A big Saturday of college football is in the books, and several high-profile teams wrapped up their spring practice sessions with pivotal spring games. Georgia, Miami and Oregon are just a few of the programs who hit the field on Saturday afternoon and evening.
Let's break down the biggest storylines that stood out:
Running backs will see plenty of action in Athens: New offensive coordinator James Coley has taken over the play-calling responsibilities, and it's clear that multiple running backs are going to be featured through the air in addition to the ground. D'Andre Swift, Brian Herrien and James Cook -- presumably the top three running backs on the depth chart exiting spring -- all caught two or more passes out of the backfield. Herrien found the end zone on a 13-yard catch and run midway through the second quarter to cap off a 10-play, 70-yard drive.
This is important for two reasons. With so many running backs on the roster, it's imperative for Coley to use all of his weapons in a variety of ways. Mixing in the backs in a variety of ways keeps defenses honest and keeps the running back room happy. Perhaps more importantly, it can limit the negative impact -- if there is one -- created by an inexperienced receiving corps.
Georgia is loaded with weapons. Spring games don't necessarily prove anything one way or the other. But it's clear that Coley and coach Kirby Smart intend to take advantage of one of the most talented rosters in the country.
Ducks playmakers stepping up: Dillon Mitchell made the jump to the NFL after topping the 1,000-yard mark receiving, but you wouldn't know it based on Oregon's offensive performance on Saturday. Quarterback Justin Herbert spread the ball around to all of his weapons through the air, including top returning receiver Jaylon Redd (one touchdown), Johnny Johnson III (30 yards), running back CJ Verdell (72 yards) and Penn State graduate transfer Juwan Johnson (32 yards and one touchdown).
Herbert to Juwan Johnson for the first TD of the day! #GoDucks pic.twitter.com/qfABG2XMsb— Oregon Football (@oregonfootball) April 20, 2019
If you see pictures of Herbert smiling after the game, that's the reason why. He lost his star, but Johnson's presence coupled with the weapons already on campus makes this dangerous offense one of the best in the country. Herbert came back to win a Pac-12 title and contend for the national championship, and this looks like a team that can do it.
Coach Mario Cristobal made a concerted effort to get bigger and more athletic on the line of scrimmage, and hit the jackpot this season with five-star defensive lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux. When you combine an uptick in recruiting with plenty of defensive starters, including star linebacker Troy Dye, and an offense that won't miss a beat, you have a legit contender.
Tate Martell's isn't QB1 in Miami just yet: The former Ohio State quarterback was the subject of one of the biggest stories of the offseason after leaving Ohio State and gaining immediate eligibility with the Hurricanes. But will he be the quarterback of the 2019 Hurricanes? It appears to be very much up in the air judging from reviews of the spring game from Camping World Stadium in Orlando. The game was not televised.
He was the third quarterback out and ran with the second-team offense, according to 247Sports. He went 6-of-10 passing for 154 yards, two touchdowns, and added seven carries for 29 yards on the ground, even though the quarterbacks weren't being tackled to the ground.
What does it mean? Miami's quarterback position is still very much a work in progress. N'Kosi Perry was up and down last year, but went 9-of-13 passing for 145 yards and one touchdown with both the ones and twos. Redshirt freshman Jarren Williams went 4-of-6 passing for 44 yards, one touchdown and one pick. All three appeared to close spring strong, but all reports suggest they were up and down during the previous 14 practices.
Martell is supposed to be the man in Miami. But as of of now, it appears to be a three-man race heading into the summer portion of the offseason.
Defense at UCLA: In the spring game primer earlier this week, we mentioned the need for UCLA to find a defense that can at least keep the Bruins in games. Coach Chip Kelly certainly got it on Saturday in the final outing of the spring.
No touchdowns were scored and the Blue team won 3-0 in a game that, while boring, should be the kind of game that at least gives Bruins fans hope thanks to red zone defense.
Another red zone victory for the defense. Great drive by the offense, but it ends with an interception in the end zone by Je’Vari Anderson. #UCLA— Tarek Fattal (@Tarek_Fattal) April 20, 2019
Still only a field goal has been scored today. pic.twitter.com/nWHIt7lw5n
Another red zone stop for the defense to end the day. Final score from the #UCLA spring game: 3-0 (first team offense) pic.twitter.com/Vx4LTK4amw— Tarek Fattal (@Tarek_Fattal) April 20, 2019
The quarterback battle between Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Austin Burton can wait for the fall. Finding a defense that can at least keep games within reach is a good sign. Now it's up to Kelly to take it from here.