College Football's Biggest Performances from Week 2 Spring Games

Ben Kercheval@@BenKerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterApril 14, 2014

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Technically speaking, the batch of spring games from this past Saturday weren't in the "second" week of the spring game schedule. However, this was the second weekend in a row with a significant number of games on tap. 

So, for simplicity's purposes, April 12 was "Week 2" for spring games. 

There's only so much anyone can take away from these glorified scrimmages, and coaches basically have two goals: evaluate individuals and positions and keep everyone as healthy as possible. 

That said, there were several performances that stood out in Week 2 that should generate some excitement heading into summer. Which players raised eyebrows and made headlines?

Tennessee Wide Receiver Josh Malone

Offense wasn't hard to find in Tennessee's spring game with the White team beating the Orange team by a final score of 129-100.*

(*May or may not have been, but definitely was, a modified scoring system.) 

However, wide receiver Josh Malone's numbers certainly weren't modified. The early enrollee hauled in six catches for 181 yards—including a 79-yard reception—and three touchdowns. Fellow receiver Marquez North also broke the century mark with five catches for 106 yards and a score. 

Still, Malone stole the show in an offensive display. As B/R colleague Barrett Sallee points out, that display spells concerns for the Vols defense

For Malone, it spells excitement for a freshman who may be able to contribute right away in the passing game. Though the Vols return a ton of playmakers from a young receiving group, there's still a lot of room to grow since no player went over 500 receiving yards a year ago. In other words, competition at receiver is still wide open.

This is a chance for Malone to make an immediate impact. 

Oklahoma Quarterback Baker Mayfield

Yes, that Baker Mayfield.

The former Texas Tech starter isn't eligible for the 2014 season as he satisfies Big 12 and NCAA transfer rules. Had he been eligible, though, he would have given starter Trevor Knight—and perhaps the Oklahoma coaching staff—something to think about in the months leading up to preseason camp. 

Mayfield completed all nine of his pass attempts for 125 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-13 win for the White Team.

Stats aside, B/R's Sean Frye notes that Mayfield looked like a guy who has been there, done that.

"His actual on-field performance was even more impressive," Frye wrote. "His drives were methodical, and his throws were precise. His best highlight was a 28-yard back-shoulder touchdown pass to Jordan Smallwood in the start of the second half." 

Knight had a less-impressive day statistically speaking, completing 5-of-14 passes with an interception.

That's not necessarily a reflection of how Knight has progressed as a passer this spring. Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said via press release that Knight has "made strides" since the Sugar Bowl.

Baker Mayfield
Baker MayfieldAlonzo Adams

Still, Mayfield stole the show. 

Notre Dame Quarterback Malik Zaire

Mayfield wasn't the only backup quarterback who showed up in a big way on Saturday. Notre Dame's Malik Zaire proved he was a legitimate challenger to incumbent starter (circa 2012) Everett Golson. 

Unlike Mayfield, though, Zaire is eligible this year. And he may very well beat out Golson for the job.

The sophomore threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns in a 63-58 "win" for the Blue team. 

“When we figured everything out and got it down and today was like, ‘This is your party,’” Zaire said via B/R's Mike Monaco. “That’s the same way during the season should work. Practice should be harder than the games and when it’s the game time, it comes easy to us, and it came easy to us today.”

Confidence has never been Zaire's shortcoming. Last month, he came right out and said he would be the Irish's starting quarterback in Week 1. 

"There will only be one guy starting on August 30th against Rice at Notre Dame Stadium, there will only be one guy out on the field, and I believe that will be me," Zaire told reporters (h/t B/R's Keith Arnold). 

Maybe he was right. Even though spring games aren't the be-all, end-all for open competitions, Zaire put himself in a good situation to compete with Golson for the starting job all the way up until the start of the season. 

Notre Dame has played two quarterback before, namely with Golson and Tommy Rees two seasons ago. It's certainly possible Zaire sees playing time this fall, either as a starter or co-starter. 

Clemson Defensive End Tavaris Barnes

Sacks aren't really sacks in a spring game. They're more a result of getting to the quarterback rather than bringing him to the ground.

Still, defensive tackle Tavaris Barnes had himself a day in Clemson's spring game, a 24-5 victory for the White team. The redshirt senior recorded five sacks as part of a defensive effort from the White team that did not allow a touchdown.


"I’m working harder than ever and seeing it pay off. It was a statement game for me," Barnes said in a university post-game release. "I want to let people know that I am going to do everything I can to help this defense. I feel we are going to have a great, deep defense this year."

Barnes served as a backup for the Tigers in 2013. Still, he should be part of a talented and deep defensive line for Clemson in 2014. 

Nebraska Running Back Imani Cross

Nebraska's ground game still belongs to Ameer Abdullah, but fellow running back Imani Cross showed his big-play potential in the Huskers' spring game. With Abdullah held out, the junior tallied 100 yards and two touchdowns on just six carries. 

"It was a big opportunity, and I was thankful for the opportunity," Cross said afterward via a university release. "I just try to take it one day at a time, one play at a time. I just try to make sure I focus on the little things and not so much looking at the big picture. I just make the picture smaller and try to get better every day."

Cross' longest run of the day was a 39-yard touchdown in the second quarter, the longest rush of the day. His other touchdown came on a 20-yard run. 

Abdullah will still be the bell-cow back for the Huskers in 2014, but Cross has proved to be a nice complement that will continue to bolster the running game. 

Honorable Mentions

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini and his cat: No stats to speak of, but this was the best moment of any spring practice this year. Faux Pelini would be proud. 

Arizona wide receiver Trey Griffey: The son of future baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. showed he only needs one hand to make highlight catches in the Wildcats' spring game. 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. All stats reflect a spring game's unofficial numbers. 


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