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Spring primer: Hoping for more sunny days

NCAA Football: Connecticut at Temple
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Nov 23, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Temple Owls quarterback P.J. Walker (11) looks to pass during the second quarter against the Connecticut Huskies at Lincoln Financial Field. UCONN defeated Temple 28-21. (Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s getting late in the spring and this is about the time teams start getting strategic with their spring football scheduling. Some are trying to outwit the weather while others are trying to have their spring game on a day that isn’t occupied by any other major schools in their state.

But no matter when these schools start — and they aren’t the last to start — they still have lots of questions to answer in 15 short practices.

Here’s a look at what the teams that started spring football this past week are focusing on in the next month:


Georgia Tech
Start date: March 24
End date: April 18

What to watch: With Vad Lee transferring to James Madison, Justin Thomas is atop the depth chart as the Yellow Jackets enter the spring. Thomas has experience, playing in 10 games last season, but he only completed 9-of-17 passes for 131 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. However, he does have good speed and did manage 234 yards (7.0 yards per carry average) in coach Paul Johnson’s option offense. If he can win the competition, he might be able to stabilize a position that was shaky a year ago.


Temple
Start date: March 24
End date: April 26

What to watch: There’s a lot to work on after Temple went 2-10 in its inaugural American Athletic Conference season. But coach Matt Rhule has confidence his team can turn things around, especially with Louisville and Rutgers departing the league. The Owls will continue to perfect a passing offense that really started to gain some momentum in the second half of the season under true freshman P.J. Walker. He completed 152-of-250 passes for 2,084 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions.


Army
Start date: March 25
End date: April 19

What to watch: New coach Jeff Monken said his focus this spring is getting his players to play as a team. He believes getting the players to trust each other will be the first step toward turning around a program that has had one winning season since 1996.


Ball State
Start date: March 25
End date: April 19

What to watch: Coming off a 10-3 season, coach Pete Lembo said he likes the way his team looks heading into the spring, but that there are several positions up for grabs. Included on that list is a replacement for quarterback Keith Wenning. Ozzie Mann, last season’s backup; Kyle Kamman, Jack Milas and early enrollee David Morrison are all vying for the spot.


Colorado State
Start date: March 25
End date: April 19

What to watch: With star running back Kapri Bibbs gone to the NFL, Colorado State might be forced to rely a little more on the passing game as it looks for a suitable replacement. That will probably be junior Donnell Alexander, but he’ll have to get used to being the No. 1 guy with several untested backs behind him. With Bibbs gone, the Rams will lean on senior quarterback Garrett Grayson, who threw for a school record 3,696 yards and 23 touchdowns last season.


Georgia Southern
Start date: March 25
End date: April 18

What to watch: For the first time since 2009, Georgia Southern will run an offense that isn’t the triple option. With former coach Jeff Monken gone and Willie Fritz stepping in, the Eagles will be running a spread attack as they enter the FCS as a member of the Sun Belt Conference. That adjustment and finding a quarterback to run the new offense will be the primary focus of the spring.


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Marshall
Start date: March 25
End date: April 26

What to watch: While several schools are looking for starting quarterbacks this spring, Marshall will be looking for a reliable backup to senior starter Rakeem Cato. Blake Frohnapfel, last year’s backup, transferred to UMass leaving sophomore Gunnar Holcombe, redshirt freshman Kevin Anderson and early enrollee Cole Garvin to compete for the position. Marshall’s offense was fantastic last season, ranking seventh nationally with 42.1 points per game.


Michigan State
Start date: March 25
End date: April 26

What to watch: Michigan State finished the season on a high note with a Rose Bowl victory, but it will have a lot of key players to replace if it wants to repeat the feat. The offensive line loses three starters, but most of the holes are on defense where the Spartans have to replace both starting defensive tackles in Tyler Hoover, Micajah Reynolds and two star linebackers in Denicos Allen and Max Bullough.


New Mexico
Start date: March 25
End date: April 26

What to watch: Coach Bob Davie said his focus this spring is repairing a defense that was one of the nation’s worst last season. The Lobos ranked 119th in total defense and 118th in scoring defense, allowing 42.8 points per game. Davie brought in a new defensive coordinator in Kevin Cosgrove and the Lobos will spend the spring learning his system.


Rutgers
Start date: March 25
End date: April 26

What to watch: The Rutgers offense will begin developing under new offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen. The Scarlet Knights return all five starters from the offensive line, but the top two running backs — Paul James (broken leg) and Savon Huggins (torn rotator cuff) — might not be available for spring and Friedgen will have to find a way to generate some consistency out of starting quarterback Gary Nova.


Wake Forest
Start date: March 25
End date: April 26

What to watch: for the first time in 13 seasons, Wake Forest will open spring practices with a new coach. Dave Clawson replaces Jim Grobe, who resigned in December after failing to notch a winning season since 2008. One of the main goals of the spring will be to get the Demon Deacons accustomed to Clawson’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme. Clawson said he thinks his team will do well in this scheme because it’s thin up front and a little deeper at linebacker and in the secondary.


Western Kentucky
Start date: March 25
End date: April 19

What to watch: Defense is the team’s biggest concern heading into coach Jeff Brohm’s first season as head coach after replacing Bobby Petrino, who left for Louisville. The Hilltoppers must replace their top five tacklers from a team where defense was actually one of the strong points of the program a year ago. The Hilltoppers ranked 14th nationally in total defense and 44th in scoring defense with 24.6 points allowed per game. The Hilltoppers must replace 61.7 percent of the team’s total tackles from last season.


Texas-San Antonio
Start date: March 26
End date: April 26

What to watch: UTSA caught fire late last season, winning its last five games, which is something the Roadrunners can build on as they head into the spring. Even though UTSA has a senior-laden team, new quarterback Tucker Carter, who played in five games last season, will lead it. Carter completed 23-of-33 passes for 190 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. UTSA returns 21 starters, which is the most of any FBS team.


Wyoming
Start date: March 26
End date: April 19

What to watch: New coach Craig Bohl doesn’t exactly know what he has at Wyoming, so he’s said he’s spending the spring installing new offensive and defensive schemes and evaluating players. Bohl said all of the starting positions are open because he doesn’t quite know how players are going to respond in systems that are completely different from the ones former coach Dave Christensen ran. The Cowboys return seven starters on offense, nine starters on defense and both the kicker and punter from last year.


Virginia Tech
Start date: March 27
End date: April 26

What to watch: Virginia Tech lost 11 seniors and several starters from last year’s team, but none were more important than quarterback Logan Thomas. And finding his replacement won’t be easy either. Fifth-year senior Mark Leal is atop the depth chart this spring with redshirt sophomore Brenden Motley and early enrollee Andrew Ford behind him. However, the Hokies new quarterback might not even be on campus yet. Former Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer doesn’t arrive until May and three-star recruit Chris Durkin also could be in the mix.


Washington State
Start date: March 27
End date: April 29

What to watch: There are some positives to glean from Washington State’s 6-7 season even if it didn’t finish on a high note. The six wins were the most the team had achieved since 2006. While the Cougars return the majority of their starters, coach Mike Leach said attention would be paid to filling three sports on the offensive line and finding depth at running back. Marcus Mason appears to be the starter after running for 429 yards and two touchdowns a year ago.


Kentucky
Start date: March 28
End date: April 26

What to watch: Kentucky has won four games in the past two seasons and is trying to figure out a way to change its fortunes. One of the biggest areas of concern is the secondary. The Wildcats tied for last with just three interceptions last season. Only one of those picks came from a member of the secondary — senior safety Ashely Lowery in the final game of the year. If the Wildcats want to be successful in a league that’s know for its stellar quarterback play, it will have to figure out a way to force turnovers.

 

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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

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