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May 10, 2011

Dienhart: Rivals.com All-Spring Team

Spring football is a time of discovery for coaches. Which young players will step up? Are key injured players healthy? Which upperclassmen will make a move or get passed on the depth chart?

It's important not to get too carried away with the good and bad of spring practice, but it was difficult not to notice the performance of some players.

Here is our annual All-Spring Team.

OFFENSE

QB Jeff Tuel, Washington State. Tuel, a junior, looks the part of a top-level quarterback. He has added size and strength - he's now 6 feet 3 and 220 pounds - but hasn't lost any mobility. Tuel was efficient this spring, spreading the ball around to a surprisingly deep receiving corps and showing a firm grasp of the Cougars' offense.

RB Antwon Bailey, Syracuse. The past three seasons, Bailey - a 5-7, 197-pounder - primarily has been a change-of-pace rusher and a receiving threat out of the backfield. But he now is poised to become the main back with Delone Carter gone. In the spring game, Bailey had 20 carries for 118 yards and showed big-play ability.

RB Johnathan Franklin, UCLA. Franklin, a junior, ran for 1,127 yards last season and built on that with a solid spring. During drills and scrimmages, Franklin looked stronger and faster than a year ago, and he should be one of the top backs in the Pac-10 this fall.

WR Obum Gwacham, Oregon State. Gwacham, a 6-5, 222-pound redshirt freshman, was a spring bright spot for a unit that was missing projected starters James Rodgers and Jordan Bishop because of injuries. Gwacham, also a top-notch high jumper, figures to be a big contributor this fall.

WR Tyler Urban, West Virginia. A tight end for the past three seasons, Urban - a 6-5, 249-pound senior - now is an inside receiver in Dana Holgorsen's scheme. Urban did a good job of making adjustment to the new scheme, averaging 16.3 yards per catch in two scrimmages.

TE George Bryan, N.C. State. Bryan is a two-time All-ACC pick who emerged as a vocal leader for an attack that has a new quarterback and revamped wide receiver corps. Bryan showed good hands and has improved as a blocker.

OL Lane Johnson, Oklahoma. He began his career as a quarterback at Kilgore (Texas) College, then arrived in Norman as a tight end. Johnson moved to defensive end, the moved again this spring, to left offensive tackle. He lacks bulk at 6-6 and 267 pounds, but coaches rave about Johnson, who has a chance to wrest the starting job from Donald Stephenson.

OL Graham Pocic, Illinois. Pocic, a 6-7, 305-pound junior center, had an outstanding spring, showing tenacity as a run blocker for what should be one of the Big Ten's most physical offenses. Pocic showed leadership in making line calls and continued to improve his footwork and technique.

OL Cyril Richardson, Baylor. Richardson, a 6-5, 315-pound sophomore, moved from guard to left tackle to replace NFL first-round pick Danny Watkins. Coach Art Briles says Richardson can be as good as Jason Smith (No. 2 overall pick in '09 draft) and Watkins. The staff began using Richardson at tackle during Texas Bowl workouts and was pleased; he excelled during the spring.

OL Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin. Wagner is a big junior (6-6/322) who moved from right to left tackle to replace first-round pick Gabe Carimi. Coach Bret Bielema raved about Wagner's play and said he has a chance to be the next great Badgers blocker. Not bad for a former walk-on tight end.

OL Landon Walker, Clemson. Walker, a 6-6, 310-pound senior, made a smooth adjustment to Clemson's new fast-paced offense under coordinator Chad Morris. Walker dropped a few pounds to do so, and coaches were pleased with how Walker served as a leader who motivated the other linemen.

DEFENSE

E Ronald Powell, Florida. Powell was a five-star recruit and the No. 1-rated player in the nation in the 2010 recruiting class. He played end and outside linebacker last season, and in Florida's new defensive scheme, Powell will play the "buck" position - a hybrid end/linebacker - for coordinator Dan Quinn. Powell, a 6-4, 248-pound sophomore, showed athletic ability and playmaking skills in the new spot this spring.

T Kwame Geathers, Georgia. Georgia had trouble in the middle of the line last season, its first in the 3-4 set. That shouldn't be a problem this fall. Geathers, a 6-6, 326-pound sophomore, was the Bulldogs' most valuable defensive player of the spring, time and again getting penetration and disrupting the timing of the offense. He had four tackles, two tackles for loss and one forced fumble in the spring game.

T Scott Vallone, Rutgers. Vallone settled in as the nose tackle this spring and was unblockable at times. He showed strength and tenacity at the point of attack and should prove to be a force defending the run.

E Caleb Russell, Texas A&M. A former walk-on, Russell has a motor that doesn't quit. Russell plays the "Joker" position (end/outside linebacker) that Von Miller occupied. Damontre Moore is the popular pick to replace Miller, but Russell - a 6-2, 231-pound junior - was impressive in the spring.

LB Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech. Despite losing six starters, Tech's 3-4 defense actually could be better in its second season under coordinator Al Groh. One of the reasons is Attaochu, who played some last season as a true freshman and appears to be a star of the future. In the spring, Attaochu showed a quick first step as a classic edge defender.

LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State. A transfer from Miami, Brown made big strides after sitting out last season. He was all over the field in the spring, showing athletic ability and a nose for the ball while locking down a starting spot. Brown, a native of Wichita, Kan., is happy to be "home" playing with brother Bryce, a running back who transferred from Tennessee.

LB Uona Kaveinga, BYU. A junior transfer from USC, Kaveinga - a 5-11, 255-pound junior - stood out as a leader on defense. Kaveinga earned the respect of teammates and coaches with playmaking and leadership abilities. He looks primed to be a star this fall.

CB Buddy Jackson, Pittsburgh. He has had reserve roles in the secondary but appears primed to blossom after an impressive spring. Jackson displayed the ability to physically lock up and steer receivers with his long arms. He has excellent closing ability and also could make an impact as a kick returner.

CB Troy Stoudermire, Minnesota. He easily was the star of the spring for Minnesota. Stoudermire, a senior, made at least one interception, bone-jarring hit, pass breakup and tackle for loss every day through spring ball. A full spring and summer of playing corner should prepare him to be a lock-down defender. In addition, Stoudermire is a top return man.

S Rodney McLeod, Virginia. McLeod, a 5-10, 180-pound senior, was named one of the Cavaliers' most improved players of spring drills. Despite a lack of size, McLeod showed hitting ability and provided leadership in the spring.

S Tramain Thomas, Arkansas. Thomas, a senior, capped an exceptional spring with two interceptions in the Red-White game. "His experience and his ability to read the front shoulder of the quarterback is really showing up," coach Bobby Petrino said. "He's much faster than he's been. In the last year and a half he's really improved his speed."

SPECIALISTS

K Carson Wiggs, Purdue. Wiggs, a senior, blasted field goals of 42, 47, 52, 57 and 67 yards during an exhibition at the Black and Gold game. Wiggs' 67-yarder would have tied the NCAA record for the longest ever. He may have the strongest leg in the nation.

P Ryan Tydlacka, Kentucky. Tydlacka, a senior, has improved his punting average each season and continued the trend during the spring. In the Blue-White Game, he punted four times for a 55.5-yard average, including a 70-yarder.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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