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Posted: Thursday May 1, 2008 11:38AM; Updated: Thursday May 1, 2008 4:12PM
Stewart Mandel Stewart Mandel >

Georgia exits spring as No. 1

Story Highlights
  • Defending national champion LSU holds down the No. 5 spot
  • With its high-flying offense, Texas Tech comes in at No. 8
  • The SEC leads all conferences with six teams in the rankings
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I've been writing these end-of-spring power rankings for several years now, and for once, I actually feel confident that I know what I'm talking about.

Why? Because the unprecedented amount of coverage surrounding spring football these days -- televised spring games, Saturday-night highlights and near-daily stories in certain parts of the country -- means that what takes place during those 15 practices is no longer top-secret information. (Except at Alabama, of course.)

On the pages that follow, you'll find a brief recap of developments that took place during each team's spring camp, as well as a "spring star" -- a young player or career reserve that turned heads during practices/scrimmages and will likely make an impact in the fall.

It's no coincidence, by the way, that my colleague Andrew Perloff's recent 2009 NFL mock draft included a whole bunch of players from Ohio State and USC and a No. 1 overall pick from Georgia. It's becoming increasingly clear to me that those three teams are absolutely loaded heading into this season and therefore sit atop this poll, but I certainly wouldn't sneeze at Missouri, LSU, Oklahoma or Florida, either.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
1Georgia Bulldogs
Last Week: --
Georgia Bulldogs (11-2 in 2007)
Returning starters: 17 (Offense: 8 Defense: 9)

Key returnees: QB Matthew Stafford, RB Knowshon Moreno, DT Geno Atkins, LB Danell Ellerbe, CB Asher Allen.

Spring star: RB Caleb King. The redshirt freshman was impressive in Georgia's spring game and should provide a nice complement to Moreno in the fall.

Spring recap: Stafford, entering his third season, showed continued development, and may have found a new go-to receiver in freshman Tavarres King. (Stud recruit A.J. Green also arrives in the fall.) LB Rennie Curran drew consistent praise from coach Mark Richt.
2Ohio St. Buckeyes
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 18 (Offense: 9 Defense: 9)

Key returnees: RB Beanie Wells, WRs Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline, LB James Laurinaitis, CB Malcolm Jenkins.

Spring star: DE Thaddeus Gibson. The redshirt sophomore impressed OSU's seniors so much they picked him No. 1 in their "draft" for the Scarlet-Gray Game.

Spring recap: With nearly the entire squad returning, there weren't too many questions to answer. Sophomore Bryant Browning is on track to replace Kirk Barton at right tackle, while Gibson and Lawrence Wilson will step in for Vernon Gholston.
3USC Trojans
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 11 (Offense: 4 Defense: 7).

Key returnees: RBs Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight, LBs Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing, S Taylor Mays.

Spring star: QB Mark Sanchez. The junior firmly established himself as the Trojans' 2008 starter, throwing three touchdown passes in the spring game.

Spring recap: A considerably improved receiving corps gained an added boost from Arkansas transfer Damian Williams. What seemed like a young O-line on paper appears to be gelling quickly. The competition to replace DT Sedrick Ellis remains wide open.
4Missouri Tigers
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 16 (Offense: 6 Defense: 10)

Key returnees: QB Chase Daniel, WR Jeremy Maclin, TE Chase Coffman, LB Sean Weatherspoon, S William Moore.

Spring star: RB Derrick Washington. The rising sophomore displayed impressive speed in the spring game and should help fill the void left by Tony Temple.

Spring recap: The Tigers' spread offense should be lethal again, as Daniel and Maclin picked up right where they left off on the first touchdown of the spring game. Injuries to key defenders Moore, Weatherspoon and Van Alexander are a concern.
5LSU Tigers
Last Week: --
LSU Tigers (12-2)
Returning starters: 12 (Offense: 7 Defense: 5)

Key returnees: WRs Brandon LaFell and Demetrius Byrd, DE Tyson Jackson, DT Ricky Jean Francois, LB Darry Beckwith.

Spring star: RB Richard Murphy. The sophomore exploded for 145 yards on 11 carries in the spring game, though Keiland Williams is the expected No. 1 tailback.

Spring recap: The overriding storyline of LSU's spring was the absence of suspended QB Ryan Perrilloux, who has since been reinstated. The Tigers' offensive line is shaping up to be dominant. Coach Les Miles is still looking for two reliable cornerbacks.
6Oklahoma Sooners
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 14 (Offense: 8 Defense: 6)

Key returnees: QB Sam Bradford, RB DeMarco Murray, G Duke Robinson, DE Auston English, DT DeMarcus Granger.

Spring star: CB Dominique Franks. What had been a position of concern now seems in good hands with the sophomore, who had three picks in OU's spring game.

Spring recap: The Sooners experimented with a no-huddle offense. Having lost standouts like Curtis Lofton and Reggie Smith, the defense appears to be reloading with youngsters like Franks, LB Keenan Clayton and S Sam Proctor.
7Florida Gators
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 16 (Offense: 8 Defense: 8)

Key returnees: QB Tim Tebow, WRs Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy, LB Brandon Spikes, S Major Wright.

Spring star: DE Carlos Dunlap. The sophomore asserted himself as Florida's next great pass-rusher, notching four sacks in the Gators' spring game.

Spring recap: The Tebow-led passing game looked explosive as ever. RBs Chris Rainey and Emmanuel Moody showed big-play potential but lack consistency. Coach Urban Meyer cited the secondary as the most improved area on the team.
8Texas Tech Red Raiders
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 18 (Offense: 10 Defense: 8).

Key returnees: QB Graham Harrell, WR Michael Crabtree, G Louis Vasquez, DE Brandon Williams, CB Jamar Wall.

Spring star: DE McKinner Dixon. The return of this 2005 Freshman All-America, who played last season in junior college, gives Tech's pass rush a boost.

Spring recap: The fact that Tech's defense shut down Harrell, Crabtree and Co. in the spring game is a good sign for the Raiders. Dixon and Miami transfer Chris Perry were nice adds to an impressive D-line. Mike Leach is still seeking a new kicker.
9Auburn Tigers
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 15 (Offense: 8 Defense: 7)

Key returnees: QB Kodi Burns, RBs Ben Tate and Brad Lester, DE Antonio Coleman, DT Sen'Derrick Marks.

Spring star: WR Terrell Zachary. The sophomore, who was ineligible for most of last season, showed signs of becoming a big-time playmaker.

Spring recap: Burns made strides in new coordinator Tony Franklin's spread offense, going 26-of-36 for 355 yards in his last two scrimmages. The Tigers are still adjusting to playing at a hurry-up tempo. LB Tray Blackmon emerged as a leader on defense.
10Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 17 (Offense: 8 Defense: 9)

Key returnees: RB P.J. Hill, TE Travis Beckum, DE Matt Shaunghessy, LB Jonathan Casillas, S Shane Carter.

Spring star: RB John Clay. The highly touted freshman lived up to the hype in Wisconsin's spring game, carrying 21 times for 94 yards.

Spring recap: Allen Evridge remains on top in the Badgers' QB derby but has yet to shake off Dustin Sherer and Scott Tolzien. Injuries ravished the defense, most notably Shaunghessy (broken leg). Several youngsters stepped up in the secondary.
11Clemson Tigers
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 15 (Offense: 7 Defense: 8)

Key returnees: QB Cullen Harper, RBs James Davis and C.J. Spiller, WR Aaron Kelly.

Spring star: DE Da'Quan Bowers. The early-enrollee -- considered the top recruit in the country by some -- dazzled at Clemson's spring game (two sacks).

Spring recap: The Tigers showed the makings of a deep and dominant defense. Harper found a potentially dangerous second target in 6-foot-5 sophomore Xavier Dye. The offensive line remains a huge concern -- a couple of freshmen may have to start.
12Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 14 (Offense: 8 Defense: 6)

Key returnees: RB Arian Foster, WR Lucas Taylor, G Anthony Parker, S Eric Berry.

Spring star: WR Gerald Jones. The athletic sophomore merited his own package -- "the G-Gun" -- in which he lines up at QB and can throw or run.

Spring recap: The Vols adjusted to eight new assistants, most notably offensive coordinator Dave Clawson, who experimented with both Jones and Berry in the shotgun. Jonathan Crompton looks ready to take over for Erik Ainge at QB.
13Texas Longhorns
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 12 (Offense: 7 Defense: 5)

Key returnees: QB Colt McCoy, WR Quan Cosby, DE Brian Orakpo, DT Lamarr Houston.

Spring star: WR Brandon Collins. The field-stretching sophomore looks like he could fill the shoes of departed star Limas Sweed.

Spring recap: New coordinator Will Muschamp brought a much-needed edge to Texas' defense, with the young secondary showing the most improvement. RB Vondrell McGee looks to be Jamaal Charles' replacement. Henry Melton stepped up at DE.
14West Virginia Mountaineers
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 11 (Offense: 7 Defense: 4)

Key returnees: QB Pat White, RB Noel Devine, LB Reed Williams, S Quinton Andrews.

Spring star: TE Will Johnson. The sophomore moved over from receiver in the spring and showed signs he'll make an impact in the pass and run games.

Spring recap: Despite losing seven starters, White said the Mountaineers' defense got the better of the offense for most of the spring. The linebacker corps showed it will be a strength. Receivers are a question after losing big-play threat Darius Reynaud.
15Kansas Jayhawks
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 15 (Offense: 6 Defense: 9)

Key returnees: QB Todd Reesing, WRs Dexton Fields and Desmon Briscoe, LB Joe Mortensen.

Spring star: LT Jeff Spikes. In a crowded competition, the redshirt freshman emerged as the front-runner to replace departed All-America Anthony Collins.

Spring recap: Reesing, playing behind a work-in-progress offensive line, did not look like himself in the spring game, while his receivers dropped several passes. Coach Mark Mangino raved about the defense's potential following a dominant spring.
16Arizona St. Sun Devils
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 14 (Offense: 7 Defense: 7)

Key returnees: QB Rudy Carpenter, RB Keegan Herring, S Troy Nolan, K Thomas Weber.

Spring star: RB Shaun DeWitty. The injury-plagued junior ran for 71 yards in the spring game and could push Herring and Dimitri Nance for carries.

Spring recap: Carpenter was a miserable 7-of-21 for 88 yards in the spring game, partially because ASU's stout D-line dominated the O-line. The defense was impressive throughout spring. Juco CB Terrell Carr led a pack of emerging corners.
17Brigham Young Cougars
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 13 (Offense: 10 Defense: 3)

Key returnees: QB Max Hall, RB Harvey Unga, WR Austin Collie, LB Jan Jorgensen.

Spring star: LB Matt Bauman. The junior asserted himself as the new leader of a linebacking corps that lost standout Kelly Popinga and Bryan Kehl.

Spring recap: The Cougars' already potent offense discovered new weapons in freshmen RB J.J. DiLuigi and WR Spencer Hafoka. A seemingly depleted defense came together quickly thanks to several transfers and returning missionaries.
18Oregon St. Beavers
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 12 (Offense: 9 Defense: 3)

Key returnees: WR Sammie Stroughter, WR/RB James Rodgers, G Jeremy Perry, DE Victor Butler.

Spring star: RB Ryan McCant. Described as "a smaller Steven Jackson," the redshirt freshman left no doubt who will step in for departed star Yvenson Bernard.

Spring recap: Stroughter, who missed last season, looks every bit like the guy who amassed 1,293 yards in 2006. The offensive line has been depleted by injuries. Juco transfer Stephen Paea (DT) and LB Keaton Kristick have stood out on the defensive front.
19Illinois Fighting Illini
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 13 (Offense: 7 Defense: 6)

Key returnees: QB Juice Williams, WR Arrelious Benn, DE Will Davis, CB Vontae Davis.

Spring star: WR Jarred Fayson. The Florida transfer showed off his big-play ability in the spring game, returning a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown.

Spring recap: Coach Ron Zook was pleased with the continued development of QBs Williams and Eddie McGee. The defensive line emerged as a strength. No obvious candidates emerged to fill the huge void left by RB Rashard Mendenhall.
20Oregon Ducks
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 13 (Offense: 5 Defense: 8)

Key returnees: G Max Unger, WR Jaison Williams, DE Nick Reed, S Patrick Chung.

Spring star: RB LeGarrette Blount. The juco transfer, who ran five times for 68 yards in the spring game, showed off jaw-dropping moves throughout the spring.

Spring recap: Sophomore QB Justin Roper, the star of last year's Sun Bowl, put on a huge performance in the spring game, but was erratic in previous scrimmages. The defense looked strong, but some holes remain on the defensive line and at free safety.
21Penn St. Nittany Lions
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 14 (Offense: 8 Defense: 6)

Key returnees: RB Evan Royster, WR Derrick Williams, G Rich Ohrnberger, DE Maurice Evans.

Spring star: RB Stephfon Green. The electrifying freshman, who dashed for 87 yards on 12 carries in the Blue and White Game, may supplant Royster.

Spring recap: The offense figures to be more dynamic with either QB -- Daryll Clark or Pat Devlin -- at the helm. The defense received a crushing blow when star LB Sean Lee suffered a season-ending knee injury. Several key players were sidelined by suspensions.

22Cincinnati Bearcats
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 13 (Offense: 7 Defense: 6)

Key returnees: WRs Dominic Goodman and Marcus Barnett, DT Terrill Byrd, CB Mike Mickens.

Spring star: S Drew Frey. The redshirt freshman drew raves from coach Brian Kelly and could step into the role vacated by departed standout Haruki Nakamura.

Spring recap: An impressive spring game performance helped senior QB Dustin Grutza remain ahead of Notre Dame transfer Demetrius Jones. DE Connor Barwin looked impressive at his new spot. Running back remains wide open.
23Virginia Tech Hokies
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 10 (Offense: 6 Defense: 4)

Key returnees: QBs Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor, CB Victor Harris, S Kam Chancellor.

Spring star: WR Brandon Dillard. A speedy walk-on, Dillard amassed 115 yards in the spring game and should help Tech replace its top four receivers.

Spring recap: Having already dismissed top RB Branden Ore, the Hokies also lost their next two tailbacks, Kenny Lewis and Jahre Cheeseman, to injuries. Glennon entrenched himself as the No. 1 guy. A rebuilt defensive front four performed solidly.
24Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 15 (Offense: 9 Defense: 6)

Key returnees: QB John Parker Wilson, RB Terry Grant, T Andre Smith, S Rashad Johnson.

Spring star: WR Mike McCoy. The junior, who caught six balls for 101 yards in the spring game, could step into the go-to role vacated by D.J. Hall.

Spring recap: Wilson looked sharp in the spring game, with Grant stepping up in the passing attack. Several promising youngsters provided depth for the D-line. The status of LBs Prince Hall (suspension) and Zeke Knight (illness) are up in the air.
25Pittsburgh Panthers
Last Week: --
Returning starters: 15 (Offense: 8 Defense: 7)

Key returnees: RB LeSean McCoy, WR Derek Kinder, LB Scott McKillop, K Conor Lee.

Spring star: TE Dorin Dickerson. A linebacker in 2007, Dickerson -- despite no prior experience at tight end -- emerged as a viable receiving target.

Spring recap: Bill Stull reestablished himself as the likely No. 1 QB after missing all but one game last season. Redshirt frosh Shariff Harris shaped up as a nice complement to McCoy. The offensive line remains in need of improvement.
On the cusp: Connecticut, Boise State, Wake Forest, Utah, Michigan State.