Ten significant questions as teams return to practice
Posted: Thursday March 6, 2008 10:10AM; Updated: Thursday March 6, 2008 12:50PM
Is it just me, or have an increasing number of college football teams misinterpreted when spring supposedly begins? The calendar says it's March 20, but more than half the nation's BCS schools open spring practice before then. Texas, Auburn and LSU did not even wait for February to end.
With that in mind, here are 10 of the most important questions to be addressed during upcoming workouts and scrimmages around the country.
1) Mark Sanchez or Mitch Mustain?
You wont find a more star-studded quarterback battle than the one about to be waged at USC between Sanchez, the 2004 Parade Player of the Year as a high school senior, and Mustain, recipient of the same award a year later. Sanchez holds the obvious advantage because he's been in the Trojans' system two years longer than Mustain, who transferred from Arkansas last spring. Mustain, however, is more experienced on the field, having started eight games for the Razorbacks as a freshman. (Sanchez started three in place of injured John David Booty last season.)
Whomever ultimately wins the job, it would sure help if a few of USC's underachieving receivers (Patrick Turner, Vidal Hazelton, David Ausberry) step up in the spring. (Last season's top pass-catcher, tight end Fred Davis, is graduating.) One new receiver who could have an impact: Mustain's former Arkansas and Springdale High teammate, Damian Williams, who also becomes eligible this fall after transferring.
2) Whither Ryan Perrilloux?
LSU coach Les Miles has been intentionally vague as to whether his suspended quarterback might return before the end of spring practices (which began Feb. 29 and, due to an upcoming spring break, run through April 5). While it's not entirely unusual for a team to go through spring practice without its starting quarterback due to injury, Perrilloux had not yet officially attained "starter" status and the circumstances behind his absence are obviously more dubious. This was to be the spring where he officially took over LSU's offense and now there's no telling if or when that might happen.
In the meantime, highly touted redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee and Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch will share nearly all the Tigers' practice reps. "They'll be the guys that we want to develop and grasp the position," said Miles. It will be imperative for the rest of LSU's offensive players to gain comfort and trust in the new guys -- but then again, you never know when Perrilloux might jump back in the picture. Not exactly an ideal situation.
3) Who will step in for Oklahoma's "Big Three?"
The Sooners were looking like a no-brainer preseason No. 1 choice until: A) West Virginia beat the living daylights out of them; and B) Oklahoma's three most important players (outside of QB Sam Bradford) -- receiver Malcolm Kelly, middle linebacker Curtis Lofton and defensive back Reggie Smith -- all bolted for the NFL. The loss of Lofton, last season's Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, was particularly damaging.
Returning starter Ryan Reynolds is expected to slide over to Lofton's vacated spot, which means some unproven youngster -- redshirt freshman Travis Lewis? -- will need to establish himself at outside linebacker. Meanwhile, the pressure will be on sophomore CB Dominique Franks to fill the void left by Smith, and it's anyone's best guess who will emerge at receiver opposite Juaquin Iglesias.