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SI 2012 Post-Spring Top 25

  • Well, what happen to the love affair with FSU? I thought by this year Jimbo would have the process dialed in?

    http://cnnsi.com/2012/writers/andy_staples/05/03/post-spring-top-25/index.html?eref=sihp&sct=hp_t12_a0

    1
    LSU Tigers
    2011 record: 13-1 (8-0 SEC)
    Key returnees: CB Tyrann Mathieu, S Eric Reid, DE Sam Montgomery, DE Barkevious Mingo, RB Michael Ford, RB Spencer Ware, WR Russell Shepard, P Brad Wing
    Key losses: CB Morris Claiborne, DT Michael Brockers, OG Will Blackwell, WR Reuben Randle
    Spring star: QB Zach Mettenberger
    Hopefully, this quote will be posted on The Quotable Les Miles any day now. At a speaking engagement in Alexandria, La., earlier this week, LSU coach Miles said this to the Shreveport Times: "We had the best record in college football," Miles said. "We were undefeated in conference play and out of conference before our last game. We won the conference that had the national champion, and yet our team wants more." There is only one additional thing the Tigers can accomplish: winning a national title. LSU has the talent to do it. Most of the defense returns, and Miles seems confident Mettenberger can give the Tigers the passing threat they lacked last season when Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson split time. Oh, and in case you forgot what he can do, the LSU video department was kind enough to provide this brief refresher on the skills of a certain indifferent mammal.

    2
    USC Trojans
    2011 record: 10-2 (7-2 Pac-12)
    Key returnees: QB Matt Barkley, WR Robert Woods, WR Marqise Lee, C Khaled Holmes, LB Dion Bailey, LB Hayes Pullard, S T.J. McDonald, CB Nickell Robey
    Key losses: DE Nick Perry, OT Matt Kalil, TE Rhett Ellison
    Spring star: OT Aundrey Walker
    The end of an NCAA postseason ban came at exactly the correct time for USC. The Trojans are loaded -- at least at the top of the lineup; NCAA scholarship sanctions have Coach Lane Kiffin worried about depth -- and they get fellow Pac-12 elite Oregon at home. And if this video is any indication, the Trojans are back to having the kind of fun they had when a Pac-10 title was a certainty every season.

    3
    Alabama Crimson Tide
    2011 record: 12-1 (7-1 SEC)
    Key returnees: LB Nico Johnson, S Robert Lester, DL Jesse Williams, QB AJ McCarron, C Barrett Jones, OG Chance Warmack, RB Eddie Lacy
    Key losses: RB Trent Richardson, WR Marquis Maze, LB Courtney Upshaw, LB Dont'a Hightower, CB Dre' Kirkpatrick, CB DeQuan Menzie, DT Josh Chapman
    Spring star: S Vinnie Sunseri
    Since 2008, the most amazing part of any Alabama game has been looking at the players who have clean uniforms after the clock strikes zero. Even the guys who didn't play a down look like future NFL players. That kind of depth -- Big Ten fans, insert your oversigning cracks here -- allows the Crimson Tide to lose the kind of talent they lost from the 2011 national title team and still look like one of the best teams in the nation. The Tide also have done a good job of getting inexperienced players snaps so they aren't shocked when they become starters. For example, cornerback Dee Milliner played in nickel situations last year. This year, he'll probably be on the field for every down that matters. Meanwhile, linebacker Trey DePriest appeared in 13 games as a freshman while backing up Hightower, the first-rounder DePriest will likely replace.

    4
    Oregon Ducks
    2011 record: 12-2 (8-1 Pac-12)
    Key returnees: RB De'Anthony Thomas, RB Kenjon Barner, WR Josh Huff, OG Carson York, DE Dion Jordan, S John Boyett
    Key losses: RB LaMichael James, QB Darron Thomas, LB Eddie Pleasant, LB Josh Kaddu
    Spring star: QB Marcus Mariota
    When Ducks coach Chip Kelly jettisoned quarterback Jeremiah Masoli in 2010, those in the know said Oregon would be better off with Nate Costa or Darron Thomas at the helm. When Thomas shocked everyone by leaving school early, the Ducks didn't worry long. Bryan Bennett played well while subbing for an injured Thomas last year, and Mariota, a redshirt freshman from Honolulu, might have an even more impressive skill set. Besides, with defenses living in constant fear of De'Anthony Thomas, the quarterback should have some room to work. Kelly probably won't name a starter until the week of the season opener, but this seems like a good problem for him.

    5
    Oklahoma Sooners
    2011 record: 10-3 (6-3 Big 12)
    Key returnees: QB Landry Jones, QB Blake Bell, RB Dominique Whaley, WR Kenny Stills, OG Gabe Ikard, LB Tom Wort, S Tony Jefferson
    Key losses: WR Ryan Broyles, DE Frank Alexander, DE Ronnell Lewis, LB Travis Lewis, CB Jamell Fleming
    Spring star: QB Blake Bell
    Jones needs to call former Florida quarterback Chris Leak for some advice. Like Leak in 2006, Jones is a longtime starter with a popular backup who has a penchant for planting the ball in the end zone. Though the Belldozer Brouhaha probably won't come near matching the emotional pitch of the initial stirrings of Tebowmania, it will be interesting to see how Jones, Bell and Oklahoma coaches manage the situation. It could cause problems, or it could cause more touchdowns. Remember, Leak and Tim Tebow teamed with a really good defense to win a national title.

    6
    Wisconsin Badgers
    2011 record: 11-3 (6-2 Big Ten)
    Key returnees: RB Montee Ball, C Travis Frederick, OT Ricky Wagner, WR Jared Abbrederis, LB Chris Borland, DT Beau Allen, LB Mike Taylor
    Key losses: QB Russell Wilson, WR Nick Toon, C Peter Konz, OG Kevin Zeitler, S Aaron Henry, CB Antonio Fenelus
    Spring star: RB Melvin Gordon
    If all is well, Badgers coach Bret Bielema is enjoying his honeymoon and not sweating over his offense. Though Bielema has said Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien must win the quarterback job, O'Brien will be the most experienced signal-caller on the roster the moment he arrives in Madison this summer. Will O'Brien take hold of the offense as quickly as Wilson did last year? That's asking a lot. Fortunately, O'Brien will have Heisman finalist Ball (39 touchdowns in 2011) running and catching the ball as well as a massive group of cheese curd aficionados blocking for him.

    7
    South Carolina Gamecocks
    2011 record: 11-2 (6-2 SEC)
    Key returnees: DE Jadeveon Clowney, DE Devin Taylor, RB Marcus Lattimore, QB Connor Shaw, LB Shaq Wilson
    Key losses: DE Melvin Ingram, CB Stephon Gilmore, WR Alshon Jeffery, OG Rokevious Watkins
    Spring star: WR Damiere Byrd
    When I visited Columbia in March, the most important action at practice took place on the sidelines, where Lattimore was working to rehabilitate his surgically repaired knee. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier seems confident Lattimore will come back 100 percent by the time South Carolina opens at Vanderbilt. If that's the case, expect Spurrier's commitment to a run-first offense to continue.

    8
    Georgia Bulldogs
    2011 record: 10-4 (7-1 SEC)
    Key returnees: QB Aaron Murray, LB Jarvis Jones, RB Isaiah Crowell, S Bacarri Rambo, DE Abry Jones, DT John Jenkins, WR/CB Malcolm Mitchell
    Key losses: TE Orson Charles, OT Cordy Glenn, DT DeAngelo Tyson
    Spring star: WR Justin Scott-Wesley
    Georgia has a load of talent returning, but the Bulldogs won't be at full strength for a while. Several key defenders will miss the season opener against Buffalo, which isn't a big deal. Meanwhile, Rambo (four games for a drug suspension stemming, Rambo's high school coach said, from inadvertently consumed pot brownies) and cornerback Sanders Commings (two games for domestic violence arrest) will miss the SEC opener against Missouri. That game will be critical, because the Tigers are talented and prolific on offense. But so is Georgia. Murray said after spring practice that the players know they can't afford any offseason mistakes. He's correct, and if the Bulldogs can have a boring summer, they should be fine come September.

    9
    West Virginia Mountaineers
    2011 record: 10-3 (5-2 Big East)
    Key returnees: QB Geno Smith, WR Tavon Austin, WR Stedman Bailey, RB Dustin Garrison, C Joe Madsen, S Darwin Cook
    Key losses: DE Bruce Irvin, LB Najee Goode, CB Keith Tandy
    Spring star: WR Jordan Thompson
    The drama seems to be over in Morgantown, and the Mountaineers are quietly preparing to dive headlong into the Big 12. Much will depend on a revamped defense -- note the lack of defensive players in the "Key returnees" section -- but the offense should score plenty. If tailbacks Garrison and Shawne Alston can stay healthy, West Virginia may have the most dynamic offense in its new league. In the meantime, the Mountaineers will climb Law School Hill in an attempt to steel themselves for a more rugged schedule.

    10
    Michigan State Spartans
    2011 record: 11-3 (7-1 Big Ten)
    Key returnees: DE Will Gholston, RB Le'Veon Bell, CB Darqueze Dennard, CB Johnny Adams, S Isaiah Lewis, LB Denicos Allen, TE Dion Sims
    Key losses: QB Kirk Cousins, DT Jerel Worthy, WR Keshawn Martin, WR B.J. Cunningham, OG Joel Foreman
    Spring star: LB Darien Harris
    Why did I drop Michigan State from No. 6 in the way-too-early rankings I published in January? Because I can. That's why. Just kidding. I still love the athletes on defense, and I still think the Spartans are the best built Big Ten team to compete outside the conference. But I want to see the offense against an actual opponent. Cousins, Martin and Cunningham are huge losses, and while Bell is going to run over a lot of people, it will be tough to duplicate what that group provided in the passing game. The Spartans did test one new offensive weapon in the spring game, but I'm not sure Sparty would pass any drug test that screens for PEDs.

    11
    TCU Horned Frogs
    2011 record: 11-2 (7-0 Mountain West)
    Key returnees: QB Casey Pachall, RB Ed Wesley, RB Waymon James, OG Blaize Foltz DE Stansly Maponga, LB Kenny Cain
    Key losses: LB Tank Carder, CB Tekerrien Cuba, CB Greg McCoy, DE Braylon Broughton
    Spring star: RB B.J. Catalon
    Had West Virginia and TCU entered the Big 12 last season, I wouldn't be nearly as high on their chances in their new home. But like the Mountaineers, the Horned Frogs will hit the league on the upswing. Pachall has a year as a starter under his belt. The backs should be productive. After a few growing pains early in 2011, the defense should enter 2012 much more game-ready.

    12
    Arkansas Razorbacks
    2011 record: 11-2 (6-2 SEC)
    Key returnees: QB Tyler Wilson, RB Knile Davis, WR Cobi Hamilton, OG Alvin Bailey, LB Tenarius Wright, CB Darius Winston, LB Alonzo Highsmith
    Key losses: Coach Bobby Petrino, WR Jarius Wright, WR Joe Adams, LB Jerry Franklin, S Tramain Thomas
    Spring star: DT Robert Thomas
    Interim coach John L. Smith, who employed and was employed by disgraced former Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino at various points, guarantees continuity. But does he guarantee the Hogs would be as good as they could have been had Petrino never taken his fateful motorcycle ride? That remains to be seen. Petrino's playcalling acumen was one of the Razorbacks' most potent weapons. That may be the hardest thing to replace. But Smith and his staff will try.

    13
    Michigan Wolverines
    2011 record: 11-2 (6-2 Big Ten)
    Key returnees: QB Denard Robinson, OT Taylor Lewan, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, DE Craig Roh, S Jordan Kovacs, S Thomas Gordon, LB Kenny Demens
    Key losses: DT Mike Martin, DE Ryan Van Bergen
    Spring star: CB Terrence Talbott
    Want to know why hopes at Michigan are so high? Because coach Brady Hoke has instilled an attitude in his players that makes them say things like this about an 11-2 season: "One of the things coach really emphasizes is that last year we failed," Kovacs told The Associated Press. "It wasn't a successful season. The mission each and every year is to win a Big Ten championship and we didn't do that. At the end of the day, we didn't get what we wanted so that makes us even hungrier for next year." To reach their goals, the Wolverines will have to end Michigan State's four-year ownership of their series. Where's the threat? Nowhere, unless Michigan can win that game. Unfortunately, the Wolverines face an even stiffer challenge to open the season. Alabama will be better than anyone else on Michigan's schedule.

    14
    Stanford Cardinal
    2011 record: 11-2 (8-1 Pac-12)
    Key returnees: RB Stepfan Taylor, LB Chase Thomas, LB Shayne Skov, C Sam Schwartzstein, DT Terrence Stephens, TE Levine Toilolo
    Key losses: QB Andrew Luck, OG David DeCastro, OT Jonathan Martin, WR Chris Owusu, TE Coby Fleener
    Spring star: RB Ricky Seale
    Stanford coach David Shaw hasn't picked a quarterback yet. He probably won't decide between Josh Nunes and Brett Nottingham until preseason camp, and that's OK. Because here's a little not-so-secret secret: Stanford is going to run the ball a lot, and the Cardinal probably will continue to run it well. Also, the defense could be better. Skov should be back from his knee injury, and a 100-percent return from the defense's emotional leader would take an already deep linebacker group to another level.

    15
    Kansas State Wildcats
    2011 record: 10-3 (7-2 Big 12)
    Key returnees: QB Collin Klein, LB Arthur Brown, CB Nigel Malone, C B.J. Finney
    Key losses: OT Clyde Aufner, S Tysyn Hartman
    Spring star: DT Vai Lutui
    I visited three Big 12 schools this spring (TCU, Texas, West Virginia). At each stop, someone on the staff told me how much they hated the idea of preparing to play Kansas State. Coach Bill Snyder gets his players to buy in and play hard, and it drives opposing coaches crazy.

    16
    Clemson Tigers
    2011 record: 10-4 (7-2 ACC)
    Key returnees: WR Sammy Watkins, QB Tajh Boyd, RB Andre Ellington, C Dalton Freeman, DE Malliciah Goodman
    Key losses: DE Andre Branch, TE Dwayne Allen, DT Brandon Thompson, OT Phillip Price
    Spring star: Defensive coordinator Brent Venables
    Notice the lack of key returnees on defense? When a team gave up 70 -- and could have easily allowed 100 had West Virginia not backed off the gas -- it's best not to celebrate the defense too much. Venables came to Clemson from Oklahoma to fix that defense -- and to prove he's good enough to be a head coach, even though he already has. Venables inherited a young, athletic group that includes Goodman and former five-star linebackers Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward. We know the offense will click, but can the defense hold up its end of the bargain?

    17
    Florida State Seminoles
    2011 record: 9-4 (6-2 ACC)
    Key returnees: QB E.J. Manuel, WR Rashad Greene, DE Brandon Jenkins, DE Bjoern Werner, CB/KR Greg Reid
    Key losses: OT Zebrie Sanders, OT Andrew Datko, LB Nigel Bradham
    Spring star: WR Kelvin Benjamin
    I'm not getting tricked by Florida State this year, even though every time I look at the roster I wonder why I don't have the Seminoles ranked higher. They're going to have to prove it on the field, but it's hard to see why they wouldn't. Jenkins and Werner are pass-rushing monsters, and the linebackers and secondary should be ultra-athletic. If the offensive line isn't snake-bit by injuries the way it was last year, FSU could prove me wrong in a much more entertaining way.

    18
    Nebraska Cornhuskers
    2011 record: 9-4 (5-3 Big Ten)
    Key returnees: QB Taylor Martinez, I-Back Rex Burkhead, OG Spencer Long, WR Kenny Bell, DE Cameron Meredith, LB Will Compton
    Key losses: DT Jared Crick, LB Lavonte David, CB Alfonzo Dennard
    Spring star: CB Mohammed Seisay
    By now, we know what we're getting from Nebraska's offense. Burkhead and Martinez will run well, but hearts in Big Red Nation will stop every time Martinez drops back to pass. There is no reason to assume this will change, and in most cases, this is quite effective. Burkhead and Martinez are excellent runners. Nebraska's challenge is replacing some excellent defenders. Crick was lost to injury at midseason last year, so the Cornhuskers know how to play without him. Replacing David will be more difficult. The guy simply tackled everything. The good news is linebackers Compton, Sean Fisher and Alonzo Whaley are all experienced seniors.

    19
    Virginia Tech Hokies
    2011 record: 11-3 (7-1 ACC)
    Key returnees: QB Logan Thomas, WR, Marcus Davis, WR Dyrell Roberts, OG David Wang, DE James Gayle, DE J.R. Collins, LB Bruce Taylor
    Key losses: RB David Wilson, WR Danny Coale, OT Blake DeChristopher, CB Jayron Hosley
    Spring star: RB J.C. Coleman
    The Hokies lost their grip on the ACC last year thanks to a pair of losses to Clemson. They'll be challenged immediately this year with a Labor Day visit from Georgia Tech. They should be ready. Thomas has the tools to be one of the nation's best quarterbacks, and a deep defensive line returns.

    20
    Boise State Broncos
    2011 record: 12-1 (6-1 Mountain West)
    Key returnees: RB D.J. Harper, WR Matt Miller, OG Joe Kellogg, CB Jamar Taylor, CB Jerrell Gavins
    Key losses: QB Kellen Moore, RB Doug Martin, OT Nate Potter, DE Shea McClellin, DE Tyrone Crawford, DT Billy Winn, S George Iloka
    Spring star: S Jeremy Ionae
    With the exception of Moore, the winningest quarterback in FBS history, all of those in the "Key losses" category were drafted this past weekend. That's a testament to how well Chris Petersen developed his under-the-radar recruits and a warning about how much work remains for the players who must replace those guys. This will be fascinating to watch. The players who will take over at Boise State signed with the Broncos after the program had proven itself to be more than a flash in the pan. They've worked behind some very good players, but are they ready to uphold the winning tradition those draftees helped create? We should know quickly whether the next generation is ready. Boise State opens at Michigan State, and Sparty will not allow any of the Broncos to ease into their new roles.

    21
    Texas Longhorns
    2011 record: 8-5 (4-5 Big 12)
    Key returnees: RB Malcolm Brown, RB Joe Bergeron, OG Mason Walters, DE Alex Okafor, DE Jackson Jeffcoat, S Kenny Vaccaro, CB Quandre Diggs
    Key losses: RB Fozzy Whitaker, LB Keenan Robinson, S Blake Gideon
    Spring star: LB Steve Edmond
    Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz offered a fascinating description of his new first-team middle linebacker, Edmond, to reporters earlier this spring. "He comes off as quiet. He's quiet, but he's listening to everything you say," Diaz said. "When you walk into a bar, the guy who's running his mouth off is usually the guy that doesn't want to fight. The guy in the back that doesn't say a word, you have to be careful with that guy. That's kind of like Steve." Diaz has good reason to like his group, but for Texas to rise in the rankings, the offense will have to get better.

    22
    Auburn Tigers
    2011 record: 8-5 (4-4 SEC)
    Key returnees: RB Onterio McCalebb, TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, C Reese Dismukes, DE Corey Lemonier, DT Jeffery Whitaker, LB Daren Bates
    Key losses: RB Mike Dyer, OT Brandon Moseley, OG A.J. Greene
    Spring star: CB Jermaine Whitehead
    The Tigers don't have many key losses because they were painfully young last season. Young doesn't mean untalented, though. Some quality players learned on the job, and that leaves Auburn in a much better position in 2012. Two new coordinators have brought different schemes to the Plains, and they'll face different challenges. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder inherits a unit that got torched by the SEC's best last season, but experience should make the results more palatable this season. Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, meanwhile, must pick a quarterback. He'll keep evaluating Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley into the preseason.

    23
    Washington Huskies
    2011 record: 7-6 (5-4 Pac-12)
    Key returnees: QB Keith Price, TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, S Sean Parker, DE Josh Shirley
    Key losses: RB Chris Polk, OT Senio Kelemete, WR Jermaine Kearse
    Spring star: Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox
    Click this link to read the most optimistic press release you'll see all year. Judging by that lavish praise, the 1985 Chicago Bears fielded the only unit that could match the dominance of the March 2012 Washington Huskies. That obviously isn't true. It's only been four months since Baylor hung 67 on the Huskies in the Alamo Bowl and got Washington's entire defensive staff fired. But yes, Wilcox is an excellent coordinator. Meanwhile, Price -- when he isn't facing the Monsters of Portage Bay -- should lead a potent offense.

    24
    Oklahoma State Cowboys
    2011 record: 12-1 (8-1 Big 12)
    Key returnees: RB Joseph Randle, OG Lane Taylor, CB Brodrick Brown, LB Shaun Lewis
    Key losses: QB Brandon Weeden, WR Justin Blackmon, DE Jamie Blatnick
    Spring star: QB Wes Lunt
    Unlike most of the quarterback competitions you've read about so far, Oklahoma State's is over. Last week, Cowboys coach Mike Gundy announced true freshman Wes Lunt beat out J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf. Gundy wanted his team to know the identity of its quarterback so Lunt could begin honing his leadership skills during the offseason. "We like our system. We like the ability to play fast," Gundy said. "We like the ability to throw the ball down the field effectively but also run the football. Wes gives us the best opportunity to stay consistent with our style of play."

    25
    Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
    2011 record: 8-5 (5-3 ACC)
    Key returnees: QB Tevin Washington, RB David Sims, OG Omoregie Uzzi, LB Jeremiah Attaochu, CB Rod Sweeting
    Key losses: WR Stephen Hill, RB Roddy Jones, LB Julian Burnett, OT Phil Smith
    Spring star: DT T.J. Barnes
    Washington, who now has started for a season and a half, will run the option behind an experienced offensive line. With Paul Johnson's offense, that usually means terrible things for opposing defenses. Defensively, the Yellow Jackets are deep in the secondary and stout on the defensive line. Barnes has dropped about 25 pounds and is playing well at a svelte 340. Meanwhile, defensive end Euclid Cummings might be the most appropriately named Georgia Tech player ever. In fact, only Navy safety Wave Ryder has better name-school juxtaposition.

    Next five: Missouri, Baylor, BYU, Louisville, Ohio State

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  • thanks for sharing! hope we're #1 by the end of the season...

    anyone know when the Pre-Season Mags hit the racks? I always love getting those!

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  • Jimbo's going to be looking for work in 2 years max. He might get fired this year. Those fans, or the ones I've spoken to, don't believe he is good at running a program. They also seriously question his ability as an OC.

  • Key losses: RB Trent Richardson, WR Marquis Maze, LB Courtney Upshaw, LB Dont'a Hightower, CB Dre' Kirkpatrick, CB DeQuan Menzie, DT Josh Chapman

    Wow, what a list, but don't know how they left Vlachos off...

    This post was edited by mvenomous1 23 months ago

  • Well, we're replacing him with an Outland Trophy winner. I was more surprised to see the 7th overall selection in the draft go unmentioned.

    The state is the great fictitious entity by which every man believes he can live at the expense of every other. - Frédéric Bastiat

  • Easier said than done for those guys.

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  • Honestly sounds like Murray has decided that he's tired of his coach not demanding more from the team. Richt checks out from end of spring ball till fall camp. Can Murray, by himself, keep his teammates focused?

  • You know your program is in dynasty mode when a long list of key players lost leaves off a top 10 draft pick, Barron. You REALLY know your team is in dynasty mode when die hard fans don't catch it.

    We are loaded!!! Oh it is fun these days to be a Bama fan!!