What We Learned from Spring - Part I

Now that Florida has wrapped up spring football, it's time to begin looking toward fall. All but two of the Gator opponents have now wrapped up their spring work as well. Here's a summary of some of the noteworthy items from the first six teams on the Florida schedule.

One thing that stands out immediately about this group is their lack of coaching stability - three are breaking in new head coaches and the other three are replacing at least one coordinator.

HAWAII - Hawaii's spring game is this Saturday. Their quarterback situation remains a tossup between junior Inoke Funaki and redshirt junior Tyler Graunke. Graunke was last year's backup QB but missed practice time this spring due to a suspension. No starter is expected to be named before fall. An entirely new starting group of wide receivers is developing to work with whomever gets the job - none of them had more than 14 catches last season.

Hawaii's sticking with the run and shoot attack even though June Jones left as head coach. New offensive coordinator Ron Lee has made some adjustments, including lining the quarterback up under center to allow for play action fakes and quarterback bootlegs. The defense returns five starters but isn't being discussed much in coverage of the Warriors spring work.

MIAMI - Randy Shannon's Hurricanes continue to be a major work in progress. Neither redshirt freshman Robert Marve or true freshman Jacory Harris grabbed the starting quarterback position. Regardless of which one wins the job, their first pass against a Division I-A opponent will come in The Swamp since the Hurricanes open against Charleston Southern. The running backs received positive reviews this spring, particularly Graig Cooper and Javarris James. At wide receiver, Miami is looking for a bounce back season from the talented Sam Shields but he had no catches in their spring game.

Miami's defense will play under their third coordinator in as many years as Bill Young arrives from Kansas. He's historically been known for more of a read and react style than what the Canes typically employ. He may wind up playing some youngsters, as freshman Arthur Brown apparently backed up his considerable recruiting hype with his play in the spring. Darryl Sharpton stood out among returning players with three sacks in the spring game.

TENNESSEE - The Volunteers are breaking in a new offensive scheme and a new quarterback simultaneously. Redshirt junior Jonathan Crompton had a successful Orange and White game, with three touchdown passes, but had interception issues throughout spring as well. Now Crompton will have surgery on his elbow to remove a particle that's been affecting him. He's expected to miss four to six weeks of offseason work but be alright for fall. New offensive coordinator Dave Clawson is installing elements of the West Coast offense, but Philip Fulmer has already said he'd like to run the ball more than they have in spring. How much Fulmer insists on affecting the play-calling may determine the effectiveness of the new scheme.

Tennessee wrapped up spring with only one offensive line starting spot settled, in part because they're experimenting with flipping personnel some of the time rather than simply having players assigned to sides of the line. Wide receiver Gerald Jones did some double duty training as a mobile QB in a special "G-Gun" package the Vols are experimenting with, as did star defensive back Eric Berry.

Defensively, John Chavis says he's more confident in the Vols depth in the secondary than he's been in recent years. Dee Morley has returned after a year in academic exile and may help make up for the loss of Jonathan Hefney to graduation. The front seven continues to be a question mark, particularly after the loss of LB Jerod Mayo early to the NFL. One special teams issue that could affect Tennnessee is sophomore punter Chad Cunnigham having to fill in for suspended Britton Colquitt for UT's first five games.

OLE MISS - Houston Nutt takes over a program that did not break the 25 point barrier against any D-1 team last season. The hope is that Jevan Snead can solve the problem by giving the Rebels quality quarterback play for the first time since Eli Manning was there. Snead originally committed to Florida, then changed his mind and went to Texas rather than be in the same class with Tim Tebow. After a year there, he left rather than continue to battle with Colt McCoy. Snead appears to have significant talent, but it's hard not to wonder why he seems to duck competition in favor of getting the starting job by default. Snead's done well so far - he was 20 for 26 in the Rebels spring game, and Ole Miss seems to have pretty good but previously unexploited talent at receiver for him to work with. Nutt has been known for caveman offense in recent years but once upon a time was willing to air the ball out a bit. It will be interesting to see how his offense sets up this fall.

Ole Miss is talented defensively, with particular skill in their front seven. Tyrone Nix takes over their defense, coming over from South Carolina with Steve Spurrier doing everything but buying his ticket after the Gamecocks defense was hopeless against the run in the second half of 2007. Nix replaces John Thompson as coordinator, the same guy he replaced in Columbia. It's not clear yet how similar his scheme will be to Thompson's from last season, as former head coach Ed Orgeron was heavily involved in the defense as well.

ARKANSAS - The Razorbacks still have a week of spring to go before their first Red-White game under new coach Bobby Petrino, but it won't be the first time they've competed. Petrino has run multiple three hour scrimmages so far as he looks for players to fit his pass happy offense, which is about as far removed from former coach Houston Nutt's as is possible while still playing the same sport. Right now, it appears Casey Dick will still be the starting quarterback for Arkansas this fall despite less than inspiring passing numbers in his career. He has little speed at receiver to work with and an offensive line still adjusting to being a more pass oriented blocking unit. It's not clear who will replace the NFL first round bound duo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones this fall, with a tailback by committee approach possible.

The defense for Arkansas has more established players than the offense, but depth is an issue across the board. Petrino has expressed dissatisfaction with his defensive tackles and the secondary appears to be a trouble spot as well.

LSU - The Tigers spent their entire spring without expected starting QB Ryan Perrilloux, who was reinstated the day after their spring game. Despite a myriad of previous embarrassing Perrilloux incidents, no one knows whether he's on his last strike with Les Miles or not. Should he finally implode for good, LSU's options will be redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee or Harvard transfer Ryan Hatch. Play-calling for both would be much more conservative than Perrilloux.

Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini left for Nebraska's head coaching position, and Miles named two coaches as co-coordinators to fill his shoes. It's not clear yet what impact that will have on the LSU defensive schemes. Coming out of spring, LSU still has substantial questions at both cornerback spots with Miles indicating he will look at true freshmen as potential starters.

The Heath Cline Show airs daily from 11-1 on Gainesville's Star 99.5 FM

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