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Are you ready for some (spring) football?

April 22, 2010

Junior quarterback Kirk Cousins, left, and freshman quarterback Joe Boisture practice dropping back during team practice Thursday.

Quarterbacks

Unit analysis — With the move of Keith Nichol to receiver a mostly permanent thing, there is no game experience behind junior Kirk Cousins. Everybody is high on redshirt freshman Andrew Maxwell and freshman Joe Boisture, an early enrollee, is getting his first glimpse of things.

Player to watch — Everybody knows by now what Cousins brings to the table. Maxwell, though, will be the No. 2 and needs a good game to gain more confidence and prove a capable fill-in.

Halfbacks

Unit analysis — Sophomores Edwin Baker and Larry Caper come back with experience, but freshmen Le’Veon Bell and Nick Hill also have impressed with their speed and ability.

Players to watch — Baker and Caper. Although Caper saw the most limelight during the regular season, it was Baker who exploded in the Alamo Bowl with a season-high 97 yards. With both players being so young, bowl practice and spring practice are crucial to their development.

Wide receivers

Unit analysis — Although Keith Nichol is turning heads with his transition to the position, junior Keshawn Martin is the one who has been said to have made the biggest leap. Senior Mark Dell and junior B.J. Cunningham help form quite the four-receiver set.

Player to watch — Nichol caught two touchdowns in the team’s last scrimmage and seemingly is catching on to the receiver position with relative quickness and ease. A natural athlete, if Nichol learns the nuances of the position, he should be capable of being a solid contributor.

Tight ends

Unit analysis — Between senior Charlie Gantt, junior Brian Linthicum and sophomore Dion Sims, this is the deepest and most talented offensive unit. Gantt always has been a target and Linthicum turned into one of Cousins’ favorites as last season progressed. Sims is a big body who has the skills to receive and block effectively.

Player to watch — Sims, because of his combination of size and skill, can be a real threat. He is going to have a difficult time breaking past Gantt and Linthicum, though, without stringing together solid performances. Doing that starts in this game.

Offensive line

Unit analysis — This unit returns only two full-time starters (tackle D.J. Young and guard Joel Foreman) but center John Stipek and tackle Jared McGaha have seen extended time. Sophomore guard Chris McDonald has little experience but has the size needed to be effective. Run blocking is the thing to watch.

Player to watch — Stipek, a senior, has a lot of game experience but never has been the full-time starter. Most believe he can anchor the line as well as Joel Nitchman did.

Defensive line

Unit analysis — Blake Treadwell is expected to be a force at nose tackle and end Tyler Hoover has looked good when given the chance. At rush end, redshirt freshman Denzel Drone has shown improvement in spring scrimmages.

Player to watch — Redshirt freshman Dan France made waves by being the fourth pick in the spring game draft and the second defensive player off the board. That obviously speaks to what the team’s seniors think of his ability.

Linebackers

Unit analysis — This is by far the team’s best and most well-rounded group. Led by consensus All-American Greg Jones, this group also features senior Eric Gordon and rising sophomore Chris Norman. This is the unit that is going to lead the defense and make a lot of big plays.

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Player to watch — Freshman Max Bullough is one of the team’s four early enrollees and comes from a rich lineage of Spartans. How much he’ll play is unknown, but he is going to be a name to watch for years to come.

Secondary

Unit analysis — The much-maligned secondary’s performance could hinge on how senior Chris L. Rucker rebounds from a poor season. Safeties Trenton Robinson and Marcus Hyde need to take a step forward as well.

Player to watch — After redshirting last season, sophomore Johnny Adams, who played solid ball his freshman season, has come back with a vengeance in the spring and has produced several big plays. His continued development is crucial.

Special teams

Unit analysis — Senior punter Aaron Bates always is solid and should be again, but kicker is the big question mark. Kevin Muma and Dan Conroy are competing in a battle that should extend well into fall camp.

Player to watch — Muma and Conroy, for obvious reasons. Who is going to step up and replace Swenson?

Discussion

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