Spring practice is always an unusual time in college football. It’s a time of turnover and a time to get healthy. Rosters are nowhere close to being at their fullest. In that vein, however, it’s an opportunity for players to make a name for themselves.
Several of college football’s biggest names, however, won’t be on the field (at least not full-go for the start of spring practice). Their absence will provide more opportunities for backups to get experience and, in some cases, allow their team to build the depth. Getting healthy is the primary focus of the spring for these starters, sidelined from action until the fall.
Jake Browning, Washington QB
Colorado and Alabama beat up Jake Browning in the final two games of the Huskies’ season. It looked like it hurt at the time, and that was before we knew Browning was reportedly playing with a hurt shoulder. According to the Seattle Times, Browning suffered an injury against Arizona State on Nov. 19, a 44-18 win, and battled through it the rest of the season.
“I do think he was fighting through some things as the season went on because he’s a tough guy,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said on 710 ESPN Seattle. “We had to do some things. Let me say this: We’ve got some tough kids on our team.
“Those kids, they fight through some things, and we don’t talk about who’s hurt and all this stuff, but Jake’s a tough kid, and I’ll just say that. He fought through some stuff.”
Petersen is notably reserved regarding injury information, so keeping Browning’s injury hush-hush is no surprise. While he’ll be sidelined through the spring, there’s no expectation that anyone else will be under center when Washington takes the field to defend its Pac-12 title in 2017.
Bo Scarbrough, Alabama RB
The College Football Playoff title game totally changed when Scarbrough was knocked out of it. Jalen Hurts used his athleticism to key a few great plays that led to scores, but the consistency of the first half was gone when the Tide lost their battering ram. Scarbrough will be limited the spring as he recovers from the injury, along with Shaun Dion Hamilton, who suffered a knee injury in the first half of the SEC Championship Game against Florida. Both players hope to be on the field by the end of spring ball, even if they are limited.
Luke Del Rio, Florida QB
Another quarterback held out recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Del Rio is just the most notable of a long injury list for the Gators this spring. Defensive end Jordan Sherit (knee), offensive lineman Antonio Riles (knee), linebacker David Reese (wrist), wide receiver Freddie Swain (shoulder), defensive back Quincy Lenton and defensive back Jeawon Taylor are all being held out of spring practice. Reese is a player to watch because he’s in line to take over Jarrad Davis’ spot at linebacker, but the most significant name here is Del Rio.
The redshirt junior’s absence means more snaps for sophomores Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask in the quarterback battle. Franks appears to have a slight edge in the battle after one week, but the coaching staff is still allowing both players to take snaps with the first-team offense while Del Rio waits for his chance to reclaim the starting role this fall.
TarVarus McFadden, Florida State DB
McFadden had a tremendous sophomore season in 2016, starting 13 games and recording a nation-leading eight interceptions. He’s missing this spring after undergoing shoulder surgery, but the coaching staff doesn’t seem too concerned with the long-term impact. According to Jimbo Fisher, McFadden played with the injury for most of the season and so they wanted to get the issue cleaned up before a pivotal 2017 campaign for the Seminoles.
Florida State will also be missing starting offensive linemen Alec Eberle and Landon Dickerson this spring because of offseason surgeries. While the Seminoles will be thin for scrimmages, the good news here is that it could help talented redshirt freshman Baveon Johnson with his development. Noles fans will also be pleased to here star safety Derwin James is expected to practice in full after missing the final 11 games of 2016 with a torn mensicus.
Keller Chryst, Stanford QB
Coach David Shaw says that Chryst is on schedule with his recovery from knee surgery, a result of an injury suffered in the Sun Bowl win against North Carolina. There isn’t much concern about Chryst’s ability to be ready to go by August, but his absence leaves the team with limited options for spring drills. Senior Ryan Burns, a starter at the beginning of 2016, transferred out and now the Cardinal will turn to freshman K.J. Costello this spring.
Arden Key, LSU DE/OLB
LSU fans were met with surprising news last month when the school announced that Key was leaving the team for an undetermined amount of time for personal reasons. Key was an All-SEC player in 2016 and considered one of the best overall players in the league returning for 2017. The Tigers are deep and talented on the defensive line, but losing Key — if he does not return for the fall — would be a huge blow in Ed Orgeron’s first full season as coach.