What is the most intriguing spring practice storyline?

It’s Wednesday and that means that it’s time for another edition of The Student Section’s college football roundtable. TSS Associate Editors Bart Doan and Terry Johnson join Kevin Causey and a rotating special guest in our weekly roundtables discussing all things college football.

Last week we discussed the greatest teams in the history of college football and the most underrated teams. Today we look at the present as the end of the college basketball season signals a bigger focus towards the impending college football season. Joining us for this discussion is Mike Ferguson, who contributes to multiple Bloguin sites and is also the editor for Noled Out, which is Bloguin’s Florida State site.

Question: What is the most intriguing spring practice storyline?

Mike Ferguson:

On Twitter @MikeWFerguson

As is the case with most springs, the biggest headlines concern the quarterback position.

Both Florida State and Oregon will be replacing Heisman winning quarterbacks as Sean Maguire hopes to hold off three freshmen in Tallahassee. Maguire will be replacing the likely first overall pick in the NFL Draft in Jameis Winston, who finished his FSU career 26-1 as a starter which included a national championship in 2013.

In Eugene, the Ducks are hoping Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams can pick up where Marcus Mariota left off. Mariota was the first Oregon player ever to win the Heisman and led the Ducks to a showdown with Ohio State in the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship. Adams accounted for 41 total touchdowns last season and was named a FCS All-American.

While replacing legends will certainly be a hot topic of conversation, the biggest story will come from Columbus as the defending national champs hope to settle a 3-way race. Once regarded as likely to transfer to one of the two above locations, Braxton Miller looks to regain his starting job after missing all of 2014 to injury.

His competition is J.T. Barrett, who passed for over 2,800 yards and accounted for 45 touchdowns in 12 games. Barrett put a sub-par performance behind early in the year against Virginia Tech to lead the Buckeyes to 11 straight victories with a 49-37 win in East Lansing the most notable.

Barrett was injured against Michigan and in stepped Cardale Jones, who was asked to beat a team that had won the Big Ten in three of the previous four years, a team that had won three national championships in the previous five years and a team led by a Heisman winner, who had just snapped the defending national champions’ 29-game winning streak.

Some say having two capable quarterbacks is a good problem to have. I’m not completely sure what having three would be.

It’ll be an interesting race to see who ultimately is able to claim the job, but it doesn’t look like a situation where the Buckeyes can go wrong. It’s pretty nice to have a multiple choice questions where each of the three answers look to be correct.

Bart Doan:

On Twitter @TheCoachBart

The list of experienced, elite SEC quarterbacks looks like an Eve 6 CD from the late 90s, early 2000s, which basically amounted to one song that you really liked and a bunch of other tracks that left you feeling totally suckered into spending $12 for one stinking song.

So, who will emerge in a conference that’s sure to have at least a team or two hanging around near the end of the season in the CFB Playoff race at the most important position in football? Dak Prescott is back for Mississippi State, and Maty Mauk for Missouri, but aside from them, there’s not a lot of proven talent in the deep south under center. A quick scan of past champions in the BCS era through last year shows that for the most part, you need elite quarterback play to win a championship.

Gone are Bo Wallace, Nick Marshall, Blake Sims, and to a lesser degree, Dylan Thompson and Hutson Mason are all gone.

Instead, you see teams like Kentucky with Patrick Towles and Tennessee with Joshua Dobbs as up near the top of any listing of SEC quarterback list, which is good for them and sort of scary for everyone else. In fact, four teams that are habitual contenders … Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Ole Miss … have 0 college starts at the quarterback position on their roster.

Others, like Florida and Auburn only have guys that have started games in spot duty rather than as expected fixtures at the position. These are odd times indeed below the Mason-Dixon line.

Who will emerge at key positions is anyone’s guess right now, but opinions figure to be more well informed after spring at least. Or maybe the answer is in a few guys ready to break through to carry the mantle, like Kyle Allen of Texas A&M or Jeremy Johnson of Auburn. All I know is, your odds are appreciably better at meeting your goals in today’s football world with elite quarterback play, and right now, the SEC looks like it needs a few more radio-ready songs on the CD. A spring recording session could change that. Keep watch.

Kevin Causey:
On Twitter @CFBZ

Along the same lines as Bart and Mike, my interest is in the quarterback position but I’m going to narrow my focus and look at a single quarterback battle and that’s the one happening in Athens, Georgia.

How long has it been since there has really been a QB battle in Athens? Hutson Mason was the QB in waiting long before last season and he took over the reigns in 2014 without a battle. Before him, Aaron Murray was at the helm for four years and his battle with Zach Mettenberger in the spring of 2010 didn’t last long as Mettenberger took himself out of contention via stupidity. 2009 was Joe Cox’s year after waiting behind Matthew Stafford.

So the answer to the question is really 2006 which was Matthew Stafford’s true freshman season in which Joe Cox and Joe Tereshinski also saw action with Tereshinski actually starting the opener. As you can see, having an anointed QB heading into spring practice is a tradition for Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs and that’s what makes this spring so interesting.

Brice Ramsey will be a red-shirt sophomore this fall and he’s the favorite for the job as he saw action in eight games last season as Hutson Mason’s primary back-up. Ramsey was 24 of 39 for 333 yards with 3 TD and 2 INT and because he’s going on his third year in the system, you would think that he is the odds on favorite. The problem is that the system he’s been in will be tweaked this year as Offensive Coordinator Mike Bobo is now the head coach at Colorado State and Brian Schottenheimer has taken over.

Ramsey’s primary competition so far comes from Faton Bauta, who will be a red-shirt junior this fall. Bauta also saw some action last year but only threw five passes (completing four) for 48 yards. Bauta is more of a dual-threat than Ramsey and could give the Dawgs a different dimension on offense since they will want to run the ball with Nick Chubb and company.

A third option is Jacob Park, who will be a red-shirt freshman this fall, but based on early scrimmage stats he’s been the third wheel so far.

Georgia has recruited very well at the QB position as they have two four-star QBs (Ramsey and Park) battling with a three-star QB (Bauta) this year and they also have a commitment from a five-star QB for 2016 (Jacob Eason).

Expect the Georgia QB job to not be decided until the fall and I also expect the situation to be fluid like it was way back in 2006 when Tereshinski started out as the starter before giving way to Stafford and Joe Cox had to come in and bail a young Stafford out against the Colorado Buffaloes.

I would be highly surprised not to see Brice Ramsey end up as the starter as Georgia comes out of fall practice as his gun gives the Dawgs the biggest upside for 2015 but I also expect Bauta to be there and ready to go if he happens to falter.

But who knows for sure and that’s what I will be keeping my eye on this spring and into the fall.

Terry Johnson:
On Twitter @SectionTPJ

The most intriguing story line for me is the Oregon State defense.

So, why the Beaver D?

Simply put: this is the most inexperienced unit in the country, returning just two starters from last season’s squad, which ranked 74th nationally in total defense.

I’m interested to see what scheme head coach Gary Andersen and defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake decide to use this year. Both coaches have had plenty of success in the past with both three and four-man fronts. This begs the question: will they stick with the 4-3 look that Oregon State ran last year, change to the 3-4 Andersen used at Wisconsin, or use some combination of the two?

Since they’ve already used a number of looks in the spring, Andersen and Sitake might not make a final decision until the fall.

Regardless of how the Beavers line up, expect to see a noticeable improvement out of the defense over the next few seasons. After all, Andersen’s Badger units finished fourth (yes, that total includes the 59-0 loss to Ohio State) and seventh nationally in total defense, while his final Utah State D ranked 14th in that category in 2012. Similarly, Sitake helped mold Utah’s pass rush into one of the best in the country, with the Utes finishing first and eighth nationally in sacks the last two years.

In other words: there’s no question that Oregon State’s defense will ultimately improve. It’s just a matter of when…

… which is why I’ll keep watching. How quickly this happens will determine whether the Beavers go to bowl this season or stay home for the second year in a row.


Previous Roundtables

Which returning starter at QB will show the most improvement in 2015?

Which first year starter at QB is poised to have a breakout season?

Which non-Power 5 QB do you want as the face of your franchise?

Which Power 5 quarterback do you want as the face of your franchise?

If you could have attended any game in the history of college football what would it be?

Reliving our favorite college football memories

Who was the greatest team in the history of college football?

Who was the most underrated team in college football history?