- Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior Writer
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Suspensions. Arrests. Injuries.
No news is good news during spring practice, when coaches pray their players stay healthy on the field and steer clear of trouble off it.
During the last couple of months, more than a few programs were hit with not-so-great news, including several incidents that will leave teams short-handed during the 2008 season.
Here's a list of the top 25 biggest developments during spring practice (in no particular order, although No. 1 is surely the biggest):
1. Ryan Perrilloux dismissed: The talented quarterback lost his chance to lead the defending national champions when he was dismissed from the team by Tigers coach Les Miles last week. LSU now tries to defend its BCS title with redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee or Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch, neither of whom has taken a significant snap in college.
2. Sean Lee out for season: Penn State received a tremendous blow during spring practice when senior outside linebacker Sean Lee tore the ACL in his right knee while chasing down quarterback Daryll Clark. Lee, who was second in the Big Ten with 138 tackles last season (trailing only departed Penn State All-American Dan Connor), was expected to become the next star at Linebacker U.
3. Mark Sanchez wins USC quarterback job: The junior won the job of replacing departed starter John David Booty, holding off heralded Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain in the process. The decision wasn't unexpected: Sanchez completed 69 of 114 passes with seven touchdowns and five interceptions while starting three games in 2007. Mustain said the competition wouldn't be over until preseason camp, but Trojans coach Pete Carroll rarely changes his mind about decisions as important as this one.
4. NCAA denies Ryan Mallett immediate eligibility: The former Michigan quarterback bolted Ann Arbor when Rich Rodriguez took his spread offense there. Mallett appealed to the NCAA to waive the one-year penalty for transferring to another Division I-A school, hoping to start immediately for new Hogs coach Bobby Petrino. Without Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in the backfield this coming season, Mallett might be better off sitting out a year.
5. Tyrelle Pryor chooses Ohio State over Michigan: Rodriguez didn't have much of a honeymoon at Michigan in his first couple of months on the job, losing a head-to-head recruiting battle with rival Ohio State. Pryor, the country's top high school quarterback, might have gone to Michigan and started immediately. Instead, he chose Ohio State and will spend this coming season learning behind starter Todd Boeckman.
6. Virginia Tech RB Branden Ore kicked off team: The senior tailback showed a boatload of potential during his troubled career in Blacksburg, but never took care of his responsibilities off the field. Virginia Tech's backfield woes got worse during spring practice when Jahre Cheeseman broke his leg and Kenny Lewis suffered a shoulder injury that might sideline him for four to six months.
7. DeQuan Bowers arrives at Clemson: The defensive end from Bamberg, S.C., enrolled at Clemson in January and made quite an impression during spring practice. Bowers, who was ranked the No. 1 prospect in the country in the ESPN Top 150, showed he'll be ready to help the Tigers chase an elusive ACC championship this fall. Bowers is wearing former Clemson star Gaines Adams' No. 93 jersey and plays a lot like him. Bowers had seven tackles and two sacks in the Orange-White spring game, and will start preseason camp as the No. 2 strongside defensive end behind junior Kevin Alexander.
8. Academic troubles at Virginia: The Cavaliers seemed poised to follow up last season's surprising 9-4 finish with another strong season, but academic problems have left Virginia very short-handed. Quarterback Jameel Sewell, who started the last 22 games, had academic problems and isn't enrolled in school. Three other players, including starting cornerback Chris Cook, also aren't enrolled this spring and aren't expected to return in the fall. Then defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald, who some opponents felt was more explosive than departed All-American Chris Long, withdrew from school and won't return.
9. Missouri loses linebackers: The defending Big 12 North champions lost a slew of linebackers during spring practice. Strongside linebacker Van Alexander tore the ACL in his right knee and might not be ready for the start of the season. Weakside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder and underwent surgery after spring practice, but he should be ready for preseason camp. Reserve Marquis Booker was dismissed for off-field issues, and reserve Connell Davis quit the team.
10. Oklahoma installs no-huddle offense: The Sooners installed the no-huddle offense in hopes of running more plays in games this season. Oklahoma led the country with 80 touchdowns last season, so it's hard to imagine they'll be that much more productive. But coach Bob Stoops and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson want a faster tempo on the field. Quarterback Sam Bradford, who threw for 3,121 yards with 36 touchdowns and only eight interceptions in his first season as a starter in 2007, threw three interceptions in the spring game.
11. Texas two-step: The Longhorns spent much of spring practice searching for a replacement for star running back Jamaal Charles, who bolted Austin for the NFL draft. Texas didn't find a potential starter, so Foswhitt Whittaker, Vondrell McGee and Chris Ogbonnaya will continue to battle for the job during preseason camp.
12. NCAA denies Ben Mauk's appeal: Mauk transferred from Wake Forest to Cincinnati last year, taking advantage of the NCAA's now-defunct rule that allowed graduates to switch schools without penalty. Mauk helped lead the Bearcats to a 10-3 record last season, then appealed to the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility because he was twice injured while playing for the Demon Deacons. Mauk had to know the NCAA wouldn't be nice twice. Dustin Grutza and Notre Dame transfer Demetrius Jones are battling for the starting quarterback job.
13. Bill Stull moves ahead at Pitt: The junior missed all but one game last season, then watched freshman Pat Bostick lead the Panthers to a stunning 13-9 upset of West Virginia in the regular-season finale. Stull came back this spring with a stronger arm and better mobility. He moved ahead in the race for the starting job, pulling ahead of Bostic, Kevan Smith and JUCO transfer Greg Cross. If the Panthers can produce a passing game that will prevent defenses from keying on tailback LeSean McCoy, they could be one of the bigger surprises in the country.
14. Patrick Cowan and Ben Olson hurt at UCLA: Bruins fans had to figure it was only a matter of time before one of their oft-injured quarterbacks was hurt again, but then both went down on the same day during spring practice. Cowan, who had moved ahead of Olson for the starting job, tore the ACL in his left knee and will miss the 2008 season. Olson broke a bone in his right foot and will be sidelined six to eight weeks. Without them, new UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel finished spring practice with JUCO transfer Kevin Craft running the No. 1 offense.
15. Chris Rainey emerges at Florida: Everyone expected USC transfer Emmanuel Moody to emerge as a star running back for the Gators, but Rainey showed he might be the most explosive player on the roster. Moody struggled to get comfortable in the Gators' spread offense and fumbled a few times, which didn't sit well with coach Urban Meyer. Rainey is lightning fast, but might not be big enough to carry the football 15-20 times per game. The Gators will move him around a lot, like they do with receiver Percy Harvin.
16. Stephen Garcia suspended at South Carolina: The Gamecocks' oft-troubled quarterback was suspended from the team until mid-August after he was cited for underage drinking in March. Garcia, a highly regarded passer from Tampa, missed all of spring practice in 2007 after he was arrested twice during his first few months on campus. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier couldn't have felt very good about his remaining quarterbacks after the spring game: Chris Smelley threw five interceptions and Tommy Beecher threw three.
17. Jevan Snead's debut at Ole Miss: Snead, who left Texas after he lost the starting quarterback job to Colt McCoy, will make Houston Nutt's first season more enjoyable in Oxford. Snead showed he's a huge upgrade over Brent Schaeffer (and anyone else who has played under center for the Rebels since Eli Manning left), completing 20 of 26 passes for 269 yards with two touchdowns in the spring game.
18. Justin Boren transfers from Michigan to Ohio State: Saying Michigan had "lost its family values" after Rodriguez replaced Lloyd Carr, Boren left the Wolverines and then transferred to their biggest rivals. It's like Hillary Clinton switching to the Republican Party in October. Making matters worse for the Wolverines, Boren's younger brother, Zach, verbally committed to play for Ohio State soon thereafter.
19. More problems at FSU: As if the lingering academic suspensions from last year's cheating scandal weren't enough, a team with too few playmakers might lose its biggest offensive weapon. Receiver Preston Parker, the Seminoles' offensive MVP in 2007, won't be eligible to play this season unless he has felony gun charges dropped. Parker was arrested last month and charged with carrying a concealed .45-caliber handgun and possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. FSU announced this week that starting left tackle Daron Rose is academically ineligible, and projected starting linebacker Marcus Ball requested to be released from his scholarship and is transferring.
20. Washington loses Garcia: The Huskies lost their emotional leader when starting center Juan Garcia suffered a foot injury during spring practice. Garcia was diagnosed with a Lisfranc injury in his left foot and faces at least 10 months of recovery. He had started the past 25 games and was playing in his sixth season. He was granted an additional year of eligibility after battling foot, ankle and shoulder injuries in 2004 and 2005.
21. Lewis in trouble at Indiana: Three weeks before the start of spring practice, Hoosiers quarterback Kellen Lewis, one of the country's most underrated players, was suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Since becoming Indiana's starting quarterback in 2006, Lewis has scored 57 touchdowns and amassed more than 6,000 yards of total offense. Last season, Lewis helped lead the Hoosiers to their first bowl game in 14 seasons, a 49-33 loss to Oklahoma State in the Insight Bowl. Sophomore Ben Chappell, who has thrown two passes in college, takes over an offense that already is without top receiver James Hardy, who left for the NFL draft.
22. Michael Brown gone at Mississippi State: The Bulldogs' big left tackle was one of two players dismissed from the university after they fired guns on campus in March. Brown, who started 18 of 19 games after transferring from Florida, was one of the top returning lineman in the SEC. Also dismissed was defensive tackle Quinton Wesley, who was expected to play a bigger role for the Bulldogs this coming season.
23. Long-shot at Cal: Quarterback Nate Longshore continued to struggle with injuries during spring practice, allowing sophomore Kevin Riley to perhaps move ahead in the battle for the starting job. Riley, who is more mobile than Longshore, came off the bench against Air Force and led the Bears to a come-from-behind, 42-36 victory. Longshore, who has started 26 games at Cal, suffered a pectoral injury that sidelined him for most of the spring. Bears coach Jeff Tedford said he'll wait until preseason camp to name a starter.
24. King rises at Georgia: During spring practice, tailback Caleb King showed he's ready to become Knowshon Moreno's backfield mate, easing the Bulldogs' concerns about losing senior Thomas Brown. King redshirted last season after breaking his leg as a senior at Greater Atlanta Christian School. He isn't as strong as Moreno running between the tackles, but he might have a more explosive burst to the outside.
25. Joe McKnight ineligible at USC: The speedy tailback wowed Trojans fans with his dazzling performance against Illinois in the Rose Bowl presented by Citi and now has them holding their collective breath. McKnight was declared ineligible for spring practice after dropping too many classes and falling below the NCAA's minimum number of credit hours per semester. Carroll insists McKnight will be back in time for preseason camp, but this latest development isn't a great sign he'll be at USC for the duration of his career.
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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