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Ken Griffey Jr.'s Son Makes Insane One-Handed Catch at Arizona Spring Game

Future Hall of Fame baseball player Ken Griffey Jr. had a terrific career hitting big home runs and making catches in the outfield, but now his son is starting to make highlight plays in a different sport.

Arizona sophomore receiver Trey Griffey is Ken's son, and during the team's spring game, he made this incredible one-handed catch that will likely make his dad proud.

[YouTube, h/t College Football Talk]

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South Carolina Football: Top 5 Performers from the Gamecock Spring Game

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier got almost everything he wanted out of Saturday's spring game.

The coaches got to see how the younger players performed in game conditions while providing a fun and entertaining day for the fans.

The only negative came on the injury front. Tailback Shon Carson suffered a shoulder injury.

Otherwise, it was a satisfying end to what Spurrier said was a productive spring. 

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Notre Dame Spring Game Shows Irish Have Plethora of Weapons on 2014 Offense

As new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was introduced to the Notre Dame faithful this spring, one of the continual talking points has been his ability to find roles for his players. Building sub-packages and schematic tweaks to utilize the talent on the roster, VanGorder's main edict has been to find roles for players to help the Irish win. 

After watching Saturday's Blue-Gold game, perhaps VanGorder should step into the offensive meeting rooms as well. Because for the first time in the Brian Kelly era, the Irish have the offensive weapons to scare defenses. 

Now, they've just got to find a way to get everybody on the field. 

Spring delusions is a deadly disease that's infected football fans for years. Playing against an opponent they see seven days a week, offenses routinely light up backup defensive backs and vanilla schemes, promising hope for a brand new day, only to be shocked into reality when fall rolls around.

(Don't believe me? Gunner Kiel's 300-yard spring game has Cincinnati fans infected already.)

But the look of Saturday's 85th annual Blue-Gold game was different. After four years of rebuilding a depth chart to fit Kelly's offensive needs, it appears the offense is finally on its way to being the big-play threat that people had been expecting.

First, the quarterbacks. Both Everett Golson and Malik Zaire executed the offense efficiently, building on an important spring, as quarterback is the focal point of Kelly's spread attack. Even taking the yardage numbers and ban on contact with a very large grain of salt, neither quarterback threw an interception, a rarity in a spring game and something we haven't seen in South Bend in almost 20 years (my search for box scores ran cold in 1998).

If competency and stability at the quarterback position was the only accomplishment this spring for Kelly's troops, it'd have been a successful spring. But the depth emerging at skill positions should make Kelly and new offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock very happy. 

After turning to TJ Jones in nearly every situation last year, 2014 should have a distinctly different look. For much of the past four seasons, Kelly and the offense has relied on a small handful of key contributors. But this year, the strength of this roster is the depth it possesses. 

That was on display Saturday. Rising junior Chris Brown's five catches were half of his entire regular-season total. Corey Robinson built on a strong spring by making a few highlight-reel grabs. Will Fuller continued to make big plays. Torii Hunter Jr. looked good after being talked up during bowl preparation. Add to that group DaVaris Daniels, who awaits a rubber stamp from the school's administration before his return in June, and the outside receiver position is set. 

"We got a very competitive situation with Robinson, Daniels, Fuller, Brown, (Amir) Carlisle," Kelly said after the game. "We've got a nice situation there. I think it's a just competitive situation. We've got to get the best players on the field, because the tight end is going to be on the field as well."

Carlisle's inclusion in that statement likely signifies that any lapse in confidence last season didn't impact his ability. While the former USC running back isn't a natural fit in the backfield, his ball skills and athleticism make him a custom fit for the slot receiver position, a spot where Kelly's tried just about everything to get production these past four seasons. 

On Saturday, both Carlisle and C.J. Prosise, the two top candidates for the position, had big games. After challenging Prosise to up his game this spring, the 220-pound receiver answered the call with the type of explosive play that we've only heard about. 

"C.J. Prosise was not in my opinion having great practices and today he showed," Kelly said. "He flashed today."

The passing game is only half of the equation. Both Golson and Zaire will unlock the zone-read scheme that was abandoned with Tommy Rees under center. The option to "call it and haul it," a philosophy often mentioned but rarely executed by Kelly, should finally put the type of no-huddle, hurry-up that Oregon and Auburn utilize to great success, on the table as well. 

Saturday's game showed that the backfield looks to be in great shape. After Cam McDaniel led the team in rushing last season, Tarean Folston emerged down the stretch as the team's top back. But Greg Bryant's 100-yard day showed the Irish have another weapon there.  

While a three-back platoon is more manageable than the crowd Tony Alford coached last year, carving out opportunities for the Irish backs will be something that needs managing as well. 

To project what the Irish offense looks like come August 30th is a fool's errand. But that's never stopped anybody. How Kelly and Denbrock decide to utilize their five skill players is a fascinating exercise.

Senior tight end Ben Koyack will be a key piece to the attack. He's the Irish's only true in-line blocking option, though Durham Smythe is getting closer. Koyack will be more than serviceable in the passing game as well, with a breakout season likely for the 6'5", 261-pound senior. 

But beyond that, finding the right combination of quarterback, running back and receivers makes for a busy offseason. Kelly acknowledged that finding the right personnel groupings is still ongoing.            

"To go three‑deep at the running back position is a good thing," Kelly said. "And to know that you have two quarterbacks that certainly can compete at that position, as well. I think we answered some questions there about units more so than maybe about one individual."

Those questions will make this offseason a busy one. They'll also continue to be answered in June, where NCAA rule changes now allow Kelly and his staff to work with their players both on and off the field. 

That means more opportunities to see a young group of talented receivers improve. And after hunting to find personnel that can go four wide, competition to even get on the field will be at its most fierce in years. 

"We're talking about three positions and arguably you've got half a dozen guys there that can compete," Kelly said. "So what's going to be the deciding factor for me is, I'm not settled on any one of those guys right now. I think it will be a very competitive situation. I think they are going to push each other and we're going to be the beneficiary. Notre Dame's offense is beginning to be the beneficiary."

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Nebraska Football: Top Performers from the Cornhuskers' Spring Game

If you asked random people who the top performer for Nebraska's spring game was, they might say it was a cat. While head coach Bo Pelini made news carrying a feline friend during the tunnel walk, it actually wasn't the cat that shined the most.

In fact, plenty of players had big days in front of a crowd of more than 60,000 people. And there were quite a few that were top performers on the day.

Pelini noted that there was still a lot of work to be done before fall during his post-scrimmage press conference, but he said he likes where the squad is now. Based on some of those that stood out, it's not hard to see why the head coach is confident with his team.

So, who exactly were Nebraska's top spring game performers? Read on to find out.

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USC Football: Will Sark Feature a Running Back by Committee in 2014?

It is widely perceived that one of the challenges USC will face in 2014 is a dearth of scholarship players available for the upcoming football season.

Indeed, the primary challenge for new head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff will be a lack of depth along the vast majority of the roster due to the sanctions leveled on the Trojans by the NCAA, which has removed 30 scholarships over the last three years.

Planning to employ an up-tempo offense in 2014, USC will need to find rotations to accommodate a game plan that will require players to be shuffled in and out of the game on a routine basis.

But while most units will be scrambling to find capable players in an effort to keep those units fresh, this will not be the case with the running backs unit.

Instead, the task for Sarkisian and his running backs coach, Johnny Nansen, will be figuring out who gets the ball when the Trojans run.

Blessed with the deepest unit on the roster, the first order of business when the season starts is to determine exactly how the running back rotation will play out this season.

Historically, Sarkisian hasn't had to figure out rotations when it came to running the ball at his former job at Washington.

That is because Sark had Bishop Sankey at his disposal, and when a coach has a talent such as Sankey available, his decision is made easy.

In 2013, Washington ran the ball 610 times, and 327 of those found Sankey with the ball in his hands. For his trouble, Sankey rushed for 1,870 yards and 20 touchdowns, rendering whatever notions Sark might have had about sharing the ball null and void.

This is not the case at USC where the Trojans have no less than five capable backs at their disposal, four of whom saw extensive playing time in 2013 and performed well when given the opportunity.

In fact, Javorius (Buck) Allen, Justin Davis, Tre Madden and Ty Isaac all have the talent to be a featured back in Sark's system.

And that doesn't even take into consideration the return of D.J. Morgan, who is probably the fastest of all of the Trojan tailbacks.

In 2013, Allen and Madden pretty much split 173 carries for 1,488 yards and 17 touchdowns (14 by Allen) as USC rushed for over 2,400 yards overall. Meanwhile, the two true freshmen in 2013—Davis and Isaac—averaged over six yards a carry as a duo with eight touchdowns to their credit.

So when Sark and Nansen peer out into the practice field this year, they won't see Sankey, but they will find a bevy of runners who may wind up being just as good.

It is a problem that any coach would love to have, but also one that will demand a decision at some point.

Will USC feature a single running back, or will it wind up being an effort by committee?

Compounding the problem is that all of the backs are somewhat similar in the talent they bring to the field of play.

Allen is a strong north-south runner who has proved he can gain the tough yards inside the opponent's 10-yard line and can also catch the ball out of the backfield. Madden is almost the same kind of back, utilizing the same size and capable of the same kind of tough running that Allen offers. 

Isaac? He is even bigger, and he also possesses a fine pair of hands.

Only Davis weighs less than 215 pounds, and he is listed at 200 pounds. At 6'1", he will likely weigh more when USC begins play in 2014.

Of the four, Davis is the most likely to "take it to the house" on any given play, but really, any of the four are capable in that area.

So when all is said and done, Sark and Co. will have to make a decision at some point as to how to prosecute the running game.

Will it be a featured back or running back by committee?

Fortunately for all concerned, this Trojan team has the horses to make the decision difficult.

And that is a problem all coaches would love to have.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @RickMcMahan

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USC Football: Will Sark Feature a Running Back by Committee in 2014?

It is widely perceived that one of the challenges USC will face in 2014 is a dearth of scholarship players available for the upcoming football season...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Miami Football: Quarterback Play in Spring Game Cause for Concern for Al Golden

The Miami Hurricanes spring game was the first chance for both Kevin Olsen and Gray Crow to show fans of "The U" what he brings to the offense.

Olsen, a top prospect in the 2013 class, was handed the reins as the starter after Ryan Williams tore his ACL during a scrimmage. Crow served as the third-stringer last year, and he is now the only healthy quarterback with collegiate in-game experience.

After further review, however, it's clear that many—including myself—have either underestimated the importance of Ryan Williams or had an unrealistic expectation of what Olsen can actually contribute right now.

The redshirt freshman was simply erratic throughout the day, badly overthrowing his receivers multiple times—one of which Dallas Crawford intercepted during the nine-on-nine drill. Later, Olsen floated a deep pass to Stacy Coley, and Tracy Howard came down with the very poorly thrown ball.

Olsen was under center for the lone touchdown drive of the 11-on-11 section, but that possession was dominated by the running of Walter Tucker and blocking by the offensive line.

Quite clearly, Malcolm Lewis was the only receiver with whom Olsen had a connection, which is the first step in building rapport with the wideouts. But really, Lewis was the only target Olsen could consistently hit, and that's not a fantastic sign.

"Malc runs those kind of routes, those over-the-middle routes real good," Olsen said on a postgame video recorded by Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald. "We found a pretty good connection all spring on that same play."

Olsen's best pass of the day, unsurprisingly, found Lewis. He threw a perfectly placed ball over one linebacker, short of a defensive back and connected with the Miramar High School product in stride.

"I feel like I ran the offense good," Olsen said. "I left a couple throws out there, but that happens sometimes."

And he definitely left more than a couple. According to Dieter Kurtenbach of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Olsen finished the day completing seven of 21 passes for 65 yards, one interception and zero touchdowns.

Gray Crow actually outplayed Olsen, but that really isn't saying much.

During the first half, Crow telegraphed a pass that should have been picked off by sophomore linebacker Jermaine Grace. In the second frame, defensive tackle Jelani Hamilton tipped a ball at the line of scrimmage, and linebacker Juwon Young intercepted the deflection.

Crow looked decent on the move, especially after a play-action, roll-left call—a favorite of offensive coordinator James Coley. He also launched a pair of well-placed deep passes, but D'Mauri Jones and Garrett Kidd dropped one each.

His final stat line read nine of 20 for 63 yards and one interception.

Though Olsen, Crow and the 'Canes looked brutal offensively during the spring game, the limited amount of practice time is an important concession.

Olsen spent 85 percent of practice as the backup, and Crow was taking somewhere between five to 10 snaps per workout, per Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The pressure on the two quarterbacks was undoubtedly immense, and the scrimmage was their first time being watched under a national microscope.

Plus, the defense has certainly improved and, in turn, tested both quarterbacks. With that being said, recognizing the less-than-mediocre quarterback play is essential in assessing how well Denzel Perryman and Co. performed.

However, even when factoring in limited reps and heightened pressure, the two quarterbacks still had shaky 2014 debuts. There is a long time before Monday, Sept. 1 and a date with the Louisville Cardinals, but Saturday was still a cause for concern.

As seen on CanesAllAccess, Golden wanted to see if Olsen and Crow could stay poised and call the right protections. He didn't dismiss the biggest takeaway of the night, though.

"We gotta execute a little bit better," the fourth-year coach said, "There's no question about it."

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Tennessee Freshmen Jalen Hurd, Josh Malone Prove the Hype Is Real in Spring Game

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It's no secret that a large portion of the hype swirling around the Tennessee Volunteers' spring football practice has centered on highly rated prospects Jalen Hurd and Josh Malone.

After Saturday, it's no secret why.

The future was on full display during the Orange and White Game in Neyland Stadium, and an announced crowd of 68,548—the second-largest ever to watch a UT spring game—was there to see Hurd and Malone show out.

They didn't disappoint.

Malone was electrifying in leading the Vols with six catches for 181 yards and three touchdowns. The Lebanon, Tenn., standout pass-catcher had been improving throughout the spring and dominated defenders when the ball was thrown his way.

Hurd had 93 yards on 12 touches, including 66 on the ground, a 6.0 average and a short touchdown run. Glimpses of his immense talent were evident even if he couldn't get loose for a game-breaking play.

A 129-100 win by the White team (offense), thanks to a silly scoring system that rewarded individual accolades, situational victories and forced turnovers, among other things, was a mere footnote. 

The crowd wanted to see all the newcomers, including the 14 representatives from head coach Butch Jones' highly rated recruiting class.

Hurd and Malone highlighted that group, and the dynamic duo from the Midstate was at its best on the biggest stage so far.

"Josh has been pretty much doing that all spring," Jones said. "You can see he adds a whole other dynamic to our offense. I said it in the offseason: We have to be able to throw a 5-yard pass and turn it into a 20-yard gain. That was missing from our offense last year, and we've really helped ourselves in recruiting. Josh has been an individual that, right from practice one, he can be as good as he wants to be.

"I think we’ve really improved our throw game, but on the flip side of it, unacceptable defensively."

Indeed the defensive drop-off was drastic between the Vols' first and second teams. A large chunk of the yardage from Hurd and Malone came against those reserves, but that did nothing to dampen the buzz they generated throughout the stadium and even among their teammates.

Sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs—who had a breakout day of his own, completing six of nine passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns—especially showed a rapport with Malone. Two of his three scoring passes went to the freshman.

Dobbs said having weapons like the youngster at his disposal is huge.

"It’s amazing," he said. "It's honestly a quarterback's best friend. You have people like Marquez, Josh Malone, Jason Croom, just bodies that you’re able to just throw the ball up and know they're going to come down with or no one’s going to come down with it. It's huge for us, especially when we get in the red zone."

North, who added 106 receiving yards of his own, said matter-of-factly of Malone, "He's gonna take off."

Hurd never quite exploded on Saturday, failing to break through to the second level. But that didn't stop him from still having the best day of any Tennessee running back.

Part of that was the fact that Marlin Lane saw all of his action against the first team, but Hurd showed flashes of his dynamic athleticism in the open field on a 27-yard catch. He also impressed his coach between the tackles.

"Jalen continues to progress," Jones said. "I thought he had some hard-earned yards today. I thought he dropped his pad level, but again, it’s him understanding football rewards those who are in great shape.

"I thought there were a couple times he didn't pick his heels up, and he went down on a shoe tackle, and in this conference, you can’t do that. But Jalen's going to be a special player for us."

On Saturday, both Malone and Hurd looked like they're capable of being special immediately. Even though it was one glorified practice session, they flashed the physical abilities that UT hasn't produced enough of in years.

They're a big reason why Tennessee is heading into the offseason believing this offense is capable of surprising a lot of teams this fall.

"It's impressive," rising senior quarterback Justin Worley said of the duo, "and speaking for myself, I enrolled early and my first spring was a struggle. It is hard to get adjusted to what the coaches are asking of you and the rigorous schedule that you're put through, so having those two guys show out like they've done…"

Worley never finished his thought. Perhaps it was difficult for him to put into words what Hurd and Malone have done in a such a short time.

With play like Saturday's, they'll be leaving plenty of people speechless.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand.

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Baker Mayfield Dominates Oklahoma Spring Game, Is He Sooners' Future Star QB?

Unfortunately for Bob Stoops, the best signal-caller from the Oklahoma Sooners' spring game won't even be eligible to see the field this fall. 

Baker Mayfield, the highly touted walk-on transfer from Texas Tech, stole the limelight from incumbent starter Trevor Knight on Saturday. Mayfield completed nine of nine passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 28-13 win for the White team over Knight's Red team. 

At Saturday's spring game, Mayfield showed that not only is he the future of Oklahoma football, but that he's already blending in to the community well. Already a fan favorite, he donned a GoPro camera on his helmet during the spring game. 

His actual on-field performance was even more impressive. His drives were methodical, and his throws were precise. His best highlight was a 28-yard back-shoulder touchdown pass to Jordan Smallwood in the start of the second half. 

After the game, according to an Oklahoma press release, offensive coordinator and former Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel praised Mayfield for his progress in just 14 days: 

He’s a guy that’s performing extremely well for the 14th day. In our meeting room, he’s the most experienced guy. Obviously some of that wasn’t here but he performed in a great way. The guys in our program love him and we look forward to him being eligible whenever that is.

On the flip side, Heupel was critical of Knight's performance, saying he didn't read coverages and there he still has plenty of work to do before the fall:

It was a combination of everything. Not seeing the coverage or recognizing it. Today was not his best performance. He’s continued to make strides since the Sugar Bowl. It’s not like he played perfect in the Sugar Bowl, no quarterback is going too. He’s really good but there are things he missed in that game, too. It’s a constant process of continuing to get better and understanding defenses.

Mayfield must sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules. So it's pretty much set in stone that Knight, who completed just five of 14 passes for 53 yards and an interception, will be the starter in Norman this fall. 

But after Saturday, Sooners fans may be wishing that the former Red Raiders gunslinger was eligible to possibly steal the job from Knight this season. 

Mayfield is no stranger to the Big 12. Last year, he started seven games as a true freshman walk-on for the Red Raiders. In Week 1, he earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors after racking up 413 yards and four touchdowns against SMU in what was believed to be the first season-opening start for a walk-on, true freshman at quarterback in FBS history. 

He battled injuries throughout the majority of the season and eventually lost the starting job to Davis Webb. Mayfield finished the season with 2,315 yards passing and 12 touchdowns with nine interceptions. 

Mayfield decided to transfer out of Texas Tech at the end of last season. According to Guerin Emig and Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World, Texas Texas administrators denied his appeal of transfer restrictions that prevented Mayfield from receiving scholarship offers from Big 12 schools, forcing Mayfield to walk-on yet again and hope he gets a scholarship in future seasons. 

Because of both NCAA and Big 12 rules, not only will Mayfield be forced to sit this season, but he will lose a year of eligibility, regardless of whether or not he is redshirted. That means he'll have just two years left to play for the Sooners starting in 2015. 

But when that time comes, Mayfield may very well be ready to dethrone the MVP of last year's Sugar Bowl and become the next superstar quarterback at Oklahoma, following the likes of Sam Bradford, Landry Jones, Jason White and Heupel, his new offensive coordinator. 

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Notre Dame Football: Malik Zaire's Great Spring Game, Impact on Irish QB Race

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — No matter what happened Saturday, quarterbacks were going to be the story of the day.

Whether senior Everett Golson or sophomore Malik Zaire starred or sputtered, the signal-callers would be the starting point for any spring game discussion.

So what did we get Saturday?

Zaire took the first snap under center and led the Irish on a touchdown drive, from which point Zaire and Golson alternated possessions.

Zaire finished 18-of-25 for 292 yards and two touchdowns, while Golson was 13-of-24 for 154 yards and a rushing touchdown.

“I thought there was some development there in terms of where they were at times during the spring,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said. “There was a little bit better attention to some of the details that they have to have at that position.”

Kelly added that the Irish will have the opportunity to get some work in with their players in June, which helps in the development and evaluation processes. Kelly also mentioned that he hopes to settle on one quarterback, as opposed to a more even two-quarterback system, by the season opener.

So how did Saturday affect which quarterback will be that guy come August?

Let’s take a look.

Malik Zaire shines at the “party”

On the opening drive, Zaire connected with junior receiver C.J. Prosise for a 22-yard gain and sophomore receiver Will Fuller for a 29-yard gain to bring the Irish to the 1-yard line, where senior running back Cam McDaniel would punch in the touchdown.

Zaire led the Irish on touchdown drives in each of his next two possessions and maneuvered the offense into the red zone on the next one.

“By and large, I thought he was fairly consistent,” Kelly said. “His problem has been consistency of staying with progressions. … So that has been really good today, the consistency was much better for him.”

Looking ahead to the summer, Zaire agreed that the biggest room for improvement is with his consistency.

He said the spring has been a learning experience for the Irish with all the newness to this year’s team. Zaire said because it was so new, it was harder to perform well.

That wasn't the case today.

“When we figured everything out and got it down and today was like, ‘This is your party,’” Zaire said. “That’s the same way during the season should work. Practice should be harder than the games and when it’s the game time, it comes easy to us, and it came easy to us today.”

One of Zaire’s most impressive plays was his second-quarter touchdown laser to Amir Carlisle in the back of end zone, where Zaire fit the pass into a miniscule window.

Zaire certainly impressed with his performance, but he said not much changes for him heading into the summer.

“My mindset doesn't change at all, whether I’m declared a starter or whether I’m the backup or whatever the situation is because in my mind I’m always looking just to get better every day,” Zaire said. “Whatever it takes for this team to win a lot of games, I’m willing to do that.

“So I’m always working as if nobody’s giving me a chance, and I think that’s what’s really my backing. I feel like not enough people are giving me that chance and that opportunity, that’s my personal belief. So as long as I keep believing that and working my butt off to try to be the best I can be for this team, then that’s all I can ask for.”

More people might be giving Zaire that chance now.

Golson not where he wants to be

For whatever reason, Golson looked off through the air. Even from his very first pass attempt—a quick slant delivered behind Corey Robinson, the intended receiver—the timing wasn’t completely there. On the same possession, Golson overthrew senior slot receiver Amir Carlisle out of the back of the end zone.

Kelly said he would have liked to see better ball placement, leading to more catchable balls, from Golson. The 54 percent completion rate was atypical for the man who completed 59 percent of his passes as a sophomore in 2012.

“Not as good as I wanted to,” Golson said when asked about how he thought he played. “I think I’m a hard critic on myself. I don’t think I did nearly as good as I wanted to. Couple of situational things that I could have done. Because we were installing so much this spring, we didn’t really get a chance to work situation stuff.”

The 11 incompletions were fairly uncharacteristic for Golson, who looked quite accurate in practice sessions open to the media throughout the spring. Even as recently as Thursday morning, Notre Dame’s final practice before Saturday’s spring game, Golson was firing passes with precision.

So what changed?

“I do not know, to be honest,” Golson said. “I really can’t put my hand on it. A lot of different things that factored into it. We practiced on the turf, playing on the field, I think that was an issue to be honest. Guys couldn’t just get out of their breaks like they wanted to. … You saw a couple times when I fell.”

The turf problem should be taken care of moving forward, as Notre Dame announced plans to install synthetic FieldTurf to be ready for the 2014 season.

We’ve talked in the spring about Golson’s chemistry with the receivers, and after the game, the quarterback said the connections are “pretty good” and “still improving.”

“There were a couple of times where I remember throwing the ball to Will [Fuller] and I kind of threw it in the ground because I didn’t trust it off my third step,” Golson said. “Just little things like that, just becoming more comfortable knowing that they’re going to be there, knowing how to throw the ball. I think it’s still improving but we’ve got a whole offseason to really work on that.”

The offseason begins now for Golson and the Irish, who begin their regular season Aug. 30 against Rice. From now until then, Golson said the thing he most wants to develop is his pocket presence. Golson took three sacks Saturday, and Kelly said Golson’s pocket awareness was merely “OK” and noted he has “a ways to go there.”

In general, though not pleased with his performance, Golson knows what he can take away from Saturday’s outing.

“It’s some good film, as Coach Kelly always says,” Golson said. “I’ll definitely go back and watch it and correct my mistakes.”

 

*All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Bo Pelini, Huskers Winning over Fans at Nebraska's Spring Game

"I thought that we tried to have a bit of fun today," Bo Pelini said as he kicked off his post-scrimmage press conference.

Before anything else could be discussed, there was one thing the media wanted to address. That was the cat.

"The cat was probably a little freaked out," Pelini laughed. "Was just trying to have a little bit of fun."

That's exactly what the team, and in turn the fans, had.

And it would appear that spring is Pelini's time to shine. Over the last two seasons, he has used the annual spring game to highlight a very different side of himself and his team.

During the 2013 game, the Huskers made national headlines when Jack Hoffman ran for a 69-yard touchdown. It was a moment that was not soon forgotten. In fact, Jack went on to win an ESPY for the moment.

With the 2014 game approaching, fans wondered what could possibly be in store. It would be hard to top Jack's run (and arguably, nothing ever will), but fans figured something had to happen.

And sure enough, the fans were right.

As the tunnel walk music began, the stadium rose to its feet. The big screen began to show the typical pregame footage before cutting to a live shot of the locker room. The first person to be seen was Pelini. That's typical.

What wasn't usual was the cat in his arms.

From there, Pelini carried the cat from the locker room to the field's entrance. Holding the cat in the air, a la The Lion King, Memorial Stadium erupted.

At that moment, it was clear the spring game would be unlike any other. While some had figured the unique score system would be what made this scrimmage different, it ended up being a variety of small moments that took place throughout.

For example, Pelini challenged wide receiver Kenny Bell to a throwing contest. Whoever hit the goal post the most in three tries would be crowned the victor. Bell hit the goal post twice, securing a win over Pelini, who didn't hit the goal post once.

"I threw a lot better ball that Kenny Bell, by the way," Pelini made sure to note afterward.

And then there was Jeff Jamrog, the assistant athletic director for football, calling out players' Twitter handles during drills. He encouraged fans to "give 'em a follow," connecting the real world to the Internet.

That wasn't it, of course. True to Husker form, there was one more moment that had yet to happen. As former players came out on the field to compete in a drill, one player decided to make it a moment to remember.

As he stepped forward to participate in the drill, former Husker Jeremiah Sirles turned back around and got down on one knee. With his girlfriend there, he proposed and she said yes.

By that point, fans had stopped paying attention to the score. After all, there were bigger things happening on the field.

Over the last two years, Nebraska has turned the spring game into an event. It's an event that not only captures the attention of Husker fans, but also of people all across the country.

The annual spring game still allows fans to see the team in action and get a taste of football mid-spring. However, the Huskers have found a way to make it as much of a celebration as a scrimmage.

And Pelini accomplished exactly what he wanted, which was for everyone to have a little bit of fun.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.

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Miami Spring Game 2014: Live Grades, Analysis for the Hurricanes

The Miami Hurricanes spring game took place on Saturday, April 12 at Sun Life Stadium, pitting the offense against the defense.

An unconventional scoring system gave the defense a 61-60 win, and it was a well-deserved victory.

 

First-Half Analysis for the Miami Hurricanes

Pass Offense: Kevin Olsen, who now leads the quarterback battle, could not find a rhythm after connecting on a few passes. Gray Crow has looked better than Olsen, tossing a couple of outstanding deep balls that were dropped by D'Mauri Jones and Garrett Kidd.

Run Offense: Sophomore Gus Edwards was the most impressive running back, bursting through holes, dragging defenders and finishing carries strongly. Walter Tucker and De'Andre Johnson had a respectable opening session, but Edwards is clearly the best back on the field.

Pass Defense: Jermaine Grace nearly intercepted a Crow pass, and the secondary has covered the Miami receivers very well to this point. Also, Ufomba Kamalu was credited with a sack.

Run Defense: Denzel Perryman and Dallas Crawford were flocking to the ball, and Darrion Owens made his presence felt with solid tackling. Cornerback Tracy Howard did well to wrap up the big-bodied Edwards in the open field.

Special Teams: The 'Canes are playing on a shortened field, so there are no kickoffs or punts. However, returning kicker Matt Goudis pushed a 46-yard field goal to the right.

Coaching: Al Golden is more of an overseer during this game, but offensive coordinator James Coley is calling a decent mix of runs and passes. More importantly, Olsen and Crow have not looked overwhelmed with the plays.

 

Final Analysis for the Miami Hurricanes

Pass Offense: The quarterbacks have plenty to improve before the 2014 season. Overall, Olsen was disappointing. He airmailed numerous passes but displayed excellent touch on a completion to Malcolm Lewis. Expected backup Crow outplayed Olsen, but that isn't saying much.

Run Offense: Edwards flaunted significant improvement, showing more explosiveness and better balance at the point of contact. Tucker consistently accelerated through defenders and broke arm tackles.

Pass Defense: The Miami secondary hardly allowed easy completions, and Thurston Armbrister, Grace and Jelani Hamilton each deflected passes. Juwon Young and Tracy Howard both notched an interception, and Kamalu was credited with a non-contact sack.

Run Defense: Perryman absolutely hammered Edwards, and Alex Figueroa smacked the back, too. True freshmen Owens and Young also tallied a few tackles. While ultimately improved, the defense was surrendering too many yards after contact.

Special Teams: Goudis converted on one extra point, but he hooked a 50-yard field goal and pushed a 46-yarder wide right.

Coaching: Though possibly a product of porous quarterback play, Mark D’Onofrio's defense was consistently pressuring Olsen and Crow. Coley kept the playbook simple for his young gunslingers, but his persistence with the running game was encouraging.

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Should Florida State Fans Worry About Jameis Winston's Spring Game Struggles?

Last year, Jameis Winston's stellar spring game set the stage for a Heisman Trophy and a national title. One year later many Florida State fans must be wondering if Winston's spring game struggles signal a sophomore slump? 

Winston's final stat line in Saturday's Garnet-Gold game included 396 yards passing, two touchdowns and an interception while completing just 27-of-56 passing attempts (48.2 percent). Winston's lowest completion percentage in a game last season was 52.6 percent in FSU's third game of the year against Bethune-Cookman, where Winston went just 10-of-19 in the 54-6 rout. 

So the fact that Winston completed fewer than half of his passes on Saturday is somewhat alarming, especially considering he didn't do that once last year. 

But, Winston did improve on his first half numbers from the spring game, which included completed just 13-of-31 pass attempts (41.9 percent) and also included the one pick he threw. 

That interception in the first half was Winston's worse decisions, if not the worst decision, he made all day. He threw into triple coverage deep down the field and was picked off by Jalen Ramsey after the ball was tipped. 

Yes, it's easy to make the excuse that, "hey, it's just the spring game." But Winston's a Heisman winner who's entering his third year in the program. He should know better by now than to throw deep into triple coverage. 

Another thing to consider is that Winston was going up against the first-team defense for the Seminoles, which includes the secondary that led the nation last season in interceptions with 26. 

Winston literally just faced off against one of the country's best defenses, and he threw for nearly 400 yards and won the game. 

Another reason likely explanation for Winston's spring game struggles is good old fashion fatigue.

The darling of Florida State has been running himself ragged this spring. This past week, he either practiced or played in a baseball game every day. That meant he had to sign an NCAA waiver granting him exemption from his mandated day off to even be able to play in the spring game. 

With so much on the young man's plate, including the new federal investigation that Florida State is being subjected to following its handling of the Winston sexual assault allegations, maybe he was due for an off day. 

Saturday didn't go as planned for Winston. But fans shouldn't worry too much about their superstar, as he has a knack for coming up big when he has to. If you need proof of that, just go look at that last Florida State drive in the national championship. 

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Miami Football Recruiting: Dexter Williams and Scott Patchan Commit to 'Canes

Before the Miami Hurricanes took the field for the 2014 spring game, two prospects gave their commitments to Al Golden and the coaching staff at "The U."

Dexter Williams, a 4-star running back from Orlando, Fla., and Scott Patchan, a 3-star defensive end from Tampa, Fla., are now verbally committed to the 'Canes.

According to 247Sports' Composite Rankings, Williams is ranked the 11th-best running back in the nation, but 247Sports has him listed as the No. 4 back. Consequent to his pledge, Williams takes the lead as the highest-rated commitment for the Hurricanes' 2014 class.

Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel notes Williams posted the second-best SPARQ score at the Orlando camp and was invited to Nike's The Opening, an exclusive training event and competition.

Anticipating the departure of superstar back Duke Johnson, the Hurricanes are looking to stockpile talent at the running back position. Sophomore Gus Edwards and freshman Joseph Yearby will contribute during the upcoming season, but Williams would provide another solid option in the backfield in future years.

Patchan, whose father played at Miami, is a top-500 player and the 24th-rated defensive end on 247Sports' Composite Rankings.

The legacy defensive end announced his commitment on his Twitter account, posting a picture with him standing next to Golden and defensive line coach Jethro Franklin.

Last season, Patchan accounted for 56 tackles, tallying an outstanding 24 for loss, including 8.5 sacks.

Patchan joins a rebuilding defensive line that is looking to develop into a more consistent unit, especially with the addition of 2014 5-star Chad Thomas alongside sophomore Al-Quadin Muhammad.

The Miami 2015 class now holds nine verbal commitments, and The U currently ranks 13th nationally and third in the ACC, per 247Sports.

 

Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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FSU Spring Game 2014: Recap, Highlights and Analysis

The Florida State Seminoles completed their spring game at Doak Campbell Stadium, as the Garnet team surged past the Gold team by a final score of 31-14.

That's not a surprising score due to the fact that reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was at the helm of the Garnet squad.

Winston didn't get off to a fast start, but he quickly regained his form, racking up 396 passing yards and two touchdowns by game's end.

Freddie Stevenson looked good carrying the ball, recording 85 yards and a score on 18 carries. Rashad Greene was targeted early and often, coming away with 11 receptions for 127 yards and one touchdown—clearly, the absence of Kelvin Benjamin was not heavily felt due to Greene's stellar day.

Ro'Derrick Hoskins stole the show on the defensive side of the ball, racking up two sacks and reeling in one interception for a touchdown.

Here's a look at some notable plays, analysis and reactions from Saturdays event.

FSU's Twitter account noted early on that many starters were being held out of action on Saturday:

This isn't a bad thing, as plenty of reserve players got chances to shine.

Winston got off to a shaky start, according to a tweet from Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports:

It was Sean MacGuire that began the scoring for the day, tossing a perfect pass to Rashad Gholston for a 27-yard score. 

Defensively, Matthew Thomas was all over the field early in the game, per Brandon Mellor of Seminoles.com:

Freddie Stevenson tied it up with a six-yard touchdown run for the Garnet.

Winston began to heat up late in the first half. He completed a six-yard touchdown pass to Greene and headed into halftime passing for 259 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Backup Sean McGuire got into the passing action as well. He looked good in the first half, completing 13 of his 19 passing attempts for 162 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

So, what was the deal with the all-out passing attack?

The Seminoles had a bit trouble finding space on the ground, and Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel tweeted why:

The third quarter concluded without any additional points being scored, as the Garnet team led the Gold 24-7.

In the final quarter, another quarterback got into the mix. John Franklin III maintained a steady drive, as noted by Corey Clark of the Tallahassee Democrat:

With Winston done for the day, Mellor tweeted out the starting quarterback's final numbers:

This certainly looks to be a very talented squad heading into the 2014 season. Three quarterbacks combined for four touchdown passes on the day, while a vast amount of speed was seen at the wide receiver position.

The Seminoles look to be a deep, versatile team set to make plenty of noise this year once again.

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Ohio State Spring Game Proves How Important Braxton Miller Is to Buckeyes

Braxton Miller is still recovering from minor shoulder surgery, which prevented him from strapping on his pads and suiting up for Ohio State's spring game Saturday afternoon.

His absence proved just how important he is to the Buckeyes' 2014 season and potential title run.

Without Miller, Ohio State's scrimmage featured the top two candidates for the backup spot—redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones and redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett.

While Jones has received a lot of praise this spring, he struggled Saturday, completing just 14-of-31 passes for 126 yards. Barrett was a bit better, connecting on 17-of-33 passes for 151 yards.

Neither quarterback threw a touchdown or completed a pass longer than 35 yards.

Those are disappointing numbers for both signal-callers, who were operating pass-heavy offenses against defenses that didn't blitz. Urban Meyer was hoping to see more from Jones, who has surged ahead of Barrett for the No. 2 quarterback spot.

Finding a safety net for Miller was one of Ohio State's top priorities this offseason. 

When Miller sprained his knee against San Diego State early last season, Ohio State turned to backup quarterback Kenny Guiton, who kept the Buckeyes playing at a very high level for three consecutive weeks.

That was 11 months after Guiton saved Ohio State's perfect 2012 season against Purdue. The Buckeyes were in a world of hurt when Miller got knocked out of the game, but Guiton orchestrated one of the most improbable comebacks of the season when he forced overtime with a touchdown pass and two-point conversion in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. 

Saturday showed that Jones and Barrett aren't the reliable option Guiton was. 

That puts even more pressure on Miller to stay healthy. The senior signal-caller has had an injury-plagued career at Ohio State, and if he goes down this season, Guiton won't be around to save the day.

Miller has spent his spring standing behind the line of scrimmage with a camera strapped to his head, forced to take mental reps during every offensive snap. Meyer wants Miller taking the next step as a quarterback, which would require major improvement as a passer.

According to Ben Axelrod of Buckeye Sports Bulletin, Miller is right on track.

Forced to play without him Saturday, the Buckeyes saw just how much they need Miller to be great.

 

All stats via Ohio State's official website.

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

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Clemson Spring Game 2014: Live Game Grades, Analysis for the Tigers

At halftime of the Clemson spring game, White leads Orange 17-2. Check out the first-half analysis and grades here.

 

First-half analysis for the Clemson spring game

Pass Offense: With freshman DeShaun Watson sidelined by a collarbone injury, the spotlight shifted to fellow quarterback derby competitors Chad Kelly and Cole Stoudt. Stoudt, the senior, held the clear edge, completing eight of 13 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns (one to Mike Williams, one to Jordan Leggett). Kelly completed 10 of 18 passes for 113 yards but threw a pair of interceptions into coverage. Sophomore wideout Mike Williams was impressive, catching two passes for 58 yards and a 30-yard score.

Run Offense: At times, the Tigers run offense struggled to find traction, but three of the top four tailbacks managed to break off big runs. Redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman had a 25-yard run, while senior D.J. Howard had a 35-yard run (and 11 yards on six other carries). Junior C.J. Davidson carried four times for 41 yards, including a 32-yard run. Gallman showed explosiveness with his big run and a 15-yard pass reception, while Howard fumbled a ball away.

 

Pass Defense: Kelly and Stoudt had their moments, but cornerbacks Adrian Baker and Garry Peters both had interceptions, and quarterbacks were “sacked” (they were not live in the scrimmage) a combined nine times in the half. Senior defensive end Tavaris Barnes put plenty of pressure on the quarterbacks, piling up four sacks in the half.

Run Defense: Clemson’s tailbacks have broken their share of runs, but with sacks counted in the equation, both teams have a combined 84 yards rushing for the first half. The Orange team is averaging an anemic 0.3 yards per carry, which would not get it done in a game that counts.

Final analysis for the Clemson spring game

Pass Offense: Kelly did not play after halftime due to what coach Dabo Swinney called a “coaches’ decision” for showing poor attitude on the sidelines following a first-half decision to punt on fourth and short. Stoudt was solid again in the second half, completing seven of nine passes for 60 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Third-team quarterback Nick Schuessler picked up Kelly’s snaps and finished the game seven of 17 for 67 total yards. Tight end Jordan Leggett showed some major athleticism, finishing the game with seven catches for 59 yards and a 16-yard touchdown, and Daniel Rodriguez had five catches for 53 yards.

 

Run Offense: Clemson finished with a total of 200 yards on 65 carries, although those totals were held down by 13 “sacks” piled up by the defense. Gallman finished with 61 yards, while walk-on Kurt Fleming was impressive, breaking a game-long 49-yard run late. D.J. Howard made a tough 13-yard touchdown run and finished with 59 yards on nine carries. With the offensive line split evenly between the teams, chemistry could also have played a factor in the run game’s up-and-down effort.

 

Pass Defense: There were no passing touchdowns in the second half, but also no interceptions. It should be noted that Kelly’s absence might have played a role in that, as he had two first-half picks thrown into coverage.

 

Run Defense: The Tigers’ running offense improved slightly in the second half, as Clemson combined for 116 yards rushing between the two squads. In the end, four backs had rushes of at least 27 yards for the game, but Clemson averaged just 3.07 yards per rush on the day combined, which is solid on any level.

 

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Penn State Spring Game Shows Fans, Recruits Buying What James Franklin Selling

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The wave of momentum that Penn State's football program is riding out of spring camp can't be simply explained.

As the lots around Beaver Stadium began filling up at 9:00 a.m. ET, the buzz around Happy Valley was noticeably different than it has been the last couple years. 

An announced attendance of 72,000 fans poured into the stadium and all but filled the lower bowl, cheering on their Nittany Lions through what was mostly a dud of a football game.

Head coach James Franklin had been asking for 80,000 fans to show up for the Blue-White game but didn't seem disappointed by coming up short.

Those loyal to the cause were kindly thanked just a few seconds into Franklin's postgame press conference:

I really appreciate everybody being here. Great crowd. Unbelievable support from this community, I'm not surprised one bit. I think it was announced 72,000...appreciative of that.

Franklin joked that he had someone take an actual count and there were "82,000," exceeding the threshold he asked for.

During that part of the press conference, he also acknowledged the recruits watching from above.

The Penn State media room has a second-story observation deck, for lack of a better term. After every game, visiting recruits watch the media room fill up to give them a sense of how big Penn State football is. 

 

James Franklin to speak shortly; plenty of recruits/commits waiting to hear what he says, too. pic.twitter.com/Sqm5F44fOi

— Josh Moyer (@ESPNJoshMoyer) April 12, 2014

 

James Franklin looked up at the group and nonchalantly asked, "What's up, guys?"

Always recruiting.

In fact, before the players even arrived at Beaver Stadium, Franklin received a verbal commitment from 4-star defensive tackle Adam McLean.

The Maryland native held offers from all over the country, including Florida State, Alabama and Ohio State.

Departed defensive line coach Larry Johnson was expected to be a factor in McLean's recruitment now that Johnson is at Ohio State, but that didn't seem to be the case.

McLean became the eighth 4-star commit in Penn State's current class—a class currently sitting at No. 1 in the country.

The momentum train is on a round course, and James Franklin appears to be the driver.

He's using recruiting to get the fans excited and is then using the fan support as a recruiting tool:

I think when you have '82,000' show up...they always do some statistics out there after spring ball and look at what everybody had as attendance at their games, I don't think there's any doubt that we're special. One of the big reasons we're special is because of the support that we get from the community. I was very impressed. Running in that stadium was an unbelievable emotional experience for me.

He didn't hesitate to admit that having a full house for games is a big tool for recruiting, pleading for "107,001" fans to show up at every home game.

From the looks of it, they're hooked and will do whatever he asks them to when it comes to helping. And if the cycle continues on, recruiting stands to benefit greatly from that relationship.

As one tailgater eloquently said this afternoon, "Can you guys believe we got James friggin' Franklin as our head coach?!"

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Miami Hurricanes Unveil New Nike Football Uniforms

As college football teams around the country continue to get new gear for the 2014 season, the Miami Hurricanes have officially unveiled their new Nike uniforms.

Nike released four new Hurricanes jerseys, and they all look pretty awesome. You can see a few pictures of the jerseys below:

The Hurricanes also released a video of the players' reactions to the new gear:

Head coach Al Golden had some positive comments about the new uniforms, saying via NikeInc.com:

The innovative look respects our tradition but perhaps more importantly, represents the future and our current Canes. We have one of the most iconic logos in college sports and Nike has combined that with its latest performance technology to produce a sleek, dynamic new uniform for The U.

 

[YouTube, Nike]

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Ohio State Spring Game 2014: Recap, Highlights and Analysis

The Ohio State Buckeyes were one victory away from playing in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game against Florida State last season, so there was a lot of focus on the team's spring game on Saturday afternoon. 

Of course, the main focus of the day was pass defense. Urban Meyer's secondary got lit up down the stretch, allowing 1,133 yards and 12 passing touchdowns to Michigan, Michigan State and Clemson. 

The Buckeyes are lost their best cornerback, Bradley Roby, who will likely be a first-round pick in the NFL draft next month, star linebacker Ryan Shazier and No. 1 running back Carlos Hyde, so this game was more than just an exhibition to show off the new toys. 

Also absent from the game was starting quarterback Braxton Miller, who had shoulder surgery earlier this year. His presence, or lack thereof, certainly left a void that gave the whole affair an incomplete feel. 

Always loyal and passionate, Ohio State fans came out in full force for this spring game, as Jerry Emig of OhioStateBuckeyes.com provided the attendance numbers. 

Those 61,058 fans were treated to a look at the incoming crop of talent, as well as a 17-7 victory by the Gray side over the Scarlet squad.  

ESPN's Joe Schad noted that Meyer planned to open up the offenses today in order to see where the secondary is at right now. 

There were some positive developments on defense. Freshman linebacker and 5-star recruit Raekwon McMillan made a brilliant play down the field that most players at his position wouldn't be able to. 

Eli Apple, Meyer's prized 5-star cornerback recruit last year, also made his presence felt in the game with a nice play to shove Michael Thomas out of the corner of the end zone to save a touchdown. 

Marcus Hartman of Buckeyes Sports Bulletin was very pleased with the play of Apple in the game. 

Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash also raved about Apple's improved performance days before the spring game, via ESPN's Big Ten Twitter feed. 

On the offensive side, sophomore running back Warren Ball had a nice game with a touchdown and almost seven yards per carry, via Eleven Warriors. 

Of course, not everything goes perfectly, even in an exhibition game. Urban Meyer was not pleased with the performance of the offensive line, also via Eleven Warriors. 

Who knew that Meyer had such a wicked sense of humor? He kept the laughs coming after the game was over, providing this quote about how the game played out, courtesy of Land-Grant Holy Land. 

That about sums up the afternoon in Columbus. It wasn't always pretty to watch, though it certainly wasn't indicative of what fans can expect to see from the Buckeyes in 2014 because Miller was unable to play. 

At least Meyer was honest about what he saw, understanding that there is a lot of raw talent on the field that has to start playing disciplined in games.

Ohio State is going to be at the top of everyone's Big Ten preseason rankings because Meyer is such an excellent recruiter of talent. He's also done well to go 24-2 in his first two seasons with the program, but the end of 2013 was an eye-opening experience for everyone. 

The Buckeyes are losing a lot of high-end talent to the NFL, so this upcoming season will likely tell us about Meyer's ability to recruit star power and depth. 

Get excited, Columbus, because Ohio State football took its first steps toward building on last season's Orange Bowl appearance. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

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