[+] EnlargeCardale Jones
Ohio State AthleticsCardale Jones led the Buckeyes to a national championship, but he'll have to fight to keep the starting QB job.

Many FBS programs around the country have reached the midpoint of spring practice, including defending national champion Ohio State, where coach Urban Meyer still hasn't picked from among three really good quarterbacks.

Michigan and Syracuse will play their spring games Saturday (we haven't confirmed whether the winning team in Ann Arbor will have to run extra stadium steps), and then glorified scrimmages will begin en masse in the coming weeks.

What have we learned so far? Georgia, Notre Dame and Ohio State have really interesting quarterback competitions. Texas is going to play faster (and hopefully better) on offense, and "Coach Boom" is already laying the boom on the Plains. New Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is really popular at his alma mater (but not popular enough to be elected student body president), and USC might have identified another star receiver.

Here's a look at some of the biggest developments in spring practice so far:

1. Meyer is losing sleep

Meyer has a dilemma that a lot of coaches would love to have: He has to choose from among three quarterbacks who have won big in college.


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The ACC is at its spring midpoint. Miami, Boston College and Duke are done. Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Louisville just got started. But for most of the league, the biggest storylines are still playing out.

With that in mind, here's a quick rundown of a few of the biggest issues worth monitoring in the ACC so far this spring:

[+] EnlargeDeshaun Watson
Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY SportsClemson will be counting on QB Deshaun Watson to return from injury and lead the Tigers' offense.

The injured QBs: Any discussion of the conference's top quarterbacks for 2015 promises to include Deshaun Watson and Marquise Williams, yet neither is taking snaps this spring. Watson tore his ACL late in the regular season, so his absence was no surprise. Instead, it's been his quick recovery that's been newsworthy. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says Watson is already at 80 percent and should be ready to run summer drills with the rest of the Tigers' offense. Williams, on the other hand, is dealing with a hip injury, and his absence from spring practice was late-breaking news. Still, the QB situation appears far more established at North Carolina than it was a year ago, with Williams clearly the starter once healthy. Nevertheless, the Tigers and Tar Heels have used the spring to develop their backups, and, given that the reigning national champions needed three starters to get through the season, that might end up being a blessing.

The emerging QBs: There weren't many quarterback battles entering the spring, but the few places where jobs were up for grabs appear to have decisive front-runners. At Florida State, the task of replacing Jameis Winston won't be an easy one, but thus far senior Sean Maguire appears to have separated himself from the pack. Redshirt freshman J.J. Cosentino likely will push the competition into the fall, but for now Maguire looks like the favorite. At Boston College, there might be even less drama, with Darius Wade the obvious front-runner. He wrapped up spring practice last weekend with a relatively forgettable performance, but coaches still love his arm and pocket presence, which could bring an added dimension to the Eagles' run-heavy offense. And at Duke, David Cutcliffe gave lip service to an open job, but it appears clear that Thomas Sirk is the heavy favorite. He has just 14 pass attempts to his credit, but he looked like the veteran presence Duke needed this spring, and it's unlikely he'll be unseated atop the depth chart by fall.

FSU's thin linebacking corps: The defense took a big step back for Florida State in 2014, and Charles Kelly's rebuilding job hasn't been made any easier this spring with the departure of four underclassmen for the NFL draft and a litany of injuries -- particularly among the linebackers. Terrance Smith is dealing with turf toe. Reggie Northrup tore his ACL in the Rose Bowl. Matthew Thomas is now out with a shoulder injury. E.J. Levenberry and Kain Daub decided to transfer. That has Kelly plugging in bodies wherever he can find them, and it likely means FSU won't get a real feel for how its defense will look until the fall. That's a big concern for a team that mustered just 17 sacks last season -- ranking 118th nationally.

Notable position swaps: Spring is always a time when we see teams tinker with personnel at some new positions. That's the case at Florida State, where Jalen Ramsey moves from safety to corner, a move that worked well for Lamarcus Joyner two years ago. Running back Ryan Green also moved to corner, giving FSU ample athleticism in the secondary. At NC State, Airius Moore moves from middle linebacker to the weak side, allowing the Wolfpack to showcase their two talented sophomore linebackers, along with Jerod Fernandez. Dane Rogers moved from end to tackle at Clemson in hopes of finding a steady replacement for Grady Jarrett. Dan Crimmins, BC's second-leading returning receiver, could develop into a more dynamic tight end for the Eagles.

More drama at Miami: Brad Kaaya remains an emerging star, but there are ample questions surrounding him at Miami. Stacy Coley remains something of a mystery after an awful 2014 campaign. The options at tight end were inconsistent at best. The revamped offensive line had its share of spring struggles. Tailback Joseph Yearby was suspended for the spring game, and Gus Edwards saw only limited action. Not surprisingly, the spring game ended with a solid defensive performance that included four interceptions.

Hokies' defensive injuries: Virginia Tech promises to have one of the ACC's top defenses in 2015, but it's tough to get much of a read on it this spring. Brandon Facyson, Kendall Fuller, Luther Maddy, Corey Marshall and Ken Ekanem -- all established starters -- are out with injuries. Virginia Tech is using the time to develop depth, but, particularly in the secondary, Bud Foster would love a chance to get things a bit more settled.

Hunt-Days returns for Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets' pass rush was a work-in-progress throughout much of last season, but the development of KeShun Freeman and the return of Jabari Hunt-Days this spring could make it an asset in 2015. Hunt-Days missed all of last season because of academic issues, but he's settling back in nicely this spring and could be a wrecking ball for a Tech defense that's looking to make some major strides.

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- There were several ESPN Junior 300 members on hand at the IMG7v7 Southeast Regional Championship this weekend on the campus of IMG Academy. The event was headlined by prospects such as quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins and Jack Allison, wide receivers Sam Bruce, Trevon Diggs, Demetris Robertson, Eli Stove and Dionte Mullins, and defensive backs Jamel Cook, K.J. Sails and Tyreke Johnson.

Bruce was one of several Miami commits in attendance and has been committed to the Hurricanes since last July. The 5-foot-8, 178-pound playmaker from Fort Lauderdale (Florida) St. Thomas Aquinas said his commitment to the Canes isn’t very solid.


NEW ORLEANS -- At 6-foot-7 and 314 pounds, Alabama defensive tackle commitment Raekwon Davis towered over the competition at Saturday's Opening Regional at Joe Brown Park in New Orleans. He also loomed large over his peers with his play.

Davis, who is from Meridian (Mississippi) High School and ranks as the nation's No. 243 player, earned an invitation to The Opening finals, which will be held from July 5-10 at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Davis took a little while to get going during drills, but by the time the one-on-ones arrived, he performed admirably, winning repetitions at defensive tackle, defensive end and even offensive tackle.


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NEW ORLEANS -- Many said the absolutely loaded 2014 recruiting class in Louisiana would never be matched. Somebody forgot to tell that to the players in 2016 class. The Bayou State is again stacked, and many of those national recruits will be on display at Saturday’s Nike Opening regional at Joe Brown Park. More than 20 players ranked in the ESPN Junior 300 will be in attendance, including nine of the top 20 players in Louisiana.

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Unique perks of being a coach

March, 26, 2015
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[+] EnlargeSteve Spurrier
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsSouth Carolina's Steve Spurrier has seen incredible growth in college coaches' contracts since his Duke days.

Before the Head Ball Coach moniker had taken hold and before his Hall of Fame coaching career had taken flight, Steve Spurrier once left a $30,000 raise sitting on the table.

That was more than 25 years ago when he was at Duke, where Spurrier was making around $75,000 in base salary when he was hired as head coach in 1987.

At the time, Spurrier's head-coaching counterpart at North Carolina was Mack Brown, who was making substantially more money than Spurrier was. So after the Blue Devils won seven games in 1988, and Spurrier won the first of two straight ACC Coach of the Year awards, he asked then-Duke athletic director Tom Butters if a bump might be in order. Butters knew what a commodity he had in Spurrier and offered to give him another $30,000, but only if Spurrier would agree to stay at Duke for an extended period of time.

"I never signed it and ended up going to Florida the next year," recalled Spurrier, whose 1989 Duke team won the ACC championship. "That was a lot of money in those days, too."

Fast-forward to the present, and Spurrier could pocket an extra $100,000 as South Carolina's coach for simply making the Capital One Bowl or even the Outback Bowl. A 10-win season would mean $100,000, and that total goes up to $200,000 for an 11-win season and $300,000 for a 12-win season.


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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- When an all-time program great leaves a school, his presence is felt far longer than the last time he played.

This spring at Florida State, it’s not just Jameis Winston’s name being consistently thrown into that conversation. Former receiver Rashad Greene is talked about at length despite leaving almost three months ago, and he’s spoken about in a manner that can be described as nothing short of reverential.

After four seasons starring at Florida State, finishing as the program’s most prolific receiver, Greene is pursuing an NFL career. His absence leaves a gaping hole at receiver in both leadership and production, but his successors said they’re using the lessons Greene passed along to make up for his departure.

[+] EnlargeTravis Rudolph
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsTravis Rudolph caught 38 passes as a freshman -- the same number as Rashad Greene three years earlier.

“We’re going to take what he told us and do what we have to do,” junior receiver Jesus Wilson said.

Wilson is the most experienced receiver on the roster. He’s started seven games; Greene started 43.

The Seminoles will rely on a group of mostly freshmen and sophomores. Wilson and Kermit Whitfield are the only juniors at the position, which is why Wilson acknowledged it is his time to take on a bigger role. The 5-foot-9, 181-pound receiver registered 42 catches as a sophomore. He caught only three passes as a freshman.

While Florida State lacks experience and a proven commodity at receiver with Greene graduating and Kelvin Benjamin bolting for the NFL following the 2013 national championship, the current group of Florida State receivers has the talent to potentially make up for it.

Redshirt sophomore Isaiah Jones, who was academically ineligible last season, was an ESPN 300 recruit in the 2013 class. Whitfield also was a highly-ranked recruit in that 2013 class. Sophomore Ermon Lane was the No. 2 receiver in the 2014 class, and Travis Rudolph was not far behind at No. 6. Two 2015 receivers are already enrolled and participating in in spring practices: top-rated athlete George Campbell and sixth-ranked receiver Da’Vante Phillips.

“Just working on our craft and that goes into learning the playbook,” said Rudolph, about the key to turning the promise into on-field production. “What can stop a guy from his highest potential is not learning the playbook.”

Rudolph said he doesn’t assume he will be the No. 1 receiver in the fall, but that it is what he’s working toward -- and he expects his teammates to be doing the same. Rudolph arrived in Tallahassee as one of the more polished high school players, so the expectation was for the 6-foot-2, 187-pound South Florida native to play early. After failing to record a catch in the season’s first three games, Rudolph finished the season with 555 yards. He capped his freshman campaign with six receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown in the Rose Bowl.

“It went well, but not as well,” Rudolph said. “But I just got my feet wet and now I know how the system is and adjusted. … Now I’m at the point where everything is natural.”

Last season, Rudolph started six games and worked his way to becoming Winston’s No. 2 threat on the outside. Sean Maguire, the odds-on favorite to be the starting quarterback, worked with Rudolph with the second-string offense to start last fall and he said the difference between Rudolph then and now is “night and day.”

Then Maguire brought up the name from the past, inciting the hype and trying his best to curb it within the same breath.

“I’m not comparing anyone, but I slowly see him going toward Rashad, that route,” Maguire said. “... I was here when Rashad was a sophomore and this is going to be Travis’ sophomore year. They’re both great players, explosive, got that fifth gear to go get the ball and Travis is becoming a leader pretty much every day out there, too.”

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is not inviting the comparisons, but he isn’t squashing them, either. He said he will wait and see whether Rudolph is the next Greene.

For what it’s worth, Greene had 38 catches as a freshman -- the same as Rudolph. Greene used that season to springboard to 232 more.

“There’s nothing that says he won’t [be like Greene],” Fisher said, “but until someone does that, I’m not going to say they’re going to do that, you know what I mean?”

CommitCast: No. 54 Rahshaun Smith replay

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26
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OLB Rahshaun Smith, No. 54 in the ESPN Junior 300, announced his commitment to Clemson. Watch the replay and hear why he chose the Tigers.

Dominating Florida is always critical for Florida State, but another secret to the Seminoles' success is doing well in Virginia, and highly-coveted corner Levonta Taylor could be the Noles' next big get from the state.


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ACC morning links

March, 25, 2015
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We at the ACC blog would like to welcome Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer back to the sideline. Beamer, in his 29th season as the Hokies' coach, spent the December bowl game coaching from the press box following throat surgery.

The Daily Press writes Beamer's voice is still working its way back, but he still possessed the same fervor while talking about his team.

Here are a handful of links around the ACC for your morning:

  • A search firm will present a list of candidates for the Pittsburgh athletic director position to the school's search committee in the coming weeks.
  • Clemson linebacker B.J. Goodson feels comfortable filling the shoes of departed leader Stephone Anthony.
  • Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden and son Tommy, who coached Clemson, will be part of a new travel show called "Bobby Bowden Goes to War." The documentary brings the Bowdens to Europe to highlight World War II stories.
  • Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said he is confident the school will make a strong athletic director hire.
  • With hardly any experience returning at A-back, it feels like the beginning of the Paul Johnson era in Atlanta all over again for the unit.
  • Here are 10 Miami players that could become much bigger factors in 2015.
  • Louisville is splitting first-team reps at quarterback as spring practice gets underway. The Cardinals have a major question mark at quarterback.
  • The defense was a little ahead of the offense at NC State on Tuesday, due in part to numbers.
  • Prized signee C.J. Stalker is looking to adjust quickly for Virginia.

Bucs owner OK with QBs as top pick

March, 25, 2015
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer says he has approved the team's drafting of Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota with the No. 1 pick in this year's NFL draft.

Glazer, speaking Tuesday to the Tampa Bay Times at the NFL's owners meetings in Phoenix, said he still has confidence despite coming off a 2-14 season that coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht will make the right selection come April 30 in Chicago.

"With anybody we're looking to draft, we do an extensive amount of work on their background, history and all that," Glazer told the newspaper. "We spent time with Jameis and Marcus and went into everything into their background. After everything we've done and where we're at right now, we're comfortable where Jameis is at, we're comfortable with Marcus or whoever else it could be."

Glazer said he views the past season as water under the bridge.

"We look at everything as live and learn," Glazer said. "So if there was an experience that happened and certain things didn't work out, to us it's more important to look into why it didn't work out and make sure we don't repeat the errors of the past.

"That's an area where I've spent a lot of time with Lovie and Jason. And there is no doubt, they're two people who would, A, admit a mistake if there was a mistake and move on rather than dig a deeper hole. And B, work to find out why this thing happened and correct it going forward."


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ACC morning links

March, 24, 2015
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Much of the conversation in the ACC surrounds Florida State's quarterback situation -- past, present and future. While Sean Maguire impresses coaches and teammates with his performance this spring through the first few practices, his predecessor remains in the news and his potential successor is making headlines.

Former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, the favorite to go No. 1 overall, is leaning toward spending the draft with his family in Alabama rather than travel to Chicago, his father told ESPN.com last week. MMQB.com caught up with Roger Goodell and posted a story Monday in which Goodell said he would respect Winston's desire to watch the draft with those close to him.

"I think that it’s something we respect when a player says, “I’d like to be with my family on that day.” It’s an important day for them also," Goodell to MMQB.com.

Many wondered if the NFL would pressure Winston into attending the draft, but unless something changes, both parties are fine with skipping out on Chicago.

Winston was the No. 1 quarterback nationally in the 2012 recruiting class, and four years later, Florida State is bringing in the top-ranked prep quarterback again. Malik Henry, who recently transferred to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, participated in a regional camp for Nike The Opening. Henry, No. 3 overall in the 2016 class, was named one of the regional camp's MVPs and received an invitation to The Opening, which is held in July in Beaverton, Oregon.

ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer also leads the Elite 11, an elite passing camp for the top high school quarterbacks, and was on hand at the Atlanta regional to evaluate the quarterbacks. He told SB Nation Henry was "as dominant as any kid we had this year."

  • A top Syracuse 2015 signee is still working to academically qualify for the fall. Also, Orange is making a return in the Orange's jersey.
  • Boston College added a commitment from Brandon Barlow (subscription required).
  • Former Miami linebacker Alex Figueroa is lucky to have a second chance, but he is not off to a good start. He posted an expletive-laced video last week in which he burned a Miami flag. Figueroa and former Miami teammate JaWand Blue were permanently dismissed from the university last summer after admitting to police they sexually assaulted an intoxicated Miami student. In November, they avoided jail time by being placed in a pre-trial diversion program, which prosecution sought after the victim did not want to relive the experience in court.
  • Clemson was back on the practice field Monday after nearly two weeks off for the Tigers' spring break.
  • Five priorities for Georgia Tech this spring as practice began Monday (subscription required).
  • Here are a few notes gleaned from Bobby Petrino's news conference to open spring practice, which begins Tuesday.
  • The Pitt defense is working to pick up new coach Pat Narduzzi's schemes and principles. It's going to be a process.

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The question aimed at Sean Maguire left no room for deflection or wavering. Maguire’s answer was equally forthright, leaving no ambiguities.

Is Florida State now your team?

“Yes,” the redshirt junior said. “I believe so.”

[+] EnlargeTallahassee, FL - September 20, 2014 - Doak Campbell Stadium: Sean Maguire (10) of the Florida State University Seminoles during a regular season game (Photo by Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)
Scott Clarke/ESPN ImagesSean Maguire has shown confidence in seizing the lead in the derby to replace Jameis Winston.

The fourth-year quarterback has spent most of his career as a backup, losing out on a four-way quarterback competition in 2013 and playing sparingly in mostly mop-up duty the last two seasons. He played in nine games in 2013 but threw only 21 passes. He played in only four games last year after a hand injury cost him a large chunk of the season. However, the Seminoles’ playoff chances were thrown onto the 6-foot-3, 224-pound signal-caller’s shoulders 21 hours before a season-defining game against division rival Clemson. It wasn’t a flawless performance but one that was wholly admirable, especially considering the circumstances. Late in the game, Maguire threw a long touchdown to force overtime. The Seminoles eventually prevailed.

It was enough to give Maguire the early leg up in this, the second four-way spring quarterback battle of his career. All indications are Maguire is taking full advantage of getting the first crack at the starting job through the first three spring practices.

“I’m very comfortable where I am, very comfortable with the offense, the team,” he said. “… I’m not worried about when Coach [Jimbo] Fisher is going to make his decision. That can’t affect anything that I do on the field. I’ve got to go out on the field every day whether he announces or doesn’t announce and practice and play the same way.”

Redshirt sophomore John Franklin III, redshirt freshman J.J. Cosentino and true freshman De'Andre Johnson are Maguire’s counterparts in the spring competition, but there is a clear separation between Maguire and the remaining three at this point, based on the comments from Fisher and Maguire’s teammates. The position is Maguire’s to win.

In the aftermath following the Oregon loss that ended last season, Winston took hold of Maguire in the locker room and told his fellow Class of 2012 enrollee that the team belonged to Maguire and it was on him to lead the Seminoles. A week after the Rose Bowl, Maguire was organizing 7-on-7 drills to build a rapport with the receivers and running backs.

“All the receivers, Dalvin [Cook], they listen to me. They see me as the leader out there,” he said. “It’s very reassuring and adds to my confidence too.”

Junior receiver Jesus Wilson is the most experienced returning receiver with seven career starts. Maguire was tasked with earning the respect of a young group of receivers, running backs and offensive line, and Wilson said Maguire has done that.

“We got confidence in Sean,” Wilson said. “He’s stepping up, becoming a leader. It’s his time now.”

Goodell will respect Winston's plans

March, 23, 2015
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he will respect Jameis Winston's decision if he stays at home with his family for the NFL draft rather than attend the event next month in Chicago.

Goodell made his comments in an interview with The MMQB.com and said that when he met with Winston recently, the Florida State quarterback "was clear that he wanted to spend time with his family."

Winston's father, Antonor, told ESPN.com last week that his son, who is widely projected to be selected with the No. 1 overall pick, does not plan to attend the draft, as he currently prefers to spend that day with family and friends in Alabama, although that "was not set in stone."

Goodell said he is not part of the invitation process for the draft, but he's "not concerned" if Winston is selected No. 1 but wouldn't be available to walk across the stage on draft day because he chose to stay home.

"I think that it's something we respect when a player says, 'I'd like to be with my family on that day.' It's an important day for them also," he told the website.

Ohio State defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson, who was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1994, was the last No. 1 pick not to attend the draft.

The commissioner also discussed his recent meeting with Winston in New York City, which he said came at Winston's request.

"We certainly welcomed the opportunity to sit with Jameis and his representatives. We had several people affiliated with our office that met with him," he told the website.


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