With spring practice for college football teams right around the corner, it is the perfect time to look ahead to the biggest position battle for each top 25 college football team.
Some teams lost much more talent than others but, for every top 25 program, there are some key battles that will not only be taking place this spring, but also through the summer and even into fall camp.
Every coach will have a huge decision to make concerning his team and it could go a long way toward determining just how successful his squad is this coming season.
Just last year at this time, Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel was in a spring battle that went well into the summer for the starting quarterback job at Texas A&M.
Good thing head coach Kevin Sumlin made the right call on that one.
Here is the biggest position battle for every team in the final AP top 25 poll heading into spring practice.
There weren't many conferences that cared less about the pass in 2012 than the Big Ten, and for good reason. The talent level was light at both quarterback (at least when it came to throwing the football) and at wide receiver. And while the QB situation still looks dicey across most of the conference, the wideout talent level should be a little more robust in 2013.
Some teams are more stable at wide receiver than others, of course. Penn State can trot returning All-Big Ten Allen Robinson out as the sole WR and load up on tight ends and backs and still have a dynamic passing attack. Nebraska welcomes back everybody at WR except Tim Marlowe, who registered four catches for 54 yards on the year.
Indiana had the most prolific passing offense in the Big Ten (low hurdle to clear, yes), and it brings everybody back at wideout. Same goes for Ohio State, unless we're still calling Jake Stoneburner a WR in that offense.
But that's it.
Plenty of other schools have fights brewing for starting roles at wide receiver, though, and how those shake out could directly affect each of the division title races come November. Here's a look at some of those races and how we think they'll shake out by the time the spring games come and go.
College football is using science! This time they are going with electronic tracking devices in the Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, as Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News reported Tuesday. From Solomon's report, SEC football officiating coordinator Steve Shaw:
"I think it really is more for tracking how fast a player is moving and the direction of his movements so you have an electronic signature of all of that," Shaw said. "Then what you do with that, we have to figure that out. You could track speed before a collision and that sort of thing. To be honest, I'm not sure what all of the applications are. But it has potential benefit in player safety, so I think it's worth taking an initial step to see what the technology does."
These leagues are following in the footsteps of the daddy, the NFL. The league was working with sensors as a way to deliver more information to fans, media and the like.
Yup, despite Shaw's tepid (at best) reference to safety, the real goal here has less to do with players and their safety and more to do with finding a new means of commodification within the sport. Whether that is viewer experience or delivering statistics, the point is that this is only tangentially related to the players.
Certainly, they could use the sensors for strength and conditioning work. A way to tweak workouts and monitor player production in an effort to squeeze the maximum amount of speed out of the guys on the field.
Safety is not at the heart of this matter, and officials casually mentioning it shouldn't fool anyone concerned with player safety into believing that it is. Monitoring speed at the time of a collision is nice, but it isn't something that helps where concussions or types of injuries are concerned, beyond "he was going really fast."
If safety was at the core, this conversation would be about how they were going to use impact monitors—which already exist—across the board in their leagues. If safety was at the core, the conferences (and the NCAA itself) would be looking at mandatory sit-out periods, third-party doctors evaluating players and standardized hit counts to limit exposure in practice and games.
This is a money play wrapped up in some rhetoric that's only mildly even related to safety improvements. Safety should matter, yet the folks in charge keep proving that it does not. Sure, the window dressing of the ejections and helmet pop-off rule calm the casual fan, but the truth is they do little to improve the safety of the game.
Player tracking might well be cool for fans, but in the grand scheme of things, it is another failure to address the true safety issue. Although, at this point, these measures are not so much failures as blatant sidestepping of the true issue at hand.
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Texas A&M quarterback/Heisman winner/celebrity magnet Johnny Manziel will face unthinkable expectations heading into the 2013 season. After putting up ridiculous numbers in his first year at quarterback—and also A&M’s first year in the SEC—Manziel now has the task of following this up.
His numbers were record-setting, and Manziel has parlayed that success into having one of the best offseasons in recent memory. He’s not just an exceptional football player capable of doing things we dream of doing in video games, he’s also embracing the celebrity status that he has achieved in record time.
How good will those numbers be in 2013? We examine that, along with why it’s good to be Johnny Football.
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The opinions about the 2013 crop of quarterback prospects are all over the board. Russ Lande, a former NFL scout and draft analyst at National Football Post, has Nassib as his No. 1 overall prospect. Other draft analysts have Nassib as a third-round prospect and doubt his ability to stick as a starter in the NFL.
Obviously, Nassib is somewhere in the middle of those projections, but is he closer to the top or the bottom?
Nassib is a quick thinker and actor who is immediately aware of checkdowns and will jab a defense to death with accurate, short, quick-hitting throws that keep the chains moving. He is a competitor who plays with a sense of urgency and sets the tempo for his offense. He can make accurate throws when his mechanics and platform aren't ideal, and he can handle pressure or a play going off script. Nassib's execution and understanding of his offense is advanced, including pump fakes and play fakes.
Athleticism is not a strength for Nassib. His deep accuracy is mediocre to poor, and it goes on the fritz when he tries to put zip on the ball more than 15-20 yards downfield. He moves well and makes good decisions in the pocket, but he sometimes bails instead of staring down the barrel and taking a hit to make a throw.
Nassib also sometimes fails to recognize the blitz, and his lack of athleticism gives him no chance to escape. Most of his success was on short throws, rarely going deep into his progressions or displaying patience. He does get a little frenetic in the pocket and appears to play rushed at times.
Nassib measured in at 6'2", 227 at the combine. which is a very solid build, even though his height is not a plus. His 10 1/8" hands are good for ball security. Nassib's athleticism is below average, as his 28.5" vertical and 5.06 40 at the combine illustrate well.
Nassib is a good leader on and off of the field, and he is very tough, bouncing back quickly from big hits. He appeared to mesh very well with his coaches and their game plan, taking plays from the chalkboard to the field without a hitch. Nassib is competitive, and he has come through at the end of games to lead (or almost lead) his team to big wins.
Nassib throws with good zip in the short passing game, and he can also put some mustard on short/intermediate passes on the move. Within a range about about 20 yards past the line of scrimmage, Nassib can make stick throws into small windows. His trajectory is a little flat, and his arm strength on short passes can get the ball on his receivers before they are ready.
He can reach the deep parts of the field, even on the move, but his accuracy really suffers when tries to throw deep with velocity. His best deep throws are "push" throws that take a while to get there like Philip Rivers or 2012 Peyton Manning.
Nassib's accuracy on short and intermediate throws is uncanny at times. He puts throws on the correct shoulder and does a terrific job of leading and anticipating his receiver's route, setting up maximum opportunity to run after the catch.
Nassib almost never misses low or otherwise has errant passes in the short and intermediate game. He doesn't make too many throws into small windows, but that is probably because of his decisiveness early in his progressions. He appears to have the mindset and accuracy to make those kinds of throws when the game asks him to.
His downfield passing, however, is a mixed bag. Sometimes his long-touch passes are right on the money, sometimes they are missed badly. When he tries to throw deep passes with velocity, the results are usually terrible. He has much better results when he throws a long ball with a higher trajectory.
Nassib's setup and throwing motion are very smooth and consistent out of the shotgun. His throwing motion on the move is also compact and smooth. He hits the top of his drops with great spring in his legs and potential energy to use in his release or if he needs to move in the pocket. Nassib does change to a "shotput" or "push" delivery on some deep balls a la Philip Rivers, but his accuracy improves greatly when he does.
Nassib generally senses pressure with a good clock in his head, but blitzes can elude his attention and shut down a play immediately. He generally gets rid of the ball very quickly when the pocket collapses, although he can be a little too deliberate in a good pocket. There are moments when he appears to be afraid of getting hit and his throws suffer, but in general Nassib is tough in the pocket.
Climbing the ladder and stepping up in the pocket is something you'll see Nassib do effectively, and even though he's not a great athlete, he can move in the pocket to create throwing lanes and produce when the play breaks down.
The biggest question about his pocket presence is the happy feet and a little bit panicky body language he exhibits when he doesn't release the ball to one of his initial reads. He does keep the ball up and ready to throw like a loaded crossbow, and Nassib's trigger finger on that crossbow can be itchy.
Nassib is willing, but not able as a mobile quarterback. He's good enough on rollouts or plays where the escape chute from the pocket is apparent, but he can't elude pressure in the pocket against decent pass rushers. Nassib ran a lot of read option running plays at Syracuse, and while his decisions were good, his ability to turn those plays into gains as a runner was lacking. Nassib's mobility and overall athleticism is going to limit how he is used in the pros.
Future Role/Scheme Versatility
Nassib operated mostly from the shotgun. His quick-acting style along with his so-so accuracy deep probably means that he'll only fit in a west coast system in the pros. He won't be able to legitimately stretch defenses, so teams that want to have a big vertical element to their passing game will pass on Nassib.
Kansas City (2.34)
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