College Football

5 Players with the Most Work to Do Between Now and Start of Spring Practice

Sean FryeFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2014

5 Players with the Most Work to Do Between Now and Start of Spring Practice

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    National signing day has passed, and spring practice is upon us. And that means players across the country are about to start preparing for next season with a clean slate. 

    Every player has something to prove, but certain guys across America have even more of a chip on their shoulder as the fall draws closer. 

    Here are five players in college football who have the most to work on between now and the spring. 

Devonte Fields

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    Brody Schmidt/Associated Press

    The 2012 Big 12 defensive player of the year had a tumultuous year in 2013 and an unfortunate start to 2014. 

    The sophomore defensive end appeared in just three games in 2013 due to a suspension and injuries. He was suspended for the first game of the year against LSU for violation of team policy. Then in October, TCU shut Fields down for the remainder of the season after he had surgery on an injured foot. 

    Then in January, his bad luck continued as he was attacked at gunpoint at his home, per CBS Sports. 

    Now, Fields must come back this spring and try to prove to those in Fort Worth, Texas that he's still the same guy he was in 2012, when he recorded 53 tackles and 10 sacks as just a freshman. 

    To do that, he must come into this spring with a renewed sense of confidence and a chip on his shoulder. If he can, TCU's poor showing in its first two years in the Big 12 may finally start turning positive. 

Tyrone Swoopes

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    With a new head coach in Charlie Strong in town and the quarterback position a huge question mark for the Texas Longhorns, Tyrone Swoopes has a chance to possibly win the starting job in Austin. 

    As a freshman last year, he saw limited time and attempted just 13 passes for 26 total yards. 

    But he was seen as an injection of energy for the struggling David Ash and Case McCoy, so Strong could give Swoopes a fair chance at winning the job this spring.

    He was a participant in the 2013 Army All-American Bowl and put on a dazzling performance at last year's spring game. With one more showing like that in this spring season, the Swoopes Era could be under way at Texas. 

Braxton Miller

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Braxton Miller had an impressive year in 2013, but many saw last season as a disappointment for Ohio State when it failed to win the Big Ten and lost to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. 

    With Urban Meyer entering his third year in Columbus, his recruits will now play a much bigger role in whatever success the Buckeyes have in 2014. 

    But the team's fortunes also rest on its signal-caller: returning senior Braxton Miller. His job in his final spring at Ohio State will be to bring the new-look Buckeyes together and take them for another run at the Big Ten title. 

    Miller was considered a favorite for the Heisman Trophy last year, but he fell out of contention early due to injuries and inconsistent play against teams like Buffalo. 

    But now the Buckeyes legend has a chance to regroup and refocus his efforts. And now is the time for that process to start. 

Blake Sims

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    John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

    Blake Sims is considered the top candidate to replace A.J. McCarron as the Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback, even if Nick Saban says the race is far from over, per AL.com. 

    In garbage time in 2013, he threw for two touchdowns and 167 yards. 

    But it'll take more than simply being McCarron's backup last year to win over Saban. Earning the trust of the coach is a constant, year-round process, so Sims needs to start the wooing now. 

    If he wants to beat out the competition for the job in Tuscaloosa, he needs to display a strong work ethic the rest of the winter and emerge as a leader in the spring. 

Cole Stoudt

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    Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

    Like Blake Sims at Alabama, Cole Stoudt is the returning backup at Clemson who is pegged as a favorite to replace legendary quarterback Tajh Boyd. 

    In garbage time in 2013, Stoudt had five touchdowns, no picks and 415 yards through the air. He also showed an acumen for making plays with his feet by rushing for two scores. 

    However, he will have some stiff competition for the starting job in 2014. His primary competitor will be rising freshman and 247Sports' 4-star recruit DeShaun Watson. In fact, Bleacher Report's Greg Wallace tabbed Watson as the starter for Clemson over Stoudt. 

    Stoudt is a veteran for the Tigers though, so he'll have the upper hand over an incoming freshman. But he must prove he's the same type of playmaker that Boyd was in order to win the job.

    And to do that, he'll need to start developing chemistry with his offense this winter by doing extra drills and studying as much film as he can. 

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