College Football: Spring Practice Top 25

Cougar CenterCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2008

Who doesn't do a Top 25 these days? Well, I have been getting an itch for a football fix lately, so I broke down and made a Top 25 like everyone and their dog does, but why not? 

It's always fun to speculate and make lists. Here's my Top 25 for Spring Football...

1. Georgia Bulldogs

The Bulldogs absolutely dominated Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl and are now getting hype as the best team in America by many writers and I'm jumping on that bandwagon. The Bulldogs are loaded with QB Matt Stafford, RB Knowshon Moreno, who are both Heisman contenders. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs are young but very quick and athletic with no seniors on the projected starting lineup going into the spring.

2. USC Trojans

Last year was a let down for the Trojans as they were predicted to be one of the best teams in the history of college football, but they failed to live up to the hype, as their play was lethargic in the first half of the season, resulting in losses to Stanford and Oregon.

The Trojans still won the Pac-10 outright and won the Rose Bowl in dominant fashion against Illinois. Just another ho-hum year in the land of Troy. Expect sophomore RB Joe McKnight with a full year of training with the program to establish himself as one of the best players in college football in 2008.

3. Oklahoma Sooners

WR Malcolm Kelly left for the NFL, but seniors Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson remain on an offense led by sophomore Sam Bradford. Bradford had one of the best seasons statistically as a freshman last year, so expect great production again with Bradford's entire offensive line returning, all of whom are seniors, most notably guard Duke Robinson.

4. Texas Longhorns

The Longhorns have a total of 12 starters returning from a team that won 10 games for their seventh straight season. The offense still looks loaded even with the losses of WR Limas Sweed and RB Jamaal Charles to the NFL. The Horns are ready to make a run in the difficult Big 12 South division and regain the top spot yet again.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

18 starters return on a team that lost in the National Championship game, but don't expect that to put the Buckeyes in a downward spiral. They will be even better and are the favorites in the Big Ten. Senior Todd Boeckman has a year as starter under his belt and the confidence is there. Chris "Beanie" Wells at tailback and LB James Laurinaitis anchoring the defense. Ohio State will yet again be around the top of the polls next season. And hey, they have Michigan in Columbus.

6. Arizona State Sun Devils

Last spring, I had ASU as one of the surprise teams in college football, and I even said they had a chance of starting 7-0 in their first seven games. That prediction came to fruition in Dennis Erickson's first year and the Sleeping Giant in the desert looks to use that national momentum they gained last season into a Pac-10 title, something that has eluded them since the Jake "The Snake" Plummer days back in 1996.

QB Rudy Carpenter returns under center for his senior season along with RB Keegan Herring and all of their top three wide receivers. The Sun Devils have some losses at offensive line that need to be addressed, but this team will still put up tons of points and will give Georgia a run for their money on September 20th.

7. LSU Tigers

The defending National Champs are reeling after suspending projected starting QB Ryan Perriloux for all of spring, but I would expect Perriloux to be back come fall. So, watch for former Harvard gunslinger Andrew Hatch to be running the Tiger offense this spring.

8. Texas Tech Red Raiders

The third team from the Big 12 South in my Top 10. The Red Raiders have very few losses and return Biletnikoff winner WR Michael Crabtree who I predicted last season to have a breakout year. A total of 10 starters return from the nation's No. 1 passing offense and they shouldn't lose a beat in 2008. Expect more yards from this pass-happy Mike Leach offense.

9. Missouri Tigers

Last year, the Tigers caught everyone off guard, but this year they will be a known commodity. The running game is a concern but there is some experience in senior Jimmy Jackson who ran for 331 yards on 67 attempts last year in the Tigers school-record 12-win season and Cotton Bowl win.

10. Florida Gators

Emmanuel Moody takes over at Running Back for a offense that has relied on the legs of Heisman winner Tim Tebow and departed WR Andre Caldwell. The Gators finally have a legitimate running back threat in the Urban Meyer era. On defense, the Gators look to be really stout even with the loss of Derrick Harvey to the NFL. DT Javier Estopinan is the lone senior on a defense that has plenty of experience.

11. Virginia Tech Hokies

The two QB system should be in full force this season in Blacksburg with Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor, who both had bright moments in a season that ended in a disappointing loss to Kansas in the Orange Bowl. Four of the five starting offensive lineman from last year return to give the two QBs plenty of protection as the Hokies look to defend their ACC crown.

12. BYU Cougars

BYU has had back-to-back 11-win seasons and has came close to crashing the BCS in both those years. But some early non-conference losses have done the Cougars in. Games at Washington and against UCLA at home are games BYU needs to win to prove to people that the Cougars are a legitimate BCS team. With 10 offensive starters returning on a offense that had a 3,842-yard passer in Max Hall and a 1,600 all-purpose yard running back, Harvey Unga, the Cougars could run the table and be the next "mid-major" to crash the BCS party.

13. Clemson Tigers

The Tigers have had a great off-season thus far with an outstanding recruiting class highlighted by DE DaQuan Bowers who is one of the best recruits in the class of 2008. He doesn't come until the fall but he should help a team that continues to fall short when expectations are placed upon them. This year, there are 16 starters returning including RBs James Davis and C.J. Spiller. Davis opted to return for his season and is hungry for a ACC crown along with all of Death Valley.

14. Wisconsin Badgers

One of my National Championship favorites last year, the Badgers struggled on the road in the Big Ten, dropping three games and lost to Tennessee in the Outback Bowl. This season, Wisconsin will continue to live up to its reputation as a power on the ground with junior RB P.J. Hill and FB Chris Pressley. Both are guys you don't want to get hit by. Allan Evridge, the former K-State QB, will be the man at the helm this season with Tyler Donovan departing.

15. Oregon Ducks

The Ducks gained some momentum for '08 after destroying South Florida in the Sun Bowl, 56-21. Dennis Dixon and the athletic specimen Jonathan Stewart but to fill their voids are talented QB Justin Roper a 6'6 195-pound junior who had four TD passes in the bowl and RB Jeremiah Johnson who has had over 1,000 yards rushing in his three years in Eugene.

16. Tennessee Volunteers

QB Erik Ainge never quite lived up to his hype in his four years in Knoxville and now it looks to be Jonathan Crompton who has the early edge going into spring. The defense for the Vols gets a big boost in safety Demetrice Morley who was suspended the entire 2007 season but is back, and adds to a defense that is already stock-piled with talent that includes DB Eric Berry who was a freshman All-American and Rico McCoy at linebacker.

17. Auburn Tigers

Auburn started their spring practices today and the QB derby to replace departed Brandon Cox is the top question for spring with four guys vying for the nod. Junior Chris Todd, sophomore Kodi Burns, sophomore Neil Caudle and true freshman DeRon Furr are the contenders, my guess would be Kodi Burns. He is a multi-dimensional athlete and will have an outstanding offensive line to protect for him this season, all five starters from last year return.

18. Miami Hurricanes

This might surprise many, but the Canes are ready to get back to being the intimidating program they once were. Randy Shannon is in his second year as head coach and already feels the pressure to win in South Beach. Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman are gone so that leaves redshirt freshman Robert Marve as the top candidate to take over a Miami offense that has struggled in recent years. But this team will still be outstanding on defense. If Marve can make plays on offense and get the ball to many of his playmakers the Canes should have a pleasant bounceback season.

19. Fresno State Bulldogs

The Bulldogs are well-known for their scheduling approach, "Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere." Well that's really nice and all but when you haven't won an outright WAC title you need to reconsider the approach. None the less, the Bulldogs have 17 total starters returning. This team is definitely Top 20 worthy in terms of talent but at the end of the season they very well might be 8-4 due to the difficult scheduling approach that includes @ UCLA, @ Kansas State, Wisconsin (home) and @ Toledo. The Bulldogs also have only five home games, which is always tough.

20. Illinois Fighting Illini

Ron Zook and his great recruiting classes have been paying off instantly in Champagne, culminating in a Rose Bowl appearance last year, but Illinois realized they weren't anywhere near the elite of the college football world after being man-handled by USC. Illinois loses stud RB Rashard Mendenhall to the NFL but "Juice" Williams is back at QB along with outstanding the freshman last season, Arrelious Benn. A total of 13 starters return for the Illini including Will Davis and Vontae Davis on Defense.

21. Kansas Jayhawks

Similiar to Missouri, the Jayhawks are a known commodity now so it will be interesting to see how they respond to having a bullseye on their backs after winning the Orange Bowl. Todd Reesing returns and is just one of many talented QBs in the Big XII next season.

22. West Virginia Mountaineers

The loss of Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt are big losses but QB Pat White is still in the fold and is still one of the premiere talents in the nation. Bill Stewart takes over as head coach as Mountaineers fans look to finally move on from the Rich Rodriguez nonsense. Stewart was a great hire because he won't leave the program, this is his dream job. West Virginia is still the favorite in the Big East.

23. Boise State Broncos

RB Ian Johnson returns for what seems to be his 10th year in Boise and the Broncos will be breaking in a new QB, Michael Coughlin. You would think Boise is gonna stop producing after all these years, but I don't think it happens this year. Boise has 13 starters returning and they're hungry to regain the WAC title once again.

24. Pitt Panthers

Dave Wannstedt has been landing some outstanding recruiting classes the past few years but now it's time to actually do something with the talent. Tailback LeSean McCoy is a potential Heisman contender; as a true freshman last season McCoy rushed for 1,328 yards and had 244 yards receiving.

25. Washington Huskies (SLEEPER)

Tyrone Willingham, for some odd reason, had to receive a vote of confidence to remain in Seattle and it was the wise move keeping him because Willingham and the Huskies should make great strides in the Pac-10 this season. QB Jake Locker is the west coast version of Tim Tebow with less hype and in my opinion more talented. The Huskies return 16 total starters and also had a stellar recruiting class highlighted by running back Chris Polk who had offers from a handful of Pac-10 schools. The Huskies are on the rise and with games like Oklahoma and BYU in Seattle U-Dub could make noise early.

Others who missed the cut: South Carolina, Florida State, Alabama, Hawaii, Utah, Colorado, Michigan

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