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May 4, 2010

All-Spring Team features emerging stars

The stars don't only come out in the fall; they also emerge in the spring.

Here's my All-Spring Team.

Buzz: Four months removed from shoulder surgery, Ponder - a 6-foot-2, 217-pound senior - took every meaningful snap with the first-team offense and displayed no ill-effects from the injury. Selected by the coaching staff as the Offensive MVP of the spring, Ponder closed it out by going 16-for-34 for 266 yards and two TDs (despite seven drops). Ponder also had a 70-yard TD pass negated by a penalty.
Buzz: Allen, a 6-0, 231-pound senior who began his career at Louisville, moved from A-back (where he started all 14 games last season) to B-back, where he takes over for 1,395-yard rusher Jonathan Dwyer. Tech's "B-back" is the equivalent of a fullback in the old wishbone offense. While Allen has better players behind him than Dwyer did last season, he still likely will be a 1,000-yard rusher. Allen averaged 9.7 yards per carry in 2009 en route to rushing for 618 yards.
Buzz: He was injured most of last season but came back to enjoy a banner spring. Hunter was held back in the spring game, carrying four times for 43 yards with 28 yards receiving. Hunter, a 5-8, 197-pound senior, showed why he'll be a good fit for the Cowboys' new pass-oriented spread offense.
Buzz: Running back Bilal Powell created a lot of buzz, but Beaumont was the Cardinals' headliner in the spring. The diminutive 5-9, 187-pound senior impressed by throwing for a touchdown pass in the spring game while also catching one. He is an elusive receiver who is going to be a big part of Louisville's spread offense.
WR Tim Wright, Rutgers
Buzz: Wright, a 6-4, 215-pound sophomore, has been described as an "athletic freak" by Scarlet Knights quarterback Tom Savage. This spring, Wright caught nearly everything thrown his way and has benefited from working with new receivers coach P.J. Fleck.
Buzz: Longhorns tight ends had a difficult time staying healthy last season. In fact, three - Blaine Irby, D.J. Grant and Ian Harris - were lost to season-ending injuries before the 2009 campaign began. Matthews, a 6-2, 235-pound sophomore, looks to change all that. He capped a great spring with three catches for 31 yards and a TD in the spring game, giving the Longhorns hope he can be a big-play tight end.
OL Rodney Hudson, Florida State
Buzz: Hudson, a senior, was selected the team's most dominant performer of the spring. Hudson (6-2/285) continues to draw raves for his ability to get to the second level. He was a major reason the Seminoles' run game was outstanding. Hudson is aiming to become the first offensive lineman in ACC history to earn all-conference honors four consecutive seasons.
Buzz: Sowell, a 6-7, 305-pound junior, was selected as the Rebels' Most Outstanding Offensive Player of the spring. He had the misfortune of following in the footsteps of Michael Oher last season and took his lumps trying to protect Jevan Snead's blind side. But Sowell really has improved and is on track to be one of the better tackles in the SEC.
Buzz: He had a terrific spring after a somewhat disappointing 2009 despite being a Rimington Trophy candidate. Burkett, a 6-4, 285-pound junior, took a leadership role and showed a knack for directing traffic. He's an emerging force.
Buzz: Gerhart, a 6-1, 305-pound junior, played the best football of his career. The brother of former Stanford tailback Toby Gerhart, Garth has been solid in Noel Mazzone's new offense - especially with shotgun snaps. Gerhart is a nasty, tough guy.
Buzz: Jackson, a 6-5, 295-pound senior, was a first-team All-WAC honoree last season who continued to get better this spring. Bulldogs coach Pat Hill said he thinks Jackson, a physical and nasty blocker, has the potential to be a first-round draft choice.
Buzz: McAdoo, a 6-7, 245-pound junior, had four sacks and an interception to help lead the White to a 17-0 victory over the Blue in the Tar Heels' spring game. North Carolina returns nine starters from last season's No. 6-rated defense. With the graduation of end E.J. Wilson, McAdoo is competing for a starting role.
Buzz: Staffers say Randall is poised to make a big jump this fall. Randall, a 6-5, 295-pound junior, began to get noticed this spring. Time and again he made plays all over the field and was almost impossible to block.
Buzz: Nzegwu, a 6-4, 247-pound junior, looks like the heir apparent to departed star pass rusher O'Brien Schofield. Nzegwu looked good in the spring, notching three sacks - including a safety - in the spring game.
Buzz: A big-play performer who notched three defensive touchdowns in 2009, Ayers was the top player on the defense this spring for the Bruins. Ayers, a 6-4, 254-pound junior, was an active force who made plays and also was a leader.
Buzz: He did enough in the spring to claim the middle linebacker job, injecting a heavy dose of physicality into a defense that needs it. Beckford, a 6-3, 223-pound sophomore, is a big hitter who received the team's most improved player award.
Buzz: Sipili, a 6-1, 250-pound senior, could be a key player on a defense that will need to play well this fall. Sipili led the Black team with eight tackles in the spring game and had 19 total tackles in three scrimmages.
Buzz: He suffered a season-ending knee injury last August, at a time when he was pushing hard for a starting role. Wort, a 6-0, 220-pound redshirt freshman who grew up in Great Britain and moved to the United States in junior high, is fully recovered and was impressive in spring workouts. He's a physical player who will push for a starting role, probably at middle linebacker.
Buzz: The former five-star recruit turned heads as a true freshman last season, and he picked right up in the spring for a secondary that is being overhauled. Kirkpatrick, a 6-3, 185-pounder, notched the only turnover in the Tide's spring game, picking off a pass. He also broke up two passes.
Buzz: Wright, a 6-1, 185-pound senior, closed a spectacular spring by giving a shutdown performance in the spring game with five tackles and three pass breakups. Wright hasn't played much the past two seasons, missing all but one game in 2009 because of academics and all but two in 2008 because of a neck injury.
Buzz: Richardson, a 6-2, 210-pound junior, is a two-year starter who continued to develop in the spring. Richardson is physical and a tremendously productive player who knows the system. In addition to his skills, Richardson acted as a coach in the secondary.
Buzz: At 6-2 and 213 pounds, Daniels is a great combination of size and speed who has become a leader in the Cougars' secondary. The staff saysDaniels, a sophomore, made huge strides in the spring and is primed to emerge as one of the Pac-10's better safeties.

Tom Dienhart is the national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.

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