7 College Football Teams off to a Bad Start in Spring Practice
Spring practice serves as the spring training of college football in many ways.
For the majority of programs across the country, it’s a time for optimism. Stories of breakout stars and intriguing changes that could lead to improvement circulate around campuses at this time.
New coaches and coordinators mean new schemes, new players get chances to strut their stuff and—most importantly—hope reigns supreme.
Everyone is undefeated. Life is good.
The only real ways to suffer tough springs revolve around sustaining injuries or having players—or coaches—run into legal or NCAA trouble.
In the following slides, we examine seven teams for which spring practice hasn’t been all roses.
The teams that appear on this list aren’t headed for 0-12 seasons, nor are they in jeopardy of falling into college football obscurity. They’re simply not having springs worth writing about in program newsletters to boosters.
Here’s a list of the seven teams facing difficulties this spring.
Last season’s Clemson-Georgia game hinged partly on Georgia players who missed the contest because of suspension.
Four Clemson players will miss this year’s tilt.
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney announced in early March that four of his players will miss the season opener for violating team rules.
Starters defensive lineman Corey Crawford and guard David Beasley are among the four Tigers out for the Georgia game. Tackle Garry Peters and cornerback Shaq Anthony will also be out of action.
Georgia faced off-field difficulty before the spring even began.
Harvey-Clemons served suspensions for the 2013 season opener against Clemson and the Gator Bowl against Nebraska for drug use.
Coincidentally or not, the Bulldogs lost both games.
The problems continued this week when four Georgia players were charged with theft by deception.
Tray Matthews, the team’s other starting safety, was among the four players charged. Defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor, linebacker James DeLoach and receiver Uriah LeMay also face charges.
The four players essentially attempted to cash stipend checks twice—once electronically and once at a convenience store.
Michigan suffered a setback before the start of spring practice.
Tight end Jake Butt tore his ACL during winter conditioning drills in February.
He is expected to miss at least a few games during the 2014 season and could be looking at a recovery time of up to seven months.
As a freshman last season, Butt caught 20 passes for 235 yards.
Now offensive lineman Graham Glasgow, who started all 13 games for the Wolverines last year, has been suspended for the team’s season opener because of a violation of team rules.
Erik Magnuson, a possible starter at tackle, is out for the spring with a shoulder injury and Logan Tuley-Tillman has missed time while recovering from hand surgery.
Michigan must show progress along the offensive line this season. Missing so many potential starters can’t help that mission.
Ole Miss Rebels
Legal issues have provided an unfortunate backstory in Oxford this spring.
Cornerback Bobby Hill was charged with sexual battery in January and has been suspended indefinitely from the Ole Miss program. Hill appeared in 10 games as a freshman in 2010.
Defensive end Channing Ward pled guilty to DUI in February as well.
Starting linebackers Denzel Nkemdiche and Serderius Bryant will miss the season opener against Boise State as a result of alcohol-related arrests.
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported that a recent “profanity-laced tirade” toward Mississippi State fans captured on videotape could expand Nkemdiche’s suspension.
The recent situation only compounds previous issues surrounding Nkemdiche.
Plaintiff Matthew Baird sued the Nkemdiche brothers—Denzel and defensive end Robert—on Feb. 14 for attacking him nearly a full year earlier (on Feb. 17, 2013).
Denzel and Robert Nkemdiche have filed a counter-suit.
Robert remains in good standing with Ole Miss, which has publicly backed the brothers in their counter-suit.
South Carolina Gamecocks
A lack of defensive linemen led South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward to tinker with a 3-4 alignment this spring.
Unfortunately, recent injuries could cut the experiment short.
Kaiwan Lewis and Sharrod Golightly both underwent arthroscopic knee surgeries and will be limited throughout the practices.
Lewis, a starting linebacker in 2013, finished with the third-most tackles for South Carolina last season.
Golightly spent last year at the Spur position, which is a hybrid between linebacker and safety.
Ward initially thought about the move to the 3-4 defense because of the numerous talented players at linebacker, but the two injuries could leave him unable to properly evaluate the potential switch.
It remains to be seen if Tennessee’s offense can take a big step forward in the second year of the Butch Jones era.
Much will depend upon how quickly the Volunteers find answers along an offensive line that must be entirely rebuilt.
With such a huge question mark along the offensive line, Jones’ team really didn’t want to take the hit it seemingly took when Alton “Pig” Howard took a personal leave.
Jones texted to the Associated Press that the receiver took a leave of absence because he is “dealing with some personal circumstances.”
Howard led the Volunteers in receptions and touchdown receptions in 2013. He also saw some time at tailback.
Though Howard is still enrolled at Tennessee, it remains to be seen whether he will rejoin the program.
Offensive progress might be difficult to find in Madison this spring.
For starters, quarterback Joel Stave has been limited in spring practices while trying to recover from a shoulder ailment.
Stave enters the spring as the favorite to start, but Wisconsin is holding an open competition.
Injuries are affecting the offensive line as well.
Centers Dan Voltz and Dallas Lewallen are both out with injuries. The duo, which split starting duties in 2013, is not expected to participate in spring practice.
Last week, guard Kyle Costigan started decreasing his workload as a precautionary effort to limit banged-up knees.