10 Burning Summer Camp Questions for 2014 College Football Season
The summer is a difficult time for college football fans. Questions that are "burning" during June and July might be warm during August and tepid by the beginning of the fall. They might even be downright cold.
Still, the NCAA has allowed schools to make summer workouts mandatory—or at least less not-mandatory than before—which should give us a few morsels to chew on during the dead period.
Per NCAA.com, the newly mandatory workouts "can include eight hours per week of required weight training and conditioning. Up to two of the eight hours can consist of film review." Which is to say, decisively, that the workouts will be limited.
But that doesn't mean they can't shed some insight.
With transfers and freshmen who didn't enroll early arriving on campus, freshmen who did arrive early continuing to progress and general air-tight position battles continuing to be fought, these offseason drills and film sessions might determine the course of next season. So might some of the off-field storylines worth monitoring.
Here are 10 burning questions to keep an eye on.
Is Jacob Coker the Answer at Alabama?
But does he?
Coker arrived in Tuscaloosa this summer having not seen the playbook or worked with any of his future teammates. He was (and is) also working back into a rhythm after surgery on his torn meniscus.
Which is to say that, no, Coker does not have plenty of time to get adjusted. What he has is barely enough. But considering the shape of Alabama's current quarterback battle, which is highlighted by pedestrian options such as Blake Sims and Cooper Bateman, Coker will almost definitely have to be ready to start by Week 1.
Which means he'll have to get working as soon as possible.
Will Florida Be Ready to Run Kurt Roper's System?
Florida cannot run a proper practice this summer, so much of Kurt Roper's offensive installation will take place this fall.
But there is still a lot the first-year offensive coordinator can—and must—do. In April, Andy Staples of SI.com wrote about how Roper has brought a new uptempo scheme to Gainesville and the players have bought in philosophically. But now they must do so physically.
Conditioning drills this summer will be paramount. A team that is used to playing "big, dumb, ugly" Will Muschamp football cannot be expected to keep up with the "sleek, smart, fetching" Roper brand. The players must prepare their bodies to keep up.
They must also do the same with their minds. Those two hours of film study per week must be utilized. One of the core tenets of the uptempo offense is a reliance on playbook mastery. When things move fast, there is no time to contemplate an assignment or route.
Each play must be like muscle memory.
What Will Jameis Winston Do Next?
Damn us, everybody.
This shouldn't be a storyline. It shouldn't be a question. There is no reason for Jameis Winston to dominate headlines all summer.
And yet, given the recent history surrounding him, there is no doubt Winston will be followed and stalked and TMZ'd these next three months—that there will be little written about his new throwing motion but essays written about his newest beach pics on Instagram.
Can he stay out of meaningful trouble? That is the realest question. Last year's "Summer of Johnny" was innocuous enough when Johnny Manziel was shirtless in Cabo. So what? The real trouble started with "Signaturegate," once his collegiate eligibility was in doubt.
Winston must learn from Manziel's past.
How Will Jeremy Pruitt Rebuild Georgia's Secondary?
At the end of last season, Georgia looked like it would return its four starters in the defensive backfield.
In the few months since, safeties Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons have been dismissed and cornerback Shaq Wiggins has transferred to Louisville. The only starter who remains, Damian Swann, was repeatedly burned in a disappointing 2013 campaign.
That puts the onus squarely on Jeremy Pruitt, the first-year defensive coordinator who came over from Florida State, to piece together a viable secondary. Much of that cohesion will be done in the fall, but Pruitt cannot afford to get behind on the project that will define UGA's season. He needs to get going now.
Safeties Corey Moore and Quincy Mauger both started some games last season, but now they must take on a bigger leadership role and play with more confidence. Reggie Wilkerson must keep getting comfortable on his rebuilt knee, Sheldon Dawson must finally put all his physical tools together and J.J. Green must study the nuances of the cornerback position after switching over from running back.
All that work can begin before fall practice.
Are Leonard Fournette and Malachi Dupre Ready for Prime Time?
True freshman quarterback Brandon Harris looked good in spring practice and appears ready—or close to ready—to contribute in 2014.
But how about LSU's other blue-chip skill players?
Leonard Fournette was the No. 1 overall player on the 247Sports Composite and has been compared with Adrian Peterson. Malachi Dupre was the No. 17 overall player on the Composite and steps into a void after LSU lost Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
But is either truly up to the task? Are both?
Fournette looked good smoking Master P in a foot race, but Master P is a 44-year-old rapper, not an SEC linebacker.
Dupre sounded confident telling NOLA.com he can torch Alabama's young cornerbacks, but actions speak much louder than words.
Let's see how they look on the actual football field.
Where Does Jabrill Peppers Fit in at Michigan?
Jabrill Peppers is going to have a role to play at Michigan next season. No doubt about it. The burning question, though, is where?
The Wolverines are solid at cornerback with Raymon Taylor, Blake Countess and Jourdan Lewis. Things are less settled but still good at safety, where Jarrod Wilson will start on one side and Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill had a good spring battle for the opposite job.
Peppers was the No. 3 overall player on the 247Sports Composite and cannot afford to sit long in a season that might—if enough things break wrong—be Brady Hoke's last with the team. The fourth-year head coach must get his most naturally talented player on the field.
Whether he finds a starting gig on defense, fields some kicks or even takes snaps as a running back or wide receiver, it should be riveting to watch how Peppers gets acclimated to the program in Ann Arbor.
Michigan needs him to contribute right away.
Can Malik Zaire Continue His Starting Momentum?
Malik Zaire gained substantial ground on Everett Golson for the starting quarterback job at Notre Dame during spring practice.
This is scary because spring practice is more organized and relevant than summer workouts. There is actual football—or at least something that resembles it—to be played, which would seem to lend itself more toward Golson's experience than Zaire's talent.
Summer workouts, even more so than the spring, are when Zaire could really close the gap. Here is how Bleacher Report's Keith Arnold described him after the start of spring practice in March:
In a few open looks at the Irish last week, Zaire's striking athleticism was on display. Many marveled at the clear distinction between Zaire and Golson once they broke into the open field. Golson is a more than competent runner, leading the team in touchdown runs in 2012, but Zaire is electric, a far more dangerous playmaker in the open field.
One other area where Zaire would be a clear upgrade is in the option run game. If the zone read is going to anchor the Irish rushing attack this season, Zaire could be the better trigger man. After three years in a mostly running system in high school, he is a wizard in the option.
If Zaire can learn some more of the playbook and work out a few kinks during film study, his better form and clear advantage as an athlete should make him a viable option to unseat Golson and win the job.
And that, folks, has the true makings of a storyline.
Who Will Catch Passes at Oregon?
Josh Huff and Daryle Hawkins have graduated. Combined with the ACL tear Bralon Addison suffered during spring practice, that means Oregon will be without its three leading receivers from 2013.
Of the other wide receivers on the roster, only one, Keanon Lowe, had more than 100 receiving yards last season (233). A couple of guys who have not seen meaningful snaps will need to start and produce on the outside for a team with College Football Playoff-sized hopes.
The raw talent is there for that to happen. Track star Devon Allen and fellow youngster Darren Carrington emerged toward the end of spring camp, Dwayne Stanford (6'5") and Austin Daich (6'3") offer niche production with their height and Chance Allen and B.J. Kelley were both active last season and know the system.
Will someone continue his growth this summer? If so, who will it be? This offense has seemed infallible at times during the past half decade, but it cannot take personnel for granted.
Who Will Play Quarterback at Texas?
David Ash is proven but injury-prone, Tyrone Swoopes is athletic but mechanically flawed, and Jerrod Heard is gifted but yet to join the team. In all three cases, the quarterback cannot be trusted.
Heard is the most exciting prospect of the three and will see the field at some point this season if Texas struggles. That is how Teddy Bridgewater's true freshman season at Louisville panned out under head coach Charlie Strong, so it seems like a useful precedent.
But if Heard can learn the playbook and train well this summer, why can't he throw his name in the ring? Ash is the tentative favorite if all three are healthy, but who can count on that? And Swoopes' problems with accuracy and touch are becoming chronic.
The fall will decide this more than the summer will. But Ash's recovery, Swoopes' progression and Heard's initiation will all begin these next few months, lending hints to where Strong might look.
Can Kyle Allen Master the System at Texas A&M?
Texas A&M wants Kyle Allen to win this job.
Or at least that's how it feels.
Sophomore Kenny Hill was suspended from the team in late March, and senior Matt Joeckel transferred away (eventually landing at TCU) in mid-April. The timing of that sequence makes it feel—at least to me—like Joeckel saw the writing on the wall. Even without Hill around to practice, he knew which way the coaching staff was leaning.
Hill is still around, but Allen, a true freshman and the No. 1 pro-style quarterback on the 247Sports Composite, looks more and more like the guy who will replace Johnny Manziel. The two are very different—Allen's key attribute is accuracy, not UCB-level improv skills—but if Case Keenum could run Kevin Sumlin's offense well enough to carve up the NCAA record book, Allen should be able to as well.
The question, then, becomes when can Allen run this offense at a historic rate? And the answer lies in how he learns the scheme this summer. The talent is there for him to start against South Carolina in the season opener.
We'll see if he puts it together.