Winners and Losers of College Football's April 19 Spring Games
Some of college football's biggest spring games of the year kicked off on Saturday, including Alabama, Auburn, USC and Texas.
In Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban may have found his answer at cornerback. But he's no closer to declaring a winner in the quarterback battle.
Neither is Charlie Strong at Texas, who coached his first live game as the Longhorns head coach.
However at Auburn, Nick Marshall looked impressive in his return to action.
With that, check out the winners and losers from the April 19 spring games.
Winner: Alabama Recruiting
If you're an Alabama fan and you blinked at some point on Saturday, you probably missed another recruit committing to the Tide.
Per Matt Scalici of AL.com, Saban landed four top prospects—Minkah Fitzpatrick, Shawn Burgess-Becker, Calvin Ridley and Leo Lewis. According to 247sports, Fitzpatrick is a 5-star rated prospect while the other three are 4-stars.
That's certainly a huge haul for one day, and it points to even bigger and brighter times for the Tide in the future.
All four recruits were members of the 2015 class, so fans won't get to see them in action for at least another year. But what define's a team's offseason is how it recruits. And Alabama just made a statement in that department on Saturday.
Winner: Nick Marshall
While Auburn's archrival, Alabama, deals with a quarterback controversy, the Tigers have a cemented star under center in Nick Marshall.
And on Saturday, Marshall looked like he was in midseason form in Auburn's spring game.
Marshall, fresh off a campaign that saw Auburn win the SEC Championship and compete in the final BCS Championship, was 13-of-22 on his pass attempts and racked up 236 yards and four touchdowns on the day.
After the game, Marshall was named the game's offensive MVP.
It's clear that Auburn has a true successor to Cam Newton in Marshall, and this gunslinger should keep the Tigers in the hunt for a berth into the College Football Playoff.
Loser: Blake Sims
If Blake Sims had a good spring game, he might've been on pace to grab the starting quarterback job at Alabama by the horns.
Instead, he'll have no edge over incoming FSU transfer Jake Coker after an awful showing at the Crimson Tide's A-Day game.
Sims completed 13 of 30 passes for 178 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in a 17-14 loss for his White team.
Replacing A.J. McCarron will be a tough task for Nick Saban. And after Sims' mediocre showing in the A-Day game, it doesn't look like it'll get any easier this summer or fall.
Loser: Tyrone Swoopes
The stars were aligned for Tyrone Swoopes.
David Ash was out of spring practice due to an injury; a new head coach in Charlie Strong was in town.
All Swoopes had to do to possibly become the front-runner for the quarterback job in 2014 was have a good spring game.
Instead, an inconsistent day has only led to more questions than answers for Strong.
Swoopes finished the game with decent stats—three touchdowns and 229 yards on 17-of-30 passing.
But he started the day 4-of-18 on his pass attempts, and he also threw an interception. And that was against the second-team defense.
Swoopes is a mystery in Austin. He's a natural athlete, but he also hasn't shown that he's a true Big 12-caliber quarterback. And by the looks of his spring game performance, it doesn't look like he's on track to dethrone Ash.
Winner: Tony Brown
After competing on the Alabama track team this winter, it became obvious that Tony Brown, an early enrollee for the Crimson Tide, was an elite-level athlete.
The question was, how would he handle SEC competition?
The answer was resounding on Saturday.
Brown already looks to among the elite corners in the nation's best conference, shutting down Alabama receivers all day on Saturday and picking off a pass.
Nick Saban is desperate to fill holes in his secondary after Deion Belue and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix left. But Brown looks to be a more-than-suitable replacement and should make a big name for himself come this fall.
Winner: Maty Mauk
The runner-up in to the SEC title last year has had a rough offseason.
Between the dismissal of wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham after a string of arrests to an alleged rape of a Mizzou swimmer, reported by Tom Farrey and Nicole Noren on ESPN.com, the Tigers were in the news for all the wrong reasons lately.
Enter Maty Mauk, the heir to James Franklin's throne.
While spring games must always be taken with a healthy grain of salt, Mauk looked excellent in the Tigers' spring game.
The spring game, a culmination of three public scrimmages that Mizzou held, ended with Mauk not having thrown an interception in either three contests. According to Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star, Mauk was 41-of-64 on his pass attempts for a touchdown and 446 yards. In the spring game, he also ran for a score.
Missouri's rapid rise up the SEC ladder was one of the best stories in all of college football last year. Now the Tigers are just looking to stay up the rungs.
And Mauk looks like the guy to keep them there.
Winner: Alabama's Attendance
With 73,506 fans showing up to Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday, the Crimson Tide set the mark for spring game attendance around the nation on Saturday.
Penn State ranks second in attendance to spring games this season with 72,000 showing up to Happy Valley.
Ironically, the attendance mark on Saturday was the lowest in the Nick Saban Era in Tuscaloosa. But with the fact that this is the first time in three years that Alabama isn't the defending national champion, coupled with the fact that the game was held on Easter weekend, it's understandable as to why attendance dipped a bit.
Nevertheless, when it comes to fan support, there's only one phrase out there to sum it up: Roll Tide.
Winner: Steve Sarkisian
With the microscope solely focused on Steve Sarkisian's debut as the USC head coach on Saturday, things went off without a hitch on Saturday.
Cody Kessler attempted just 10 passes, completing five of them for 86 yards.
But it was kicker Andre Heidari who stole the show, finding his mark on four field goals.
The spring game was informal in a lot of ways, with practice drills and fan participation mixed in. But the biggest thing to take away from the Trojans' spring game is that there don't appear to be any glaring weaknesses with a team that finished 2013 looking like a dominant Pac-12 squad.
Loser: Chris Petersen
Chris Petersen made his debut at Washington on Saturday, and he walked away with no more answers at quarterback than he came in with.
The signal-caller situation for the Huskies is volatile to say the least. Quarterback Cyler Miles was presumed to be the front-runner for the job before he was suspended indefinitely following an incident following a Super Bowl party, per Chip Patterson of CBS Sports.
So in the spring game, Jeff Lindquist got the majority of snaps and looked decent in the game, throwing for four touchdowns, but that was against the backup defense.
According to the Washington website, Peterson said that a decision likely won't be made until the season opener on Aug. 30 against Hawaii.
“Absolutely, that’s possible. Yeah, we could go to game nine, if it hasn’t been decided,” Petersen said. “We’ll take this one day at a time. One day, one game. I know it sounds cliché, but it really will be.”
A team's success starts at quarterback. And if Petersen can't find a solidified gunslinger call this fall, the Huskies will face an uphill battle in the Pac-12.
Winner: Craig Bohl
Craig Bohl, the new head coach of Wyoming following a legendary stint at North Dakota State, looked right at home in the FBS on Saturday.
And the Cowboys look like a team ready to make some noise, especially on the ground.
Per Mike Vorel of the Casper Star-Tribune, the Cowboys showed tremendous depth at running back.
Junior Shaun Wick, who tops the depth chart, got 10 carries and racked up 48 yards. His highlight was a 20-yard carry late in the game.
A huge weapon that Bohl will likely employ heavily in 2014 also made his debut on Saturday, and that was tight end J.D. Krill. He had just two catches for 26 yards, with one of them a 21-yard reception in the middle of the field.
Those aren't gaudy numbers, but Wyoming has struggled to find a reliable pass-catching tight end in recent years. Krill provides some promise to that and should continue to develop into one of the Cowboys' most viable offensive threats.
Loser: Taylor Kelly
Arizona State is fresh off a season that saw the Sun Devils compete for a Pac-12 title and emerge as a contender on the West Coast.
And that was thanks largely in part to quarterback Taylor Kelly, who threw for 3,635 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2013.
On Saturday, Kelly showed some signs of rust.
Kelly completed just 7-of-22 passes for 92 yards and was also sacked twice.
What's worse is that Kelly's shoddy showing is coming off the heels of Texas Tech's beatdown of the Sun Devils in the Holiday Bowl last season, a game that saw Kelly throw for just 125 yards and an interception.
But there's plenty of time for the third-year starter to get back into a rhythm, so ASU fans shouldn't exactly push the panic button.
On a positive note, though, the Sun Devils set an attendance record on Saturday for its spring game with 8,456 fans showing up, according to Craig Grialou of Arizona Sports.
That's not a lot of fans compared to some of the elite programs around the country, but it's a step in the right direction as Todd Graham is starting to slowly turn this team into a legitmate Pac-12 team.