Posted: Tuesday April 25, 2006 9:47AM; Updated: Tuesday April 25, 2006 12:26PM
Nebraska QB Zac Taylor's proficiency with the West Coast offense could spell trouble for Big 12 rivals this fall.
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It's always tough to figure out what to make of your favorite team's developments in spring practice. More often than not, key players aren't participating, heralded freshmen haven't arrived yet and the coaches don't want to give away too much in the spring game.
In following these things over the years, however, I've found that spring is usually a pretty good indicator of what to expect in the fall. If the offense tripped all over itself in scrimmages, it's probably not going to wind up averaging 500 yards a game. If the D-linemen couldn't get any pressure on the quarterback, they're probably not going to morph into mini-Warren Sapps by August.
Here are a few teams that gave their fans reason to be either encouraged or discouraged heading into the fall.
Encouraged:Nebraska. Having endured nearly three long years of mediocrity, the 57,415 spectators who showed up for the Huskers' spring game had to be relieved by the sight of sophomore I-backs Marlon Lucky and Cody Glenn delivering the kind of big plays that were so sorely lacking last season when Nebraska -- Nebraska! -- ranked 107th in the country in rushing offense. That, along with QB Zac Taylor's continued progress, could be signs that coach Bill Callahan's West Coast experiment may soon finally pay off.
Discouraged: USC. There's no beating around the Bush, here -- the Trojans have some serious issues. It's never good when your only healthy (and eligible) returning tailback is a fullback (Ryan Powdrell). Four heralded freshmen arrive in the fall, at least one of whom will undoubtedly be a star, but it's a quite the leap in faith to go from Leinart/Bush/White to Booty or Sanchez/???/???.
Encouraged: Florida State. For the first time in five years, 'Noles fans have reason to feel good about their quarterback. By all accounts, sophomore Drew Weatherford emerged as a reliable leader this spring, while a new crop of stud defenders (LB Lawrence Simmons, S Myron Rolle) helped solidify FSU's D. That alone should be enough to cut down on last year's uncharacteristic five losses; if the running game can become a factor as well, look out.
Discouraged: Miami. The problem with spring games (and scrimmages) is you never know if the defense is that good or the offense is that bad. With the 'Canes, however, there's a recent track record -- their big plays on offense have diminished dramatically the past couple of years -- and, despite the presence of new coordinator Rich Olson, things didn't look any better in the spring game, where Miami didn't manage a passing play longer than nine yards.