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Eight key Saturday games marked the end to important offseasons with a few future superstars emerging. Where’s the buzz? Who is everyone talking about? Get ready to know these names.
Everyone knows Arkansas is going to run the ball as well as anyone in America thanks to the rushing tandem of Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, but there’s more where they came from. Kody Walker was terrific in the spring game, tearing off 174 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries, but the Hogs are going to be fine running no matter who’s getting the work.
Now, there might be a passing game, too.
QB Brandon Allen was fine last season, but he wasn’t a special passer. He wasn’t Marcus Mariota, and he didn’t look like a future NFL bomber, but he did what was needed for the offense over the second half of the season. Things aren’t going to change too much this year, but the quarterback play should be even stronger.
In the spring game, Allen showed he’s ready to take on even more of the workload and balance out the attack a bit when needed, completing 17-of-21 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns.
Bret Bielema’s quarterbacks have to be efficient and effective, and unless it’s Russell Wilson, they don’t have to be sensational. Allen is a seasoned veteran now who’s used to the SEC wars. It’s his starting job now, and he has the comfort of a massive line to work behind and an NFL-caliber running back pair to take the heat off.
All he has to do is complete passes and not make mistakes. He’ll get his chances, and he appears ready to be the leader of a team worthy of a possible preseason top ten ranking.
The running game will be strong despite the loss of Jeremy Langford, the defense will be the Michigan State defense, and Connor Cook will be among the nation’s top quarterbacks, but the offense needs a No. 1 receiver.
The Spartans don’t need one of their receivers to be sensational to come up with a good year, but in a division with Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, they could use someone to emerge as a star to possibly get through the Big Ten East alive.
The problem might have been solved.
WR DeAnthony Arnett was supposed to be a major factor right away after starting out his career with 24 catches as a true freshman for Tennessee. Instead, he came up with six catches in three years. Healthy and seemingly ready to roll, he has been the find of spring ball scrimmages, turning into Connor Cook’s most dangerous downfield target.
While Arnett’s five catches for 51 yards in the spring game might not seem all that impressive, it was enough to lead all Spartan receivers and build off the momentum of a great offseason.
If Joshua Dobbs isn’t the next really, really big thing in college football, he’s going to come close.
He didn’t run much in the spring game, and the 5-of-8 performance for 94 yards and a score wasn’t anything too amazing, but after struggling early on in his career in practices, good luck finding anyone to say anything negative about the 6-3, 212-pound junior’s offseason.
He stepped up his game last year when thrown into the mix late, winning four games as a starter and dominating Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl. Now that there’s no question that he’s the main man, he has taken off as a leader and as a playmaker for a rising team that has huge expectations and a world of upside.
But it’s more than just his mobility, his creativity, and his potential. He’s what a resurgent program wants the face of the franchise to be with the poise, the personality and the student in student-athlete, earning academic all-star honors majoring in Aerospace Engineering.
There’s a ton of work still to be done, though. He has to be more consistent, cutting down on his interceptions is a must, and he has to avoid taking sacks, but it’s all there to be special with a little more time.
Now this is his team, and he’s going to take the job and run with it.
UCLA didn’t really have a spring game as much as it had an open practice, but that didn’t seem to matter much after all of the hype this offseason for a very, very good new quarterback prospect.
Is it possible to lose a guy who could be the third quarterback selected in the NFL Draft and be better at the position?
Former Florida State starter E.J. Manuel was a first-rounder and the first quarterback taken in the draft two years ago, and then Jameis Winston stepped up for the Seminoles and won the Heisman and a national title.
Winston was a redshirt freshman, though. UCLA super-recruit Josh Rosen is fresh off the bus.
The 6-4, 205-pounder out of Manhattan Beach isn’t a rock-solid lock to take over Brett Hundley’s old spot, but the fan base might show up to the Rose Bowl with pitchforks and torches if he doesn’t.
Not only does Rosen come in with the maturity and poise of a veteran, but he also brings a next-level arm and the look of a guy who’s about to be truly special.
Fantastic in Pasadena on Saturday, he completed 13-of-17 throws with two touchdowns and an interception, but more than that, he looked like he belonged. With everything else in place on offense, if Rosen really is ready to roll out of the gate, UCLA might be a team on the playoff short list.
There was a time when Michael Brewer was supposed to become a statistical superstar of a passer.
For Texas Tech.
Very smart and very promising, he waited his turn for the Red Raiders, but he was always a bit banged up and ended up being a part of the mix rather than the main guy. Fast forward to last season, and he became the one quarterback who beat Ohio State.
It was still a disappointing year for the a Hokie team that had to scratch and claw its way to a bowl game, but this year should be different with more experience, more talent, and a veteran in Brewer who’s coming off a great offseason.
Seemingly more comfortable this spring, he was sharp in scrimmage after scrimmage with a big emphasis on keeping interceptions and mistakes to a bare minimum. While he only completed 2-of-5 passes for 31 yards and a score for one side, and hit 2-of-3 passes for 29 yards for the other, it was a culmination of a nearly error-free offseason.
The Hokies were 4-6-3 in turnover margin last season, and they struggled too much with an inconsistent passing game that made too many mistakes. Now that Brewer seems ready to turn down the picks and improve the passing efficiency, Virginia Tech might be a surprise team to watch out for.
The Huskies have enough things to worry about with a slew of NFL-caliber losses on defense, and losing QB Cyler Miles to a “voluntary leave of absence” only made this offseason more important.
The offense dealt with three options throughout the spring with Jeff Lindquist the veteran and K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jake Browning the promising freshmen, but it was Lindquist who took the job by the horns completing 13-of-16 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns and an interception in the spring game. However, Carta-Samuels also showed up hitting 11-of-12 passes for 123 yards with a pick. Even so, there’s a pecking order now.
A big bomber who can get the ball down the field, and with a little bit of game experience, Lindquist will be seen as the leader of the offense until Carta-Samuels and Browning get another shot later this summer. At the very least, the position is a bit more settled than it appeared to be a month ago.
With 2014 starting quarterback Tanner McEvoy now firmly entrenched as a key defensive back, Joel Stave is the starting quarterback – completing both his passes for 55 yards with a 17-yard scoring throw to Robert Wheelright. With the quarterback drama gone from this year’s spring session, everything is focused on the new head coach and the new starting running back.
For the most part, it’s business as usual for the Badgers under Paul Chryst. His pro-style offense is a good fit and isn’t as much of a tweak as it might appear to be given the current personnel, and there’s no real difference in the defense with coordinator Dave Aranda still around. So if you liked the Badgers over the last few years, there shouldn’t be too much of a difference – Chryst loves to run the ball.
New star-in-waiting Corey Clement didn’t get any work in the spring game – he didn’t need the reps and the coaching staff wanted to get the other backs some work. However, there’s no question he’s ready to take over as the main man, even if he’s not another Melvin Gordon, and he’s going to be one of college football’s rushing superstars. But he needs help.
The Badgers always have a No. 2 and 3 option who seems to be just as good as the No. 1, and Dare Ogunbowale looked the part with 11 carries for 89 yards and two scores. The former cornerback has quickness and deep speed, while redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal brings a little more power and pop, rushing for 76 yards on 15 carries.