Steve Spurrier is taking the long view of last season.
It was disappointing to finish 7-6, of course, but as the 69-year-old coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks told ESPN.com last week, it’s all a matter of perspective.
“Our year could have been worse,” he said. “We had a winning season and won a bowl game. That’s not a terrible year at all. In fact, I call it a decent year. It had only happened three times in school history prior to 10 years ago.”
At the same time, Spurrier isn’t aiming for decent. He’s not content to finish fifth in the SEC East again.
Without necessarily beating himself up over last season, he has been willing to make changes. The message, Spurrier said, is that the team needs to invest more: “Team speed, effort, all those kinds of things weren’t as good as they needed to be.”
For his part, Spurrier brought in longtime NFL assistant Jon Hoke, the older brother of former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, as his co-coordinator on defense. Hoke will share that title with Lorenzo Ward, who was the lone defensive coordinator from 2012-14.
Since there can be only one person who calls the plays, Spurrier said it will be Hoke, who hopes to turn around a unit that finished in the bottom three of the SEC in yards per game, rushing yards per game, and third-down and fourth-down conversion percentage in 2014. The Gamecocks had the fewest sacks (14) by an SEC squad since 2011.
“Lorenzo Ward has done an excellent job here,” Spurrier said. “We just had one of the worst defenses in school history last year and we had to do something different.”
In Hoke, Spurrier is looking for more than just a fresh set of eyes.
“We hope to have better effort,” Spurrier said. “Sometimes you have to change. It’s not necessarily the guy before’s fault. Auburn got rid of their coordinator, SMU got rid of theirs. We just sort of shifted ours over, and I really think Lorenzo Ward is looking forward to the new challenge.”
Spurrier added that he hopes the defense tackles better, is more fundamentally sound and disguises better with Ward and Hoke tag-teaming practice.
“We hope we look like a good defense,” Spurrier said with a chuckle. “We all know what good defenses look like and we all know what sorry defense looks like.”
In the end, though, last season’s defensive drop is something the Gamecocks should have seen coming, he said, noting how the season before they rode a top defense that featured first-team All-SEC defensive linemen Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles to an 11-2 record.
“We had a false sense we were going to continue to play pretty good defense,” Spurrier said. “In preseason, we had one defensive player make third-team all-conference, our safety Brison Williams. And then we were picked to win the division by the same media guys. I said, ‘Man, they’re picking us to win, but they don’t think we have many good ball players.’”
While it's tough to predict how many Gamecocks will dot this season's preseason all-conference teams, it's safe to say expectations will be lower with a bunch of new faces on defense, a new quarterback and a new starting tailback.
But change, when you go from ninth in the AP preseason poll to unranked by the end of the 2014 season, isn't necessarily a bad thing.
"We've been coming off an 11-2 record three years in a row and now we're coming off 7-6," Spurrier said. "So maybe complacency set in last year, I don't know. But there is a little sense that, 'We need to get better, fellas.'"
Colleague Mark Schlabach offered up a nice breakdown on Monday of some key things we have already learned from spring practices around the country. Here is a closer look at some Big 12 spring storylines and developments worth watching going forward:
1. Sooners rally after scandal: Oklahoma's football team took a 16-day break from spring practice after the school was rocked by the release of a video featuring racist chants from a now-defunct campus fraternity. Bob Stoops and his players participated in demonstrations, spoke out frequently against the racism and worked hard to rally both their team and their community in the wake of the scandal. The Sooners returned to practice on Tuesday in black uniforms, seemingly more unified than ever.
2. Seth Russell proving himself: Although Baylor coach Art Briles hasn’t showered Seth Russell with praise after his scrimmage performances, the quarterback has clearly sent a message this spring to anyone questioning whether he’s ready to lead the Bears. He threw for 345 yards and four TDs in the Bears' Friday Night Lights scrimmage, and from day one of spring practice, there has been very little talk of a true quarterback controversy in Waco.
3. TCU’s battles still unresolved: Coach Gary Patterson is paying close attention to a handful of vacancies in his starting lineup and hasn’t named any clear-cut starters just yet. Although cornerback Torrance Mosley recently earned some praise in the big-time battle to replace Kevin White, that race is undecided. Same goes for the five-man battle at linebacker and the four-man competition for the No. 2 quarterback job. The battles will continue until Patterson gets the answers he needs.
4. Beaty bringing his own style: New Kansas coach David Beaty says the first day of practice was the most fun he’s had since taking the gig, and you can tell he’s getting creative to make an impression. He’s highlighting Kansas' Players of the Day on his Twitter account and pushing the Jayhawks to places they have never gone in terms of tempo with 94 plays in 44 minutes on their first day of spring ball.
5. Texas Tech quarterback battle won’t end soon: Coach Kliff Kingsbury hasn’t seen enough to name Patrick Mahomes or Davis Webb his guy at quarterback. After Tech’s scrimmage in Midland, Texas, on Saturday, he told reporters the competition could continue into the fall. With Webb still limited in contact situations and Mahomes working to balance his time between football and baseball, it’s probably no surprise that no decision is imminent.
6. Swoopes has early lead at Texas: That is an awfully premature take because the Longhorns haven’t even been practicing for a full week, but Tyrone Swoopes worked with the No. 1 offense to start off the spring as he splits reps with Jerrod Heard. In the only practice open to reporters, Swoopes displayed superior passing ability, but both ran the ball much more than usual in the up-tempo attack. Players say Swoopes is their incumbent starter for now, and we’ll see whether that changes much in April.
7. ISU loves its WRs: Iowa State's dream offensive scenario -- getting Allen Lazard, D'Vario Montgomery and Quenton Bundrage all on the field together -- is starting to come to fruition this spring now that Bundrage is back from his season-ending injury. Paul Rhoads and his staff have high hopes for the trio and their ability to make this offense far more explosive, and they expect Lazard to become one of the league's premier wideouts.
8. Walsh stays; Garman goes: Oklahoma State’s three-quarterback situation resolved itself right away this spring when Daxx Garman elected to transfer and J.W. Walsh decided to return and compete for whatever playing time he can get. Walsh is finally healthy again and says he will keep prepping as if he’s the starter, but he’s done an admirable job of taking young starter Mason Rudolph under his wing in the meantime.
9. Mountaineers focused on margins: Dana Holgorsen says he’s putting more emphasis at the start of spring practices on one area that must improve: turnover margin. West Virginia ranked 120th in FBS in that category last season (minus-15) and is devoting more time to ball security, strips and takeaways. "If we can get better at that," Holgorsen says, "that’ll win us some more games." He’s not wrong.
10. Watch out for McGowan: As devoted Big 12 blog readers know, we’ve long been fascinated by Baylor’s mountain-sized lineman LaQuan McGowan. If you missed Jake Trotter’s feature on the 400-pounder, his background and his move to tight end this spring, be sure to check it out. If Briles allows McGowan get the ball in his gigantic hands more often, we’ll all be in for a fun season.
Here are the top spring developments in the Pac-12:
1. Starting quarterbacks out for the spring
The conference lost many of its best quarterbacks after last season to early entry or graduation, but this spring it lost a couple more. Washington’s Cyler Miles decided to take a voluntary leave of absence from Huskies football this spring for personal reasons, according to the university. It was stressed that Miles, who missed last season due to a disciplinary suspension, chose to take this leave on his own and that it had nothing to do with school or team rules. He remains enrolled at Washington, but his absence on the football field is opening up reps for a handful of untested quarterbacks.
Utah’s Kendal Thompson, who suffered a season-ending injury in the Utes’ loss to Oregon, hasn’t been cleared for contact this spring, so the main focus for him is timing with receivers, footwork and technique. He’s still technically competing for the starting job, but with Travis Wilson finishing out the year and being the top guy this spring, it seems that Wilson is inching closer to cementing the spot. At this point, every inch matters, and any player who can take even a small step forward would be welcomed as a starter just for the sake of consistency for the offense.
2. Oregon gets boost at QB
Speaking of quarterbacks, Oregon got a major boost this spring when Vernon Adams Jr. announced his transfer from Eastern Washington. The dual-threat quarterback has thrived at the FCS level for the Eagles, and with the departure of Heisman winner Marcus Mariota, there are certainly FBS shoes that need to be filled in Eugene. Adams won’t be able to enroll at the school until this summer due to Eastern Washington’s academic schedule and because the Ducks open next season with EWU, so Adams has been forced to work out on his own this spring until he arrives at Oregon. He’s certainly the most experienced (from a game perspective) quarterback the Ducks have on their roster, and his abilities with his arm and his feet make him an intriguing prospect as Oregon maneuvers through life after Mariota.
3. USC’s first spring sans sanctions
As USC becomes whole again, the Trojans will be infused with an impressive collection of talented players -- arguably the most in the country. Of their recent signing class, ranked No. 3 in the country by ESPN.com, five players enrolled in time for spring practice; receiver Isaac Whitney, a junior college transfer, and linebacker Cameron Smith are the most likely candidates to make an impact in 2015. The others -- QB Ricky Town, OT Chuma Edoga and OL Roy Hemsley -- have the talent to play right away, but have a longer climb up the depth chart. With RB Buck Allen off to the NFL, USC has a good starting place with Justin Davis, but also expect Tre Madden back to go along with a diverse trio of freshmen added in the signing class. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton said all three -- Ronald Jones II, Dominic Davis and Aca'Cedric Ware -- likely will factor into the Trojans’ plans in 2015. Jones was the top-ranked back in the Class of 2015 and is the most complete of the group, but Davis’ speed and Ware’s power should give USC the ability to vary its looks. -- Kyle Bonagura
4. Cal’s loss is Stanford’s gain
For the past three seasons, sturdy line play has anchored Stanford’s conference-best defense. But graduation -- the Cardinal lost all three 2014 starters up front -- and a rash of injuries made the once-mighty unit look awfully fragile early in spring. At one point, only three defensive linemen dressed for practice, leaving the team literally devoid of depth at the position. The trio was forced to huff and puff throughout the entire session without any relief, and the defense leaked big runs as a result.
Two weeks ago, former Cal defensive end Brennan Scarlett announced his intentions to cross the Bay Bridge and enroll at Stanford as a graduate transfer. Assuming Scarlett is able to stay healthy (he's coming off an ACL tear that derailed his 2014 season), this transfer gives the Cardinal's starved defensive line a significant boost. With Aziz Shittu and Solomon Thomas also expected back from injury soon, the unit's prospects suddenly look manageable. This is still expected to be a major rebuilding year for the Stanford defense -- eight starters have departed -- but Scarlett's addition gives coordinator Lance Anderson a much-needed veteran presence at a critical position. A transfer between the archrivals also provides a potentially juicy 2015 storyline. -- David Lombardi
5. Cameron Smith undergoes surgery, is out for 2015 season
After Cameron Smith sat out the latter part of last season with knee pain, the Arizona State staff hoped rest would be the answer to his recovery. But early in spring practices, coach Todd Graham announced that Smith had undergone surgery and would be lost not only for the spring but also for the 2015 season. It was a huge blow to the Sun Devils, who were already trying to replace the Pac-12’s fourth-leading receiver, Jaelen Strong. D.J. Foster’s move to wide receiver figures to help alleviate some of that, but for Arizona State to lose its No. 3 receiver from a year ago and its best downfield threat for next season certainly is a major development for the Sun Devils and for the South Division/conference as a whole.
6. Rich Rodriguez loves him some Arizona basketball
Did any Pac-12 football coach have as much hoops fun as Rodriguez this year? The Pac-12 Blog thinks not.
If he wasn’t tossing chicken sandwiches to students attending Wildcats basketball games, he was sitting courtside at the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament.
— Pacific Takes (@PacificTakes) January 21, 2015
7. Oregon State makes offensive moves
When Gary Andersen was hired at Oregon State, it was obvious that the Beavers would look pretty different as they moved on from the Mike Riley era. But how different? And how quickly? And who would step into QB Sean Mannion’s shoes?
Andersen told the Pac-12 Blog in February that he wanted the Oregon State offense to be “wide open” and that “there will be carryover, but I would say it will be limited.”
In early March, he took one big step in that direction as he cut Oregon State’s quarterback competition from the seven QBs on the spring roster to just three. No surprises here: It’s the three signal-callers who are also the most talented with their feet -- Luke Del Rio, Nick Mitchell and Seth Collins. The latter two are the better runners of the trio, though all three are considerably more mobile than Mannion. The move is an early indicator of how different the Bears will look come fall with a new offense, new staff and new quarterback.
The ACC is at it's 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:
The injured QBs: Any discussion of the conference's top quarterbacks for 2015 promises to include both Deshaun Watson and Marquise Williams, and 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, both the Tigers and Tar Heels have used the spring to develop their backups, and given that the defending national champs needed three starters to get through the season, that may 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 will likely push the competition into the fall, but for now, Maguire looks like the favorite. At Boston College, there may 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's got 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 thanks to 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 weakside, 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, while 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 due to 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.
We haven't exactly come to the end of spring football for the SEC -- and a few schools have barely even touched their pads -- but we've already seen and heard some interesting things coming out of many spring camps.
Plenty of questions remain at key positions, and there have been a few surprises here and there. As we prepare for the final couple of weeks of spring ball in the SEC, here are five intriguing developments we've seen so far:
Not much separation in QB races
A handful of quarterback contests got underway this spring, but we don't have many answers in terms of leaders at this point. Vanderbilt ended the spring by watching its four-man race drop to three after Patton Robinette decided to end his playing career, citing health concerns and a desire to go to medical school. Jake Coker is improving at Alabama, but he hasn't exactly distanced himself from the pack. Will Grier and Treon Harris are neck-and-neck at Florida, while Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings continue to flip-flop for the top position at LSU. Brice Ramsey looked like the leader on paper at Georgia, but Jacob Park is turning heads with his arm strength and athleticism. Connor Mitch got off to a fast start at South Carolina this spring, but still has a long way to go. Chad Kelly may have arrived at Ole Miss this spring as the favorite to take the starting job, but coach Hugh Freeze has made it clear that the three-man competition will bleed into the fall. It sounds like most of these are headed for Round 2 after the summer.
Arkansas' offensive line shake-up
Last season, the Razorbacks' front five dominated the SEC's rushing defenses, with their runners averaging 218 yards per game. They also allowed the fewest sacks in the conference (14). So it's safe to say coach Bret Bielema got the improvement wanted from his offensive line last year. But there's always room to tweak things in this league and that's exactly what Bielema has done. With starting right tackle Brey Cook gone, the staff moved Dan Skipper from left tackle, where he started 13 games last year, to right tackle. Denver Kirkland, viewed as the team's most talented lineman, moved from right guard to left tackle. Frank Ragnow, who saw time at center in nine games last year, moved to right guard. From all indications, Bielema has found the exact combination he wants up front.
Austin Golson's new position
When Auburn secured Golson's services from Ole Miss, it appeared the Tigers were going to get a valuable guard who could even play some tackle if needed. But this spring, Golson has been working out at center for Auburn. That doesn't sound like too much of a big deal until you consider that Golson, a top-notch high school prospect at one time, is trying to replace All-American Reese Dismukes, one of the most successful centers in the history of the school. Golson hasn't played center before and he's been splitting reps with Xavier Dampeer, who played center in high school and junior college and saw time at the position in five games last season.
D.J. Chark's impressive spring
It's not like LSU needs more speed, but that's what the Tigers appear to be getting in Chark, a sophomore wide receiver. While he didn't record any stats at receiver last year, Chark has been turning plenty of heads this spring. The initial focus this spring fell on fellow receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre, but Chark has been stealing the spotlight of late, registering at least one touchdown catch in every scrimmage thus far. Coach Les Miles said Chark caught three passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday's scrimmage. The emergence of Chark is big for a passing game looking for some sort of consistency this year, and the two quarterbacks vying for the starting spot have to be excited about Chark's progress.
Brandon Powell's emergence at Florida
The Gators had plenty of questions concerning its offense coming into this spring. Finding a quarterback topped the list of crucial needs, but getting some consistency at receiver was also a high priority. Most thought Demarcus Robinson, who led Florida in catches (53), receiving yards (810) and receiving touchdowns (seven) would reclaim his spot as Florida's top playmaker. However, this spring has given Powell new life. The former running back has moved to receiver, and the word out of Gainesville is that he's been the team's most dynamic playmaker. Powell played both running back and receiver in 11 games last year, registering 217 yards of offense. Before a foot flare-up sidelined him last week, the 5-foot-9, 181-pound Powell was lighting up Florida's practices. Powell, not Robinson, had been the Gators' most explosive and most consistent offensive threat this spring. Florida's offense still lags behind its defense, so it's critical to get Powell back on the field.
The last Big Ten team to open spring practice, Rutgers, gets started Monday. And Michigan, the first to finish, wraps Saturday at the Big House. The practices of February and March have shed light on the offseason direction of programs across the league.
As April approaches, here’s a look at five notable spring developments in the Big Ten:
Jake Rudock nears departure from Iowa: Rudock, the Hawkeyes’ two-year starting quarterback who was demoted behind C.J. Beathard in January, is free to leave Iowa City, with “no strings attached,” according to Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. Scheduled to graduate in May, Rudock visited Michigan this spring and could be eligible, under NCAA rules, to play in 2015, though the Big Ten may pose an obstacle with its intraconference transfer rule. The QB has yet to announce his intention. If he lands in Michigan, he would join an inexperienced group headed by junior Shane Morris; Wilton Speight and Alex Malzone own no college experience.
Harbaugh-mania accelerates: This phenomenon, of course, began long before spring practice. But the excitement that follows Jim Harbaugh at every turn has advanced to a new level since practice opened. While the Michigan workouts have produced few details, the coach continues to generate headlines away from the field -- for his roadside help for two women involved in a rollover car accident to his stint as first-base coach of the Oakland A’s. For his latest trick, Harbaugh finished fourth in U-M’s Central Student Government presidential election -- a post for which he did not run, of course. Needless to say, Harbaugh brings more to the Big Ten than just his coaching acumen.
Pro-style offense takes hold at Nebraska: New coach Mike Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf have introduced a series of foreign concepts during the first half of spring drills. At a school that built its reputation on power offensive football, the new coaching regime will bring much of the scheme that produced strong QB play at Oregon State. Langsdorf, who rejoins Riley after one year with the New York Giants, got a taste this month of the challenge ahead. Nebraska quarterbacks, led by Tommy Armstrong Jr., have been trained to gain yards with their feet as often as their arms. The transition figures to endure a few rocky moments.
Key Spartans missing: Michigan State opened practice last week without running back Delton Williams and receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. Both are facing legal issues after incidents that occurred in the past month. Coach Mark Dantonio offered little on their status. Neither player is listed on the MSU spring roster. Their standing in the program before next season looms large for Michigan State. Williams was the Spartans’ third-leading rusher as a sophomore in 2014, behind the departed Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill. Kings, as a junior, worked as the top MSU punt returner and accumulated 404 receiving yards as Connor Cook’s third-leading target.
Buckeyes maintain their edge: Complacency ranks as the No. 1 enemy of a defending champion. Through four practices, Ohio State appears on track to stay hungry in the chase to repeat. Plenty of competition for positions exists in Columbus, a factor that figures to drive the Buckeyes through the offseason. Early reports indicate that Gareon Conley and Damon Webb look set to wage a solid battle for the open cornerback position. Two vacant spots on the defensive line also have generated attention. And what’s that, you ask, about the most high-profile battle of all? Nothing much has happened at quarterback, what with Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett held out of most drills while Cardale Jones runs the show. It’ll get intense in August. And Urban Meyer already is feeling the heat.
Talk about a rough weekend for Nick Saban and Alabama. Defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor was arrested on domestic violence charges and dismissed from the team. Safety Geno Smith was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. And now it looks like the Crimson Tide will be without sophomore wide receiver Cam Sims for the foreseeable future.
Sims, who was expected to take on a larger role in place of Amari Cooper, suffered a knee injury during Saturday’s practice that many believe to be a torn ACL. As a freshman, Sims finished with seven receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown.
Watch how I handle this obstacle in my life... Minor set back for a major comeback
— CameronSilkySims7ã (@Lucky7Sims) March 28, 2015
There’s been no word from Alabama on the extent of the injury, but head coach Nick Saban is scheduled to address the media Monday after practice.
You can read more about Sims, his injury and what it means at AL.com.
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So it wasn’t exactly springtime conditions in Boston this weekend, with yet another snowstorm in a year that’s been chock full of them, but that didn’t stop Boston College from putting a bow on spring practice with an intrasquad scrimmage that served as the team’s spring game.
Yes, it was snowing. And no, it wasn’t a traditional spring game, with Steve Addazio opting for more of a glorified practice day. And most significantly, it wasn’t exactly the offensive outburst that BC might have hoped for as it winds down the spring workouts.
"The passing game, in particular, remains a work in progress as the Eagles will start 2015 with a new offensive coordinator, Todd Fitch, after Ryan Day left to coach quarterbacks for the Philadelphia Eagles.
"One play in particular highlighted the difficulties the Eagles had in the air. Projected starting quarterback Darius Wade threw a 10-yard pass down the right side, but the ball bounced off Sherman Alston’s chest pad and into the arms of Isaac Yiadom, who raced the other way for what would have been a touchdown."
OK, so it wasn’t all good news. Still, Addazio said he was relatively pleased, and the bottom line is that regardless of how spring practice ended, the season figures to open with BC passing a good bit more than it has the past two seasons.
Wade’s place as the team’s starting quarterback isn’t set in stone just yet, but it doesn’t take much reading between the lines to assume he’ll be the man replacing Tyler Murphy as the Eagles’ offensive show-runner. But while he’ll be stepping into Murphy’s shoes, he’s definitely not stepping into the same game plan.
“Tyler was more of a speed-option guy. Darius is more of a traditional quarterback,” running back Jonathan Hilliman said. “This year, it should open things up with Darius’ arm. It should be really fun.”
Two years ago, Andre Williams led the nation in rushing attempts. Last year, Murphy had 49 more rushing attempts than he had completions. Georgia Tech is the only Power 5 team that has thrown the ball less in the past two seasons than Boston College.
Enter Wade, and regardless of Saturday’s offensive struggles, things figure to change a good bit in 2015. That should be good news for Hilliman, who faced, on average, more defenders in the box than any other ACC running back last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“Darius’ arm is going to be able to spread the defense out a lot better, and it should open up a lot of running lanes for us,” Hilliman said. “It should be a productive year running the ball.”
Balance is the buzzword, but Saturday did show there’s still much work to be done. Wade doesn’t have many reps under his belt, and the receivers are also a work in progress — all of that to go with the new offensive coordinator.
But this is also the third serious offensive overhaul in as many years for BC. Addazio took a 2-10 team and earned a bowl berth and had a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2013. He took a transfer quarterback and a completely new group of skill players and won seven games in 2014. This year’s renovation job shouldn’t be as tough as either of those projects.
And, as the Herald noted, Saturday’s scrimmage did still offer some encouragement when it came to the ground game, which moved the ball well with a committee of running backs. And for all the change and turnover, all the talk of throwing more often this year, that’s still where BC’s bread is buttered.
“It’s become the cornerstone of how to win for us, is running the football,” Hilliman said. “We’re a physical team, big offensive linemen. That’s how we play. That’s Coach Addazio’s temperament. And I’ve taken ownership and we feel like we’re a big part in that running offense, and if we’re getting fed the ball, we’re going to make the plays.”
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Jim Harbaugh, full-time football coach at Michigan and part-time first-base coach for the Oakland A's, finally discovered something he couldn't win.
I mean, he didn't try to ... but still.
According to The Michigan Daily, Harbaugh's 115 votes in the Central Student Government election for president added up to 1.26 percent of the vote, falling short of The Defend Affirmative Action Party (765), The Team (4,036) and the winning ticket by a grand total of FIVE votes, Make Michigan (4,041).
But you don't care about that. You care about Harbaugh. Let's let the Daily tell you about the creative ways the football coach landed on various ballots:
Harbaugh received 115 votes for president in total, including 82 votes for “Jim Harbaugh,” another 18 simply for “Harbaugh” and four for the joint ticket of “Jim Harbaugh and Diag Squirrel.”
Other voters were more creative with their write-in submissions, with the tickets “Jim Harbaugh and Jabrill Peppers,” “Jim Harbaugh and His Khakis” and “Jim Harbaugh and Jesus Shuttlesworth” receiving one vote each.
Jesus Shuttlesworth, eh? America, is this the unifying 2016 ticket we've all been waiting for?
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