[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image source="featured_image" img_size="large"][vc_column_text]Over the weekend several spring games were played. There is a lot on the plate of Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian in his second year in the Austin pressure cooker. Lincoln Riley, Brent Venables, Dan Lanning, and Brian Kelly made their debuts on the sideline of their new schools. We got a little college football taste in April, with a long way to go to September. It is important to note, that these games are exhibitions, and closer to practices at that.
There is a lot of growing to be done by the players, and coaching staffs, over the course of the next 4 months. The product now is not the product in September, but this is a great opportunity to gain insight into the foundations of these programs. What you look for in a spring game; you want to see how fluid these athletes are, how the QBs look and where are the glaring flaws.
The Orange and White Game Austin, TX
The University of Texas played a unique style of spring game, that consisted of a normal practice/team scrimmage, followed by a short less than a quarter competition with a unique scoring system. The reason for the change was due to some depth issues for Texas along the offensive line. Bijan Robinson was nursing a bit of an injury and was unable to participate. You sure would not think that though, because the Texas running backs put on a show. Specifically Roschon Johnson.
WRs Isaiah Neyor, Jordan Whittington, and Xavier Worthy also put on a show, not so much though for the quarterbacks who threw to them. While both Hudson Card, and Quinn Ewers had their moments, neither currently look like a QB who will lead the Longhorns to a Big 12 Championship. Card was more consistent, but the ceiling is clearly not that high. Ewers tossed one beautiful long ball to Neyor, and later in the game threw a strike to Xavier Worthy, both resulting in touchdowns. Otherwise, it was clear he was not on time with his playmakers. There were throws that were simply missed. The arm talent is undeniable and there is a long way until September. Defensively, the line played well for a majority of the game, and Anthony Cook had a great looking interception. Progress has been made on defense we shall see how much when things kick off.
LSU Spring Game Baton Rouge, LA
The Brian Kelly era began and LSU running back room stole the show! Led by Tre Bradford, and Armani Goodwin the stable of backs looked explosive, and they made play after play. RS Freshman QB Garrett Nussmeier looked fantastic, and clearly the best of the trio of QBs in the competition. Jayden Daniels looked like he picked up where he left off at Arizona State, which is not a good thing. Myles Brennan looked steady but not much like a playmaker.
It is always important to realize these games are just 1 practice of 15. We may see a result that is completely different than what takes place in the other sessions, but if this game was an indicator, Nussmeier is a real threat to win that job and is possibly the favorite. With superstar WR Kayshon Boutte out, WR Jack Bech got a lot of work and looked the part. He had six grabs and scored twice. The offensive line looked pretty shaky at times in this exhibition, this is an area of concern for the Tigers so it didn't reveal much. The story was Nussmeier.
Oregon Spring Game Eugene, OR
Dan Lanning's first spring game in Eugene looked pretty smooth! Bo Nix looked solid on the day and pretty smooth, a lot of young players on the roster were looking to prove themselves. Nix, a former 5-star transfer from Oregon tossed 3 TDs in the exhibition, though he did have a knuckle-headed interception in the session as well. Trikweze Bridges looked good in the secondary. He scored a pick-six after intercepting Ty Thompson. DJ Johnson also had quite the performance, with four sacks and five overall tackles for the loss. The OLB looks to play a similar role to Kayvon Thibodeaux. Overall it appears the secondary has some work to do, to become the consistent unit they need to be, in order to win another Pac 12 Championship.
USC Spring Game, Los Angeles, CA
The Lincoln Riley era has begun and there are a lot of new faces for the Trojans. A record-breaking crowd of over 33,000 came to take notes, and the game was broadcast on ESPN. The transfer pairing of QB Caleb Williams and WR Mario Williams, both of whom transferred from Oklahoma with Riley, were the focus of the day. The pair looked very in-sync and quickly put a couple of scores on the board. The transfers will be important for the Trojans this year, and Travis Dye and Austin Jones looked the part in the backfield as well.
You had to come away with the sense that things were heading in the right direction. Korey Foreman was noticeable, in DC Alex Grinch's aggressive scheme. On the defensive side of the ball, there are deficiencies in the secondary, and at linebacker that will have to be sorted out before September. The offensive line was hit or miss, as expected. USC can win the Pac 12 in year one but will need those units to come full circle. The backup Miller Moss also looked great out there, as he threw several dimes, he may be the best backup QB in the country.
Red and White Game Norman, OK
Brent Venables would kick off his first spring game in Norman in front of a record-setting crowd of 75,360. The fanbase was fired up about the transition from Lincoln Riley and also the unveiling of 2017 Heisman trophy winner Baker Mayfield's statue. UCF transfer QB Dillon Gabriel looked smooth. He moved well and showed off solid arm talent, and accuracy both in the pocket and on the move.
True freshman RB Javontae Barnes scored a pair of TDs and gives insight as to things we've heard heading into this summer about his ability to help right away. Preferred walk-on Tawee Walker also put on a show. True freshman WR Jayden Gibson scored a 95-yard TD. You could tell the install was still on its way particularly for the defense, as they kept things pretty vanilla. Oklahoma's defensive backs and edge group looked like perhaps the strongest units on the team with a lot of depth. It was nice to see Theo Wease back healthy, as he made a big play on the first drive of the game.