Catching up on spring college football news and notes

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Tua Tagovailoa
Tua Tagovailoa enters his junior season as Alabama’s unquestioned starting quarterback.

Spring time in college football is an opportunity for experimentation, especially with new faces and at new positions.

LSU holds their annual spring game Saturday, while Tulane concludes their spring drills a week later. Before you know it, we’ll be teeing it up for real. In the meantime, the work continues…

Alabama is still loaded with talent and competition but there is none at quarterback. will this be Tua Tagavailoa’s final season? Can he win the ’19 Heisman?

Dylan Moses (Baton Rouge native) will man one of the Crimson Tide’s inside linebacker spots. Keep an eye on a newcomer, redshirt Soph. Markail Benton, among the linebackers. There is hope that senior Terrell Lewis (6-5, 256), who missed 2018 with injury, can be one of the premiere pass rushers in the SEC. An early arrival, defensive tackle D.J. Dale (6-3, 315, 4 star recruit) has dropped 15 pounds and has had an outstanding spring. Future 2019 first round pick Quinnen Williams called Dale “a freak.”

Sophomore CB Josh Jobe (6-1, 186) looks to be an ideal nickle back. Nick Saban dutifully noted Jobe’s progression. “He’s made a lot of improvement. We thought that he made a lot of progress last year. I think he’s more confident even this year.”

A pair of position changes include the move of former wideout Chadarius Townsend (6-0, 194, 4.4 forty) to running back while redshirt freshman Cameron Latu (6-5, 247) goes from OLB to TE. Latu credits rugby growing up as preparation in college football.

There are seven new coaches on Bama’s staff for 2019.

Georgia junior quarterback Jake Fromm is 24-4 as a two-year starter. In 2018, he completed 67.3% with 2,749 yards, 30 TD’s and 6 interceptions. Competition has fallen by the wayside.

The Bulldog offensive line returns with great size and experience. The defense returns experience and depth. A pair of transfers, TE Eli Wolf (Tennessee) and WR Lawrence Cager (Miami), will be key additions.

Keep an eye on 2019 5 star signee Nolan Smith (6-3, 255, 4.5 forty), perhaps the next super pass rusher at UGA.

Oklahoma, after a 12-2 season and Big XII title in 2018, turns to transfer Jalen Hurts from Alabama at quarterback. He is a 63% career passer with 49 TD’s and 12 interceptions. Hurts follows a pair of Heisman winners, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, into the hotseat in Norman.

Hurts will have great options to target in the passing game. Tight end Grant Calcaterra (6-4, 221, Jr.) compares favorably to 2017 Mackey Award winner Mark Andrews. Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (6-2, 190, Jr.) had 65 grabs, 1,158 yards and 11 scores last year.

The Sooners are deep along O-Line and throughout the entire defense. A couple of early enrollees could impact. Safety Jamal Morris (6-2, 198) is making a splash as a vicious hitter. Wide receiver Trejan Bridges (6-2, 178) has been getting a jump this spring on a talented 2019 class at the position headed to Oklahoma.

Notre Dame, off a 12-1 campaign in 2018, moves ahead with senior quarterback Ian Book (6-0, 203), who threw for 2,628 yards with 19 scores and seven interceptions. He could be one of the better Irish quarterbacks in quite some time.

Running back Tony Jones (5-11, 220, Jr.) and Avery Davis (5-11, 204, Soph.) join 2019 early arrival Kyren Williams (5-10, 190) to form a talented backfield. Keep an eye on Destrehan High product Michael Young, whose role at wide receiver should expand in 2019.

The Irish have an interesting battle at linebacker with Bo Bauer (6-3, 225, Soph.), Jordan Genmark-Heath (6-1, 225, Jr.) and Jonathan Jones (6-0, 227, Sr.) battling Asmar Bilal (6-2, 225, Sr.) and Shayne Simon (6-3, 222, Soph.) for playing time.

LSU fans are keeping watch on developments for the Texas Longhorns, the Tigers’ opponents on the second weekend of the upcoming season.

The ‘Horns are led by junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who tossed for 3,296 yards, 25 touchdowns and five interceptions in ’18. He added 16 more scores as a runner.

A rock on the Texas offensive line, center Zach Sahckleford (6-4, 305) is a four-year starter. Running back Kentay Ingram primed for a big season after running for 708 yards as a freshman in ’18.

JUCO transfer Caleb Johnson (6-3, 245) expected to be a leader on defense at linebacker, where improving Joseph Assai (6-4, 245) played well in the Sugar Bowl. Safety Caden Sterns was the Big XII Freshman of the Year last season. The Texas secondary is one of the best nationwide.

Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson (6-2, 203) threw for 2,600 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 64.% of his throws. He will have a solid corps of receivers, led by Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black.

The Wolverines d-line will be a position to watch with ends Josh Uche (seven sacks in 2018) and Kwity Paye (6-4, 260, two sacks in ’18) along with tackle Michael Dwumfour (6-2, 285, two sacks in ’18) back to form the nucleus. A newcomer, defensive tackle Mazi Smith (6-3, 286), is a 4 star arrival who will need to get in better shape.

Manny Diaz takes over for the Miami Hurricanes after they dropped to a 7-6 mark last season. Offensive coordinator Dan Enos comes over from Alabama while Diaz focuses more on his specialty on the other side of the ball.

Ohio State transfer Tate Martell is an immediate help for the ‘Canes at quarterback after N’Kosi Perry (6-4, 185) struggled in 2018, completing only 50% of his throws.

Shaq Quaterman (6-1, 240), Zach McLoud (6-2, 230) and Michael Pinckney (6-1, 228) form the best group of linebackers in the ACC.

Wide receiver K.J. Osborn transferred to Miami from Buffalo, where he managed 53 catches for 892 yards and seven scores last year for the Bulls. He is also an excellent return man.

Oregon returns senior quarterback Justin Herbert (6-6, 233) who could have been the top pick in the 2019 NFL draft. He turned it down to return to Eugene.

Head coach Mario Cristobal led the Ducks to a 9-4 mark in his first year at the helm.

Top prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux (6-5, 243) is being called the next Jadeveon Clowney. The Oregon defense is stacked with talent. Sophomore linebacker Adrian Jackson (6-3, 205) has garnered lots of attention during spring drills.

The Ducks’ o-line, considered by most as the best in the PAC 12, only allowed 22 quarterback sacks in 2018.

The season opener against Auburn will tell us a lot about Oregon.

Defending national champion Clemson lost a lot of talent, mostly on defense, but running back Travis Etienne is back after racking up 1,658 yards (8.1 yard average) with 24 touchdowns. The 5-11, 200-pound junior from Jennings (La.) is a Heisman candidate.

New faces include defensive end Justin Foster (6-4, 255, Jr.), freshman linebacker Justin Mascoll (6-4, 210) and defensive end Logan Rudolph (brother of former Oklahome State quarterback Mason Rudolph). Watch for junior linebacker Shaq Smith (6-2, 245) as he gets his chance to shine.

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the sophomore slinger who tossed for 3,280 yards, 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions as a freshman, has the look of a future number one over all NFL pick. He’ll throw to stud wideout Justyn Ross (6-4, 205), who turned 46 grabs into 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman. In the national title game vs. Alabama, Ross had six catches (including one of the best you’ll ever see) for 153 yards and a touchdown.

A new signee at quarterback, Taisun Phommachanh (6-4, 210), won’t overtake Lawrence, but he may represent the future. He was rated the eighth best pocket passer in the ’19 class.

At Tennessee, Jeremy Pruitt enters year two after posting 5-7 record. Jim Chaney, the new Vols offensive coordinator, comes over from Georgia. Vols legend Tee Martin is back on staff after making his name as an ace recruiter but it’s former Heisman winner Chris Weinke who is Tennessee’s new quarterbacks coach.

Weinke will work with experienced junior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano (6-4, 209), who enters his third season as a starter.

Defensively, keep tabs on nose tackle Emmitt Gooden (6-3, 306, Jr.) and a pair of defensive tackles – John Mincey (6-3, 265, Fr.) and Matthew Butler (6-4, 276, soph.) – as key Vols who have improved during spring.

Starting left tackle Trey Smith has issues with blood clots in 2018 which forced him to step away from the field. There is hope he will be back. Alabama transfer center Brandon Kennedy is recovering from torn ACL last summer.

BYU may have the next Kyler Murray. Freshamn quarterback Jaren Hall (6-1, 205) is firmly entrenched as the starter as Cougars move forward in spring drills. He has a great arm but also swings a mean bat on baseball diamond. Hill had the game-winning hit vs. Utah Valley in 10th inning a couple of weeks ago.

Running backs Lopini Katoa (6-1, 205, Soph.) and Kavika Fonua (6-0, 205, Sr.) along with linebacker Chaz Ah You (6-2, 205, Soph.) have grabbed attentions during drills.

ULM will lean on senior quarterback Caleb Evans, who had 2,869 yards passing with 16 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions last year. He added 632 yards and 10 scores as a runner. Redshirt freshman Colby Suits (6-3, 233) looks to be solid backup at quarterback.

Wide receiver R.J. Turner (6-2, 204, Sr.) should be ULM’s go-to guy while 5-8 freshman Malik Jackson has the makings of a star despite his size. The Warhawks returns all of their offensive line starters from 2018.

A few new ULM players who could impact include a trio of freshmen – defensive ends Myles Cole (6-6, 231) and Brandon Nettles (6-3, 252) with defensive tackle Dayonte Roberts (6-2, 284).

At Kansas, Les Miles directs his first spring as the new head coach. Not surprisingly, the Mad Hatter is focusing on getting his new team more physical. Offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey arrives as well hoping to bring balance to the Jayhawks’ run-heavy unit.

Standout running back Pooka Williams is currently suspended, but hope is that the sophomore will return for ’19. In 11 games, the Hahnville High product had 1,125 yards rushing to lead the conference last year and added 33 catches for 289 yards and a pair of scores.

Williams evoked memories of legendary Kansas runners, a pair of Pro Football Hall of Famers. John Riggins had 1,131 yards rushing in 11 games in 1970 ad Gayle Sayers totaled 1,125 yards in 10 games in 1962.

The Jayhawks secondary features two locals from Landry-Walker. Senior safety Mike Lee has 218 career tackles and four interceptions to his credit while cornerback Corionne Harris, a sophomore, will compete for snaps.

More local ties in Lawrence include junior left guard Malik Clark (Warren Easton; 11 starts in 20180, sophomore wideout Takulve Williams (St. Augustine), junior safety Ricky Williams (Dutchtown), redshirt freshman safety Ryan Malbrough (Cecilia), junior long snapper Logan Klusman (St. Thomas More) and senior wudeout Daylon Charlot (Patterson High/Alabama transfer).

Many of the Louisiana players are at KU thanks to holdover assistant Tony Hull, the former Warren Easton head coach who is now running backs coach. New defensive backs coach Chevis Jackson was a three-year starter at cornerback for LSU (2004-’07) before heading to NFL.

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Rene Nadeau

Rene Nadeau

CCS/Fox Sports/ESPN/WFAN

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…

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