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May 5, 2009
Whispers: Spring practice star gazing
The stars don't just come out in the fall. They also shine at this time of the year as players jockey for starting jobs during spring practices.
Some positions are settled, but in most instances key position battles will be continued during training camps in August.
Still, spring practice was the time for players to make a statement to coaches before heading into summer workouts.
Here are some of the brightest stars this spring.
WR Mike Williams, Syracuse, Sr. He returned to school in January with a vengeance after missing last season for academic reasons. Williams displayed sticky hands and improved blocking, topping it all off with an acrobatic TD catch in the spring game.
OL Ryan Blaszczyk, Rutgers, Sr. The center was relentless in scrimmages, setting the hard-edge tone Greg Schiano loves by consistently knocking his man off the ball. Blaszczyk will be one of the nation's top centers.
OL James Brewer, Indiana, Jr. He helped the running game shine in the spring game, gaining 281 yards on 65 carries with four TDs. The 6-8, 339-pound tackle will be a big key to the Hoosiers' new "Pistol" formation.
DT Phil Taylor, Baylor, Jr. He's a transfer from Penn State. Coach Art Briles says Taylor is a rare blend of size and quickness, and he says he will be disappointed if Taylor isn't a first-team All-Big 12 performer.
LB Chris Galippo, USC, Soph. He was all over the field, showing a nose for the ball and instincts as the leader of an overhauled Trojans linebacking corps that also will include Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan.
LB Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina, Jr. He was the nation's leader in solo stops last season at outside linebacker. This spring, he moved to the middle so Zach Brown can get on the field to give UNC a quicker linebacking corps.
DB Aaron Henry, Wisconsin, Soph. After missing the 2008 season with an ACL injury, the cornerback shined in the spring going head-to-head with wide receiver Nick Toon, who also was a spring star in Madison.
DB Josh Pinkard, USC, Sr. His transition from cornerback back to his more natural spot at strong safety went well. Pinkard will be a star on a rebuilt Trojans defense.
DB Trevard Lindley, Kentucky, Sr. The cornerback will be a Thorpe Award candidate after staying in school for his senior season. In the first scrimmage, he came from nowhere to pick off a pass. He wasn't challenged again.
DB Walter Thurmond, Oregon, Sr. With Patrick Chung and Jarius Byrd off to the NFL, Thurmond emerged this spring as a leader. He solidified the playmaking skills at cornerback that have made him a three-time All-Pac-10 choice.
DL: Stephen Paea, Oregon State.
Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.