Shoulder pads popping. Whistles chirping. Coaches shouting.
After a one-year hiatus because of COVID-19, college football’s spring practices are back as teams slowly begin to resume more normalcy amid the worldwide pandemic.
What hasn’t changed since a year ago are the teams at the top of the sport’s upper echelon — Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Georgia.
Even with the Crimson Tide, Tigers and Buckeyes needing new quarterbacks, those perennial powers aren’t expected to slip much.
Here are the storylines, players and coaches to watch this spring:
1. Alabama and Clemson reload
Star quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Mac Jones are projected to be among the first quarterbacks taken in the 2021 NFL draft, but the Tigers and Crimson Tide have more-than-capable replacements ready to go. Alabama’s Bryce Young was the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and top prospect in California in the class of 2020. Clemson’s D.J. Uiagalelei threw for 941 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions when he started two games for Lawrence, who was sidelined with COVID-19 last season. The Tide’s most pressing concern is replacing Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith and receiver Jaylen Waddle.