Post-Spring Power Rankings: Alabama leads SI's top 25 after spring practice
- With Jalen Hurts looking sharp, Alabama grabs the No. 1 spot in SI's college football Power Rankings after spring practices.
Very little of what occurs during spring practices or spring games should be given much heed. But the end of those workouts is nevertheless another signpost along the way to the approaching season, which means it’s an opportunity to take those few clues and crumbs of information and turn them into analysis of what’s to come this fall.
Herewith, SI’s post-spring football too-early top 25:
Jalen Hurts passed for 301 yards in the spring game. Tua Tagovailoa passed for 315. The Crimson Tide should be good at QB, which means they should be good all of 2017, the many defensive personnel losses notwithstanding.
A 62-play spring game with many key players limited for injury-prevention purposes didn’t reveal much, but the offensive line should be healthier and intact to protect Sam Darnold come fall.
The offenses combined for 654 yards in the spring game—despite only a cameo appearance from J.T. Barrett—and junior receiver Parris Campbell may have emerged as a proto-Curtis Samuel. That, complemented by seven returning starters on defense, bodes well.
Redshirt sophomore receiver Juwan Johnson drew raves from all corners this spring, which means Trace McSorley may have a stellar complement to Saeed Blacknall as the Nittany Lions’ YOLO offense chases a title.
Four QBs played in the spring game, and no clarity has emerged on Deshaun Watson’s replacement yet. But some new defensive names—linebacker Shaq Smith, linebacker J.D. Davis, safety Van Smith and defensive back Trayvon Mullen—showcased the program’s depth on that side.
The Huskies had four defenders drafted by the NFL, including three in the second round, but those who remained in Seattle combined for four turnovers, six sacks and just one touchdown allowed in the spring scrimmage.
The biggest off-season win was seeing Mason Rudolph spurn the pros for a senior season in which he’ll start as a Heisman Trophy candidate; going 13 for 17 for 204 yards with a touchdown in the spring scrimmage was a warm-up. Will the defense bolster that campaign?
Jarrett Stidham did little to mute optimism during the spring game, completing 16 of 20 passes for 267 yards and adding a rushing touchdown. With Stidham, a defense returning eight starters and kicker Daniel Carlson (5 for 5 in the spring game, including a 55-yard make), the Tigers seem to have answers in all three phases.
Incumbent QB starter Wilton Speight misfired on 17 of 26 passes in the spring game, while redshirt freshman Brandon Peters threw for 160 yards and a touchdown. Why not throw some uncertainty into the mix there, too, on a team that must replace 18 starters?
Tons of projected starters sat out the spring and/or the spring game for various reasons. It would appear that depth, and not standout individual talent, will be the strength at tailback and receiver. The defense lost some high-end talent to the draft but returns plenty more.
Freshman Dez Fitzpatrick hauled in nine catches for 176 yards in the spring game, so Lamar Jackson may have a brand-new weapon at his disposal. Collectively, the defense accounted for four interceptions. Some playmaking will be imperative early in the 2017 season with Purdue, North Carolina and Clemson lined up off the bat.
Another year for Kirby Smart, Jacob Eason, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel is by itself a good thing…and now we’ll see if Smart’s optimism about the return of stud defensive lineman Trent Thompson is warranted. Thompson withdrew from classes in the spring due to medical issues, but Smart is on record saying he expects Thompson to contribute this fall.
There’s no reason for worries, it seems, with Will Grier at the wheels of the offense: The former Florida quarterback went 12 for 18 for 202 yards in the spring game. He even hit the well-traveled David Sills six times for 96 yards. Also auspicious: seven tackles for loss from the defense.
Weather shortened an unorthodox spring game to one half, but that didn’t limit quarterback Quinten Dormady (10 of 10 with two touchdowns) or the receiving corps (11 players caught passes). Though Shaq Wiggins didn’t participate in the Volunteers’ spring, will the former Georgia and Louisville defensive back be an impact grad transfer?
Once dual-threat quarterback Jesse Ertz is back in action after shoulder surgery—he sat out all spring—he’ll see that Alex Barnes (12 carries, 69 yards, two touchdowns) is set to carry the load at tailback and that there are plenty of receiving options. Five players caught at least four passes in the spring game.
Quinton Flowers played only two series in the spring game, which is fine, because Charlie Strong doesn’t need to see anything from his star quarterback and he certainly doesn’t need to start Year 1 with Flowers hurt. Strong’s defense looked more aggressive, so we’ll see if that is a helpful complement to what Flowers and the offense can do.
Luke Falk is back, and now it’s just a matter of finding people to throw to after the departures of Gabe Marks and River Cracraft. It looks like Falk can spread the ball all over, in fact, between receivers Isaiah Johnson-Mack and Tavares Martin Jr. and running backs James Williams and Keith Harrington, all of whom were heavily involved in the pass game during the scrimmage.
The Hurricanes return 18 starters, 62.5% of their rushing yards, 67.5% of their tackles and 83.7% of their tackles for loss. So, yes, it’s entirely about the quarterback. The program didn’t hold a spring game due to stadium renovations, so it’s wait until fall to see who emerges from the group of Malik Rosier, Evan Shirreffs and incoming freshman N’Kosi Perry now that Jake Allison has transferred.
Redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks emerged as the post-spring leader in the quarterback derby, per coach Jim McElwain, after he completed 8 of 14 passes for 119 yards in one half of spring game action. We’ll still have to wait and see if receiver Dre Massey, who was non-contact in spring after missing 2016 with a knee injury, can be a difference-making force in the fall.
Though Willie Taggart didn’t anoint him the Week 1 starter, Justin Herbert threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns in the spring game, which seems a fairly emphatic statement. Both defensive units combined for 11 tackles for loss, and an uptick on that side is frankly more significant than anything that happened on offense.