Spring Game Watch List: April 12

By Chip Patterson | Staff Writer

Jameis Winston's Heisman season started in FSU's 2013 spring game.  (USATSI)
Jameis Winston's Heisman season started in FSU's 2013 spring game. (USATSI)

A slate full of spring games packs the college football schedule for Saturday. While the competition will lack the intensity of a game day in the fall, schools have learned how to make up for that with off-field events that make the modern day spring football game a department-wide event for the whole family.

There will be team scrimmages on Saturday with position battles playing out on the field. But there will also be athletic clinics for kids, cooking contests, blood drives and other charity events, alumni flag football games and even dance contests. Below we have highlighted some of the best on and off-field events for Saturday.

Florida State -- 3 p.m., TV: ESPN

On-field: Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston will play in the spring game just hours after the Seminoles' baseball plays at Georgia Tech on Friday night. The Heisman Trophy winner's back-to-back should get plenty of attention, as most of his moves do these days. Follow our own Dennis Dodd on the scene at both events.

Off-field: Cruise over to Langford Green, just beside the stadium, in the hours before the spring game and you can find the Seminole Grill Masters competition taking place. FSU is one of several schools hosting cooking competitions on Saturday. Others include the third annual Big Boomer BBQ at Oklahoma and the Super Bulldog Pig Cooking Contest at Mississippi State.

The most highly anticipated cooking contest might be at Purdue, where the contestants will be former Boilermakers Mike Alstott, Rosevelt Colvin, Bob Griese and Kawann Short.

Ohio State -- 1:30 p.m. ET, TV: BTN

On-field: The Buckeyes' struggles defending the pass prevented the team from achieving its ultimate after a 12-0 run through the regular season. Improving the defense has been the charge for new DC Chris Ash, who arrived from Arkansas after the season. Competition at the skill positions has been tight with Carlos Hyde and Philly Brown gone, giving both sides of the ball something to prove in the scrimmage.

Off-field: The Ohio State lacrosse team will play Michigan at 11 a.m. in the Horseshoe to open the spring game festivities.

Wisconsin -- 4 p.m., TV: BTN

On-field: The first half of the Badgers' spring game will include "thud tackling" and feature star running Melvin Gordon. Don't expect Gordon, or many of the stars, to play much after halftime when the scrimmage goes full-contact with a unique scoring system. Quarterback Joel Stave will sit out with a shoulder injury, opening the door for Tanner McEvoy to push for the starting job.

Off-field: Wisconsin has been holding unofficial auditions for a dance-off competition against the Badgers' football players. UW students had until April 10 to submit creative videos of their dance skills on Twitter. The school will choose two finalists from the submissions to compete at the spring game on Saturday, and the winner will receive a free student season ticket.

The dance-off idea started during 2013 spring practice, when the staff first developed a scoring system for the competition.

Miami -- 6 p.m., TV: ESPN3

On-field: With no NCAA cloud over the program, Miami stayed comfortably out of the headlines for most of the spring until senior quarterback Ryan Williams suffered a torn ACL. That injury puts plenty of attention on redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen, a four-star prospect expected to start the season as the No. 1 QB.

Off-field: The UNITE 14 spring game event at Miami will include a family festival and a Select-A-Seat promotion for season ticket holders. But the off-field news of the day will be the Hurricanes' new Nike uniforms, which will be revealed at 5 p.m. before the game. According to Twitter, some players have already seen the new gear.

Nebraska -- 3 p.m., TV: BTN replay at 8 p.m.

On-field: Like many schools on Saturday, Nebraska will not play a "game" as much as run a controlled scrimmage for fans. Bo Pelini has a unique scoring system that allows the offense and defense to score points in starter vs. starter competition. Star running back Ameer Abdullah and defensive end Randy Gregory will be sitting out, with no worry of losing their starting jobs.

Off-field: Nearly 50,000 fans had already reserved a spot in Memorial Stadium as of Thursday morning. Youth tickets are free if the kids take a Drug Free Pledge, which will be led by Jack Hoffman at halftime. Hoffman, of course, won the hearts of fans everywhere at Nebraska's spring game in 2013.

N.C. State -- 1 p.m.

On-field: Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett takes over at quarterback after sitting out all of 2013 due to NCAA rules. The Wolfpack are loaded with youth on both sides of the ball thanks to the 50+ players signed by Dave Doeren is his first two recruiting classes

Off-field: The Kay Yow Red-White game will be preceded by an alumni game with Super Bowl flavor. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Buffalo Bills star Mario Williams will coach one of the alumni teams while Denver Broncos linebacker Nate Irving and Seahawks lineman J.R. Sweezy will coach opposite Wilson and Williams. The school will also honor Wilson and Williams' jersey during the spring game festivities.

Florida -- 1:30 p.m., TV: GatorsVision Online

On-field: Jeff Driskel and the Florida offense will be under a microscope in the spring game, as fans look for improvement under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. After a historically bad 4-8 season in 2013, any improvement in the passing game will be a welcome sight for the Gators' fans.

Off-field: The Orange and Blue Debut will start with an alumni flag football game and include pre-game music from DJ Irie, the house DJ for the Miami Heat.

Penn State -- 1:30 p.m., TV: Replay on BTN at 6 p.m.

On-field: The James Franklin era begins in State College. Christian Hackenberg is firmly in place as the team's starting quarterback, but keep an eye on the offensive line as assistant Herb Hand searches for the ideal rotation for 2014.

Off-field: Penn State is one of several schools that will use the spring game as an opportunity to reach out to season ticket holders. The Nittany Lions will have a "Select-A-Seat" event as part of the spring game events. Similar opportunities will be held Syracuse, Virginia and Texas Tech -- where Red Raiders ticket holders can "meet their seat."

South Carolina -- Noon, TV: ESPNU

On-field: Steve Spurrier laid out plans for a spring game that should feature no injuries for the Gamecocks. The defense will only rush four players and most of the veterans will not play the entire game. Starting quarterback Dylan Thompson is expected to play for most of the first half, but there are no other guarantees besides the now-famous "off the sideline" catch.

Off-field: South Carolina will host a cornhole competition, among other events, before the spring game. After the game, fans can walk on the field and watch the finalists compete in a corn hole championship in the end zone.

Maryland -- Friday night, 7 p.m.

On-field: Maryland's spring game will be more of an open practice, which will allow fans to get a look at star wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Diggs suffered a season-ending injury after helping lead the Terps to a 5-2 start and fans are anxious to see the electric playmaker back in pads.

Off-field: Big Ten fever is in full effect for the Terps fans, and you can catch it by showing up early to Maryland's Friday night event. The first 5,000 fans will receive a free Big Ten Network t-shirt. The night setting will also allow for the school to treat fans to a firework show after the game.

More spring game festivities:

-- Defending American champ and Fiesta Bowl winner UCF will have hampsterball races and food trucks outside the stadium for its spring game, not to mention the competition to repalce Blake Bortles.

-- Arizona will give you $500 if you can kick a 50-yard field goal and $250 if you can out-throw a Wildcats quarterback.

-- Doing it for the kids: Indiana will have a youth football clinic led by Hoosiers' football alumni. Kansas has "Train Like a Jayhawk" activities for grades 1-6 and an egg hunt for ages 10 and under. Colorado will kick off "Healthy Kids Day" immediately after the conclusion of the spring game.

-- After drawing the second-highest spring game crowd in school history in 2013, Tennessee has made it a goal to match the record of 73, 801 set in 1986. The Vols are expecting to have Peerless Price participate in the alumni game before the Orange & White game. More alumni games can be found at Georgia and Minnesota.

-- More good causes: Virginia is hosting its spring game in coordination with the Shoot Out for Cancer initiative, Minnesota will host its annual Goldy Run and Clemson has a Relay for Life planned in addition to a country concert.

-- Most tailgate events for Saturday feature music from a country music artist or other "sitting on your porch" type of band. At North Carolina, the group (Below the Line) includes future UNC students set to begin their freshman year in the fall.

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