CFB Spring Storylines: New Coaches, Heisman Frontrunners and More
WOO! It's time for some spring football as we dive into spring practice season. No, it's not talkin' season yet, OBC. But, we do have plenty to talk about. Especially, when you take into account the new head coaches moving around, impact players going elsewhere, and what teams seem to be on the rise or needing to prove themselves.
You have to love this time of year. Mid-January I gave my way-too-early CFB top 25 rankings including reigning back-to-back champs, Georgia, on top.
Wasn't the coaching carousel fun to watch play out last year? We saw Lincoln Riley and Brian Kelly unlikely moves from one power football program to another. Which made Oklahoma and Notre Dame hire respected coordinators as their next head coaches.
New Faces, New Places
This time we saw Luke Fickell finally leave his comfortable Cincinatti job for greener pastures at Wisconsin. The Badgers have done a good job over the years hiring football coaches since the retirement of beloved coach Barry Alvarez. The names of Bret Bielema, Gary Anderson and Paul Chryst who all had successful tenures during their times in Madison.
The question that Fickell faces is can he push the Badger program over the top in the Big Ten and into a playoff berth. During his time in Cincinatti, Fickell led his Bearcats team to the College Football Playoff as the first Group of Five Conference team to make the field of four.
How about Nebraska hiring a very proven head coach at the Power Five level in Matt Rhule? He's shown the ability to turn around broken programs. He turned Temple into a 10-game winner in 2015 and 2016 before heading to Baylor tasked to rebuild a Baylor team decimated following the ousting of Art Briles. Within three seasons, the Bears won 11 games, appeared in the Big 12 Championship game and the Sugar Bowl.
Rhule is a very respected coach and has a great track record of turning programs around fairly quickly. Cornhusker fans are ready to win 9-games again and be nationally relevant similar to their run in the 90's.
The superstar, Deion Sanders, doesn't lack confidence as he begins his tenure at Colorado. The first time FBS head coach recruited well in his first offseason through the high school ranks and pulling quality transfers out of the portal. The Buffaloes have just two winnings seasons since 2005 but Sanders is a masterful motivator but can he find immediate response from his new players?
Louisville hired their famous son, Jeff Brohm as head coach after many years of availability. The Cardinals program has experienced quite the roller coaster following both Bobby Petrino tenures. Brohm will bring a innovative offense to the table and will inherit a defense that ranked in the top 25 for yards per game, third down defense and scoring defense.
Hugh Freeze returns to the SEC at Auburn and has the ability to turn Auburn back around following a three year stint hovering around .500. Freeze flexed his ability to recruit and coach while at Ole Miss, taking them to their first New Year's Six bowl game following the 2015 season.
Rising junior, Caleb Williams, likely returns for his final season in college and will quarterback another explosive USC offense this fall. The dynamic daul threat won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore but the hope around LA this fall will be taking the Trojans to the playoff in 2023.
Blake Corum was having quite the season for Michigan before being sidelined with an injury before the playoffs. The Wolverines star running back was set to be in New York City for the ceremony, pacing the Big Ten with 1500 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2022. With a swift recovery there is no doubt that Corum can rebound and put his name in the Heisman stakes in 2023.
Super freshman, Drake Maye was dominant in his first season in Chapel Hill. The Maye family phenom passed for over 4300 yards and 45 total touchdowns. Don't forget he also tacked on over 700 yards rushing, too. The Tar Heels welcome Chip Lindsey as offensive coordinator which should help Maye become an even better QB1 this fall.
Michael Penix experienced a career rejuvenation by transferring to Washington. The former Indiana Hoosier lit the skies up by passing for more than 4300 yards and 33 total touchdowns.
Other names to keep an eye on are Bo Nix (Oregon), Jordan Travis (Florida State), Brock Bowers (Georgia) and Marvin Harrison, Jr. (Ohio State).
Sam Hartman could be the piece that puts the Fighting Irish over the top. The sixth year senior had a terrific career for the Demon Deacons passing for nearly 13,000 yards, 110 touchdowns and only 41 interceptions. Hartman can also get on done on the ground rushing for 17 touchdowns.
Jalen Catalon played a vital role for the Arkansas Razorbacks as a team captain. The only knock against him was not being able to stay healthy. Catalon is a bruiser when it comes to tackling in the open field. The Texas native often delivered punishing hits to opponents. There's no doubt he reaps plenty of talent to represent his home state school proudly. With an injury free season Catalon is NFL caliber.
Dorian Singer will be the second straight receiver to transfer to USC. The former Arizona Wildcat can deliver in the passing game after leading a struggling offense in receiving. Singer caught 66 passes for 1100 yards and six touchdowns. Teaming up with the reigning Heisman winner only elevates his status as one of college football's top receiver.
Omar Speights was a fantastic linebacker for Oregon State since 2019. He had his hand in turning around a Badger program that won 10 games for the first time since 2006.
Now as a transfer at LSU Speights will have an opportunity to play for one of the better defenses in college football. The Tigers will boast an athletic front seven to go along with star lineman Harold Perkins.
Travis Hunter announced his departure from Jackson State to Colorado in late December but it was no surprise. The uber-talented cornerback/receiver is set to make a huge impact at the Power Five level. Whether he plays offense or defense is yet to be known but expect there to be growth issues in the move to big boy ball early on.
Devin Leary to Kentucky was very much needed. The NC State transfer will make an instant impact for the Wildcats after losing Will Levis as a potential first round pick. Leary's season was cut short due to injury but had a terrific junior season passing for 3400 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Liam Coen returns as the Kentucky offensive coordinator and could mold Leary into another top draft pick in 2023.
Dominic Lovett transferred from Missouri to Georgia during the offseason after a quality season in Columbia. The receiver caught 56 passes for 846 yards and three touchdowns this season for an inconsistent Tigers offense.
Lovett joins the two time defending national champions and will absolutely raise his draft stock ahead of the 2024 draft. Adding a piece like that makes a three peat very possible for Georgia.
RaRa Thomas' move to Georgia has been met with excitement but was tempered a bit with his arrest. He did share he was still with the team a few days ago on a social media story. In the Air Raid offense, Thomas was a star displaying his athletic and scoring ability with 878 yards and 12 career touchdowns.
Thomas will share his touches in the Georgia offense with Lovett, Ladd McConkey and Bowers but their passing game bodes to be terrific with the right quarterback.
Life without college football is almost over...for a little while. Who's your team and why are you optimistic about the 2023 season?