In the first spring under Dan Mullen, the main focus was on installing the offensive and defensive schemes and getting the players to grasp how things work and what’s expected from them under a new coaching staff.
In spring No. 2, the attention turned to player development — giving a bunch of reps to many of the younger players so the coaches could identify which ones are going to be ready to contribute significant playing time in the fall.
Here’s a look at five who emerged:
Zachary Carter, Defensive end/defensive tackle, redshirt sophomore — He stood out throughout the spring with his ability to put pressure on the quarterback and also stuff the run. He split his reps between end and defensive tackle, and he’s put himself in a position to see serious playing time at both next season. He was one of the most improved defensive players in the spring, and he’s clearly benefited from Nick Savage’s strength and conditioning program.
John Huggins, Safety, sophomore — He concluded his strong spring with a standout performance in the Orange & Blue Game. He returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown, recorded two tackles, including one for a loss, and broke up a pass. A fast, physical player, he showed he has the skill set to possibly flourish at the star position where Chauncey Gardner-Johnson made so many plays last season. He’s pushing Trey Dean for the starting role and should see significant playing time whether he wins the job or not.
Iverson Clement, Running back, redshirt freshman — Because the coaches already know what senior Lamical Perine can do, he watched while the other running backs got most of the reps in scrimmages and the spring game. One guy he had to be impressed with his Clement, a former four-star recruit who runs extremely hard and showed he’s ready to take on some carries in the fall if he’s needed. Between now and then, he’ll continue to work on his pass blocking and catching the ball out of the backfield.
Amari Burney, Linebacker, sophomore — This former four-star prospect started transitioning from safety to linebacker in the last two games last season and made the full-time move in the spring. He’s got good size, is very physical, and is one of the fastest players on the team — a combination that seems to make him a perfect fit at linebacker in coordinator Todd Grantham’s attacking defense. He showed in the spring he’s capable of making plays from sideline to sideline — and physical enough to take on blocks and come downhill effectively against the run.
Kemore Gamble, Tight end, redshirt sophomore — With C’yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens gone and Kyle Pitts lining up more at wide receiver, Gamble worked with the No. 1 offense throughout the spring and was a popular target for the quarterbacks. Big and fast, and with soft hands, he consistently made plays in the passing game and could be a go-to guy in the fall. He’ll enter preseason camp as the clear No. 1 tight end.