Althought their methodology is a bit flawed (they only look at teams that finished in the top 25 in last year's final poll) the Rivals Spring Preview gives a good quick read on where teams are heading into spring practice. Of interest to BON'ers:
Spring practice starting date: Feb. 23
Spring game: March 31
Top returner: QB Colt McCoy: Defensive tackle Frank Okam and wide receiver Limas Sweed are better NFL prospects, but McCoy clearly is the Longhorns' most valuable player. Texas looked like a national title contender last season before McCoy got hurt. The Longhorns lost to Kansas State without McCoy and fell to Texas A&M when he played at less than full strength.
Player on the verge: LB Roddrick Muckelroy: He looked like a star in the making after starting the Longhorns' first three games last season and collecting 2.5 tackles for loss. He then ruptured a tendon in his right ring finger and missed the rest of the season. Muckelroy's fearless aproach to the game gives him plenty of big-play potential. He could emerge as the team's top linebacker if he stays healthy all year.
Impact newcomer: CB Chykie Brown: Texas must find two new starting cornerbacks now that Thorpe Award winner Aaron Ross and Tarell Brown have finished their senior seasons. Deon Beasley likely will win one starting spot, but the other job is up for grabs. That opportunity could allow this former four-star prospect to crack the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman.
The big question: What about the pass defense? The Longhorns struggled to defend the pass even with Ross and probable high draft pick Michael Griffin in their secondary. Now the Longhorns must replace both of those guys as well as former defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, now the head coach at Iowa State. That leaves secondary coach / co-defensive coordinator Duane Akina with quite a task on his hands in his first year calling defensive signals for the Longhorns.
Spring practice starting date: March 5
Spring game: April 7
Top returner: WR Malcolm Kelly: This rising junior caught 62 passes for 993 yards and 10 touchdowns last year despite playing in a run-oriented offense and missing almost the entire Fiesta Bowl with a knee injury. He had 10 catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns in the Big 12 championship game.
Player on the verge: DT Gerald McCoy: Oklahoma had enough talent on its front four last year that it could afford to redshirt this former five-star prospect. This should be the year McCoy shows why Rivals.com rated him as the top defensive tackle in the 2006 recruiting class.
Impact newcomer: QB Sam Bradford: This redshirt freshman enters spring practice as the odds-on favorite to replace Paul Thompson as the Sooners' starting quarterback. This former three-star prospect must hold off challenges from junior Joey Halzle and 2007 recruit Keith Nichol, who is already on campus.
The big question: Who will take over on the front seven?: The competitions at quarterback and running back might get more attention, but the Sooners proved last season they can overcome uncertainty at those two positions. A potentially greater concern involves how Oklahoma will restock a defense that loses C.J. Ah You, Larry Birdine, Rufus Alexander and Zach Latimer - among others.