Faculty soccer’s most compelling spring storylines

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Shoulder pads popping. Whistles chirping. Coaches shouting.

After a one-year hiatus as a consequence of COVID-19, faculty soccer’s spring practices are again as groups slowly start to renew extra normalcy amid the worldwide pandemic.

What hasn’t modified since a yr in the past are the groups on the high of the game’s higher echelon — Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Georgia.

Even with the Crimson Tide, Tigers and Buckeyes needing new quarterbacks, these perennial powers aren’t anticipated to slide a lot.

Listed here are the storylines, gamers and coaches to look at this spring:

Compelling storylines

1. Alabama and Clemson reload

Star quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Mac Jones are projected to be among the many first quarterbacks taken within the 2021 NFL draft, however the Tigers and Crimson Tide have more-than-capable replacements able to go. Alabama’s Bryce Younger was the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and high prospect in California within the class of 2020. Clemson’s D.J. Uiagalelei threw for 941 yards with 5 touchdowns and no interceptions when he began two video games for Lawrence, who was sidelined with COVID-19 final season. The Tide’s most urgent concern is changing Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith and receiver Jaylen Waddle.

2. Can LSU get again on monitor?

Had been the Tigers a one-hit surprise in placing collectively top-of-the-line seasons in faculty soccer historical past in 2019? LSU fell off the ledge final season, ending 5-5. The Tigers had been 97th in scoring protection (34.9 factors per sport) and thirty ninth in scoring offense (32 factors). Bo Pelini is out after one season as defensive coordinator, and LSU coach Ed Orgeron employed Minnesota Vikings assistant Daronte Jones to exchange him. Orgeron employed Jake Peetz, who labored with former LSU playcaller Joe Brady with the Carolina Panthers, to repair the offense.

3. Will Jim Harbaugh ever discover the recipe at Michigan?

The Wolverines gave Harbaugh an extension that takes him by way of the top of the 2025 season, though his groups have by no means overwhelmed rival Ohio State and have misplaced 4 straight bowl video games. Michigan has 5 new assistant coaches, together with co-defensive coordinators Mike Macdonald and Maurice Linguist. They substitute Don Brown, whom Harbaugh fired after the Wolverines ranked 79th in run protection (178.8 yards), ninetieth in cross protection (250.5 yards) and ninety fifth in scoring protection (34.5) whereas going 2-4 in 2020.

4. Steve Sarkisian’s debut at Texas

Sarkisian, the previous Alabama offensive coordinator and USC and Washington coach, takes over at Texas, the place Tom Herman could not get it achieved. Sarkisian has mentioned the Longhorns will play with “all fuel, no brakes.” Hopefully, they will do a greater job of slowing down opponents after ending 61st within the FBS in scoring protection (28.5 factors per sport) in 2020. And absolutely Sarkisian will do what his predecessor did not and get the ball in Bijan Robinson’s palms as a lot as doable.

5. Can Georgia shut the hole on Alabama?

The Bulldogs ought to profit from a full spring and offseason with offensive coordinator Todd Monken and quarterback JT Daniels, who performed nicely within the remaining 4 video games of 2020. Georgia is loaded at operating again and extensive receiver, and it has good depth on the offensive line. Its protection ought to once more be among the many greatest within the FBS. Its schedule is favorable. Is that this the yr Kirby Good’s workforce lastly catches the Crimson Tide?

Acquainted faces in new locations

1. Gus Malzahn, UCF

The Gus Bus travels to UCF, the place the previous Auburn coach will get to work exterior the stress cooker of the Plains. His groups’ offensive struggles recently led to his downfall with the Tigers, who had been No. 77 in complete offense in 2020, averaging 382.8 yards per sport. The Knights return star quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who threw for 3,570 yards with 32 touchdowns and 4 picks in 10 video games final season.

2. Bret Bielema, Illinois

It was once plenty of enjoyable being Bret Bielema, however recently, not a lot. He is concerned in a bitter contract dispute with Arkansas, the place he was fired after going 29-34 from 2013 to 2017. After spending a few seasons within the NFL, Bielema has returned to his Large Ten roots. He inherits an Illini program that hasn’t had a successful season in a decade.

3. Josh Heupel, Tennessee

The previous UCF coach will attempt to extinguish the dumpster hearth at UT, which figures to be headed towards NCAA probation after former coach Jeremy Pruitt was fired. A handful of the Volunteers’ greatest gamers, together with operating again Eric Grey and offensive lineman Wanya Morris, have transferred. Star linebacker Henry To’o To’o is reportedly on his manner out as nicely.

4. Bryan Harsin, Auburn

Given his lack of expertise within the SEC, Harsin was a shocking selection to exchange Malzahn at Auburn. Alternatively, perhaps that is why he is precisely what the Tigers want — an outsider who will not be influenced or pressured by Auburn’s meddling boosters. Harsin went 69-19 and gained three Mountain West Convention titles in seven seasons at Boise State.

5. Butch Jones, Arkansas State

The previous Tennessee coach landed one other head-coaching job after spending three seasons on Saban’s employees. He had success at Central Michigan and Cincinnati however struggled at Tennessee, the place his groups went 34-27 in 5 seasons. Then once more, in comparison with Pruitt’s tenure, perhaps it wasn’t that dangerous.

Coordinator modifications

1. Invoice O’Brien, offensive coordinator, Alabama

The dangerous information: O’Brien, the previous Houston Texans coach, has the unenviable job of changing Sarkisian, who directed one of the crucial prolific offenses in SEC historical past in 2020. The excellent news: The previous two Tide offensive playcallers landed head-coaching jobs; Ole Miss employed Lane Kiffin in 2019. O’Brien had a 15-9 file at Penn State after taking up this system within the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. He’s considered one of two former NFL head coaches to hitch Saban’s employees; former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone takes over Alabama’s offensive line.

2. Marcus Freeman, defensive coordinator, Notre Dame

Freeman, 35, was probably the most extremely sought coordinator within the FBS after his Cincinnati protection ranked thirteenth in complete protection and eighth in scoring protection final season. The Broyles Award finalist was additionally LSU coach Ed Orgeron’s best choice earlier than he elected to go along with the Irish. Freeman replaces Clark Lea, who left to turn out to be Vanderbilt’s new coach.

3. Jeff Grimes, offensive coordinator, Baylor

Grimes labored the previous three seasons at BYU, which went 11-1 in 2020 and had the No. 3 scoring offense (43.5 PPG) within the FBS. He replaces Larry Fedora, whom Baylor fired after it ranked subsequent to final within the Large 12 in each scoring offense (23.5 factors) and complete offense (310.2 yards) in 2020.

4. Derek Mason, defensive coordinator, Auburn

Mason did not have a lot success as Vanderbilt, like many of the head coaches earlier than him, however he is broadly considered one of many sport’s greatest defensive minds. He was Stanford’s defensive coordinator in 2012 and 2013; the Cardinal ranked within the high 15 within the FBS in scoring protection in each seasons. Mason and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who beforehand labored at Georgia and South Carolina, give new coach Bryan Harsin’s employees a definite SEC taste.

5. Mike Yurcich, offensive coordinator, Penn State
Nittany Lions coach James Franklin made a shocking transfer by hiring Yurcich to exchange Kirk Ciarrocca after just one season. Penn State’s offense slipped in 2020, rating thirty seventh in complete offense (430.3 yards) and 54th in scoring (29.8 factors). Yurcich, who beforehand labored at Texas, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, caught Cowboys coach Mike Gundy’s consideration whereas calling performs at Division II Shippensburg College in Pennsylvania.

Intriguing place battles

1. Ohio State quarterback

With former starter Justin Fields a projected top-10 choose within the NFL draft, the Buckeyes flip to a trio of extremely regarded prospects with out a lot expertise. Backups Jack Miller III and C.J. Stroud did not try a cross final season. Incoming freshman Kyle McCord was the No. 5 pocket passer and No. 31 prospect total within the ESPN 300.

2. Texas quarterback

Casey Thompson, who’s getting into his fourth season in this system, took an enormous step in presumably changing former starter Sam Ehlinger by throwing 4 touchdowns within the Longhorns’ 55-23 win over Colorado within the Valero Alamo Bowl. Hudson Card, the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback within the 2020 ESPN 300 and an Austin, Texas, native, will get a powerful look from Sarkisian as nicely.

3. USC extensive receiver

The Trojans have a possible Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Kedon Slovis, however he must establish new targets after Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughn departed. Extremely touted Bru McCoy and Colorado switch Okay.D. Nixon might want to draw some consideration off Drake London, who had 33 catches for 502 yards in 2020.

4. LSU quarterback

Myles Brennan accomplished 60.3% of his passes for 1,112 yards with 11 touchdowns within the first 4 video games final season, earlier than an stomach harm induced him to overlook the final seven. In his absence, Max Johnson threw for 1,069 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception in 5 video games, highlighted with a 37-34 upset of No. 6 Florida. Orgeron guarantees an open competitors.

5. Georgia cornerback

The Bulldogs convey again nearly everybody on offense, and they’re deep and gifted on the line of defense and at linebacker. The secondary is a priority, nonetheless, after beginning cornerbacks Eric Stokes, Tyson Campbell and DJ Daniel left for the NFL draft and high backup Tyrique Stevenson transferred to Miami. At the least Kelee Ringo, the No. 1 cornerback and No. 8 prospect total within the 2020 ESPN 300, is returning after lacking final season with a shoulder harm. Early enrollee Nyland Inexperienced was the No. 7 cornerback within the 2021 ESPN 300.

Impression transfers

1. Jack Coan, QB, Notre Dame (through Wisconsin)

Coan began 18 video games for the Badgers in 2018 and 2019, then suffered a foot harm in preseason camp and missed final season. He’s in all probability the favourite to exchange departed starter Ian Guide after finishing 68% of his passes for 3,278 yards with 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions at Wisconsin.

2. McKenzie Milton, QB, Florida State (through UCF)

The previous Heisman Trophy candidate missed the previous two seasons whereas recovering from a devastating proper knee harm that almost ended his profession. He had 8,683 yards and 72 touchdowns with solely 22 interceptions at UCF, whereas compiling a 27-6 file as a starter. If Milton is wholesome, he can be a welcome sight for an FSU program that desperately wants stability at quarterback.

3. Charleston Rambo, WR, Miami (through Oklahoma)

After catching 43 passes for 734 yards with 5 touchdowns in 2019, Rambo’s manufacturing slipped final season. Nonetheless, he was anticipated to be considered one of OU’s high pass-catchers this coming season earlier than unexpectedly getting into the switch portal. He’s a welcome addition to a Hurricanes unit that was suffering from drops in 2020.

4. Charlie Brewer, QB, Utah (through Baylor)

When wholesome, Brewer was one of the crucial harmful dual-threat quarterbacks within the Large 12. He began 40 video games for the Bears, together with 35 of the previous 36. He threw for 9,700 yards, 65 touchdowns and 28 interceptions, whereas operating for 1,039 yards and 22 touchdowns. He’ll compete in opposition to Texas switch Ja’Quinden Jackson, who was the No. 34 prospect within the 2020 ESPN 300.

5. Eric Grey, RB, Oklahoma (through Tennessee)

Grey led the Volunteers with 772 dashing yards and was second on the workforce with 30 catches final season. The Sooners misplaced their high two rushers from 2020, Rhamondre Stevenson (NFL) and T.J. Pledger (transferred to Utah), however they get again Kennedy Brooks, who opted out in 2020 due to COVID-19 issues.

True freshmen to look at

1. J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan

Harbaugh has been reluctant to play true freshman quarterbacks prior to now, however McCarthy is the highest-rated passer he has signed at Michigan. The No. 25 prospect total and No. 2 dual-threat quarterback within the ESPN 300, McCarthy threw for 1,392 yards with 16 touchdowns and no interceptions at IMG Academy as a senior. With Joe Milton and Dylan McCaffrey departing, McCarthy will battle Cade McNamara and Dan Villari this spring; Texas Tech Crimson Raiders switch Alan Bowman joins the battle this summer time.

2. TreVeyon Henderson, RB, Ohio State

Oklahoma switch Trey Sermon was one-and-done with the Buckeyes, leaving an enormous gap to fill of their backfield. Henderson, from Hopewell, Virginia, was the top-rated tailback within the nation, after operating for two,424 yards with 45 touchdowns as a junior in 2019 (Virginia excessive faculties did not play soccer this previous fall due to COVID-19).

3. Tommy Brockermeyer, OL, Alabama

Tide coach Nick Saban is not afraid to start out true freshmen on the offensive line, and Brockermeyer is without doubt one of the extra extremely regarded linemen to signal with Alabama. With left sort out Alex Leatherwood departing for the NFL, Brockermeyer (No. 2 total in 2021 ESPN 300) and J.C. Latham (No. 5 total) could be within the combine to exchange him.

4. Will Shipley, RB, Clemson

The Tigers do not have an apparent substitute for departed star Travis Etienne. Shipley was the No. 2 operating again and No. 22 participant total within the ESPN 300, after operating for 4,173 yards with 50 complete touchdowns in three highschool seasons. He additionally caught 84 passes, and a few recruiting analysts have in contrast him to Carolina Panthers star Christian McCaffrey due to his versatility.

5. Derrick Davis Jr., S, LSU

The Tigers desperately need assistance on the again finish of a protection that surrendered 323 passing yards per sport, worst within the SEC in 2020. ESPN Recruiting ranked Davis the No. 1 security within the nation; LSU held off Ohio State and Penn State to land him out of Monroeville, Pennsylvania.



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