Touring several top 25 spring camps

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D.J. Uiagalelei

We took a trip around the SEC spring football happens recently. Now we check out the talent at some other major programs.

Clemson

The 2016-2019 Clemson senior class posted a 55-4 record, the exact same mark the 2015-2018 class posted. That represents the most wins for a senior class in major college football history.

The Tigers completed spring drills on April 3. Starting quarterback D.J. Uiagadelei went 20-of-28 for 174 yards in the scrimmage finale.

Deshaun Watson currently holds the school record with 4,593 passing yards and 41 touchdowns passes set in 2016. Insiders feel Uiagadelei will eventually break that record. He had 439 yards passing while filling in for Trevor Lawrence receiver against Notre Dame.

The sophomore this fall will have some signficant weapons at his disposal.

Wide receiver Justyn Ross (6-4, 205, 4.4) was projected as a first round pick in the ’21 NFL draft but missed the 2020 campaign with a spinal fusion injury that required surgery. He is well on the road to recovery.

Speaking of injuries, backup quarterback Taisun Phommachanh tore his Achilles near the end of spring practice.

With running back Travis Etienne off the NFL, a pair of new faces have drawn attention.

Freshman Phil Mafeh and redshirt freshman Kobe Pace have taken advantage of the absense of expected starter running back Lyn’J Dixon, who sitting out spring drills. Offensive coordinator Tony Elliott raved about Pace’s power and high IQ.

The Clemson defense allowed only 20 points and 112 yards rushing per game last year. Plenty of talent returns for 2021.

Linebacker James Skalski (6-0, 234) has made 46 game appearances, recording 171 tackles and 13 tackles for loss.

The defensive line is stacked: defensive tackle Bryan Bresee (6-5, 290, Soph.) 6.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks; nose tackle Tyler Davis (6-1, 290, Jr.) 5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks; defensive end Myles Murphy (6-5, 265, Soph.) 10.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks; defensive end K.J. Henry (6-4, 251, Jr.) 6 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks.

Iowa State

Not a program in the past that you would mention in the same breath among elite programs, the bunch in Ames is hard to ignore now.

Head coach Matt Campbell ran a limited physical contact camp this spring. His thinking was to keep his troops fresh so that they could accomplish more injury free. In the past, the Cyclones were more physical in spring. The staff decided to dial it back, focusing more on physical and technical development.

Quarterback Brock Purdy returned after considering a jump to the ’21 NFL draft. The 6-1, 212-pound senior was the 13th best passer in the nation (2,750 yards, 15 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, completing 66.6 percent). He also ran for 382 yards and 5 scores. In part to good blocking and also his ability to move and deliver the ball, Purdy suffered only 14 sacks in ’20.

Running back Breece Hall also returns. The 6-1, 215-pound junior led the country with 1,572 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.

Wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson (6-3, 200 Sr.) also returns. He grabbed 64 passes for 771 yards and 4 touchdowns. All-American candidate Charlie Kolar (6-6, 252, Sr.) brings his 44 catches for 591 yards and 7 touchdowns back at tight end to an already potent offense.

The Cyclones finished at the top defensively in the Big 12 recording 29 quarterback sacks and 79.5 tackles for loss. Edge rusher Will McDonald (6-4, 230, Jr.) was responsible for 10.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Linebacker Mike Rose (6-3, 240, Jr.) returns after 99 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. Isheem Young (6-2, 200), a reliable safety who handles anything deep, had 54 tackles.

Miami

The spring game for the “Canes is April 17th. They face Alabama in the 2021 season opener in Atlanta at the Mercedes Benz Stadium.

Quarterback D’Eriq King, a Heisman candidate, sat out the spring recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee sustained in the Cheez It Bowl against Oklahoma State.

The 5-11, 203 pounder threw for 2,686 yards, 23 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, completing 64 percent of his throws. He added 538 yards as a runner with 4 touchdowns.

In King’s absence, a pair of young guns minded the store. Redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Van Dyke (6-4, 222) displayed consistency. Freshman quarterback Jake Garcia (6-3, 195) looked sharp during drills.

Incidentally, King broke the Texas Class 6A passing touchdown record, set by Kyler Murray. King threw for 140 career touchdowns and ran for additional 48. His backup quarterback in high school was Kyle Trask (Florida).

The Miami receiving corps is in good shape. Oklahoma transfer Charleston Rambo (6-1, 180, 4.3) had 43 catches for 743 yards and 5 touchdowns for the Sooners in 2019. He will be an immediate boost to the offense.

Tight end Will Mallory (6-5, 230) chipped in with 22 grabs, 329 yards and 4 touchdowns. Keep an eye on 2021 signee Elijah Arroyo (6-4, 210), who has great catching radius.

Tennessee transfer linebacker Deandre Johnson (6-3, 250) arrives after recording 28 tackles and 4.5 sacks for the Vols in ’20.

Tyrique Stevenson (6-0, 202, Jr.), a Georgia transfer has the skills to be a lockdown cornerback. He runs a 10.88 hundred meters.

Strong safety Bubba Bolden (6-3, 200) was a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist is 2020 after recording 65 stops, including 13 against North Carolina. Free safety Gurvin Hall (6-0, 195) wears jersey No. 26, in honor of Sean Taylor; he is looking to make his mark among the elite safeties in school history such as Taylor, Ed Reed and Bennie Blades.

Oklahoma

Quarterback Spencer Rattler (6-0, 205) is among the Heisman favorites as well. He was the 2020 National Freshman of the Year after throwing for 3,031 yards, 28 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, completing 67.5 percent of throws.

Running back Kennedy Brooks (5-11, 216, Jr.) sat out 2020, but in two seasons with the Sooners, he has totaled 2,067 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. He’ll be joined in the backfield by Tennessee transfer Eric Gray (5-10, 205), who paced the Vols with 772 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns plus 30 catches for 254 yards and 2 scores as a receiver.

Mackey Award candidate Austin Stogner (6-6, 252, Jr) had 26 catches for 422 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is a tight end mismtach.

Sophomore wide receiver Marvin Mims (5-11, 177) set a school freshman record in 2020 with 9 touchdown catches.

The offensive line received some help this spring.

Right guard Tyreese Robinson (6-3, 335, Sr.) returns with 25 starts on his resume’ and only 2 sacks allowed in 400 passing plays last season. Another Tennessee transfer, tackle Wanya Morris (6-5, 330, Jr.), will plug in on the blind side where he started 19 games for the Vols. Former UCLA center Chris Murray (6-2, 296, Jr.) brings 24 career starts to OU where he will attempt to fill the role of Creed Humphrey.

The Sooner defense may be among the very best in the country, led by defensive tackle Isaiah Thomas (6-5, 267, Jr.) who had 8 sacks in 2020. Linebackers Brian Asamoah (6-1, 230, redshirt Jr.) and Nik Bonitto (6-3, 238, Jr.), a second team All-American with 8.5 sacks, are standouts.

Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jalen Redmond (6-3, 278) added 6.5 sacks.

Notre Dame

Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan (6-3, 221) has taken over at quarterback for Ian Book.

Drew Pyne (6-0, 180), a 2020 signee, has represented himself well in spring.

Book was a three-year starter but the Irish still have experience behind center. Coan threw for 3,278 yards, 23 touchdowns and 8 interceptions at Wisconsin.

The running attack is in good shape. Kyren Willaims (5-9, 204, Jr.) was one of the best runners in the country with 1,125 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Chris Tyree (5-9, 178, Soph.) added 496 yards (6.8 yard/carry average) in reserve.

Logan Diggs (5-11, 195, 4.55) joins the fray in June. The Archbishop Rummel alum will try to carve out his niche.

Tight end Michael Mayer has become a favorite target of the new quarterbacks. He tallied 42 grabs, 450 yards and 2 touchdowns as a freshman last fall. Some are calling him the next Kyle Pitts.

Jarrett Patterson (6-4 1/2, 305, Jr.) was the starter at center but has moved out to see if he can replace departed Liam Eichenberg at left tackle.

Michael Carmody (6-6, 292, Soph.) has impressed at guard while right tackle Joshua Lugg (6-7, 308, Sr.) is a leader up front. Lugg allowed no sacks in 263 pass blocking assignments last season.

A 2021 signee, Blake Fisher (6-6, 330), has turned heads with superb feet and a high IQ for such a young lineman. OTosh Baker could be a star of the future at tackle. The 6-8, 300-pound redshirt freshman moves well with great balance.

New defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman arrives from Cincinnati. He will take advantage of some athleticism on that side of the ball. Senior safety Kyle Hamilton (6-4, 216) had 63 stops last season. He will be joined by senior safety Houston Griffith (6-0, 205), who entered transfer portal but decided to return.

North Carolina

After going a somewhat disappointing 8-4 in 2020, the Tar Heels return 18 of 22 starters including every defensive starter.

Quarterback Sam Howell is expected to shine this fall. He had 3,586 yards passing, 30 touchdowns and 7 interceptions last fall. He threw for 550 yards and 6 touchdowns against Wake Forest. The Heels paced the ACC with 41.7 points per game and 537.3 yards per contest.

Yet another Tennessee transfer, running back Ty Chandler (5-11, 21, 4.4), had 2,046 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns as a Vol. He is an excellent receiver as well but it will be tough to replace both star running backs, Javonte Williams and Michael Carter. The duo accounted for 87 percent of the Tar Heels rushing yards last season and had 28 of the team’s 35 rushing touchdowns.

Running back D.J. Jones (5-11, 205) has generated a buzz during spring. The sophomore missed the bowl game due to an ankle injury.

All five starters return on the UNC offensive line. Left tackle Asim Richards (6-4, 325) allowed only one sack in 819 pass blocking assignments.

The Tar Heels recorded 36 quarterback sacks, 33 tackles for loss and 11 turnovers last season. Much more consistency is expected.

Junior defensive end Tomari Fox (6-3, 265, Sr.) missed spring drills with an injury. With 35 starts under his belt, he is one of the premiere pass rushers in college football. Last season, Fox had 7 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.

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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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