Ten burning questions heading into spring football
Spring football has begun on some college campuses, and it will be in full swing everywhere soon. This leads to my annual look at 10 huge questions heading into the spring.
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1. Who will step up on defense for Georgia?
Look at what the Bulldogs lose: Nakobe Dean, Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt, Travon Walker, Derion Kendrick. The list goes on and on. But one thing we know about Georgia — the Bulldogs will reload and have a ton of talent returning.
Look for Tykee Smith to bounce back after injury, for Jalen Carter to dominate the middle and for Nolan Smith to destroy off the edge. But replacing so many guys isn’t easy, and UGA will take a step back. Kelee Ringo, Smael Mondon and others have a ton of potential to be big-time players, so we will see this spring.
2. How is Alabama’s wide receiver depth?
Jermaine Burton transferred in from UGA, but Jameson Williams is hard to replace, as we learned in the title game. Agiye Hall, Jacorey Brooks and others have talent, but this is the second year in a row with questions at wide receiver after the dominant years with Calvin Ridley, Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith and others.
3. Will Ohio State improve on defense?
The Buckeyes' defense wasn’t good last year, but that’s going to change. Just watch. Young players such as Jack Sawyer, Denzel Burke and JT Tuiamoloau will step into bigger roles, and second-year players and true freshmen such as CJ Hicks will show why they were so highly recruited.
The Buckeye D will be back.
4. Which quarterbacks will emerge like Bryce Young?
I have a couple: Anthony Richardson at Florida and Caleb Williams at USC. Now, I don’t see either winning the Heisman, but both have talent that is off the charts. For Richardson it’s about staying healthy and being more consistent, but he has the highest ceiling of anyone not named Young in the SEC.
And we saw a little of what Williams can do last year, and he should put up monster numbers under Lincoln Riley. Keep an eye on these two.
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5. Is Texas QB Quinn Ewers for real?
We will see. Of course, the spring isn’t a true test of that but trust me when I tell you that this kid has rare, rare arm talent. We are going to see some crazy examples of that in practice, scrimmages and the spring game.
6. Will Michigan take a step back on defense?
It has to, right? Aidan Hutchison and David Ojabo are gone, as is Dax Hill. Those are three massive pieces to replace, not to mention linebacker John Ross, defensive lineman Chris Hinton and some others who played key roles.
Guys will step up such as Taylor Upshaw and Kris Jenkins up front and Junior Colson in the middle. But a step back could be noticeable.
7. Can Notre Dame finally throw the football?
We will see, but I don’t think so. There hasn’t been an elite quarterback at Notre Dame since Brady Quinn. Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne have potential, but I don’t see either lighting up the offense.
8. Who is this year’s Kenny Pickett?
I have a few candidates: Devin Leary at NC State, KJ Jefferson at Arkansas and Gerry Bohanan at Baylor. But if I had to pick one it would be Leary. Last season he threw for 35 touchdowns and five picks and he showed a ton of promise in 2020 before an injury. This season those numbers could take a big step up and possibly land him in New York.
9. Can Oregon replace its running backs?
Travis Dye is gone and that hurts. CJ Verdell had a ton of potential, but never reached it, and now the Oregon offense needs new blood. Byron Cardwell needs to take a major step up and Seven McGee better be dynamic.
10. Will the Oklahoma offense take a step back?
It likely has to, with head coach Lincoln Riley gone and an adjustment period ahead. QB Dillon Gabriel put up monster numbers at one point at UCF, and there is depth at wide receiver, but even with OC Jeff Lebby running the offense a step back has to be expected. Or does it?