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Top College Football Storylines Coming Out of 2023 Spring Games

David Kenyon

College football is entering a quieter time as spring practice ends, but the news cycle is certain to stay plenty busy.

While a couple of major offseason storylines were on display in spring games, a few of the more notable topics—looking at you, transfer portal—immediately followed the exhibitions.

Either way, these are topics that the college football world will be monitoring in the summer months.

You know Deion Sanders and Colorado are included. After all, it's impossible to have more than 50 scholarship players enter the portal and not be mentioned.

Michigan State's Last-Second Exodus

Payton Thorne Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

In the final moments before April's transfer window closed, Michigan State may have lost three key players.

Starting quarterback Payton Thorne, top receiver Keon Coleman and starting corner Charles Brantley entered the portal. Any of them could stay in East Lansing, but all three will land considerable interest elsewhere.

Without question, this could be a major hit to MSU's outlook for 2023.

Thorne has plenty to prove, but he's a two-year starter who played reasonably well in 2021. Michigan State already has to replace Jayden Reed, so a once-unexpected departure from Coleman would set back the receiving corps. The secondary is already a mess, and losing Brantley would mean two years of valuable experience is leaving, too.

While it's not time to ring any panic alarms, Mel Tucker and the Spartans have a problem to solve.

Editor's note: Brantley has withdrawn from the portal.

USC's Ongoing Makeover

Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Lincoln Riley took control of the program after the 2021 campaign, and he quickly bolstered the USC roster through the portal. This offseason is more of the same for the Trojans.

Early in the year, they added Arizona receiver Dorian Singer, defensive lineman Kyon Barrs and corner Christian Roland-Wallace. South Carolina running back MarShawn Lloyd, Texas A&M defensive lineman Anthony Lucas and Oklahoma State linebacker Mason Cobb also picked USC.

And the Trojans aren't done.

Since the April window opened, USC grabbed 2022 5-star prospect Bear Alexander from Georgia. Emmanuel Pregnon, a standout right guard at Wyoming, followed suit and went to USC.

As if that's not enough, the Trojans are still targeting Houston's Cam'Ron Johnson. He landed first-team All-AAC recognition as a left guard in 2022 and, per Clint Brewster of 247Sports, is down to USC and Missouri.

USC is stockpiling the roster in hopes of chasing a national title in what should be quarterback Caleb Williams' last college season.

Colorado's Roster Upheaval

Deion Sanders Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Deion Sanders is doing the quiet part out loud. Really loud.

Every offseason, coaching staffs around the nation will nudge players toward the transfer portal. Sometimes, it's a very direct statement. In other cases, the conversation isn't necessarily emphatic. The reality is these discussions happen just about everywhere.

Colorado, however, is turning over the roster at an unparalleled pace.

More than 50 scholarship players have decided to transfer since December. Because of recently changed NCAA rules, there are no limitations on how many newcomers CU can take. Like it or not, Sanders is completely revamping the program through the portal.

Although the April window is closed, it's safe to say Colorado isn't done adding transfers this offseason.

Texas Rolling with Quinn Ewers

Quinn Ewers and Arch Manning Tim Warner/Getty Images

Last offseason, Texas snagged Quinn Ewers—the No. 1 prospect in the 2021 class—out of the transfer portal. More recently, the Longhorns landed Arch Manning, the highest-rated player in the 2023 cycle.

Entering the spring, the main question was simple: Would the newcomer beat out Ewers?

Although he held the QB1 label for Texas when healthy last season, Ewers couldn't be considered a lock to hold off Manning. However, that storyline has a different slant now.

"I think it's pretty clear to say Quinn is our starting quarterback," Texas coach Steve Sarkisian told reporters after the spring game.

If and when the Longhorns struggle in 2023, the clamors for quarterback royalty to get his first chance will inevitably grow louder. But when the season begins, Ewers will be leading the Texas offense.

Alabama's QB Question...

Nick Saban AP Photo/Vasha Hunt

On the other hand, Alabama's opening-game starter is a mystery.

The spring portion of the competition included Jalen Milroe—the backup to Bryce Young last season—and 2022 5-star signee Ty Simpson. While the spring game itself is not necessarily a decisive part of a QB battle, the scrimmage certainly didn't offer much clarity, either.

Given the Crimson Tide's annual championship upside and expectations, the uncertainty at the most important position demanded our attention. Yet shortly after, Alabama added Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner.

Milroe and Simpson are more familiar to a majority of the Bama staff. Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, however, coached Buchner at Notre Dame for the last two seasons.

Nick Saban has slapped the reset button on this competition, one that will define whether the Tide return to the College Football Playoff.

...and Many More QB Competitions

Kyle McCord Ben Jackson/Getty Images

Stay tuned for a deeper dive on quarterbacks. The short version is that, as usual, spring practice left plenty of questions.

But there isn't a more impactful conversation.

Alabama merited a specific look because of Buchner's late arrival. But the Crimson Tide are simply one of many big-name programs with an unanswered quarterback battle.

Georgia, the two-time reigning champions, needs its replacement for Stetson Bennett. Ohio State, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Florida and UCLA are among the other marquee schools with a competition that will linger into the summer and presumably won't be decided until fall camp.

The rest of every roster is important, but a quarterback is most likely to make or break a season.


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