Spring practice report: Jack Hoffman scores a touchdown for Nebraska
By Zac Ellis
With spring practice in full swing, here’s a glance at some of the nation’s most noteworthy recent developments:
• Nebraska: The feel-good story of the week came out of Nebraska’s spring game. Seven-year-old cancer patient Jack Hoffman, a lifelong Huskers fan, took a handoff from quarterback Taylor Martinez in the waning moments of the scrimmage and scampered 69 yards to the end zone (video above). Huskers players mobbed Hoffman as more than 60,000 fans cheered for the youngster, who befriended running back Rex Burkhead last year while battling brain cancer. What was Hoffman thinking as he took the field? In his words: “Scoring a touchdown.”
• Florida: The Gators limped into their spring game on Saturday with a banged-up group of offensive linemen. The unit was so injury depleted (four linemen were out), in fact, that Will Muschamp changed the format from a traditional spring game to an open practice with scrimmage-type situations. But some good news came out of Gainesville: Quarterback Jeff Driskel, who is aiming to improve his decision-making in his second year as the starter, showed significant signs of development.
• Florida State: Following the departure of E.J. Manuel, the Seminoles’ quarterback situation features plenty of new faces. And while it’s looking like Clint Trickett has the slight edge to become the Seminoles’ man under center, Jacob Coker and Jameis Winston are giving Trickett a run for his money. Still, Trickett is showing the experience that comes with having played in Jimbo Fisher’s system the longest.
• Louisville: After sitting out last season with a knee injury, running back Dominique Brown is leaving a lasting impression this spring. Coach Charlie Strong said Brown has fared well in his workouts — which is good news for the Cardinals with fellow tailback Senorise Perry recovering from an ACL tear. Brown showed flashes of his old self and ran for three touchdowns in a recent scrimmage. The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder could become a valuable complement to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as Louisville looks to build on its momentum from last season’s Sugar Bowl victory.
• Michigan: Michigan’s quarterback depth took a hit when backup Russell Bellomy tore his ACL in spring practice. Though the Wolverines are likely in good hands with Devin Gardner as the starter, Bellomy’s injury doesn’t bode well if Gardner were to go down as well. In other news, coach Brady Hoke and staff are preparing to host a handful of top 2014 recruits at the team’s spring game on April 13.
• Notre Dame: The Irish took the field this spring looking to fill a void at running back. And with Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick both gone, George Atkinson III could be the answer for Notre Dame. He’s certainly made some noise in practice. That’s good news after fellow tailback Amir Carlisle suffered a broken collarbone, which will keep him out of the team’s spring game.
• Ohio State: Last season’s bowl ban prevented Ohio State from having several additional weeks of practice during the postseason, and the Buckeyes appear to be making up for lost time with some competitiveness in Columbus. Quarterback Braxton Miller is feeling the effects, as he took a hard hit from defensive end Noah Spence in a scrimmage last week and re-irritated an already sore rib. Miller reportedly walked to the sidelines and exchanged a few choice words with his defensive teammates. The two sides had to be separated, but Urban Meyer said he likes to see a little fight from his quarterback.
• South Carolina: Wide receivers Shaq Roland and Shamier Jeffery have wasted little time emerging as potential replacements for the departed Ace Sanders and D.L. Moore. Coach Steve Spurrier likes what he’s seen so far from the wideouts, both of whom might turn out to be big-play targets come fall. Jeffery is the younger brother of former South Carolina star Alshon Jeffery, who now plays for the Chicago Bears. Meanwhile, Jadeveon Clowney isn’t likely to risk injury in the Gamecocks’ spring game; he is currently slated to sit out.
• Texas A&M: You’ve got to hand it to the Aggies: They aren’t taking things lightly in spring practice. A&M players are participating in a drill called the “Tunnel of Truth,” which features a runner and a blocker facing two defenders while the rest of the team looks on. It’s pretty obvious this workout is keeping the intensity high in College Station.
• Texas Tech: While Michael Brewer remains the clubhouse leader to become Seth Doege’s replacement as the Red Raiders’ next starting quarterback, the team’s bigger question mark seems to be at center. New coach Kliff Kingsbury and staff still say it’s too early in spring practice to anoint a new starter at the position, but sophomores Jared Kaster and Tony Morales are currently competing hard for the gig.
• USC: Coming off its first six-loss campaign in a decade, USC’s top priority this spring is finding a sturdy replacement for Matt Barkley. Though Max Wittek stepped in for Barkley late last season, Wittek’s inconsistency in those outings prompted a three-way quarterback competition with Cody Kessler and Max Browne. Word out of Los Angeles is that Kessler and Wittek have gradually separated from the pack. The Trojans also need someone to step up at cornerback, a position Kiffin described as a “huge concern.”