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Spring Top 25 (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday April 25, 2006 10:43AM; Updated: Tuesday April 25, 2006 6:22PM
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NCAA Football Power Rankings, Pt. III
Rank LW School
21 -- Key returnees: QB Jeff Ballard, RB Robert Merrill, RB Aaron Brown, DE Chase Ortiz

Spring star: DT Lorenzo Jones. A heralded signee in 2005, the sophomore will likely play a big role this fall.

Lowdown: The Frogs return one of the nation's deepest backfields with Merrill, Brown and Lonta Hobbs, but their success will depend on how well four new O-line starters develop. A new playmaker needs to step in for the departed Cory Rodgers. Ortiz and DE Tommy Blake anchor a strong front seven.
22 -- Key returnees: RB Kenneth Darby, WR D.J. Hall, T Kyle Tatum, LB Juwan Simpson

Spring star: QB John Parker Wilson. Brodie Croyle's successor made big plays, but also big mistakes throughout spring.

Lowdown: It's a year of transition for the Tide, which must replace nearly every key cog (LBs DeMeco Ryans and Fredie Roach, S Roman Harper, et al.) from last year's dominant defense. Four returning starters from the O-line, which allowed 37 sacks in 2005, have shown improvement.
23 -- Key returnees: QBs Sam Keller and Rudy Carpenter, WR Terry Richardson, TE Zach Miller

Spring star: LB Mike Nixon. The 22-year-old walk-on and former Triple-A catcher has made a push for major playing time.

Lowdown: There's little question the offense will be explosive regardless of which QB starts. As for ASU's oft-maligned defense, transfers Michael Marquardt (BYU) and Loren Howard (Northwestern) figure to beef up the line, while speedy WR Rudy Burgess is also playing cornerback.
24 -- Key returnees: DE Chris Ellis, LB Vince Hall, LB Xavier Adibi, K Brandon Pace

Spring star: CB Victor Harris. After spending part of spring at tailback, the athletic sophomore leapt to first-string corner.

Lowdown: The Hokies should field one of the nation's stingiest defenses yet again. The offense, however, is in a state of flux, with sophomore Sean Glennon claiming a tenuous hold on the QB job, while graduation (Mike Imoh, Cedric Humes) and injuries (Branden Ore) have depleted the backfield.
25 --
Utah Utes (7-5)
Key returnees: QB Brett Ratliff, WR Brian Hernandez, CB Eric Weddle, S Casey Evans

Spring star: RB Daryl Poston. The oft-injured USC transfer has finally ascended to No. 1 tailback.

Lowdown: The Utes' offense took off at the end of last season after Ratliff took over for the injured Brian Johnson. He'll have the benefit of a deep receiving corps and veteran O-line. Eight starters return from an already solid defense, though DT Steve Fifita and LB Spencer Toone are big losses.

On the cusp: Fresno State, Texas Tech, Tulsa, Boise State, Boston College