What We Learned From This Weekend’s Spring Games

Stefon Diggs and his Maryland teammates will enjoy a steak and shrimp dinner this week thanks to ... a tie?
Stefon Diggs and his Maryland teammates will enjoy a steak and shrimp dinner this week thanks to … a tie?

Quarterback battles are only getting more interesting: It’s difficult to know which quarterbacks are performing the best in practice, in a much larger sample size than one intra-squad scrimmage. However, lots of people were watching the performances of Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Pittsburgh’s Chad Voytik this weekend, which means the discussion of their chances to start the 2013 season under center is growing louder.

Winston had a busy Saturday.  During the afternoon, he was at quarterback for the Garnet team in a 40-24 Gold team victory during Florida State’s spring game.  On his first pass, Winston threw a 58-yard touchdown pass to David Tyrell, making a loud first impression.  He finished with 205 yards and two touchdowns on 12-of-15 passing. That evening, he was the designated hitter for the Seminoles’ baseball team, going 1-for-2 with a single, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch.

Not to be outdone, Clint Trickett was 22-for-32 with 257 yards and a touchdown through the air (although he did not play in the baseball game, an 8-3 win over Duke).  Winston took the headlines from the scrimmage, but Trickett will not be giving up the opportunity to succeed E.J. Manuel without a fight.

Further north, Tom Savage has taken most of the first-team snaps at quarterback during spring practices.  However, his time in Friday night’s spring game was limited, as coach Paul Chryst said he only wanted three or four series out of the veteran and former Rutgers starter before turning the reins over to redshirt freshman Chad Voytik.  Voytik made the most of the opportunity provided by Chryst, completing 27 of 33 passes for 358 yards and three touchdowns.  Voytik and Savage are the leading candidates to replace the graduated Tino Sunseri, and Friday’s proceedings only added more intrigue to the battle.

There is tying in college football: Before Friday night’s Maryland spring game, coach Randy Edsall upped the stakes for the team’s scrimmage. The winning team, he proposed, would be rewarded with a steak and shrimp dinner the following Wednesday, while the losers settled for beans and franks.

When Avery Thompson blocked a field goal attempt as time expired, he preserved a 13-13 tie in the scrimmage, earning both teams the coveted surf’n’turf prize.  It’s hardly glamorous, but there’s not much incentive in an overtime during an intra-squad game (and added risk of injury), so everyone left the contest as winners.

Freshman All-American Stefon Diggs caught eight passes for 159 yards and a touchdown for the White Team.  Meanwhile, running backs Brandon Ross and Albert Reid both had 100+ rushing yard efforts for their respective sides. On defense, the leading tackler was Shawn Petty, who you may remember as the Terrapins’ linebacker-turned-quarterback during their injury-riddled 2012 season.

There’s no need to “rush” to judgment: With Giovani Bernard headed to the NFL and Rushel Shell transferring from Pitt, there was some concern over how the rushing attack would look for the Panthers and Tar Heels.  Spring game performances may have helped ease some of those concerns.

Isaac Bennett recovered from an early fumble to rush for 114 yards in Pittsburgh’s spring game, including a 48-yard touchdown.  Desmond Brown, the younger brother of Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver Antonio Brown, added another 90 yards in that scrimmage.

In Chapel Hill, rising sophomore Romar Morris ran for 80 yards and a score, while rising senior AJ Blue rushed for 30 yards and caught a 33-yard screen pass for a touchdown.  The leading rusher, however, was true freshman Khris Morris, an early enrollee at UNC.  The product of Durham’s Hillside High School rushed for 101 yards on 20 carries just three months after arriving on campus.

It’s been a rough week for quarterbacks, too: While some ACC schools are still in the process of picking a starting quarterback, Clemson and Duke lost options this week.  While their projected starters remain unscathed, those teams’ depth could be challenged after losing backup options.

Duke’s Thomas Sirk suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon Wednesday,  sidelining him indefinitely.  Anthony Boone, who completed 18 of 30 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns in Duke’s spring game, was expected to be the starter. However, the injury elevated incoming freshman Parker Boehme to second-string quarterback despite recovering from a toe injury during his senior season of high school. Boehme was 11-of-13 for 128 yards Saturday.

Clemson starter Tajh Boyd was held out of Clemson’s spring scrimmage Saturday.  However, that did not prevent an unfortunate injury to redshirt freshman Chad Kelly, who had been battling Cole Stoudt for the backup quarterback role.  After starting the game by completing six of seven passes for 47 yards and a touchdown, Kelly went down awkwardly while scrambling.  It was the third knee injury of the day in the scrimmage, but it was also the most serious. While it is still being evaluated, a torn ACL is feared for Kelly.

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