Saturday, April 16, 2005

Spurrier welcomes the challenge at South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Went to see the new ballcoach at South Carolina. Not a big believer in personal pronouns. Philosophy? Just wants to pitch it and catch it. And, yeah, says what he thinks. Loves doing that.Never had all the answers. Got some of 'em, though. Left his school, Florida, the one where he won the Heisman in '66, where he made those Bull Gators so proud, winning it all in '96. Got to the point where nothing he did was enough for 'em, though. Went to the NFL in 2002.Spent two seasons getting a dose of humility with the Redskins. Learned a lesson there. Decided he wanted to coach again, because how much golf can you play? Wanted to come back to college last November. Perfect timing, because the Gators needed a coach again.But the new president at Florida didn't want the Ol' Ballcoach. Awwright. Been there, done that. Be more fun to go somewhere where they haven't won. Show 'em what it feels like. Same deal as coming back to Florida in '90. Gators had never won an SEC championship. Won six of 'em in Gainesville. Four in a row. Time to do that in Columbia.Don't know if he can. Sure gon' give it a try. Gamecocks and Heismans"Make yourself at home," Steve Spurrier said, before running down the hall for a moment. He pointed to a clear case on his credenza. "That one in there, the guy that gave him to me told me he fought to his death. Then they fixed him up." Inside the case is a gamecock, wings flared, claws ready to sink into some flesh. It would seem as if Spurrier would rather have the winner, not the one that fought to his death. The trophy might be more symbolic of South Carolina football than Spurrier realizes.Next to the gamecock is a trophy symbolic of the success Spurrier enjoyed at Florida. Not as a coach, when he installed the Fun 'n' Gun and proved wrong every piece of football wisdom accepted on faith in the Southeastern Conference. When Spurrier returned to his alma mater in 1990 and began to dominate the SEC, it was as if Charles Darwin walked into the Southern Baptist Convention and proved the theory of evolution. The true believers had to stomach the fact that the running game, and stopping the run, was no longer enough.No, the trophy next to the gamecock is the Heisman, the one engraved a long time ago with the name Stephen Spurrier. The bronze stiff-arm and the stuffed chicken press up against a window that looks out on Williams-Brice Stadium, where 80,000 people show up wearing the garnet and black at every home game. The Gamecocks' fans don't just want Spurrier because of his style of offense. They want him because he represents success.The lovefest has continued, even as Spurrier has had to answer for nine player arrests since his arrival. Spurrier has not made the excuses he could have. He didn't recruit these guys, for instance, and most of the arrests came when he had been on campus for a matter of hours.In November, when the university announced its refusal to allow the team to go to a bowl game after an on-field brawl with archrival Clemson, six players responded by either removing their framed photos from the wall of an athletic building -- a form of social protest -- or by removing laptops and video equipment from the same building -- a form of stealing. Since then, four players have been thrown off the team for breaking either the law or a team rule. The coach who brought the players in, Lou Holtz, had a reputation as a disciplinarian, while Spurrier does not. The truth is, Holtz's career ended with his team in an on-field brawl, and Spurrier is a minister's son who sees the world in black and white. There's not a whole lot of gray."All of them chose to do those actions. All of them knew they were finished as South Carolina football players," Spurrier said. "It's unfortunate they chose to do that. It's too bad this reflects on us. Time will [help us] live it down. I can't guarantee how they are going to act all the time. The only thing we can guarantee is how we will react. We can guarantee who will wear the garnet and black."Spurrier walked into a wasp's nest of player behavior. He didn't bat an eye. Far from it, according to the people who know him best."He's the happiest I've seen him in a long time," said Norm Carlson, who, as the longtime Florida media official, worked with Spurrier the player and Spurrier the coach."His wife says it's the happiest she's ever seen him," said Ray Graves, Spurrier's coach at Florida and godfather to one of Steve and Jerri Spurrier's four children. "He had to keep coaching somewhere. He wanted to be in the [SEC] Eastern Division again. No question, that's the challenge he wanted to accept.""He feels it's a really good fit for him," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, Spurrier's former defensive coordinator at Florida and a close friend. "He likes the people he's working for and the way he's been embraced. I think he's excited for the challenge of it."Jamie Speronis is the director of football operations for Spurrier and has worked for him for years."I read an article about [Louisville coach Rick] Pitino on the Internet, talking about how he's much more appreciative after 9-11," Speronis said. "I think there are some parallels there. Friendship and family mean more to Coach now. He's still the same competitor. Not having success in the NFL, he's realizing you don't know how much longer you'll be doing this and working to make sure that you did all you could.""A new environment revives your interest," said Spurrier, who turns 60 on April 20. "This has been a really fun, challenging deal. I get excited, come to work every day, try to get these quarterbacks ready."Pass or failSpurrier serves as his own quarterback coach, and either his passers pass the way he wants them to pass or they pass him on their way back to the bench."When the quarterback drops back, Coach always watches the defense," Stoops said with a fond laugh. "When he sees where the hole is, he thinks, 'Where is the ball?' He stares at the defense, and he can't believe it wasn't there.""I tell them, 'You may be benched for a minute, but don't worry. You'll get another chance,'" Spurrier said.All three quarterbacks in contention this spring have been the No. 1 at some point, which is what happens when you take players recruited for running offenses and try to turn them into Danny Wuerffel. Even Wuerffel got benched on his way to the Heisman.Gamecocks sophomore Blake Mitchell has shown promise, but he threw 113 passes as a senior in high school. Freshman Antonio Heffner can buy himself some time in the backfield. Junior walk-on Brett Nichols has shown promise."They're doing Oooohhh.K.," Spurrier said, drawing out the first letter. "They're not doing too bad. It's their first time in a pass offense where they've got to make decisions and pick out one guy and try to hit him. ... If we had to play today, we would throw 15 or 20 times and see how our defense plays. You can't throw 40 times if you can't complete a pass."The spring game is Saturday. It will be televised by ESPN2 and ESPNU. Spurrier will be interviewed throughout the game. He turned down the opportunity to wear a mike during the game. The coach is much more concerned about how much work his quarterbacks do over the summer than he is about coaching before a half-filled stadium in April. When asked whether the Gamecocks are prepared, Spurrier giggled and noted how the defenses won't be allowed to blitz."Between April 16 and August 4, the beginning of fall practice, is about 130 days," Spurrier said. Actually, it's 109, and if his quarterbacks were that accurate, they would be on the sideline next to Spurrier. But, anyway. "That's the time that hopefully one or two of them will really try to learn to play the game. The quarterbacks need a whole summer of watching tape, drawing up plays, learning where everyone goes. They're not supposed to be ready right now."The SEC awaits, with fans ready to exact revenge, not just for the beatings Florida gave their teams, but for the delight that Spurrier took in doling them out. "I think he may enjoy the fact that he's an underdog," Stoops said. "He likes that fight."Don't have all the answers. Got a few of them, though.

Spring Preview 2005

Arizona What needs working on ... Putting points on the board. There hasn't been much offense around Tucson over the last few years and finished 116th in the nation last season averaging 14.91 points per game. Before the 34 point outburst in the season-ending win over Arizona State, the Wildcat attack only broke the 20 point barrier against D-IAA Northern Arizona (21-3) and lowly Washington (23-13). Outside of a few linemen, everyone of significance returns to the offense meaning there's no excuse for the production to be poor again.The most important position to watch is ... Wide receiver. There wasn't much pop to the passing game with junior-to-be Syndric Steptoe led the way with only 446 yards and three touchdowns on 30 catches. Second leading receiver TE Steve Fleming is gone as is 2003's top receiver Biren Ealy after being kicked off the team. JUCO transfer B.J. Vickers and redshirt freshmen Gerold Rodriguez and Bobby McCoy will get plenty of spring ball work.Spring attitude... Try to bring success to the Mike Stoops era a year early. This is an insanely young team despite welcoming back a ton of returning experience. The defense showed signs of potentially being special last season and will only get better as 2005 goes on. If the offense can produce, this should be one of the Pac 10's brightest new stars.Arizona State Spring practice starts March 19, Spring Game April 16What needs working on ... Punt coverage. As a freshman, punter Chris McDonald kicked like a potential All-America candidate averaging 43.1 yards per boot highlighted by a 72-yard bomb. However, ASU was dead last in the Pac 10, and 94th in the nation, averaging only 32.44 yards net.The most important position to watch is ... Defensive back. The ASU pass defense allowed 236 yards per game last season but gets back Josh Golden and R.J. Oliver on the corners. Defensive end will also bear watching to see if Kyle Caldwell can progress into a consistent pass rusher. Spring attitude... Pac 10 title or bust. ASU led the league in passing and shouldn't fall as long as QB Sam Keller can build on his fantastic end-of-2004 finish and Derek Hagan plays like the All-American he should be. The defense has the potential to be more than decent as long as preseason practices go well. With a road trip to LSU on September 10th, there's no time to waste.California Spring practice starts March 28, Spring Game April 23What needs working on ... Pass defense. The Bear run defense was tremendous last season finishing second in the nation, but the secondary allowed 238 yards per game. To be fair, many of those yards came against teams trying to come back from a massive deficit. Even so, safeties Ryan Gutierrez and Matt Giordano are gone and there might not be as much of a pass rush to help out the corners with the graduation of DE Ryan Riddle. The secondary will also have a tough time because ...The most important position to watch is ... Defensive lineman and linebacker. Record-setting RB J.J. Arrington, QB Aaron Rodgers and receivers Jonathan Makonnen and Geoff McArthur are all gone from an offense that averaged close to 500 yards of offense and 37 points per game, but Jeff Tedford's teams will always be explosive. The defense was underrated last season, but it could take a while to rebuild. The defensive front seven is the biggest concern losing all seven starters from the Holiday Bowl team and most of the backups. Spring attitude... Reload. No team in America loses as much as Cal does, but Tedford has a good recruiting class coming in and some strong talent to build around. Getting Sacramento State, at Washington, Illinois, at New Mexico State and Arizona to start the season means a 5-0 start is very possible if the team progresses quickly this off-season Oregon What needs working on ... Stopping an offense with a pulse. Oh sure, the Ducks did a great job against anemic offenses like Arizona's, Stanford's and Washington's, but outside of a great performance against Cal, every other solid offense was able roll. The Oregon secondary has to prevent the big play after allowing 13.1 yards per catch.The most important position to watch is ... Offensive tackle. Starters Adam Snyder and Mike DeLaGrange are gone making the loss of OG Nick Steitz and C Robin Knebel that much tougher. If the offensive line doesn't come around quickly, the potentially explosive offense will be grounded.Spring attitude... This could be something special. After blowing a chance to go to a bowl in a Civil War blowout loss to Oregon State, the Ducks have to be itching to get 2005 going. Outside of the offensive line, this is an experienced team with a good defense and some serious playmakers on offense. QB Kellen Clemens won't get as much love as he should in a league with Matt Leinart and Sam Keller, but he's good enough to lead the Ducks to a huge season.Oregon State Spring practice starts March 30, Spring Game April 30What needs working on ... A running game would be nice. The OSU running game finished dead last in America averaging 70.67 yards per game after losing Steven Jackson to the St. Louis Rams. Until a new quarterback emerges, someone is going to have to provide a ground threat. It'll be a long year of a good runner doesn't emerge this spring.The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. If the departure of long-time starter Derek Anderson wasn't enough, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Paul Chryst is also gone leaving for Wisconsin. Is Ryan Gunderson ready to be the leader of the passing game? The development and emergence of a quarterback will be one of the most talked about storylines of Pac 10 spring ball.Spring attitude... This might be a bit of a rebuilding year, but that doesn't mean OSU can't be a major Pac 10 player. If the offensive backfield problems can work themselves out, 2005 has the potential to be good with the lines coming back with enough starters to be effective and a linebacking corps good enough to grow into the Pac 10's best. However, everything could fall apart if the offense can't remain effective. Stanford Spring practice starts April 3, Spring Game April 30What needs working on ... The running game. The Cardinal had some good running backs yet finished 114th in the nation in rushing averaging 81.18 yards per game. Senior-to-be J.R. Lemon is too good to let this happen again. The pass defense could use some help as well replacing three starters; it's hard to win in the Pac 10 if you give up almost 250 passing yards per game. The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Trent Edwards hasn't lived up to the prep hype yet and T.C. Ostrander was average at best when he got his chance only completing 44% of his throws. New head coach Walt Harris will try to find more production out of his quarterbacks this spring or true freshman Tavita Pritchard could make this a very interesting summer.Spring attitude... This has to be a bowl season. There's too much talent returning to shoot for anything less. Harris was fantastic when no one expected anything out of his Pittsburgh teams. The underdog role will suit the 2005 Cardinal well. UCLA Spring practice starts February 23, Spring Game March 12What needs working on ... Run defense, run defense and more run defense. The Bruins were last in the Pac 10 in both run defense and total defense as injuries to the linebacking corps along with youth and inexperience on the line proved to be a killer. Spencer Havner, Justin London and Wesley Walker will form one of the best linebacking corps in the nation, but they'll all be out this spring nursing injuries. That means all the focus will be on a line that loses coach Don Johnson and only one backup tackle, Eyoseph Efseaff, from the Las Vegas Bowl's three-deep depth chart. There will be no excuse for giving up 210 rushing yards per game again.The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Drew Olson was solid last season throwing 20 touchdown passes, but he wasn't sensational only throwing for over 300 yards once. Making things worse was his 6-of-12, 96-yard, one touchdown performance against Wyoming in the Las Vegas Bowl leaving with a torn up knee. That means that Ben Olson, the superstar number one recruit who committed to BYU a few years ago before leaving on a Mormon mission, will get the chance to become The Man.Spring attitude... It'll be hard to see exactly how good the Bruins will be with several key players on the sidelines. Even so, the team has to take this spring very, very seriously after the way last season ended. With practice starting so early, this can be a physical number of practices with several backups getting a chance to develop.USC Spring practice starts March 6, Spring Game April 10What needs working on ... Not much outside of increasing the size of the trophy case. The depth in the middle of the defense could use some beefing up after losing All-Everything tackles Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson along with linebackers Lofa Tatupu and Matt Grootegoed. The most important position to watch is ... New assistant coaches. Placekicker will be under the microscope losing Ryan Killeen, who overcame a shaky start to close by hitting his final seven field goals, but the departure of offensive coordinator Norm Chow hurts the most. How will the offense do this spring without the guru? How will Pat Ruel do as the new offensive line coach replacing Tim Davis (who left for the Miami Dolphins)? Steve Sarkisian will replace Carl Smith, who left for the Jacksonville Jaguars, as the new quarterback coach. Call this spring a feeling out period for the new coaches. Spring attitude... Can the team remain hungry? USC is going to be the unanimous preseason number one meaning the bull's-eye will be bigger than ever. The early road trip to Hawaii will be a win, but it's still a long trek. Arkansas, at Oregon, and at Arizona State come up right away meaning the Trojans have to be humming on all cylinders early. This won't be the walk in the park season many will make it out to be; USC has to be Orange Bowl-like jacked up for every game and pumped up this spring. Washington What needs working on ... Step one: hold on to the ball. Step two: score. When you finish the year last in the nation in scoring averaging 14 points per game, there's work to be done. Part of last year's disaster also stemmed from an inability to hang on to the ball turning it over thirty times. Ty Willingham has to first turn around the turnover margin and then start with putting points on the board. Willingham's Notre Dame teams weren't exactly offensive juggernauts.The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Casey Paus is the incumbent, but he was underwhelming last season leading the way to the talented, but wildly erratic, Isaiah Stanback. Carl Bonnell is the one with the all-around skills to take over the job, but is he ready to handle the gig? Oregon transfer Johnny DuRocher will also get every opportunity to impress new offensive coordinator Tom Lappano. Lappano has made it clear that he wants the number one guy to come out of spring ball.Spring attitude... There's no reason there can't be an immediate turnaround if the coaching gets the job done from day one. Willingham inherits a veteran team with a defense that didn't get any credit because of the horrific offense. The Huskies aren't going to compete for the Pac 10 title this year, but there's no reason this team can't shoot for a five-win year. A bowl might be asking too much, but you can be sure Willingham will make that the goal.Washington State Spring practice starts March 22, Spring Game April 16What needs working on ... Everything. The Cougars weren't miserable in any one area, but they weren't great at any one thing either. Consistency was the problem all season long mostly caused by issues keeping quarterback Josh Swogger healthy along with a shaky season from the defense. Wazzu was ninth in the Pac 10 in points allowed and didn't make enough big defensive plays to make up for the problems. The most important position to watch is ... Offensive tackle. Head coach Bill Doba has already announced that Swogger is the starter putting a stop to any speculation about a quarterback derby this off-season. That will only work if Swogger can stay healthy which will be an issue if solid replacements aren't found for Calvin Armstrong and Sam Lightbody. Spring attitude... This could be the sleeper team in the Pac 10 and one that could make a big surprise if all goes well. This spring will be key for this veteran team the sharpen everything up from the mediocre return game to the average rushing attack. An experienced team probably wouldn't have lost like the Cougars did last year to Colorado, Oregon and Stanford meaning there's hope for a three-game improvement. With a good spring and a few more playmakers asserting themselves, 8-3 is possible even with road dates at USC, Cal and Oregon State
on the slate.
Alabama Spring practice starts February 22, Spring Game March 19What needs working on ... The passing game. Obviously the attack wasn't as potent as it should've been after Brodie Croyle was knocked out with a knee injury, but that's no excuse for finishing last in the SEC in passing. Even though the running game is powerful there has to be more production through the air and the backups have to be ready in case disaster strikes again.The most important position to watch is ... The left side of the offensive line and running back. Wesley Britt and Evan Mathis were a devastating run blocking tandem last season. Starting off in spring ball, sophomore Chris Capps is taking over at tackle and freshman Antoine Caldwell is at guard. They won't be Britt and Mathis, but they, or another pair, need to come close. Running back is suddenly an issue as Ken Darby has a fractured pelvis that could put his season, and career, on the shelf. This will be one of the SEC's key injuries to watch this off-season.Spring attitude... Enough whining about bad luck. The team is there to win the SEC West led by a sensational defense and a good leader at quarterback. Veteran teams make their own breaks and their own good fortune. Yes, it's time to crank the expectations up several notches.Arkansas Spring practice starts March 28, Spring Game April 16What needs working on ... Pass defense. The secondary was young and it showed rarely coming up with the big play and allowed too many quarterbacks to pick it apart. The entire team could be a little more consistent, and the return game needs a total overhaul, but it'll be hard to make the jump back to a bowl without being tighter in the defensive backfield.The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Matt Jones carried the offense on his back even when he was banged up. He was the type of heart-and-soul player that's impossible to instantly replace. This spring won't just be about finding a new passer, it'll be to find a new leader.Spring attitude... It's time to become a factor again. Even though it's hard to move around much in the SEC West, Arkansas has to become a player in the race. The lumps the inexperienced 2004 team took should pay off with a big season. Nothing less than a second place West finish can be acceptable in year eight of the Houston Nutt era.Auburn Spring practice starts March 1, Spring Game March 19 What needs working on ... Replacing the entire backfield. You don't get better by losing two top-five caliber NFL running backs and a veteran quarterback like Jason Campbell. The Tiger defense should be swarming again, but the SEC West title will be a distant dream if the backfield doesn't produce. Therefore ...The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Tre Smith and Carl Stewart won't be Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown, but they can be productive. Finding a steady quarterback who came through as clutch as Campbell did is far tougher. Brandon Cox has the inside track to the job with Calvin Booker and Blake Field getting looks. All are big passers that need experience.Spring attitude... "No one respects us." There's still raging anger over not being in the national title game last year and now the Tigers want to prove they're still among the elite. That'll be hard with all the big losses on both sides of the ball. Everyone will predict someone else for the SEC West crown, so the team has to use that disrespect as motivation.Florida Spring practice starts March 16, Spring Game April 9 What needs working on ... Getting the Urban Meyer offense in place. Chris Leak isn't Alex Smith when it comes to running the ball and has to prove he can be more consistent. Gator fans might not buy this, but Utah had better skill position weapons than Florida has now. Meyer is good at implementing his attack right away; the quicker, the better.The most important position to watch is ... Running back. Ciatrick Fason was one of the nation's underrated running backs tearing off 1,267 yards and ten touchdowns averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He left early to become a top pro back leaving a void that DeShawn Wynn has to fill. A back in Meyer's offense has to do everything including block and catch; does Florida have one back to handle all the duties?Spring attitude... Win the title now. Ron Zook left the cupboard fully stocked and few are better at rocking with other coach's recruits than Meyer. Tennessee might be strong and the rest of the SEC looks improved from last season, but anything less than an appearance in the SEC title game will be cause for screaming and yelling from Gator Nation. Woe to Meyer if that team up in Columbia, South Carolina ends up finishing higher in the standings Georgia Spring practice starts March 5, Spring Game April 9What needs working on ... Scoring on a consistent basis. It was bang-head-against-wall frustrating the way last year's team full of multimillion-dollar offensive talent couldn't open up the throttle in every game. It could explode on a team like LSU yet die against Marshall and Tennessee. The steady hand of David Greene is gone meaning the offense doesn't have its go-to leader to rely on. D.J. Shockley has to prove he can win like Greene did.The most important position to watch is ... Wide receiver. Fred Gibson and Reggie Brown were inconsistent and slightly disappointing, but they were explosive and the top pass catchers. Sean Bailey has the potential to be a number one target and Bryan McClendon has a bit of experience. They have to prove they can take the heat off the running game.Spring attitude... Fly under the radar. Tennessee and Florida will be just about everyone's darlings and South Carolina will get a ton of preseason attention with Steve Spurrier taking over. That leaves Georgia, with its killer defense and running game, a little bit out of the spotlight. That might not be a bad thing. The Dawgs are every bit the SEC contenders that Tennessee, Florida and LSU are and might even be a little more talented in certain areas.Kentucky Spring practice starts March 30, Spring Game April 23 What needs working on ... Offense. There's a problem when you finish 115th in the nation in total offense and 114th in scoring. Absolutely nothing worked last year. Worse yet, the offense regressed as the season went on until putting up 31 in the season finale against Tennessee. UK isn't going to be in the East title mix, but it has to at least show up.The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Shane Boyd didn't get much help last season and wasn't exactly consistent himself. Andre Woodson has to turn into quickly become the leader of the offense or there might not be much overall improvement. If Woodson or Joe Joe Brown don't look strong, star recruit Curtis Pulley will likely be the opening day starter. Spring attitude... Be competitive. For good or bad, there are enough players from last year to hope for at least a four-win season. UK has to show up on a consistent basis and can't continue to be a doormat for the big boys. This had better be a good season or next year the big storyline will be about the new coaching staff. LSU Spring practice starts March 15, Spring Game April 16 What needs working on ... Improve the passing game. LSU has one of the fastest and most athletic receiving corps in America; it's time to use it. The Tiger offense was good last year and consistent enough to score 24, 24, 24, 26 and 27 points midway through the season. It can be much, much better which puts the pressure on ...The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. JaMarcus Russell was the hotshot recruit a few years ago and started to play like it against Iowa with a 12 of 15, 128-yard, two-touchdown performance in the loss. 2005's superstar recruit Ryan Perrilloux has already dusted off a spot on his shelf for a few Heismans and has stated he wants the starting job from day one this fall. Miles was planning on starting true freshman Bobby Reid at Oklahoma State last season before an injury stalled those plans. Miles won't be afraid to give the rookie a long look if Russell and/or Matt Flynn don't rock this spring.Spring attitude... Urgency. LSU is either the favorite for the SEC title or a powder keg waiting to explode. 9-2 isn't going to cut it with Tiger fans, so can Miles coach up to the hype? Will Perrilloux be a divisive element or the guy to keep LSU among the elite? Arizona State, Tennessee and Florida are all top ten caliber teams coming to Baton Rouge by mid-October so there's little time to work any kinks out.Ole Miss Spring practice starts March 7, Spring Game April 9What needs working on ... Scoring. The punt return game is the most glaring weakness from last year after averaging 6.11 yards, but scoring is more important. It was like pulling teeth to get points out of the 2004 Rebel offense as it only averaged 15.6 points over the final five games. To be fair, the Rebs had to face defenses like Tennessee's, Auburn's and LSU's, but there still needs to be more production.The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. The rotation of quarterbacks last year worked for a little while even though it killed any sense of consistency. Ethan Flatt threw six of the team's seven touchdown passes, but new head coach Ed Orgeron appears more interested in Micheal Spurlock and Robert Lane. There must be more production from the passing attack.Spring attitude... Intensity. It doesn't come any other way from Orgeron who'll make this one of the league's hardest hitting teams. If the Rebels can't match most SEC teams in offensive firepower, it'll try to get the job done by physical play from the defense. Expect sensation play from the lines.Mississippi State Spring practice starts March 7, Spring Game April 9What needs working on ... Scoring. The Bulldogs finished 114th in the nation averaging 15.73 points per game. After the 28-7 opening day win over Tulane, MSU only scored more than 22 points once (but it came against the Gators in the 38-31 classic). The defense wasn't bad and should be better this year; now the offense has to hold up its end of the bargain.The most important position to watch is ... Punter. Just about everyone else comes back with only a few worries about new starters, so some of the attention can be paid to the punting situation after losing Jared Cook and his 43.73-yard average. Senior Brooks Crabtree has to prove he can be a weapon to bail out what should be a mediocre offense.Spring attitude... Now it's time to take the next step up. MSU was young and struggled through several rough performances on the way to four wins. The schedule is average enough to demand at least five wins and possibly six with an upset or two. Yes, it's O.K. to think big.South Carolina Spring practice starts March 22, Spring Game April 16What needs working on ... Getting the offense in tune with Steve Spurrier. The pieces might not quite be in place to run the Fun 'n' Gun meaning there could be some rough patches in spring ball. Also needing work is a return game that was abysmal on kickoffs and lousy on punts.The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Syvelle Newton isn't Danny Wuerffel on or off the field after being charged for stealing a picture of himself from the athletic offices. His status on the team is still undetermined, but there's no reason to think he'll suffer any disciplinary action. Tommy Beecher was among three heralded quarterback recruits and will be in the mix all summer long.Spring attitude... Live up to the hype. South Carolina should've been much better than 6-5 last year with a defense that was fantastic (at least most of the time) and a running game that should've been more bruising. This is a tough year to make a big splash in the SEC, but the new Ball Coach isn't going to stand for anything less than success.Tennessee Spring practice starts March 10, Spring Game April 16What needs working on ... The return game. The Vols averaged a paltry 6.06 yards per punt return and 18.25 yards on kickoffs. The secondary also needs a ton of work after allowing 236 yards per game.The most important position to watch is ... Punter. Dustin Colquitt was one of the nation's best punters over the last few seasons even though he was a slight disappointment last year averaging 40.75 yards per kick. Time and again he bailed out the offense when it was needed most putting 17 inside the 20. Running back will also be worth noting to see if Gerald Riggs Jr. appears ready to blossom into superstardom. Spring attitude... There's no reason to shoot for anything less than the Rose Bowl. Tennessee returns almost all the key starters from last year and has some of the best offensive skill players in the Phil Fulmer era. Sometimes teams need the pressure turned up a couple of notches and UT could be one of them; this should be a group that relishes the role of favorite.Vanderbilt Spring practice starts March 15, Spring Game March 26What needs working on ... Turning drives into points. Vandy moved the ball a bit last year but had a nightmare of a time putting the biscuit in the basket. QB Jay Cutler should be one of the SEC's better quarterbacks and has to find ways to generate more production.The most important position to watch is ... Running back. The graduation of Norval McKenzie and the tragic death of Kwane Doster leaves a void in the running production. Jeff Jennings will likely be the main ball-carrier early in the attempt to take the heat off Cutler.Spring attitude... Win at all costs. This is year four of the Bobby Johnson era with only three wins against D-I teams so far. The Vanderbilt situation might be one of the nation's most difficult, but that doesn't mean the team can keep losing. There were four losses in 2004 that should've been wins as Ole Miss, Navy, Rutgers and Kentucky outscored Vandy by a total of ten points.
Cincinnati Spring practice starts March 29, Spring Game April 23What needs working on ... Getting used to all the new starters. Ten starters are gone off the defense and nine off the offense. The Bearcats started to roll over the second half of last year when all the of the experience came through and clicked on both sides of the ball (other than the 70-7 loss to Louisville). The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. QB Gino Guidugli was hurt for the Louisville loss suffering a broken hand from a fall. The Bearcats weren't going to beat the Cardinals even with a healthy Guidugli, but the blowout loss went to show how much the four-year starter meant to the team. Also gone is backup Collin Carey leaving the race wide open.Spring attitude... Patience. With so many new starters and new faces, the first year in the Big East could be a rough one until the middle part of the year. Spring will be for figuring out who wants to step up and be the man at each position and set the tone for summer. There might not be anything definite on the depth chart by April 23.Predicted finish before spring ball1. Louisville2. Pittsburgh 3. Syracuse4. West Virginia5. Connecticut6. South Florida 7. Cincinnati 8. Rutgers Connecticut Spring practice starts March 19, Spring What needs working on ... Punting. While there are several concerns this spring, there will be plenty of focus on better field position. The Huskies got a rough season out of then-freshman Shane Hussar who averaged 36.82 yards per kick while the team was 106th in the nation in net punting averaging 31.26 yards. The most important position to watch is ... Linebacker. Sure, replacing QB Dan Orlovsky will be difficult, but LBs Alfred Fincher and Maurice Lloyd were just as integral to the emergence of Husky football finishing last year with a combined 257 tackles and 24 tackles for loss. Ernest Cole needs to become the number one shutdown corner now that star Justin Perkins is gone.Spring attitude... Keep it all rolling. Head coach Randy Edsall has quickly made UConn a Big East player highlighted by the 39-10 Motor City Bowl win over Toledo. There's turnover on both sides of the ball and it might take a little while for everything to come together, but this adversity is nothing the program had to face a few years ago. Louisville Spring practice starts March 31, Spring Game April 22 What needs working on ... Punt coverage. Granted, sophomore Brent Moody didn't get a whole bunch of chances to get his kicks considering Louisville had the nation's number one offense, but he wasn't bad averaging 40.8 yards per boot on his 26 kicks. The coverage wasn't that great as the Cardinals averaged 31.9 yards per return. The kick return game could use a little more of a boost considering how strong it was a few years ago.The most important position to watch is ... Safety. J.T. Haskins and Kerry Rhodes patrolled the secondary last year and were solid for most of last season. Now they're gone, along with top corner Antoine Harris, making the pass defense a concern. Defensive leader and top tackling linebacker Robert McCune also needs to be replaced. Spring attitude... Win the Big East. Few teams can lose a quarterback like Stefan LeFors and be better. Brain Brohm gets the gig all to himself now and he still has a good receiving corps to throw to despite the loss of J.R. Russell. The Big East isn't all that great and is there for the taking. Pittsburgh Spring practice starts March 19, Spring Game April 16 What needs working on ... Pass defense. Dave Wannstedt had his faults as an NFL head coach, but there's no questioning what he was able to do as a defensive coordinator. Pittsburgh gave up 255 yards per game through the air last season and needs to stiffen up despite the loss of starting strong safety Tyrone Gilliard.The most important position to watch is ... Receiver. Greg Lee isn't quite the next Larry Fitzgerald, but he can certainly be the next Antonio Bryant and become the Biletnikoff winner is he comes up with another huge season. As a sophomore, Lee caught 68 passes for 1,297 yards and ten touchdowns averaging 18.9 yards per grab. Joe DelSardo is a strong enough number two to burn defenses that don't take him seriously.Spring attitude... Prove that this really is the best team in the Big East. No one was ecstatic about Pittsburgh being in the BCS, but it did what it had to do to get there and proved to be the Big East's most deserving team. Now is a chance to take a step up and really be the elite power worthy of being in the BCS with a good defensive head coach and a fantastic passing game.Rutgers Spring Game April 9 What needs working on ... Offensive balance. Rutgers led the Big East in passing but was last in rushing despite having two good backs in Justise Hairston and Brian Leonard. Even though the two were banged up throughout the season, that's no reason for the low numbers as the two combined for 878 yards and eight touchdowns and the team finished with a 2.5-yard-per-carry average. QB Ryan Hart isn't good enough to carry the entire offense on his shoulders.The most important position to watch is ... Defensive line. Along with the loss of leading tackler SS Jarvis Johnson, the line loses a ton of talent. There weren't many stars on the line, but there was a decent amount of experience.Spring attitude... All that matters are wins. This is year five in the Greg Schiano era and this must be a winning season after last year's collapse. The Scarlet Knights started off 4-2 before biffing the final five games. Schiano has wanted success from day one; now success is a must. South Florida What needs working on ... Throwing the ball. The pass defense wasn't a prize, but the big problem in 2004 was the inability to get the passing game going. Pat Julmiste showed flashes of brilliance throwing for 324 yards and a score in the 45-44 overtime win over TCU, but he struggled throughout the rest of the season only completing 48% of his passes for 1,570 yards and seven touchdowns with eight interceptions. The offense relied too heavily on the underrated talents of RB Andre Hall.The most important position to watch is ... The kicking game and . There aren't too many major holes to fill, so the big concern will be to replace PK Santiago Gramatica and kickoff man Justin Geisler. There needs to be much more pop to the return game as well.Spring attitude... Last year was just a blip. It was a young team that went through plenty of growing pains. The 2005 Bulls will be a team full of veterans everywhere but on the offensive line. The defense should be better and the offense will be fine as long as the hogs up front open up a few holes for Hall. The Big East title is asking for too much, but a bowl game is a reasonable goal.Syracuse Spring practice starts March 28, Spring Game April 23 What needs working on ... Defensive consistency. A steady passing game would certainly be nice, but that should come around as the season goes on. Getting defensive production all season long is more important after allowing 427 yards and 24 points per game. New head coach Greg Robinson will change that up in a hurry.The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Perry Patterson had his moments last year playing well in the loss to Florida State and generally got the job done at home. However, he left a lot to be desired when it came to his decision making and rarely came up with the game-changing play needed on the road. If he doesn't shine right away, the quarterback situation this off-season will be a daily soap opera.Spring attitude... Get back to prominence. The program got a bit stale under Paul Pasqualoni, but it wasn't all that long ago that Syracuse was one of the Big East's big-time players. Robinson will come in and toughen up the defense and rely on a good running game right away. The more the passing game can produce, the bigger this year would be.West Virginia Spring practice starts March 21, Spring Game April 16 What needs working on ... Passing game. The quarterback situation is its own mess, but part of the problem will be the receiving corps with the early departure of Chris Henry and the graduation of Miquelle Henderson and Eddie Jackson. West Virginia always runs the ball and will focus on the ground game again, but a steady passing attack would be nice.The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Rasheed Marshall was the steady leader for the beginning of the Rich Rodriguez era and the one who kept all aspects of the offense rolling. He's gone as well as backup Charles Hales. It'll be a battle between at least five prospects for the starting job; it might be an on-going saga until the fall's opening kickoff.Spring attitude... No excuses. There might be a ton of personnel losses and there might still be a hangover after what was supposed to be a dream season. Too bad. The Big East might have added a few good teams, but it also lost a very good Boston College team. The conference is there for the taking and West Virginia isn't planning on rebuilding.
Boston College Spring practice starts March 29, Spring Game April 23What needs working on ... Converting drives into points. BC's offense was able to move the ball without much of a problem last year, but there wasn't quite as much scoring as there should've been coming up with the biggest performance in the 37-24 bowl win over North Carolina. There's too much offensive talent to only be averaging 24.7 points per game.The most important position to watch is ... The right side of the defensive line. Tackle Tim Bulman and end Phil Mettling were overshadowed last year thanks to all the attention given to Mathias Kiwanuka. They were able to more than hold their own and make teams pay when they only focused on the star end on the left side. Kiwanuka will see triple teams if B.J. Raji and Nick Larking don't get the job done.Spring attitude... Make a big splash. BC biffed its chance at the BCS last year with the gag against Syracuse, but this was still a tremendous team and should be even better this year. The ACC is obviously far tougher than the Big East and a conference title might be too much to ask for; an 8-3 year isn't out of reach.Clemson Spring practice starts March 11, Spring Game April 16What needs working on ... Making Charlie Whitehurst be Charlie Whitehurst again. The Clemson quarterback had a rough year throwing for only 2,067 yards with seven touchdowns and 17 interceptions after a brilliant 3,561-yard, 21 touchdown, 13 interception sophomore campaign. He looked indecisive at times and somewhat lost at others. He's an NFL talent who should be better than to lead Clemson to the 113th best pass efficiency rating. New offensive coordinator Mike Spence should help turn Whitehurst around.The most important position to watch is ... Wide receiver. Part of the passing game's problems were Whitehurst and part of the issue was a receiving corps that didn't make nearly enough plays. Leading receiver Airese Currie is gone after leading the team with 61 catches for 868 yards and two touchdowns. The number two receiver, Chansi Stuckey, only caught 25 passes for 280 yards. It's going to be a young corps led by Stuckey and Curtis Baham the veterans leading the way.Spring attitude... Show as much fight all season long as it did against South Carolina. Despite the woes on offense and way too many turnovers, Clemson had a strong year beating Miami, Maryland and South Carolina. However, the inconsistency was a killer giving away the Georgia Tech game and losing to Duke. Clemson has yet to put together a good season from start to finish under Tommy Bowden.Duke What needs working on ... Offense. The Blue Devils finished last in the nation in total offense and 112th in scoring offense averaging 266 yards and 16.6 points per game. You can't win if you don't score, and Duke has to come up with a few new wrinkles to get things moving. Nine starters return on offense, so there's no excuse for a repeat of last year.The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Mike Schneider wasn't horrible last year throwing for 1,527 yards and eight touchdowns, but he didn't do anything to quicken the pulse. Nebraska transfer Curt Dukes is eligible and will compete right away for the job. While he doesn't have the leadership Schneider has as the incumbent starter, he has more upside.Spring attitude... Demand at least four wins. Duke knows its place in the ACC world and isn't going to have any illusions about winning the conference title. That doesn't mean a team loaded with experience, like this one is, can't make some noise. The time is now to come up with a few more victories.Florida State Spring practice starts March 18, Spring Game April 16What needs working on ... Offense?! Florida State?! Injuries to the offensive line and to RB Leon Washington kept the offense from having any semblance of consistency, and issues at quarterback didn't help the matter. The Noles only averaged 25 points per game and were 102nd in the nation in pass efficiency. Even so, it was still a nine win season with a team good enough to be in the ACC title mix. The defense is going to be brutally good so the offense has to carry its weight.The most important position to watch is ... Wide receiver. The quarterback situation will get all the headlines as Wyatt Sexton will try to hold off Xavier Lee and Drew Weatherford for the gig, but the starter won't have much luck if the receiving corps isn't in place. It's FSU so there will always be great receivers highlighted by star recruit Fred Rouse. Even so, losing Chauncey Stovall, Craphonso Thorpe and Dominic Robinson hurts after combining for 110 catches for 1,528 yards and nine touchdowns.Spring attitude... Win the ACC and get ready to roll right away. In one of college football's worst scheduling quirks, Florida State once against has to play Miami right off the bat. This isn't a must-win for the title, but a win over the Canes is important considering how loaded the rest of the ACC is. No one else in the Atlantic Division (BC, Clemson, Maryland, NC State and Wake Forest) should be able to touch FSU, so the key is to not screw up. Georgia Tech Spring practice starts March 11, Spring Game April 16 What needs working on ... Hanging on to the ball. The offense isn't nearly good enough to overcome the loss of 30 turnovers. The attack could use a little more punch averaging 22 points per game only getting over the 28 point mark once before the 51 point explosion over Syracuse in the Champs Sports Bowl.The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Reggie Ball always seems to step up just when it looks like he's about to get axed. The bowl game was his audition for 2005 and he was brilliant completing 12 of 19 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 38 yards and a score. Even so, he'll have to hold off Taylor Bennett. Bennett is more of a pure passer and doesn't have the mobility Ball possesses.Spring attitude... This is a good enough team to be this year's Virginia Tech. Even with the loss of safety James Butler, the defense should be among the nation's best. If RB P.J. Daniels can stay healthy for an entire season, this is the sleeper for the ACC title.Maryland Spring practice starts April 2, Spring Game April 30What needs working on ... Offense and moving the ball. The defense was good enough to win the ACC, but the offense led the way to a 5-6 season going into the tank last year averaging 298 yards and 17.7 points per game. There was absolutely nothing the attack could rely on equally bad both running and throwing the ball. Worse yet, the offense couldn't hang on to the ball giving it up 25 times. The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Joel Statham has been blamed for most of the offenses problems last year throwing eight touchdown passes and 15 interceptions. He's still in the mix for the starting quarterback job, but it appears to be a battle between Jordan Steffy and Sam Hollenbach for the opening day honor. Steffy was starting to look like the answer before getting hurt at the end of 2004.Spring attitude... It's not going to take too much to be back to the high standard set a few years ago. The secondary is a concern, but the defensive front seven should be outstanding led by LB D'Qwell Jackson. It's all up to the offense to turn things back around. Do you really think the offense is going to be that bad again? The Terps simply need to put 2004 in the past and move on. Miami Spring practice starts March 8, Spring Game April 9What needs working on ... Consistent offense. There were name players on the Hurricane attack, but there wasn't nearly enough overall production. QB Brock Berlin was above-average and RB Frank Gore was solid. Now Miami wants explosive after being stuck in the mud in too many games. The receiving corps will be among the best in the country and the defense, especially the line, will be tremendous.The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Berlin is replaceable. Cane fans have been waiting to see what 2002 top recruit Kyle Wright can do. Kirby Freeman is another tremendously talented quarterback being given every shot at winning one of college football's most glamorous positions. With Sinorice Moss, Lance Leggett and Ryan Moore to throw to, the starter won't have any problems finding targets.Spring attitude... Get the groove back. It's been a whopping two years since Miami last played for a national championship. That's acceptable, but blowing the ACC title with a home loss isn't sitting well with anyone. The Canes overachieved the last two seasons leading to a little bit of disrespect from the college football world. Don't be fooled; this team is a national title contender.North Carolina Spring practice starts Feb 25, Spring Game April 2What needs working on ... Run defense, run defense, run defense. North Carolina has had defensive issues for years yet was able to overcome them last season and get to a bowl game. That won't be happening this season if the run defense allows 218 yards per game again and the defense allows 32 points per game.The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Outside of concerns on the offensive line, just about all the pieces are in place for a solid season. The one issue is at quarterback where longtime starter Darian Durant won't be easily replaced. Senior Matt Baker has been a decent mop-up quarterback and will get the first look. Freshman Cameron Sexton is the future, but he's not ready yet. That leaves untested Roger Heinz as the only safety net if Baker stinks.Spring attitude... Anything less than a bowl will be a failure. The ACC is nasty and it won't be easy for the Tar Heels to slip into a bowl slot again if everyone else plays as expected. Even so, there's way too much experience returning to look for a drop-off from last year and there's no excuse whatsoever for going back to the days of being a bottom feeder. It all has to start with the defense.North Carolina State Spring practice starts March 17, Spring Game April 16What needs working on ... Holding on to the ball. The Wolfpack defense finished number one in the nation allowing a mere 221 yards per game but gave up 20 points per outing. How come so many points? Lousy field position killed by an offense that gave it up a whopping 32 times. It was an equal opportunity problem with 16 lost fumbles and 16 interceptions. That great defense could do more to force mistakes only taking it away 15 times.The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. All Jay Davis had to do was hand the ball off to the good running backs and let the defense win the game. All Jay Davis did was throw 15 interceptions, seemingly all coming at the worst possible moments, hurt most by a five pick performance in a season-killing loss to Clemson. His 6 of 19, 72-yard performance against Florida State wasn't a prize either. New offensive coordinator Marc Trestman is a great quarterback coach and could make Davis into more of a playmaker. Marcus Stone should be back in the mix if Davis isn't better.Spring attitude... It might not take much to be really, really good. The schedule is light enough that 8-0 is a possibility if the Wolfpack can beat Virginia Tech in the opener. The defense will be fine if the secondary can fill in the holes, so improvement from Davis and the offense should translate into the season everyone was hoping for in 2004.Virginia Spring practice starts April 1, Spring Game April 23What needs working on ... Punting and beating a top team. Virginia finished 116th in the nation in punting netting 29.87 yards per kick. Chris Gould and Sean Johnson struggled throughout the season and will battle throughout the off-season. Virginia was great against the mediocre teams but failed miserably in statement games against Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech. Let's just forget about loss to Fresno State. The most important position to watch is ... Safety. The loss of top target Heath Miller and guard Elton Brown will sting, but the biggest area of concern is safety with Jermaine Handy and Marquis Weeks after being rocks of the secondary. Spring attitude... Is that corner going to be turned? Virginia runs the risk of being nothing more than a very above average ACC team with another year like last season. There was more than enough NFL caliber talent to win the league title, but there wasn't enough execution on either side of the ball to beat the big boys. Are all the great linebackers a bit overrated? Will Virginia be a true contender in the nasty Coastal division? This is a pivotal year.Virginia Tech What needs working on ... Getting more out of the passing game. Bryan Randall was a tremendous leader and the gamer of gamers, but he wasn't a top passer. Virginia Tech has some great wideout weapons in Josh Hyman, Josh Morgan and Eddie Royal to make big plays, so it'll be up to Marcus Vick (likely) to be able to use them.The most important position to watch is ... Defensive back. The quarterback situation will be under the most scrutiny as everyone will be looking to see if Vick is ready to be the man; defensive back is more pressing. Jimmy Williams deserves to be on most preseason All-America lists, but everyone else has to be replaced on a defense that finished fourth against the pass last year.Spring attitude... Keep feeling disrespected. Every team from USC to Buffalo feels like it doesn't get enough respect, but Virginia Tech used that tired rallying cry better than anyone else last year motivated every step of the way. Everyone will have Miami or Florida State winning the ACC even though the Hokies are loaded. If something works, you stick with it.Wake Forest Spring practice starts March 15, Spring Game April 9What needs working on ... The return game. Considering the offense is hardly explosive (averaging 21 points per game last year), field position is at a premium. Wake Forest was 116th in the nation in punt returns averaging 4.1 yards and 106th averaging 17.79.The most important position to watch is ... Cornerback. Eric King was the team's top shutdown corner breaking up 11 passes and picking off a pass. Marcus McGruder led the Demon Deacons with three interceptions and broke up seven passes. Alphonso Smith, Johnny Edwards and Riley Swanson will try to fill the void.Spring attitude... Keep on improving in every area. Wake Forest won't win the ACC title and will have problems getting in the bowl mix, but that doesn't mean this can't be a winning season playing in the Atlantic rather than the more loaded Coastal. With RB Chris Barclay and most of the defense returning, the Demon Deacons won't be pushovers.
Indiana Spring practice starts March 22, Spring Game April 15What needs working on ... Defense. Indiana and new head coach Terry Hoeppner have to address the problems on defense before ever hoping to be more than a Big Ten bottom feeder. The Hoosiers allowed 453 yards and 31 points per game last year hurt most by a porous run D. If you can't stop the run in the Big Ten, you can't win.The most important position to watch is ... You name it. The offense needs playmakers to emerge this spring as the team's attack, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, transferred and QB Matt LoVecchio and WR Courtney Roby are gone. The defense has to replace most of the starters from last year's disaster.Spring attitude... Start from scratch. Hoeppner has taken on one of the most difficult tasks in college football and has to completely change everything about the program. Every position has to be open from day one and all remnants and ideas from past years have to be flushed out.Iowa Spring practice starts March 23, Spring Game April 16What needs working on ... Getting used to a running game. A ridiculous number of injuries to the running backs made Iowa a one-dimensional attack finishing 116th in the nation in rushing. QB Drew Tate is the unquestioned leader of the offense, but that doesn't mean he couldn't use a little bit of help. While head coach Kirk Ferentz won't have to go to the number six running back on the depth chart this year, he'll want to build up the depth in case there's a problem again.The most important position to watch is ... Defensive lineman. Jonathan Babineaux and Matt Roth were terrors on the Hawkeye line last season while Derek Robinson and Tyler Luebke were more than solid. Now the line has to be completely rebuilt needing to replace 22 of the team's 30 sacks and 51.5 tackles for loss. Spring attitude... Act as if. Iowa needs to act as if it's the favorite for the Big Ten title. The offense has to act as if it'll be among the most effective in America and the linebacking corps has to act as if its the best in college football. This isn't a nice little overachieving team anymore; this is a full-fledged powerhouse good enough to beat anyone.Michigan What needs working on ... Improving the defense. The offense has more than enough weapons to have another great season, but the Wolverines won't win the Big Ten title if the defense doesn't play better than it did at the end of last year. The back seven was helpless against Ohio State's Troy Smith and never made a play against Vince Young in the lost to Texas in the Rose Bowl. UM allowed an average of 33 points per game over the final four outings.The most important position to watch is ... Punter and defensive back. You don't get better by losing Ernest Shazor, Marlin Jackson and Markus Curry from your secondary. Punter Adam Finley averaged 43 yards per kick and put 13 inside the 20 as one of the team's unsung weapons.Spring attitude... Michigan has to use this spring to tweak. It'll be one of the favorites to win the loaded Big Ten, but there are several minor question marks. Can the passing game flourish after the loss of Braylon Edwards? Can Chad Henne make a jump in production? Can Mike Hart do that again? Will the defense be better? The way last season ended will prevent the Wolverines from being complacent.Michigan State Spring practice starts March 25, Spring Game April 22What needs working on ... Holding on to the ball. John L. Smith teams are always known for being a bit high risk/high reward, but the Spartans only forced 14 takeaways and turned it over 24 times for the Big Ten's worst turnover margin. The run defense could stand to be stronger.The most important position to watch is ... Placekicker. Outside of the right side of the offensive line, the only major loss is at kicker where Dave Rayner connected on 22 of 31 field goals last year with five of his nine misses coming from beyond 50 yards. Steady placekickers don't just come along every day.Spring attitude... This has to be a bowl year. The Spartans blew too many chances last season starting off with a puzzling 19-14 loss at Rutgers, hurt most by a triple-overtime gag against Michigan and finishing up with a bizarre 37-13 loss to Penn State and a 41-38 loss to Hawaii. There's too much returning talent to shoot for anything less than a top five Big Ten finish. Minnesota What needs working on ... The return game and pass defense. The Gophers lose top CB Ukee Dozier and SS Justin Fraley from a secondary that allowed a Big Ten worst 266 yards per game. Worse yet, the secondary never came up with a big stop highlighted by the game-winning drive by Michigan in the season chancing 27-24 Wolverine win. The Gophers could use some work returning kicks after only averaging 7.1 yards on punt returns and 18.55 yards on kickoffs even though Marion Barber III was the main return man.The most important position to watch is ... Defensive end and kicker. The Gopher pass rush was anemic last year outside of Darrell Reid and his 7.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss. The faster someone can step up as the team's dominant pass rusher, the better life will be for the secondary. Rhys Lloyd was a steady field goal kicker hitting 12 of 18 with five of his misses coming from beyond 40 yards. He wasn't a great punter, but he still averaged 39.8 yards per kick putting 13 inside the 20.Spring attitude... Minnesota is always the team looking for respect and demanding to be considered among the Big Ten's best teams. Respect has to be earned and there can't be the meltdown there was last year losing five of the final six Big Ten games starting with the heartbreaking Michigan loss. This is the most loaded team Glen Mason has had since arriving in Minneapolis; now he has to prove he can get his program to the next level. Northwestern Spring practice starts March 29, Spring Game April 23What needs working on ... Pass defense. The Wildcats allowed 252 yards per game hurt by horrific bookend performances starting off against TCU and ending with Hawaii. CB Marvin West and SS Dominique Price are gone, so this will be a major area of concern this spring.The most important position to watch is ... Defensive tackle. Luis Castillo and Colby Clark were rocks on the inside with Castillo finishing with 75 tackles with two sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss while Clark made 39 stops with 2.5 sacks. The run defense finished eighth in the Big Ten, but it wasn't all that bad only allowing 139 yards per game. If the defensive interior isn't fortified, the linebacking corps will see a lot of work its way.Spring attitude... Improve on last year. As long as replacements can be found on the lines, there's no reason the Wildcats can't be as productive as last season when they finished 6-6 missing out on a bowl game. They've been kicking themselves over close losses to TCU and Hawaii, but they were able to win three overtime games including a classic over Ohio State. There has to be a little bit of improvement in all areas to hope for a winning record with a nasty Big Ten schedule.Ohio State Spring practice starts March 31, Spring Game April 23What needs working on ... Improving the consistency of the offense and holding on to the ball. The attack exploded over the final two games of the year hanging 27 on Michigan and 33 on Oklahoma State. Now the Buckeyes have to do that from game one with enough potential to have the best offense yet under Jim Tressel. The turnovers need to slowdown after giving up 23 last year. Tressel ball relies on ball security.The most important position to watch is ... Kicker. How do you immediately replace one of the greatest kickers in college football history? How many times did Mike Nugent bail out the anemic offense and prove to be the difference maker in tight wins? Buckeye fans will be eager to see how the kicking situation looks this spring. Spring attitude... Almost all of the key cogs are returning for the Buckeyes in what has the potential to be a huge season. Everyone will be excited about the early season showdown against Texas as a win will show that OSU will be in the hunt for the national title. This spring has to be about generating more out of the offense and making sure the defense gets strong enough so there aren't any letdowns like there were last year against Northwestern and Iowa. Penn State Spring practice starts March 28, Spring Game April 23 What needs working on ... Take a wild guess. The offense averaged 311 yards and 17.7 points per game last season with five games scoring in single digits. There's going to be an infusion of young talent from the great recruiting class this summer, but the main pieces have to be in place this spring. Most importantly, the passing game has to be better as it was flat out painful throughout last season. If there aren't any field stretchers, the running game will suffer once again.The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Will Michael Robinson use his experience to get the starting nod, or will he be used as a jack-of-all-trades again so Anthony Morelli can get the job? The Nittany Lions need as many offensive playmakers as possible so the hope will be for Morelli to grow into the position and Robinson can be used as an explosive wideout. The worst case scenario is for more quarterback confusion like there has been the last few years; either Robinson is a quarterback or he isn't. Joe Paterno has to settle on one guy. Spring attitude... It's time to pull out all the stops. Things have been down for too long by Penn State standards, but the defense is in place to demand nothing less than a winning season and a run at the Big Ten title. If the offense doesn't produce more and can't come up with a new wrinkle or two, it'll be a fight for a winning season with another great defensive year wasted.Purdue Spring practice starts April 2, Spring Game April 23What needs working on ... Pass defense and punt returns. The Boilermakers were 112th in the nation returning punts with a 5.22 yard average and 89th in pass defense allowing 240 yards per game. Chalk up the problems in the secondary to a little bit of youth, but the hope is for experience to turn into production with everyone returning. The most important position to watch is ... Offensive lineman. Guard Tyler Moore and tackle David Owen are gone from the right side of the line. That's the only real concern on a team loaded with experience and potential. Few teams could lose a Kyle Orton and Taylor Stubblefield and be just fine. Spring attitude... There's no reason not to think Big Ten title. The two deep on the defense from the Sun Bowl loss to Arizona State returns intact while QB Brandon Kirsch should make sure the offense continues to roll. With no Michigan or Ohio State on the schedule, there's no excuse not to finish among the top two in the final conference standings.Wisconsin Spring practice starts March 10, Spring Game April 16What needs working on ... Passing. The passing attack has too many veterans and too many good players not to be better. Colorado transfer Brian Calhoun will make sure the running game still works, but he'll have a hard time doing much if QB John Stocco isn't better. Reigned in by the confines of the offense, Stocco wasn't able to do much with his great receiving corps with the exception of a great performance against Minnesota. When he had to step up and be effective late in the season, he wasn't able to. The most important position to watch is ... Defensive line. The battle for the starting quarterback spot between Stocco and Tyler Donovan will be the talk of spring ball as new co-offensive coordinator Paul Chryst will have some evaluating to do. Things will be fine in the offensive backfield, but the same can't be said for a defensive line that loses three NFL starters in Erasmus James, Anttaj Hawthorne and Jason Jefferson along with sure-draft pick Jonathan Welsh. Offensive guards Dan Buenning and Jonathan Clinkscale will also be missed.Spring attitude... Rebuilding is a dirty word. The Badgers hit a wall late last year and crashed hard losing the final three games and blowing a chance at the Rose Bowl. The rest of the Big Ten (outside of Indiana) is better than 2004 while Wisconsin is a little bit worse. Go ahead Wisconsin and play the "nobody believes in us" disrespect card as motivation.
Illinois Spring practice starts March 29, Spring Game April 23What needs working on ... Attitude. Ron Turner was a solid head coach who couldn't get Illinois football to become the power it should've been. Ron Zook has to find a way to make Illinois more than just a basketball school. On the field, the Illini has to start playing better defense. It's been years since the secondary has been able to slow down a decent passing attack.The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. New offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher doesn't have a Chris Leak to work with, but Brad Bower and Chris Pazan are interesting prospects. 99% of last year's offensive problems came from an inability to decide on a starting quarterback; this has to be resolved by spring ball.Spring attitude... Losing can no longer be tolerated. It's not like Illinois was happy to lose under Turner, but there was almost a sense that things were never going to turn around. Zook is an uber-positive coach who has a decent group of athletes to work with on both sides of the ball and, arguably, the best 1-2 running punch in the league in E.B. Halsey and Pierre Thomas. There's a lot to get excited about, but there's also a long way to go.

Autographs and coaching tips: Paterno idolized by younger coaches

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Craig Schwartz couldn't resist. Joe Paterno had just walked through the glass doors of Penn State's indoor practice facility and the high school football coach from Elizabethtown wanted an autograph. ``That's the closest that I've ever been to the man,'' Schwartz said after Paterno signed a miniature white-and-blue Nittany Lion helmet. Like other coaches attending an annual clinic, Schwartz had come to Penn State to ``learn from the best.'' Two straight losing seasons in Happy Valley have stirred unrest among fans, but Paterno still commands the respect of a five-star general among coaches hoping to duplicate his long-term success. From a makeshift stage at the practice field, Paterno gave a five-minute talk that had coaches sitting on metal chairs 20 rows back craning their necks. Others sprawled out on the artificial turf and took notes. Dressed in a suit and tie and wearing his trademark thick-rimmed glasses, Paterno offered words of wisdom about coaching and waxed optimistic about a winning record this upcoming season, his 40th as Penn State's head coach. There's plenty of room for improvement. Penn State finished 4-7 last year (2-6 in the Big Ten), though it ended the season with wins over Indiana and Michigan State. A defensive unit that didn't allow more than 21 points in any game last season figures to be stout again after losing just two starters. But Paterno knows the offense needs work -- Penn State was 105th out of 117 Division I-A teams in total offense, and 110th in scoring offense. Among the roughly 600 camp participants, nary a negative word was spoken about Paterno, whose 343 career victories rank second only to Florida State's Bobby Bowden in I-A history. Herman Jones, a high school coach from Jamaica, N.Y., said the long-term record of success should command more respect from fans and members of the media who have called for Paterno's firing or resignation. ``He's given his life and soul to this school. Let him leave on his own terms,'' Jones said. ``If you force him out, you set yourself back.'' Charles Bascue, a junior varsity high school coach from Whitehall, N.Y., praised Paterno's approach to coaching on and off the field. Penn State players, he said, ``learn values from Joe Paterno. Forget about wins and losses, you'll learn about life from that man.'' Another big draw for the camp is the chance to take an in-depth look at normally secretive Penn State practices and the opportunity to quiz the coaching staff about practice strategies. Some came from as far away as Mexico City, like Eduardo Lozado, an adviser to the football program at the National University of Mexico. ``We talk with him not only about making better players, but better human beings,'' Lozado said. Assistants handled most of the indoor practices as camp attendees dressed in sweats, shorts and sneakers gathered in a large circle to watch. Burly offensive linemen lunged at tackling dummies; running backs performed agility drills; Jay Paterno, Joe Paterno's son and the quarterback coach, showed off another drill in which senior quarterback Michael Robinson tossed footballs from his knees to receivers. At another afternoon session, clinic participants viewed a scrimmage at Beaver Stadium while sitting in prime real estate -- 15 to 20 rows above the field between the 30-yard lines. Joe Paterno said his staff works hard and feels obligated to help high school coaches mold better players, who in turn could be available to Penn State. But he scoffs at the notion that the camp directly helps recruiting. ``I don't think recruiting has much to do with our objective here,'' he said. ``If there's a side effect, that's fine.'' Paterno skipped a late-night social which in past years allowed younger coaches to rub elbows with him. Coaches who wanted an extra Paterno fix tried to get in an autograph here or a handshake there. After signing the autograph for Schwartz outside the practice facility, Paterno stopped to talk to a few other bystanders, shook hands and exchanged greetings with a coach in the parking lot, then got into his silver sedan and sped away.Updated on Thursday, Apr 14, 2005

Rebs' Lane sidelined for rest of week

Rebs' Lane sidelined for rest of week
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) -- One of the candidates to start at quarterback for Mississippi could miss the rest of the week with a sprained shoulder, coach Ed Orgeron said.
Sophomore-to-be Robert Lane sat out practice after absorbing a hit late last week during a goal line drill. He dressed but did not participate in Monday's workout and watched senior Micheal Spurlock and junior Ethan Flatt run the offense.
Orgeron, who has said he wants to decide on a quarterback by the end of spring practice next month, was unsure how long Lane would be unavailable.
"I think it could be a couple of days, I'm not sure, maybe a week," he said. "We'll just have to see."
The quarterback position has been a huge question mark for Ole Miss since Eli Manning departed after the 2003 season.
Spurlock, a rushing threat, began last season as the starter and Manning's replacement, but was benched during the second game of the season for Flatt, a pure pocket-passer who started the final nine games.
Lane was most effective off the bench as a run-oriented change of pace, and came on strong at the end of the season.
He had 205 total yards, a rushing touchdown and a passing TD while relieving Flatt and taking virtually every meaningful snap of a 20-3 win over Mississippi State in the Rebels' final game under coach David Cutcliffe. Orgeron was hired in December as his replacement.
Lane downplayed the injury and said he hopes to return by week's end.
"It's not that bad. It's just real, real sore and tender," Lane said. "It's just going to take some time to heal. I'm hoping to be back out going at it on either Wednesday or Friday."
Ole Miss concludes spring practice April 9 with the annual "Grove Bowl" intrasquad football game.

Three dismissed from Iowa State

AMES, Iowa (AP) -- Tyease Thompson, Jerry Gair and Nick Davidson have been dismissed from the Iowa State football program, coach Dan McCarney announced Monday.
McCarney declined to elaborate, but Thompson, 19, a freshman running back from Lakeland, Fla., and Gair, 20, a sophomore defensive back from La Place, La., are awaiting trial on attempted burglary charges.
ISU spokesman Tom Kroeschell said he could not comment on why Davidson, a defensive lineman from Hurst, Texas, who redshirted his freshman year, was being dismissed from the Cyclones.
"We have a variety of team rules and university regulations that all student athletes are supposed to uphold," he said.
Police said Thompson and Gair were found Jan. 14 in someone else's dorm room, looking for money. Gair also was charged with second-degree theft and third-degree burglary for the alleged theft of a laptop the same day.
McCarney also announced that Cephus Johnson, suspended after allegedly punching a man in a fight over his girlfriend, had successfully appealed his suspension from spring practice.
"He will play in the spring game," Kroeschell said. "Beyond that, no final decision has been made."
Johnson, 22, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., faces trial in April on an assault charge. A defensive end, he played in nine games last season, recording 23 tackles, including three for a loss.

Supreme Court declines to consider Clarett's appeal

Supreme Court declines to consider Clarett's appeal WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court declined to consider the appeal of Maurice Clarett, the former Ohio State running back who challenged the eligibility rules of the NFL draft.
The justices on Monday, without comment, let stand a lower court ruling that said federal labor law allows NFL teams to set rules for when players can enter the league. Regardless of how the high court acted, Clarett is eligible for this month's draft.
Clarett was two years out of high school when he sued the NFL, contending the league rule requiring that a player be at least three years out of high school violates federal antitrust laws. He said the stipulation was arbitrary and robbed young players of the opportunity to earn a living.
Clarett lawyer Alan Milstein said the case remains important even though his client is part of the April 23-24 draft. He would not comment further, but Milstein has said previously Clarett believes other young players deserve the right to go to the NFL early.
Reached at her home, Clarett's mother, Michelle, declined to comment. The NFL also had no comment.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in New York ruled in Clarett's favor in February 2004. But a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, blocking him from entering the 2004 draft.
On the eve of that draft, Clarett filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court, but Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens each turned him down, saying there was no reason to let him in the draft while his challenge of the rule was unresolved.
Clarett rushed for 1,237 yards and 16 touchdowns as a freshman in 2002, leading Ohio State to the national championship. He was suspended before the 2003 season for accepting money from a family friend and lying about it to NCAA and Ohio State investigators.

Rape lawsuit against Colorado dismissed

Rape lawsuit against Colorado dismissed DENVER (AP) - A federal judge Thursday dismissed a lawsuit against the University of Colorado filed by two women whose allegations of sexual abuse sparked a scandal last year over its football team's recruiting practices.
The plaintiffs say they were raped by football players or recruits, but U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn said the plaintiffs failed to meet two key criteria in claiming the school violated federal Title IX law by fostering an atmosphere that led to their alleged assaults.
The judge said Lisa Simpson - who has agreed to be identified in media reports - and the other woman failed to prove the university had actual knowledge of sexual harassment. He also said they didn't show the school was deliberately indifferent to any known sexual harassment.
"There is no dispute that the sexual assaults described by the plaintiffs constitute severe and objectively offensive sexual harassment," Blackburn said. "However, I conclude that ... no rational trier of fact could conclude that the plaintiffs have established the first and second elements listed above."
The women had filed separate lawsuits that were later combined. A third woman who had filed a similar lawsuit withdrew it earlier.
The trial had been scheduled to begin in two months. Under Blackburn's decision, the case cannot be refiled and the school was awarded court costs.
"It's a huge victory for the University of Colorado, and frankly for hundreds of other universities around the country," said Dan Reilly, hired by the university as a trial lawyer.
Peggy Jessel, an attorney for one of the plaintiffs, didn't return a message.
The dismissal was an abrupt end to a case that grabbed the state's attention for months and led to coach Gary Barnett being suspended for three months before last season.
The scandal erupted last year when a deposition quoting Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan was made public. In it, she said the university used sex and alcohol to lure top recruits and that school officials knew it.
The allegations led to a grand jury investigation and a Board of Regents-backed probe that concluded drugs, alcohol and sex were used to entice recruits to the Boulder campus, though none of practices were sanctioned by university officials.
The grand jury investigated claims that nine women since 1997 had been assaulted by football players or recruits, but declined to file charges in part because of the reluctance of any of the women to come forward.
The school responded by putting some of the most stringent policies in place for any football recruiting program. But the fallout included the pending resignation of Hoffman and the departure of Athletics Director Dick Tharp.
The scandal didn't seem to affect the Buffaloes on the field last season. Barnett's team went 8-5, winning the Big 12 West.

Temple's 'goon' going out for football team

Temple's 'goon' going out for football team Associated Press PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Temple basketball player Nehemiah Ingram, who broke an opponent's arm when ordered to play rough by coach John Chaney, is trying to make the Owls' football team as a defensive lineman.
Ingram, 6-foot-8 and 275 pounds, is a walk-on hoping to become the fourth athlete to play football and basketball during the Chaney era.
Ingram was inserted into the Feb. 22 game against Saint Joseph's and told to commit hard fouls. One foul knocked John Bryant to the floor and broke his arm.
Chaney wanted to "send a message" and referred to Ingram after the game as a "goon." Chaney was suspended for five games, including the conference tournament.
Ingram first practiced with the Owls last week and participated in his first contact session Monday. In 19 games with the basketball team this season, he averaged 1.1 rebounds and 0.7 points.
Ingram last played competitive football in high school in Milledgeville, Ga., where he was a junior varsity tight end as a ninth-grader.

Trouble in Tennessee

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer said last night that he's as frustrated as anyone with the number of off-the-field incidents involving his football team in the past 13 months.In that time, nine different Tennessee football players have either been arrested or issued citations for everything from felony aggravated assault, to disorderly conduct, to misdemeanor shoplifting.The Vols' latest bout with trouble came in the early morning hours Sunday when quarterback Brent Schaeffer and receiver Bret Smith were arrested and charged with assaulting a fellow UT student. Fulmer suspended both Schaeffer and Smith indefinitely yesterday, and they will miss Saturday's Orange and White spring game.''I think what you've had is a few guys who've been consistent problems and have represented us poorly,'' Fulmer said. ''We've had a bad run of some bad decisions by a few kids, and we're nothing more than a reflection of society in many ways.''This latest incident occurred at 5:15 a.m. on Sunday when UT student Quantavious Emerson was involved in an argument with Schaeffer's girlfriend about her cell phone, according to a UT police report. Schaeffer told UT coaches that his girlfriend called to tell him about the argument and that he and Smith went over to Clement Hall to help her.Part of Schaeffer's involvement was caught on surveillance video in the Clement Hall lobby, according to UT police. In an affidavit filed by UT police in Knox County General Sessions Court, Schaeffer is accused of hitting Emerson in the neck and throwing him to the floor.Emerson suffered a cut on his head that required four staples to close, according to the affidavit. Both Schaeffer and Emerson had metal bats at one point, but the affidavit stated that they both put the bats down before they began hitting anyone. Smith was charged with assault after striking Emerson while he was on the floor, according to the affidavit.Both players were arrested in front of their Gibbs Hall dormitory. They were booked and released on their own recognizance. Their arraignments are scheduled for April 18. Schaeffer and Smith will have to go through the student judicial affairs process and may face disciplinary action from the university.It's the fourth fight a UT football player has been connected to since December, when Daniel Brooks was accused of punching a UT student in the face at a Knoxville nightclub the week of the SEC Championship game. Brooks was not arrested nor charged, but was punished by Fulmer. ''I can't put my finger on why we've had so many of those things, but we're trying to find out,'' Fulmer said.Schaeffer, who did not make the trip to last year's SEC Championship game after missing a meeting and breaking curfew, was challenging this spring for the starting quarterback job. Smith's five touchdown catches led UT receivers last season.UT football's recent off-the-field issuesMarch 2004 – Punter Britton Colquitt was suspended by Coach Phillip Fulmer following his fourth alcohol-related incident in the last six months – underage possession. Colquitt was later reinstated by Fulmer with certain conditions and should take over for his brother, Dustin, as the Vols' punter this season.March 2004 – Receiver James Banks was suspended indefinitely from the team following a verbal altercation with a female at the Thornton Athletics Student Life Center.June 2004 – Tight end Victor McClure was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest following an incident at the T-Rec Center on campus. He shoved religious studies professor John Hodges, ran around the building and began to take his clothes off and throw them into the air, according to a UT police report. Fulmer said a ''medical situation'' led to McClure's outburst. McClure was allowed to remain with the team.July 2004 – Receiver James Banks was issued citations by the Knoxville Police Department for violating the noise ordinance and underage alcohol consumption following a disturbance on the Cumberland Avenue strip around 2 a.m. Banks was allowed to stay on the team, but suspended for three games.August 2004 – McClure was suspended from the team following a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. He was not arrested or charged. A Knoxville Police Department report said Kristina Bennett had a cut lip and blood on her clothing. Bennett told officers that McClure had been drinking and that they began arguing. She said he took a piece of broken glass and attempted to cut his wrist. She refused to prosecute the case. Fulmer allowed McClure to return to the team under certain conditions. McClure had been on medication and under the care of doctors.October 2004 – Safety Brandon Johnson was arrested for felony reckless endangerment after firing teammate Chris Heath's handgun into the sky outside Cedric Houston's apartment. Johnson was suspended from the team and later dismissed from the school. Heath was arrested for misdemeanor unlawful carrying or possession of a weapon and dismissed from the team immediately. The charges were dropped in February following a preliminary hearing in Knox County General Sessions Court. Heath has since transferred to UT Chattanooga.October 2004 – Tight end Chris Brown was cited for misdemeanor shoplifting the night before the Alabama game when the team was at a Knoxville mall watching a movie. Brown was accused of trying to steal a jersey from a Sports Seasons store. Fulmer suspended Brown for the Alabama game.December 2004 – Linebacker Daniel Brooks was accused in a complaint filed with the Knoxville Police Department of punching UT student Melvin Ellis in the face at a Knoxville nightclub the week of the SEC Championship game. Ellis said he planned to file assault charges against Brooks, but never did. Brooks was not suspended for the SEC Championship game.December 2004 – Banks, already on suspension, was dismissed from the team for violating UT's drug policy. He submitted a fraudulent test sample and refused to retake the test. It was at least the second time Banks had violated UT's drug policy. He admitted afterward that he ''recreationally'' smoked marijuana. Banks is now at Division III Franklin College in Indiana.January 2005 – Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel was indefinitely suspended from the team after being charged with felony aggravated assault. McDaniel was accused of punching another UT student in the face while playing a pickup basketball game. The student, Edward Goodrich, suffered four broken bones in his face. McDaniel is suspended from the team and faces other possible disciplinary action from the university.March 2005 – Daniel Brooks was accused of throwing a punch at a fraternity party on campus, inciting a brawl. Brooks was not arrested or charged, but he was named in a UT police report as a suspect. The matter is still under review by student judicial affairs, and Brooks was not suspended for any of spring practice.

More On the Vols

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Two Tennessee freshmen were charged Tuesday with aggravated assault for their role in fights that broke out between football players and fraternity members at an on-campus party last month.Jerod Mayo and Robert Ayers, who redshirted last season, turned themselves in and were released from the Knox County Detention Facility on Tuesday.The arrest of Mayo and Ayers comes two days after quarterback Brent Schaeffer and receiver Bret Smith were charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly hitting a student who had been arguing with Schaeffer’s girlfriend in a dorm early Sunday.A total of 11 players have been either charged or cited since February with crimes ranging from underage drinking and shoplifting to assault.“We’ve got some very immature young men on this football team, and certainly, if not immature, socially unadjusted at this time,” coach Phillip Fulmer said Tuesday. “I’m extremely embarrassed and disappointed in the actions of a number of our players over the last several months. We have a large majority of our guys doing the right thing and a few that have embarrassed us in a very big way.”Ayers, a defensive end from Clio, S.C., was suspended from the team by Fulmer. Mayo, a linebacker from Hampton, Va., was not suspended.Mayo issued a statement through the athletic department, claiming he did not take part in the incident.Reserve linebacker Daniel Brooks, who was named as a suspect in a police report was not charged. Fulmer suspended him for the first two games of next season for repeated bad behavior, a decision he made several weeks ago but didn’t announce until Tuesday.Fulmer apologized to the university community, the school president, the athletic director and the team’s fans. He was visibly angry and said his tolerance for misbehavior was very low.“I’m not happy right now,” he said.

McDaniel facing felony assault

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- A Knox County judge refused to reduce a felony assault charge against University of Tennessee defensive tackle Tony McDaniel on Wednesday.
A defense attorney asked that the charge be reduced to misdemeanor assault, but General Sessions Court Judge Chuck Cerny rejected that and sent the case to a grand jury.
McDaniel, a 6-foot-7, 295-pound sophomore from Columbia, S.C., was charged after a fight during a pickup basketball game on campus in January. He attended Wednesday's hearing but didn't speak.
A 26-year-old student, Edward Goodrich, testified that his face was broken in four places when McDaniel punched him, and that doctors had to insert a metal plate to treat his injuries.
McDaniel is one of 11 Tennessee football players who have been either arrested or cited for crimes ranging from aggravated assault to underage drinking since February 2004. Most of the charges are misdemeanors.
Two players were charged Tuesday with aggravated assault for their alleged roles in a different fight on campus in March. According to an affidavit released Wednesday, defensive end Robert Ayers told police he hit the alleged victim twice.
A witness and former Tennessee player told police he saw linebacker Jerod Mayo hit Shadiyah Murphy in the jaw. Coach Phillip Fulmer he believes Mayo has been misidentified.
Murphy, a fellow student, was knocked unconscious, and his jaw was broken.
McDaniel, who made his first career start for the Vols in the Cotton Bowl in December, has been suspended from the team since the fight.
Some of incident was caught on tape by a video camera at the university recreation center. Goodrich told the court it wasn't until he watched the tape at the UT police department that he learned what had happened to him.
Goodrich testified that the pickup game included players disputing many of the fouls called. He said he couldn't remember exactly what McDaniel said but it was something like, "The next person who fouls me, I'm going to lay them out."
The tape wasn't viewed in court, but Goodrich described it as showing him moving to try to block McDaniel's shot and then McDaniel hitting Goodrich on the right side of his face after the play was over.
"With no hesitation he strikes me," Goodrichsaid. "[Then] he stood over me for a split second."
Afterward, the tape showed McDaniel walking away, Goodrich said.
Goodrich refused to go to University of Tennessee Medical Center by ambulance because he thought he would have to pay for it. Instead, some of his friends drove him to the emergency room, he said.
McDaniel's attorney, Don Bosch, argued a felony was the wrong charge in the case because Goodrich's injuries were not severe enough compared to others he cited involving aggravated assault.
"Although the injuries are serious, they do not rise to felony levels," Bosch argued. "This was a pickup basketball game with one punch."
Cerny said he was disturbed to find Tennessee statutes on assaults were confusing, but he agreed aggravated assault was the correct charge based on Goodrich's testimony.

National Sports Museum could get ceremony

NEW YORK -- The Heisman Trophy, homeless since the post-Sept. 11, 2001, shuttering of the Downtown Athletic Club, will strike a permanent pose inside the planned National Sports Museum in lower Manhattan.
"We think it's a good match," said William Dockery, president of the Heisman Trophy Trust said Wednesday. "We've been looking for a home. It's downtown, close to where we were in the past. And it contributes to the revitalization of downtown Manhattan."
The National Sports Museum, a 100,000-square-foot facility on Broadway, is planning a November 2006 opening, said its founder and chief executive, Philip Schwalb. The museum eventually could become the site of the annual presentation of the Heisman, which honors the top player in college football.
"I don't think there is as distinct a physical manifestation of sporting achievement as the Heisman," said Schwalb, referring to the familiar pose of the player on the trophy: the right arm extended to ward off tacklers, a football tucked tightly beneath the left arm.
Dockery agreed there was "a strong possibility" that the new facility, located in the landmark Cunard Passenger Ship Line building, could host the nationally televised ceremony. The museum will house the trophy and display a permanent exhibit of Heisman memorabilia and artifacts.
The trophy was left without a home when the Downtown Athletic Club, located just a few blocks from ground zero, closed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The club already was in financial difficulty before the attacks caused a steep dropoff in visitors.
In recent years, the Heisman was shuttled among various Manhattan locations. Its new home, an $80 million venture, received two-thirds of its financing through bonds issued to spur revitalization in lower Manhattan and the rest through private investors, Schwalb said.
The Heisman, named for Downtown athletic director John Heisman, first was awarded in 1935. Past winners include Paul Hornung, Roger Staubach, Archie Griffin and last year's recipient, Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart.
The original Heisman currently is kept in the offices of the Heisman Trust in lower Manhattan.