Posted: Tuesday April 25, 2006 9:47AM; Updated: Tuesday April 25, 2006 12:26PM
Encouraged: Clemson. The Tigers have been pretty stout defensively for a while now. Finally, however, the pieces seem to be falling into place for a potentially explosive offense. New QB Will Proctor is a better fit in second-year coordinator Rob Spence's controlled spread attack. Sophomore James Davis is the kind of breakaway back coach Tommy Bowden has long lacked. And wideouts Chansi Stuckey and Rendrick Taylor have displayed big play capability.
Discouraged: Virginia Tech. While it's true the Hokies have a quarterback controversy nearly every year, this one hasn't exactly been a scorcher. Sean Glennon is the safe pick for now, largely because the most promising contender, Ike Whitaker, missed half of the team's practices because of an alcohol-related arrest. The running back pool, minus Mike Imoh and Cedric Humes, wasn't all that impressive either.
Encouraged: Alabama. New QB John Parker Wilson acquitted himself well in scrimmages, receiver D.J. Hall, who was suspended for the Cotton Bowl, is shaping up to be a Tyrone Prothro-type playmaker (Prothro, who broke his leg last season and attended 'Bama's A-Day festivities on crutches, is doubtful to return this season), and the O-line, a weak spot last year, showed improvement. Whether the young defense can approach last year's dominance is another story.
Discouraged: Tennessee. New but familiar coordinator David Cutcliffe may eventually work wonders with the Vols' beleaguered offense. For much of the spring the unit looked closer to 5-6 (Tennessee's disappointing record last season) than 10-3 (the year before). Then again, QB Erik Ainge hasn't had that long to work with Cutcliffe, and several key running backs sat out spring recovering from surgeries.
Encouraged: Penn State. Much-heralded QB Anthony Morelli was as good as advertised during the spring, showing off a rocket arm and an ability to make plays. The bigger mystery is the shape of the Nittany Lions' rebuilt offensive and defensive lines -- it's hard to tell much when they're going up against each other.
Discouraged: Florida. Much-heralded QB Tim Tebow also lived up to billing, going 15 of 21 for 197 yards in the Gators' spring game. Unfortunately he's not the starter yet. Coach Urban Meyer's teams exploded in his second seasons at Bowling Green and Utah, but this one, with stationary QB Chris Leak and a mediocre running game, may be more like his first one in Gainesville -- an up-and-down year.
Encouraged: Baylor. This isn't a joke. The Bears have been steadily improving under head coach Guy Morriss, and in an intriguing twist, new offensive coordinator Lee Hays has installed the Texas Tech Air Raid offense. In their final scrimmage, Baylor's QBs went a combined 38 of 60 for 391 yards and five touchdowns.
Discouraged: Stanford. It's never a good sign when a head coach loses seven assistants -- six of whom took NFL jobs -- after just his first season at the school. The Cardinal also went through spring with just three scholarship receivers and almost no proven defensive studs. Yeesh.