While most of the college sports world was caught up with March Madness the last month, the best programs in college football were quietly conducting spring practices.
And with the calendar now hitting mid-April, some of the best teams in college football will conclude spring practice this weekend, with their spring games.
So, as Florida State, Ohio State, Texas, USC and Georgia get set for their spring games Saturday - what are the biggest questions for each team heading into 2023?
We take a look:
Florida State: Can the Seminoles take that next step?
This will be Mike Norvell’s fourth season in Tallahassee and after the Seminoles won 10 games last year, expectations are sky high for the Seminoles entering 2023. Jordan Travis is back at quarterback and is one of the frontrunners behind Caleb Williams to compete for the Heisman Trophy. Jared Verse is also back on the defensive line after he returned for one more year, despite being a potential top-10 pick in the draft. He finished last year with a staggering 17 tackles for loss and nine sacks.
Those two alone will keep the Seminoles competitive, but they also have a lot of depth at key positions back too. Johnny Wilson is another standout to watch at wide receiver after transferring in last season and immediately becoming the best target in the receiving corps. Transfers will once again have a big hand in helping the Seminoles this season with South Carolina hybrid tight end Jaheim Bell and UTEP offensive tackle Jeremiah Byers in on one side of the ball, while Darrell Jackson (edge, Miami) and Fentrell Cypress II (cornerback, Virginia) are the newcomers on defense to watch on both the defensive line and in the secondary.
USC: Can the Trojans replicate their success from last year?
The Trojans were expected to be good, but the fit with Lincoln Riley was like a glove. Caleb Williams won the Heisman Trophy and is in the running as the best quarterback in college football once again this season. Mario Williams and Brenden Rice are back and are joined by Dorian Singer in the receiving corps too, with Singer a high-profile transfer out of Arizona.
Meanwhile, Mason Cobb (linebacker from Oklahoma State) and Anthony Lucas (defensive lineman from Texas A&M) are the two keys to watch that transferred in from the portal on defense. This defense needs desperate help and those two have a lot to contribute. Christian Roland-Wallace is another one to keep an eye on in the secondary too. The offense should be incredible this year once again under Riley, but the defense was inconsistent at its best and was bad at its worst, so if they can shore that up, they’ll be a force once again.
Ohio State: Are they still the Big Ten's best program?
A lot has been made of Ryan Day and if the Buckeyes program has flatlined since Urban Meyer left. It doesn’t help that Jim Harbaugh has had his best two seasons ever as a head coach in college these last two years at Ohio State’s biggest rival, Michigan. Ohio State Athletic Director, Gene Smith, recently gave Day a vote of confidence heading into the spring game and this upcoming season.
The biggest question mark surrounding Ohio State this season is who will replace CJ Stroud at quarterback? Kyle McCord and Devin Brown are the top two contenders, but Brown won’t play in the spring game. Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka headline the best wide receiving corps in the country and TreVeyon Henderson will be back at the running back position too. The defense should also be better with another year in Jim Knowles’ system, with Ja’Had Carter being a name to watch after transferring in from Syracuse to play safety.
Texas: What's this team, and program's ceiling?
The Longhorns have left a little bit to be desired so far under Steve Sarkisian. But there’s been moments to point to, with last year against Alabama being a standout despite the loss. This year has a chance to finally be that breakthrough year for Texas under Sarkisian. The recruiting under Sark has gotten better year after year, with the crown jewel this year being Arch Manning coming in as a giant recruit for the quarterback position.
Quinn Ewers is still the starting quarterback, but he has a tighter leash, and if he starts to falter then the job ends up being Manning’s to lose, despite him being a true freshman. With Bijan Robinson gone, the running game will be by committee, but Xavier Worthy is back in the receiving corps to help whoever ends up throwing the ball even more. Jalen Catalon is a name to watch on the defense as a transfer from Arkansas, but there’s still a few questions on defense overall.
Can Georgia Make It Three in a Row?
The Bulldogs have dominated the sport of college football these past two seasons and they were expected to have a drop-off last year and it just didn’t happen. There’s a question on who will replace Stetson Bennett at quarterback, and it will probably be Carson Beck, who’s a highly touted sophomore. Brock Bowers is back at tight end and should be the best tight end in all of college football this season.
Meanwhile, Mykel Williams and Malaki Starks are two players who could take another step on defense, and that's on top of established stars like Jamas Dumas-Johnson and Smael Mondon Jr., who finished No. 1 and 2 in tackles for loss last season. Both are back. The Bulldogs have a lot of talent back and have every reason to think they can do it again this year. The question is if they can keep it together because of the giant target they have on their back after winning back-to-back championships.
Follow Jake Faigus on Twitter - @Jake_Faigus