College Football: Which Players Won Fall Camp's Biggest Position Battles
College football fall camp has come and gone and we now wait with baited breath for kickoff on Thursday.
In the meantime, teams are releasing depth charts for our scrutinizing pleasure.
Many big-names faced serious questions in camp regarding starters at crucial positions like RB and QB. Did they get resolved? If so, who won?
Here are 10 of the biggest fall camp position battles (eight of which are at the QB position) and the winners as they stand now. As you'll see, some are clear and some still remain murky.
Take a look.
Oregon QB: Darron Thomas Over Nate Costa
QB Darron Thomas (No. 1) beat out senior Nate Costa for the starting job against New Mexico.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
The race to replace Jeremiah Masoli was one of the most persistent storylines of the off-season.
In the end, the more athletic (albeit rawer) Darren Thomas beat out redshirt senior Nate Costa after a mid-week scrimmage last week.
Though young and untested, Thomas is a truer fit for Chip Kelly's system than Costa, who has battled multiple knee injuries and is more of a game-manager than a true ground threat.
Oregon's offense hums best with an athlete in the backfield—see Oregon's close win over UCLA last year with Costa at the helm for proof. Provided Thomas' youth doesn't become a major liability, the tie will continue to go to the runner, as it should.
Michigan's QB: Denard Robinson Over Tate Forcier and Devin Gardner
Denard Denard Denard.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Nothing is official here. In fact, Michigan's just-released depth chart for the UConn game links Tate Forcier, Denard Robinson, and Devin Gardner with a series of "ors" rather than list the starter; even all the players agree they don't know. Rodriguez has said we'll all find out at 3:36 pm, i.e. game time.
But after an extremely encouraging spring camp made good upon in the fall, Denard Robinson will more than likely start on Saturday when the Huskies come to town.
Does that mean he'll play every snap? No. In fact, Rodriguez also mentioned that five-star freshman Devin Gardner will not redshirt and will definitely see time this fall—somewhat to the chagrin of Michigan fans who were hoping he'd have a few years to himself when things settle down in Ann Arbor.
But I fully expect that against UConn's spread-susceptible defense, Robinson's legs pose more danger than Tate's arm. Realize, when West Virginia pasted UConn 66-21 in 2007, Pat White threw only 13 passes. This is still a run-first ideology.
Arizona State QB: Steven Threet Over Brock Osweiler and Samson Szacocsy
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
As of yesterday, word was Michigan transfer quarterback Steven Threet has won the starting job over touted sophomore Brock Osweiler. Threet will start against the Sun Devils' first opponent, Portland State.
Threet, a senior, was dubbed the most consistent QB of fall camp, though ASU coach Dennis Erickson said that Osweiler also improved and will see time this fall.
Threet has had one of the most topsy-turvy careers of the modern era, transferring from Georgia Tech to Michigan when the Yellow Jackets installed their triple option, only to see Rich Rodriguez install the spread the following year. An ill-fitting season as Michigan's starter facilitated his transfer to Arizona State, where he will have one year of eligibility remaining.
Best of luck to him and Brock.
BYU's Quarterback: Riley Nelson and Jake Heaps In a Platoon
One of the more unique decisions coming out of fall camp was BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall's decision to platoon junior QB Riley Nelson and stud freshman Jake Heaps.
The QB battle that wound through spring and summer ended in such a deadlock that Mendenhall refused to name a leader, though he said Riley Nelson will get the first snaps against week one opponent Washington.
This is counter to many predictions that Heaps would be the one to start in the event of a tie given his potential and upside. It's hard to argue with Mendenhall's feeling that the older QB will likely play with more poise, but I don't envy Heaps if he's asked to dig BYU out of an unwinnable situation.
Texas' Running Back: Cody Johnson Over Fozzy Whittaker and Tre' Newton
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Much has been made of the Longhorns' return to a balanced, even run-first offense. But did the Longhorns have the personnel to do it? Or had their recruiting been geared so much towards the pass that the talent wasn't there at RB?
We got our answer yesterday when the Texas depth chart listed junior bruiser Cody Johnson first overall, with presumed starters Fozzy Whittaker and Tre Newton—the latter of whom led the team in rushing yards last year—as co-backups.
While Johnson's size should be an advantage against Rice, expect this to be a year-long battle, and one that is made irrelevant with the arrival of five-star recruit Malcolm Brown next year.
UNC's Quarterback: TJ Yates Over Bryn Renner
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Some UNC fans were hoping that touted redshirt freshman Bryn Renner, a former five-star recruit, would best senior TJ Yates for the starting job out of the gate rather than wait for Yates to make a slip.
Others, naturally, were hoping Yates would respond to the criticisms of his poor 2009 performance—albeit one with suspect offensive line to blame—by seizing hold of the job.
Those in the latter camp will be glad to hear that Yates will be the starter against LSU in the Chick-Fil-A kickoff game on Saturday night.
Hopefully, Yates will put on the kind of performance that can mask a defense decimated by off-the-field issues. If he can't, or the season starts to go haywire, watch for Renner to take the reins by midseason.
Texas Tech's QB: Taylor Potts Over Steven Sheffield
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
This one was decided about a week ago with an announcement from Tommy Tuberville, but for a while it was the Big 12's biggest battle.
Fan favorite Steven Sheffield lost the battle with Taylor Potts for the job of starter at Texas Tech. Tuberville had set an announcement date but didn't need the full amount of time after Sheffield put on a subpar showing in a Tech scrimmage.
Potts was scapegoated—somewhat unfairly—for Tech's poor showing in losses to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State, though he'd suffered a concussion during one of the roughest hits of 2010. Meanwhile, Sheffield had led the comeback drive against Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl and was widely expected to perform better.
Tuberville has been urging patience with Potts—not a good sign—so I expect this battle to last well past opening kickoff.
Florida's Defensive End: Justin Trattou/Duke Lemmens Over Powell Et. Al.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Florida's defensive end spot has been like a portal directly to the NFL draft (though not necessarily the playing field) for the past few years.
Carlos Dunlap's early departure left the Gators lacking experience, though Gators' coaches insist the talent is still there.
For now, senior team captain Justin Trattou, the most proven player in the rotation, and fellow senior Duke Lemmens are listed as starters.
But pushing them is a host of talented players, including sophomore William Green, junior Lerentee McCray, Earl Okine, Kedric Johnson and former five-star recruits Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley.
In Florida's recently released depth chart, McCray and Easley are listed as co-backups to Trattou, while Green and Powell are co-backups to Lemmens. Watch for Florida to platoon this position extensively if the seniors don't live up to the expectations of their predecessors.
Penn State's Quarterback: Matt McGloin, Robert Bolden and Kevin Newsome
Chris Gardner/Getty Images
There's still no word on who will start for Penn State on Saturday, though the depth chart does list all three potential players, walk-on Matt McGloin, sophomore Kevin Newsome and freshman Robert Bolden, as co-starters.
I am less familiar with the buzz at Penn State than at Michigan to be able to say definitively who will take the first snap.
But keep in mind that the week one game is against Youngstown State, so the pressure on the starter won't be the same as at Michigan.
If I had to guess, I'd say Newsome gets the start with McGloin thrown in if he struggles and Bolden taking fourth-quarter snaps once Penn State gets a safe distance from the finish line. The bigger question will be who the Lions decide to field against Alabama in week two.
UCLA's Quarterback: Richard Brehaut Over Kevin Prince?
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
This may be more a case of injury affecting a decision over poor play. But now that returning starter Kevin Prince faces a lingering back injury, it's possible redshirt freshman Richard Brehaut will get the start against Kansas State on the road.
Prince, a sophomore, hadn't quite played himself into a wide lead over Brehaut, missing at least one scrimmage with injury and stalling in another. Meanwhile, Brehaut showed progress against UCLA's stout defensive backfield.
It's evident that if Prince can play at 100%, he will, but I don't know if the coaches have enough confidence vouched in him to start him hobbled. With an equally suspect offensive line and an extremely difficult schedule affording no breaks throughout the season, here's wishing Prince a speedy recovery.