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Spring primer: Sadly, spring football is coming to an end

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The final group of spring practices are underway meaning that the summer is nearly here and the days without football are quickly approaching.

Most of the teams starting this week had losing record or had reasons to be disappointed with their 2013 performance. Like most teams this spring, they have gaps to fill, but they also have attitudes to change and sometimes, that’s the most difficult part of spring ball.

Cal
Start date: March 31
End date: April 26

What to watch: There are a lot of things that need fixing when you finish tshe season 1-11, but one of the biggest points of emphasis this spring for the Bears is shoring up a defense that was one of the worst in the country. The Bears ranked 122nd in total defense allowing 529.6 points per game and 122nd in scoring defense with 45.9 points allowed per game. Andy Buh is out as defensive coordinator and in is Art Kaufman and his 4-3 front. The Bears will rely on a handful of junior college transfer to get the defense better as quickly as possible.

Miami-Ohio
Start date: March 31
End date: May 3

What to watch: Miami-Ohio is coming off an 0-12 season, the team’s third consecutive losing season, and it’s trying to start over with new head coach Chuck Martin. The RedHawks return 15 starters from last season and at least one starter at every position. The biggest challenge will be getting used to Martin and figuring out a way to gain confidence to turn their fortunes around.

Oregon State
Start date: March 31
End date: May 3

What to watch: Oregon State’s offense averaged 34.8 points per game last season and the passing game was third in the country. So, with so many offensive players returning, there’s not going to be a lot new offensive coordinator John Garrett is going to have to change. He will have to find a suitable replacement for all-everything receiver Brandin Cooks, who left early for the NFL. The Beavers also are looking to run the ball with consistency behind Storm Woods and Terron Ward.

Hawaii
Start date: April 1
End date: April 26

What to watch: Hawaii is yet another team that is looking for a change in fortune this spring. It was surprising that coach Norm Chow didn’t end up in the unemployment line after last year’s 1-11 record, but he has a year to see if he can get Hawaii back on track. The quarterbacking competition is open and will probably go through the summer. The Warriors also have to get some sort of consistency in its running game, which averaged just 114.6 yards per game last season.

Kent State
Start date: April 1
End date: April 26

What to watch: One of the things coach Paul Haynes said his team was missing during his first season as head coach was team chemistry. The Golden Flashes went 4-8 in 2013, and Haynes noted that he didn’t think his players actually cared about each other’s welfare. So, teambuilding is going to be part of the Golden Flashes’ spring. Haynes actually spent time watching Florida State’s spring practices last month and he said one of the biggest things he learned was the value of controlling the pace of practice, so he’s spending more time on teaching, technique and team building than running drills.

Oregon
Start date: April 1
End date: May 3s

What to watch: Not many teams would be unhappy with an 11-2 campaign, but for an Oregon team that had it’s sights set on a national title, the 2013 campaign was disappointing. For spring, the team had the phrase “YOU VS. YESTERDAY” stitched into the neckline of their jerseys as part of an overall attitude adjustment for the spring and the 2014 season. Oregon will still have the talent to compete for a national title in 2014, this spring is for working on the mindset to get there.

UCLA
Start date: April 1
End date: April 26

What to watch: UCLA has some voids to fill this spring with the loss of linebacking stalwarts Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt, but the main thing the Bruins are working on this spring is going fast — really fast. The Bruins were one of the quickest offensive teams in the country last season in terms of plays run, but coach Jim Mora said he wants his team to be able to compete with Oregon in terms of calling and executing plays in the quickest manner possible.

Kansas State
Start date: April 2
End date: April 26

What to watch: Kansas State ended the 2013 season winning six of its final seven games and will look to carry that momentum into spring camp. The Wildcats started to find offense behind quarterback Jake Waters, which prompted former starter Daniel Sams to change his Twitter bio to say he was moving to receiver. That, however, remains to be seen. The big offensive question will be replacing running back John Hubert, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season. Senior DeMarcus Robinson will be the frontrunner, but sophomore Jarvis Leverett will challenge him this spring.

Nevada
Start date: April 2
End date: April 26

What to watch: Following the 2013 season, Nevada had several questions on its offensive line, but the receiving corps also became a concern after Aaron Bradley, a two-year starter at wide receiver, was suspended because of a team violation and opted to graduate and transfer rather than serve the suspension. Senior receiver Nigel Westbrooks also was dismissed for violating team rules. That leaves senior Richy Turner as the top returning receiver with little experience behind him.

 

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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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