Spring primer: 2013's struggling teams look toward a more prosperous 2014

Graham Watson
March 21, 2014
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl - Middle Tennessee v Navy
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FORT WORTH, TX - DECEMBER 30: Keenan Reynolds #19 of the Navy Midshipmen hands the ball off to Noah Copeland #34 of the Navy Midshipmen during a game against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders during the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium on December 30, 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas. The Navy Midshipmen defeated the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 24-6. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
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This past week, 20 more teams opened spring football and many of these teams had losing records in 2013. So, it's fair to say this spring is full of hope and a better 2014, especially with limited spots up for grabs in the College Football Playoff.

Here's a look at the first set of teams that began spring practice this past week:


Akron
Start date: March 16
End date: April 17

What to watch: Akron is coming off three 1-11 seasons, so the first thing coach Terry Bowden needs to do is get his team to believe it can win and then figure out a way to develop consistency. One of the biggest problems for the Zips is the size of the offensive and defensive lines. Not only do they have low numbers this spring, both lines are lacking in height and weight.


New Mexico State
Start date: March 16
End date: April 19

What to watch: There’s a lot to work to do when you win just three games in two seasons, but repairing the defense would be a good place to start. The Aggies allowed 549.5 yards per game (123rd nationally) and 44.6 points per game (120th nationally). The Aggies added Larry Coyer as the defensive coordinator to help get them out of the defensive basement.


Arkansas State
Start date: March 17
End date: April 18

What to watch: Arkansas State has to get used to its fifth coach in five years after Bryan Harsin left the Red Wolves to return to Boise State. Now, Blake Anderson steps in trying to convince these players that he’s in for the long haul. He inherits an Arkansas State team that was 8-5 last year and will again be one of the top teams in the Sun Belt Conference. His biggest goal this spring will be getting players who have had to get used to coaches every year, to buy into what he says.


Louisiana-Monroe
Start date: March 17
End date: April 12

What to watch: Coach Todd Berry will be looking for a replacement for four-year starting quarterback Kolton Browning. Junior Brayle Brown holds the No. 1 spot as spring camp opens, but he’ll get strong competition from Chazz Carrington and redshirt freshman Brian Williams. Berry would like to have a starter by the time the team exits camp, but acknowledged that it could go into the fall.


Navy
Start date: March 17
End date: April 11

What to watch: Could this be the year Navy becomes more of a passing offense? Quarterback Keenan Reynolds does have a decent passing arm and coach Ken Niumatalolo and offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper have flirted with opening up the playbook for their star quarterback. If Navy does want to incorporate more passing into its offense, this would be the time to do it.


Penn State
Start date: March 17
End date: April 12

What to watch: Penn State is not going full contact this spring because of injuries and limited scholarship numbers, so the new coaching staff has implemented the “tag off” rule, which encourages players to pretend like they’re making full contact with a player without actually doing so. The hope is to conserve bodies to make it through coach James Franklin’s first spring.


Southern Miss
Start date: March 17
End date: April 19

What to watch: Southern Miss is hoping to improve its offense in coach Todd Monken’s second spring. Nick Mullens, who started the final six games of 2013, will be the starter this spring and he’ll be helped by former high school coach Chip Lindsay, who was recently named the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. The Golden Eagles had a fine passing game last year, but struggled to score with just 17.1 points per game.


Arizona State
Start date: March 18
End date: April 19

What to watch: Coach Todd Graham said his team is using the spring to focus on special teams. The Sun Devils allowed 10.05 yards per punt return and did not have a kickoff or punt return for a kickoff for a touchdown.


Georgia
Start date: March 18
End date: April 12

What to watch: Offseason issues are once again creeping up for Georgia as coach Mark Richt had to dismiss star safety Josh Harvey-Clemons and four players were recently arrested on theft charges. Still, the Bulldogs are doing their best to keep focus this spring and find a replacement for Harvey-Clemons and get new quarterback starter Hutson Mason ready to lead the offense in the fall.


Louisville
Start date: March 18
End date: April 11

What to watch: Coach Bobby Petrino begins his second stint at Louisville, but he does so with a senior-laden group. The Cardinals return a lot of talent on offense, especially on the offensive line and at wide receiver, but will have to learn the offense with Will Gardner, who replaces star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The Cardinals also will be learning a new defense under new coordinator Todd Grantham.

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Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at dr.saturday@ymail.com or follow her on Twitter