Spring ahead or fall back


Urban Meyer watches Tim Tebow throw in the Orange and Blue game.

Staff photograph
Published: Monday, March 2, 2009 at 5:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 2, 2009 at 5:16 p.m.

It may not feel like spring and the official start of the season is still 17 days away. But spring football is upon us.

Some schools, such as Miami, have already started. Others start this week. South Carolina is the first SEC school to crank it up, starting today. Florida starts March 25.

All college football coaches, including Urban Meyer, will tell you the spring is important. For some of them, it's more important than for others.

Here are the 10 programs that not only need good springs but have to have them heading into the offseason.

Southern Cal

Sure, the Trojans just re-load every season. But when Mark Sanchez surprised Pete Carroll by "going against the grain," it set up an interesting battle for the quarterback job. While SC has other issues to deal with in the spring, the quarterback situation is going to be the focus of the fans and media. Top recruit Matt Barkley enrolled early and Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain is ready to compete. But the winner might be Sophomore Aaron Corp, who beat Mustain out for the backup job last summer.

Miami

The Hurricanes will be one of the sleeper picks in a lot of top 25s during the preseason because there is plenty of talent in Coral Gables. But there are also two new coordinators which makes this spring huge for the 'Canes. The players will have to get to know the coaches and vice versa. And a sloppy spring would be devastating for Miami because of a brutal schedule to start the season.

Tennessee

After all of the hullabaloo over Lane Kiffin's mouth in February, the new Volunteer coach will get a chance to take his team on the field later this month. Kiffin promises to play "real football" in the spring but he needs to find a quarterback who can play. There is also the culture of losing that came out of nowhere last year and infected the Vols.

Michigan

Rich Rodriguez's first year was a disaster. But it's in the second year when good coaches tend to get results. Now that the Wolverines have an idea of what they're in for, they need to make some progress towards September. Rich-Rod needs to settle on a quarterback and, most importantly, get his team to believe again this spring.

Maryland

There's some heat on Ralph Friedgen going into the season and it doesn't look promising considering the Terps lose 30 seniors along with Darrius Heyward-Bey. Maryland's up-and-down 2008 season left a lot to be desired so it's important for the Fridge to get things turned around starting with spring football.

South Carolina

Steve Spurrier is still trying to figure out how he's going to get his offense going in Columbia. The first step would be to get his quarterback to last the entire spring. Stephen Garcia is looking for his first spring practices after legal issues kept him out for all but a couple of days of the first two. The Cocks are set on defense, but this spring is all about offense.

Washington

When you're coming off an 0-12 season, every practice is important. New coach Steve Sarkisian will have to deal with a team that hardly reeks of talent after four years of weak recruiting by Ty Willingham. But he does have quarterback Jake Locker back which is something to build around. The biggest challenge for the Huskies' coaching staff will be to change attitudes.

Notre Dame

It's getting hot for Charlie Weis and it's time to put up or shut up, although it's doubtful he'll ever do the latter. Weis needs a big spring to get things turned around for the Golden Domers. Now.

Oklahoma

Bobby Stoops has the Heisman winner back but this spring is crucial because of the guys who protect him. The Sooners will have five new starters with four leaving and Trent Williams moving from right tackle to left. Former LSU starter Jarvis Jones should be the right tackle.

Arkansas

The Razorbacks showed improvement last season under Bobby Petrino. In his second year, more will be expected from Petrino and it didn't help that his new quarterback got arrested right before spring practice began. But former Michiganer Ryan Mallett is the answer that wasn't there last year for the Petrino offense.

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