Citizen Staff Writer
SNEAK PEEK AT COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON
Spring football is all wrapped up, so the next thing in the college football calendar is the preview magazine season.
They’ll be coming soon – in some cases, later this month – to newsstands near you.
I’ve been doing my part, thoroughly immersed with production on Lindy’s six college football editions in the past couple of weeks, which means I know at least one thing: I absolutely can’t wait for the season to begin.
Here are 25 things – local, regional and national – to whet your appetite for the 2009 season . . . or at least until the magazines come out.
1. Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes took a trip in the offseason to visit with the staff of the Dallas Cowboys. The purpose: To study how it used tight end Jason Witten.
Dykes came back to Tucson with new ideas on how to involve junior tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“We took some of the stuff we saw with the Cowboys,” Dykes said. “We are trying to put it in our packages.”
2. Gronkowski is a Lindy’s second-team preseason All-American behind Oklahoma’s Jermaine Gresham, who surprisingly came back for his senior season.
3. I normally wouldn’t divulge Lindy’s No. 1 team, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out this season. It’s Florida.
Question is, who is No. 2 . . . Texas or Oklahoma? Or should that be Oklahoma or Texas?
4. Lindy’s picks the best of the decade in this year’s editions, and the question about the 2009 Gators is if they can become the team of the decade.
The champ in the clubhouse is 2001 Miami, which went undefeated, outscored opponents 512-117 and produced 15 first-round picks in the next three drafts.
5. I can’t wait to see how Salpointe Catholic graduate and former Arizona assistant Rich Ellerson does at Army. Ellerson made one of the most fascinating moves of the spring, switching starting left tackle Ali Villanueva (6 feet 10 inches, 283 pounds) to wide receiver.
Villanueva is expected to be a red-zone threat and serve as a heck of a blocker on screen passes.
6. Sure looks like a down year for the Pac-10, with eight of the teams having some sort of quarterback battle in the spring.
The only ones that didn’t were Oregon (Jeremiah Masoli) and Washington (Jake Locker, coming back from a thumb injury).
7. It figures: East Carolina junior Dustin Lineback is a . . . linebacker.
8. It doesn’t figure: Defensive back Miami Thomas plays for Illinois, running back Princeton McCarty plays for Idaho, Bob Toledo coaches Tulane, and the University of Washington doesn’t have anyone named Washington, although it does have a player named Houston, which is something Houston doesn’t have.
Running back Darius Marshall got it right. He plays for – you guessed it – Marshall.
9. Looking for a reason why the Big Ten flops in big games? It’s not because of speed at the skill positions; it’s because of speed and athleticism at defensive tackle.
Consider this: NFL teams have drafted 16 defensive tackles in the first round since 2004. None has been from the Big Ten.
10. The SEC, not deep in quarterbacks this season after Florida’s Tim Tebow and Mississippi’s Jevan Snead, is nonetheless the conference of elite quarterbacks. Five of the past 12 No. 1 overall draft picks have been SEC quarterbacks.
11. Salpointe Catholic graduate Kris O’Dowd, a junior at USC, is Lindy’s first-team preseason All-America center.
12. The middle of the Pac-10 is a jumbled mess. The top three are USC, Cal and Oregon. The bottom two are Washington and Washington State. Flip a coin for the teams in between, although Lindy’s picked Arizona fifth.
Lindy’s went with Oregon State at No. 4, because at least the Beavers have two quarterbacks they can win with – rehabbing Lyle Moevao (shoulder) and Sean Canfield. The rest of the Pac-10 middle has big questions at QB.
13. The ACC is 2-9 in BCS bowl games and has barely sniffed the national title since expansion. Blame a lack of skill: Of the past 29 first-round picks from the league, only four have been a quarterback, receiver or running back.
14. This year’s BCS buster: TCU.
15. Then again, if Boise State beats visiting Oregon on Sept. 3, who is going to stop the Broncos?
16. Arizona opens against Central Michigan on Sept. 5. The Chippewas are the pick to win the Mid-American Conference, and good-looking pro prospect Dan LeFevour is rated the eighth-best quarterback in the country, higher than anyone from the Pac-10.
17. Notre Dame isn’t in the preseason Top 25, but the Irish could get there because of an easy schedule and an offense that has a chance to be all grown up. Their receiving corps is a national top 10 group.
18. Florida’s defense is this good: The Gators have the nation’s top-rated defensive line, the second-rated linebackers and the top secondary.
19. And that Tebow guy is Lindy’s favorite to win the Heisman.
20. Alabama launched its 12-0 regular season in 2008 with a season-opening blasting of ACC favorite Clemson in Atlanta.
The Tide’s path is the same, a season opener in Atlanta vs. ACC favorite Virginia Tech.
21. Would it kill the Pac-10 to hold a coaches’ teleconference with the media in the spring like other major conferences?
22. Oklahoma State: Love ‘em or hate ‘em?
The Cowboys have the nation’s best trio of quarterback, receiver and running back. The defense hasn’t finished better than 74th nationally since 2001. Is that the right combination to challenge Oklahoma and Texas?
We might know after opening week. Georgia plays at Oklahoma State.
23. Steve Spurrier is still hoping Stephen Garcia is his long-awaited answer at quarterback for South Carolina.
But an SEC coach, speaking to Lindy’s on condition of anonymity, said this of the Gamecocks: “I don’t see them being a very good football team. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he (Spurrier) called it quits after this season.”
24. The Pac-10 has four players rated the best at their positions: O’Dowd, USC safety Taylor Mays, Cal running back Jahvid Best and UCLA kicker Kai Forbath.
25. A year from now, Tennessee, Miami, Notre Dame and Michigan could be back in the preseason Top 25. But not this summer.
Anthony Gimino’s e-mail: