Top storylines heading into the spring

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While we’re still over six months away from the start of the 2012 season, we’re not wandering through a football-less desert quite yet.

From Feb. 13 (Army first practice) through May 5 (UCLA’s spring game), all 124 Div. 1-A (FBS) football programs will utilize their 15 allotted spring sessions to begin preparations in earnest for the upcoming season.

Below are but a few of the storylines and issues we’ll be following over the next couple of months.

Conference change, it’s a comin’
Missouri and Texas A&M from the Big 12 to the SEC.  TCU and West Virginia from the Big East to the Big 12.  Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada officially moving to the Mountain West from the WAC.  And four brand-new football programs moving up from Div. 1-AA (FCS) to Div. 1-A (FBS): South Alabama (Sun Belt), Texas State (WAC), UMass (MAC) and UT-San Antonio (WAC).  Hell, there’s even the very real possibility that Temple could be leaving the MAC for the Big East this year as well.

While the moves won’t become officially official until July 1, all of those schools will, in essence, conduct spring practice as members of their new respective conferences.  In particular, a lot of the “new kid on the block” attention will be paid to Missouri and Texas A&M — and new head coach Kevin Sumlin — because, well, it’s the SEC and the six-peat BcS champion conference always has more than its share of eyes upon it.

Sideline upheaval
More than one-fifth (27) of the 124 football program that will play at the Div. 1-A level in 2012 made a change at head coach at some point after the start of the 2011 season. From Penn State and Ohio State in the Big Ten to four new ones in the Pac-12 — the most of any BcS conference; Conference USA will have five new head coaches — to Texas A&M ahead of its move from the Big 12 to the SEC, none of the 11 conferences were spared at least one change at head coach from where its members were at the beginning of last season.

The spring sessions will be, for the most part, the first chance for those coaches and their coaching staffs to really get a good look at and begin the evaluation of the roster. The “real” work won’t begin until September, but laying the foundation of new schemes on both sides of the ball will begin in earnest. What happens during the next couple of months will determine how far ahead/behind/in step with the more entrenched programs lugging experienced staffs into the new year.  All eyes in particular will be on Bill O’Brien, who will not only take over the scandal-stained Nittany Lions program but will also be embarking upon his first season as a Div. 1-A head coach.  Well, all that and replacing a legendary icon who had been the face of Happy Valley for nearly half a century as well.

Needing Moore Luck at quarterback
For the first time in four years at Boise State and three at Stanford, the two top-ten programs won’t have the experience and talent of Kellen Moore and Andrew Luck, respectively, under center.

Who will they have?  Brett Nottingham will enter the spring as the odds-on favorite to replace Luck with the Cardinal, with Robbie Picazo and Josh Nunes expected to provide the stiffest competition for the redshirt sophomore.  Outside of Moore, junior-to-be Joe Southwick attempted the most passes (30) for the Broncos last year and was listed as the co-backup along with sophomore-to-be Grant Hedrick.  How those two competitions shake out will go a long, long way in determining whether the two programs can maintain the on-field excellence and build upon the foundations laid by Luck and Moore.

Better this time around?
After winning its first BcS title under Nick Saban in 2009, Alabama “stumbled” through a 10-3 season the following year, with all three losses coming in SEC play. With a second crystal football in three years tucked under its arm, the Tide will attempt to become the first SEC program in the BcS era to repeat as champions. Two problems with going back-to-back, however. One, the Tide will be forced to replace half its starting lineup, including seven on a defense that ranked at or near the top in nearly every major statistical category in 2011 season. And, two, LSU — ya know, the winner of the Tide’s division and loser of the rematch — remains in the SEC West and returns a squad that not only should be at or near the top of the preseason rankings but will be better because of the attrition at the quarterback position.

Fun fact? The Tide has not lost to a non-conference foe since its two-touchdown beatdown at the hands of Utah in the Sugar Bowl following the 2008 regular season.  This year, the Tide will get an immediate test of the rework and revamping begun in the spring as they face likely top-ten foe Michigan in a neutral site game to open the season.

Get those seats warmed, fellas
It’s never too early for some hot seat talk, is it?  Based on the offseason he’s had — nearly a dozen transfers and the Danny O’Brien fiasco — and coming off an abysmal two-win first season at Maryland, Randy Edsall should sit at or near the top of any list of coaches on the hot seat.  Given the significant amount of attrition on both the roster and the coaching staff — he will have new offensive and defensive coordinators — this spring will likely resemble his first with the Terps, sort of a feeling-out process all over again with the added bonus of vultures circling over the two-win carcass.  Edsall simply needs a solid spring to lead to vast improvement in 2012 or he could very well find himself on the outside of the program looking in 2013.

Other coaches who need a strong spring to translate into an immediate turnaround in 2012 include Tennessee’s Derek Dooley, Boston College’s Frank Spaziani, Kentucky’s Joker Phillips, UCF’s George O’Leary and Cal’s Jeff Tedford.

(Still to come: individual storylines for the six BcS conferences — the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.)

Bo Scarbrough takes jab at UCF with ‘real championship rings’ tweet

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For the fifth time since Nick Saban took over, Alabama football players have added some serious bling to their personal collections.

At the football team’s annual Steak & Beans dinner Monday night at the Mal Moore Athletics Facility, both the student-athletes and coaches were presented with their 2017 national championship rings.  The thrilling overtime win over Georgia in the College Football Playoff title game was the program’s fifth since Saban came to the Crimson Tide in 2007.

The rings are, to say the least, impressive, encrusted with over 150 stones per the school.  Of those 53 represents the number of wins for this most recent senior class.

Saban’s six national championships as a coach, including one at rival LSU, are tied the legendary Bear Bryant for the most in the sport’s history.  The Crimson Tide has won a total of 17 national championships, the third-most in big-time college football history behind Princeton’s 28 and Yale’s 27.

Of course, numerous Crimson Tide football players took to social media to show off and celebrate their latest title hardware.  The best use of Twitter, though, belonged to running back Bo Scarbrough, who took a not-so-thinly-veiled jab at UCF and the Knights’ unveiling “the only 2017 undefeated national championship ring this past weekend.

LOOK: Tim Drevno’s resignation letter to Michigan made public

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It appears we can finally, officially, put the Tim Drevno era at Michigan to bed.

In February, three days after Jim McElwain was officially hired as U-M’s quarterbacks coach and amidst rumors that the former Florida head coach could take over play-calling duties, Drevno announced that he would be stepping down as the Wolverines’ offensive coordinator. Drevno also served as the program’s offensive line coach.

Two months later, mlive.com obtained a copy of the coach’s resignation letter through the Freedom of Information Act. Drevno gave no specific reason for his resignation in the letter, stating only that he is “willing to help in any manner needed during the transition phase, but I fully understand if it is more appropriate to amicably sever ties in a more expedient way.”

Eight days after he left U-M, Drevno’s name was connected to a job at USC; two days later, the Trojans announced his hiring as running backs coach.  This marks his second stint in the Land of Troy as he was line coach and running-game coordinator in 2014.

Drevno, who was also on Jim Harbaugh‘s staffs at Stanford and with the San Francisco 49ers, spent the past three seasons in Ann Arbor. Under Drevno’s direction, the Wolverines’ offense was tied for 91st nationally in averaging 25.2 points per game this past season.

Korey Hernandez uses Twitter to announce transfer from Arkansas

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Another day, another college football player takes to Twitter to announce a move.

The latest to use that social media site as an announcement delivery system is Korey Hernandez, who confirmed in a tweet Monday evening that he has decided to transfer from Arkansas.  While the defensive back stated he has “made many unforgettable moments in the University of Arkansas football program,” he “decided to part ways and continue my career elsewhere… after taking time to think with my family.”

A three-star member of the Razorbacks’ 2017 recruiting class coming out of high school in Georgia, Hernandez was rated as the No. 90 safety in the country.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.

According to 247Sports, Hernandez is the third UA player to announce his intention to transfer since the conclusion of spring practice about two weeks ago, joining tight end Will Gragg and defensive back Reid Miller.

Georgia football’s account remains on Twitter suspended list

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Even as he now resides in South Florida, it appears Mark Richt has lost control of Georgia football’s Twitter account.

Shortly before Saturday’s second spring game under Kirby Smart, UGA’s Twitter account for the football program was suspended.  That marked the sixth time since January 17 of 2017 in which the account was suspended, and that suspension remains in effect as of this posting.

While there has been no official word from the university or athletic department on the latest suspension, it appears that it is related to, once again, a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice.  Essentially, UGA is accused of using copyrighted music in their tweets, which has led to their five previous suspensions.

Along with the most recent suspension as well as the first in January of last year, UGA’s account was suspended June 20, 2017; July 27, 2017; August 14, 2017; and February 7, 2018.  The last one came during National Signing Day, with USA Today noting at that time that “[t]he DMCA suspends accounts after three violations within a certain period.”