Tag:Spring Practice
Posted on: February 26, 2011 6:29 pm
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Marvin McNutt out for spring after surgeries

Posted by Adam Jacobi

As the Iowa Hawkeyes head into spring practice, the passing game is going to look a little different. Okay, a lot different. Between the starting quarterback (Ricky Stanzi), starting tight end (Allen Reisner), and top three wide receivers (Marvin McNutt, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Colin Sandeman), all were seniors except for McNutt, a junior.

As it turns out, even McNutt won't be around for spring practice either; as the Cedar Rapids Gazette's Marc Morehouse reported today, McNutt is out for the spring with multiple maladies:

McNutt had surgery on a thumb and shoulder recently. He probably wouldn’t have done much this spring anyway, being a decorated senior receiver who’s put up numbers the last two years, but this clinches it. He is expected to be ready for fall camp.

Junior-to-be Keenan Davis is a likely beneficiary here, as Davis is now the most experienced wideout in spring practice. In fact, with McNutt sidelined, Davis' 11 catches for 131 yards and a score not only lead the returning wideouts in 2010 production, they do so by default; none of the other wide receivers in spring practice caught a pass in 2010. That Davis spent most of last season taking practice snaps with presumed 2011 starting QB James Vandenberg is a nice bonus. 

Thus, there's going to be a wide-open competition for the spot opposite Davis in the first team for spring practice. Johnson-Koulianos publicly praised freshman Kevonte Martin-Manley (redshirted in 2010) as having "my senior skills as a freshman", but considering the way DJK's Iowa career ended, it's probably safe to assume that Kirk Ferentz isn't exactly clamoring to hear endorsements from him. Still, so long as DJK's recommendation wasn't made from whole cloth, the McNutt/Davis/Martin-Manley trio could be formidable in 2011.

Also, as noted before, McNutt should be good to go for the start of the 2011 season, and that's notable from a record book perspective; McNutt has 16 career touchdown receptions, and the Iowa record is 21 (held by Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes). Six more is not only doable, but downright expected. That shoulder needs to hold up first, though.

Posted on: February 25, 2011 12:18 pm
 

Texas practices will be private

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Last week in the blog's Spring Practice Primer on the Texas Longhorns, I wrote that the most interesting thing to follow in Austin this spring will be whether or not Garrett Gilbert is able to hold on to his starting job. Which is still the case, it's just that it's going to be a lot harder for us to follow now.

The Longhorns began practice on Thursday, and Mack Brown says he plans on keeping all of the drill closed to the public. No fans, no media, just players and coaches.

"We've got to start over and we're rebuilding a foundation at every level: offense, defense, special teams, credibility, strength and conditioning, swagger, body language, chemistry, everything," Brown said.

"I don't want our players and our coaches trying to please other people to start practice. We've got a lot to do. I don't want media, I don't want people in the stands, I don't want autographs. Nothing right now. This is only about getting better."

Brown has closed practices in the past, but never all of them. I guess this is what happens when you have a losing season in Austin. The first time anybody will have a chance to get a glimpse of the Longhorns will be on April 3, when Texas has its spring game.
Posted on: February 23, 2011 12:31 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Baylor

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 Baylor, who opens its practice on February 28.


Spring Practice Question: Can Baylor's defense catch up to its offense?

A lot of things went well for Baylor in 2010. With Robert Griffin III back for an entire season and the offense firing on all cylinders. The Bears rode their offense to a 7-6 record and the school's first bowl appearance since the 1994 Alamo Bowl. In other words, under Art Briles, it seems as if Baylor is headed in the right direction.

There's still quite a bit of work left to do, however. Yes, Baylor had a winning season, but at one point the Bears were 7-2 before losing their final four games of the season. In those final four losses, Baylor gave up an average of 47.0 points per game, which is precisely where the problem lies. Yes, Baylor was able to post 31.2 points a game on offense in 2010, but the defense gave up an average of 30.5. 

Not exactly the best formula for success. In fact, teams scored over 40 points against Baylor six times in thirteen games. It's hard to win consistently that way, which is why the focus for Baylor this spring will be on improving the defense. That's where the team's new defensive coordinator, Phil Bennett, comes in. Bennett comes to Waco after spending the last three seasons at Pitt, where he was the defensive coordinator for one of the best defenses in the Big East.

Of course, the offenses of the Big East and the offenses of the Big 12 aren't really comparable, and that adjustment will be Bennett's biggest challenge.

As will be overhauling a secondary which was a problem area for the Bears in 2010. Both of the team's starting safeties, Tim Atchison and Byron Landor, have left which means two new starters in 2011. The good news is that Briles has brought in some talent in his first two recruiting classes. Ahmad Dixon and Prince Kent were two highly-touted recruits in the class of 2010, and both will have their shot at living up to their potential this season. 

Bennett has said that he plans on running a 4-3 defense in Waco, but considering the recruiting success that Baylor has had in the secondary the last few seasons, and the passing offenses of the Big 12, you do have to wonder if it'll be more of a 4-2-5 scheme when it's all said and done. Of course, if a young defensive line that will feature two sophomores in Terrance Lloyd and Gary Mason Jr. on the ends, can mature and get better at pressuring the quarterback, then a 4-3 may stick.

Will Bennett be able to mold Lloyd and Mason into the type of pass-rushers he had at Pitt? If he can help these guys become a Jabaal Sheard or a Greg Romeus, it would be a huge boost to the team's defense.

After all, Bennett doesn't have to turn this unit into a defense that is only giving up 10 points a game. The offense is going to score a lot of points for Baylor in 2011, but if the defense can start holding teams to about 24 points per game, then Baylor is going to rack up quite a few wins in 2011 and get back to another bowl game.

The work begins next week.
Posted on: February 22, 2011 5:02 am
Edited on: February 23, 2011 8:54 am
 

Spring Practice Primer: Texas

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 Texas which begins its spring practice on Thursday.

Spring Practice Question: Is Garrett Gilbert really in danger of losing the starting job?

Last month, Texas head coach Mack Brown declared the Texas quarterback position to be wide open. It seems that after a less than stellar performance from Garrett Gilbert in his first season as a starter, along with plenty of coaching turnover in Austin, Brown isn't ready to hand the job over to just anybody.

Of course, whether he truly meant it or not, we'll begin to find out on Thursday when the Longhorns begin spring practice.

If I had to lean in one direction, I'd believe Brown, but only with the understanding that the job is still Gilbert's to lose. Whether or not Gilbert was successful in 2010, he still has more experience than either Connor Wood or Case McCoy. The true wild card in all of this, however, is the addition of Bryan Harsin as Texas' co-offensive coordinator (Major Applewhite being the other co-coordinator, though something tells me Harsin wasn't brought in from Boise to defer to Applewhite).

Harsin comes from Boise State, and has no favorites amongst the quarterback trio. Gilbert may have started all 12 games for Texas last season, but he did so under Greg Davis and with Greg Davis' plays, so in that sense he's on the same ground floor that both Wood and McCoy are.

Still, this spring could be the deciding factor for Gilbert. If he can show a strong grasp of Harsin's offense over the next few weeks, he can begin to put the job on lockdown. If he struggles, then things will be a lot more interesting this fall, as both McCoy or Wood could wrestle the job away from him.

The most important thing that Gilbert will have to do to earn Harsin's trust, and make better decisions in the pocket. While Garrett was able to make enough plays with his arm and legs last season to tally 3,124 yards and 15 touchdowns, it was the 17 turnovers that most people will remember.

17 turnovers that had an awful lot to do with Texas finishing the season 5-7 and missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 1997. That cost John Mackovic his job as head coach in Austin, and though Mack survived, that fate may still befall Gilbert.

There is reason to believe that Gilbert will be able to cut down on the mistakes. First of all, he'll be a junior in 2011, and with a year of experience under his belt, he'll be a smarter player. Plus, there's some history to look at with quarterbacks under Harsin.

In 2008, as a freshman, Kellen Moore started every game for Boise State and threw 10 interceptions. Over the next two seasons, Moore only threw 9. 

Another reason to believe that Gilbert will improve in 2011 is that his receiving corps will get better as well. Mike Davis -- who caught 47 passes as a freshman -- will be another year older, another year better, and his play could go a long way in improving the performance of his quarterback. Whether that quarterback is Gilbert, McCoy or Wood. If Malcolm Williams and Darius White can start to reach their potential, life will be a lot easier as well.

At the end of the day, I think Gilbert will leave spring practice as the team's starter, and he'll be under center when Texas opens its season against Rice on September 3. He may have had a bad season in 2011, but the truth of it is that he's just more talented than both McCoy or Wood. So unless he has a flat-out awful performance this spring, I just don't see him losing the gig.

Of course, I didn't see Texas going 2-6 in the Big 12 last season, either. So who knows what will happen?
Posted on: February 16, 2011 12:16 am
Edited on: February 16, 2011 12:19 am
 

Spring Practice Primer: Duke

Posted by Chip Patterson

College Football has no offseason. Anyone will tell you 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 Duke - the first FBS team to open Spring Practice.

Spring Practice Question: Can David Cutcliffe finally make the Blue Devils a contender for bowl eligibility?

For the second year in a row, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe has the Blue Devils on the field earlier than anyone in the ACC. He doesn't do it to steal any thunder from Mike Kryzewzski and the men's basketball team, but in order to start answering the many questions heading into the 2011 season.

The bar was set pretty low when Cutcliffe took over in 2007. Duke had only won four games in their last four seasons under the direction of Ted Roof, and the coach of SEC fame at least brought some excitement to Durham. But eventually excitement will turn into expectations and in order to put a mark on his time at Duke, David Cutcliffe needs to get to the postseason. It's something that Duke has not done since 1994, and the closest they came was their 5-7 record in 2009.

That was the last season that Duke's career-passing-leader Thaddeus Lewis played for the Blue Devils, and the focus for 2011 begins with his replacement. Sean Renfree showed great promise at times in 2010, throwing for 3,131 yards and 14 touchdowns. Unfortunately the sophomore signal-caller also tossed 17 interceptions, though he only threw two in the final five games. There was a steady improvement throughout the season, as Renfree became more comfortable with Duke's crop of talented wide receivers - led by All-ACC junior Conner Vernon. But the passing game is not the number one concern for Duke's coaching staff here in spring practice.

“It all starts in the line of scrimmage right now for us,” Cutcliffe said about his focus for spring practice.  “Our capabilities up front allow us to make all the decisions on what we’re going to do.  If we can’t stop the run and hold up defensively, it’s very difficult to play quality defense.  That’s been the biggest challenge.  We are reloading a group that we think runs better and is going to be bigger and more talented, but they’ve got to show us this spring.  And offensively, first is to settle on the right five.  For the first time, we really have some competition in the offensive line.  With the mix of younger and older guys, it’s going to be pretty interesting.  My absolute focus is going to be more on the interiors of both lines.”

Rebuilding that defense will be especially difficult without graduated senior linebacker Abraham Kromah, the ACC's second leading tackler in 2010. Safeties coach Jim Knowles moves up to defensive coordinator, trying to turn around a unit that ranked 109th nationally in scoring defense, and 104th in rushing defense.

Despite all the poor statistics looking back at Duke's 2010 campaign, a few bounces in conference play could have significantly changed their season. Duke lost four ACC games by six points or less last season, leaving revived Blue Devils football fans shaking their heads once again.

There was bound to be a drop-off from 2009, but with a rebuilding year behind them it is time for Duke to make their move in the ACC. Excitement has turned into expectations in Durham, and if Cutcliffe can't deliver in 2011 there will be several more questions for 2012. Most notably: how many more losing seasons can the head coach last?

Duke will play their annual Spring Game on March 26 in Wallace Wade Stadium

Click here for more Spring Practice Primers
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com