Spring college football teams feeling good Ohio State Buckeyes


Two months of the offseason are in the books. Spring football practice is underway. Excitement is building for the weeks and months ahead.

Here’s a look at the outset of spring at the programs that have generated — and deserve — the most excitement since bowl season ended:

Ohio State Buckeyes
Save your cries, Big Ten rivals. We know, Ohio State gets all the acclaim, doesn’t it? Even when Urban Meyer loses his franchise quarterback and star defenders aplenty, the Buckeyes still enjoy a great offseason. It just doesn’t seem fair, but it’s reality in Columbus, where a rising star in the coaching business, former Washington State defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, left the Pac-12 to join forces with Greg Schiano.

And speaking of Schiano, the Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator more than doubled his salary to $1.5 million after Tennessee bungled an attempt to hire him as head coach and Schiano flirted with the New England Patriots, before announcing his decision to stay on signing day.

Nice how that works out. Also on Feb. 7, Ohio State signed Nick Petit-Frere out of Florida, the No. 1-rated offensive tackle nationally and a longtime target of Michigan. Yes, Petit-Frere visited the Big House to watch Ohio State beat the Wolverines in November. And yes, the somewhat humbling silence out of Ann Arbor this offseason — in comparison to basically all other times in the Jim Harbaugh era — adds to the good vibe at Ohio State.

Texas A&M Aggies
How can you not be excited about the commitment A&M leadership made to new coach Jimbo Fisher, who agreed to a 10-year, $75 million contract in December? Fisher, in turn, made a number of intriguing hires, headlined by defensive coordinator Mike Elko, formerly of Notre Dame, ex-Memphis offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey and linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto from SEC West rival Ole Miss.

Fans of the Aggies were just getting to know them all when Fisher and his staff finished recruiting season with a furious push. They collected pledges from five ESPN 300 prospects in the long days and nights of early February, headlined by QB James Foster, who spurned Fisher’s former school, Florida State.

The excitement was so palpable this winter that A&M chancellor John Sharp bestowed Fisher with a dateless national championship plaque that looked more like the hardware presented to the FCS champion than anything that the Aggies strive to capture. Still, we applaud the idea.

Florida State Seminoles
Things are going pretty well at Fisher’s old school, too. In fact, the Seminoles completed the No. 11-rated recruiting class last month — the highest ranked of all the groups put together by a first-year head coach. FSU jumped 25 spots late in the game, beating Miami for prospects, staking claim in coach Willie Taggart’s old Tampa stomping grounds and flipping a pair of recruits from Tennessee.

Sure, Taggart missed on signing a quarterback, a misstep that he’s well on the way to fixing in the next class. And did we mention that Deondre Francois is coming back? His knee injury derailed the Seminoles’ season in Week 1 last year. Francois won’t do much more than throw the ball around this spring, but just the sight of him on the practice field will stoke excitement. The QB job is open, by the way, with James Blackman and Bailey Hockman to kick off the competition before Francois rejoins the mix.

Iowa State Cyclones
Whenever the NCAA grants a sixth year of eligibility, it ranks as something of a surprise. So even though Iowa State was hopeful — while still euphoric in the wake of its first bowl appearance since 2012 — when QB Kyle Kempt learned in February that he could (and would) return this year, the excitement meter skyrocketed.

Kempt saved the season for Iowa State last year, coming from essentially nowhere to lead upsets over Oklahoma and TCU and throw for 1,787 yards and 15 touchdowns in nine games.

And it’s not just Kempt who has Iowa State still abuzz three months after coach Matt Campbell kept his word and stayed in Ames when opportunities elsewhere would have existed if he wanted to look for them. No player anywhere does more and gets noticed less than Iowa State running back David Montgomery.

Even as Iowa State lost offensive coordinator and line coach Tom Manning to the Indianapolis Colts, his departure only serves to illustrate the rising profile of Campbell’s program.

Washington Huskies
This exercise is about more than new coaches and dramatic revivals of the quarterback position. Sometimes good, old-fashioned longevity does the trick.

Doesn’t hurt the mood at Washington, either, when all of the other Pac-12 heavyweights, with the exception of Stanford, are enduring some form of a rebuild.

Running back Myles Gaskin, set to break Napoleon Kaufman’s career rushing record at Washington in the season opener, is coming back. And so is quarterback Jake Browning, poised, like Gaskin, to be a four-year starter.

Just think about what Browning and Gaskin can do together in 2018, especially with emerging difference-maker Salvon Ahmed sharing time to keep Gaskin fresh. The biggest shot of energy over the past two months, though, came courtesy of Jacob Eason, the prodigal son, returning home from Georgia to battle for the right to replace Browning in 2019.

He’ll sit out in 2018, but Eason, the 2015 Gatorade National Player of the Year, still figures to capture more than his share of attention this spring.

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