It has not been a sleepy spring.
JoePa is back. For the first time in 35 years at Florida State, Bobby Bowden isn't.
Ndamukong Suh is gone. Mike Leach and Jim Leavitt are wondering who to sue (next).
|USC freshman running back Dillon Baxter is already turning heads. (Getty Images)|
A former junior college in Idaho (Boise State) could play for the national championship.
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner has no problem sharing carries with his backup.
Waffling Urban Meyer has too many problems to count.
The universe and the Big Ten seem to be expanding at equal rates.
Where is it all headed? No one knows for sure, but it is time to analyze the 10 biggest stories of this super-caffeinated spring.
Phoenix Phrolic: The subject of expansion overshadowed the spring -- and figures to dominate college athletics until further notice. Nothing has been decided but at least we began to figure out where everyone stood during the BCS meetings April 20-22 in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Summary: The rest of college football isn't going to sit around while the Big Ten stuffs itself on hors d'oeuvres from other leagues. Dates to watch in the near future: May 17-18, Big Ten coaches and ADs meetings in Chicago; June 6, Big Ten presidents and chancellors meetings in Chicago; June 30, end of the fiscal year. Why is that last one so important? Supposedly, if a conference is going to expand, it might want to do so before the next academic year starts to cut down on transition time. In other words, if the Big Ten expands before July 1, we could be see our first super conference in the fall of 2012.
Lame Kitten: Or whatever they're calling him these days at Tennessee, has taken over at USC. Pete Carroll's former offensive coordinator (real name: Lane Kiffin) will try to keep alive a dynasty that has gone stale.
Monte's boy has toned down the trash talk and actually injected some discipline into the program.
We know Lane can recruit. We still don't know if he can coach. At age 35, he has seven victories in his only season as a college head coach. Where was it again? Oh yeah, Hard Knoxville.
Back "home" in Southern California, Kiffin is more relaxed, especially after watching freshman Dillon Baxter in the spring. The January enrollee was one of the nation's spring surprises, looking like the latest reincarnation of Reggie Bush.
The tailback-receiver-Wildcat quarterback has the pedigree. He's from Reggie's native San Diego, has similar measurables (6-feet, 205 pounds) and -- oh my gosh, the moves. After one sick run in a scrimmage, Kiffin allowed the film staff to release the practice footage. Naturally, it ended up on YouTube.
"About a week after it happened, I was in class, I got one text ... all the sudden people started texting," Baxter. "Is it really that big right now? It's just a scrimmage. It's crazy how things get around and get out to the world so fast."
Next to go viral will be Baxter's 58-yard run in Saturday's spring game when he spun twice, breaking ankles along the way. As a senior at Mission Bay High, Baxter accounted for a state-record 79 touchdowns. As an early enrollee at Troy, he might be The Next Big Thing.
"I went to a couple of Reggie's games when he was in high school," Baxter said. "It's crazy us coming from the same city and same moves."
It's also crazy that Lane's dad -- the legendary defensive coordinator -- is living in a nearby Radisson working his third job in three years.
"It's getting a little hectic," said Monte Kiffin, who is still trying to sell houses in Tampa and Knoxville, "I told Lane, 'Tell me what we're going to do for a while so I can rent, not buy.'"
Sheriff Richt: Funny, it was only after Georgia slumped to 8-5 that discipline suddenly became an issue in Athens. Oh, discipline has been a problem in the past under tolerant Georgia coach Mark Richt, but nothing a BCS bowl couldn't cure. It's the same everywhere: Wins trump drunk driving arrests every time.
|Zach Mettenberger is no longer Mark Richt's problem at Georgia. (US Presswire)|
You can also bet the pressure will ramp up on Richt if he goes 8-5 again.
A-Day: Not to go contrarian, but Alabama's spring game was one that was worth it. In case you haven't noticed, 'Bama is still really, really good. The loss of nine defensive starters is less of a concern because coordinator Kirby Smart is still channeling Nick Saban.
Mark Ingram will not win another Heisman, but that's a good thing. The team's best running back, sophomore Trent Richardson, will get more carries and be in competition for his own Heisman in 2011. Saban at times had to game plan around Greg McElroy in 2009. This year, the Crimson Tide quarterback will be allowed to stretch out his arm. Look, then, for a bounce back season from receiver Julio Jones.
The defense? If everyone on that side of the ball has Marcell Dareus' outlook, the D isn't going to be a problem.
"I do want to be known as other than the player who knocked out Colt McCoy," said Dareus, who followed up his kill shot in January by being named the spring game's best lineman. "I want to be a dominant defensive lineman." The only disappointment from Alabama's A-Day on April 17 was the crowd. Well, if you consider it a disappointment that 'Bama's legendary fans failed to fill Bryant-Denny Stadium to capacity for the spring game. On a beautiful spring day, 91,312 (less than a thousand short of capacity) came out to celebrate last year's national championship and this year's defense of it.
Phil Knight didn't pay for this: Oregon coach Chip Kelly tried to keep his team on the straight and narrow while dealing with legal issues in the offseason. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is suspended for the season while tailback LaMichael James is suspended for the first game.
Kelly did everything on the field, going to the Rose Bowl in his first season. Off the field, Oregon football was a dumpster fire.
Meanwhile, the Ducks will be favored to win the Pac-10 again in the fall. As the school's sugar daddy might say, Just Do It.
The end of The Lost Decade: At least that's what they're hoping for in Tallahassee.
Jimbo Fisher has brought new hope and his mentor's (Saban) philosophy to Florida State, which has rotted on the vine for most of the past 10 years. Fisher said all the right things about Bobby Bowden, cleaned out most of the elder coach's staff, then set about the task of making FSU a superpower again.
"We'll be back," said Fisher, the Seminoles' former coach-in-waiting (and waiting and waiting ...), "I guarantee you that."
Kelly's Kids: There's a Montana playing quarterback. The head coach just arrived from Cincinnati. He's supposedly an offensive genius with a bit of a swagger.
Oh, and don't forget that coach is Irish Catholic.
Where have we heard all that before at various times in Notre Dame history?
Take a quick look at the program's fourth coaching change since 2000 and it seems like not that much is different. There is the usual bravado about waking up the echoes, competing for national championships and doing it "the right way."
|Notre Dame QB Nate Montana provides name power, and maybe a little star power as well. (US Presswire)|
There was quiet optimism as quarterback Dayne Crist nursed his repaired knee through an effective spring. One of his backups is Nate Montana, a junior college walk-on with a famous dad, who provided name power if not star power.
Tragedy: In the middle of Kelly's first spring, Notre Dame recruit Matt James died April 3 after falling from a hotel balcony in Panama City, Fla., during spring break. James, an offensive lineman, was one of the centerpieces of Kelly's first recruiting class.
In time, Notre Dame football will recover. Pray for James' family, who never will.
Resignation/leave of absence/vacation/threaten reporter ...: What else is on Urban Meyer's bucket list? If he makes it to the regular season without imploding, Florida should play in another SEC Championship Game.
Despite the coach histrionics, including that dustup with an Orlando Sentinel writer in March, the program is on cruise control. Meyer might not know what to do with the rest of his life, but he has done a hell of a job getting it to this point.
John Brantley takes over at quarterback after the end of Tim Tebow's record 27-year career.
The BCS goes on and on and on ...: Get used to it after this statement by BCS executive director Bill Hancock last month during those BCS meetings.
The commissioners, he said, are, "now planning as though the BCS is going to be here in 2040."
Welcome to the rest of your postseason lives.