College Football 2012: Spring Football Depth-Chart Winners
Throughout this spring football season, we've been trying to bring you some quick thoughts on interesting depth-chart developments. Now that schools have wrapped up their springs, we can take a step back and check out some of the winners and losers. First up, to keep your morning cheery, we'll lead with the winners.
A lot of schools saw some success, as players stepped up and starters emerged. Certain things were well-known commodities going into spring: Braxton Miller leading the way at the quarterback position for Ohio State; Robert Woods, spring or no spring, being the go-to receiver for the Trojans; and Kenjon Barner stepping into the role vacated by LaMichael James. Zach Mettenberger stepping up into the role of leader for LSU was expected, but seeing him flourish is a big win for the Bayou Bengals, who hope to get back to the title game.
Our depth-chart winners go beyond just solidifying a roster spot. The four teams here not only have their depth chart shored up, but they have an embarrassment of riches at one position.
Florida State: Defensive Line
Getting defensive linemen at the collegiate level is not an easy task. There are only so many guys who grow to be the size necessary to play BCS-level football in the defensive front. Even fewer of those young men have the speed required to be successful. An even smaller number actually play football or qualify academically.
Florida State is beating the odds by having a gaggle of these rare-breed players on one roster at the same time.
The headliners are familiar faces—guys like Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner on the outside, and Timmy Jernigan and Everett Dawkins on the interior. Jenkins and Werner as the bookends coming off the edge are a scary proposition. Jernigan should improve upon an outstanding first season with his second year in the program from a technique and a strength standpoint.
The scariest part of the Seminoles is the fact that in addition to those four starters, there is a stable full of other players ready to produce. Amp McCloud is a true run-stopper on the inside. Moses McCray, Demonte McAllister and a couple guys who redshirted in 2011 are looking to find playing time.
Oh, and that's just on the interior, folks. Tank Carradine also had 5.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss a season ago at the defensive end spot as a rotational player. Toshmon Stevens should also help.
The 'Noles have bodies up front on defense, and that's going to be a problem for the ACC as they look to get back to a BCS bowl for the first time since 2005.
We've talked about the Marcus Mariota-Bryan Bennett quarterback battle from the days before Oregon even started spring football. Now, after Mariota's highlight performance in the spring game (via Yahoo! Sports), the Ducks have two quarterbacks who are ready to play.
Unlike Notre Dame, Florida, Penn State or other schools just trying to find one guy they have any sort of faith in, the Ducks have two. We've seen what Bryan Bennett can do when he gets the ball in his hands and the bullets are live. The redshirt freshman played exceptionally well when forced into action in during the 2011 season.
This is a good problem to have, especially in an offense like Chip Kelly's that is less about timing and more about fitting all the cogs into the system. Both of these quarterbacks have the ability to fit into the system. With Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas ready to be the stars of the show, Oregon should not miss a beat in 2012.
TCU: Running Back
Ed Wesley is healthy after a bit of an injury-riddled 2011. The two players who showed up huge in his stead a season ago, Waymon James and Matthew Tucker, both return to the TCU backfield. That's three guys sitting, waiting to get carries in the TCU offense that is operated by one of our favorite quarterbacks, Casey Pachall.
James led the Horned Frogs in rushing a season ago, Wesley led them in 2010 and Tucker put up 12 touchdowns in 2011. All three are poised to have big years.
For TCU, there really is only one problem in the backfield: There is just one football. All three of these backs have talent and ability. They can score the football and pick up yardage when Gary Patterson's squad needs it.
The Big 12, a league that is known for slinging the ball all over the yard, should get ready for these running backs because they are going to tax defenses. Multiple-back sets can cause a lot of misdirection with two viable running backs as options in the backfield—and that does not even take into account that Casey Pachall is among the nation's best rising stars at the quarterback position.
We all know Nick Saban is a 3-4 genius. We also know he is a master in the world of recruiting. After losing Dont'a Hightower to the NFL draft, all Nick Saban has is a wealth of inside linebackers ready to step up and ball for the Crimson Tide.
Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley are the most experienced players, but Trey DePriest proved last season he needs some time on the field. Throw in a guy who would likely be playing if he were anywhere but Alabama, Tana Patrick, and the Crimson Tide are set at the linebacker spot.
What I love the most about Alabama's linebackers is they are legitimate linebackers. These guys are not hybrid players. They are big boys who can run and man the middle, in the same mold as Rolando McClain and Hightower—big bodies with a great feel for the game. Four guys to play two spots and all four have the ability and talent to contribute.
This should be a fun season to watch how Saban and Kirby Smart juggle their rotation at the positions to keep bodies fresh and attacking the line of scrimmage.
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