2006 Spring Questions ... No. 4 -6

Posted Feb 17, 2006

The twenty big questions going into 2006 spring ball ... No. 4 to 6

By Pete Fiutak 

Spring ball has already begun with North Texas kicking off its off-season sessions on February 13th and with Texas, Auburn and UCLA starting soon. Here are twenty questions heading into this important time to keep you going during this brutally painful time before March Madness.

- Spring Questions 14-20 | Spring Questions 7-13 | Spring Questions 1-3

6. The unknown players you'll know about by the end of 2006 are ...
10. Keynovis Bouie, LB FIU
While he's a safety-sized 217 pounds, Bouie is a fierce tackler with great speed to the ball. In only nine games last year he made 118 tackles with 18 stops against MTSU, 18 against Troy and 19 against UL Monroe. He also made 14 against Kansas State.

9. Chase Daniel, QB Missouri
You don't replace Brad Smith, but Daniel is a solid all-around quarterback who shouldn't have a problem keeping the Tiger offense going. He completed 38 of 66 passes last year for 347 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions, and he ran for 58 yards and a score.

8. Amir Pinnix, RB Minnesota ...
... or Gary Russell. With Laurence Maroney bolting early for the NFL, the plum job of being the featured ball-carrier for Minnesota was supposed to go to Russell after rushing for 1,130 yards and 18 touchdowns. But the potential junior had problems with his eligibility and withdrew for school. He can reenroll in the fall once his grades get back up, but in the meantime, it'll be up to the quicker Pinnix to be the main man until someone else emerges. The junior-to-be ran for 467 yards and a touchdown last year with a 206-yard day against Michigan State.

7. Rafael Little, RB Kentucky
The SEC's best all-purpose back in 2005 was Auburn's Kenny Irons, right? Nope. Darren McFadden of Arkansas? How about Alabama's Ken Darby or Mississippi State's Jerious Norwood? Not even close. Kentucky's Rafael Little ran for 1,045 yards, caught 449 yards worth of passes, returned 355 yards worth of punts and 133 yards of kickoffs. He had 124 rushing yards, 122 receiving yards and four touchdowns against Auburn and tore off 198 yards and three scores, along with 86 receiving yards, against Vanderbilt.

6. Micah Andrews, RB Wake Forest
Chris Barclay ran for over 4,000 yards with 40 touchdowns in his Wake Forest career, but Andrews will step in and be just as productive. Andrew ripped off 254 yards in the opener against Vanderbilt and 142 against East Carolina, but was used sparingly the rest of the way. He'll be one of the ACC's leading rushers.

5. Allan Evridge, QB Kansas State
Thrown to the wolves midway through his freshman year, Evridge was sensational at times highlighted by a 357-yard, three touchdown passing day against Texas A&M. He showed off his running skills with a 138-yard, two touchdown day in the 27-25 loss to Nebraska. He'll be the main focus of the Ron Prince offense early on.

4. Josh Williams, LB Arkansas State
It's not a stretch to say the nation's best linebacker might be in the Sun Belt. Williams was a terror as a freshman with 110 tackles, but was booted off the team last summer. He's being allowed to walk on and appears ready to take full advantage of the second chance. Word is he's working out like a madman and will be even better.

3. Graham Harrell, QB Texas Tech
If you're the starting quarterback for Texas Tech, you'll put up huge numbers. Harrell was just this close to being the starter in 2005, but he broke his leg in summer practice. Now he's expected to be the triggerman for the attack for the next few years, or at least until top recruit Taylor Potts is ready.

2. Steve Levy, QB California ...
... or Nate Longshore or Joe Ayoob or Kyle Reed. Longshore was the 2005 opening day starter until he broke his leg. Ayoob was way too inconsistent after taking over the job, and Levy stepped in and was fantastic over the final three games completing 30 of 45 passes for 387 yards and three touchdowns and an interception in wins over Stanford and BYU along with mop-up time against USC.

1. Chauncey Washington & Desmond Reed, RB USC
Don't shed any tears for USC over the loss of Reggie Bush and LenDale White. Washington has first round talent, but he has to keep the academic side of things straightened out. Reed is a poor man's Bush, but he has to get healthy. If those two don't work out, incoming freshmen
Emmanuel Moody, C.J. Gable and Staphon Johnson will keep the ground game going.

5. The pain in the butt in each conference race will be ...
ACC - North Carolina
If the quarterback situation stabilizes early on and there's a home upset or two over Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, John Bunting's crew has the talent to be a thorn in the side of the Coastal Division powers.

Big East - Connecticut
Call 2005 a transition season with an injury to starting QB Matt Bonislawski and preseason problems with the defense keeping the Huskies from getting back to a bowl. That'll change this year as they could ruin West Virginia's dream season in Storrs on October 20th in a nationally televised game.

Big Ten - Purdue
All together now ... there's no Ohio State or Michigan on the schedule. Again. The Big Ten road games are at Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan State and Illinois. Winning three of four is very doable, while winning all three tough Big Ten home games against Minnesota, Wisconsin and Penn State is possible.

Big 12 - Oklahoma State
Mike Gundy's program is at least a year away from being a player in the Big 12 South, and more likely two or three after his fantastic 2006 recruiting class has time to mature. Even so, his Cowboys showed some heart last year beating Texas Tech and scaring Texas for a half. Texas A&M, Nebraska and Oklahoma have to go to Stillwater.

Conference USA - East Carolina
If Skip Holtz's team could've just played a little bit of defense, it would've finished with a winning season. The offense should be one of the best in Conference USA making up for more defensive deficiencies. It'll all come down to a three week span against East favorites Southern Miss, UCF and Marshall.

MAC - Ball State
The Cardinals weren't all that bad last year once they got through with their suspensions. QB Joey Lynch might be the MAC's best quarterback good enough make BSU a deep sleeper in the West.

Mountain West - San Diego State
For the 19th straight year, San Diego State is supposed to turn a corner. That might actually happen in Chuck Long's first year at the helm as he gets to take advantage of some great recruiting classes from the past regime and star RB Lynell Hamilton.

Pac 10 - Stanford
Walt Harris had his down moments in his first season on The Farm highlighted by a loss to UC Davis, but there were good battles in losses to UCLA and Notre Dame along with wins over Washington State, Arizona State and Oregon State. Everyone in the Pac 10 will be taking the Cardinal lightly, but the Harris offense is good enough to pull off a few shockers.

SEC - Arkansas
With an opening day game against USC and SEC home dates against Alabama, Tennessee and LSU, Houston Nutt's club should make plenty of noise in the West. The SEC road slate isn't horrible thanks to trips to Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.

Sun Belt - FIU
The Golden Panthers won four of their final five games in 2005 and should be even better this year. Defending Sun Belt champion Arkansas State has to come to Miami, as does UL Monroe and UL Lafayette. FIU's final four games, all against Sun Belt teams, are at home.

WAC - San Jose State
Don't expect miracles in Dick Tomey's second season, but the Spartans should be even more competitive than last year when they finished the season with a two game winning streak. 5-5 speedster Yonus Davis is a nice running back to build around.

Who are some of the already known players who'll go nuclear in 2006?
Rhett Bomar, QB Oklahoma
Dogged after struggling early and without Adrian Peterson to count on over a stretch, Bomar got better as the year went on against a nasty schedule. He's a superior all-around talent who should grow into his prep hype this year.

John David Booty, QB USC
Or Mark Sanchez, but more on that in a moment. It was Booty as a 17-year-old true freshman who was supposed to take over for Carson Palmer, and then Matt Leinart turned into a legend. Booty has first round NFL skills along with the nation's best receiving corps to throw to.

Alley Broussard, RB LSU
The star of the LSU backfield late in the 2004 season, Broussard missed all of last year with a knee injury. He won't be back at 100% for spring ball, but he should be the focal point of the tremendous Tiger offense by opening day.

Colt Brennan, QB Hawaii and Davone Bess, WR Hawaii
When it comes to Brennan, think Timmy Chang with talent. He threw for 4,301 yards and 35 touchdowns in his first year, along with showing off some good mobility, and now he has a more experienced receiving corps to work with. Head coach June Jones has said Bess, a true sophomore going into this year, is the best receiver he has ever been around. Bess caught 89 passes for 1,124 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Jamaal Charles, RB Texas
Overshadowed by Vince Young, Charles should be the star of the nation's top team after a 878-yard, 13 total touchdown season. While all the other great Longhorn backs could dip into the numbers, 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns won't be out of reach.

Calvin Johnson, WR Georgia Tech
He'll be a top 15 pick in 2007. Johnson finally started to use his size and strength last year catching 54 passes for 888 yards and six touchdowns, and now he should make a huge jump in overall production with QB Reggie Ball experienced enough to be more accurate.

Sam Keller or Rudy Carpenter, QB Arizona State
Until he got hurt, it could've been argued that Keller was the Pac 10's best quarterback throwing for 2,165 yards and 20 touchdowns, along with nine interceptions, in just over seven games. Carpenter came in and finished as the nation's most efficient passer throwing for 2,273 yards with 17 touchdowns and only two interceptions while completing 68% of his passes. If one of the quarterbacks plays the entire year, 4,500 yards and 40 touchdown passes are possible.

Marshawn Lynch, RB California
Dinged up for most of the year, Lynch still finished with 1,246 yards and ten touchdowns capped off by a 194-yard, three score day against BYU. Justin Forsett will certainly be a factor in the Cal ground game, but Lynch might pull a J.J. Arrington and could hit 2,000 yards if he can stay healthy.

Sidney Rice, WR South Carolina
Rice became unstoppable with six 100-yard days in the final seven games highlighted by a 12-catch, 191-yard, one touchdown day against Missouri. QB Blake Mitchell will have a year of experience under his belt and will be even better at getting his star target the ball.

Zac Taylor, QB Nebraska
The light bulb went on as last year went on, and now Taylor should blossom in his second year as the starter. He has good receivers to work with like Nate Swift and Terrence Nunn, so a 3,000-yard, 25 touchdown season has to be expected.

Drew Weatherford, QB Florida State
Did anyone else realize that Weatherford was hung out to dry as a freshman? With no running game, a depleted offensive line and lousy play-calling from the coaching staff, Weatherford still led the Noles to the ACC title throwing for 3,208 yards and 18 touchdowns. If he can cut down on his 18 interceptions, and develop more of a rapport with top target Greg Carr, Weatherford should be in the hunt for ACC Player of the Year honors.