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Original Issue

The Story Lines of Spring

With April football winding down, these are some of the biggest issues for the 2005 season

1 Has Oklahoma found a successor to Jason White?

Not yet. In last Saturday's spring game, junior Paul Thompson (who redshirted last season), sophomore Tommy Grady (White's 2004 backup) and redshirt freshman Rhett Bomar (a former top recruit) all looked shaky in their stints at quarterback. Thompson was the only one of the three who tossed a touchdown pass or completed more than 50% of his attempts, but he also had two interceptions. Grady and Bomar were a combined 14 of 34 with two interceptions. Now coaches say the Sooners might not name a starter until late summer.

2 How will Florida State improve its offense?

Now that coach Bobby Bowden has made it clear that his son Jeff will remain offensive coordinator, the only thing frustrated Seminoles fans can hope for are tweaks to an attack that last season averaged a 23-year-low 25.2 points. During spring scrimmages Jeff Bowden--acknowledging the uncertainty at quarterback, where junior Wyatt Sexton has a tenuous hold--often had two speedy tailbacks, senior Leon Washington and junior Lorenzo Booker, on the field simultaneously and put his fullbacks and tight ends in motion.

3 Can Georgia replace the leadership of David Greene and David Pollack?

The answer became murkier after two of the seniors expected to help fill the void, defensive tackle Kedric Golston and linebacker Derrick White, were arrested on April 10 on misdemeanor charges related to a bar fight. Other leaders could emerge from an experienced secondary spearheaded by hard-hitting senior safety Greg Blue and a veteran offensive line anchored by senior guard Max Jean-Gilles.

4 Is it Kyle Wright's time at Miami?

Many expected the strong-armed and mobile Wright to take the quarterback job from Brock Berlin last season, but a late-October ankle injury followed by an allergic reaction to a bee sting slowed his development. By outplaying athletic redshirt freshman Kirby Freeman this spring, Wright, a sophomore, finally showed why he was the Hurricanes' top recruit in '03. "Miami's not used to having a quarterback who's so athletic and can throw," says coach Larry Coker. "It's going to allow us to do some interesting things offensively."

5 Can Vince Young beat teams with his arm?

We know that Young, Texas's junior quarterback, can run opposing defenses dizzy. It's his inconsistent passing that has kept him from greatness. To improve his 1-to-1 career touchdown-to-interception ratio, Young focused this spring on sharpening his short throws and eliminating foolish deep balls. Aided by a matured receiving corps, he showed increased control in the Longhorns' spring game, connecting on 8 of 14 passes for 115 yards, including a 33-yarder to sophomore Limas Sweed.

6 What happens in Auburn's backfield?

With quarterback Jason Campbell and tailbacks Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams NFL-bound, the team's former strength is now its Achilles' heel. In the March 19 A-Day game, sophomore QB Brandon Cox proved accurate but sack-prone, while the tailback trio of juniors Tre Smith and Kenny Irons and sophomore Carl Stewart combined for a ho-hum 148 yards. Says coach Tommy Tuberville, whose team went 13--0 last year, "We're still light years away from having the offense we'll need to compete for a championship."

7 Will Boise State be this season's Utah?

No question the Broncos have the talent, with junior quarterback Jared Zabransky foremost among 17 returning starters from an 11--1 team. A difficult schedule could work for or against the Broncos. They face road trips to Georgia, Oregon State and Fresno State and a home date against dangerous Bowling Green. Wins in those games would boost Boise State's profile among poll voters, but losses would remove this Western Athletic Conference member from the BCS picture completely.

8 Who will be Nebraska's quarterback?

Don't count on returning starter Joe Dailey, who sank to No. 4 on the spring depth chart at quarterback after having difficulty grasping Bill Callahan's West Coast offense last season. Dailey's heir apparent is Zac Taylor, who dominated last Saturday's Red-White Game by completing 20 of 27 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns--all in the first half. A transfer from Butler County (Kans.) C.C., which he led to the juco national championship game last year, Taylor "has all the throws in his arm," says Callahan.

9 Did someone break a mirror in Iowa City?

Iowa can't seem to dodge bad luck. After overcoming a freakish spate of tailback injuries last year (their top five runners all went down) to go 10--2, the Hawkeyes have been dogged by more injuries and illness all spring. Although most of the sidelined players should be back by August, the absences have hindered Iowa's progress. "We're not an elite team, I assure you," says coach Kirk Ferentz. "We have way too many holes."

10 Which backup might emerge as a star?

There is an upside for Cal to the graduation of All-Pac-10 running back J.J. Arrington, and his name is Marshawn Lynch. Coming off a quietly stellar 2004 in which he averaged 8.8 yards on 71 carries, Lynch, a sophomore who according to was the second-best tailback recruit in the country last year, behind Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson, will be relied on for big plays while a new quarterback and young receivers gain experience. For opponents, the only thing scarier than Lynch's 4.4 speed is that four offensive line starters return to block for him. --Kelley King