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Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Six items that didn't surprise me this spring

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Spring football across the Big 12 was a series of mundane drills and routine practices.

It gave coaches a chance to take a long look at their own teams as they prepared for the fall.

During the course of the past few weeks, several events played out that weren't exactly a surprise to me. In fact, they should have been expected.

Here's a list of some of them:

Jeff Fuller explodes as Texas A&M's top wide receiver: Ryan Tannehill's injury opened the opportunity for Fuller to become the featured receiver, and Fuller took it and ran and caught with it. He had a marvelous spring game and should be poised for big things this season. But his big spring performance should be taken with a grain of salt -- he won't be able to play against A&M's leaky secondary once the season starts.

Texas' secondary growth: With all of the heralded recruits among defensive backs, competition was expected to be fierce this spring for the Longhorns. And it was. Earl Thomas and Chykie Brown openly talked about winning Thorpe Awards this season. They might have their chance. But with teammates like safeties Christian Scott, Nolan Brewster and Blake Gideon and corners like Aaron Williams, Curtis Brown and Deon Beasley it could make it hard for any single to player to emerge among the talents of the group. The Longhorns appear to have more ready-to-play defensive backs than at any time in Mack Brown's coaching tenure.

Colorado unsettled quarterback situation: I frankly didn't expect either Cody Hawkins or Tyler Hansen to separate himself during the spring. The situation is scrambled by Hansen's broken thumb, which will take him the next few weeks to recover from. And the departure of former coordinator Mark Helfrich also adds another dynamic as the decision plays out. I'm betting we won't know the Buffaloes' opening-day starter until shortly before their Sept. 5 game against Colorado State.

The development of Nebraska's tight ends: Mike McNeill already was one of the most underrated players in the conference after setting a single-season record for catches by a Nebraska tight end last season. A beefed-up Dreu Young has developed into a terror as a run blocker. Ben Cotton merely showed the talents that made him a top recruit when he came to the Cornhuskers. Kyler Reed and Ryan Hill also were impressive. All that talent should help abate Bo Pelini's concerns about wide receiver a little bit heading into the summer. Look for the Cornhuskers to play a lot of two-tight end sets this season.

Brandon Harold thriving upon his return to defensive end: Harold was forced inside by injuries to Kansas State's defensive tackles late last season as a freshman. But a bulked-up Harold appears to have kept most of his speed after he moved back to the outside this spring. The results were obvious after he produced nine tackles, four tackles for losses, three sacks and forced a fumble in the Wildcats' spring game.

Nebraska leads the conference in spring game attendance: The Cornhuskers always seem to lead in spring attendance, anyway. But interest and excitement is percolating for Pelini's program after the fast finish, capped by the Gator Bowl triumph over Clemson. And it was seen in the attendance of 77,670 for the spring game -- a total more than 16,000 fans ahead of the spring game attendance for the rest of the North Division combined. That is an incredible statistic.