10 Major Spring Position Battles That Will Carry over to Fall Camp
Spring ball is the time of year for coaching staffs to work on the things that need improvement and become an overall better football team. There are some issues that get addressed during the 15 practices, but that is not nearly enough time for a team to feel completely confident heading into fall camp.
There are new faces on the team, younger players that are expected to step up and areas of the team that didn't live up to exceptions a season ago. Whatever the case may be with your team, there are guaranteed to be questions that carry over from the spring to the fall. After all, if this wasn't the case then there wouldn't be a fall camp to begin with.
While every program in the country wishes it could figure things out in the first month of practices, it is simply never the case.
There are many key position battles floating around in college football. Here are some that will continue to take place once the new practices arrive later in the year.
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Wisconsin has played in three straight BCS bowls and has used three different quarterbacks in each of those seasons. Besides Russell Wilson providing some of his magic a couple of years ago, the Badgers have had some serious issues at the position.
While this should still remain a run-first offense even under new head coach Gary Anderson, you are going to struggle to win games when you are ranked 115th in the country in passing yards.
Wisconsin entered the spring with a ridiculous seven quarterbacks on the roster. Out of all of them, Curt Phillips, Danny O'Brien and Joel Stave have the best opportunity to earn the starting job. However, with the subpar showing from years past, Wisconsin fans sure wouldn't mind seeing a younger guy such as Bart Houston given a chance.
Whoever wins the job, coach Anderson is going to play with this position for a while, according to Sports Illustrated.
"We're going to look at all the quarterbacks,'' Andersen said. "We're going to look real hard at the youth at the quarterback position because it's important. They need the opportunity to see how far they've come.''
We have seen how explosive this offense can be when you add a passing game. The Badgers must find a way to add that spark in 2013.
Defensive Line, Ohio State
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Ohio State is a popular pick early on to reach the BCS National Championship Game. The flashy offense is there, but even head coach Urban Meyer knows that championships in today's game are won on the defensive side of the ball. With an entire defensive line that needs to be replaced, the coaching staff has work to do.
Sure, there is plenty of talent up front for Buckeyes fans not to worry. But when the youth comes into play guys must learn their assignments quickly, which can become a problem. Noah Spence, who is expected to be a starting defensive end this season, told Tom Reed of the Plain Dealer that learning what he is supposed to do has been an issue at times.
"I've got to know the defense and play every down the same, but that all comes with me knowing what I'm supposed to do on that play," Spence said. "That's the biggest thing I have to learn."
This isn't much of a talent issue; it has everything to do with finding the right combination by game day so that the Buckeyes can give themselves the best chance to run the table for a second consecutive year.
Running Back, Stanford
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Stanford lost its workhorse in running back Stepfan Taylor. Now the team must find another runner that can help carry the load and take some of the pressure off of a young quarterback in Kevin Hogan.
Anthony Wilkerson has experience touching the ball quite a bit, but he has never taken on a full-time role within this offense. Tyler Gaffney actually put baseball on hold to reunite with his guys and see if he can provide a helping hand in this equation. There is also a talented recruit from the 2012 class who goes by the name of Barry Sanders Jr., who I'm sure would love to show what he can bring to the table.
Stanford needs a physical back that can really wear down a defense in this pro-style offense. There is a young quarterback leading the way and the best friend in this situation is a strong running game to make things a little easier.
The pieces are in place, now it is just a question of who will be the lead runner.
Quarterback, Kansas State
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Kansas State was carried on the back of quarterback Collin Klein all the way to a BCS bowl last season. The guy who helped put the Wildcats in the national spotlight has now disappeared into the night and will never be heard from again.
Who is going to be the one tossing around the pigskin for Kansas State this year? Well, your guess is as good as mine.
Daniel Sams was the backup last season and saw a little bit of playing time in mop-up duty. He is a dual-threat quarterback similar to Klein, and he ran for 235 yards on 32 rushing attempts last season. While it may seem like he would be the favorite, there is also a talented recruit in Jake Waters, who is considered the No. 1 JUCO quarterback from the 2013 class, according to 247Sports.
Neither one of these quarterbacks is expected to have the same impact Klein had on the program, but it would be nice if one of them is good enough to keep Kansas State relevant moving forward.
Wide Receiver, Florida
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The Florida Gators need playmakers on offense if a second straight trip to a BCS bowl is in the cards. Somebody needs to step up at wide receiver and the coaching staff is just not seeing it early on in the process.
But don't just take my word for it. Head coach Will Muschamp told Scott Carter of Gator Zone that this team is nowhere near where it wants to be offensively.
Muschamp says WR position is still not where they want it to be, but he did see improvement in spring.— Scott Carter (@GatorZoneScott) April 6, 2013
Florida finished 118th in the country in passing yards last year, and a lot of that had to do with poor play from the receiving position. Guys would drop passes, get tripped up on the routes and simply weren't helping the young quarterback in Jeff Driskel. What makes it worse is that tight end Jordan Reed was the best receiver on the team last season, and he is getting ready to play on Sundays.
This is a problem that will carry over to the fall, but it must get figured out in a hurry.
Defensive Line, LSU
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LSU is in an interesting spot on the defensive line. Nearly every starter up front needs to be replaced, but history has shown us that there aren't any true starters when it comes to this group. Sure, there are going to be players that start the game, but Les Miles and his staff rotate so much to the point everybody sees equal playing time throughout the year.
Even with that said, it doesn't mean that this position battle can be swept under the rug. Guys who were considered backups a year ago will now see an increased workload. Picking up valuable reps during practice is going to be key for their expanded role. There are also going to be some extremely talented true-freshmen enrolling in the fall such as Greg Gilmore and Frank Herron, who will likely see playing time as well.
There is little doubt that LSU will remain strong up front, but finding the right guys and picking up those reps throughout the offseason will be key to how quickly things can come together.
Remember, with TCU on the menu early on, this unit must be ready to go as soon as the regular season kicks off.
Running Back, Notre Dame
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If you had asked who was going to be the starting running back for Notre Dame this year, you would probably would've ended up with a different answer from everybody in the room. Depth really isn't an issue at this position; it is just a matter of finding the right fit to help give this offense a spark.
George Atkinson III is somebody who will have an expanded role this season. Amir Carlisle was injured in spring ball but he is expected to participate in fall camp, where he could end up running away with the starting position.
There are also a couple of 2013 recruits in Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, who are sure to see the field early, and Bryant could end up becoming the starter sooner than later with his size and running style. It also wouldn't be fair to not include some of the dark horses such as Cam McDaniel and Will Mahone.
Notre Dame has a ton of options but there is likely one running back out of all of those names that will see the field more than the others. With injuries and a couple of the players not even on the field yet, the answer will have to wait for another few months.
Quarterback, Florida State
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I don't think it is any secret that Florida State needs better production from the quarterback position. The defense is on board, now the offense needs to kind of balance things out in order for this team to enter the championship conversation as a serious contender.
At this point it is a wide open race between Clint Trickett, Jameis Winston and Sean Maguire. Trickett has the most experience, but head coach Jimbo Fisher told Heather Dinich of ESPN that a decision won't happen anytime soon.
“I have no timetable on anything,” Fisher said of naming his starter for the season opener against Pittsburgh. “I never put a timetable on anything.”
Winston is the more athletic from the bunch and has the fan base excited about the possibilities, while Maguire is the dark horse who could continue to impress the coaching staff as we inch closer towards the regular season.
Much like a lot of the quarterback battles, the one for Florida State will continue to be put on hold.
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It isn't very often when USC has a quarterback concern heading into the season, so when those rare moments do take place it tends to draw a lot of attention. USC has a three-man race with Max Wittek, Cody Kessler and Max Browne all fighting it out for positioning.
Don't expect this to end soon.
Wittek was the backup last season, which he helped finish when Matt Barkley went down with an injury. However, he was shaky at best and that is why his job is on the line. Kessler is now entering his third year with the program, but he remains the unlikely pick as Adam Kramer of Bleacher Report predicted before spring ball.
Then there is a 2013 recruit in Browne, who is one of the more polished quarterbacks you will ever see coming straight out of high school. Even though he is a true freshman, the idea of putting him in right away doesn't sound too far-fetched once you see the kid throw the ball around.
Lane Kiffin has his work cut out for him, as the decision will likely determine which direction this year’s USC team will go. This will be interesting as we get closer to fall camp.
Offensive Line, Alabama
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Alabama doesn't have many concerns, just an offensive line that has to replace three future NFL players. Like any position for the Crimson Tide, replacing those guys shouldn't be that difficult. The only problem is that the offensive line is probably the hardest unit to patch up, as you have to get five guys all on the same page.
Cyrus Kouandjio, the expected left tackle this season, recently told Duane Rankin of the Montgomery Advertiser that he is very comfortable with the unit he has been practicing with.
“It’s insane,” Cyrus said. “I love it. We’re real in synch. We know how each of us feel. We don’t really have to talk that much to know what’s going on with each other. It’s real cool. I love it.”
This is a great sign if you are a Crimson Tide fan because sometimes it takes a year for an offensive line to come together. But just because the players are confident does not mean that everything is rainbows and lollipops in Tuscaloosa. There is a new offensive line coach in Mario Cristobal, and you better believe he will continue to tweak this group until it is absolutely perfect heading into the season opener.
With the running game so important to the success of this football team, this is the one area that will continue to receive attention from the coaching staff.