Posted: Wednesday April 27, 2005 11:46AM; Updated: Wednesday April 27, 2005 2:00PM
In honor of this weekend's long-awaited theatrical release of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, we offer this advice to those of you who don't find your favorite team ranked quite where you hoped it would be here: Don't panic. These rankings are merely an educated guess as to which teams stand where as of the conclusion of spring practice. They will likely change significantly between now and August, when freshmen arrive and others get injured or booted.
And they will most assuredly change drastically between now and Jan. 4.
Key returnees: QB Matt Leinart, RB Reggie Bush, RB LenDale White, WR Dwayne Jarrett, WR Steve Smith Spring star: DT Sedrick Ellis. The redshirt sophomore showed he's ready to fill Mike Patterson's shoes.
Lowdown: With Leinart, Bush and LenDale White sitting out the spring, QB John David Booty emerged as the top backup, and tailback Desmond Reed made a case for more playing time. The defensive front seven looks ready to reload, but injuries/suspensions left the Trojans depleted at cornerback.
Key returnees: QB Vince Young, TE David Thomas, T Jonathan Scott, DT Rod Wright, SS Michael Huff Spring star: RB Ramonce Taylor. In Cedric Benson's absence, the speedy sophomore will split carries with Selvin Young.
Lowdown: QB Young, whose running skills are well known to anyone who watched the Rose Bowl, continued his progress as a passer, thanks to improved WRs Limas Sweed and Jordan Shipley. The defense is still loaded, but the 'Horns will miss LB Derrick Johnson's playmaking abilities.
Key returnees: QB Erik Ainge, RB Gerald Riggs, DT Jesse Mahelona, LB Kevin Simon, CB Jason Allen Spring star: WR Josh Briscoe. The true freshman enrolled early and immediately proved to be a big playmaker.
Lowdown: Mass injuries to the line and receivers limited the offense, but it appears a rejuvenated Ainge will reclaim his starting job from Rick Clausen come fall. The defense is unbelievably deep, particularly with the return of LB Kevin Simon, who missed most of 2004 after a knee injury. The secondary remains tenuous.
Key returnees: QB Troy Smith, WR Santonio Holmes, WR Ted Ginn Jr., LB A.J. Hawk, CB Ashton Youboty Spring star: RB Erik Haw. The impressive freshman battled sophomore Antonio Pittman for the starting tailback spot.
Lowdown: With 18 returning starters, the Buckeyes look to pick up where they left off late last season, when they whipped Michigan and Oklahoma State. A more wide-open offense should mean ample touches for gifted playmakers Ginn and Holmes, while the O-line and running game should be stronger.
Key returnees: QB Chris Leak, C Mike Degory, WR Chad Jackson, LB Earl Everett, LB Brandon Siler Spring star: QB Josh Portis. The true frosh quickly picked up Urban Meyer's offense to earn the No. 2 job.
Lowdown: Meyer's unique spread-option attack is likely to mystify many an SEC defensive coordinator. Leak and receivers Jackson, Andre Caldwell and Dallas Baker looked sharp during the spring, though a go-to tailback has yet to emerge. Sophomore safety Kyle Jackson is an emerging star on a veteran D.
Key returnees: WR Eddie Royal, TE Jeff King, DE Darryl Tapp, CB Jimmy Williams Spring star: QB Marcus Vick. The younger Vick regained the Hokies' trust -- and starting job -- following his season in exile.
Lowdown: The Hokies were young when they won the ACC and played Auburn tough in the Sugar Bowl last season. If Vick continues to progress, the passing game will be lethal, what with a bevy of talented receivers. Tech still has some holes to fill defensively but should have a dominant pass rush.
Key returnees: RB Alley Broussard, WR Dwayne Bowe, DT Claude Wroten, FS LaRon Landry Spring star: CB Sammy Joseph. Having started as a freshman at Colorado, the transfer sewed up a job with the Tigers.
Lowdown: The Tigers return nearly their entire offense. New coach Les Miles hasn't named a starting QB, but JaMarcus Russell is the likely choice. The defense lost two stars in CB Corey Webster and DE Marcus Spears, but transfers Joseph and Chase Pittman (Texas) conveniently filled those positions.
Key returnees: QB Drew Tate, WR Ed Hinkel, LB Abdul Hodge, LB Chad Greenway Spring star: DT Matt Kroul. The redshirt freshman staked a clear claim to one of the two available starting spots at tackle.
Lowdown: A rash of injuries this spring made it hard to get a read on the Hawkeyes, who need to improve their running game and fill all four starting jobs along the defensive line. But Tate is a potential Heisman contender, and the linebackers and secondary should be among the nation's finest.
Key returnees: T Eric Winston, CB/KR Devin Hester, DE Baraka Atkins, SS Greg Threat Spring star: LB Willie Williams. The famous (and infamous) star recruit has been too dominant to keep off the field.
Lowdown: A healthier offensive line and receiving corps helped new QB Kyle Wright shine, and young RBs Derron Thomas and Charlie Jones could eventually supplant veteran Tyrone Moss. The D-line looked tougher, and, even without Antrel Rolle, the 'Canes will be extremely deep in the secondary.
Key returnees: QB Chad Henne, RB Michael Hart, WR Steve Breaston, LB LaMarr Woodley Spring star: RB Kevin Grady. Michigan's most touted signee enrolled early and made his case for carries in the fall.
Lowdown: Though Braylon Edwards is gone, the return of freshman sensations Henne and Hart as well as proven threat Breaston should leave few worries on offense. The big question is the defense, which struggled at times last season and must replace DBs Ernest Shazor and Marlin Jackson.
Key returnees: RB Adrian Peterson, T Davin Joseph, WR Travis Wilson, LB Rufus Alexander Spring star: MLB Zach Latimer. The junior proved he's capable of stepping into Lance Mitchell's old role.
Lowdown: This is Bob Stoops' biggest rebuilding job since he first arrived; the Sooners lost Jason White and 10 NFL draft picks (though it certainly helps to have Peterson). Junior Paul Thompson leads the QB hunt for now but could be surpassed by redshirt frosh Rhett Bomar. The secondary must improve.
Key returnees: QB Brian Brohm, RB Michael Bush, G Travis Leffew, LB Brandon Johnson Spring star: WR Mario Urruita. The 6-foot-6 redshirt freshman was one of the top playmakers all spring.
Lowdown: Despite losing Stefan LeFors, Eric Shelton and J.R. Russell, last year's top-rated offense hasn't missed a beat; Brohm threw for 390 yards and six TDs in the spring game. Bush and Kolby Smith make a powerful running duo. The D-line is solid, but no middle linebacker has emerged.