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How would you rank the spring position battles from least to most intriguing? Let’s assume that barring an injury/huge surprise that we know how the RB, TE, FS, NT, 1 of the CB/Star spots, and 1 of the OLB spots will shake out, I’d rank the rest:
6. Punter – the real competition starts when Jake Camarda is on campus (plus it’s the punter).
5. CB/Star – this competition also doesn’t start until preseason practice when Tyson Campbell is there.
4. ILB – the battle to replace Roquan should be good, but as a fan it’s more depressing than exciting.
3. OLB – I’m excited to see if Walter Grant can get bigger and be the next great every-down OLB or if somebody like Robert Beal can push him for this spot.
2. RT – with Cade Mays enrolling early this should be a great competition.
1. WR – I think only a QB competition beats a good WR competition, and they have some young talent at this position that should push Ridley for the starting spot. What do you think?
– Bob Smith
What, no mention of the quarterback competition?
OK, fine, Jake Fromm is almost certainly the starter after what he did last year, but if Justin Fields is as good as people say … you never know.
I’m not as high on the receiver and outside linebacker competitions as you are. I see D’Andre Walker and Walter Grant as heavy favorites at outside linebacker, though Robert Beal could enter the equation. At receiver, Terry Godwin and Mecole Hardman return, and Riley Ridley is coming off a good National Championship Game. It’ll be interesting to see if others – such as J.J. Holloman – push their way into the starting lineup, but they’re going to play and rotate a lot of receivers either way.
I do agree with you on the punter spot: Assuming Marshall Long is healthy, it’ll be worth watching the competition between him and Jake Camarda, but as you said, that doesn’t start until Camarda arrives in the summer.
Here’s how I would rank it right now – also in descending order to create drama, which you did and I like that:
5. Defensive line: Is there an opening here? Not if you just talk about the top level, where Tyler Clark, Julian Rochester, Jonathan Ledbetter, Malik Herring and David Marshall look pretty set. There could be a healthy competition between those five as to who the starters are, but even that can be irrelevant, given how many substitutions there are. So I’ve kind of talked myself out of this being a real battle, but felt like there should be a top 5, so here you go.
4. Guard: Kendall Baker is the returning starter at left guard, and Jamaree Salyer doesn’t arrive until the summer, which takes some luster off a spring competition on the left side. But keep an eye on whether someone else moves over to compete with Baker – such as Ben Cleveland or Solomon Kindley, who will be competing at right guard. And Trey Hill did enroll early, so maybe he gets a head start on Salyer and makes it really interesting.
3. Inside linebacker: Natrez Patrick is enrolled this spring, but will he be a full-go practicing? No confirmation yet. If all goes well, Patrick is one starter. It’s wide open otherwise. Sophomore Monty Rice begins as the early leader for one spot, likely to be pushed by senior Juwan Taylor, junior Tae Crowder and sophomores Nate McBride and Jaden Hunter.
2. Cornerback/star: Deandre Baker is entrenched at one spot, but what about the other spot – both in the base and nickel formations? (Last year Aaron Davis tended to be the nickelback, then moved to cornerback when they were in base.) Tyrique McGhee, who will be a junior, is likely to be first man up, but as you mentioned will get a run from Campbell this summer. That doesn’t mean there won’t be competition in the spring. Divaad Wilson has enrolled early, and second-year players Ameer Speed, Mark Webb and Eric Stokes also bear watching. Deangelo Gibbs, who will be a factor if eligible, is not enrolled and won’t be practicing this spring.
1. Right tackle: The fact that Cade Mayes enrolled early makes this interesting right away. Isaiah Wilson could begin as the first-team player on the first day of spring, but he will get a run from Mays and perhaps others. Cleveland is likely to stay at right guard, so could Kindley move over to compete here too? What about D’Marcus Hayes, Owen Condon or someone else from the pack?
*-1. Quarterback: I got to the end of this list and realized that if Fields really is as good as advertised, this belongs on the list. Fromm is still likely to exit the spring as the guy, but you don’t think people will be laser-focused on Fields on G-Day? Of course they will. And it’s the quarterback. Yeah, it’s a battle.
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