game sacks are hardly real sacks. But the fact that Romeo Okwara tallied them has to at least be a relief to the Irish coaching staff. Playing defensive end this spring for the first time, Okwara looked explosive off the edge on Saturday, tallying three sacks and sharing a tackle for loss as well. 

As important as the spring was for Okwara, the next four months are essential. Okwara will need to continue to develop his body and his skill set for the position, which is the type of training that'll let him be an every-down player, if only out of necessity. 

The raw materials are there for Okwara to be a very productive college football player. But he's starting from scratch at defensive end and has a long way to go. 

 

Tarean Folston

If Bryant flashed the most promise, Tarean Folston already looks like a savvy veteran at running back. The sophomore may have only gotten his first touches late last season, but his knowledge of the game and vision on the field is obvious. 

Folston averaged 5.4 yards per carry on his seven totes but was explosive in the passing game where his five first-half catches showcased a running back position that'll play more of a role in the aerial attack. 

For as impressive as Bryant was, Folston is too good of a weapon not to be featured in this offense. How carries will be distributed is one of the offseason's big questions. 

 

Chris Brown

The junior receiver provided a strong finish to spring practice by notching a 100-yard game. With DaVaris Daniels gone for the semester, this was Chris Brown's position group to lead. As the veteran of the group, he did that this spring and was praised by the coaching staff for his work. 

The timing was perfect for Brown, who was in a sink-or-swim predicament. Surrounded by perhaps one of the most talented receiving corps Notre Dame has put together, Brown needed a strong spring or would face getting lapped by young receivers.

The South Carolina native has all the ingredients needed to be a very good player. Saturday's performance showed him getting closer to putting it all together. 

 

Everett Golson

No, his numbers didn't match up with Zaire's. But Everett Golson, playing in his first game-like situation since the BCS title game against Alabama, shook off any signs of rust rather early. Playing against a ramped up defense, Golson got the Irish into the correct looks and made the type of good decisions Notre Dame needs from its quarterback. 

Golson's athleticism was apparent, especially in a few scramble situations. His arm strength was still clearly there, as we saw on a perfect deep ball to Corey Robinson. And while Zaire made his intentions well known, this is still Golson's offense. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.  

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Should Oklahoma Worry Trevor Knight Underwhelmed in Sooners' 2014 Spring Game?

Quarterback Trevor Knight was the star of Oklahoma's Sugar Bowl win over Alabama and thus the main storyline during spring practice.

However, he was far from the star of Saturday's spring game. 

Stats don't tell the whole story; they're more of a snapshot. Still, Knight underwhelmed statistically speaking, with a 5-of-14 passing performance and an interception. Not helping matters was Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield, who stole the show by completing all nine of his pass attempts with a pair of touchdowns. 

Of course, Mayfield won't be eligible to compete in 2014 thanks to NCAA transfer rules. Otherwise, there may have been an interesting storyline developing this summer. 

In the meantime, Knight is the established starter. So should fans worry about his performance over the weekend?

Not yet. Knight had a rough day. It just so happened to be in front of 43,000 fans. Co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel admitted in a press conference that Saturday "was not [Knight's] best performance."

"It’s a constant process of continuing to get better and understanding defenses. He’s by no means a finished product," Heupel said of Knight. "The great thing about him is he’s going to come to work tomorrow and keep pushing himself to get better."

The Oklahoma coaches see Knight every day. They see his progress and where he still needs to improve. Fans and media don't have that luxury, so it would be premature to make a solid conclusion about Knight after one day's worth of reps. 

Head coach Bob Stoops explained in a press conference:

A little bit of the defense. It’s not easy throwing it on [cornerback] Zack Sanchez every day. Especially when he sees you every day, goes against you in pass skeleton every day, and in team. All of a sudden those receivers are squeezed and again, it isn’t one guy. If they’re not open, no one is going to look good. At the end of the day, the disadvantage for the offense is always the case that the defense is so familiar with them. They know by formation, what their routes are and it makes it harder. He needs all of his linemen out there for it to work different as well.

There may be some coach speak in Stoops' comments, but he's also correct about what Knight faces in practice. The Sooners should have one of the best returning defenses in the Big 12. 

It's also possible for Knight to effectively run the offense without having a great day throwing the ball. The ground game looked solid with inexperienced running backs David Smith (nine carries, 30 yards and a touchdown) and Daniel Brooks (eight carries, 67 yards) showing off. 

As long as Knight is playing, the Sooners are geared to be a run-first offense. That's true no matter how much he improves as a passer. Getting the run game down is paramount, and it sounds like the Sooners accomplished that. 

Were Knight's numbers disappointing? Sure. But his passing performance wasn't going to make or break the offense. 

Oklahoma's coaches would like to see Knight begin preseason practice on the right foot. That shows he put in the necessary work during the summer to improve.

Only if Knight looks shaky early in the season should fans begin to worry. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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Alabama Football: 5 Unanswered Questions Heading into the Spring Game

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Body language is always important with Nick Saban.

While the coach always reminds his players at the University of Alabama that it can be very telling during a game or practice, he too can speak volumes without saying a single word.

After being pretty pleased following the Crimson Tide’s first closed scrimmage of the spring at Bryant-Denny Stadium, he was more guarded following the second on Saturday afternoon.

While he told reporters that there had been dramatic improvement in some areas, which often occurs between the first two scrimmages, his body had a bit of a different message, of cautiously optimistic: Good, but not great. 

“I still think our team has to develop the mental toughness, the psychological disposition to sustain better, finish things better, play harder, be a more relentless competitor,” he said. “I like the attitude of our team, but I still think there are guys that need to improve in that area.

“If we are going to improve as a team, in the difficult times, finishing the game, fourth quarter, things get difficult, you get tired, that's when we have to execute and do things well. So you know there's a lot for us to work on.”

Afterward players tweeted about how tired they were, but the scrimmage served as sort of a physical pinnacle of spring as the Crimson Tide followed with two days of rest.

The team will practice on Tuesday and Thursday before closing spring workouts on A-Day (Saturday, 1 p.m., ESPNU).

“We need to take advantage these last couple practices,” said Saban. But regardless, the Crimson Tide will head into the summer with some unanswered questions:

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Oregon Football: Mark Helfrich's Biggest Spring Practice Concerns

As Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich and staff address preexisting concerns, new challenges arise as the Ducks enter the back-half of their spring practice schedule. 

Oregon is coming off an 11-win season and returns 15 starters—second most in the Pac-12 behind only UCLA. To label any of the issues Helfrich faces heading into 2014 as especially dire would be an overreaction. 

Still, the Ducks' two losses at Stanford and Arizona exposed an issue of particularly pressing need: play on both lines. On the offensive side, establishing depth is crucial.

Tyler Johnstone is expected to return from a right knee injury in time for the season, but his absence provided Matt Pierson and Andre Yruretagoyena an opportunity to work alongside the first string. 

The defensive line struggled to slow Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney and Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey—the result of getting pushed off the pile. 

“We wanted to get bigger and stronger. Some guys have added some weight,” defensive line coach Ron Aiken told 247Sports.com. “Those guys have gained weight because we need to be a little more sturdy up front.”

Aiken is not exactly working from scratch, but his unit is replacing some key contributors. Thus, the spring progression of Arik Armstead, Alex Balducci and T.J. Daniel takes on added importance. 

The situation is similar in the secondary, long a standout facet of the Oregon defense. Though the Ducks return All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, losing cornerback Terrance Mitchell and safety Avery Patterson demands some new Ducks to step up. 

First-year defensive coordinator Don Pellum touted the performance of the young defensive backs to The Oregonian, a group that includes such notable names as redshirt freshman safety Tyree Robinson

I think the young safeties are doing actually a pretty good job. We’ve thrown the playbook at them, it’s not like we’re putting it in slowly, we’re throwing it all at them right now and seeing what sticks. Those guys have been keeping up and keeping pace.

Expanded roles for the less experienced Ducks is a recurring theme across all phases at present. Via KEZI, Helfrich told reporters Friday workouts were dedicated to giving some reserves more repetitions. The goal is to have the second and third strings on the depth chart acclimated to the uptempo pace at which Oregon's starters play. 

Injury can change the team dynamic in a moment. Quarterback Marcus Mariota's knee injury last season was a detriment to the Ducks' final stretch of 2013. The injury bug again bit the Ducks offense in a significant manner again, this time claiming wide receiver Bralon Addison. 

"I can neither confirm nor deny anything [pertaining to reports Addison tore his ACL]," Helfrich said Friday per KEZI, but added: "Bralon was at practice today. And the wide receiver groups—every single one of them—is trying to get better." 

The remainder of the spring practices will lay the framework for a receiving corps that could be without its top returning playmaker. His absence forces the issue of initiating new contributors. 

Offensive coordinator Scott Frost alluded to the untapped, yet, abundant potential Oregon has at wide receiver, per The Oregonian

... We have a lot of other guys on scholarship. We've got a great quarterback to throw to them and in some ways we're kind of glad if it was going to happen it happened now, because a lot of these young guys are going to get reps and they're just going to have to grow up faster.

Indeed, Oregon is not lacking for talent at the position with 4-star recruit Jalen Brown in the mix as an early enrollee, and Dwayne Stanford standing out early. 

The loss of Addison is not just a matter of replacing his production or even his ceiling as the presumptive No. 1 target with 2013 receiving leader Josh Huff gone for the NFL.

If Addison is shelved for any great length of time—and an ACL could hold him out for the duration of the 2014 season—his replacement must match Addison's contributions as a blocker. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Winners and Losers of Week 2 of College Football's Spring Game Season

The meat of spring football season came and went this weekend, as 54 FBS teams (including 30 of the 64 from power conferences) played their spring game and tied a bow on their first set of practices during the College Football Playoff era.

Because of their format and their often-relaxed style, these exhibitions are hard to evaluate. Star players with even the most minor injury can see limited or no meaningful playing time, while defenses try not to blitz and to protect the team's quarterbacks. It's difficult to draw any important conclusions.

However, one needn't look further than 2013 to see how important a spring game can potentially be. Jameis Winston launched his Heisman campaign at this very time last season, playing so well that fellow QB Clint Trickett would soon transfer to West Virginia for a chance to start.

It's hard to say if the next Jameis Winston broke out Friday or Saturday, but a number of quarterback battles did take relevant turns. The weekend also saw some other players impress or disappoint; and at this point of the season, even something so small is significant news.

But who made out the best and the worst of everyone?

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Can Penn State Outlast Alabama and Remain No. 1 in 2015 Recruiting Class?

Penn State reigns supreme atop college football recruiting rankings...for now.

The Nittany Lions leapfrogged Alabama in 247Sports' composite 2015 class ratings last weekend when 4-star defensive tackle Adam McLean committed during a campus visit and added to a stunning haul in Happy Valley:

McLean, rated the consensus No. 1 prospect in Maryland, is the 12th player to join the class since Feb. 15. He's the highest-rated member of the group and its ninth 4-star recruit.

That's right: Penn State has been averaging one 4-star pledge per week since Valentine's Day.

This is the same program that saw its fortunes and image torn apart and left in tatters in 2011 when Jerry Sandusky's sins defined a season that Joe Paterno failed to survive.

This is the same program most expected would wallow in the college football doldrums throughout this decade after receiving unprecedented punishments and sanctions.

This is the same program that saw Bill O'Brien bail for greener pastures in the NFL just as he appeared to have Penn State on the upswing.

First-year head coach James Franklin is quickly proving the pundits wrong and, perhaps most importantly, he's returned the "cool" factor to Happy Valley.

Penn State is clearly a place where America's premier players want to win.

“I feel really good about the coaching staff, with where they’re headed and what they’re trying to do,” McLean told Washington Post writer Roman Stubbs. “I believe in what they’re trying to do.”

Belief is a powerful tool for a team tagged with a postseason ban through 2015. The players currently being recruited by Franklin haven't seen Penn State play in a bowl game during their high school careers.

It doesn't matter. The Nittany Lions are trending upward and Franklin is the primary cause.

"Coach Franklin, he's a great guy. If he wants you and needs you on this team, he's going to get you," running back commit Saquon Barkley told ESPN.com's Josh Moyer earlier this month. "I'm telling you the truth."

Barkley flipped from Big Ten newcomer Rutgers in February. His sentiments seem truer than ever these days.

Franklin is consistently beating conference rivals and national powerhouses in the pursuit of players he views as key targets. He's getting it done in talent-laden Pennsylvania and beyond.

The class includes recruits from Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Indiana.

Franklin, who recently led a recruiting rise at Vanderbilt, has displayed unique reach in his efforts, largely unrivaled during his current cycle.

Nick Saban is assembling another excellent crop of top-tier recruits in Tuscaloosa, carrying nine total commitments. The class contains 5-star Georgia defensive end Mekhi Brown and seven 4-star prospects from five states.

Still, Alabama has only picked up two pledges since Feb. 1 (4-star offensive lineman Richie Petitbon and 3-star defensive end Anfernee Jennings).

The Crimson Tide remain reigning national recruiting kings—for the fourth straight year—but not even Saban can measure up to what Franklin has accomplished during the past two months.

"I'm definitely surprised," coveted Indiana linebacker Josh Barajas said, per Moyer. "I didn't think they were going to blow up like this. But, then again, I don't see them stopping anytime either."

The 4-star prospect committed to Penn State in late March. His 247Sports' Crystal Ball projections were 100 percent in favor of a pledge to Notre Dame based on 31 expert predictions.

Commitments like that have kept the ball rolling for Franklin. The impressive run on talent is remarkable, but will it last?

Penn State is ahead of Alabama at the moment but requires nearly 10 more months of sustained success in order to ultimately unseat the Tide atop national rankings.

Saban will sign plenty of 4-stars prospects and sprinkle in a few 5-star pledges during that span. At this point, it's a given.

The onus will be on Penn State to keep up its torrid pace and prove Franklin is also a difference-maker on the field when his inaugural campaign kicks off this fall. If wins pile up in a hurry, prospects could be clamoring for a chance to play for the coach who has a region of fans re-energized.

Both Alabama and Penn State are still searching for a quarterback in this class. That's just one of several unknown factors that loom large for both teams en route to signing day.

Alabama lost 5-star passer Ricky Town in January when he flipped to USC. If Penn State is able to secure a commitment from one of its top quarterback targets—Brady White (California) and Brandon Wimbush (New Jersey) come to mind—it may make the difference in this battle for recruiting supremacy.

Of course, the likes of LSU, Florida State, Georgia and Texas A&M could also emerge as contenders for the top-ranked recruiting class. But for now, everyone—even Alabama—has to be in awe of Penn State's steady push to the top.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Should Alabama QB Blake Sims Be the Front-Runner at QB When Jacob Coker Arrives?

Alabama's quarterback battle won't begin in earnest until Florida State quarterback Jacob Coker arrives this summer, but senior Blake Sims has been busy this spring setting a high bar.

Sims, a 6'0", 202-pounder from Gainesville, Ga., who was more known as a dual-threat quarterback than a pocket passer throughout his Crimson Tide career, has been busy lighting up stat sheets through the air this spring.

He completed 24 of 39 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns during Alabama's scrimmage Saturday, keeping momentum going as spring practice begins to wind down.

Saban was pleased with Sims' performance, according to Marquavius Burnett of the Anniston (Ala.) Star:

Saban: Blake Sims is showing a lot of command out there. Made about 3 or 4 plays with his feet today. Doing a better job in the pocket.

— Marquavius Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) April 12, 2014

The strong performance comes on the heels of Alabama's first scrimmage, where Sims went 16-of-23 for 227 yards and two touchdowns. The former dual-threat quarterback isn't a run-first quarterback anymore. He has made an effort to pass first and use his athleticism as an insurance policy, and doing so has landed him in the spring spotlight.

That has left redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman, sophomore Alec Morris and the rest of the Alabama's quarterbacks in his shadow as spring comes to a close.

This raises the question, should Sims be the front-runner when Coker arrives?

He absolutely should.

There's a different between being the front-runner and the favorite. Coker is likely the favorite because, let's be real, head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin wouldn't bring in a two-year graduate transfer unless they felt like he had upside. But Sims' strong spring absolutely has made him the man to beat in T-Town, and it will be up to Coker to do it.

Can he?

Coker passed for 295 yards, one touchdown and one pick during his first two seasons in Tallahassee. But his strong arm and a quarterback battle that supposedly lasted well into fall camp with eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston last August has built a big reputation for Coker to live up to. 

That's a lot to live up to.

Sims' strong performance this spring has put the target on his back. Whether he wins the job or not, he seems to have upped the ante and brought stability to a position battle that was loaded with uncertainty just four weeks ago.

That's about as good as it could possibly get for Alabama's quarterbacks considering the landscape of this offseason's quarterback battle.

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All spring game statistics are courtesy of the University of Alabama.

 


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Auburn Football: 5 Players to Watch in Auburn's Spring Game

Auburn fans have been waiting for this week since the clock hit all zeroes at the BCS National Championship Game in January.

It's finally a game week on the Plains.

Although the Auburn Tigers will be going at each other instead of an SEC opponent, the annual A-Day Game this Saturday will give fans their first chance at seeing their defending SEC champions on the field since their close loss to Florida State in Pasadena.

Of course, Auburn's players are just as excited about getting back to Jordan-Hare Stadium for a game this weekend. With spring camp officially wrapping up at A-Day's final whistle, Saturday's spring game will give the Tigers one final chance to impress their coaches as well as their fans heading into the long summer months.

As we get ready for the Tigers' spring finale this Saturday, here are five players you should keep your eyes on at A-Day.

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Michigan Football: Grading Michigan's Post-Spring Depth Chart

Brady Hoke pulled the plug on the annual spring game, instead, treating fans to watch a typical practice and scrimmage at Michigan Stadium.

The offense squared off against the defense in a battle of situational football with no special teams or scoring allowed. Hoke was seemingly bound and determined to show little, if any, of Doug Nussmeier’s new offense.

While no official depth chart has been released, it’s no secret some fierce positional battles are underway.

But for a fan base eager to forget last season’s 7-6 debacle, even a brief scrimmage is a godsend. Many hoped to see Nussmeier's new offense, but instead, saw some of the same offensive problems—interceptions and a porous offensive line—that derailed last season.

 

Quarterback

Devin Gardner talks like he’s the starting quarterback, while admitting that he faced fierce competition during spring practice. But his performance during the scrimmage was less than impressive (2-of-10 passing for 53 yards) and throwing an interception on his first attempt. His backup, Shane Morris, (5-of-11 for 73 yards) wasn’t much better on a day the offense looked even worse than last season.

On the Big Ten coaches teleconference, Hoke called the battle ongoing.

"I think that's going to continue as a competition," Hoke said. "I don't think Devin played as well Saturday as he had during the course of spring football.”

Based on experience, Gardner is clearly the frontrunner, but he didn’t look too secure during the scrimmage.

Michigan has more depth at quarterback than last season, but with a new offense being installed and increased competition, the position still seems up for grabs.

Grade: C

 

Running Back

No position group seems more energized by the new offense than the running backs. In previous seasons, Michigan would feature a single back. Under Nussmeier, the way now appears paved for multiple backs to get playing time.

While Derrick Green’s weight loss and the slashing runs of De’Veon Smith have drawn the most attention this spring, Justice Hayes showed some impressive power carrying the ball during the scrimmage. Hayes finished with six carries for 33 yards and showed the running back battle is a three-player race.

Michigan looks to have good depth at running back heading into next season, which is good news if the offensive line can improve.

Grade: B

 

Receivers

Devin Funchess is the leading returning player at this position and hopes to cause mayhem again next season using his size to cause matchup problems for opposing defenses. Michigan will miss Jake Butt at tight end and is hoping A.J. Williams can perform while Butt's return is up in the air.

While the saying goes that potential just means you haven’t done much yet, it’s hard to not be excited by the players Michigan has in the mix at slot and wide receiver.

Freshman Freddy Canteen is drawing rave reviews and had the play of the scrimmage, a 44-yard reception that electrified the crowd. Dennis Norfleet, Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson are leading targets for whoever plays quarterback next season.

Someone needs to step up besides Funchess; the good news is Michigan is developing good depth at receiver. The surprising emergence of early enrollee Canteen is a huge bonus.

Grade: B

 

Offensive Line

Last year, Michigan’s offensive line was a disappointment all season long. This spring, the position group needs to replace its two most consistent players lost to graduation (Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield) and build a new line while implementing a new offense.

The results so far haven’t been promising. Expected starters Erik Magnuson and Joey Burzynski missed all of spring practice because of injuries, and Graham Glasgow was suspended for a few practices because of discipline problems.

Freshman Mason Cole looked lost at times at left tackle, but what in the world is a freshman doing breaking into the starting lineup?

It all adds up to continued trouble up front.

Michigan needs to find some consistency among Ben Braden, Jack Miller, Kyle Bosch, Patrick Kugler, Kyle Kalis and the aforementioned Magnuson, Burzynski, Glasgow and Cole, or this season could be worse than last. Chad Lindsay, recently graduated from Alabama, may also be part of the solution.

Grade: D

 

Linebackers

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is now directly responsible for the linebackers and has moved Jake Ryan inside to maximize his impact.

The linebackers look to be Ryan, Morgan Desmond and Royce Jenkins-Stone backed up by Joe Bolden, Ben Gedeon and James Ross.

The group has the depth to be a major factor next season if Ryan can successfully transition to the inside. During the spring scrimmage, he still appeared to be learning the position, something Mattison must correct.

Grade: B

 

Defensive Line

Defensive tackle Frank Clark looks like he’s ready to dominate next season. Of course, he has been playing against Michigan’s offensive line that continues to struggle. Clark put in a good performance during the scrimmage and will team up with Brennen Beyer at the end.

Ondre Pipkins and Willie Henry will hold down the middle of the defensive line.

Last season, this group wore down as the season progressed. Now with more experience, this group looks to be much improved. With Taco Charlton and freshman Bryan Mone as backups, the unit is developing much-needed depth.

Grade: B

 

Defensive Backs and Safeties

Michigan has the makings of an extremely good defensive backfield. Raymon Taylor and Blake Countess are solid at cornerback, and Jourdan Lewis looked impressive during the spring scrimmage (two interceptions, returning one for 20 yards).

Add Delano Hill and Jarrod Wilson at the safeties and the addition of 5-star recruit Jabrill Peppers, and the secondary could be the strength of this team.

The Michigan secondary struggled last season, as the team faded due partly to loose coverage.

”I definitely think we're going to be tighter on offenses this year,” Lewis said. “We are playing more man-to-man, and we'll be closer to those guys to break it up or intercept it.”

The addition of Peppers could make this unit stellar.

Grade: A

 

Spring statistics from mgoblue.com, official University of Michigan athletic department web site.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5-Star DE CeCe Jefferson on Auburn: Tigers' Say I'm Best Pass Rusher in Country

CeCe Jefferson, a 5-star defensive end, is one of the most ferocious playmakers in the class of 2015. The 6'2", 250-pound athlete has over 30 scholarship offers from some of the top programs in the country.

Bleacher Report went one-on-one with Jefferson who discussed coach Gus Malzahn, the Tigers program and his favorite part of visiting Auburn.

What did Jefferson have to say about Malzahn and defensive line coach Rodney Garner? What was the coolest thing on his visit?

Watch the video, and get the inside scoop on Jefferson and his feelings about the Tigers.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOS Digital.

Rankings courtesy of 247sports.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

What We Learned About Florida State's Title Chances in 2014 Spring Game

Florida State and college football in general enter a new era for the 2014 season. Not only will the Seminoles have a new logo and college football a new playoff, but also, the defending champs will have the biggest of targets on their backs. 

Repeating as national champions isn't an easy task. It only happened once in the old BCS system (Alabama in 2011 and 2012), and it's only happened one other time since the start of the bowl alliance in 1992 (Nebraska in 1994 and 1995). 

As the Seminoles look to do the nearly impossible in a new era, they took to the field for the annual spring game Saturday—two-sport star Jameis Winston and all. 

There are always things to learn from spring, so let's take a look at what we learned from Saturday afternoon in Tallahassee. 

 

Winston's Competitive Nature is Infectious

Winston won the Heisman Trophy, completing 66.9 percent of his passes for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. On Saturday, that talent was on full display once again. 

He threw for 396 yards and two touchdowns, but he completed just 48.2 percent of his passes (27-of-56). For a guy whose attention has been split between baseball and football all spring long, his raw talent once again shined through the somewhat painful early moments. 

If there was one thing that stood out in Winston's performance Saturday, it was his ability to not let a slow start get the best of him. As the game went on, Winston and the rest of the offense continued to get better, and by the end of the game, the offense was clicking like it did last season. 

It was also pretty clear Winston's arm and his body were exhausted by the double duty in the spring, something he even acknowledged after the game to ESPN.com's Jared Shanker: 

Physically, some days I was drained. I'm a busy man. I got to study and I'm a regular college student. Football is not my job yet. I got to carry out my everyday life. I'm going to be tired sometimes and if [head coach] Jimbo [Fisher] asks me, 'Jameis,are you tired?' I'm going to say, 'No, coach.' It's how college life is but I love it.

Battling through fatigue is just another sign of how competitive Winston is. Even if he wasn't perfect Saturday, that competitive nature will go a long way toward keeping his team on track during the most challenging regular season FSU has seen in over a decade. 

 

Don't Sleep on the 'Noles Defense 

Hey, guess what? Florida State is more than Winston. To Seminole fans, that shouldn't be a surprise, but given the national narrative, one could be forgiven for forgetting the defense is also really good. 

Sure, last season, the Seminoles secondary ranked No. 1 in pass defense, but two big pieces of that secondary are gone this year. On Saturday, FSU's defense reminded everyone it can play some quality football despite those pieces moving on. 

In fact, early on in the game it was dominating Winston and the Seminole wide receivers. According to the stat sheet, Winston started 3-of-10 passing for 102 yards and an interception. 

Fisher noted just how locked down the secondary was at times in his post-game availability. 

"I thought Jameis started out slow early. We didn't have many guys open and that secondary was locking them down," Fisher said, according to Shanker's article. "We gradually got guys open and he made some throws."

The Seminoles secondary was all over its counterparts on offense for most of the game, and one player in particular stood out—sophomore cornerback P.J. Williams. 

Williams had two passes defensed, five tackles and a forced fumble (which he also recovered) during the spring game. That's one way to make a statement about moving on from losing an All-American like Lamarcus Joyner. 

The secondary impressed former players as well, including a starting safety from last season—Terrence Brooks. He had high praise for the secondary, according to Natalie Pierre of the Tallahassee News

Those are the guys that I worked with while I was here. I got them used to this game and the college atmosphere. They’re all handling it very well. I love how (defensive backs) Jalen (Ramsey), P.J. and Tyler Hunter are out there commanding them. It’s a good group out there. I’m pretty sure they’re going to be fine for years to come.

Having the young corners step up to a challenge was important to see, because come ACC play, you can bet FSU will see some pass-happy offenses along the way. 

Given the fact both Ronald Darby and Nate Andrews didn't play in the spring game, what the Noles secondary did was even more impressive. It appears this group isn't going to miss a beat, and could be another reason to believe Florida State is, once again, a legitimate title contender. 

 

The Offensive Line May Be FSU's Best Weapon in Title Defense

Florida State doesn't know much about who will be doing what in the run game this season, as not a single scholarship running back was available for the annual spring game. Yet, despite those odds, Florida State showed it had a run game Saturday. 

That's because of a very powerful offensive line, one that features four returning starters who are seniors. Those four also happen to have a combined 113 starts, and that includes new starting center Austin Barron. 

Experience has a funny way of showing itself when you least expect it. How else do you explain a converted linebacker turned fullback gaining 85 yards on 16 carries Saturday? 

Florida State's defense eventually had a tough time handling the offensive line, because Freddie Stevenson and the line wore down the defensive line as the game went on. 

Now, add in an actual running back on scholarship to the mix, and FSU's offense could be just as dangerous on the ground as it will be through the air with Winston. 

Credit an offensive line that didn't rest on its laurels and wealth of experience. Instead, it came out and competed at a high level in both pass- and run-blocking Saturday. 

Winston wasn't officially sacked either, yet another indication of just how good FSU's offensive line is heading into the 2014 season. 

Look for this group to be the linchpin if FSU continues to have the success needed to make the inaugural College Football Playoff. 

Most importantly, Saturday taught us Florida State isn't a team that will fall off after one year of success. Fisher and the rest of the staff have built a team that could well resemble the ones that competed for national honors on a nearly annual basis in the late 1990s. 

Saturday was more proof of that, even if it was just one of 15 practices in FSU's spring season.

 

*Andy Coppens is national college football featured columnist. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndyOnCFB.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

5-Star DE CeCe Jefferson on Florida: Grew Up Wanting to Be a Gator the Most

5-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson is one of the most ferocious playmakers in the Class of 2015. The 6'2", 250-pound athlete has over 30 scholarship offers from some of the top programs in the country.

Bleacher Report went one-on-one with Jefferson, who discussed Florida coach Will Muschamp, the Gators program and his lifelong ties to Florida.

What did he have to say about Muschamp? What does he like most about the Gators program?

Watch the video and get the inside scoop on Jefferson and his feelings about Florida.

 

Highlights courtesy of XOSDigital.com

Rankings courtesy of 247Sports.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

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