Spring college football games, take out: No QB stepping in for Notre Dame, Oregon defense has point guard
Saturday saw a number of spring games across the country, including the Blue-Gold game in Notre Dame, the Nebraska spring game, and a few powers in the Pacific Northwest. Even if you never want to read too much what you see in the spring, we are all a little desperate for football, right?
With that in mind, here are some takeaways from Saturday’s biggest games.
No strong points in the Notre Dame QB competition
On the same day that Ian Book was being written by the New Orleans Saints, Notre Dame fans tune in to the Spring Game, hoping to get a feel for who would inherit the post of Book’s departure this fall. Well, unfortunately for them, no one took the reins in the Blue-Gold Game.
Transfer to Wisconsin Jack Coan is the presumptive starter, and he was doing well on Saturday. Coan completed 18 of 32 passes for 197 yards, while red-shirted freshman Drew Pyne (the presumed competition) posted 11 for 23 for 146 yards. The two threw an interception, nor a touchdown.
No, the only two touchdowns in the 17-3 game were under newcomer Tyler Buchner. The California four-star had a great day, completing six of nine passes for 140 yards, and he rushed for a touchdown. Buchner was not considered to have a realistic chance of winning the job given his inexperience, but you can bet fans will argue after Saturday.
Nebraska Defense Make Statement
Nebraska fans have likely paid attention to some key players who weren’t playing Saturday for health reasons and are certainly worried about middle linebacker Will Honas who suffered a non-contact injury in Wednesday practice. Coach Scott Frost told Husker 247 that “doesn’t look good” for Honas.
As for the game, Husker fans will be happy to see Adrian Martinez looking solid. While he didn’t keep the promise he showed as a rookie, Nebraska fans would like to see some stability in the position, and Martinez showed signs of this Saturday. While completing just 12 of 20 passes for 127 yards, Omar Manning released a perfectly pitched deep ball that would have significantly altered Martinez’s final numbers had he returned.
Fans can also take comfort in defending the first team as good as advertised. Of course, it wasn’t meant to be the Nebraska defense, everyone was confident going into Frost’s fourth season.
Joyner stands out for the Minnesota defense
Learn the name Jah Joyner. Joyner was one of the top-rated rookies in Minnesota’s 2020 recruiting class, but did not play last season. He caught up some time on Saturday, finishing with two sacks. The Gophers already have a superhero on the defensive line in Boye Mafe, along with other talented options. Joyner’s addition gives Minnesota an intriguing array of linemen as fall approaches.
Elsewhere, with a hole the size of a Rashod Bateman in the bodies of receivers, there are a few question marks. Well Chris Autman-Bell finished with 100 yards and was named MVP so he’s doing fine. There were also encouraging signs from the rest of the unit, particularly from Daniel Jackson.
Oregon’s defense looks impressive
The indication all spring has been that the quarterback is in Anthony Brown’s position, and that didn’t change on Saturday. Oregon took the offensive-to-defense approach in their spring game, and while Ty Thompson, Robby Ashford, and Jay Butterfield all saw reps, it was Brown who won the majority of them.
Still, the biggest advantage for me was that, unsurprisingly, Oregon has dudes on defense. It was as if everyone had a bag at some point, including Kayvon Thibodeaux and Justin Flowe. The defense also managed to force turnovers, which is why the offense needed a late return to win the game 35-34.
Washington Loon Reduces Errors
Unsurprisingly, Washington’s defense seemed to be a step or two ahead of Saturday’s attack, but most of the attention was on the quarterbacks.
Last season starter Dylan Morris shared time with crimson newcomer Sam Huard, while transfer graduate Patrick O’Brien led the gold squad. All three made great games, but what struck me was the five star Huard’s lack of silly games. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the young upstart come in and try to prove something, but Huard stayed within the offense and took what was given. It is an encouraging sign. However, this QB battle is far from settled.
Virginia WR Wicks stars for Wahoos
As Barrett Sallee mentioned earlier this week, there was a lack of explosive play from Virginia’s offensive last season, which Bronco Mendenhall and the Cavaliers want to change in 2021. It’s a task that has become more difficult when Lavel Davis Jr. tore up his ACL earlier. this spring, but Dontayvion Wicks provided flashes of hope, winning two touchdowns, including a 40-yard score.
There was also a clear effort to involve former QB Keytaon Thompson as a receiver. Thompson and Wicks were able to take advantage of the additional shots available due to Davis’ injury and seated receivers RaShaun Henry and Billy Kemp.