6 Bold Predictions for 2014 College Football Spring Games
Starting this weekend, college football begins to come out of its winter hibernation. That's right: Soon we'll see official spring football games take place.
Who's ready for quarterbacks not being hit, screwy scoring systems and new schemes debuting to the public? It's what we're anxiously waiting for here, especially since it's been months since we've seen college football on TV.
One thing that we can usually count on coming out of spring football is that a surprise player or situation.
So, as we enter the beginning of spring games for 2014, let's take a look at some of the more shocking things that could happen by the end of it all.
Kyle Allen Wins Texas A&M's Starting Quarterback Job
College football has become a really young man's game over the past few years, and Kyle Allen happens to be one of the brightest stars in the 2014 recruiting class.
He comes into the spring as the top-ranked pro-style quarterback in the 2014 class by 247Sports, and according to Jeff Tarpley's reports from camp for 247Sports (subscription required), he has already surpassed senior Matt Joeckel to make it an even race with sophomore Kenny Hill.
Of course, Hill's indefinite suspension for a DUI arrest helps Allen's chances.
However, what we see out of Allen on April 5 will show us why he deserves to be named the starter regardless of Hill's status.
Watch him perform well enough on Saturday to force Kevin Sumlin to name him the starting quarterback.
Knowing Sumlin's pattern with quarterbacks, he's unlikely to publicly name a starter until well into fall camp. But Allen will take advantage of the opportunity in front of him to come away from spring as the clear starter, named or not.
Illinois' Defense Beats Its Offense
Coming into last spring, the Illinois program was at rock bottom. The offense and defense were in shambles, and after a coordinator change, the offense shocked nearly everyone with how good it looked in the 2013 spring game.
It was like night and day for the unit—and specifically for quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.
This spring, look for the opposite to happen. While a lot of attention will be paid to the quarterback battle in Champaign, it will be the defense that steals the show come the spring game on April 12.
Defensive lineman Paul James, one of the prized 2013 recruits, found his way back to school after an admissions issue in fall of 2013. He will be joined this spring by JUCO transfer Joe Fotu to add some serious depth and talent to a group that stunk last season.
The secondary was equally at fault, but Illinois played seven players with no experience heading into last year. While it wasn't pretty, sometimes you have to take your lumps before you grow, and that experience could pay dividends for the 2014 secondary.
Look for something to click for this group and for them to be one of the surprise units in the Big Ten this season. In fact, the defense could be good enough to help this team reach a bowl game.
Ty Isaac Takes the Reins as USC's Running Back
New head coach Steve Sarkisian has a very nice problem on his hands at USC—an embarrassment of riches at running back. When you have a roster that includes the likes of Javorius "Buck" Allen, Tre Madden and Ty Isaac, it makes your job easier.
That is, until you have to decide who gets carries within that group. That's the challenge Sarkisian and his staff face this spring.
In Bleacher Report's updated position battle tracker, Trenise Ferreira writes there's been little separation or even a pecking order determined. What better way to force the coaching staff's hand than a breakout performance in the spring game?
That's where sophomore Ty Isaac comes into play. As a freshman, he got his feet wet, carrying the ball 40 times for 236 yards and two touchdowns. While those aren't eye-popping numbers, they showed his talent on a deep roster.
He's a beast of a back at 6'3" and 240 pounds and provides the combination of rushing and pass-catching skills that Sarkisian loves out of his backs.
Come April 12, look for Isaac to showcase more of what we saw in the Las Vegas Bowl—which included a 17-yard run and a 35-yard catch out of the backfield—and put himself in position to be more than a situational back and possibly at the top of the depth chart.
Tanner McEvoy Becomes Wisconsin's Starting Quarterback
Yes, Gary Andersen named Joel Stave his starting quarterback after the 2013 season ended, but don't think for one second his job is safe. That's because Andersen also made it clear that Stave would have to win the job once again.
Enter quarterback-turned-wide receiver-turned-safety-turned-quarterback again—junior Tanner McEvoy.
Stave wasn't available until just a few practices ago, which meant a lot of early reps for McEvoy, Bart Houston and early enrollee D.J. Gillins. During practice, it became clear that McEvoy was ahead of Houston and Gillins.
Coming out of spring break, the Wisconsin coaching staff made it clear where the separation occurred—with McEvoy and Stave getting most of the first-team reps earlier this week in practice.
One of the worst-kept secrets at Wisconsin is Andersen's desire for a running threat at quarterback, and that's what McEvoy offers. It's also no secret that the offense needs a more dynamic option at QB to take another step forward.
That option is McEvoy, and look for him to prove it on the field on April 12 in front of coaches and fans. He may not be immediately named the starter, but he'll make it clear that he's the front-runner with a good performance in the spring game.
Florida Will Become an SEC East Front-Runner
Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina—that's where the SEC East front-runners were supposed to stop coming into spring. However, look for that to make a quick change as Florida's offense pulls an "Illinois," if you will.
In case you don't know what I mean by that, I'm talking about pulling an instant turnaround on offense in one offseason. The Gators have the talent at their disposal to do just that, but the question is: Just how quickly will Kurt Roper's new offense work?
All the quarterbacks have experienced growing pains, but according to Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun, Jeff Driskel looks like a different quarterback. His relationship with the wide receivers continues to grow as well, and that's perhaps the most important development.
Instead of being forced into an offense that didn't fit him under Brent Pease, Driskel will fit perfectly in Roper's uptempo style.
Again, look to the change that was made in Champaign with a solid quarterback already in place—fitting the offense around a talented QB makes it all work.
Look for Roper to showcase an offense that is much more dynamic in the spring game on April 12. As a result, Florida will become a darling of the SEC media heading into the season.
Freddy Canteen Will Be a Star in the Big Ten
All of the attention in Ann Arbor is on the fierce battle between Devin Gardner and Shane Morris at quarterback, but it's actually one of the pass-catchers who will become the star of the show this spring.
Michigan is in need of a big threat at wide receiver with Jeremy Gallon's graduation. Outside of Devin Funchess, only Jehu Chesson has a career reception.
Freddy Canteen's reported 4.43-second 40-yard dash time, per Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com, had people curious. Yet, it's a long leap from speed to productive wide receiver in one spring. However, that appears to be exactly what Canteen has done.
According to Baumgardner, Canteen has already worked himself into reps at both inside and outside wide receiver positions. That's a good indication of the talent that the 6'1", 170-pound freshman receiver possesses.
Internally, it appears the Michigan coaching staff trusts the freshman, but come this Saturday, look for him to become one of the most talked-about receivers in the Big Ten this spring. He could give us just a small glimpse of what could be a huge season ahead.
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