Spring game recaps: What to know from college football’s big weekend

Jameis Winston and Florida State were among the many programs in action over the weekend.

Melina Vastola/Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

From Florida State to Clemson to Miami to Notre Dame, the college football world hosted more than 40 spring games this past weekend.

Here are notes you need to know from the big games.

For more spring game coverage, check out the conference-specific links below.

Clemson

* Senior Cole Stoudt ended the spring where he began it — as the unofficial frontrunner to succeed Tajh Boyd behind center. Stoudt was in control throughout the spring game, guiding the offense to three touchdowns, two on his throws. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 158 yards and no picks, with sophomore TE Jordan Leggett serving as his favorite target. 

* Senior DT Tavaris Barnes was the poster child for all the offseason chatter about this being Clemson’s best defense in years. He toyed with the Tiger offensive linemen, notching eight tackles and a Clemson spring game record five sacks. If Barnes even hints at that kind of production during the season, opponents will have no answers for DE Vic Beasley and the rest of the pass rush. 

* The Tigers must continue addressing the offensive line this offseason, or else it could haunt them in the fall. Sure, it was just a spring game and the quarterbacks weren’t live. But the blockers were overmatched throughout the afternoon. Remember, this is a unit that’s been reshuffled by graduation and Gifford Timothy’s decision to retire. 

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Florida State

* Jameis Winston attempted 56 passes in a spring game, an indication of how badly Florida State wants to develop a rhythm in the passing game. Winston completed 27 of those passes for 394 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while getting a better feel for the nuances of new receivers Isaiah Jones, Kermit Whitfield and Jesus Wilson. 

* The Seminoles’ first team D played without five starters, yet it still dominated in the early going. P.J. Williams, Jalen Ramsey and Tyler Hunter blanketed the wide receivers in a precursor of things to come in the fall. Florida State could be home to the deepest and most talented secondary in the country in 2014. 

* Oh, and the linebackers can cover as well, so there’ll be no free passes on short and intermediate routes. The 2014 unit will be typically athletic, with the range and speed to seamlessly drop back into coverage. Terrance Smith was a guided missile on Saturday, and E.J. Levenberry and Reggie Northrup combined for 14 tackles. Redshirt freshman Ro’Derrick Hoskins got in the box score with a 63-yard interception return for six.

Louisville

* OK, it was just a scrimmage in April. But don’t expect folks to contain their enthusiasm about QB Will Gardner, the successor to Teddy Bridgewater. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound sophomore delighted the home fans by completing 32 of 37 passes for 542 yards, four touchdowns and a pick. Gardner is being coached by Bobby Petrino, so no one should be shocked by the young hurler’s rapid development. 

* Judging by the crowd size on Friday night, fan interest hasn’t waned a bit now that Charlie Strong is coaching Texas and Bridgewater is primping for NFL teams. The Cards drew 27,500 fans to Papa John’s Stadium, the second-largest crowd for a spring game in school history. 

* There was a Michael Dyer sighting as well on Friday night, and he looked like the Dyer of old now that he’s finally healthy. Running for both teams, he went for 150 yards and three scores on 14 carries. If Dyer can cut and bolt upfield the way he did in the spring game, Louisville will feature a scary array of offensive playmakers in Petrino’s return to the program. 

Miami 

Spring Ball 2014

* There’s no getting around the fact that the Hurricanes are facing a dire situation at quarterback. Ryan Williams was the frontrunner, but he tore his ACL a week ago. While redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen is ahead of sophomore Gray Crow, neither was on target on Saturday. In the first big moment of Olsen’s career, he completed 7 of 21 passes for 65 yards and a pick. Rookies Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier enter the race in August. 

* Miami will have diversity in the ground game this fall. Duke Johnson and Joe Yearby are homerun hitters, while 235-pound Gus Edwards and 220-pound Walter Tucker are bruisers. Edwards and Tucker made statements by combining for 106 rugged yards and a touchdown as the busiest of the backs. 

* The ‘Canes are in the market for defensive stoppers, a perennial pursuit on this campus. Safeties Jamal Carter and Dallas Crawford stood out with five tackles apiece on Saturday afternoon. Carter is a sophomore with a high ceiling. Crawford is trying to reinvent himself after rushing for 558 yards and 12 touchdowns on 137 carries last season.

Notre Dame 

* Notre Dame is going to install FieldTurf this season. That took center stage above everything else early on, but then the quarterback situation got interest. It’s been assumed that Everett Golson will come back to the team and be 2012 Everett Golson, but Malik Zaire has been more than good enough to make this a fight. The left-hander has been a bit up-and-down this offseason, but his upside is tremendous, and it showed completing 18 of 27 passes for 292 yards and two scores. He’s not going to run like Golson – who completed 13-of-23 passes for 160 yards with a rushing touchdown – but he has the arm and the skills to move the offense. 

* Jaylon Smith is going to be a star. The 6-3, 230-pound sophomore linebacker didn’t see too much action, but he made six tackles and at times went at a whole other speed from everyone else. The defense didn’t do anything too crazy or aggressive, and there was a quick whistle, but there were eight sacks with linebacker Romeo Okwara coming up with three. 

* While the offensive focus was on the quarterback, the hidden gem might be a good stable of running backs. Greg Bryant was a big part of the spring session, and he capped it off with 95 yards on 12 carries highlighted by a 51-yard dash. Tarean Folston ran only seven times and didn’t come up with anything big, but he finished with 38 yards.

More from the weekend’s spring games

Pac-12: Arizona, Stanford look for offensive answers

Big 12: Oklahoma dodges an injury bullet

SEC West: Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott shines

SEC East: A stud freshman WR emerges at Tennessee

Big Ten East: Ohio State shows off more aggressive defense

Big Ten West: Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt struggles at Illinois

AAC: UCF still searching for Blake Bortles’ replacement