I was intrigued by this story about Darius Darks, the Iowa State receiver who had gone to Facebook and really vented about the coaching transition in December by reportedly cursing former coach Gene Chizik and then donning a Michigan State jersey. (Anyhow, Darks has apologized and is talking about how the new regime might serve him well.) So this got me to thinking about which players are best served by recent coaching transitions.
- Jake Locker, Washington QB: Will Locker flourish in his post-Ty Willingham era the same way Brady Quinn did at Notre Dame? My hunch is no, probably not to that degree, and that's not because new U-Dub coach Steve Sarkisian isn't a good QB tutor, but because the talent level around Locker is still really young and shaky. And for as great an athlete as Locker is, might he be better suited to play safety in the NFL rather than QB? That's what I've heard from a few NFL personnel folks, although they are curious to see how Sarkisian can develop him. It is worth noting that in Locker's injury-marred 2008 season, he did become more accurate, completing 54 percent of his passes (up from 47%), and that's not awful given the youth and consistency issues with the inexperienced receivers he had to throw to. Let's see what happens in Sarkisian's pro-style attack.
- Chris Walker, Tennessee, DE: There are some concerns about D-line depth for the Vols, but word from inside the UT program is that Walker is poised for a breakout season. Last season, he was used sparingly and had 4 TFLs. Don't be surprised if he has four times that total in 2009. The new UT defensive staff has been gushing over Walker's quickness since the coaches first got a load of him and they love how he fits in their get-up-the-field scheme. At around 240 pounds, Walker isn't a huge DE, but DL coach Ed Orgeron says Walker is in the mode of those speedy edge-rushers he coached back in his Miami days.
- Jacory Harris, Miami QB: The Canes have made another offensive coordinator change, but by dumping Pat Nix and bringing in the more experienced Mark Whipple from the NFL, the hunch here is that Randy Shannon made one of the best moves of his two-year stint as head coach. Players are raving about Whipple's bringing much more creativity to the UM offense, and the coach's ability to groom a QB (just ask Steelers star Ben Roethlisberger) is going to be a great asset for Harris, who now needs to develop better timing with a gifted crew of speedy young receivers.
- Lee Ziemba, Auburn, OT: After a promising freshman year in 2007, Ziemba and his mates had a terrible season trying to work in then-Tigers O-coordinator Tony Franklin's offense. Now that that disaster is behind him, Ziemba is being coached by former CU line coach Jeff Grimes, who is geared toward bringing back a smash-mouth approach. Ziemba had bulked up 28 pounds, and it should be fun to see the Tigers get back closer to their roots.
- Anthony Dixon, Miss. State, RB: New coach Dan Mullen has made a point in saying how well a power back fits in his scheme, and his history at Utah supports that. I have Dixon on here mainly because I suspect he just really needed a fresh start with new coaches and a new conditioning program to jump-start his career. By shedding 20 pounds this offseason in getting down to 235, he should be a legit weapon for State, something Mullen has very few of right now.
• Supersized WR Jonathan Baldwin, who flashed greatness at times as a freshman in 2008, looks ready to blossom at Pitt, writes Colin Dunlap.
Actually, I suspect the biggest thing that might keep the 6-6, 230-pound Baldwin from becoming a star in '09 is the Panthers' very shaky QB play.
• Michigan will again be young at QB, but there is no doubt the Wolverines will be a whole lot faster. Tate Forcier is three steps quicker than either guy Michigan started last season, and wait till Wolverines fans get a lot of incoming freshman Denard Robinson, who just blazed the 100-meter dash in 10.44 seconds at a meet Saturday in Florida, making it the second-fastest high school time in the nation, according to the Miami Herald and DyeStat.
"I was kind of disappointed in myself to run a 10.44, but I will accept that," Robinson said. "Running the No. 2 time in the nation is pretty good. I was trying to run a 10.3, but there was strong wind. I'm working harder on it and expect to hit a 10.3 by states."To go around the college football landscape with Bruce Feldman, become an ESPN Insider.
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