The Eagles capped last season with a victory in the Quick Lane Bowl. They hoped to carry that momentum into the spring. But that hasn’t happened, as injuries have ravaged numerous units, particularly the offensive line, the receivers and the linebackers. Coach Steve Addazio told the media last week he had been pleased with his team’s progress.
The battle to replace Deshaun Watson will continue into the summer, as the four players vying for the job — Kelly Bryant, Zerrick Cooper, Tucker Israel and Hunter Johnson — were unable to separate themselves from one another this spring. There is another competition at running back, but C.J. Fuller reportedly is the front-runner. The Tigers’ stellar defense has little to worry about. Van Smith shined as he shifted from free to strong safety.
Daniel Jones started every game at quarterback for the Blue Devils last season and solidified his hold on the spot this spring after the transfer of Thomas Sirk, who was the starter before tearing his Achilles. Defensive linemen Marquies Price and Brandon Boyce were dismissed from the team in February.
The Seminoles’ talent is evident. The only problem is it is largely unproven. Jimbo Fisher hasn’t had a team that returned less in terms of rushing and receiving yardage. Early-enrollee running back Cam Akers is the heir apparent to Dalvin Cook. Florida State has experience in the secondary and at linebacker. Jalen Wilkerson, Janarius Robinson and Joshua Kaindoh all played well enough at strongside defensive end this spring to push the battle into the summer.
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson had a dominant outing in the spring game, throwing for 346 yards and three touchdowns in about 2 1/2 quarters. Jackson might have found a new favorite receiver in redshirt freshman Dez Fitzpatrick, who caught nine passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Cornerback Jaire Alexander took another step forward this spring.
The Hurricanes didn’t hold a traditional spring game, citing the ongoing renovations at Hard Rock Stadium. Coach Mark Richt won’t name a starting quarterback until closer to the season as the Hurricanes look to replace Brad Kaaya. Freshman defensive lineman Jonathan Garvin has earned the praise of teammates and coaches at practice, and his contributions would strengthen a unit that ranked in the top 20 nationally in total and scoring defense.
Logan Byrd, Nathan Elliott, Manny Miles and Chazz Surratt all were given a chance at quarterback this spring. Mitch Trubisky’s successor likely won’t be revealed until preseason practice, after LSU transfer Brandon Harris arrives. Injuries decimated the offense, allowing little clarity this spring. Seven starters return on a defense with plenty of depth. Defensive end Dajaun Drennon, who had a nagging foot injury last season, notched three sacks in the spring game.
The Wolfpack return starting quarterback Ryan Finley, a trio of receivers and six of their starting front seven. The ground game was riddled with injuries this spring, though that allowed Nyheim Hines establish himself at the spot he’s expected to hold in this season. Kicker Kyle Bambard impressed this spring with his accuracy and showed it off in the spring game, going 6-for-7 on field-goal attempts.
The Panthers have four quarterbacks — including Max Browne, a graduate transfer from USC — battling to replace Nathan Peterman. A starter wasn’t announced at the end of spring. Right tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith and outside linebacker Elijah Zeise were lauded for their progress and backed that up in the form of the Ed Conway Award, given to the most improved players of the spring.
Junior college transfer tight end Ravian Pierce, receivers Devin Butler and Jamal Custis, redshirt freshman center Airon Servais, sophomore nose tackle McKinley Williams and linebacker Jonathan Thomas are among the players who showed progress this spring.
With a healthy portion of the Cavaliers’ roster returning, second-year coach Bronco Mendenhall’s objective was to delve deeper into the offensive and defensive playbooks. There are areas where Virginia is searching for answers heading into the April 29 spring game, including on the offensive line, where three starters departed. One of the spring’s top performers has been Juwan Moye, who has put himself in position to start at nose tackle.
Transfer A.J. Bush, redshirt freshman Josh Jackson and early-enrollee Hendon Hooker have been competing at quarterback. The Hokies are also looking to find a lead receiver, with senior Cam Phillips the favorite to fill that role. Another possibility is freshman Caleb Farley, a cornerback who has shown explosiveness at receiver.
With 16 starters returning — nine on offense, seven on defense — the goal for coach Dave Clawson this spring was to build depth. That number went to 15 following the spring game, as defensive tackle Chris Stewart, who started 11 games last season, was dismissed for an violation of team rules. An offense that ranked among the ACC in nearly every major statistical category last season showed explosiveness in the spring game, with three completions of 38-plus yards.