Spring football games 2019: Schedule, players to watch, things to know for six biggest scrimmages
Two-time SEC East champion Georgia headlines Saturday's slate of spring games
The curtain won't be raised on the 2019 college football season for another four months, but fans will get another glimpse of some of the season's top contenders during a wave of spring games on Saturday.
This week's slate of spring games includes two-time SEC East champion Georgia, Pac-12 North contender Oregon and a Miami team that is hoping to get back into the ACC Championship Game in Manny Diaz's first year as head coach of the Hurricanes.
What should you keep an eye on? Let's break it down.
SEC Network, 2 p.m. ET
Show me a playmaker: Terry Godwin, Mecole Hardman, Isaac Nauta and Riley Ridley are all gone off of last year's squad, which means Job No. 1 for first-year play-caller James Coley is to find weapons for veteran quarterback Jake Fromm. Who will step up? Former five-star prospect and Cal transfer Demetris Robertson didn't catch a single pass last year, Tyler Simmons is a speedster who has seen limited action through three seasons and Jeremiah Holloman is the most accomplished of the bunch with 425 yards last year. No matter the offensive coordinator, the Bulldogs' offense is built to work off play-action. For it to operate at full capacity, somebody has to step up outside.
Fixing the front seven: Georgia finished 100th in the nation in sacks per game last season with 1.71, and that's going to have to improve in order to vault coach Kirby Smart's squad into national championship consideration. There are players who have enjoyed success in the past up front, including Tyler Clark and Jordan Davis. Nolan Smith -- the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2019 -- enrolled early to get a jump on the competition, and other players have made noise here and there. But depth is a major problem this spring -- especially with Julian Rochester out for the spring.
Pac-12 Networks, 5 p.m. ET
Go-to guy for Justin Herbert: The Ducks are going to be mentioned prominently among under-the-radar teams that can crash the College Football Playoff party, and their senior quarterback is a big reason why. But who's he going to throw to? Gone is Dillon Mitchell, and in is Penn State graduate transfer Juwan Johnson (81 catches for 1,123 yards and two touchdowns in his three seasons). All eyes will be on the 6-foot-4 former Nittany Lion as that front-runner to take Mitchell's spot, but junior Jaylon Redd had 433 yards and five touchdowns last year, and Brenden Schooler and Johnny Johnson III each topped the 200-yard mark. The running game is set with CJ Verdell leading the way. If Herbert can find some balance with another play-maker outside, the Ducks could reclaim the division title and return for the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2014.
No TV, noon ET
Tate the great: Tate Martell transferred from Ohio State and got a waiver to play immediately, which instantly made him one of the most intriguing players in the ACC this spring. The former four-star dual-threat prospect was used sparingly behind Dwayne Haskins and as a changeup quarterback for the Buckeyes last year, but is being counted on to kick-start an offense that has been stagnant for the last two seasons. N'Kosi Perry is still on campus after splitting snaps a year ago, and so is redshirt freshman Jarren Williams. Despite the hype, there doesn't appear to be a clear leader at the moment. Will that change after things wrap up on Saturday? Martell didn't transfer to sit the bench.
No TV, 2 p.m. ET
Offensive identity: The Cowboys have become known for their ability to consistently produce top-tier offenses under coach Mike Gundy, but there are plenty of challenges to overcome this offseason in order to repeat the feat in 2019. Quarterback Taylor Cornelius, running back Justice Hill, wide receiver Tyron Johnson and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich are all gone, and first-year coordinator Sean Gleeson -- formerly of Princeton -- will have quite a challenge on his hands in the rough and tumble Big 12. Redshirt senior Dru Brown, redshirt freshmen Spencer Sanders and Shaun Taylor, and true freshman Brendan Costello are all vying for the job under center, and speedster Chuba Hubbard is in line to become the centerpiece of the backfield. You have to have plenty of offense to contend in the Big 12 ... and Gundy will need this new cast of characters to come through if he wants to get back in the mix with Oklahoma and Texas.
Pac-12 Networks, 4 p.m. ET
Air raid redux: Coach Mike Leach Anthony Gordon appears to be ahead of Trey Tinsley as Gubrud's primary threat, so keep an eye on how the two healthy signal-callers look. The close to the spring session will go a long way toward helping Leach narrow down the depth chart., and Job No. 1 this spring was finding the gun-slinger needed to step in for departed star Gardner Minshew. Eastern Washington transfer Gage Gubrud hasn't been cleared for full contact, so don't expect much from the former two-time Walter Payton Award finalist and presumed front-runner on Saturday night.
Pac-12 Networks, 2 p.m. ET
Defense, Bruins, defense: The first year of Chip Kelly's tenure near Tinseltown didn't go very well, but if there's one conclusion to jump to, it's that he will find enough offense with either Dorian Thompson-Robinson or Austin Burton taking the snaps. If the Bruins really want to get in the mix in the Pac-12 South, they've got to find a defense that can keep the game in reach -- which didn't happen last year when they finished 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring defense at 34.1 points per game. It sounds like cornerback Elijah Gates -- a fill-in starter a year ago -- is going to be the next star on a unit that was struggling to find its way last year with a ton of inexperience.
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