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February 22, 2010

Sitting in spring could hurt QBs come fall

Spring practice hadn't even started before Arkansas, Georgia Tech and Miami received bad news.

Each will be without its starting quarterback for spring drills -- Arkansas' Ryan Mallett broke his foot in conditioning drills, Tech's Josh Nesbitt is recovering from right ankle surgery and Miami's Jacory Harris is recovering from surgery on his right thumb.

Each of the trio is a returning starter, so the news isn't as bad as it could've been. It would have been much harder for the teams involved if each of those guys was a first-time starter. Still, no one should try to sugarcoat the absences; they're not good for the teams involved.

Each team is seen as a likely top-25 pick in the preseason polls, and Miami has been mentioned as a legitimate ACC title contender. Teams with high expectations don't want their quarterbacks to miss spring practice.

Mallett struggled last season against good defenses. Given the state of Arkansas' defense, he would not have gone against a good defense this spring. Still, he is missing a chance to develop more of a rapport with his receivers and he's missing a chance to get in work behind a line that had some issues last season.

Yes, Mallett and his receivers can work on their timing during the summer. But look at it this way: The time they put in during the summer could have been added practice time. Now, it's the only time they're going to have together before fall practice begins.

In Nesbitt's case, any missed time is important when it comes to throwing the ball. Nesbitt has no issues as a runner, but he has a lot of work do to as a passer. Plus, Tech lost its only legitimate receiver when Demaryius Thomas went pro early. Spring would have been a good time for Nesbitt and his receivers to get on the same page. Now, as at Arkansas, Nesbitt and his receivers will have to make up for time lost in the spring.

Harris started strong last season then faded a bit as the season wore on because of his propensity to throw interceptions. As it is, Miami is breaking in two new starting tackles and trying to find a starting tailback because of the knee injury suffered by Graig Cooper. Now, with Harris out (he will participate in some non-throwing drills), the problems have been exacerbated.

The injuries to the starters will provide an opportunity for the backups to get a lot of practice reps. But let's get serious: Each of these teams depends greatly on its starting quarterback. If any of these quarterbacks were to be lost during the season, these teams would be in deep, deep trouble -- no matter how many spring practice reps the backups receive.

Grid bits
New Kansas coach Turner Gill is taking the names off the backs of players' jerseys. "We are representing the University of Kansas. You will see that name on the front of our jerseys," Gill told the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal World. I think Gill was a good hire, but question whether this type of move really has any kind of impact other than the knee-jerk "Well, this proves he certainly won't brook any foolishness" reaction.

Follow the bouncing assistant. Clay Helton was Memphis' offensive coordinator this past season. That staff was fired, and Helton was hired at Arkansas State in December to be the Red Wolves' offensive coordinator. That job lasted about two months, as Helton resigned from Arkansas State last week to take a yet-to-be-determined job on USC's offensive staff. From Conference USA to the Sun Belt to one of the nation's premier programs in a two-month period. Pretty cool, huh?

A look back
A reader asked about the 10 winningest teams of the past decade, in terms of percentage. Here they are:
SchoolRecordPct.BCS games
Boise State112-17.868Two (2-0)
Texas110-19.853Four (3-1)
Oklahoma110-24.821Seven (2-5)
Ohio State102-25.803 Seven (4-3)
USC102-26.797Seven (6-1)
Florida100-30.769Five (4-1)
TCU95-29.766One (0-1)
LSU99-31.762Four (4-0)
Georgia98-31.760Three (2-1)
Virginia Tech99-32.756Three (1-2)

The NCAA is deciding whether to move the FCS championship game to the Dallas suburb of Frisco; the game has been held in Chattanooga, Tenn., since 1997. The decision is expected either late this week or early next week.

Virginia suffered a blow when starting center Jack Shields decided to give up football. Shields, who would've been a senior this season, had started in each of the past two seasons. He would've been one of four returning starters along the line. Junior Anthony Mihota should be the new starter.

Oklahoma State wide receiver Dameron Fooks, who would've been a junior this fall, has decided to give up football. Fooks was in the running to be a starting wide receiver this fall. The Tulsa (Okla.) World reported that Fooks wanted to focus on his academics. Fooks caught 10 passes last season, but three went for touchdowns -- tied for the second-highest total on the team.

Kent State's Eugene Jarvis, who ran for 1,669 yards and 23 TDs in 2007 before managing just 959 combined yards the past two seasons because of injuries, has been granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA. Jarvis played just two games in 2009 because of a lacerated kidney; when undergoing treatment for the injury, Jarvis found out he had just one kidney. Jarvis is a 5-foot-5, 170-pounder whose healthy return would provide a huge boost to a Kent State team whose rushing attack was anemic last season. The Golden Flashes finished 5-7 in 2009.

San Diego State honored former coach Don Coryell by giving him an honorary doctorate degree earlier this month. Coryell was 104-19-2 in 12 seasons with the Aztecs (1961-72) and never had a losing record despite taking over a program that had won five total games in the three seasons preceding his hire. He is the only coach in football history to win 100 games as a head coach in college and in the NFL.

This isn't necessarily a football item, but it's still interesting -- and sobering. Hawaii athletic department officials project the department's budget deficit to be more than $10 million at the end of this academic year. We bring this up because 600-student Ave Maria University -- a Catholic school founded in 2003 near Naples, Fla., by Domino's Pizza founder and former Detroit Tigers owner Thomas Monaghan -- announced last week that it plans to begin playing football, as an NAIA member, in 2011. That would make for an inauspicious debut for a program that Monaghan once said he hopes eventually rivals Notre Dame's.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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