Spring Football 2012: Penn State, Tennessee Focus On Sport

Starting up spring football over the weekend and on Monday: the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Iowa Hawkeyes, North Texas Mean Green, Penn St. Nittany Lions and Tennessee Volunteers. While each of those schools brings its own assortment of baggage to the season, it would be hard to think of two teams with more turmoil than Penn State and Tennessee.

Certain of the Nittany Lions' troubles are obvious, landmark and not going away for decades. While off-field circumstances won't affect camp all that much, they're still there. As far as the team itself goes, PSU fields an almost entirely new coaching staff, still needs a quarterback and must replace several quality linemen, including top performer Devon Still.

At least new coach Bill O'Brien has already impressed PSU fans, who admit the whole issue is sort of complicated:

It's hard to separate the hiring of Bill O'Brien from what he'd done since taking the job. In a vacuum, it seems like this has been a home run hire. He's said all the right things, promised to continue Joe Paterno's legacy in just about every conceivable way, and really embraced the Penn State ideal. But beyond that, he's also recruited like a madman, even if you count finishing the 2012 class with quantity moreso than quality. But none of this matters one tiny iota if he can't chalk it up on the field, and none of his college experience hints that he can at a level even close to how he's recruited.

Meanwhile in Knoxville, the perpetually plagued Derek Dooley seemed to lose another assistant coach about once per week all offseason long, but did manage to swipe defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri from the Alabama Crimson Tide. It's looking like this is Dooley's last chance at UT, whether or not he's ever actually been given a complete chance to compete in the SEC. Recruiting remains strong, and if the young Vols can rally behind Tyler Bray, an iffy SEC East could yield another year for Dooley.

And if the chips fall right, Bray's receiving corps could be pretty darn good (but there are kind of a lot of chips, which is always the case with Tennessee):

Everybody is awaiting the arrival of Cordarelle Patterson -- perhaps the best wide receiver in last year's class -- along with the three prized prep players, but that's not until August. The biggest thing to look for this spring is just how much will Justin Hunter be released to do? Though many will wonder if he's going to be the same dynamic player he was pre-ACL injury, that will likely have to wait. Most reports indicate he won't be full-go this spring. As for Da'Rick Rogers, much like the Janzen Jackson situation last year, we're holding our breath that he can somehow find a way to fit in and not do anything stupid enough to get booted off the team.

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