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Old 05-27-2004   #1
Vinny
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Default Top 25 (post spring practice)

ESPN's Top 25


1. LSU
The Tigers emerged from spring ball healthy, and senior quarterback Marcus Randall proved that his grasp of the offense is sufficient enough to keep offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher from turning to JaMarcus Russell, the immensely talented but inexperienced freshman. The holes at wide receiver will be filled in part by tailback Joseph Addai and cornerback Corey Webster.

2. USC
The arrest and suspension of right tackle Winston Justice, the man who protects the blind side of lefty quarterback Matt Leinart, leaves the Trojans with only two offensive linemen who have ever started a game. While USC still appears to be better than every team on its schedule, the lack of an experienced offensive line narrows the team's margin of error.

3. Georgia
The Bulldogs lost starting weak-side linebacker Tony Taylor (knee) for the season, but junior Derrick White, who started three games last fall, and sophomore Danny Verdun Wheeler, who started two, should be able to compensate. That's indicative of the Dawgs' defensive depth. The two biggest questions remain the health of the offensive line, and finding a replacement for kicker Billy Bennett, who set an NCAA record last season for field goals attempted (38) and made (31). Without him, the offense will have to finish more drives with touchdowns.

4. Oklahoma
A relatively uneventful spring -- quarterback Jason White did not practice much, but coach Bob Stoops said that White's injured toe has healed. And if it hasn't, backup Paul Thompson had a very good spring. Linebacker Lance Mitchell, who missed the second half of last season because of a knee injury, made seven tackles in the spring game. That's remarkable progress, and a good sign for the fall.

5. Michigan
The Wolverines fooled around with switching to a 3-4 scheme, and that was before tackle Jeremy Van Alstyne was lost for the season with a knee injury. The depth at linebacker and in the secondary gives defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann the luxury to make situational changes. Guard David Baas took a lot of snaps at center, and may end up there in the fall. At quarterback, Matt Gutierrez had a good spring and remains a step ahead of the field.

6. Texas
The more aggressive defensive scheme installed by new coaches Greg Robinson and **** Tomey looks promising. But any defense that features linebacker Derrick Johnson looks promising. The combination of Vince Young at quarterback and Cedric Benson at tailback remain the best running-passing combo in any backfield, with the exception of Missouri quarterback Brad Smith lining up in an empty formation.

7. Miami
Can the 'Canes recover from losing six first-round draft choices? Hard to say -- no team has ever had six first-round draft choices. No quarterback emerged from the spring as the out-and-out leader, and as the old saying goes, if you have two quarterbacks (or, in this case, three), you don't have any. The 'Canes remain this high based on talent and schedule, since Florida State and Virginia Tech both go to the Orange Bowl and Miami doesn't play Maryland.

8. Florida State
Do you believe in Chris Rix or don't you? The fifth-year quarterback is spending this spring trying out for the track team as a sprinter. You might think he would be watching some video, but we digress.

9. Maryland
The Terrapins believe they found a quarterback in sophomore Joel Statham, which might make him the first Joel to be an outstanding quarterback in the history of the game. The defense looked very good in the spring. Corner Reuben Haigler tweaked a groin muscle but is expected to recover by the fall.

10. Utah
Utes quarterback Alex Smith had a good spring, better than his numbers in the spring game (17-of-42, two picks). Wide receiver Thomas Huff raised some eyebrows, but overall the defense looked better than the offense. That's never a bad sign.

11. Ohio State
The drain of talent in Columbus is tremendous -- 14 players drafted -- and the players left behind must prove they can maintain the standard of 25-2 over the last two seasons.

12. California
The Bears have injury issues that they believe will be solved by August. Let's hope so, because coach Jeff Tedford hasn't had the time to build depth.

13. Iowa
Questions on the offensive line linger. It's looking more and more as if center Brian Ferentz (son of coach Kirk Ferentz) won't be ready in the fall after suffering a knee injury last fall.

14. Tennessee
Coach Phil Fulmer tried to sound enthusiastic about C.J. (not Chris) Leak at quarterback. Fulmer nearly pulled it off.

15. West Virginia
Coach Rich Rodriguez has built a lot of capital in Morgantown. After a February signee was arrested for murder, Rodriguez is going to have to spend some of it.

16. Auburn
A new offense is installed, but that doesn't mean quarterback Jason Campbell is any closer to being the answer.

17. Missouri
In the chaos of the Big 12 North, there's an opportunity for Brad Smith and the Tigers.

18. Florida
If quarterback Chris Leak improves as much as a sophomore as he did as a freshman, watch out.

19. Virginia
Defense will have to carry a young quarterback in the early going.

20. Purdue
The Boilermakers have all year to think about that agonizing loss at Ohio State.

21. Clemson
Any schedule that opens up Wake Forest-Georgia Tech-at Texas A&M-at Florida State-at Virginia, and later includes a streak of Maryland-North Carolina State-at Miami, is not a bowl friendly one.

22. Kansas State
Darren Sproles is the best returning running back in the nation.

23. Minnesota
Marion Barber and Laurence Maroney are the best pair of running backs in the nation.

24. Boston College
My initial reaction, that the Eagles would be a communal target in their final season in the Big East, is fading.

25. Toledo
The Rockets were the almost team of the 2003 MAC season. They'll burst through this fall.

Espn
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