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Every College Football Team's Most Important Spring Practice Position Battle

Brian PedersenFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 12, 2017

Every College Football Team's Most Important Spring Practice Position Battle

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    New USC coach Steve Sarkisian might opt to go with redshirt freshman Max Browne (right) over returning starter Cody Kessler at quarterback.
    New USC coach Steve Sarkisian might opt to go with redshirt freshman Max Browne (right) over returning starter Cody Kessler at quarterback.Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Practice? We're talking about practice?

    Yes, in college football, practice is very important. And spring practice, besides serving as a way for rabid fans to tide themselves over between the end of one season and the start of the next, is among the most important parts of the year-round college cycle these days.

    Though preseason training camp still holds a slight edge because it's the only time all players are together at one time, spring ball is a great way for reserves from the previous year to get an advance shot at trying to land an open starting position.

    Every college football team has at least one starting gig up for grabs, and many of those jobs will be won during spring ball. We give you a look at the most important spring position battle that each of the 128 FBS teams will have waged over the next few weeks.

    (And we'll try to ignore the fact that most teams are starting—and in the case of Duke, have already finished—something called spring practice when it's still winter)

Air Force Falcons

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    Cathleen Allison/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Broam Hart, Jon Lee, Paco Solano

    Air Force uses multiple rushers in its ground game, but with Anthony LaCoste graduating there's an opening for the main guy. Hart had the most involvement last year, gaining 469 yards and scoring six touchdowns.

Akron Zips

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    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Conor Hundley, Kyle Pohl

    These two are looking to replace the production of 2013 senior Jawon Chisholm, whose 892 yards and eight touchdowns was more than they had combined. Hundley had 100 carries, but never found the end zone, while Pohl scored three times in just over half as many touches.

Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Left tackle

    Contenders: Grant Hill, Cameron Robinson, Austin Shepherd

    Cyrus Kouandjio was the anchor of Alabama's line in 2013, and with him gone someone is going to need to fill the role of protecting the blind side of whoever Nick Saban goes with at quarterback.

    Hill saw considerable time on the line when things got shuffled around last season, which should give him an edge early in the battle to hold off 5-star recruit Robinson, the No. 4 overall prospect in 2014 who enrolled early.

Appalachian State Mountaineers

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    Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Bobo Beatherd, Malachi Jones, Trey Kavanaugh, Simms McElfresh

    Most of Appalachian State's offense remains intact from last year's final go-around in FBS, but it's very young at receiver after losing its top two wideouts. That leaves these four guys battling it out for the top spots in spring ball, with Jones (31 receptions) providing the most experience.

Arizona Wildcats

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Connor Brewer, Jerrard Randall, Jesse Scroggins, Anu Solomon

    B.J. Denker was just supposed to be a backup plan for 2013, but ended up being the Wildcats' best choice...and a good one. Denker was a solid dual-threat passer who set the school record for quarterback rushing yards in a season.

    Now a bevy of suitors are trying to replace him, including three players who were originally at more high-profile schools. Brewer originally signed with Texas, Randall was at LSU and Scroggins was with USC. Solomon is the only one recruited by Arizona, and he redshirted last season.

Arizona State Sun Devils

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Position: Defensive end

    Contenders: Edmond Boateng, Demtrius Cherry, Marcus Hardison, Sean O'Grady

    Arizona State lost the bulk of its defensive line from 2013, putting a huge burden on those replacing the starters to try and live up to last year's strong efforts. Both ends are gone, and two of these guys are likely to be the starters come late August. O'Grady was a backup last season, while the other three are all junior college transfers looking to make an instant impact.

Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Position: Defensive end

    Contenders: Brandon Lewis, Deatrich Wise

    Chris Smith was Arkansas' best pass rusher in 2013, which is saying a lot for a team that struggled defensively. Lewis and Wise both saw good snaps last season as backups to Smith and returner Trey Flowers, and either would be a solid option as a starter.

Arkansas State Red Wolves

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    John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Cameron Birse, Fredi Knighten, Chandler Rogers, Dezmond Stegall

    With Adam Kennedy no longer under center, the latest Arkansas State coach doesn't have the luxury of a fully entrenched quarterback to rely on as he gets settled into the job. Knighten has some experience, helping lead the Red Wolves to a win over Ball State in the GoDaddy Bowl, but he's more of a runner than a passer.

Army Black Knights

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    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Angel Santiago, A.J. Schurr, Kelvin White

    All three passers saw time in Army's triple-option offense last season, and though that system is likely to remain intact with option guru Jeff Monken as the new coach, the quarterback spot is going to get opened up for another look. Collectively, this group completed less than 50 percent of their passes for 931 yards and just four touchdowns, though they did run for 16 TDs.

Auburn Tigers

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    Todd J. Van Emst/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive end

    Contenders: Elijiah Daniel, Carl Lawson, LaDarius Owens, Gimel President

    Dee Ford made his presence felt last season, and Auburn wants to continue having that sort of an impact on defense. Daniel and Lawson were highly touted freshman who got some time last year, while Owens is the veteran looking for his shot.

Ball State Cardinals

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    G ANDREWS/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Kyle Kamman, Ozzie Mann, Jack Milas, David Morrison

    Keith Wenning took all but just a few snaps for Ball State in 2013, the same going for 2012 and 2011. Now someone else will have to do all that work, and the four quarterbacks the Cardinals have on the roster in spring have a combined nine total pass attempts. All of those were from Mann last year, and he only completed two of them.

Baylor Bears

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Johnny Jefferson, Shock Linwood

    Linwood was a key part of Baylor's high-octane offense in 2013, one that used numerous players to stay fresh. He'll be gunning for Lache Seastrunk's starting spot, but will have to fend off redshirt freshman Jefferson for that gig.

Boise State Broncos

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    Otto Kitsinger/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive end

    Contenders: Beau Martin, Sam McCaskill

    Demarcus Lawrence was Boise State's best defensive player the last two seasons, but with his early departure to the NFL he's put the Broncos in a bind when it comes to replacing his presence up front. Martin and McCaskill were his main backups in 2013, and they'll get first crack as his starting spot.

Boston College Eagles

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    Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Dan Crimmins, David Dudeck, Marcus Grant, Harrison Jackson, Jeffrey Jay

    Boston College lost its quarterback and running back, too, but those positions aren't as wide open as the race to be the Eagles' top receiving target. That was Alex Amidon last year, with the senior catching 77 passes and no one else on the team grabbing more than 14. Dudeck was the second-best receiver, with 11 receptions.

Bowling Green Falcons

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Ryan Burbink, Chris Gallon, Jermal Hosley, Heath Jackson, Ronnie Moore

    Shaun Joplin was the most targeted receiver in 2013, but Bowling Green spread the ball around and a lot of guys got touches. Expect more of the same this fall with new coach Dino Babers, who will have several players with in-game experience to choose from for his top receiver.

Buffalo Bulls

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    Mike Groll/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Devin Campbell, James Potts, Anthone Taylor

    The loss of linebacker Khalil Mack is the biggest one that Buffalo has to deal with, but it has a viable replacement already waiting in the wings. Not the same for the successor to Branden Oliver in the backfield, with only Campbell managing to score a touchdown on the ground last season.

BYU Cougars

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    Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Michael Alisa, Bronson Kaufusi, Teu Kautai, Manoa Pikula

    Kyle Van Noy was the heart and soul of BYU's defense, and his absence will need to be addressed early in spring ball. Kaufusi spent time on the defensive line last year and could be in the mix for a linebacker spot, while Pikula and Kautai have good experience as backups.

California Golden Bears

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    TONY AVELAR/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive line

    Contenders: Antione Davis, Jacobi Hunter, Jonathan Johnson, Trevor Kelly, Harrison Wilfley

    While nearly all of California's offense returns in the second year under Sonny Dykes, the defensive line has been purged by graduation. Johnson and Kelly are junior college transfers who should get thrown into the mix right away.

Central Florida Knights

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Pete DiNovo, Tyler Harris, Justin Holman

    Of the three players looking to become the next Blake Bortles, only Holman has had an opportunity to show his stuff in live action. He attempted 14 passes, going 6-of-11 for 65 yards and a touchdown in mop-up duty against Connecticut. At 6'4" he's got similar size to Bortles, and his mobility was similar during his seven carries for 40 yards.

Central Michigan Chippewas

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Position: Left tackle

    Contenders: Ramadan Ahmeti, Alex Coty, Derek Edwards, Jack Ford, J.P. Quinn

    Jake Olson made 28 starts at that position for the Chippewas, and his departure is the main hole on an offense that is otherwise nearly entirely intact. Ahmenti has 10 career starts, but he'll be challenged for the 2014 job by a slew of guys who redshirted last season.

Cincinnati Bearcats

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Jarred Evans, Gunner Kiel, Munchie Legaux

    Legaux was granted a sixth year of eligibility after suffering a major knee injury early in the 2013 season, which led the way for another sixth-year player (Brendon Kay) to lead the Bearcats. Now Legaux must try to win back his job against Evans, a junior college transfer, and Kiel, a former Notre Dame signee who sat out last season after transferring.

Clemson Tigers

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    Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Cole Stoudt, Chad Kelly, Deshaun Watson

    Three years of Tahj Boyd at quarterback led to a trio of great seasons for Clemson, but now the torch must be passed to either a veteran with limited experience or a pair of well-regarded youngsters.

    Stoudt was Boyd's backup last season, throwing five touchdown passes, while Kelly was a touted recruit from 2012 and Watson is an early enrollee who was considered the No. 1 dual-threat passer in the country.

Colorado Buffaloes

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: D.D. Goodson, Nelson Spruce

    Paul Richardson was far and away Colorado's best receiving option in 2013, especially on the deep routes. He left for the NFL early, so someone has to step in. Both Goodson and Spruce were contributors last year, with Goodson moving out of the backfield to receiver.

Colorado State Rams

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Donnell Alexander, Bryce Peters, Davon Riddick

    Kapri Bibbs emerged seemingly out of nowhere as one of the country's best running backs, especially when it came to scoring touchdowns in 2013, and he parlayed that into an early NFL departure. Alexander was a part-time starter in 2012, and rushed for 428 yards last season, while Peters and Riddick will be looking for their first real shots.

Connnecticut Huskies

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    Jessica Hill/Associated Press

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Jon Hicks, Brandon Steg, Graham Stewart

    Yamin Smallwood left early, while Ryan Donohue graduated, so new coach Bob Diaco will need to fill two-third of his linebacking starters. Jefferson Ashiru returns for the third spot, but reserves Hicks, Steg and Stewart will all need to prove they can be starters.

Duke Blue Devils

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Position: Cornerback

    Contenders: Breon Borders, DeVon Edwards, Bryan Fields

    There are a slew of great passers in the ACC, yet Duke will enter 2014 with new starters at both corner positions. Duke has already finished spring practice—despite it still being winter—but saw a spirited competition for the corner slots.

East Carolina Pirates

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Breon Allen, Chris Hairston, Corey Hunter

    Vintavious Cooper had more than 1,600 yards of total offense, catching 44 passes to be East Carolina's third-leading receiver coming out of the backfield. A strong run game is necessary for Shane Carden's passing attack to be effective, so look for Ruffin McNeal to get a solid replacement in line before spring is done.

Eastern Michigan Eagles

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Reggie Bell, Brandon Bossard, Brogan Roback

    Last year's most-of-the-time starter, Tyler Benz, is no longer with the team, leaving the job open for Roback to take it permanently as he started to late in 2013. But new coach Chris Creighton will want to evaluate all his passers, including the untested Bell and Bossard.

Florida Gators

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Raphael Andrades, Alvin Bailey, Andre Debose, Ahmad Fulwood, Marqui Hawkins, Latroy Pittman, Demarcus Robinson, Chris Thompson

    Florida's offense was so bad last season that no receiver had more than 556 yards, and Solomon Patton is gone for 2014. That leaves the receiving corps ripe for an upgrade, to go alongside Quinton Dunbar in the starting lineup. New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has plenty of options, with Fulwood's 17 catches representing the most for any returner.

Florida Atlantic Owls

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    STEVE COLEMAN/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Tony Moore, Jay Warren

    Quarterback Jacquez Johnson was Florida Atlantic's leading rusher in 2013, but new coach Charlie Partridge will look to make the run game more diverse, especially with top back Jonathan Wallace gone. Warren had 340 yards and two touchdowns last season.

Florida International Golden Panthers

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: E.J. Hilliard, Jake Medlock, Israel Paopao, Travis Wright

    The 2013 season was a disaster in nearly every possible way for Florida International, which was one of the worst offensive teams in the nation. Neither Hilliard or Medlock were particularly good, combining for seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. Therefore, look for this to be a wide-open competition in spring ball.

Florida State Seminoles

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Position: Defensive tackle

    Contenders: Keith Bryant, Eddie Goldman, Desmond Hollin, Nile Lawrence-Stample, Justin Shanks

    Florida State's defensive line is going to be almost completely new in terms of starters, but the amount of depth the Seminoles feature makes this not as ominous a situation as it would be at other schools. FSU can turn to any number of players early in the season to fill in the gaps, with Lawrence-Stample the player most likely to sew up a spot ahead of the rest of the pack.

Fresno State Bulldogs

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Brian Burrell, Myles Carr, Zack Greenlee

    It's going to be a tough act to follow for whoever ends up replacing record-seeter Derek Carr. Burrell got to throw a whopping 12 passes last season, while Myles Carr (no relation) got in a few carries. Greenlee was a redshirt last year, and is the only one that was recruited by current coach Tim DeRuyter.

Georgia Bulldogs

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    Dave Tulis/Associated Press

    Position: Safety

    Contenders: Shattle Fenteng, Quincy Mauger, Corey Moore, Tramel Terry

    With Josh Harvey-Clemons' dismissal from the team, a late opening was created in Georgia's secondary that new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will want to fill quickly. These guys were already going to be battling to start in place of Harvey-Clemons already because of a pre-existing suspension to start the 2014 season, but now it becomes a competition for the full-time job.

Georgia Southern Eagles

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Tray Butler, Irving Huggins, Devin Scott

    Quarterback Kevin Ellison was a major dual threat for the Eagles during their final year of FCS, but to succeed this year they'll need a solid rusher that's devoted to that discipline. Huggins is the only rusher on the roster who has scored a touchdown, notching four last season.

Georgia State Panthers

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    Dave Tulis/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Lynquez Blair, Avery Sweeting

    Robert Davis is back, but three of the Panthers' top four receivers from 2013 have moved on. That leaves spots open for the likes of Blair or Sweeting, who can use the spring to get a leg up on a number of incoming recruits.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Tim Byerly, Ty Griffin, Brady Swilling, Justin Thomas

    Georgia Tech won't throw much out of its triple option, but when it does it wants accuracy. It also wants proper reads on pitches, dives and keepers. With Vad Lee transferring shortly after the Liberty Bowl, the Yellow Jackets now turn to one of our guys with limited or no experience.

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

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    Eugene Tanner/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Taylor Graham, Ikaika Woolsey

    Though it's not at the same level as during the June Jones era, Hawaii lives and dies by what its quarterback does. Sean Schroeder was the starter for the past two seasons, but Graham and Woolsey both saw time on the field in 2013.

Houston Cougars

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    Mel Evans/Associated Press

    Position: Cornerback

    Contenders: Early Foster, William Jackson, Alex Tillman, Turon Walker

    Houston lost both of its starting corners from a team that was solid on defense for most of the season. With Thomas Bates and Zachary McMillan gone, look for the Cougars to try 2013 backups Walker and Jackson first at those slots.

Idaho Vandals

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    William Mancebo/Getty Images

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Jerrel Brown, Richard Montgomery, Kristoffer Olugbode, Elijhaa Penny

    Idaho's move into the Sun Belt Conference after being independent last year also involves needing to find a new primary running back after James Baker graduated. Quarterback Chad Chalich is the top returning rusher, but Brown and Montgomery each had a handful of carries in 2013.

Illinois Fighting Illini

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Aaron Bailey, Wes Lunt, Reilly O'Toole

    O'Toole was Nathan Scheelhaase's main backup the past three seasons, but last year saw him get the least action of any of those years. Bailey played even less, but might be a more viable option because of his mobility. And Lunt, a transfer from Oklahoma State, brings a little bit of starting experience from the 2012 season.

Indiana Hoosiers

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    Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Safety

    Contenders: Brandon Grubbe, Justin Nowak, Jake Zupancic

    Indiana brings back most of its starters from last season, but a key loss is in the secondary with the graduation of Greg Heban. The Hoosiers have three reserves who saw action last year that figure to have the best shot at replacing Heban.

Iowa Hawkeyes

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    Matthew Holst/Getty Images

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Quinton Alston, Cole Fisher, Palmer Foster, Chad Gilson, Josey Jewell, John Kenny, Luke Lindahl, Steve Manders, Travis Perry, Reggie Spearman, Dalton Shaull

    Iowa's entire starting lineup at linebacker has graduated, which will mean a lot of spring work must be done to get some replacements established. Alston, Perry and Spearman were the main reserves from 2013.

Iowa State Cyclones

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    Chris Jackson/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Grant Rohach, Sam Richardson

    Both players started in Iowa State's rough 2013 campaign, and neither was particularly effective. Rohach was the guy toward the end, so he might be ahead as the competition starts. But with new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino looking to make an instant impact, all cards are on the table.

Kansas Jayhawks

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    Justin Hayworth/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Montell Cozart, Jake Heaps, T.J. Millweard

    Both Cozart and Heaps had starts in 2013, but considering Kansas went 3-9 that doesn't mean being the returning starter holds much weight. Those two will fight for the starting job but will also be challenged by Millweard, a transfer from UCLA.

Kansas State Wildcats

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: DeMarcus Robinson, Dalvin Warmack

    The Wildcats have to replace prolific rusher John Hubert, who had been the featured the past three seasons. Quarterbacks Jake Waters and Daniel Sams run a lot, too, but K-State needs a go-to rusher to stay balanced. Warmack is an early enrollee and has the same small frame as Hubert, while Robinson is a senior with limited experience.

Kent State Golden Flashes

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    Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Defensive line

    Contenders: Chris Fairchild, Clay Miller, Nate Terhune, Terrence Waugh, Marcus Wright

    Kent State's front line lost a lot from 2013, with four of its five leading tacklers from that group now gone. The lone holdover is Nate Vance, the co-leader in sacks with 3.5. The players looking to fill starting slots all had time on the field last year, with Terhune getting the most notoriety but for a special teams touchdown rather than a defensive play.

Kentucky Wildcats

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Drew Barker, Reese Phillips, Patrick Towles, Jalen Whitlow

    Whitlow was one of two quarterbacks to split time for the Wildcats last season, but the first year of Mark Stoops' tenure was more about transitioning than establishing future stars. While he'll be at the top of the list to start, 4-star early enrollee Barker and other more touted passers are going to make this a tough job for Whitlow to hold on to.

Louisville Cardinals

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    Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Kyle Bolin, Will Gardner, Brett Nelson

    This is really only a competition to replace Teddy Bridgewater because of the presence of a new coach in Bobby Petrino. Gardner is the only one with experience, and therefore is the heavy frontrunner. Petrino had a similar situation in 2013 during his one year at Western Kentucky, going with presumptive starter Brandon Doughty after a spring battle.

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Tyron Alexander, Boris Anyama, Darius Barksdale, Kevin Fouquier, Chris Hill

    One of the few losses UL-Lafayette suffered from its third straight nine-win team was middle linebacker Justin Anderson, far and away the team's top tackler. That will mean one of the 2013 backups will need to step in to fill that considerable void.

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

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    GM Andrews/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Brayle Brown, Brian Williams

    Brown replaced Kolton Browning during times of injury in 2013, but did not impress. He completed 52 percent of his passes but had just one touchdown against six interceptions. That makes the job wide open for Williams to take. If not, one of three quarterbacks signed this winter could get the nod in the summer. 

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Jaydrick DeClouette, Eddie Johnson, Hunter Lee, Trent Taylor

    Louisiana Tech's struggling offense from 2013 managed to lose its top four receivers, meaning coach Skip Holtz will almost need to start over at that position. Of those still around, Taylor was the top contributor with 28 receptions and two touchdowns.

LSU Tigers

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Anthony Jennings, Brandon Harris, Rob Bolden

    Zach Mettenberger's injury in the regular season finale got the clock started early on Anthony Jennings' tryout as the successor. And while there were some good parts, it didn't go as smoothly as the Tigers would have hoped.

    The position was going to be open in the spring anyway, but now Jennings faces heavy pressure to hold onto that job, particularly from early enrollee Harris.

Marshall Thundering Herd

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    Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Steward Butler, Kelvin Grooms, Remi Watson

    Essray Taliaferro had more carries than any three other Marshall running backs last season, so a lot of production needs to be replaced with his graduation. Butler, Grooms and Watson all contributed last season, adding nearly 1,300 rushing yards between them.

Maryland Terrapins

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Abner Logan, Yannick Ngakoue, Shawn Petty

    With Maryland's move to the Big Ten, a premium will be put on solid play in the middle of the defense. The Terrapins have two starters back, but a fight will break out to take the outside spot previously held by Marcus Whitfield.

Massachusetts Minutemen

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    Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: A.J. Doyle, Blake Frohnapfel, Todd Stafford

    Doyle was the starter last season, but UMass went 1-11 and were lethargic on offense, so new coach Charley Molinar will keep the job open for competition. Frohnapfel was a backup at Marshall the past two years, and as a graduate transfer can play right away.

Memphis Tigers

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Robert Davis, Doroland Dorceus, Carl Harris, Will Hardaway, Clarence Marshall, Tearris Wallace

    Top rusher Brandon Hayes graduated, and Marquis Warford has left the team, making the running back position wide open for whoever wants to win the job. Dorceus has the most experience, rushing for 173 yards last season.

Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes

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    Brian Blanco/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Ryan Williams, Kevin Olsen

    Two-year starter Stephen Morris is gone, leaving the job open for former Memphis transfer Ryan Williams to take it over as a senior. Williams threw for more than 100 yards in two of the Hurricanes' first four games last year, but then attempted just one pass the remainder of the season.

Miami (Ohio) RedHawks

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Austin Gearing, Andrew Hendrix

    Gearing was the starter toward the tail end of Miami's woeful 0-12 season, while Hendrix was at Notre Dame with new coach Chuck Martin last season. He has graduated from ND, and was one of three Fighting Irish players to follow Martin to Oxford.

Michigan Wolverines

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Position: Left tackle

    Contenders: Ben Braden, Erik Magnuson

    Both players saw valuable time on Michigan's offensive line last year, though Magnuson was a guard. Manguson was a starter, while Braden only got into two games. One of them will likely end up filling the void left by four-year starter Taylor Lewan at a key spot for the Wolverines.

Michigan State Spartans

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    Al Goldis/Associated Press

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Ed Davis, Darien Harris

    Michigan State has to replace two linebackers from last year's dominant, Big Ten-winning defense. There are a number of candidates, but Davis and Harris are the most likely choices for coordinator Pat Narduzzi.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

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    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: A.J. Erdely, Nolan Genovese, Austin Grammer, Brent Stocksdill

    Logan Kilgore was the motor for the Blue Raiders in 2013, getting them back to a bowl game after a long absence. Grammer played in several games last season as a freshman, making him the frontrunner at this point.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive tackle

    Contenders: Scott Epke, Jordan Hinojosa, Roland Johnson, Harold Legania, Damaris Peppers, Youshob Timms

    The impact Ra'Shede Hageman had on Minnesota's defense last year was immense, and his absence could prove just as critical if the Golden Gophers cannot find a suitable replacement. Johnson is probably the most polished of the lot, having started two games on the line last season.

Mississippi Rebels

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Quincy Adeboyejo, Cody Core, Vince Sanders

    Donte Moncrief and Ja-Mes Morgan are gone, leaving a couple receiver positions up for grabs alongside Laquon Treadwell. Sanders has the best route to get one, as he's the wideout with the most experience coming back.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Nick Griffin, Derrick Milton, Josh Robinson

    As much as Dan Mullen would like, Dak Prescott can't do all the running for Mississippi State. And with LaDarius Perkins graduating, someone else has to step up and get some meaningful carries. Robinson had the most yards of any returners, with 459 to go along with three touchdowns.

Missouri Tigers

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    Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Offensive tackle

    Contenders: Andy Bauer, Taylor Chappell, Mitch Morse, Jordan Williams

    Justin Britt had the left tackle spot held down the past few seasons, but he departs just as Missouri breaks in a new quarterback. Protection from the back side is critical, and each of the players vying for this spot have experience playing all over the Tigers' line.

Navy Midshipmen

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    Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: James Britton, Tyler Goble, Anthony Lewis, Nick Martinez, Don Pearson, Maika Polamalu, Joe Worth, Obi Uzoma

    Cody Peterson and D.J. Sargenti were Navy's top tacklers in 2013 with 252 takedowns between them. Most of the Midshipmen defensive starters with seniors last year, but this area is where they'll be most lacking in trying to shut down a schedule of opponents that includes Notre Dame and Ohio State.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Tommy Armstrong Jr., Johnny Stanton

    Armstrong was one of three quarterbacks to see significant time for Nebraska in 2013, filling in for the injured Taylor Martinez and the ineffective Ron Kellogg III. That gives him a leg up in the race to hold down the job permanently, but redshirt freshman Stanton will challenge him.

Nevada Wolf Pack

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Aaron Bradley, D'Andre Fuller, Hasaan Henderson, Jerico Richardson, Richy Turner

    Brandon Wimberly was Nevada's main receiving target in 2013, but many Wolf Pack players got involved in the passing game to the point where his departure doesn't hurt that bad. Bradley, Henderson and Turner combined for 130 receptions and seven TDs last year.

New Mexico Lobos

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    Gary Kazanjian/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Teriyon Gipson, Crusoe Gongbay, Jhurell Pressley

    Kasey Carrier was hurt toward the end of his senior year, which allowed the Lobos to begin the audition process for his successor. Gongbay, Pressley and Gipson all showed flashes of impressive play last season, and it will be a tight battle to see who gets the bulk of the carries in 2014.

New Mexico State Aggies

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: King Davis, Tyler Rogers

    Andrew McDonald started to show some form late in NMSU's rough 2-10 season in 2013, but now the Aggies have to start over again. It will likely be Davis, who got time as the backup last year, or junior college transfer Rogers. Other quarterbacks signed this winter may challenge, but not until the summer.

North Carolina Tar Heels

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Khris Francis, Elijiah Hood, T.J. Logan, Romar Morris

    North Carolina's top rusher last season was its quarterback, Marquise Williams, and he didn't take over the starting role until midway through 2013. Larry Fedora will want more production from the running backs, with early enrollee Hood getting a great shot to start right away.

North Carolina State Wolfpack

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Position: Safety

    Contenders: Tim Buckley, Josh Stanley

    Three-year starter Dontae Johnson has graduated, which leaves Dave Doeren looking for a capable replacement on NC State's back line. Buckley and Stanley were key safety reserves last season, and both will get their shot to win the job.

North Texas Mean Green

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    Sarah Glenn/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Jordan Gill, Andrew McNulty, Dajon Williams

    North Texas lost players all over the field from last year's bowl-winning squad to graduation, but replacing the quarterback spot is the most important. McNulty played sparingly as Derek Thompson's backup in 2013, while Gill and Williams don't have any experience.

Northern Illinois Huskies

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Drew Hare, Matt McIntosh

    Talk about following a legend: whoever becomes the Huskies' quarterback this fall will be coming in after do-everything Jordan Lynch spent the last few seasons rewriting all sorts of school, conference and national records. Both Hare and McIntosh got into games in 2013, but the action was very limited.

Northwestern Wildcats

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Position: Kicker

    Contenders: Matt Micucci, Jack Mitchell, Arthur Omilian

    Kickers don't really get noticed much unless they make a big mistake. Or, in the case of Northwestern's Jeff Budzien, the fact he hardly ever made a mistake but now, after two standout years as the starter, he's gone. The Wildcats have three guys that will give this gig a try in spring ball, but odds are the competition will continue up until the season opener.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Everett Golson, Malik Zaire

    Golson is back after missing the 2013 season for academic issues, which allowed Tommy Rees to start all year. Golson was the starter in 2012, leading Notre Dame to the BCS National Championship game, but it's uncertain if after a year away he can return to his old form.

    Zaire, a 4-star recruit from the 2013 class, redshirted last season.

Ohio Bobcats

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: J.D. Sprague, Derrius Vick

    Tyler Tettleton led Ohio to bowl games in each of his three seasons as a starter, but in 2013 the Bobcats began to look to the future by giving some younger guys a look. Vick had more of that opportunity, and though it was still limited, it will give him the advantage for the starting job.

Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Bri'onte Dunn, Ezekiel Elliott, Curtis Samuel, Rod Smith, Dontre Wilson

    Carlos Hyde had nearly one-third of Ohio State's carries in 2013, with another third going to quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton. Elliott and Wilson each had about 30 rushes last season, but none came in very critical times.

    This is a pretty wide-open position that probably won't get settled in the spring, though early enrollee Samuel could make for some fun times.

Oklahoma Sooners

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Keith Ford, Alex Ross, David Smith

    Oklahoma's top returning rusher is its likely starting quarterback, Trevor Knight, as Brennan Clay and others have moved on. Ford had some early opportunities last season before suffering fumble issues, but he's got the edge at this point.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    Brett Deering/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: J.W. Walsh, Mason Rudolph, Daxx Garman

    On paper, Walsh should appear to be the favorite to replace Clint Chelf since he started over Chelf a few times during the first half of last season, and was a part-time starter in 2012 as well. But his inability to hold on to the job might also signal why the gig is wide open, especially with early enrollee Rudolph on campus. 

Old Dominion Monarchs

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Cam Boyd, Gerard Johnson

    Old Dominion was a very pass-heavy team in its first season of FBS play in 2013, but Colby Goodwyn provided some nice change-of-pace with the running game. With him gone, the Monarchs will turn to a pair of younger backs who got valuable experience last year.

Oregon Ducks

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Position: Secondary

    Contenders: Reggie Daniels, Erick Dargan, Dominique Harrison, Dior Mathis

    While standout cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, the rest of Oregon's secondary will feature all-new starters in 2014. Daniels, Dargan and Mathis all saw time last year, while Harrison is a junior college transfer that should compete for a spot.

Oregon State Beavers

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Victor Bolden, Malik Gilmore

    Brandin Cooks was the nation's top receiver last year, winning the Biletnikoff Award that goes to the best wideout. Richard Mullaney will take over the No. 1 spot, but Bolden and Gilmore will hope to build off their limited action in 2013 to start opposite Mullaney.

Penn State Nittany Lions

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Geno Lewis, De'Andre Thompkins, Matt Zanellato

    All-everything wideout Allen Robinson is off to pursue and NFL career, so the Nittany Lions need a reliable target for Christian Hackenberg especially with Brandon Felder also gone. Lewis had three touchdown catches last year, but Thompkins is a 4-star recruit that enrolled early and should be right in the mix for a starting role.

Pittsburgh Panthers

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Trey Anderson, Chad Voytik

    With Tom Savage gone, Pittsburgh has to look elsewhere for its next passer. And so far, the pickings are slim, as only two quarterbacks are on the roster for spring ball and only Voytik has previous experience.

Purdue Boilermakers

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    R Brent Smith/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive line

    Contenders: Chuck Ayres, Ra'Zahn Howard, Evan Panfil, Jake Replogle

    Bruce Gaston was a four-year starter for the Boilermakers, an anchor of consistency during one of the program's worst stretches. He and the remainder of Purdue's defensive line starters have graduated, so an all new unit is needed.

Rice Owls

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Jawon Davis, Darik Dillard, Turner Petersen, Luke Turner

    Charles Ross was a 1,200-yard rusher for Rice's Conference USA champion squad, but the Owls have a quartet of capable reserves who more that surpasses his yardage total. Davis was the top backup, with 476 yards and three touchdowns.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Carlton Agudosi, Leonte Carroo, Ruhann Peele

    New offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen has a young running back in place in Paul James, and a veteran quarterback in Gary Nova. What he needs are receivers, with Brandon Coleman and Quron Pratt gone. The Knights' best options all caught passes last season, with Carroo scoring nine times on just 28 receptions.

San Diego State Aztecs

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    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Kene Anigbogu, Larry Clark, Christian Cumberlander, Eric Judge

    San Diego State has its top receiver from 2013 returning in Ezell Ruffin, but the wideouts who were second through fourth on the list are all gone. Judge is the most experienced of the lot still around, but he only caught 13 passes last year.

San Jose State Spartans

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Joe Gray, Blake Jurich

    Both Gray and Jurich have experience in a quarterback competition, but not in a good way. Each was part of the fight for the San Jose starting job in 2012, but that ultimately went to David Fales. Now that Fales is gone the job is open again, with Jurich holding a slight edge after serving as the backup last season.

SMU Mustangs

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Jeremiah Gaines, Steven Nelson, JaBryce Taylor, Der'rikk Thompson

    SMU's top two wideouts in terms of yardage have graduated, though Darius Joseph returns as the slot man after catching 103 passes in 2013. That leaves the outside spots still available, with Thompson the most experienced of the contenders.

South Alabama Jaguars

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    GM Andrews/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Brandon Bridge, Trey Fetner, Brett Sheehan

    Ross Metheny was a solid starter for South Alabama last year, getting the Jaguars to 6-6 in their second year of FBS play. His absence puts pressure on those behind him on the depth chart to step up and provide consistency, with 2013 backup Bridge getting the first look.

South Carolina Gamecocks

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    RICHARD SHIRO/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive end

    Contenders: Cedric Cooper, Gerald Dixon, Darius English, Mason Harris, David Johnson, Devin Washington

    These six guys not only have the distinction of trying to replace Jadeveon Clowney, but also South Carolina's other starting end, Chaz Sutton. So while that means that two of these guys will get a chance to start, it also means the expectations put on the two starters will be very high.

    English is the most seasoned of the group, having served as a backup to Clowney last season.

South Florida Bulls

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    Fred Beckham/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Willie Davis, Michael Pierre, Darius Tice

    One of the worst offensive teams in FBS last season has a hole to fill at running back, where semi-reliable Marcus Shaw ran for 765 yards and three touchdowns in 2013. Davis, Pierre and Tice each had a few touches for the Bulls, but not enough to know how good they can be.

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

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    Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Defensive line

    Contenders: Dylan Bradley, Dasman McCullum, Michael Smith

    Octavius Thomas was Southern Miss' top pass rusher in 2013, and his absence will need to be filled in spring ball to keep the Golden Eagles moving forward. Smith was a starter on the line last year, while McCullum and Bradley also saw significant playing time.

Stanford Cardinal

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Barry Sanders, Reymound Wright

    Tyler Gaffney was the definition of a workhorse in 2013, carrying it 330 times (including a school-record 45 times against Oregon) en route to more than 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns. The returners with experience, Sanders and Wright, had a combined 144 yards and two TDs last season.

Syracuse Orange

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    Nick Lisi/Associated Press

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Luke Arciniega, Marquez Hodge, Josh Kirkland

    Marquis Spruill plugged up the middle for Syracuse last season, finishing with 66 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. That's a lot of production to replace, and the battle to do so is between three players who all had significant snaps last year.

TCU Horned Frogs

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Zach Allen, Trevone Boykin, Tyler Matthews

    Boykin was the starter early in 2013 before getting moved to receiver, but he's going to get another look at quarterback now that Casey Pachall is gone and new offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie is in place. Matthews saw very limited action last season, while Allen redshirted.

Temple Owls

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Position: Safety

    Contenders: Stephaun Marshall, Jihaad Pretlow, Nate Smith

    Abdul Smith was Temple's second-leading tackler in 2013, and his presence on the backline helped things from being worse than they were for the Owls. The rest of Temple's safety corps is very young, though Pretlow was a starter at strong safety for part of the year.

Tennessee Volunteers

102 of 129

    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Jacob Carter, Jason Croom, Josh Malone, Von Pearson, Devrin Young

    None of Tennessee's receivers managed to gain more than 500 yards last year, and with Evan Woodberry of the Knoxville News Sentinel reporting that its most prolific wideout, Alton 'Pig' Howard, was going to miss spring practice for unspecified reasons, things went from bad to worse. But the early arrival of 4-star Malone and JUCO transfer Pearson should make the competition for the wideout to start alongside Marquez North a solid one.

Texas Longhorns

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: David Ash, Tyrone Swoopes, Jerrod Heard (Summer arrival), Max Wittek (Potential transfer)

    Ash threw for 760 yards and two touchdowns in relief of Case McCoy last season, while Swoopes had his redshirt pulled midway through the year to give a brief glimpse of the future. Either one could win the job, but the looming arrival of 4-star recruit Jerrod Heard, the No. 2 dual-threat QB in the nation, will keep this race open until the summer. 

Texas A&M Aggies

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Matt Joeckel, Kenny Hill, Kyle Allen

    Maybe the most intriguing position battle of the entire offseason is being waged in College Station, where a veteran, a former top prospect and the next great thing are all vying for the chance to replace Johnny Manziel.

    Joeckel started in place of the suspended Manziel in the 2013 opener against Rice, but then got 18 more throws in three appearances the rest of the way. Hill, a 4-star recruit from last year, made his collegiate debut in the Aggies' second game and played in three other contests. And Allen, the top-rated quarterback and 10th-best overall prospect in the 2014 class, has already enrolled. 

Texas State Bobcats

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    Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Brice Gunter, Jafus Gaines, Ben Ijah, Brandon Smith

    Texas State's top two pass catchers from a year ago are no longer around, leaving the door open for some of the many Bobcat wideouts to get a starting shot. TSU had six player with at least 19 receptions last season, so opportunities will abound.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Jakeem Grant, Devin Lauderdale, Bradley Marquez

    Texas Tech has no shortage of available passes for its receivers to haul in, and often uses four or more wideouts on the field. But with top 2013 targets Jace Amaro and Eric Ward gone, the role of the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers is wide open.

    Grant and Marquez had a combined 114 catches for 1,429 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, but that doesn't guarantee them anything in the Red Raiders' high-octane offense. Lauderdale is a standout junior college transfer who's ready to play right away and will try to show that in the spring.

Toledo Rockets

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    Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Brian Blackburn, Ryan Casey, Michael Julian, Logan Woodside

    Terrance Owens threw for more than 8,000 yards in his Toledo career, part of why the Rockets have been among the better mid-major teams during the past four seasons. His absence means Woodside, his backup last season, will have a chance to shine in a competition against a trio of freshmen.

Troy Trojans

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    Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Connor Bravard, Dontreal Pruitt, Dallas Tidwell

    Whoever takes over for four-year starter Corey Robinson will have a lot of production to fill, and they'll be doing it without any significant FBS experience. Tidwell threw 16 passes as the third-string quarterback last season, while Bravard and Pruitt are both junior college transfers.

Tulane Green Wave

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    Bill Haber/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Rob Kelley, Josh Rounds

    Orleans Darkwa came on late in the 2013 season to be the Green Wave leader in the backfield, but he's graduated. That opens the door for Kelley, who ran for 420 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

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    Brett Deering/Getty Images

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: James Flanders, Zach Langer, Rowdy Simon, Michael Sorrells, Trevor Toliver

    Amazingly, Flanders is the only player on the 2014 roster who carried the ball as a running back last season. Trey Watts was a major workhorse, and his backup also graduated, while Tulsa's quarterbacks also had a good number of rushes.

UAB Blazers

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    Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Jeremiah Briscoe, Cody Clements

    Both passers from last year's 2-10 UAB team are gone, so new coach Bill Clark gets to work with a clean slate. Briscoe redshirted as a freshman, while Clements is a junior college transfer, making for a nice, healthy competition in spring ball.

UCLA Bruins

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Deon Hollins, Kenny Orjioke, Isaako Savaiinaea, Aaron Wallace, Zach Whitley

    Half of UCLA's four linebacker slots are up for grabs after the graduation of Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt. Of those vying for a starting job, Wallace possesses the most experience. But Whitley, a 4-star recruit who enrolled early, should also be in the mix.

UNLV Runnin' Rebels

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Blake Decker, Nick Sherry

    Sherry opened the 2013 season as UNLV's starter, but eventually lost the job to Caleb Herring. He was originally a Colorado commit before moving to Las Vegas after Dan Hawkins was fired. Decker, a former BYU player, should also get a good look.

USC Trojans

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Max Browne, Cody Kessler

    Kessler traded time with Max Wittek early in the 2013 season, and finished with solid, if not spectacular numbers (2,968 yards, 20 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 65.4 completion percentage) for a USC passer. Wittek has since announced he's graduating early so he can transfer and play somewhere else.

    But while Kessler would seem to have the job locked up, the Trojans went through a coaching change, which tends to re-open closed doors. And with Browne, a 5-star prospect who was the No. 11 overall recruit in 2013, ready to get his chance, Steve Sarkisian has a big decision to make.

Utah Utes

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    BRODY SCHMIDT/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Connor Manning, Adam Schulz, Kendal Thompson

    With Travis Wilson limited in spring practice to just non-contact drills, the quarterback job is essentially open for someone else to steal. Schulz filled in for Wilson last season, while the recent addition of Thompson from Oklahoma adds spice to the competition.

Utah State Aggies

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    Gary Kazanjian/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Darell Garretson, Craig Harrison

    This battle might actually end up being for the Aggies' backup, since star Chuckie Keeton hopes to be back in the summer following ACL and MCL tears suffered last October. Garretson wasn't nearly as explosive as Keeton when he took over the gig, but he did pilot USU to the Mountain West title game and a bowl victory over Northern Illinois.

UTEP Miners

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Ian Hamilton, Brandon Moss, Jarrad Shaw, Malcolm Trail

    UTEP wasn't a dynamic passing team last season, but it did lose its top guy in Jordan Leslie. That opens up an opportunity for the likes of Hamilton, who averaged 14 yards on 25 catches in 2013. Others with less experience could also step up in spring ball.

UTSA Roadrunners

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Tucker Carter, Zach Conque, Travis Menn, Austin Robinson

    Eric Soze piloted UTSA admirably through its first two seasons of FBS play, but the time now comes for the next Roadrunner quarterback to try and get the program into a bowl game. Carter threw in five different games last year and figures to be the frontrunner at this point.

Vanderbilt Commodores

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    Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Jordan Cunningham, Trent Pruitt, Latevius Rayford, Trey Wilkins

    Vanderbilt lost both of its main receivers from last season, including SEC all-time receiving leader Jordan Matthews. New coach Derek Mason has a handful of options to go with, though with just 15 catches last season Cunningham is considered the most experienced.

Virginia Cavaliers

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    Steve Helber/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive tackle

    Contenders: Andrew Brown, Greg Gallop, Donte Wilkins

    Brown is a 5-star prospect who has already enrolled early, and (along with fellow 5-star recruit Quin Blanding) are considered the saving graces for a horrible Virginia defense. But coach Mike London won't want to just hand the starting job over to Brown, he'll want him to earn it against guys who have been waiting for their own shot.

Virginia Tech Hokies

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    Victor Calzada/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Mark Leal, Brenden Motley

    Logan Thomas was a three-year starter for Virginia Tech, and his spot needs to be solidified as soon as possible to keep the Hokies from losing any ground. The problem is, while Leal and Motley will be the key competitors for the job in the spring, there's the impending arrival of Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer in the summer.

    Brewer, who is set to graduate from Texas Tech this spring and thus be eligible to play right away, could render moot whatever happens in the spring. Odds are he picked the Hokies because of the likelihood he'd get to start, so the spring battle might be to be Brewer's backup.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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    NELL REDMOND/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive tackle

    Contenders: Josh Banks, Tylor Harris, James Looney

    Nikita Whitlock isn't around to swallow up rushers trying to get into the hole anymore. That leaves three backups looking to take his spot, with Looney getting the early nod based on him being Whitlock's primary backup in 2013.

Washington Huskies

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Jesse Callier, Lavon Coleman, Deontae Cooper, Dwayne Washington

    The race to replace Bishop Sankey is pretty wide open, though Callier, Cooper and Washington did manage to rush for more than 800 yards and 10 touchdowns collectively in backup duty. But Washington, the leader of the group, had 141 yards and two TDs in a blowout win over Oregon State late last year.

Washington State Cougars

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    Dean Hare/Associated Press

    Position: Safety

    Contenders: David Bucannon, Isaac Dotson, Darius Lemora, Paris Taylor

    Deone Bucannon was one of the most feared defenders in the Pac-12 last season, and Washington State will look for someone with similar skills to hold down his strong safety position in 2014. Doston was Bucannon's backup last year, so he'll get first crack to win the gig.

West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Clint Trickett, Paul Millard, Skyler Howard

    West Virginia used three different quarterbacks in the starting role last year, with Millard, Trickett and the since-transferred Ford Childress. Trickett threw for more than 1,600 yards and Millard more than 1,100, but each had as many interceptions as turnovers.

    That opens the door for Howard, a junior college transfer from California who enrolled in January and was the top-rated JUCO dual-threat passer

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

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    G.M. Andrews/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Leon Allen, Anthony Wales

    Antonio Andrews ran for more than 1,700 yards last season, but with Jeff Brohm taking over as head coach the offense is going to be much more centered on the passing game. That takes some pressure off Allen and Wales, both of whom a time in 2013, but one of them needs to step up to be the starter.

Western Michigan Broncos

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    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Jared Joyner, Jonathan Russell, Trevor Sweeney

    Western Michigan was one of the worst rushing teams in the nation in 2013, part of the reason it was 1-11 overall. And with top runners Dareyon Chance and Brian Fields gone, things get even thinner. There are no active Broncos with any carries on their resume.

Wisconsin Badgers

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Alex Erickson, Jordan Frederick, Reggie Love, Rob Wheelright

    Frederick is the top returning wideout with a mere 10 receptions, but he and Erickson have the most experience in trying to replace prolific receiver Jared Abbrederis. Much of the Badgers' passing game went to tight ends in 2013, so there isn't as much pressure for multiple receivers to step up.

Wyoming Cowboys

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Colby Kirkegaard, Tommy Thornton, Aaron Young

    Brett Smith was a record-setter for Wyoming, both as a passer and when running the ball. He was banged up all over the place in 2013, but still managed to stay upright through the season. His early departure to the NFL puts pressure on new coach Craig Bohl to find a successor, with Thornton possessing the only Division I experience of the lot.

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