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2006 Spring Questions ... No. 1 to 3
Posted Feb 17, 2006

The twenty big questions going into 2006 spring ball ... No. 1 to 3

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 4-6

3. Ten things to watch for this spring
10. Bowling Green QB Anthony Turner
Is Turner ready? He struggled when Omar Jacobs was knocked out for a stretch last year, and now he has grow into the type of high-octane passer to keep the Falcon offense going.
Anthony Glaud and Tyler Sheehan are big recruits who fit the mold, so Turner has to show this spring that the job is his. His development is one of the big keys to the MAC race.

Where are the Wisconsin running backs?
New running back coach John Settle has a lot of work to do. Brian Calhoun took off a year early for the NFL, Booker Stanley was kicked off the team and feature back-in-waiting P.J. Hill was also booted, at least for part of the off-season. Top recruit Lance Smith will eventually be the new Badger star, but for now, junior Dywon Rowan, who packs a load at 240 pounds, and sophomore Jamil Walker.

8. The California quarterback race
Jeff Tedford is hoarding quarterbacks with Steve Levy, Nate Longshore, Joe Ayoob and Kyle Reed all ready to get an equal shot at winning the starting gig. The winner will be keeping the seat warm until Kevin Riley matures next year. Whoever takes over the starting job will be in for a monster year.

7. The
LSU quarterback race
JaMarcus Russell won't be 100% this spring as he's still recovering from a shoulder injury. Matt Flynn was the team's best quarterback last spring and starred late last year, but he'll have to be perfect to be the opening day starter. Ryan Perrilloux is way, way too good to be happy about playing second fiddle. Can the coaching staff sell him on spending another year developing before being the star of the 2007 team?

6. Florida QB Chris Leak
Chris Leak will be the starter. There's little question about that, but how much will Urban Meyer adjust his spread to fit Leak's talents? Will it be a step back before taking a big leap forward when Tim Tebow can run the Meyer offense the way it's supposed to? Leak had better be lights out this spring or many Gator fans will be clamoring to get the Tebow era underway.

5. How fast can Ohio State's defensive back seven rebuild?
Gone are A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, Anthony Schlegel, Ashton Youboty, and Nate Salley are all gone to make tons of dough at the next level. The Buckeyes need every practice they can get before a September 9th trip to Texas.

4. Georgia QB Matthew Stafford
Joe Tershinski is the only Georgia quarterback with any experience seeing the most time in the loss to Florida completing eight of 21 passes for 100 yards with an interception. However, he'll have a major fight on his hands with superstar recruit Matthew Stafford enrolling early to battle for D.J. Shockley's old job. Joe Cox and Blake Barnes will be in the mix, but they're likely jockeying for a backup role.

3. How sharp is Bomar?
There's not a question about Oklahoma's starting quarterback, but the difference between a national title caliber season and playing second fiddle to Texas again rests on the emergence of Rhett Bomar. If he has a great spring and shows that the passing game can equal the running attack, then look out for the Sooners.

2. The USC backfield
John David Booty has all been anointed the new star, but watch out for redshirt freshman Mark Sanchez, who has a big arm and good mobility. Both will be quarterbacking NFL teams within the next few years. Of course, the running back situation will get a big look. The time will be now to impress with all the star freshmen coming in this summer.

1. Replacing Vince Young
Can Texas win another national title with a true freshman at quarterback? That'll be the question when Jevan Sneed hits campus unless redshirt freshman Colt McCoy shows he can hold him off. Sneed is the star who'll eventually be the main man, but McCoy ran the scout team last year and got to go against the number one defense every day.

2. The Heisman finalists, before spring ball starts, are ...
Adrian Peterson, RB Oklahoma - It's his to lose. This will be his last chance before becoming the number one pick in the 2007 draft.
Brady Quinn, QB Notre Dame - The clear-cut number two going into the year, but the Irish must be in the national title hunt all season.
Troy Smith, QB Ohio State - The numbers won't be there, but a win over Texas will launch the campaign.
John David Booty, QB USC - You'd throw for 25 touchdowns if you got to work with Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett.
Chris Leak, QB Florida - If Florida is in the mix for the national championship, Leak will get the credit.

Five who'll be mentioned in the race at some point this year
Brian Brohm, QB Louisville
Chad Henne, QB Michigan
Steve Slaton, RB West Virginia
Drew Stanton, QB Michigan State
Drew Tate, QB Iowa

Five who'll put up ridiculous numbers but won't get a sniff
John Beck, QB BYU
Colt Brennan, QB Hawaii
Brian Johnson, QB Utah
Jamario Thomas, RB North Texas
Garrett Wolfe, RB Northern Illinois

1. Other than USC and Texas, who are the top challengers for the national title?
Texas and USC will likely be 1-2 going into the season. Texas has everything in place except quarterback, while USC appears to have reloaded on offense and improved on defense with the addition of Nick Holt as defensive coordinator. Getting to the national championship game requires a good team, a favorable schedule, and a whole bunch of luck. If it's not Texas and/or USC in Phoenix, one or two of these ten teams will likely be there.
11. California
Team: One of the 15 most talented in America with a fearsome offense that'll be among the nation's best.
Schedule: A win at Tennessee in the opener would put the Bears in the hunt, but road trip on November 18th at USC could end title hopes. Otherwise, it's not bad with almost all the tough games at home outside of Tennessee and USC.

10. LSU
Team: It could be argued that there's not a more talented team in America.
Schedule: Nope. As good as LSU might be, it's not going unbeaten with road trips to Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas.

9. Florida
Team: If Leak fits the offense, and vice versa, the Gators should far and away be the best team in the East. It's SEC title game or bust.
Schedule: Along with home games against Alabama, LSU and South Carolina, there are road dates at Tennessee and Florida State, along with the neutral site game against Georgia, that'll be too tough for an unbeaten season.

8. Florida State
Team: Probably the best in the ACC. The offense will be better, but the defense will need time to jell. It won't get it because ...
Schedule: ... the opener is at Miami. If the Noles beat the Canes, 12-0 is very possible with the remaining road games at NC State, Duke and Maryland. The only home dates to worry about are against Clemson, Boston College and Virginia before the showdown with Florida.

7. Miami
Team: Solid, but not the killer of past years. Will the offense find any consistency? Can the defense be better? It's still a great team, but it has to always play up to its talent level.
Schedule: ... Very, very nice considering the home slate. The toughest games are in the Orange Bowl against Florida State, and Virginia Tech, but a road trip to Louisville is dangerous.

6. Auburn
Team: Very, very good. Probably a top five team in the preseason rankings as long as the defense plays like a killer in off-season practices.
Schedule: It's not a walk in the park, but the nasty games are at home. The road games are at Mississippi State, South Carolina and Ole Miss before ending at Alabama. Washington State, LSU, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia travel to Jordan-Hare.

5. Oklahoma
Team: Very good. The Sooners will likely be underrated to start the season before taking up permanent residence in the top ten and maybe higher.
Schedule: No offense to Texas Tech and Texas A&M, but it's a two-game season. If OU wins at Oregon and beats Texas, its national title fate should be in its own hands.

4. Ohio State
Team: Top five, likely number three to start the year. The defense will turn out to be fine, while Troy Smith and the offense will be amazing.
Schedule: September 9th at Texas. A win in Austin would do for Ohio State with the Texas win in Columbus did for the Longhorns last year. The remaining road games are at Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois and Northwestern. That's not bad.

3. Notre Dame
Team: The defense won't be appreciably better than last year, but the offense will be lights out with Brady Quinn, Darius Walker and Jeff Samardzija returning.
Schedule: 11-0 before the trip to USC? The schedule looks harder than it actually might be with Penn State, Michigan, Purdue and UCLA coming to South Bend. A national title caliber team has to beat Georgia Tech, Michigan State and Navy on the road. Of course, things could all blow up on November 25th in L.A.

2. West Virginia
Team: Top 20, but not much higher. However, Pat White and Steve Slaton are superior talents, and the offensive line will be great.
Schedule: Maryland will be tough, at Pitt will be a bear trap and at Mississippi State might be sneaky-tough, but it all comes down to the Louisville game. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, it's played at ...

1. Louisville
Team: One of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the defense might be suspect.
Schedule: A home win over Miami would give the Cardinals the win needed to be discussed in the national title hunt, and a win at Kansas State the week after would really get the ball rolling. It all comes down to the home showdown with West Virginia.