Checking in on first-year head coaches

ESPN.com staff7 Minute Read

There was a ton of head-coaching turnover at the end of last season, and now that those guys have been through a spring at their new posts, it's time to check in on their progress.

Arizona Wildcats

Most important spring development: Kevin Sumlin was known more for offense during his time at Texas A&M, but he has to be pretty proud of how the defense performed this spring. Fifteen practices aren't the be-all and end-all, but a defense that was ninth or worse in the Pac-12 in four major defensive categories was ahead of the offense this spring.

Biggest remaining offseason question: We all know that quarterback Khalil Tate is a fantastic talent, and while he had a pretty good spring, he's still learning from the QB guru who is Sumlin. One of the biggest things Tate will have to work on is a new one-word playcalling system that will help ramp up tempo. -- Edward Aschoff

Arizona State Sun Devils

Most important spring development: Players are buying into what Herm Edwards is selling. Who knows how this experiment will go, but the players are all-in with Edwards, especially quarterback Manny Wilkins. While he had an OK spring, he's one of Edwards' biggest fans and loves the idea of playing more under center.

Biggest remaining offseason question: There isn't a lot of quality depth. While coaches are excited about potential with a handful of starters, this team is still a ways away from having the needed depth to compete for a divisional or Pac-12 title. The offensive line, which is getting bigger, is still a major question mark. -- Aschoff

Arkansas Razorbacks

Most important spring development: This is going to take some time. But Chad Morris said he liked the way players adapted to a new scheme on both sides of the ball. And, more importantly, he noted, "They've got the want-to. They don't want to go back to that 4-8 ever again."

Biggest remaining offseason question: Again, this won't be an overnight success. Not when the change in style is so drastic, shifting from a huddle-up to a no-huddle, from a set-back defense to one built on attacking. "It's a complete transformation," Morris said. While he waits to bring in more speed through recruiting, Morris said he'll have to "adjust and adapt." -- Alex Scarborough

Florida Gators

Most important spring development: There are still questions at quarterback, but Dan Mullen has brought some much-needed confidence to Florida's offense again. Wideout Freddie Swain looks at the likes of Van Jefferson and Kadarius Toney and sees hope. "We have a whole lot of athletes," Swain said. "Once [Mullen] gets his hands on players like us, it's go time, there's no stopping us."

Biggest remaining offseason question: Speaking of confidence and quarterbacks, Feleipe Franks needs to fully regain his after last season, which he said was "one of my lowest times." The sophomore is back in a good frame of mind now and is on his way to dispelling the notion that he's not athletic enough to run Mullen's spread offense after rushing for a 60-yard TD in the spring game. -- Scarborough

Florida State Seminoles

Most important spring development: The biggest development goes beyond X's and O's. Willie Taggart has talked at length about wanting to change the mentality in the program, to hold players more accountable and emphasize they need to play for each other. At least through the spring, Taggart is happy with the way his players have bought in. On the field, the defense looks more aggressive, and that is a big development to watch headed into fall.

Biggest remaining offseason question: What happens at quarterback. Taggart said the competition would be wide open headed into fall practice, when Deondre Francois will be cleared to participate fully. He started every game in 2016; James Blackman started 12 games in 2017 after Francois was lost for the season. Taggart said he would be judging his quarterbacks not only on their on-field performance, but their leadership as well. -- Andrea Adelson

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Most important spring development: People are excited about what Joe Moorhead will bring to State's offense, and rightly so. But the strength of this team will be the defensive line. First-team All-SEC selections Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat are back, and coaches are excited about the addition of Chauncey Rivers, a talented junior college player who redshirted last season.

Biggest remaining offseason question: Just how healthy is Nick Fitzgerald after his gruesome ankle injury late last season? All signs out of Mississippi State are positive, but until we see the dynamic athlete back taking snaps again, we just don't know. He could thrive in Moorhead's offense, but the Bulldogs will need him at 100 percent. -- Scarborough

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Most important spring development: Nebraska has playmakers on offense, led by wideout Stanley Morgan Jr. and JD Spielman. But neither played in the spring game as Jaevon McQuitty, Tyjon Lindsey and newcomer Mike Williams impressed. Transfer Greg Bell at running back also adds talent to a versatile stable of weapons from which coach Scott Frost can choose.

Biggest remaining offseason question: The quarterback decision, of course. Don't expect a starter to be named until days before the opener. True freshman Adrian Martinez stole headlines with his spring game showing, but Tristan Gebbia, one year older, also enjoyed a strong spring and may give Nebraska an edge as it tries to spread the ball to its many offensive options. -- Mitch Sherman

Oregon Ducks

Most important spring development: Reports out of Eugene indicate the Ducks could start to incorporate offensive formations under Mario Cristobal that they haven't used in years -- including those that call for the quarterback to line up under center. It's noteworthy for a few reasons, but it dispels the notion that things will remain basically the same after much of the staff stayed after coach Willie Taggart departed for Florida State.

Biggest remaining offseason question: After making significant strides in defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt's first season, can the defense continue to improve? The Ducks allowed 12.4 fewer points per game in 2017 (29.0) than the year before. They'll be hard-pressed to make another jump like that, but it's still that side of the ball that needs to get better if Oregon is to become a conference contender again. -- Kyle Bonagura

Oregon State Beavers

Most important spring development: After a fractured spine cut his junior season short, QB Jake Luton returned to the field and appears on track to have a good chance to reclaim his starting job. While the competition with Conor Blount and Jack Colletto isn't settled, Luton's recovery has been promising.

Biggest remaining offseason question: Can coach Jonathan Smith's team be competitive? The Beavers didn't beat an FBS opponent last year and were routinely blown out. Coming off that type of season, the need for improvement extends to just about every part of the program and their expectations will be the lowest in the Pac-12. -- Bonagura

Tennessee Volunteers

Most important spring development: Jeremy Pruitt wasn't overly enthusiastic about his team this spring (more on that later), but some key additions during that time could make a difference by this summer. Adding former Stanford quarterback Keller Chryst and former Michigan State running back Madre London as grad transfers provides the kind of instant-impact players the Vols need to stay competitive in the East.

Biggest remaining offseason question: If you were looking for sunshine and optimism from the head coach at Tennessee, Pruitt was not the guy. The no-nonsense coach knows he has his work cut out for him, and the spring game didn't help when he said he saw some players "flat out quit." -- Scarborough

Texas A&M Aggies

Most important spring development: Luring defensive coordinator Mike Elko away from Notre Dame was exactly what Jimbo Fisher needed to start rebuilding A&M's defense this offseason. Getting him some talent was even more important, though. And the spring game showed that the Aggies could be solid up front with seven sacks from the line.

Biggest remaining offseason question: Fisher has built a reputation as a good developer of quarterbacks. But it's unclear now whether the right QB is already on campus, whether it's Nick Starkel or Kellen Mond. Fisher isn't ready to say yet after a spring in which both QBs were only beginning to grasp the mechanics of the offense. -- Scarborough

UCF Knights

Most important spring development: The transition from Scott Frost to Josh Heupel appears to be a smooth one as far as the offense is concerned, and that is great news for a team that led the nation in scoring a year ago. Perhaps even better: quarterback McKenzie Milton said UCF plans to incorporate the deep ball more, a prospect that he has spoken enthusiastically about all spring.

Biggest remaining offseason question: UCF is transitioning to a new defensive scheme under coordinator Randy Shannon, so there are a few questions that need to be addressed: Who replaces Shaquem Griffin, not only as its top linebacker but as the leader on the team? And how does the revamped defensive line fare with only one starter back and the possibility UCF plays more of a four-man front? -- Adelson

UCLA Bruins

Most important spring development: For the players, adjusting to Chip Kelly meant an increased emphasis on details and a much faster pace -- in everything, not just offense. Now that the expectations have been established, it should allow them to progress more effectively.

Biggest remaining offseason question: Until a starting quarterback is named, that will -- for fans, at least -- top the list. Incoming Michigan grad transfer Wilton Speight wasn't around for the spring, but figures to have the best shot considering his edge in experience in a competition that includes Austin Burton, Devon Modster, Matt Lynch and freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson. -- Bonagura