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Michigan Football: Winners and Losers of Wolverines' Spring

Spring practice has come and gone for the Michigan Wolverines, and the team finished the session with a few standout performers who have encouraging outlooks for 2016.

However, a couple of players aren't as close to grabbing significant roles—whether that's a starting position or top reserve spot.

While performance in March isn't perfectly indicative of future successes or struggles, each of the listed players created a certain perception heading into the summer.

The list includes focuses on both the entire spring and the scrimmage itself.

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Ranking the Top 25 College Football Coaches Heading into 2016

College football coaching is not for the meek or weak. While the pay scale, especially at the highest levels, has improved significantly over the past decade, the pressure to win, and win consistently, can be intense.

Carving out a career as a successful head coach is difficult, and we should celebrate those who it well. We’re doing a little of that here. Here’s a list of the top 25 coaches in college football. We judged coaches by their resumes, including things like 10-win seasons, league titles and, in some cases, national championships.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments.

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Florida Football Week 4 Spring Practice Report

The Orange & Blue Debut, Florida's annual spring game, takes place Friday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, which means head coach Jim McElwain has reached the homestretch in his second spring practice session of his stint as head coach of the Gators.

How did the last week of spring practice go in Gainesville? 

Here's our recap of the last week of spring practice around The Swamp.


Appleby, the Starter?

Plan A for Austin Appleby was to be the starter at Purdue heading into the 2016 season. After all, he threw for 1,449 yards and 10 touchdowns in a little over half a season as the Boilermakers' starter in 2014 and then five touchdowns through the first two games of the 2015 season. 

But a 9-for-28 debacle against Virginia Tech in Week 3 sent Appleby to the bench in favor of then-freshman David Blough, and Blough took the job and ran with it.

Plan B for Appleby was the graduate transfer market, which led him to Florida. The 6'4", 235-pounder who also can run a little bit (nine career rushing touchdowns) hit the ground running and hopes to win the starting job in Gainesville this offseason.

"I didn't come here to not play,'' he said according to Scott Carter Florida's official site. "I came here to compete and earn this starting job. The way I do that is just be me. If I take care of the things I need to take care of, control what I can control, I believe everything will take care of itself."

He's embroiled in a big quarterback battle that includes redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio and true freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask. Appleby has the most experience of the group, with Del Rio having the most experience with McElwain's system after running the scout team for a year following his transfer from Oregon State.

What kind of experience will win out?

Appleby hopes his game experience in FBS football will do the trick. We'll see what happens on Friday in the spring game and beyond, but it's a near-certainty that the race will come down to Appleby and Del Rio over the summer.


Who Can Create A Mismatch?

In any pro-style offense, a multidimensional tight end who can create mismatches as a receiver up the seam and isn't a liability as a blocker in the running game is a necessity.

Jake McGee was that guy last year, but his absence leaves a glaring hole for McElwain to fill.

Enter C'yontai Lewis and DeAndre Goolsby. Goolsby had 17 catches for 277 yards and one touchdown last year serving as the primary No. 2 tight end, while Lewis had just four catches but totaled 75 yards and two scores. 

With a week to go before the spring game, it seems Goolsby has a slight edge heading into the spring game.

"Goolsby’s had a good spring," special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Greg Nord said, according to Nick de la Torre of Gator Country. "He’s made some plays for us, has a good grasp of the offense as you would think he would with the number of plays he got to play last year."

Lewis has shown that big-play ability in limited action, though. If he can improve as a blocker, get downfield for his running backs and effectively chip blitzers off the edge to protect his quarterback, he could find his way into a more prominent role in the tight end-friendly offense.


McMillian On The Move

Florida seems to have a cloning machine that regenerates top-tier linebackers every year, and this year appears to be no different. 

Jarrad Davis is back and should be a star, and fellow senior Daniel McMillian could be as well—albeit in a new location. 

McMillian has switched to the strong side this spring, and it has paid off.

"He’s done well at it," linebackers coach Randy Shannon told Jesse Simonton of the Miami Herald. "We’re kind of excited about the progress, the way he’s learning. Great things ahead for us and for him, because him learning the weak-side and now he’s able to play the strong-side, now we gain two positions out of one."

With Davis entrenched and senior Alex Anzalone likely joining them in the middle of Florida's defense, the Gators have plenty of talent and experience to work with in defensive coordinator Geoff Collins' second season in Gainesville. That experience should pay off for the Gators, who need new leaders to step up in the absence of the stars of last year's defense, including linebacker Antonio Morrison.


Boom or Bust

Florida's last scrimmage leading up to the spring game featured several big plays, including a long touchdown run from junior college transfer Mark Thompson and big plays through the air from Goolsby and 6'4" senior wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood.

The secondary also forced multiple turnovers on Friday, according to Simonton, including big plays from versatile defensive back Duke Dawson, true freshman early-enrollee safety Chauncey Gardner and veteran safety Marcus Maye.

"We got our hands on the ball, and we did some positive things," secondary coach Torrian Gray said, per Simonton. "But there were also some long plays that we got to clean up."

"Overall, we’re going to like what we’re going to put on film with the understanding that we’ve got a lot of work to still do."

For Florida, this is probably the best-case scenario with one week to go prior to the spring game.

Explosive plays happening from the offense has to be a sight for sore eyes for Gator fans, who have become far too accustomed to mediocre offenses that are incapable of stretching the field and have been seemingly allergic to big plays.

The secondary forcing turnovers also has to be welcomed news, especially since they're coming from players like Dawson and Gardner—two players who should be taking on more responsibility in the secondary in 2016.


No Glorified Practice

In 2013, offensive line injuries forced Florida to change the format of the spring game from a scrimmage to an open practice under former head coach Will Muschamp. Last season, a similar problem threatened the format of the game, but McElwain opted for an actual game (even though the second-team offensive line struggled mightily). 

This year, there's no question—it's game time.

"It's going to be football. It's not going to be a practice, if that makes sense," McElwain said, according to Robbie Andreu of the Gainesville Sun. "It's still a little bit to be determined from the standpoint of how we're going to split the teams to see where we're at injury-wise and make it as competition-oriented as possible.

"We need to create game situations and a game-type atmosphere to see how these guys play on a stage. So that's why we're going to do that simulation as much as possible."

What does it mean for the Gators? 

Creating a game-like atmosphere is important because it does put pressure on players fighting for positions. That matters, especially for teams that have ongoing quarterback battles. Watching how quarterbacks respond to the crowd, atmosphere and pressure associated with being on the biggest possible spring stage won't necessarily determine the winner of those battles, but it will be something that the staff takes into consideration when making decisions.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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