- Ryan McGee, ESPN Senior Writer
Ah, spring practice. That time of year when, while athletes pound pads, we pound the pavement looking for headlines ... even if there aren't many actual headlines to report.
The biggest programs always draw the most national attention, from televised spring games to "SportsCenter" live shots done from the first day of practice (as Tom Rinaldi did at South Carolina. Sorry, Coach Spurrier).
But sometimes the most interesting storylines are off the beaten path. And the use of the word interesting here is strictly relative. The reasons that make a spring practice interesting to you and me are quarterback battles, coaching changes and BCS title chances.
However, the eyes of the people inside the game are drawn to keep tabs on other programs for entirely different reasons. With that mindset in mind, here are the "Top 5 Spring Practices You Probably Aren't Watching But Should Be."
2012 record: 1-11
Reason to care: Juco transfers
To call the Jayhawks' 2012 campaign ugly would be an insult to ugly people. Charlie Weis, entering his second spring in Lawrence, is always going to draw attention because he's, well, Charlie Weis. But this April, KU's extreme makeover of a roster doesn't have the attention of college football folks because of the arrival of former BYU quarterback Jake Heaps. They're monitoring all of the other new faces.
In an effort to "fill all the holes we discovered last year," Weis has taken a page from the "Fred Hoiberg Iowa State basketball complete oil change playbook." In February, Weis inked 18 junior college transfers.
"Signing juco transfers is nothing new. And when it works, it really works," says an SEC coordinator, pointing to Auburn's Cam Newton/Nick Fairley-led influx that won a BCS title.
"You see Gus [Malzahn] returning to that again this year. I think Auburn brought in six. But this is three times that! These kids can be very high risk. They're like hired guns. So the chance of this blowing up in Charlie's face is pretty good. But if it works, this is a monkey-see, monkey-do business and there are a lot of coaches who will try to copy the plan. A lot of us don't have a great feeling about that long term."
2012 record: 7-6
Reason to care: Hal Mumme
The obvious reason the Mustangs might grab a little interest is because they're one of the four new teams moving into the Big East, or whatever it is that we end up calling the Big East. But what has piqued the interest of coaches outside of Ford Stadium is the March 20 addition of Mumme as SMU's new assistant head coach and passing game coordinator.
That means that the godfather of the Air Raid is now working for coach June Jones, one of the godfathers of the run 'n' shoot. Both men have former assistants scattered throughout college football and thus are considered founding fathers of the game's widely preferred brand of PlayStation offense. No fewer than three of the top seven NCAA career leaders in passing yards per game were coached by Jones or Mumme.
"This might not work at all," says a fellow Big East offensive coordinator. "But if it does, the results might be scary. If anything, this is one of those experiments where coaches all over the country will be pulling film just to see what these two come up with together."