A Guide to the Best Spring Football Storylines

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterApril 4, 2013

When it comes to spring, everyone is dialed in to his own team and respective position battles.

Folks at Florida State are wondering who is going to win the three-man derby at quarterback. Nebraska fans are wondering what Bo Pelini's plan is for fixing the defense. USC fans wonder how the switch from the Tampa-2 to this 3-4/4-3 hybrid of Clancy Pendergast is going to work.

And of course, Texas A&M fans want to know about Johnny Football.

Sifting through it all, here are the storylines that get us excited here at Your Best 11.

The "who is the coordinator" dance kicks things off, as both Lane Kiffin and Jimbo Fisher aren't showing their hand as to whether or not they are turning over the play-calling duties. Kiffin is on the hot seat and needs wins to keep his job in L.A. Fisher just won the Orange Bowl, but his play-calling has been critiqued in a big way.

The dynamic at USC is interesting because not only is Kiffin fighting for his job, he is trying to figure out who will be the quarterback for 2013. Unlike some coaches who can absorb a learning year with a quarterback that has future potential, Kiffin has to win now. 

The same goes for his play-calling. Certainly he could hand the reins over to someone, but when your neck is on the line, why do that? It's his neck on the line, and whether he runs with Cody Kessler, Max Browne or Max Wittek, controlling what plays get called is in his best interest, despite what the masses say.

As for Jimbo Fisher, he's got a quarterback derby of his own, but regardless of who wins, people are wondering who'll call the plays. Fisher has shown himself to be conservative in big moments and occasionally hold his quarterback back. If Jameis Winston wins the gig, Fisher's restrictive play-calling might hamper the athletic quarterback in some of the ways he did EJ Manuel. If Jacob Coker gets the job, Fisher's got to open up the downfield game for the big-armed passer.

Clint Trickett is still in the running for the job, and his capabilities fit with Jimbo's conservative approach. However, the other two candidates have higher ceilings and more time left in Tallahassee.

If Fisher goes conservative, Trickett could be the answer. But if one of the other players wins the job, that FSU playbook would have to be opened up; something another guy calling the plays might be more willing to do than Jimbo Fisher.

Staying in the Southeast, Athens, Georgia is home to one of my favorite stories of the spring: Tray Matthews. While everyone else wonders about how the Bulldogs are going to replace Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, I've been watching the back end and wondering how getting production akin to Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams would be possible.

Matthews, an early-enrollee freshman, is making a push to be a big-time contributor in the back end, something that, after watching some of his high school work, most of us think will be a possibility. People often focus on the glamour positions with early enrollees, quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, but Matthews is a safety that should come in and help get the Bulldogs defense on the right track in a big way.

We go from Georgia to Oregon, as Mark Helfrich opened up his first spring at the helm this week. The Ducks don't have the marquee quarterback battle that we saw a season ago, and while they are replacing Kenjon Barner and key defensive pieces, the buzz is not quite the same. 

This is Helfrich's first time running the team, and while some people think he's going to try and keep everything exactly the same, I say don't count on it. Things will be similar, but Helfrich has his own plans and his own vision of what a football team should look like; you don't spend your entire career building towards this moment and then merely walk in someone else's shoes once you get there.

That said, we'll have to take players' and coaches' words at Oregon because, like Chip Kelly, Helfrich is keeping the doors closed on Ducks practices.

A very quiet story that folks should be following for the 2013 season: Louisville. Charlie Strong has been able to keep the hype away from his program's spring drills, thanks in part to something called "basketball." Teddy Bridgewater is back and he has a cast around him that is going to get some big wins in 2013.

After beating Florida senseless in the Sugar Bowl, the Cardinals are on everyone's radar and their conference is ripe for the taking, especially with Pitt and Syracuse stepping out of the league. This team will likely start out in the top 10 and very quietly, as a schedule that features Kentucky as the lone out-of-conference BCS opponent could put it in position for a title shot.

It's been quiet on the football front in Louisville, and that's how Charlie Strong likes it—not a lot of noise, just getting better.

To wrap up, we go from the calm of Louisville to the palpable excitement at places like Texas Tech and Auburn. New coaches are in the building all over the country—31 of them to be exact—and each of them, except perhaps Tommy Tuberville, is talking energy and inspiration to their kids. Coaches have got the music blasting for practice, they are running around between drills and hoping to inspire their players as these kids try to grasp the new systems.

Whether it is Matt Rhule at Temple, P.J. Fleck at Western Michigan, Butch Jones at Tennessee or Sonny Dykes at Cal, energy is the name of the game. They are trying to generate player energy and intensity as well as some fan enthusiasm. Sure, it's coach talk and everyone says the same thing in a different way, but I absolutely love it because when the kids feel like they're winning, I think that's a win for the college football world.