Weekend spring game notebook
Let's open up the notebook and check in on what happened at the various spring games across the country this past weekend.
Arkansas: Although he was going against the second-team defense, quarterback Tyler Wilson still looked amazing and will no doubt garner preseason Heisman Trophy hype. He went 31 of 41 through the air for 467 yards and three touchdowns to lead his squad to a 65-0 win Saturday as the Razorbacks look to turn the page on the Bobby Petrino era. While the team did lose a lot of talent at receiver, the cupboard isn't bare in terms of pass catchers. Cobi Hamilton had 11 catches for 156 yards, tight end Chris Gragg finished with 9 catches for 130 yards and sophomore Marquel Wade added 6 catches for 136 yards and a score.
Notre Dame: This afternoon I will post my thoughts on the quarterback race in South Bend, but running back George Atkinson III stole the offensive show by rushing for 124 yards on just 15 carries. He also added 54 receiving yards on three catches. Atkinson showed his knack for being explosive on kick returns last season, and the Fighting Irish would love to add that dynamic playmaking ability to the offense.
ICONPenn State's Rob Bolden struggled throwing the football in Saturday's spring game.
Penn State: The Bill O'Brien era kicked off Saturday in Happy Valley, and the former New England Patriots offensive coordinator likely realized just how difficult it will be to install his offense in Year One. Starting quarterback candidates Matt McGloin (6 of 13 for 105 yards with one touchdown and one interception) and Paul Jones (6 of 15 for 113 yards with one touchdown and one interception) didn't play great but had their moments. However, one-time starter Rob Bolden (7 of 14 with three interceptions) really struggled. With the offense likely to need a lot more time to gel, O'Brien may have to lean on coordinator Ted Roof's defense in 2012.
South Florida: The success of the Bulls begins and ends with quarterback B.J. Daniels, who just hasn't been able to bring consistency to the position week after week throughout his career. This past weekend, the struggles continued for the Bulls signal-caller, as he went 9-of-26 passing for 88 yards. Running back Marcus Shaw was about the only bright spot for the offense, as he recorded two touchdowns and 61 total yards.
Mississippi State: Head coach Dan Mullen has maintained that the Bulldogs will throw the football more now that Chris Relf is gone and Tyler Russell is the established starter. Russell showed off his big arm this past weekend by throwing for 312 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-43 passing. The team is looking for playmakers, so perhaps the best sign was that sophomore Jameon Lewis stepped up by catching 10 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt freshman Joe Morrow also capped off an impressive spring with six catches for 97 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown grab. The 6-4, 205-pounder is a big receiver who has the speed to make plays down the field. This could be the deepest set of receivers and tight ends since Mullen has been in Starkville, so that bodes well for Russell and the offense.
Ohio State: The Urban Meyer era began in Columbus, and an unlikely hero emerged in Michael Thomas. The wide receiver position was a real trouble spot for the Buckeyes in 2011, so his emergence would be huge for this offense. Thomas is an early enrollee freshman who finished the spring game with 12 receptions for 131 yards. Last year’s leading receiver, rising sophomore Devin Smith, had just 14 receptions and 294 yards for the entire year. The play of the 6-2 Thomas was a huge development for Meyer and the offensive staff, especially because Thomas even played well when matched up against the team's best cornerback, rising redshirt sophomore Bradley Roby.
ICONBarry Brunetti wasn't spectacular through the air, but he used his legs to make plays in the Ole Miss spring game.
Ole Miss: The Rebels received encouraging play from junior college transfer quarterback Bo Wallace, who threw for 240 yards on 16-of-26 passing with two touchdowns and an interception. Meanwhile, fellow quarterback Barry Brunetti ran the ball 14 times for 109 yards, including a long run of 78 yards that set up a touchdown that forced overtime. Brunetti only went 4 of 10 through the air for 62 yards, but this battle will last into fall camp. It's seemingly Wallace's job to lose unless Brunetti has a very impressive preseason camp.
Connecticut: All eyes have been on the quarterback battle in Storrs, and junior college transfer Chandler Whitmer played very well in the Blue-White game, throwing two touchdown passes. Head coach Paul Pasqualoni is still not ready to name a starter, but Whitmer would seem to have the advantage heading into the summer months. However, the Huskies still may need to rey on their defense, at least early in the season until the offense gels. So it was important to get a strong performance from senior tackle Ryan Wirth, who had a monster game with 4.5 sacks.
Syracuse: The Orange didn't register a score on offense, as the defense was the main star of the weekend. Tackle Jay Bromley notched a sack in the end zone for a safety and a forced fumble that Brandon Sharpe returned for a touchdown. Marcus Sales returned from a one-year suspension and had two catches for 68 yards. Ashton Broyld played running back and receiver in the game, and he recorded a 44-yard catch from backup quarterback Charley Loeb. Head coach Doug Marrone has reason to be optimistic about his defense, but will the Orange score enough points in the fall?
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