Look, I’ll be honest: When you write about sports for a living, eventually, everything starts to run together. The players, the games, the seasons, the scandals, whatever, at some point you realize that they’re all basically the same. Sure, some ancillary facts might get changed up, and yes, there’s a reasonable chance that Todd Graham is working somewhere different than he was a year ago. But at the end of the day, 2011 wasn’t all that much different than 2010, and 2010 was a lot like 2009.
And nowhere is that more apparent than in spring, college football, where every year, every storyline is exactly the same. Everybody has a new coach or a new coordinator or a new quarterback, and everybody is just trying to get better every day. Blah, blah, blah… just tell me when I actually get to watch someone hit someone else. Know what I’m saying?
But in all seriousness, that’s kind of a reality I came to this spring: Every spring football camp, is the same. Something might be happening at Alabama, but if you changed a few names around, it could just as easily be happening at Auburn or Tennessee or UCLA or Ohio State.
At the end of the day, we read and write about the same handful of generic story angles, and generic storylines every single spring, with every single team. They never change, regardless of the season, coach or program.
Therefore, to save you some time, I’ve just gone ahead and rounded up all the generic spring stereotypes, and put them into one, easy to consume article here. And just for fun, you can go ahead and look at your own team, and see which of your players fit in as well. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below as well or on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.
The New Head Coach:
When the school announced his hiring back in the winter, you weren’t so sure about him, and even contemplated giving up your season tickets. But now it’s six months in and he’s grown on you like a new puppy; frankly, you couldn’t imagine life without him.
You love him for any number of reasons, but mainly because he’s brought a new “culture” to your program, a new attitude, and there’s also a reasonable chance he’s implemented some new rule that makes no logical sense, but you love anyway. After all, the road to the BCS title starts by banning baseball caps in the meeting room, right?
Meanwhile, the local media just can’t get enough of him, mainly because the last head coach was such a prick. They write gushing stories about how “upbeat” practices are, and how all the players have a better “sense of urgency” than before, whatever that means.
Little does everyone know that the same media will have turned on him by December. Come to think of it, you will too.
This Year’s Example: Jim L. Mora, UCLA
The Quarterback Learning A New Scheme:
There’s a new coach, a new playbook, and the poor returning quarterback definitely didn’t sign up for this. As a matter of fact, he even considered transferring in the off-season, until he was talked out of it by his teammates and his parents. After all, he is the quarterback, and he is the leader of the team.
Unfortunately, he and the new coach aren’t exactly, umm, meshing. He defends himself by saying stuff like “It’s an adjustment for all of us” and to the coach’s credit, he’s playing along too, spitting out clichés like “we’ve got to sit down and really evaluate the tape” and “we won’t know anything until after spring.” Meanwhile, what the new coach hasn’t told anyone is that he’s basically offered a scholarship to every high school kid who can throw a spiral, and every junior college kid who can spell his own name.
The writing is definitely on the wall for the quarterback, but unfortunately he doesn’t know it yet. Give it three games and he’ll be on the bench for good, and another three and he’ll be filling out his transfer paperwork to Eastern Washington or Montana.
I’ve seen it happen a million times.
This Year’s Example: TBA
The Early Enrollee Freshman:
It doesn’t matter what school he ends up, what his recruiting ranking was, or what position he plays, this guy is a stud, and if you ask the three guys who watch practice every day from across the street with binoculars, he’s already better than the guy he replaced. You know, even though the guy he replaced is about to be a first round NFL Draft pick.
Regardless, those guys with the binoculars aren’t the only ones impressed. His new teammates love him, and spit out quotes like “I knew he’d be good… but man I didn’t know it was like that,” working every rational fan into a lather, and launching a hundred message boards threads that start with titles like “Can he be our best player ever?”
Of course what everyone will realize before the start of fall camp is that he’s still a freshman, and still has no idea how to pass-protect or read a defense, meaning that by September 1 he’ll be buried so far down the depth chart that he’ll need a flashlight to see his way to the top.
But hey, he’ll always have that first spring on campus, right?
This Year’s Example: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
The Junior College Transfer:
A distant cousin of the early enrollee freshman, the Juco transfer was an All-American at wherever the heck he was, and is ready to step in and immediately plug a hole on the depth chart. By the way, how we know he was a Juco All-American? Well, because the media guide says so, and since nobody knows where to find a list of junior college All-Americans (assuming one even exists) we roll with it.
Also, as camp goes on we’re privy to one big newspaper feature on the guy, where we learn that he was in junior college to get “bigger” and definitely not because of bad grades (wink, wink, nod, nod). In the same article his teammates praise him, saying stuff like “he fit in seamlessly” and he himself tells everyone that “these guys are already like my brothers.” Unfortunately what no one knows at the time is that he’ll eventually let down his “brothers” when he knocks up a liquor store sometime in the off-season.
Oh, and also, it’s almost certain that the Juco All-American has a funny haircut or an arm sleeve of tattoos. After all, when you’ve spent the last two years at Okawachee Community College in Dead Possum, MS, how else are you supposed to pass the time?
This Year’s Example: Austin Flynn, Arkansas
The New Coordinator:
Ahh yes, one of my favorite generic spring guys: The new coordinator! Unlike the new head coach who you weren’t sure of right away, the new coordinator won over everyone in his very first press conference. It doesn’t matter who he is, or what his last coaching stop was, he’s definitely the guy to take your team to the next level!
And once spring ball starts, the love affair blossoms. Everyone describes him as “high energy” and it doesn’t matter what scheme he’s running, it’s always cutting edge and the players love it. Plus, you love him too, when you find out that he’s part of Nick Saban’s coaching tree. Back in 1987, he and Saban coached for half a season together at Toledo, meaning that this guy is literally one step away from greatness.
Of course he isn’t Saban, and isn’t actually great, which also means there’s a 60 percent chance that within a year he’ll skip town for the next job (80 percent chance he’ll leave if he coaches in the SEC), where he’ll sucker in a whole new set of fans.
Oh, and bonus points if he’s come to your campus straight from the NFL. Because remember, it doesn’t matter if he’s ever recruited before, or if he secretly hates kids. If he’s from the NFL, he’s got to be good!
This Year’s Example: Brian VanGorder, Auburn and Ted Roof, Penn State
The fans tolerate him, the others players don’t really care for him, and the head coach hates his guts… it’s the enigma everyone!
It’s pretty easy to spot the enigma, since he usually has at least one, and sometimes all of the following traits: He was highly recruited out of high school; he’s definitely threatened at least one of his teammates or coaches; and he’s been described at least once when a teammate simply told a reporter, “That’s just ____ being ____.” Also, it’s almost certain that he’s had a Twitter blowup within the last month.
Unfortunately despite all that, the boy sure can play. He runs a 4.4, 40, makes your girlfriend swoon when she sees a picture of him with his shirt off, and he’s also the only chance your team of having a successful passing game this year. And believe me, he knows that. It’s why he never can seem to remember that practice starts at 3:00 p.m. on the dot, and not when he decides to show up.
This Year’s Example: Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee
Almost always a defensive lineman, “the freak” is a guy who’s built like a Ford F150, benches more than the Incredible Hulk and runs like Usain Bolt. Multiple reporters have also tweeted that “even on a field of 85 football players, he stands out” and since spring practice started two offensive linemen have blown out ACL’s trying to block him.
Yet for some strange reason, the freak is coming off a redshirt year that no one seems willing to acknowledge. When a reporter broaches the subject with the coach after practice, he immediately says something about “needing to bulk him up” before changing the subject and walking away. After all, the reporter never played football, so he just wouldn’t understand.
This Year’s Example: Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
The Star Quarterback Off To A Slow Start:
Last year he could do no wrong. He led the school to a conference title, was a Heisman finalist and single-handedly won two or three games by himself that the team had no business winning.
But now, he’s off to a slow start this spring, and nobody is quite sure why. Instead everyone starts making excuses, saying stuff like “he’s working with new receivers” “he needs to get his timing down” and “he’s tweaked his throwing motion,” which is really just a nice way of saying “our defensive backs are catching more of his passes than our receivers are.”
Of course what everyone has chosen to overlook is that the reason he hasn’t been the same, is that he hit the awards banquet like a hurricane in December, and hasn’t really given a damn in four months. After all, who has to care when everyone’s been kissing your ass since bowl season? Truth be told, the guy has spent more time in the sorority house than the film room this winter.
Ultimately it won’t matter, and by fall camp he’ll be fine. But in the intermediary, hey, at least it gives everyone something to talk about!
This Year’s Example: Matt Barkley, USC
The Veteran Who Did Something Stupid In The Off-Season And Let Everyone Down:
Last year he was All-Conference, third team All-American and also read to disadvantaged children every Thursday afternoon. But in the off-season he did something stupid (maybe a DUI, maybe weed possession) to let the whole team down, and now he’s paying for it.
The reports are all the same, and things don’t look good, especially when the coach releases a statement that says “we’re gathering all the facts.” Momentarily you have hope when a beat reporter tracks down his high school coach who defends the kid, saying stuff like “that’s totally out of character” and “not who he is.” For a brief moment, you think that maybe it’s not that bad.
Oh but it was bad, and because of it he’ll be suspended for the first game of next season. In the process the player makes an apology to his teammates, and the coach tells reporters that “we hold our guys to higher standards.” Sure you do, coach. It also helps that you’re playing Louisiana-Lafayette in Week 1.
This Year’s Example: Every Guy on Georgia’s Defense
The Guy Who Knows He’s A Year Away From Getting Paid, and Doesn’t Give A F***:
Last year he was a sophomore who came out of nowhere to take the college football storm. Next year he’ll be making enough money to buy his momma that house he promised her when he was six-years-old. But this year? He’s stuck on a college campus, and frankly, he just doesn’t give a f***.
Now don’t get me wrong, he’s not really doing anything to hurt the team. This isn’t one of those “I’m going to knock out one of my teammates in the shower” kind of “I don’t give a f***’s” as much as it is an “I only have eight months left on this campus, and I’m going to take full advantage” kind of deals. And boy does he take advantage. Women, parties, meals, cars registered to his “uncle,” you name it, he’s trying it out. After all, you only live once.
Oh and one more thing: This guy is definitely, definitely out of shape. Then again, what does it matter? He stopped listening to the coach six months ago!
Example From Last Year: Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
The Plucky Back-Up Quarterback:
We’ve all met the kid before. He stands no more than 5’11, is likely an assistant coach’s son, and everyone secretly hates his guts… but gosh darn did he look good in that last spring scrimmage. Sure, it might’ve been because no one could see him behind the offensive line, but who cares? Those stats don’t lie!
And with the starter struggling, the plucky back-up quarterback did just enough to get people’s attention and throw his name into the QB race for the fall. It’ll give everyone something to talk about for the next four months, you know, until everyone shows up and remembers, “Wait a second, that dude is 5’11 and would literally get killed if we ever put him out there.”
Still, isn’t it fun to dream?
This Year’s Example: Clint Trickett, Florida State
The Coach On The Hotseat:
Maybe my favorite of all the head coaches, this guy knows his time is ticking, and is more than willing to discuss anything with you… as long as it doesn’t pertain to his future at the school.
As a matter of fact, if you listen close enough you’ll realize that the coach on the hot-seat isn’t even speaking English, as much as he is some form of coachspeak-ese. Every question is answered with the same kind of responses, stuff like “We’ve just got to get better every day,” and “if everyone handles their assignments, we’ll be just fine.”
Just to be safe though, he’s already got his resume uploaded and ready to go.
This Year’s Example: Derek Dooley, Tennessee
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