Tag:Spring practice
Posted on: April 17, 2011 12:41 pm
 

Hoke says Michigan has a long way to go

Posted by Tom Fornelli

On Saturday, around 25,000 Michigan fans were able to get their first glimpse of what life will be like under new head coach Brady Hoke. Michigan, like a lot of other schools across the country, concluded its spring practice with a scrimmage on Satuday afternoon. While trying to take away too much from one single scrimmage in the spring and using it to determine how the upcoming season will go is foolish, that doesn't change the fact that what Michigan fans saw on Saturday wasnt' much different than what they saw the last few years.

The Wolverines offense had its struggles as it tries to adjust from Rich Rodriguez's spread system to Hoke's more pro-style offense, though the Wolverines defense was kind enough to forfeit some big plays for it anyway. While it will be hard for Michigan's defense to be any worse in 2011 than it was in 2010, Saturday did prove to remind people that better doesn't always mean good.

So it didn't come as much of a surprise after the game that Hoke said his team has a long way to go.

“I don’t think we’re where we need to be, by far, at any position,” Hoke said after the scrimmage.

Any position? But what about at quarterback, the position that introduced Denard Robinson to the masses last season? Well, much like everybody else on Michigan, Robinson is still getting acquainted with a new offense that features a lot less of "Run, Denard! Run!" and a lot more read progressions. Robinson wasn't very electric on Saturday, but a lot of that had to do with the two-hand touch nature of the game when it came to Robinson, and the rust of the offseason. Though Denard did get Denarded on the very first play of the scrimmage, busting out a 55-yard run. Other than that play, however, Robinson missed on a lot of passes and admitted afterward that he's still "trying to get a grip on that offense."

While Saturday's game may not have Michigan fans excited about the possibilities of 2011, they shouldn't read much into it either. It's not as though Hoke can come in and totally overhaul and fix everything that Rodriguez had implemented in a matter of months. These things will take some time, and while some lumps will be given, Hoke's track record elsewhere leads you to believe there will be improvement in Ann Arbor.

The only real question is will the improvement be enough, and will it happen quick enough that Hoke doesn't suffer the same fate as the coach he's replacing.

Posted on: April 15, 2011 2:38 pm
Edited on: April 15, 2011 3:11 pm
 

Miami expecting over 300 alumni at spring game

Posted by Chip Patterson

Al Golden has been in college football for over 21 years as a player and coach, but the greatest support he will have on Saturday will be from a program that he has only been a part of for less than four months.  Golden has made a point to reach out to Miami's long and impressive list of former players and coaches since he was introduced as the next Hurricanes coach in December.  That alumni group plans to show their support of Golden and the 2011 Hurricanes at Saturday's spring game in Fort Lauderdale.

Golden told reporters that they are expecting over 300 alumni at the event on Saturday, highlighted by the reunion of the 2001 National Championship team. Ken Dorsey, Phillip Buchanon, Antrel Rolle, Brett Romberg, Bryant McKinnie and Willis McGahee and many more notables are all expected to be in attendnace. The players in from the 2001 squad are scheduled to eat dinner with the current Canes on Friday night before the game.  After wrapping up their final practice on Thursday, Golden was asked if his players felt extra pressure with so many alumni coming in town for the weekend.

"There's pressure?" Golden responded.  "I hope for their sake that they understand there are over 300 players back, and it's clearly a who's who. I hope our guys are excited about that and they don't feel pressure, but they feel grateful to be a part of that lineage.

"I've never seen it. I've been in college football for 21 years as a player and coach and I've never seen 300 football alumni anywhere that would come back for a spring game."

There are several aspects to Saturday's game that have drawn extra attention.  The teams for the Green-Orange game were picked by two Miami alums who won the responsibility in a charity auction.  They met with the coaching staff earlier this week to draft each squad.  The team has reportedly embraced the playground-style competition, already cheering and jeering each other through practice.

For the full video of Coach Al Golden speaking to reporters after Thursday's practice, Click here [via Canes All-Access]
Posted on: April 14, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: April 14, 2011 3:47 pm
 

Big East Spring Game Watch (April 15-16)

Posted by Chip Patterson

This weekend, five of the eight Big East teams will wrap up their spring practice with an annual spring game. Some teams will engage in game-like scenarios in front of thousands of onlookers, while other teams will engage in a more “drill-centric” display for their eager fans. Regardless of the setup, there are always pertinent questions to be answered whenever a team takes the field competitively. Here are your things to watch in the Big East spring games April 15-16.

Cincinnati - 5:30 p.m. Nippert Stadium
The Cincinnati Bearcats have claimed to be “all in” with head coach Butch Jones heading into his second season, and Saturday will be a chance to prove it to the public in “Bearcat Bowl V.” There won't be many new faces on the field for the Bearcats, with 18 starters returning from 2010's squad. One aspect worth keeping an eye on will be the performance of Cincinnati's secondary against the first-team offense. Quarterback Zach Collaros , a unanimous All-Big East first-team selection, not only gets D.J. Woods back at receiver but also junior college transfer Kenbrell Thompkins . Thompkins was a high-profile recruit committed to Tennessee before Lane Kiffin's departure. The Bearcats were burned through the air often last season, and some of the best competition around will be wearing the same jersey.

Connecticut - 5:00 p.m. Rentschler Field
Veteran coach Paul Pasqualoni has taken a more laid back approach to spring practice than some of his colleagues, but he believes it will pay off. As opposed to keeping things out of the spotlight, Pasqualoni has made the Huskies spring workouts as open as possible. The result has been a host of high school coaches at nearly every practice. The new coaching staff seems comfortable with the personnel, and the players have responded positively as well. Pasqualoni plans to showcase all aspects of the team, so more than anything it will be a glimpse of the Connecticut future. Even in the Fiesta Bowl the Huskies’ roster was filled with names unknown to the average college football fan, let’s see if any stand out on Saturday.

Louisville - 7 p.m. Friday, Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium
A little bit of everything. Head coach Charlie Strong has kept spring practice closed to media and the public, making Friday night’s scrimmage both a first and last look at the Cardinals until fall practice. Unfortunately, even Friday’s look won’t be anywhere close to the lineup that Strong hopes to have on the field in September. As of Thursday morning, 22 different Cardinals were sitting out of workouts because of injury or rehabilitation. The situation has gotten so bad that they were forced to hold practice at 5:30 a.m. in order to accommodate the class schedules of the few healthy offensive linemen. The injuries also will restrict the activity in Friday night’s Spring Game, which will be exclusively be an offense/defense scrimmage-type format.

Pittsburgh - 2 p.m. Heinz Field
New coach Todd Graham has elected to run more of a “true football game” than the offense-defense structure of past spring games. Graham plans to kickoff at least twice, and run at least 60 offensive plays for the Blue and Gold teams. The thought is that the competitive environment will be the best test for players who are still getting used to a new systems and schemes. Not to mention, the 11-man scrimmage should provide for much more entertainment than some of the slow-paced situational scrimmages elsewhere. Even running back Ray Graham said that the Panthers have been treating this like a “game week” and look forward to showing their stuff to the coaches and fans on Saturday.

Syracuse - 11 a.m. Carrier Dome
Similar to Pittsburgh, Syracuse will be mixing up their spring game format this year. For the first time in 20 years the Orange will divide into two teams and conduct a game-like scrimmage, only with limited special teams. The scrimmage will be made of up four, 12-minute quarters with regular officials. The format should give fans a good opportunity to see who the next crop of defensive playmakers will be, as the Orange look to replace Doug Hogue and Derrell Smith. Spring practice has had some extra enthusiasm coming off the 8-5 season, we’ll see how much of that energy is present in a mostly-empty Carrier Dome at 11 in the morning.


Posted on: April 11, 2011 12:32 pm
 

John Brantley not very impressive in spring game

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Following Florida's Orange and Blue game on Saturday, new head coach Will Muschamp said that if the season were to start today, John Brantley would be the team's starting quarterback. I think I speak for the entire Gator Nation when I say that it's a good thing the season isn't starting for another five months then.

Those Florida fans who showed up to the game or watched on television were no doubt hoping to see some amazing growth shown by Brantley now that he's under the tutelage of Charlie Weis and in an offense that is better suited to his skills. Instead those fans saw Brantley, playing for the Blue team, start the day with six consecutive incompletions, and finish the afternoon completing 4 of his 14 passes for 45 yards. The Blue squad only managed 3 points with Brantley at the helm in the first half.

Which will of course lead to a lot of teeth gnashing over Brantley and the Florida offense over the next few months as the team prepares for the 2011 season. It's also important to note that just because Brantley is on top of the Florida depth chart at the moment, that doesn't mean he'll still be there come the fall. Both Tyler Murphy and Jeff Driskel have five months to take the job away, though neither were spectacular on Saturday either.

I tend to believe that when it's all said and done, Brantley will still be the starter in Gainesville, as we shouldn't put too much stock in the spring game. By all accounts, Brantley had looked great during the practices leading up to the game. Besides, considering that he has an entire new offense to learn under Weis, it's not exactly realistic to expect Brantley to have mastered it after only a few weeks worth of practice.

It takes months to learn the hundred variations of the same four plays that Charlie Weis calls over and over again.

So give him a little more time, Gator fans.

Posted on: April 6, 2011 10:02 am
 

Golden wants Miami to be better conditioned

Posted by Chip Patterson

Miami head coach Al Golden made it clear early on that he planned to increase the tempo of practice.  Players told horror stories from the new offseason conditioning program, and many around Coral Gables have noticned a difference since the Hurricanes began spring practice.  Miami played their first of three spring scrimmages on Saturday, and on Tuesday Golden voiced some complaints about his team's conditioning. 

“We don’t play at the type of tempo we need to play at and clearly not the energy I’m looking for on either sideline – too much of a survival mode,” Golden told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “That’s a challenge for the team this week: Can we prepare? Can we play with Miami toughness? And will we start to play with energy and passion? We’re not playing with the passion we need, and that’s not going to come until we get in condition.”

Golden has made conditioning a big part of where players have been falling in the ever-changing depth chart this spring.  Each position was considered "open" at the beginining of spring practice and the hope is that the competition will bring out the best in each player.  The focus on speeding up practice was one of his first goals since watching the Hurricanes prepare for their eventual 33-17 Sun Bowl loss to against Notre Dame.  



Posted on: April 4, 2011 11:47 am
 

Jefferson, Lee still atop LSU depth chart

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We noted in our LSU Spring Practice Primer that more than a few Tiger fans were hoping for big things, big immediate things, from JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger. With Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee's results the previous three seasons ranging from "decent" to (most often) "mediocre" to "flat embarrassing," you could hardly blame them for crossing their fingers that Mettenberger's blue-chip arm and practice battles with Aaron Murray at Georgia would give their Tigers the consistent passing attack they've craved ever since the departure of Matt Flynn.

As it stands today, though, those fans aren't going to get their wish. In fact, unless Mettenberger finishes spring with a huge flourish, their wish is going to enter fall camp still stuck at third-string, according to Les Miles:
While Jefferson seems to be the clear-cut starter, Miles said senior-to-be Jarrett Lee has the edge on junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger for the backup spot.

“Mettenberger has a very strong arm and makes a lot of nice throws and is really improving,” he said. “I think Jarrett Lee has a very distinct advantage over the time he’s been in the system. And he throws the ball very well, so I think Mettenberger has some time, he’s taking advantage of his coaching. But I think, it’s currently Jefferson and Lee and then Mettenberger.”

So for the fans in question, that's the bad news. And that the ever-wobbly Lee remains one injury away from full-time duty again is probably the worse news.

But there's good news, too, namely that Jefferson has been impressive enough to end the supposed quarterback battle even before it really began. Miles said the senior was making "much better decisions" and threw four touchdown passes in Saturday's scrimmage. If that's the case, it's possible Jefferson's MVP performance in the Cotton Bowl thrashing of Texas A&M was a turning point rather than a one-off blip.

And if that's the case, the Bayou Bengals could very well make good on the championship expectations that have been percolating ever since the 2010 season ended. Even if Mettenberger's initial season in Baton Rouge proves to be more hype than substance, assuming Jefferson's continuing offseason momentum pays dividends on the field, LSU's quarterbacking glass is still more full than empty.

Posted on: April 4, 2011 10:22 am
 

Case McCoy making play for Texas QB job

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

5-7 disaster on the resume or no 5-7 disaster on the resume, Garrett Gilbert's full year of experience as Texas's starting quarterback -- not to mention the five-star recruiting hype or one-time role as consensus heir to Colt McCoy's throne -- made him the spring favorite to reclaim the Longhorns' starting job under new offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin.

And Gilbert may yet wind up taking first-team snaps this fall all the same. But understudy Case McCoy (Colt's younger brother) is clearly giving the Longhorn coaches (and Gilbert) plenty to think about, making the biggest impression of the four Texas quarterbacks at Sunday's Orange-White Game:
McCoy, leading Texas' second-string offense against its first-string defense, moved the ball more consistently than incumbent starter Garrett Gilbert, Connor Wood and David Ash.

McCoy completed nine of 11 passes for 124 yards and threw the game's only touchdown pass, an 11-yard strike to walk-on wide receiver Patrick McNamara ...

Gilbert, as he did during his first season as a starter in 2010, made some plays but also committed some glaring errors. He badly underthrew tight end Ahmard Howard on an out rout, and safety Bryant Jackson intercepted...

Gilbert completed eight of 15 passes for 76 yards.

The observational consensus seems to be that none of the Longhorn quarterbacks were particularly impressive during the game, but after a season in which Gilbert threw a miserable 17 interceptions (to just 10 touchdowns), there might not be anything Gilbert could have done to hurt his standing with his new coaches more than toss an ill-advised pick. If McCoy can continue to show Harsin he can be more trustworthy with the ball -- and yesterday, he was -- he'll have a legitimate shot at winning the job.

Then again, when you're talking about a quarterback whose thrown fewer passes in his career than running back Foswhitt Whittaker, it's going to take more than one good afternoon (and one iffy one for Gilbert) to earn the reins at a place like Texas. The upshot of the Orange-White game isn't that the starting job is McCoy's to win just yet; it's simply that it might not be Gilbert's to lose any longer.

Posted on: April 1, 2011 12:03 pm
Edited on: April 1, 2011 12:05 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Kansas State

Posted by Tom Fornelli

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice. So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers. Today, we look at Kansas State, which starts spring practice this Wednesday.

Spring Practice Question: Anybody want to play some defense?

On a lot of levels, 2010 should be considered nothing but a success for Kansas State. A team that many people saw finishing near the bottom of the Big 12 North (RIP) ended the regular season 7-5, and should have finished the year 8-5 had it not had a win in the Pinstripe Bowl stolen from its grasp by the officials on a bogus celebration penalty.

Seriously, I have absolutely no connection to Kansas State yet I'm still bitter about the ending of that game. I was half-tempted to do this whole primer as a "Can Kansas State figure out ways to celebrate without referees noticing in 2011?"

Anyway, let's put the past in the past, and look toward the future. There are plenty of questions that Kansas State will have to answer before the season starts. Most notably, how does Bill Snyder find a way to replace both Chase Coffman and Daniel Thomas? Neither will be easy, especially when you consider that the Wildcats second-leading rusher was Collin Klein, who was a quarterback and will now play wide receiver in 2011.

Still, as important as it is to find a new quarterback and running back. If I had to make a prediction, I'd go with Justin Tuggle at quarterback because nobody loves juco transfers more than Bill Snyder. At running back I'd go with Bryce Brown, provided that Bryce doesn't transfer four more times before the season starts.

More important than either of those decisions, in my opinion, will be the Kansas State defense. More importantly, will Kansas State have a defense in 2011?

Yes, the Wildcats exceeded expectations last year, but if they are to match the success of 2010 or improve upon it, then the defense will have to have a much better season. The Wildcats had the worst defense in the Big 12 last season, and gave up more rushing yards (3,008!) than any other defense in the country. Not the Big 12, the country. It came in 120th of 120 teams.

Now I should point out that while Kansas State gave up a lot of yardage on defense last year, as far as points went, the Wildcats weren't terrible. They checked in 78th nationally with 29.1 points per game.

Still, imagine how much lower that number would have been if the Wildcats knew how to tackle.

The one area that Kansas State actually did well in was in its pass defense, where it allowed only 212.25 yards a game. Of course, the question there is was it the ability of the Kansas State secondary, or just the fact that teams didn't need to throw much considering they could just break off 10 yards on every run. I'm guessing it was a bit of both, as opposing offenses completed only 55% of their passes against the Wildcats, which was the best mark in the Big 12. Which should continue in to 2011 as two of the secondary's best, David Garrett and Tysyn Hartman, are both back.

Big 12 Primers
Where the improvement will need to come is on the defensive line and the linebacking corps. One player to keep an eye on this spring is linebacker Arthur Brown. Yes, the brother of Bryce Brown, who was also a highly touted recruit in 2008 that originally signed with Miami before transferring to Manhattan. If he can live up to the hype he was given coming out of high school, his presence could go a long way in improving the run defense. Along with Brown, the team will need to see improvement from Alex Hrebec and Blake Slaughter.

On the defensive line, Kansas State loses Prizell Brown who led the team in sacks with 5 and made 42 tackles last season, 7 for a loss. It will be up to Raphael Guidry and Brandon Harold to step up and replace Brown in 2011.

Now, obviously, you can't take a defense that gave up so many yards last season and turn them into an elite unit only a season later. If defensive coordinator Chris Cosh can pull that off, then give him a huge raise and a head coaching position somewhere else in 2012. At the same time, however, it'll be hard for Kansas State not to improve on defense.

And with an offense that has so many questions heading into the season, it's going to have to.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com