The Blitz: The nation's most intriguing QB race, and more
APR 28, 2013 10:55a ET
Max Wittek? Cody Kessler? Max Browne?
Whomever Lane Kiffin picks from that group of two redshirt sophomores (Kessler and Wittek) and an early enrollee (Browne), they're bound to look good throwing to all-world wide receiver Marqise Lee. Ultimately, however, this is about making Kiffin look good.
He looks to be, by all accounts, facing ghost pepper-grade heat after a season in which USC became the first preseason No. 1 to drop six games, so the most visible position on the field is without question a pivotal decision for Kiffin.
Kessler impressed in the spring game, throwing for 242 yards and three TDs. Wittek was 12 for 17 with two TDs and two interceptions, and Browne had a TD pass. That would seem to give the edge to Kessler, but he has just two career pass attempts to Wittek's 69. The fact that neither received Kiffin's blessing before spring camp broke may mean Browne, the national prep player of the year, has a better chance than we think.
If we're handicapping this race, the favorite has to be Wittek. Aside from being the only semi-known commodity, he also has prototypical size at 6 feet 4 (Kessler is 6-1). And, as we saw last year with his "we're going to win this ballgame" comment before the Notre Dame game, he isn't lacking for confidence.
This is Lane Kiffin, who is known for his unexpected decisions — ahem, leaving Tennessee — but in such a key season, and with the weapons surrounding his QB, including Lee and running back Silas Redd, it would come as no surprise to see him do something very un-Lane-Kiffin-like: play it safe.
They're feeling it in Kentucky
Say this about Mark Stoops: he has Kentucky's fan base excited.
An estimated crowd of 50,831 filled Commonwealth Stadium for the coach's spring debut, which more than doubled the previous record of 20,325 set in 1987. And that excitement stretches beyond exhibitions. The school says it already has sold 35,342 season tickets after hocking 17,647 a year ago.
Yes, the land of John Calipari and Big Blue hoops is abuzz about football, but there's still the reality of a difficult path to delivering the program's first winning record in SEC play since 1977.
The Wildcats will return 13 starters, including seven on defense, where Stoops, the coordinator at Houston, Arizona and Florida State, could have an immediate impact if the spring game is any indication.
Hulking junior ends Bud Dupree (6-4, 254) and Za'Darius Smith (6-6, 257) starred in the spring game. With the team's leading tackler from last year, linebacker Avery Williamson (135 stops), also back, Kentucky could be much improved across its defensive front.
At least they figure to be playing in front of some energized fans.
Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State, Jr.
After spending time with QB guru George Whitfield Jr. to work on his mechanics, it was only fitting that Miller put his arm on display, going 15 of 16 for 217 yards and two touchdowns, while also adding another score on the ground. It's a strong, positive sign for a player who has a career sub-60 percent completion rate.
T.J. Yeldon, RB Alabama, Soph.
He's been called the Crimson Tide's next Heisman Trophy winner and some have predicted he'll wind up being better than Mark Ingram, Eddie Lacy or Trent Richardson. Now the lead back in the 'Bama backfield, Yeldon whetted appetites in earning spring game MVP honors for the second straight year as he ran for 70 yards on 15 carries and caught seven passes for 60 yards.
Jameis Winston, QB Florida State, Fr.
He wasted little time making his introduction, throwing a 58-yard TD pass on his first attempt. He finished 12 of 15 for 205 yards — and then four days later, redshirt junior Clint Trickett, who was competing with Winston for the starting job, announced he will transfer. Let the Famous Jameis Era begin.
Football, in 140 or less
Bringing you some of the choicest tweets from spring.
Nix Hits The Endzone
Beware of "Irish Chocolate." Louis Nix III, Notre Dame's 6-3, 340-pound nose guard ran in a 2-point conversion while lining up at QB out of the shotgun during the Blue-Gold Game. The set, called "Irish Chocolate Package" after Nix's nickname, was Nix's reward for winning a wager with coach Brian Kelly involving academics.
Clowney gets in on the act
Not to be outdone by Nix, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who was out for most of the spring with a minor neck injury, got into the act on offense too. He slipped off the bench and caught a long pass — sans pads and helmet. Being that it's spring and all, he did tumble to the turf after the reception but wasn't called down and ran into the end zone for a 54-yard score, with a little push from the official.
The spring's best moments
You've already seen it a dozen times, but the best moment of college football's second season came courtesy of Nebraska and Jack Hoffman, the 7-year-old who is battling pediatric brain cancer. And yes, for those who are wondering, Jack does show up in the official Red-White Game box score, plus he has his own Upper Deck trading card. But he wasn't the only one to get this same treatment as Noah Roberts, 8, who is also fighting cancer ran for a TD (http://youtu.be/TxoZ9NParBA) to cap the Pirates' scrimmage.
570,268: The number of fans that attended SEC spring games, headlined by the 83,401 that filed into Jordan-Hare Stadium to see Auburn and new coach Gus Malzahn. Rival Alabama had 78,315 at Bryant-Denny Stadium, while Tennessee hosted 61,076.
897: Iowa State ranked 92nd in the nation in total offense last season, averaging 364.1 yards per game. But the Cyclones dialed it up a notch, racking up 897 yards — 535 rushing and 362 passing — in the Gold's 41-27 in over the Cardinal. Keep in mind the defense is working out the kinks without A.J. Klein and Jake Knott.
14: It took until the 14th possession of the game for either side of the Wake Forest offense to score when Chad Hedlund hit a 39-yard field goal for the Black team. Unfortunately it was the only scoring in the entire game.
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