- Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior Writer
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The calendar turns to July next week, leaving a little more than two months until the 2008 season kicks off.
If your favorite team made headlines during the past two months, the news probably wasn't good. Off-field problems and arrests have littered the college football landscape since spring practice ended, affecting many of the country's top teams.
Georgia and Ohio State remain atop the preseason Top 25 poll for 2008, although the Bulldogs and Buckeyes have flipped top spots since the May 9 edition.
And in what should be a surprise for many college football fans, Notre Dame debuts at No. 25 -- even after last season's 3-9 disaster.
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt has some lingering personnel issues as preseason camp approaches. Starting fullback Brannan Southerland, one of the country's best lead blockers, will miss the first five games with a foot injury. Possible starting defensive end Jeremy Lomax and offensive lineman Clint Boling have pending legal problems; Lomax was arrested on concealed weapons charges and Boling was charged with DUI. But QB Matthew Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno keep the expectations high in Athens.
Starting quarterback Todd Boeckman better stay healthy after backup Antonio Henton transferred to Division I-AA Georgia Southern. Henton's departure opens the door for highly regarded freshman Terrelle Pryor, who might be utilized like Florida's Tim Tebow was used as a freshman.
Sooners coach Bob Stoops spent much of the spring talking to boosters about his team's 5-1 record in Big 12 championship games. But many OU boosters still want to know what went wrong in Oklahoma's 1-4 record in its past five bowl games. Oklahoma's players are reminded of their 48-28 loss to West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl each time they walk into the school's football complex. A banner displays a quote from Mountaineers quarterback Patrick White, who said his team "wanted it more."
4. USC Trojans
A video of USC assistant coach Brennan Carroll putting walk-ons through a tryout was yanked off YouTube after some viewers objected to the coach's foul language. Trojans coach Pete Carroll said the video was a spoof and his program was only trying to have fun. What's not funny: The NCAA is poking around alleged rules violations involving former Trojans basketball star O.J. Mayo -- and is still trying to get to the bottom of the Reggie Bush scandal.
Bad news for Florida's opponents: Speedy junior receiver Percy Harvin is ahead of schedule in his recovery from offseason heel surgery. Gators coach Urban Meyer believes his offense might be better than it was a year ago, when Florida led the SEC in scoring with 42.5 points per game. Just don't ask Meyer if quarterback Tim Tebow will run the football less often in 2008; that subject remains taboo in Gainesville.
Tigers coach Tommy Bowden can begin feeling the pressure from his new $1.83 million contract. Clemson will try to win its first ACC title under Bowden without starting middle linebacker Cortney Vincent, who was dismissed from the team in May. Vincent started 12 of 13 games and had 68 tackles and seven tackles for loss. The Tigers will now be without their top four linebackers from last season.
Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart dismissed safety Charles Pugh from the team following his arrest for allegedly using a stolen credit card. Pugh is the fourth West Virginia player -- and third potential defensive starter -- to be dismissed from the team by Stewart. Linebacker John Holmes and defensive lineman James Ingram were kicked off the team following their arrests for possession of marijuana. Stewart allowed former running back Jason Gwaltney to rejoin the team, but he won't be eligible to play during the 2008 season.
The battle for the starting tailback job got a little thinner when Red Raiders coach Mike Leach suspended junior Kobey Lewis from the team for an unspecified violation of team rules. Lewis, who ran 50 times for 189 yards and two touchdowns in 2007, left spring practice in a four-player battle for the starting job. Shannon Woods, Baron Batch and Aaron Crawford will continue the competition during preseason camp. Safety Steven Harris, a special-teams standout, also was suspended for the 2008 season.
The defending Big 12 North champions started voluntary summer workouts a week earlier for the second year in a row. The Tigers are without junior receiver Danario Alexander, who caught 37 passes for 417 yards and two touchdowns last season. Alexander underwent surgery earlier this month to repair damage in his left knee. There is good news for Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. Tight end Chase Coffman is fully recovered from surgery to remove bone spurs from his ankle.
10. Auburn Tigers
New offensive coordinator Tony Franklin still hasn't settled on a starting quarterback, so offseason workouts will be very important for Chris Todd and Kodi Burns. Todd, a JC transfer, seems to have a better understanding of Franklin's spread offense, but he was plagued by shoulder problems during spring practice. Burns is a better runner, but Franklin wants to see more consistency from the sophomore.
11. Texas Longhorns
Backup quarterback John Chiles will spend the summer trying to get a better grip of the offense. With the Longhorns trying to replace tailback Jamaal Charles, coach Mack Brown said he intends to use starting quarterback Colt McCoy and Chiles on offense. Look for Texas to be more creative on offense, incorporating some of the trick plays it used in a 52-34 victory over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl.
12. LSU Tigers
All eyes are on LSU's quarterbacks this summer, after heir apparent Ryan Perrilloux was dismissed from the team during the spring. Tigers coach Les Miles hinted during speaking engagements this spring that junior Andrew Hatch, a Harvard transfer, might have the edge over redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee. Highly regarded freshman Jordan Jefferson joins the competition during preseason camp.
13. BYU Cougars
The Cougars have their sights set on a BCS bowl invitation, but they'll have to do it without top fullback Manase Tonga. The senior was ruled academically ineligible and will miss the 2008 season. Tonga ran for 305 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 27 passes for 248 yards last season. He also was a great lead blocker for Harvey Unga, who last year became the first BYU freshman to run for more than 1,000 yards in a season.
New starting quarterback Jonathan Crompton is throwing again after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in late April. Crompton and the Volunteers' returning receivers will need summer workouts to iron out the offense installed by new offensive coordinator Dave Clawson. The Vols are holding their collective breath while waiting to see if junior running back Montario Hardesty fully recovers from a stress fracture in his lower leg.
Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson said quarterback Rudy Carpenter has fully recovered after undergoing surgery on his right thumb following spring practice. Erickson said Carpenter is in better physical condition and showed better mobility. Michael Jones, the Sun Devils' most experienced receiver, was selected in the 29th round of the amateur baseball draft by the New York Yankees earlier this month.
Kansas State transfer Allan Evridge wasn't named the Badgers' starting quarterback after spring practice, but the fifth-year senior has the edge over less experienced candidates. Coach Bret Bielema hopes Evrdige will take control of the team during voluntary summer workouts, but junior Dustin Sherer remains in the hunt for the starting job. Sherer has spent three seasons in the Wisconsin program, attempting only three passes.
17. Kansas Jayhawks
Juco running back Jocques Crawford arrived in Lawrence for summer school and immediately turned heads. Crawford ran for nearly 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns at Cisco (Texas) Junior College. The national JC player of the year is expected to share carries with junior Jake Sharp in the Jayhawks' spread offense this coming season.
Senior receiver Kyle Hudson, who caught 12 passes for 127 yards and one touchdown last season, will forgo his final season of eligibility. Hudson, a two-sport star, was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the fourth round of the amateur baseball draft earlier this month.
Sophomore Maurice Williams, the Panthers' most impressive receiver during spring practice, has been ruled academically ineligible for the 2008 season. Williams, who caught five passes for 100 yards last season, was battling Oderick Turner for the starting split end job. Williams plans to remain in school and would have three seasons of eligibility remaining.
The Hokies are hoping redshirt freshman Darren Evans has a better summer than their previous starting tailback did. Evans, a former Indiana Mr. Football, emerged as the leading contender to start at tailback after Branden Ore was dismissed from the team. Evans had a slight edge over redshirt freshman Josh Oglesby after spring practice. Juniors Kenny Lewis Jr. and Jahre Cheeseman were sidelined by injuries during the spring.
21. Oregon Ducks
Can Oregon's quarterback competition get any more crowded? The Ducks figure to have at least six players battling for the right to replace Dennis Dixon when preseason camp opens. Sophomore Nate Costa, who had knee surgery last fall, left spring practice as the favorite. Sophomore Justin Roper, who starred in the Sun Bowl victory over South Florida, is probably his closest competitor. Two freshmen -- Darron Thomas and Chris Harper -- enrolled at Oregon before spring drills, and JC transfer Jeremiah Masoli joins the battle this summer. Junior walk-on Cade Cooper also is competing for the job.
How much have expectations changed in Winston-Salem, N.C.? The Demon Deacons are again considered to be ACC championship contenders after posting consecutive winning seasons, which included the 2006 ACC title. Since the ACC was formed in 1953, the Demon Deacons have never had three straight winning seasons.
The Bulldogs open the season at Rutgers on Sept. 1, but coach Pat Hill is calling the Sept. 13 home game against Wisconsin the biggest game in Bulldog Stadium history. With 16 starters back from a team that finished 9-4 in 2007, Fresno State is a popular choice to unseat Boise State and Hawaii in the WAC and contend for a spot in a BCS bowl game.
Penn State's five senior captains vow the off-field problems that plagued the Nittany Lions before the 2007 season are a thing of the past. During a news conference in Happy Valley earlier this month, senior linebacker Sean Lee told reporters, "If you want to be on this team, you have to be with us. If not, get out." One thing that won't go away: speculation about 81-year-old coach Joe Paterno's future at Penn State.
Athletic director Kevin White leaving Notre Dame for Duke might have been a sign of impending doom for the Fighting Irish, but NBC thought enough of their future to renew its TV contract another five years. Notre Dame returns 17 starters, including quarterback Jimmy Clausen. The Irish schedule includes four home games in the first five weeks of the season, and Charlie Weis might have the right mix to get Notre Dame back into a bowl game.
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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