The National Football League has been introducing its spring storylines for most of the past decade, and that tradition should continue moving forward. The league announced the groups of teams it will target in this year’s storyline-driven campaign from now until September.
The “nfl” is a popular sport that is played throughout the United States. The “spring storylines to watch for teams in 2022 Way” will be ones that could help or hurt your team’s success in the upcoming season.
7 a.m. ET
Every team in our Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2022 had its strongest strength and largest question mark reviewed lately by our college football writers.
Now we’ll focus on spring practices and what to look for as position fights begin and teams strive to fill in some voids and learn new systems.
1. Alabama: At wide, who will rise up?
When it came to the Crimson Tide’s reserve receivers’ performance in the national championship game defeat to Georgia, Nick Saban didn’t mince words. He stated there were “three people” and “not one of them — not one — could take advantage of the chance they had” in a lecture to a coaches clinic. Despite Saban’s refusal to identify names, we will. Agiye Hall, Ja’Corey Brooks, and Traeshon Holden were most likely the three receivers he was referring to. With stars Jameson Williams and John Metchie III departing for the NFL, it will be up to those three players, as well as Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton, JoJo Earle’s return from injury, and others, to step up and fill the void they left behind. Alex Scarborough’s remark
2. Ohio State is undergoing a defensive overhaul.
On defense, the Buckeyes added new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, as well as cornerbacks coach Tim Walton and safeties coach Perry Eliano, both of whom came from Oklahoma State. The new coaches were able to bring in Oklahoma State cornerback Tanner McCalister and Arizona State linebacker DeaMonte Trayanum, but cornerbacks Ryan Watts and Sevyn Banks, linebackers Dallas Gant and K’Vaughn Pope, and a few more through the transfer portal. Tyreke Smith, Haskell Garrett, and Antwuan Jackson are among the defensive lineman that have left the club. The defense ranked 38th in points allowed per game, 29th in run yards allowed per game, 97th in throw yards allowed per game, and 61st in total yards allowed per game. If Ohio State is to return to the College Football Playoff, something must alter immediately. — VanHaaren, Tom
3. Georgia: How will Georgia’s revamped defense fit together?
The 2021 national champions were recognized for their historically strong defense, which will have voids to fill with a slew of predicted NFL draft picks. One of the main areas of attention will be the defensive line, where Travon Walker, Jordan Davis, and Devonte Wyatt’s output will need to be replaced. Will Muschamp and Glenn Schumann will take over the defense for Dan Lanning, who is now the head coach at Oregon, which will be interesting to watch. It’s reasonable to anticipate a drop-off from a historically outstanding defense that has lost many of its faces and its leader, but how this still tremendously talented bunch meshes and who stands out (like a Jalen Carter) will be crucial as Georgia attempts to retain its championship. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
4. Texas A&M: Loaded QB room
This year’s quarterback duel should be the most exciting since Jimbo Fisher’s first season with the Aggies, when Kellen Mond and Nick Starkel battled it out. Zach Calzada established his name in Aggie legend by playing the game of his life in the upset of Alabama after starter Haynes King, a redshirt freshman, was gone for the season. However, the Aggies’ passing game struggled the remainder of the season, causing them to fall behind. Calzada went to Auburn, while LSU transfer Max Johnson, who threw for 27 touchdowns and six interceptions last season and is the sort of pro-style quarterback that suits Fisher’s playbook, came through the gateway. Still, King is regarded as a fantastic athlete who hasn’t had much opportunity to showcase his abilities in public and might give another dimension to the position. Meanwhile, the coaches are smitten with incoming freshman Conner Weigman, the ESPN 300’s No. 1 quarterback and the National Quarterback Club’s high school quarterback of the year. King should have a shot to keep his job, but the quarterback room is as stacked as it’s been in years. Dave Wilson is an author.
5. Michigan: Finding a way to replace defensive productivity
According to Mel Kiper Jr., Michigan’s defense will lose defensive ends Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, who are predicted to be first-round choices in the 2017 NFL draft. In addition to starter linebacker Josh Ross, safety Brad Hawkins, corner Vincent Gray, and defensive lineman Chris Hinton, Kiper ranks Daxton Hill as the second-best safety prospect in the draft. Along with a new defensive coordinator in Jessie Minter, that’s a lot of output to replace. Michigan’s top tacklers were Ross, Hutchinson, and Hill, who combined for 27 percent of the team’s total tackles. Hutchinson and Ojabo combined for 25 of the team’s 34 sacks. How can Michigan replace that in a single summer with no transfer portal additions? The defensive line is the most troubling issue for Michigan, since the Wolverines have not recruited adequately behind their starters and have no apparent replacements for Hutchinson and Ojabo. VanHaaren (VanHaaren)
6. Notre Dame: Who will take over as the starting quarterback?
Marcus Freeman, the new head coach, has a seasoned defense at his disposal (along with defensive coordinator Al Golden). His offensive line should be a force to be reckoned with. Michael Mayer, his tight end, is one of the greatest security blankets in the nation. He does not, however, have running back Kyren Williams or quarterback Jack Coan. Because the running back corps seems to be packed with alternatives, the main theme this spring will be quite obvious: Can either Tyler Buchner or Drew Pyne take over as the starting quarterback? Buchner, a top-50 prospect in the 2021 class, completed 21 of 35 passes and showed off his leg explosiveness, but Pyne shined late in Notre Dame’s decisive victory against Wisconsin. Both bring their own set of skills to the table. Will one of them stand out more than the other? Bill Connelly’s quote
Utah has a leadership gap.
The next probable step for the Utes is the most difficult. They came within a few plays of winning the Rose Bowl, so there aren’t many chances for a better season. In Pasadena, the apparent flaw was in the secondary, where a lack of depth made injury difficulties particularly troublesome. As a result, prioritizing it in the spring makes logical. The Utes will have to account for a few major absences, but as essential as Devin Lloyd and Britain Covey were on the field, it will be their leadership gap that will be missed the most in the spring. Kyle Bonagura (Kyle Bonagura)
8. North Carolina State: Difficult backfield scenario
The Wolfpack are set to have a fantastic season in 2022, with almost every important defense returning, as well as top quarterback Devin Leary. The major, looming worry, though, is in the backfield, where establishing a consistent ground game has been a long-standing issue. The issues seem to begin at the line of scrimmage, as the Wolfpack ranked 98th in yards per carry before contact last season, 113th in 2020, and 105th in 2019. The backfield predicament is made even more complex by the fact that NC State also lost playmaker Bam Knight to the NFL draft. Spring ball might be a difficult time to figure out the ground game without risking injuries, but it must be a priority if the Wolfpack are to make a playoff push in 2022. David M. Hale (David M. Hale)
9. Oklahoma State: Is it possible for the offense to improve?
Last season, the Cowboys enjoyed one of their best seasons in franchise history. Despite coming up just short in the Big 12 championship game, there was still time to enjoy a season that featured a Bedlam victory against Oklahoma in Stillwater and a comeback victory over Notre Dame. But a defense lead by coach Jim Knowles and middle linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, who had over 400 tackles in his OSU career, including 129 in 2021, was a big part of that success. Both are no longer with the team, and after transferring from Auburn, Derek Mason is now in charge of the defense. Quarterback Spencer Sanders had moments of brilliance as well as some perplexing plays, but the Cowboys’ defense always kept them in the game. Mike Gundy has proven the ability to coax an offense to enormous improvement if the fangs stay. Wilson’s words
Kenneth Walker III, who was the second-leading rusher in the FBS with 1,636 yards in 12 games, will have to be replaced. After bringing in former Wisconsin running back Jalen Berger (who had 389 rushing yards and three touchdowns in seven games) in mid-December and 2020 Pac-12 offensive player of the year Jarek Broussard from Colorado in late January, Mel Tucker isn’t short on possibilities. Elijah Collins, Jordon Simmons, Harold Joiner, Donovan Eaglin, Caleb Wolf, and Davion Primm will join them. In 2019, Collins led the Spartans in running, followed by Simmons in 2020, before Walker arrived as a transfer from Wake Forest. Broussard won’t be back until the summer, but there will be enough to work on in the spring for that bunch, which will be running behind three new starters on the offensive line. Lyles –
Will Uiagalelei lose his job at Clemson?
The most intriguing tale in a spring loaded with new faces in new locations is the quarterback’s return to Clemson. D.J. Uiagalelei was expected to be a Heisman Trophy contender and the next in a long line of excellent Clemson quarterbacks. Instead, he had to endure through a dreadful 2021. Uiagalelei tossed nine touchdown touchdowns despite his national commercial campaign with Dr. Pepper airing hundreds of times every Saturday. How will he be able to recover from this? There’s reason to believe he improved over the season, and Clemson is in a better position to help him at the offensive skill positions. With so many new coaches on staff and freshman Cade Klubnik enrolling early and fighting for repetitions, it’ll be fascinating to see whether Uiagalelei can finally develop into the player that so many people expected him to be, or if he’ll lose his position and leave the Tigers. -Hales
12. Will Nix do well in the Pacific Northwest?
After a disappointing season at quarterback for Oregon last season, the Ducks are depending on a few fresh hopes this spring to propel them into contention sooner rather than later. Bo Nix’s transfer from Auburn to Eugene was unexpected, but it’s not as shocking now that new head coach Dan Lanning has signed Florida State offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham. When Nix earned SEC Rookie of the Year in 2019, Dillingham was the quarterbacks coach at Auburn. The formula for success is in place, and Nix will be a welcome change of pace from Anthony Brown, but he isn’t the only quarterback to watch. Ty Thompson, a redshirt freshman, is expected to be Oregon’s quarterback of the future. In 2021, the former No. 3 quarterback was the first five-star quarterback to sign with the Ducks. Thompson is a dual-threat quarterback with limitless potential, and if he continues to impress in the spring, the competition between him and Nix might heat up as the season approaches. — Uggetti, Paolo
Houston has a new offensive line.
Despite a strong 12-2 season that saw Houston finish as one of just two ranked teams in Texas, the Cougars battled to keep their quarterback upright and their running backs moving forward throughout the season. Houston’s offensive line allowed 38 sacks and was 85th in the country in run defense. Clayton Tune, a 3,500-yard, 30-touchdown quarterback, and rising sophomore Alton McCaskill, a powerful running back, return for Dana Holgorsen’s side, who despite offensive line issues threw for 18 touchdowns. On the recruiting path, the Cougars attempted to rectify this deficiency by bringing in three three-star offensive lineman. Despite the fact that they will all be freshmen this season, the necessity for a new line for next season might see them get some playing time as early as this spring. Uggetti –
14. Wake Forest: Developing a new defensive strategy
Defense, defense, defense, defense, defense, defense, defense, defense, defense, defense Last year, as terrific as Wake Forest’s attack was — and for most of the season, the Deacons were as dynamic as any team in the nation — the defense was nearly as bad. As a consequence, coordinator Lyle Hemphill left for Duke, and former Charlotte coach Brad Lambert took his place. It’s a wonderful addition to Dave Clawson’s staff, but now comes the hard part: getting the players acclimated to Lambert’s scheme and determining who’s ready to take on a greater role as the Deacons attempt to replace their top pass rusher (Luiji Vilain) and defensive leader (LB Luke Masterson). -Hales
15. Iowa: On the defensive line, who will take over?
In 2021, Iowa’s defense perfected the art of the turnover, and three of the key causes are no longer present. Safeties Last year, Dane Belton and Jack Koerner, as well as cornerback Matt Hankins, combined for 10 interceptions and 16 pass breakups, and although the Hawkeyes aren’t short of ballhawks (corners Riley Moss and Jermari Harris are also returning), that’s a lot of turnover for such a crucial unit. Both safeties were also outstanding in run support. On the defensive line, who will take over? How do they appear? In 2022, the Hawkeyes’ front seven will have a lot of experience, and they should still create a lot of obvious passing situations, but it will only matter if a redesigned secondary can take advantage of it. — Connelly
Can McWilliams earn the starting position at Baylor?
In 2021, the Bears’ rushing offense was a revelation, with Abram Smith setting a single-season school record with 1,601 yards and Trestan Ebner adding 799. With 3,070 yards on the ground, the two helped Baylor finish fifth in the nation, but neither will be returning in 2022. Early in the season, Taye McWilliams showed flashes of explosiveness (17 carries, 181 yards) and has a great chance to take over the starting job this spring. Apart from McWilliams, no one else on the roster had a significant role last season, so the spring is crucial for the running backs. Craig Williams, Jordan Jenkins, Qualan Jones, and maybe Josh Fleeks are all expected to audition for crucial roles. Bonagura’s
17. Keep an eye on… everything in Oklahoma
Former Bob Stoops lieutenant Brent Venables has taken over in Norman after former Stoops coordinator Lincoln Riley resigned and went to USC. So, what should you be looking out for? What are your thoughts on everything? After promising freshman Caleb Williams joined Riley in L.A., is Dillon Gabriel the solution at quarterback? Can the offensive line unite to buy Gabriel more playing time after both Spencer Rattler and Williams did so last season? Will the defense regain some of its bite under Venables’ supervision? Wilson’s words
18. BYU: Putting a stop to rushed production
Tyler Allgeier’s departure for the NFL creates a gap of 1,606 running yards that will be difficult to fill next season. Allgeier’s consistency has been one of the main reasons BYU has been able to maintain such a high level of success over the previous two seasons. In 2021, Lopini Katoa had some success as a backup (61 carries, 242 yards), but he lacks the experience of Cal transfer Christopher Brooks, who has enrolled after committing to BYU last month. Coach Kalani Sitake will be able to tick an essential box if he can have a clearer understanding of what the rotation should be coming out of spring ball. Bonagura’s
19. Cincinnati: How will the defense be constructed?
On offense, the Bearcats will be without quarterback Desmond Ridder, but they are slated to return seven starters, with redshirt freshman Evan Prater, Ohio’s Mr. Football in 2019, being the favorite to take over as quarterback. Because to outstanding departures including as cornerbacks Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant, leading tackler Joel Dublanko, and top pass rusher Curtis Brooks, the Bearcats’ defense will look drastically different in 2022. As the Bearcats attempt to maintain a strong defensive identity that has served them well, defensive end Mario Eugenio, cornerback Oliver Bridges, and defensive tackle Derrick Shepard will be additions to watch. Lyles –
Can Haselwood take up where Burks left off in Arkansas?
Last season, Treylon Burks established himself as one of the best wide receivers in the country, catching 66 passes for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown. And now that all of that talent has gone to the NFL, Razorback fans are left to wonder who will fill the need, given that Burks had more receptions than the Nos. 2, 3, and 4 receivers combined (Tyson Morris, Trey Knox and Warren Thompson). Thompson is set to take on a larger role, while Ketron Jackson Jr. has the potential to be a breakthrough star. The guy to watch is Oklahoma transfer Jadon Haselwood, the former No. 1 receiver in the Class of 2019, who had 39 receptions for 399 yards and six touchdowns last season. Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Kentucky (21st): Getting used to a new offensive
Last season, offensive coordinator Liam Coen began a long-overdue process at Kentucky, revamping an approach that had long overlooked the passing game. The 36-year-old was enticed back to the NFL and his previous club, the Los Angeles Rams, just when it seemed like progress was being made. Mark Stoops, the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats, isn’t changing his mind. Stoops suggested last week that coach intends to keep pursuing an upgraded pro-style system that should combine well with quarterback Will Levis’ dual-threat talent by hiring former San Francisco 49ers assistant Rich Scangarello to replace Coen. Scarborough, North Yorkshire
22. USC: How will the Trojans deal with the trenches this season?
Going into spring, Lincoln Riley’s new club has a lot of promise. The women’s basketball team received Beats headphones from quarterback Caleb Williams, the program enjoyed beach days in February, and it’s still on a high after cleaning up in the transfer process. However, the gleaming new toys will only operate if the foundation is in place. As spring approaches, one of the most intriguing aspects of the new administration will be how it addresses what has been USC’s Achilles heel in recent years: the trenches. USC has slipped behind the pace established by top schools like as Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State on both sides of the line. Josh Henson, the new offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, will have his job cut out for him in attempting to not only protect Williams, but also to enable him to flourish like he did at Oklahoma. On the other side of the ball, replacing Drake Jackson (who had five sacks last season) will be critical in reshaping a Trojans defense that finished 88th last season and has to drastically improve if USC hopes to return to the top. Uggetti –
Ole Miss has a new look offensively.
This spring, the emphasis will be on seeing the new-look offense in Oxford. The losses of offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby and quarterback Matt Corral, both major names, are significant. However, Jerrion Ealy, the Rebels’ best rusher, as well as wideouts Dontario Drummond and Braylon Sanders, are all gone. With quarterback Jaxon Dart (USC), running back Zach Evans (TCU), wide receiver Jordan Watkins (Louisville), offensive lineman Mason Brooks (WKU), and tight end Michael Trigg as major transfers, new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr. will be charged with preventing Ole Miss’ drop-off (USC). Weis is starting his first year as a Power 5 coordinator, and owing to the gateway, his work in Year 1 might be a lot simpler than it would have been otherwise. Lyles –
Wisconsin: Consistency in the passing game is a must.
Last season, rookie running back Braelon Allen helped the Badgers establish a run game, rushing for 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns. Despite this, the pass game struggled for the most of the season, with Graham Mertz ending with 1,958 passing yards, 10 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Coach Paul Chryst hired Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Bobby Engram to take over as the new offensive coordinator, and Engram will have to figure out how to improve the passing game’s consistency. Mertz rated 88th in total passing yards, 92nd in completion %, and 115th in touchdown-to-interception ratio. The presence of Allen and the run game is beneficial, but the pass game needs improvement. VanHaaren (VanHaaren)
What is the status of a radically revamped offense? It isn’t the only issue that matters this spring in Columbia, but it is by far the most important. Shane Beamer’s Gamecocks had an outstanding season in 2021, but it was mostly due to an offense that kept them back: they were 44th in points allowed per drive but only 101st in points scored. To straighten things up, Beamer went aggressively into the transfer portal, bringing in not just star quarterback Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma), but also running back Christian Beal-Smith (Wake Forest) and tight end Austin Stogner (Wake Forest) (Oklahoma). If the Gamecocks are to live up to the top-25 expectations, they’ll need all of them to play at a high level, and Rattler and Beal-Smith are in for the spring. So, what exactly do they have to offer? How will Rattler and his teammates be used, according to offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield? Let’s see what happens! — Sean Connelly
- college board
- college football rankings