College football spring games: Alabama struggles up front, Ohio State poised to stay dominant on offense

The biggest day of the spring season in college football came on Saturday, with defending national champion Georgia, SEC champion Alabama, Big Ten power Ohio State and Mario Cristobal’s Miami Hurricanes among some of the notable teams taking the stage to present their annual spring games. .

These spring scrums give teams a great opportunity to get a feel for how coaches view their depth charts and where youngsters fit midway through the offseason. So what were the biggest takeaways from Saturday’s slate that just featured legitimate national championship contenders? Let’s look.

Alabama

Crimson Tide needs help upstream: Alabama’s spring game clock seemed to be ticking faster than real time, but there was enough time to see that coach Nick Saban’s offensive line needed a lot of help. The first team struggled to give quarterback Bryce Young time and couldn’t consistently open holes for running backs – including Georgia Tech transfer Jahmyr Gibbs. Threat Edge Will Anderson was particularly frightening, as he got into Young’s face for “two-handed” sacks twice in three games late in the first half.

Let’s put that aside: it’s irresponsible to make hasty judgments about a team in the spring. But, for Alabama, that might not be the case. Young was forced out of the pocket in exactly the same way last spring, and that translated into the fall when the offensive line finished last in the SEC in tackles for loss. Saban likes having a reason to yell at his players in order to create a culture of competition at the championship level, and his offensive line gave him that ammunition on Saturday.

ohio state

The Buckeyes recipe for success: Two of the biggest questions facing the Buckeyes are the quest to replace receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson on the outside and the defensive renaissance that new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles is looking to orchestrate. Well, they’ll be fine at wide receiver. Star Jaxon Smith-Njigba caught two passes for 38 yards and a touchdown, but the real story was behind him where others shone. Emeka Egbuka had four catches for 39 yards, Marvin Harrison Jr. had a snag and looked comfortable with the first-team offense and running back Evan Pryor looked like a multidimensional force to be reckoned with.

The defense has had its ups and downs, but there’s no reason to panic. Yes, he needs to improve from last year’s team, but Knowles said before the game that it was going to be vanilla on purpose and not bring heat to the quarterback. Offense is the driving force in college football, and Ohio State looks set to continue its dominance. If the defense plays just right, the Buckeyes will be fine.

Georgia

Beware of tight ends: Tight ends have become a much bigger part of college football offenses over the past decade, and Georgia might have the best tight end room in college football history. LSU transfer Arik Gilbert caught two touchdown passes from Stetson Bennett IV after being out of the program during the 2021 season. The 6-foot-5, 248-pound monster athlete had 35 catches for 368 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers in 2020, and is a nightmare for opposing defenses. Fellow tight ends Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington sat out the G-Day game, but have already proven just how dangerous they can be.

When you mix those tight ends with Georgia’s versatile backfield and wide receiving body, this offense should be much better and more balanced than last season. In other words… “get your popcorn ready”.

Miami

Tyler Van Dyke will become a stallion: The Miami signalman took over from D’Eriq King last season at Coral Gables and set the tone for what could be a tremendous second season. Van Dyke was 20 of 32 for 172 yards and a touchdown to Jacolby George. It’s a great day if you watch the box score, but it was even better if you watched on TV. Van Dyke threw three absolute pennies in the first half that were dropped by Hurricane wide receivers, which skewed his stats in a negative direction. It was so bad at first that booed birds could be heard at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Miami is a work in progress, which is understandable given that this is Mario Cristobal’s first season as coach of his alma mater. But the progress the wide receiving body has shown in the spring’s only game is encouraging after just 15 practices. With Van Dyke at the helm, it should be fine.

CBS Sports was live throughout the afternoon, providing updates, highlights and analysis from Saturday’s spring games, which you can see below.

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