College football teams around the country hit the field Friday night and Saturday for spring games, which offered glimpses of what’s to come when the season gets going in the fall. New quarterbacks headlined many of the spring games this weekend, with programs like Oklahoma, Ohio State and Penn State breaking in new signal-callers this offseason. You can only take so much from these games because quarterbacks can’t get hit, defenders aren’t hitting their teammates with the same ferocity as they do against opponents and schemes are generally simplified down. As a result, these games favor offenses and aren’t perfect simulations of the real games.
Yet, here are some notes and takeaways from some of this weekend’s higher-profile scrimmages:
All eyes were on Jalen Hurts in Norman Friday night, and the Alabama grad transfer looked the part. With Kyler Murray looking on in attendance, Hurts went 11-of-14 for 174 yards and a touchdown, in addition to a second touchdown on the ground. He flashed the dual-threat ability he so often showed during his time with the Crimson Tide, and his accuracy, particularly on deeper throws, was impressive. He looked comfortable with zone reads and going through progressions in Lincoln Riley’s offense.
After he ran a touchdown in on the ground, Hurts posed with some of his teammates for a photo, which he joked wouldn’t have gone over well at Alabama. “I ain’t doing that over there at the other place, at Alabama,” Hurts said after the game. “I know with my old coach, coach [Nick] Saban, I probably would’ve got a chewing for that one.”
It was a smooth debut for Hurts with the Sooners.
Justin Fields was the main attraction in Columbus, and he didn’t disappoint. Despite getting off to a bit of a shaky start in the early going, Fields settled in and showed why he was the No. 1 recruit in the country a year ago. He showed his running ability by getting loose for some big scrambles (including a touchdown), and he showed tremendous touch on a 98-yard touchdown toss to Binjimen Victor. Fields finished 4-of-13 passing for 131 yards and added 38 yards rushing on eight carries. It will take Fields some time to get adjusted to playing in a new offense, but the ability is clearly there.
Redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin, who’s competing with Fields for the starting job, went 20-of-36 for 246 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions—compared to Fields, he looked like the quarterback with additional experience in the offense. Still, the more-talented Fields should be the favorite to win the job.
New Ohio State head coach Ryan Day also got a look at five-star freshman and early enrollee Garrett Wilson, who looked like the next dynamic Buckeye pass-catcher Saturday.
Tua Tagovailoa put up fairly pedestrian numbers during a spring game that saw some rain. He completed 19-of-37 passes for 265 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He connected with Jerry Jeudy for a 54-yard score late in the game, but he also was picked off by Trevon Diggs on his final throw of the game. Tagovailoa and the first-team offense mostly went up against the first-team defense, which contributed to some of the issues.
Mac Jones (19-of-23 for 271 yards, two touchdowns and one interception) looked good at quarterback for the second-team offense (against the second-team defense), and freshman receiver John Metchie impressed with 133 yards receiving, so you can add another talented pass-catcher to an already lethal receiving corps. No, there’s isn’t a quarterback controversy here.
Tua’s younger brother, Taulia, played in the game as a true freshman, and he made what may have been the throw of the day with a 29-yard touchdown pass on the move to Jaylen Waddle. He completed 6-of-9 throws for 93 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Returning starting quarterback Kellen Mond was picked off on his first throw Friday night, but he rebounded well and eventually finished 14-of-26 for 172 yards and two touchdowns. With the expected starter Jashaun Corbin out at running back, junior tailback Jacob Kibodi had a nice showing with 106 yards rushing and 53 yards receiving. Highly touted freshman tight end Baylor Cupp struggled early by whiffing on a block and fumbling, but he finished with five catches for 88 yards, 31 of which came on a touchdown catch from fellow freshman Zach Calzada. Calzada won’t start with Mond locked in as the top signal-caller, but he made a strong case for the backup job by showing off his cannon of an arm and throwing for 139 yards and a touchdown.
Ian Book looked sharp at quarterback for the Irish. He started the game by completing all five of his pass attempts to lead the offense to a touchdown on its opening drive, and he later hit Chase Claypool deep down the field in the second quarter.
Book finished 16-of-21 for 220 yards and two touchdowns, and Claypool had four receptions for 92 yards for a team that lost its top receiver in Miles Boykin. Running back Tony Jones Jr. was out, but tailbacks Jafar Armstrong and Jahmir Smith had good days; all three should contribute in some form for an offense that will probably rotate backs.
The Irish defense, led by linemen Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara, was dominant up front at times, posting 15 sacks during the game. Granted, all you have to do is touch the quarterback for a sack in a spring game, but the defensive line certainly looked as good as the coaches would’ve hoped.
Feleipe Franks threw for 327 yards and had five total touchdowns in an encouraging performance. There wasn’t much defense being played, as many of Franks’s big throws came against busted coverages and a vanilla defense. The defense did make one big play on Franks, however, when former NFL Pro Bowler and ex-Florida cornerback Lito Sheppard ran on the field and Franks intentionally tossed it to him for a pick-six.
Tommy Stevens, the projected starter at quarterback next year with Trace McSorley gone, dressed but didn’t play because of a lower-body injury, which was expected. Sean Clifford got the most work of any of the Nittany Lions’ quarterbacks, and he went 11-of-19 for 118 yards and a touchdown. Freshman running back Noah Cain looked ready for a role in the offense next season with one rushing touchdown, one receiving touchdown and 45 yards on the ground.
The highlight of the day came in Minneapolis. Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele, a sophomore offensive tackle from Melbourne, Australia, is 6’9” and 400 pounds. So, naturally, it made sense to get him the ball in scoring territory and watch helpless defenders try to bring him down.
More of this during the season, please.