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Top five post-spring storylines

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Thayer Evans

Senior College Football writer Thayer Evans previously wrote for The New York Times and Houston Chronicle, as well as contributed to The Economist, USA Today, The Washington Post and more. Follow him on Twitter.

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With spring practice having wrapped up this past weekend, college football’s on hiatus for the next few months.

Well, at least, when it comes to on-the-field activities directed by coaches. Teams don’t resume those until fall practice starts in early August.

But until then, college football’s news is sure to continue to be dominated by what happens off the field. So brace yourself for more speculation about the job status of Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, whether the Fiesta Bowl should remain a BCS bowl and the NCAA’s ongoing investigation into Houston “street agent” Will Lyles.

In the meantime, here are five post-spring storylines to ponder for this season:

Ohio State's suspensions

With coach Jim Tressel, starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor and three other starters suspended for the season’s first five games, the Buckeyes have obvious holes to fill. Co-defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Luke Fickell will lead the team during Tressel’s absence, but Pryor’s replacement hasn’t been decided. Four players are in the running, but redshirt senior Joe Bauserman and freshman Braxton Miller are the favorites. Bauserman was Pryor’s backup last season, when the Buckeyes went 12-1, and is the safe choice, but Miller is a dual-threat quarterback with far more upside. During the suspensions, it’s unlikely to matter much who starts in home games against overmatched Akron, Toledo and Colorado, but it will matter plenty at Miami (Fla.) and when Michigan State visits.

Alabama's quarterback battle

The race to succeed graduated starting quarterback Greg McElroy between redshirt sophomore A.J. McCarron and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims hasn’t yet been decided by Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban. McCarron was 21-of-38 passing for 222 yards with a touchdown and an interception in last month’s spring game; Sims was 19 of 38 for 229 yards and an interception. McCarron, who was McElroy’s backup last season, threw for 389 yards with three touchdowns during the Crimson Tide’s 10-3 campaign and appears to have the edge, but he still split time in the spring game with Sims on the first-team offense. No matter who starts the Crimson’s Tide opener against Kent State, Saban’s decision might not truly be made until a week later at Penn State.

Rebuilding at Texas

After a 5-7 record last season, in which the Longhorns missed a bowl for the first time since 1997, coach Mack Brown overhauled his coaching staff. He brought in Bryan Harsin, a former Boise State offensive coordinator, as co-offensive coordinator and Manny Diaz as defensive coordinator, a position he held previously at Mississippi State. Yet the biggest question facing the Longhorns is at quarterback. Returning starter junior Garrett Gilbert struggled last season with 10 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions and will be challenged this fall by sophomore Case McCoy, redshirt freshman Connor Wood and freshman David Ash. McCoy outplayed Gilbert in the spring game, but McCoy's arm strength is lacking. Ash might be the best talent physically, but he has a ways to go in terms of maturity.

Stephen Garcia's future

Suspended last month for the fifth time of his college career, the future of the South Carolina fifth-year senior quarterback is once again uncertain. His latest suspension came after he reportedly showed up to a mandatory life skills event smelling of alcohol. When the Gamecocks’ depth chart was released late last month, it still listed Garcia first at quarterback but noted he was suspended indefinitely, along with sophomore Connor Shaw. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier hasn’t ruled out Garcia returning to the team, but the QB could also transfer to another school. Last season, Garcia threw for 3,059 yards and 20 touchdowns in leading the Gamecocks to an 9-5 record and their first SEC East title in school history. This season, South Carolina figures to be a borderline top-10 team in preseason polls. The question is, will Garcia get yet another chance with the Gamecocks?

Florida's life after Urban Meyer

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Gators fans' first peak at first-year defensive-minded coach Will Muschamp’s offense during last month’s spring game left plenty to be desired. Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley’s struggles continued, despite new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis’ highly touted passing scheme. But the fiery Muschamp, Texas’ former defensive coordinator, still maintains that his starter is Brantley, who threw for just nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season during the Gators’ 8-5 campaign, their worst since 2004. Succeeding the legendary Meyer, who won two national championships with the Gators, is tough enough, but Muschamp had plenty of other problems this spring, namely injuries. He also had a couple of players transfer and dismissed All-SEC senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins last month after his second marijuana-related arrest in three months. It’s just a taste for the first-time head coach of the stress that chased Meyer from the Gators.

Tagged: Ohio State, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Texas, AJ McCarron, Stephen Garcia, Terrelle Pryor, Case McCoy, Phillip Sims

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