6 College Football Teams Off to Rough Starts in Spring Practice
The calendar official jumped over from winter over the weekend, but it's been spring for quite some time in the college football world. Nearly every FBS school is already well into its allotted offseason workouts or will be getting things going in the next week or two.
By and large it's been a relatively quiet spring, without too many major headlines, though a few schools would probably like to hit the reset button and start over, erasing some unwanted events.
Check out our list of college football teams whose spring practices haven't been particularly pleasing to this point.
The skinny: defensive back out with knee injury
Clemson is in the process of trying to replace a good chunk of its starting secondary from last year's national runner-up. Adrian Baker was going to get first crack at the open cornerback position, but now his status for the 2016 season is uncertain.
Baker, a 6'0”, 180-pound redshirt junior, tore his ACL in early March, knocking him out for the rest of spring practice and possibly for the upcoming season. He was competing with sophomore Mark Fields for the cornerback job previously held by Mackensie Alexander, one of four Tigers defensive backs who declared for the NFL draft in January.
Baker had two interceptions and 13 tackles last season, appearing in four games in 2014 as a redshirt freshman. With him out of the mix, Clemson may need to turn to incoming freshman Trayvon Mullen if Fields doesn't plan out. Mullen is rated by 247Sports as the No. 6 cornerback from the 2016 recruiting class.
The skinny: two receivers suspended
Florida's offense is in desperate need of playmakers, and two of the best candidates to help move the ball aren't participating in spring practice due to suspension.
Antonio Callaway and Treon Harris were both suspended in January, coach Jim McElwain announced at the beginning of spring practice, per Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel. Callaway, according to his attorney, was suspended for violating the university's student code of conduct but denies having done anything wrong, according to the Associated Press (h/t USA Today).
Callaway was Florida's leading receiver in 2015, with 35 catches for 678 yards and four touchdowns. He also returned two punts for TDs and threw a touchdown pass in the Citrus Bowl to Harris. That was a sign of things to come, as Harris finished last year as the Gators' starting quarterback before the school decided to convert him to receiver.
If neither player returns during the spring, junior Brandon Powell is the top returning receiver. Last year he had 29 catches for 390 yards and three scores.
The skinny: defensive lineman arrested; Smart blocking transfers
Sophomore defensive tackle Jonathan Ledbetter was set to compete for adding playing time up front during spring ball, though his arrest Sunday on two alcohol-related charges figures to impact his future.
Ledbetter was cited for underage possession/furnishing of alcohol and possession of false identification, according to Jason Butt of Macon.com.
No such incidents ever come at a good time, but first-year coach Kirby Smart might welcome something to take attention away from his decision to change Georgia's previously liberal transfer policy. Running back A.J. Turman, who intends to transfer to a school closer to his Orlando home, has been restricted from going to either Florida or Miami. One is an SEC rival, while the other is the school where previous coach Mark Richt is now head coach.
Though Turman gave no indication he wanted to play at Miami, Smart told reporters over the weekend he included Miami on the no-go list "I wanted to set the precedent that in the future kids would not be able to go to Miami right away," he said, per Butt. "It’s very important that we understand that, and that’s pretty much standard operating procedure—when a coach leaves one place that a kid can’t go there with the coach. That’s important to me that people understand that."
Previously, Georgia had no restrictions on where players could transfer to, but Smart plans to address each case on an individual basis.
"Let’s establish a precedent to stop something that isn’t happening and tell the country UGA thinks players are property," Wolken wrote.
The skinny: former starting quarterback to transfer
Any competition LSU planned to have for the starting quarterback job won't include as many contenders. The school announced earlier this month that Anthony Jennings plans to transfer this summer after completing his degree.
Jennings, a senior, started 13 games for the Tigers, including 12 in 2014, though he struggled with accuracy and production. He was beat out for the starting spot last summer by Brandon Harris and might have ended up third on the depth chart this year with the arrival of Purdue transfer Danny Etling.
He is the third LSU player to transfer since last season ended, along with receivers John Diarse and Trey Quinn. Though Jennings wasn't likely to win back his job, his departure leaves the Tigers very thin at a key position.
Harris had sports hernia surgery this offseason, while Etling hasn't played in a game since September 2014.
The skinny: kickoff specialist arrested, dismissed
New Miami coach Mark Richt announced Friday that he had dismissed kicker Jon Semerene from the program shortly after Semerene was arrested on a DUI charge.
The junior spent last season as the Hurricanes' designated kickoff man, handling 64 of 77 attempts. He averaged 61 yards on his kicks with 26 touchbacks, but five went out of bounds.
Semerene was the third Miami player to recently have a run-in with the law. Offensive linemen Trevor Darling and Jahair Jones were arrested earlier this month for resisting arrest after refusing to move from the middle of a road they were blocking, according to Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald.
Neither player is expected to face charges, Miller Degnan wrote. Darling started all 13 games at left tackle as a sophomore for Miami last season.
The skinny: injuries impacting evaluation
With 16 starters gone from last year's 12-1 team, including a slew of early departees, spring ball takes on extra importance for Ohio State as it searches for its next group of stars. But with an additional 11 players expected to miss part or all of the spring, it will be difficult for the Buckeyes to get a real sense of what they have anytime soon.
"If everybody's ready to go, I think you could do that," Meyer said. "But we're not. With 11 guys out, that's the thing that kicks you in the teeth. I'll let you know as we go along the journey here. This is uncharted waters for me, too. You'd like to [have a depth chart], but I don't think so."
Wide receiver and safety appear to be hit worst by injuries, Axelrod noted. Wideouts Noah Brown, Curtis Samuel and Corey Smith are all hurt, as are defensive backs Cam Burrows and Erick Smith.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.