Every College Football Team's 1 Position Battle That Will Last Until Opening Day

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2014

Every College Football Team's 1 Position Battle That Will Last Until Opening Day

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    Matt Joeckel (right) is among three candidates to replace Johnny Manziel as Texas A&M's quarterback.
    Matt Joeckel (right) is among three candidates to replace Johnny Manziel as Texas A&M's quarterback.Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Spring practice is in full swing for college football teams throughout the country, and competition is fierce between players vying for any number of starting positions available for the 2014 season.

    But not every job will get filled in the next few weeks. Whether because of injuries, the summer arrival of incoming recruits and transfers or just a coach's unwillingness to rush to decision, many gigs will be up for grabs right up until a team's season opener.

    Here's our look at the one position battle that each team could have last all the way until opening day.

Air Force Falcons

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Matt Guida, Broam Hart, Jon Lee, Bodie Matts, Paco Solano

    The candidates to fill an open spot in Air Force's backfield are many, but whether or not any of them can be the main guy will be something Troy Calhoun should take all summer to try to figure out.

     

Akron Zips

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    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Defensive line

    Contenders: Brock Boxen, Undrea Bullard, Nordly Capi, Nico Caponi, Anthony Clark, Keontae Hollis, Alfonso Horner

    The Zips made huge strides last season, but now they need three new starters on the defensive line. Akron has a few good recruits to throw into the competition, along with quality backups.

Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Ronnie Clark, Trey DePriest, Rashaan Evans, Reuben Foster, Shaun Hamilton, Dillon Lee, Christian Miller, Reggie Ragland

    Oh, what a luxury it must be to have eight talented guys who could start at linebacker anywhere in the country. But only two can do so for the Crimson Tide. That's what Nick Saban is facing with this group, one that features four freshmen, including 5-star prospect Evans.

    Odds are this battle will take up until the last minute to be decided, but the guys that win out will know there are others waiting to take their jobs away.

Appalachian State Mountaineers

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Bobo Beatherd, A.J. Howard, Malachi Jones, Trey Kavanaugh, Simms McElfresh, Shaedon Meadors

    Appalachian State's move from FCS into the Sun Belt requires an upgrade in talent and skill, and receiver is one of the first places this will happen. The Mountaineers brought in a few key recruits at this position who will battle with existing players for starting spots.

Arizona Wildcats

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

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

    The addition of 3-star dual-threat passer Dawkins in the summer will keep the wide-open competition from closing anytime soon. Arizona has three transfers from other Division I programs among the contenders, though none have any significant experience elsewhere.

Arizona State Sun Devils

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    Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Alonzo Agweunu, Frederick Gammage, Jalen Harvey, Eric Lauderdale, Cameron Smith, Richard Smith, Tyler Whiley

    None of ASU's recruits were early enrollees this year, so the staff will have to wait until the summer to evaluate a potential bumper crop of wide receiver talent. Junior college transfer Lauderdale could be a starter right away, but Richard Smith will fight hard to hold his starting spot from last year.

Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Position: Defensive tackle

    Contenders: Horace Arkadie, DeMarcus Hodge, Bijhon Jackson, Armon Watts

    Arkansas allowed more than 178 rushing per game and almost 4.7 yards per carry last season, but it could have been worse if not for Byran Jones. He's gone, now, and four guys will fight to take his spot. This includes the Razorbacks' top incoming recruit, 4-star Bijhon Jackson, rated the No. 5 defensive tackle in the country and the top-ranked prospect in the state.

Arkansas State Red Wolves

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    Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor

    Position: Defensive line

    Contenders: Dexter Blackmon, John Gandy, Chris Odum, Chuks Ota, Darrius Rosser, Kyle Strickland

    New coach Blake Anderson has some nice pieces in place on offense, but some defensive overhaul is needed. He'll be replacing three starters on the defensive line, so look for this competition to be intense.

Army Black Knights

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Position: Offensive guard

    Contenders: Isaiah Holland, Matt Hugenberg

    Army has two starting spots open on the offensive line entering the 2014 season, but the left tackle spot should get figured out in spring ball. The right guard position likely won't be, though, as 3-star recruit Holland won't arrive until summer.

Auburn Tigers

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive end

    Contenders: Elijah Daniel, DaVonte Lambert, Carl Lawson, Gimel President, Justin Thornton, Andrew Williams

    The race to replace Dee Ford gets additional competitors when three 4-star prospects (Lambert, Thornton and Williams) come to Auburn in the summer. Any of those could give likely spring front-runners Daniel and Lawson a run for their money, and the Tigers would be wise to let the competition play out until the end.

Ball State Cardinals

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    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

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

    When Morrison comes on board in the summer, the race to replace Keith Wenning will really get going. All four guys have a shot to take the spot, and it will be critical for Pete Lembo to take his time making this choice.

Baylor Bears

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: KD Cannon, Corey Coleman, Clay Fuller, Davion Hall, Chris Platt, Terence Williams, Ishmael Zamora

    Baylor has more talent at the receiver position than it knows what to do with, and that's even before 5-star prospect Cannon shows up this summer. The Bears have only one starting spot open, though, so the competition for that role will be fierce and will last most of the summer.

Boise State Broncos

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    Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Defensive line

    Contenders: Tyler Horn, Beau Martin, Sam McCaskill, Rondell McNair, David Moa, Justin Taimatuia, Antoine Turner

    New coach Bryan Harsin will find the athletes he's working with at Boise State similar to what he had in Arkansas, but a little stronger and faster. This will be very evident with the defensive line prospects and returners that will battle to fill two openings up front.

Boston College Eagles

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Dan Crimmins, David Dudeck, Marcus Grant, Harrison Jackson, Jeffrey Jay, Gabriel McCrary, Thaddius Smith, Isaac Yiadom

    Boston College will need a go-to receiver for transfer Tyler Murphy to throw to, and the Eagles will have plenty to choose from. A few more come in the summer, making for a nice, long competition.

Bowling Green Falcons

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Ryan Burbrink, Chris Gallon, Jermal Hosley, Heath Jackson, Roger Lewis, Ronnie Moore, Clint Stephens

    Bowling Green's cupboards weren't empty when Dave Clawson left for Wake Forest, but that doesn't mean new coach Dino Babers won't want to mix things up a bit. There's an opening at receiver too, and this group will battle for that (and maybe another) spot.

Buffalo Bulls

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    Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Okezie Alozie, Jarrett Franklin, Gary Hosey, Corey Henderson, Travis Pitzonka, Jake Stockman, William White

    How much of a loss was it for Buffalo to have Khalil Mack move on to the NFL? So much so that the Bulls' top three incoming recruits are all linebackers. With so much new talent to assess, expect the competition for who gets Mack's old spot to take a while.

BYU Cougars

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    George Frey/Associated Press

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Michael Alisa, Tyler Cook, Bronson Kaufusi, Isaiah Kaufusi, Teu Kautai, Manoa Pikula, Fred Warner

    BYU's defense took a big hit to graduation, losing Kyle Van Noy and other stars in the middle. The replacements will battle all summer long (especially with the likes of 4-star Warner not arriving until later) and a final decision probably won't be made on starters until August.

California Golden Bears

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    TONY AVELAR/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive line

    Contenders: Antoine Davis, David Davis, Kennedy Emesibe, Jacobi Hunter, Jonathan Johnson, Trevor Kelly, Harrison Wilfley

    The only losses Cal had on defense because of graduation came on its defensive line, but through backups and recruiting, there are plenty of candidates to fill those roles.

Central Florida Knights

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive tackle

    Contenders: Joey Connors, Jaryl Mamea, Lance McDowell, Jamiyus Pittman, Rob Sauvao

    Central Florida's defense remains mostly intact from last year's breakout team, but there is an opening in the middle of the defensive line where E.J. Dunston starred. McDowell and Pittman are incoming freshman who could make an impact right away at that spot.

Central Michigan Chippewas

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Position: Offensive tackle

    Contenders: Ramadan Ahmeti, Alex Coty, Derek Edwards, Jack Ford, Brandon Keen, Jimmy McCarthy, J.P. Quinn

    Central Michigan has plenty of choices for its tackle spots, but it's not going to be an easy decision. Look for this position battle to last all the way into late August.

Cincinnati Bearcats

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Clemente Casseus, Corey Mason, Kevin Mouhon, Marcus Tappan, Solomon Tentman

    Greg Blair's graduation opens up a prime starting slot in the middle of Cincinnati's linebacker corps. Three veterans and two prospects, including a junior college transfer, will do battle until late in the preseason for that position.

Clemson Tigers

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    Tyler Smith/Getty Images

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Ben Boulware, T.J. Burrell, Kris Register, Korie Rogers, Tony Steward, Richard Yeargin III

    Clemson lucked out by having Stephone Anthony return for his senior year, or the Tigers would be replacing all three of their linebackers for 2014. But there's still two spots up for grabs, and with 4-star recruits Rogers and Yeargin coming on in the summer, it will take a while to sort things out.

Colorado Buffaloes

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Keenan Canty, Wesley Christensen, D.D. Goodson, Shay Fields, Tyler McCulloch, Devin Ross, Nelson Spruce

    Colorado only needs to replace one receiver, but it's a big one in Paul Richardson. Goodson was solid as the No. 2 guy, but he'll get fierce competition for that top spot.

Colorado State Rams

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Position: Defensive line

    Contenders: Austin Berk, Justin Hansen, Silvester Hayes, Terry Jackson, Joe Kawulok, LaRyan King, Danny Nwosu, Bryan Ohene, Johnny Schupp

    Colorado State must replace its entire front four, with the most noticeable departure being Shaquil Barrett. The coaching staff will want to give all of the returners and top recruit Hayes a full look before any decisions are made.

Connecticut Huskies

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    Jessica Hill/Associated Press

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Vontae Diggs, Jon Hicks, Lawrence Paul, Brandon Steg, Graham Stewart

    Paul showed up in the spring and Diggs arrives in the summer, both with the chance to make a big impact as Connecticut looks for a solid replacement for Yawin Smallwood. New coach Bob Diaco will keep the competition open as long as it takes to find the right fit.

Duke Blue Devils

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Position: Cornerback

    Contenders: Breon Borders, DeVon Edwards, Bryan Fields, Zach Muniz, Alonzo Saxton

    Muniz and Saxton will show up in the summer to bring extra choices to a competition to replace 2013 starters Ross Cockrell and Garrett Patterson. Edwards was a star at safety, but he could also make a splash on the corner.

East Carolina Pirates

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Breon Allen, Chris Hairston, Corey Hunter, Anthony Scott

    The race to succeed Vintavious Cooper will continue through the summer, as East Carolina needs a running back that can handle the improved defenses of the American Athletic Conference. Quarterback Kevin Carden can't do it all, and the Pirates must find someone to provide nice offensive balance.

Eastern Michigan Eagles

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Reggie Bell, Brandon Bossard, Brogan Roback

    A competition that began in spring will last until Eastern Michigan's opener against Morgan State, as new coach Chris Creighton will want to use the entire offseason for such a critical position. Roback threw for 490 yards and four touchdowns as a backup in 2013.

Florida Gators

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Raphael Andrades, Alvin Bailey, Andre Debose, Ahmad Fulwood, Marqui Hawkins, J.C. Jackson, Latroy Pittman, Demarcus Robinson, Ryan Sousa, Chris Thompson, C.J. Worton

    An already crowded field fighting to be the go-to receivers in Florida's lineup will get even more overloaded with the summer arrival of three more recruits, including 4-start prospect J.C. Jackson. With so many options, new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper can (and probably will) spend the next five months finding the right fit.

Florida Atlantic Owls

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    J Pat Carter/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Henry Bussey, Gregory Howell, Tony Moore, Trey Rodriguez, Jay Warren

    New coach Charlie Partridge went heavy on local talent for his first recruiting class, and that included bringing in some solid candidates for the Owls' open running back slot. Expect a prolonged battle for that starting spot.

Florida International Golden Panthers

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    STEVE COLEMAN/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

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

    The quarterback situation was not a solid one for FIU last season, so Ron Turner will look at everyone before deciding who will start this fall. The list of possibilities includes a pair of incoming recruits.

Florida State Seminoles

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    Phil Sears/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Christian Green, Ermon Lane, Travis Rudolph, Kermit Whitfield, Jesus Wilson

    The loss of Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw is huge for Florida State, but the defending champs will just reload at receiver rather than rebuild. Rashad Greene is still around, and Whitfield showed his speed in the national title game. But 5-star recruit Ermon Lane and 4-star Travis Rudolph—neither of whom arrive until the summer—have to get their shot before the starting slots are determined.

Fresno State Bulldogs

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Kilton Anderson, Brian Burrell, Myles Carr, Zack Greenlee

    Fresno State will not be anywhere near as good as it was in 2014 without an effective quarterback, so this race will take a while to decide unless someone stands out early. Anderson arrives in the summer and will make for another option if one of the returners doesn't shine through.

Georgia Bulldogs

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    Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Defensive end

    Contenders: Sterling Bailey, Keyon Brown, Lorenzo Carter, Josh Dawson, Toby Johnson

    Carter is Georgia's top incoming prospect, a 5-star end who was rated 18th overall in the country. He and 4-star recruit Keyon Brown will show up in summer with the hope of winning the Bulldogs' only position left open by graduation. The edge-rushers are still going to be key to this fall's attack.

Georgia Southern Eagles

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Tray Butler, Cornelius Collins, Irving Huggins, Derek Keaton, Devin Scott, Lakenderic Thomas

    Georgia Southern is bringing its option attack to FBS in 2014, and in order for it to be successful, the Eagles will need as many solid rushers as possible. Three returners and three recruits will battle for carries all throughout camp.

Georgia State Panthers

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    Dave Tulis/Associated Press

    Position: Cornerback

    Contenders: Antreal Allen, Nate Anthony, Marcus Caffey, Nate Hill, Myles Morris

    In order for Georgia State to be successful at the FBS level, it will need to be able to beat teams at their strengths. In 2013, the Panthers struggled with pass defense, and with openings at both corners, there's an opportunity to make big improvement there.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

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

    Matthew Jordan is a 3-star signee who will show up in the summer as yet another option for Paul Johnson in his quest to replace the transferred Vad Lee. Thomas was the main backup last season, but he's not locked into the role.

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

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    Eugene Tanner/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Samson Anguay, Kwamane Bowens, Marcus Kemp, Don'Yeh Patterson, Mack Richards

    Hawaii's open quarterback position will probably be decided a lot quicker than who that quarterback will throw to in the Warriors' spread offense. Patterson is Hawaii's top incoming recruit, and he'll be thrown right into the competition.

Houston Cougars

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    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Cornerback

    Contenders: Garrett Davis, Earl Foster, William Jackson, Tarrin Mitchell, Alex Tillman, Turon Walker

    A pair of incoming freshman join the competition this summer to replace both of Houston's cornerbacks. The Cougars defense was surprisingly good in 2013, forcing plenty of turnovers, and the coaching staff will be looking for starters who can do the same this fall.

Idaho Vandals

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    Dean Hare/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Jerrel Brown, Aaron Duckworth, Michael Garner, Richard Montgomery, Kristoffer Olugbode, Elijhaa Penny

    Now that Idaho is in the Sun Belt Conference, it has a chance to grow and develop talent, though junior college transfers are still part of the plan. Many of those transfers are among the players fighting to be the Vandals' next running back.

Illinois Fighting Illini

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Geronimo Allison, Martize Barr, Peter Bonahoom, Devin Church, Mike Dudek, Dustin Hardy, Tyrin Stone-Davis, Dionte Taylor, Malik Turner

    The battle to fill the quarterback job could be over before the spring is done—or at least by early summer. Who that passer will throw to will take longer to decide, as Illinois needs to replace all three starting receivers.

Indiana Hoosiers

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    Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Safety

    Contenders: Brandon Grubbe, Justin Nowak, Zeke Walker, Dameon Willis, Jake Zupancic

    Indiana brings back nearly its entire starting lineup from 2013, but considering the defense was quite bad, that's not necessarily a great thing. Still, only safety Greg Heban graduated, and the Hoosiers have three returners and two signees to choose from for a replacement.

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, Aaron Mends, Ben Niemann, Travis Perry, Reggie Spearman, Dalton Shaull

    Iowa only signed a pair of linebacker prospects this offseason, which is understandable considering the overabundance of such players already on the roster. The vast numbers will help increase the chance of finding three good replacements for last year's starting corps.

Iowa State Cyclones

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    Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Spo

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Dondre Daley, Tad Ecby, P.J. Harris, Allen Lazard, Jauan Wesley, Jarvis West

    Lazard is a 4-star signee who chose the Cyclones over Notre Dame. He'll be a great option to look at as a complement to Quenton Bundrage. New coordinator Mark Mangino has options, and he'll want to go with the best one.

Kansas Jayhawks

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    John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Corey Avery, Brandon Bourbon, De'Andre Mann, Traevohn Wrench

    James Sims wasn't the most flashy of rushers, but he was at least reliable and consistent. Kansas will need someone similar to get itself moving in the right direction. Mann and Wrench are incoming freshmen who could fit that bill.

Kansas State Wildcats

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    John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Defensive tackle

    Contenders: Chris Brown, Terrell Clinkscales, Valentino Coleman, Demonte Hood

    Coleman and Hood were the main backups for departed tackle Chaquil Reed, but don't count out top signee Clinkscales. The 4-star prospect is among the many junior college transfers the Wildcats bring in annually to play right away, so let the battle begin.

Kent State Golden Flashes

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    Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Cornerback

    Contenders: Jerrell Foster, Kerrick Rhone, Erik Simpson

    Kent State welcomes in a pair of 3-star recruits to its secondary this summer, with Foster and Simpson both considered by 247Sports to be among the top 100 players in Ohio. They'll fight with 2013 backup Rhone to fill the spot left by Darius Polk.

Kentucky Wildcats

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    Garry Jones/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

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

    With part-time 2013 starter Smith sitting out spring practice after offseason shoulder surgery, the quarterback race will need to carry into the summer and probably right up until opening day. No matter how impressive 4-star early enrollee Barker might be, everyone will be given a shot at this job.

Louisville Cardinals

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Kyle Bolin, Reggie Bonnafon, Will Gardner, Brett Nelson

    Bonnafon committed to Louisville during the time between Charlie Strong's departure and Bobby Petrino's hiring, almost as if he knew a quarterback lover was going to take the job. While Gardner is the big front-runner for the job, nothing is certain when a coaching change happens.

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Tyron Alexander, Boris Anyama, Darius Barksdale, Kevin Fouquier, Chris Hill, T.J. Posey

    ULL only brought in one linebacker recruit, Posey, because there are already plenty of viable candidates on the roster to replace departed senior Justin Anderson. Still, the competition to succeed Anderson should take a while.

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

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    GM Andrews/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Brayle Brown, Anthony Monken, Garrett Smith, Brian Williams

    Kolton Browning was a solid quarterback for several years for ULM, but now it's time for a new passer. The Warhawks recruited two quarterbacks to go with their existing options, and it should be a nice battle.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

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    Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Wide receiver

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

    Louisiana Tech's four-receiver lineup needs three new starters, but it's a matter of which one will go into each slot that will keep this competition going long. Seay is a summer arrival who will get a chance to be part of the mix.

LSU Tigers

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    Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Rob Bolden, John Diarse, Malachi Dupre, Travin Dural, Quantavius Leslie, Trey Quinn, Avery Peterson, Kevin Spears

    The decision to move Bolden, a career quarterback, to receiver during spring practice throws another talented athlete into the mix in the battle for both open starting wideout positions. The competition is likely to last until the end of preseason because the most highly regarded of the group, 5-star signee Dupre, doesn't arrive until the summer.

Marshall Thundering Herd

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    Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Steward Butler, Kelvin Grooms, Remi Watson

    While Marshall gets one more year with Rakeem Cato running things at quarterback, it has to find a replacement for Essray Taliaferro in the backfield. All three of the candidates for the position have been in the program and know what is expected, but none has a clear advantage.

Maryland Terrapins

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Position: Offensive tackle

    Contenders: Ryan Doyle, Michael Dunn, Derwin Gray, Moise Larose, Damian Prince

    Doyle and Dunn topped the depth chart at the tackle spots at the end of last season, but with Maryland securing a prized 5-star local product in Damian Prince you'd have to think those jobs aren't safe. Prince chose the Terrapins of Florida, Florida State and South Carolina, so it's unlikely he won't be given every chance to earn a starting spot.

Massachusetts Minutemen

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Position: Defensive line

    Contenders: Peter Ange, Enoch Asante, Chris Carter, Robert Kitchings, Trey Seals, Joshua Smiley, Jack Wynne

    Massachusetts is pretty much starting over after back-to-back 1-11 seasons in FBS, and that starts with replacing the entire defensive line. Four returners and three recruits are the main candidates.

Memphis Tigers

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    David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Running back

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

    This battle for the running back position began in the spring and will continue all the way until opening day, as Memphis is in desperate need of some rushing consistency. The Tigers struggled with the run game last year, so the decision of who will be the main runner will take some time to mull over.

Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Brad Kaaya, Kevin Olsen, Ryan Williams

    Olsen and Williams are battling it out in spring practice for the starting job, but unless one takes a clear lead after those sessions, the competition will extend into the summer. That's when Kaaya, a 4-star prospect, will come on board. Though he's a long shot to beat out the others, adding a third guy to the mix will lengthen the decision process.

Miami (Ohio) RedHawks

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    Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Paul Moses, Grant Niemiec, Alonzo Smith, Spencer Treadwell

    Treadwell was the main rusher last season, but Miami was woeful on offense and has a new coaching staff in place. Moses was the RedHawks' top recruit, so look for a nice, long competition for the starting job.

Michigan Wolverines

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Position: Left tackle

    Contenders: Ben Braden, Erik Magnuson

    An improved offense starts with the line, and the Wolverines' front five was inconsistent in 2013. Making matters worse: The best of the lot, Taylor Lewan, has graduated, leaving the critical left tackle position open. Braden and Magnuson are the best candidates for the job, and their battle should last all the way to the opener.

Michigan State Spartans

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    Al Goldis/Associated Press

    Position: Cornerback

    Contenders: Jermaine Edmondson, Darian Hicks, Ezra Robinson, Jalen Watts-Jackson

    Five starters need to be replaced from arguably the best defense in the country in 2013. But of those, the most critical is the spot left vacant by Darqueze Dennard at corner. The Spartans didn't recruit a high-level player at that position, so it will come down to one of last season's backups.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

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    Liz Condo-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Quarterback

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

    Middle Tennessee's breakout year in 2013 was a product of many factors, most notably its quarterback play. That's why the competition to be the starter this fall will be a vicious one.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive tackle

    Contenders: Scott Ekpe, Jordan Hinojosa, Roland Johnson, Harold Legania, Damaris Peppers, Steven Richardson, Yoshoub Timms

    Ra'Shede Hageman isn't going to be easy to replace, which is why Jerry Kill and his staff will take as long as needed to find his successor. Most of the candidates are already on the roster, but there's no need to rush such an important decision.

Mississippi Rebels

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Quincy Adeboyejo, Cody Core, Dayall Harris, Markell Pack, Vince Sanders

    Laquon Treadwell has his receiver spot locked up, but Ole Miss needs to find quality replacements for its other two positions. The summer arrival of 4-star recruit Pack will spice up the competition, but Sanders had some impressive catches last season.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Nick Griffin, Josh Robinson, Ashton Shumpert, Aeris Williams

    Williams, a 4-star signee, joins the tangle for the running back job in the summer. It might only be a two- or three-person race by then, but Williams will get a good look before a decision is made.

Missouri Tigers

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    Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: DeSean Blair, Nate Brown, Lawrence Lee, Darius White

    Missouri still has the dynamic presence that is Dorial Green-Beckham, but his breakout last season was aided by L'Damian Washington drawing interest on the other side of the field. Who that will be in 2014 is uncertain, with three of the four candidates true freshmen who aren't on campus yet.

Navy Midshipmen

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    Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Linebacker

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

    Navy has no shortage of linebackers on its roster, though most are on the smaller side for FBS play. The addition of Palmore in the summer will provide a solid contender to a large field looking to replace two of four starting spots from 2013.

     

     

Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Position: Offensive tackle

    Contenders: Matt Finnin, Nick Gates, David Knevel, Alex Lewis, Zach Sterup

    Four of Nebraska's starting offensive linemen were seniors in 2013, but the open guard and center spots aren't as heavily contested as the tackle positions. Nick Gates, a 4-star recruit, arrives in the summer and should keep the battle going for a while, unless Colorado transfer Alex Lewis impresses enough in spring ball to lock down a gig early.

Nevada Wolf Pack

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Aaron Bradley, Andrew Celis, Wyatt Demps, D'Andre Fuller, Hasaan Henderson, Jerico Richardson, Richy Turner

    Cody Fajardo is primed to have a great senior year, one that shouldn't be hampered by injury. But he'll need a reliable receiver to replace Brandon Wimberly, so look for the competition to fill this slot to be very intense.

New Mexico Lobos

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    Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Teriyon Gipson, Crusoe Gongbay, Tyrone Owens, Jhurell Pressley, Patrick Reed

    Gongbay took over the starting job after Kasey Carrier got injured late last season. Now, with Carrier gone, he should be the front-runner for the permanent gig. But head coach Bob Davie has options, and he'll want to explore them.

New Mexico State Aggies

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Andrew Allen, King Davis, Nick Jeanty, Tyler Rogers

    The Aggies have an opening at quarterback, and it is a key position that they need to take their time filling. Nick Jeanty, NMSU's lone 3-star recruit, comes in the summer to add to the competition.

North Carolina Tar Heels

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    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    Position: Running back

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

    All of the guys fighting to take over the starting spot behind Marquise Williams in the backfield were around for spring ball, but it's a tight battle. With a new offensive coordinator in place, the Tar Heels will make this competition last as long as it takes to get the best guy in place.

North Carolina State Wolfpack

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    James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Safety

    Contenders: Shawn Boone, Tim Buckley, Kalen McCain, Jermaine Pratt, Josh Stanley

    Three true freshmen and a pair of 2013 backups will battle all summer long to replace three-year starter Dontae Johnson, one of the few bright spots for the Wolfpack defense last season.

North Texas Mean Green

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    Sarah Glenn/Getty Images

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Jalen Adams, Fonzale Davis, Tee Goree, Carlos Harris, Willy Ivery, Darvin Kidsy, Okeeron Rutherford, Darius Terrell

    North Texas lost a lot of talent from its breakout team in 2013, including two top receivers. The production needs to come from new guys, either the bevy of recruits or existing roster players.

Northern Illinois Huskies

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Ryan Graham, Drew Hare, Matt McIntosh, Landon Root

    In anticipation of do-everything quarterback Jordan Lynch's graduation, the Huskies recruited a pair of quarterbacks to go with the two capable backups already on the roster. It should be a wide-open competition that could go to any of the quartet.

Northwestern Wildcats

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    Brian Ray/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive end

    Contenders: Max Chapman, Garrett Dickerson, Deonte Gibson, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Xavier Washington

    The loss of edge-rusher Tyler Scott needs to be addressed in order for Northwestern to avoid the defensive breakdowns it had last season. Dickerson is a 4-star recruit who should be a big part of the competition.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Michael Deeb, Jarrett Grace, Kendall Moore, Nyles Morgan, Romeo Okwara, Doug Randolph, Joe Schmidt, John Turner, Ishaq Williams

    Jaylon Smith is the only returning linebacker for this unit, and while he's a great one, he won't be able to do it all himself. Veteran backups and untested young guys will need to fill the other starting spots, and there are plenty of candidates. The field will also include Notre Dame's top 2014 recruit, 4-star Nyles Morgan, who will arrive on campus in the summer.

Ohio Bobcats

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Joey Duckworth, J.D. Sprague, Derrius Vick

    Tyler Tettleton was a fixture as Ohio's quarterback for several years, but now a successor is needed. Head coach Frank Solich brought in Duckworth as one of his top recruits, but all three players have a legitimate shot.

Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Position: Will linebacker

    Contenders: Kyle Berger, Dante Booker, Joe Burger, Trey Johnson, Raekwon McMillan, Camren Williams

    Ryan Shazier's spot needs to be filled by the best possible player, and while Johnson looks to be the leading candidate, the job isn't automatically his. Look for the Buckeyes to let everyone on the roster have a shot to prove himself, including summer arrivals Berger and Booker.

    McMillan, OSU's top recruit from this class, will also get a look even though he's more suited for the inside.

Oklahoma Sooners

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    Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Keith Ford, Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Alex Ross, David Smith

    Bob Stoops likely won't have his starting running back in place by the end of spring practice, which isn't surprising, with 5-star all-purpose back Joe Mixon not coming on board until the summer. Ford, with 134 yards last season, is the Sooners' top returner, but he'll have his work cut out for him trying to hold off Mixon and others.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Gyasi Akem, Devante Averette, Kris Catlin, Sean Jacobs, Josh Mabin, Joe Mitchell

    Two starters have graduated from the middle of Oklahoma State's defense, and while Ryan Simmons is entrenched in his role, the Cowboys need to find good replacements for the other spots. Akem, OSU's top defensive recruit of the 2014 class, will arrive in the summer to keep this position battle going.

Old Dominion Monarchs

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Cam Boyd, Isaiah Harper, Gerard Johnson, Ray Lawry III

    Taylor Heinicke's passing was enough for Old Dominion to rely on last season against a schedule of mostly FCS teams, but the Monarchs will need more balance now that they're in Conference USA.

Oregon Ducks

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive tackle

    Contenders: Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, T.J. Daniel, Sam Kamp

    The departures of Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi and Ricky Havili-Heimuli leave a giant hole in the middle of the Ducks' front line on defense, and that needs to be handled carefully. This is one area that Oregon didn't address heavily in its recruiting class, so what's here now is going to have to suffice. Armstead is a former starter, and Buckner showed lots of promise last season.

Oregon State Beavers

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    Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Victor Bolden, Malik Gilmore, Datrin Guyton, Xavier Hawkins, Javon Williams

    With Brandin Cooks leaving early for the NFL, Richard Mullaney is the top receiver left for the Beavers. But a few incoming prospects, highlighted by Guyton, will compete to keep Mullaney from having to do it all himself.

Penn State Nittany Lions

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    Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Troy Apke, Saeed Blacknall, Chris Godwin, Geno Lewis, De'Andre Thompkins, Matt Zanellato

    James Franklin has to find two new wide receivers, and, while the spring might have been a good starting point for evaluation, the true competition won't begin until late 4-star pickup Saeed Blacknall gets on to campus.

Pittsburgh Panthers

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Trey Anderson, Adam Bertke, JaQuan Davidson, Chad Voytik

    It isn't so much that Pitt doesn't think 2013 backup Voytik can get the job done succeeding Tom Savage as it is that the Panthers would be best suited with as many options as possible. That's why they went out and signed both a pro-style (Bertke) and dual-threat (Davidson) quarterback during the offseason.

Purdue Boilermakers

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    R Brent Smith/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive line

    Contenders: Chuck Ayres, JaWhaun Bentley, Will Colmery, Ra'Zahn Howard, Evan Panfil, Jake Replogle, Gelen Robinson

    Shoring up Purdue's porous defense will start up front, with four returners and three prospects tussling all summer to replace the three departed starters. This won't be a quick competition; it should last until deep into August.

Rice Owls

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Jowan Davis, Darik Dillard, J.T. Ibe, Turner Petersen, Samuel Turner, Luke Turner, Aston Walter, Austin Walter, Destri White

    During recruiting for 2014, Rice went after a certain type of player, one who can fit into a variety of spots. Many of these guys will get a shot at playing in the backfield, where an opening exists, but they'll need to beat out returners like Davis.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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    Mel Evans/Associated Press

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Quentin Gause, Sidney Gopre, Davon Jacobs, L.J. Liston, Steve Longa, Justin Nelson, Kevin Snyder

    The Rutgers defense was pretty bad toward the end of last season, and with the Scarlet Knights' move to the Big Ten, there's a need for improvement. The unit also saw some departures. With Gopre and Nelson, along with the existing backups, it should be a spirited competition to replace two starting linebackers.

San Diego State Aztecs

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    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Kene Anigbogu, Larry Clark, Jabril Clewis, Christian Cumberlander, Mikah Holder, Eric Judge, Dionte Sykes

    San Diego State needs to find a solid replacement for Colin Lockett. Judge is the next man up on the existing roster, but the Aztecs have a handful of recruits that will get a chance to compete as well.

San Jose State Spartans

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Ian Fieber, Joe Gray, Blake Jurich

    Fieber will show up in the summer to provide a third option to replace David Fales' production and accuracy. A great quarterback is a key in the Mountain West, so look for this competition to last through training camp.

SMU Mustangs

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    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    Position: Wide receiver

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

    It's very possible that all five of these players will get significant playing time in SMU's pass-happy offense, but someone needs to step up and replace Jeremy Johnson's production and serve as a solid No. 2 receiver next to Darius Joseph.

South Alabama Jaguars

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    GM Andrews/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive line

    Contenders: Roman Buchanan, Malcolm Buggs, Nigel Green, C.J. Johnson, Christopher Wilkerson

    South Alabama's progress in its second year of FBS play included a strong defense, especially in the secondary. The Jaguars need a new safety, though, and four incoming recruits are part of the mix for that role.

South Carolina Gamecocks

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive end

    Contenders: Cedrik Cooper, Gerald Dixon, Darius English, Mason Harris, David Johnson, Devin Washington, Dexter Wideman

    You don't just plug in anyone to replace the likes of Jadeveon Clowney and Chaz Sutton, so while the spring will likely cut down the list of contenders, don't expect South Carolina to have its defensive end situation solved quickly. Dexter Wideman, a 4-star recruit, joins the team in the summer, and he'll have a shot along with the rest of the lot.

South Florida Bulls

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    Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Steven Bench, Bobby Eveld, Quinton Flowers, Mike White

    South Florida used so many quarterbacks last season it became a farce, especially when none of them proved very effective. Three are still in the mix for the job this year, but so is top 2014 recruit Quinton Flowers, a dual-threat passer who could be the answer to all of the Bulls' problems.

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

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    Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Defensive line

    Contenders: Dylan Bradley, Jon Michael Edwards, Dasman McCullum, Michael Smith, J.T. Williams

    Southern Mississippi's offense came alive in its finale last year when the 23-game losing streak ended. But the defense still struggled, and a big hole exists at nose tackle. One of these guys will have a lot expected of him.

Stanford Cardinal

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    Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Joey Alfieri, Kevin Anderson, Blake Lueders, Blake Martinez, Bobby Okereke, Jordan Perez, James Vaughters

    Stanford lost so much talent at linebacker it's hard to imagine the Cardinal could find people to replace those losses adequately. This will be a major challenge for new coordinator Lance Anderson, but he worked with the linebackers last season, so he has some nice firsthand knowledge. Incoming prospects like Alfieri and Okereke will add more options.

Syracuse Orange

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Luke Arciniega, Parris Bennett, Zaire Franklin, Marqez Hodge, Josh Kirkland, Jonathan Thomas

    Syracuse's defense helped keep the ship afloat while the offense took its time getting balanced last year, but with the loss of two starters in the middle, the task at hand is to find replacements who can maintain that level of performance.

TCU Horned Frogs

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Zach Allen, Trevone Boykin, Tyler Matthews, Grayson Muehlstein, Foster Sawyer

    Grayson Muehlstein and Foster Sawyer will show up in the summer and make the wide-open quarterback competition that much more muddied. Trevone Boykin was moved from the starting gig to receiver last year, but he could end up winning back his old job if it takes a while to sort things out.

Temple Owls

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    Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Safety

    Contenders: Alexander Ajanaku-Wells, Shamir Bearfield, Shahid Lovett, Stephaun Marshall, Jihaad Pretlow, Delvin Randall, Nate Smith

    The free safety position is a critical one for Temple, and there are plenty of players eager to fill that spot. The competition should last deep into the summer thanks to the presence of numerous incoming freshman.

Tennessee Volunteers

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Position: Offensive tackle

    Contenders: Dontavius Blair, Jacob Gilliam, Brett Kendrick, Marques Pair, Austin Sanders, Coleman Thomas

    Both tackle spots are open. Actually, Tennessee's entire offensive line will feature new starters. While there are plenty of candidates on hand to fill the positions, the positions are too important to rush to judgement.

    The Volunteers offense struggled last year, and to avoid that happening again, the best people need to be at tackle. So look for the decisions to not come until mid- to late-August.

Texas Longhorns

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    Michael Thomas/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: David Ash, Jerrod Heard, Tyrone Swoopes

    Charlie Strong can't miss with his choice for quarterback, not if he wants to avoid the same kind of criticism Mack Brown faced for his handling of that position toward the tail end of his career. Heard, the No. 2 dual-threat passer in the 2014 class, will join the fray in the summer, and there's still the looming specter of the Longhorns possibly landing USC transfer Max Wittek, as reported by Scott Wolf on Inside USC.

Texas A&M Aggies

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Matt Joeckel, Kenny Hill, Kyle Allen

    Texas A&M has a lot of issues to work on in its defense, especially if it wants to continue to compete in the SEC. But more than anything, the Aggies need to make sure they have the right guy at quarterback, because solid play from that position can allow the defense to improve slowly.

    With that in mind, there's no reason to expect Kevin Sumlin to make up his mind between these three talented passers during the spring.

Texas State Bobcats

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    Dave Martin/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: P.J. Anderson, DeVondrick Dixon, Ryan Garrey, Michael Gilmore, Ben Ijah, Brandon Smith

    The Bobcats went 6-6 last season, but they lost two of their three receiving starters. It's a critical spot that needs to be filled, and Dennis Franchione will want to give both his returners and the newcomers a legitimate chance to stake a claim.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Cameron Batson, Michael Coley, Byron Daniels, Jakari Dillard, Jakeem Grant, Devin Lauderdale, Bradley Marquez, Ian Sadler

    Texas Tech signed six receivers in the 2014 class, giving Kliff Kingsbury plenty of options to slide into an offense that spreads the ball around but lost a lot of production in the form of Jace Amaro and Eric Ward. Grant is the best of the returners.

Toledo Rockets

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    Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Quarterback

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

    There are four guys looking to replace Terrance Owens and what he was able to do for the Rockets during his career, and they'll be battling it out from spring ball all the way until the end of summer practice.

Troy Trojans

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    Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Connor Bravard, Dontreal Pruitt, Dallas Tidwell

    Troy has all three of its quarterback candidates on campus now, but a position this important probably won't be figured out until the summer. Coach Larry Blakeney took a while to decide on Corey Robinson four years ago, and he'll likely take his time choosing Robinson's replacement.

Tulane Green Wave

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    Bill Haber/Associated Press

    Position: Linebacker

    Contenders: Kyle Davis, Rae Juan Marbley

    Marbley is Tulane's top incoming recruit. He'll have the chance to compete for the starting linebacker slot because the Green Wave are thin in the middle. However, Davis got time as a backup last season and will fight hard for the job.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

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    Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sp

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: James Flanders, Zack Langer, Rowdy Simon, Michael Sorrells, Trevor Toliver, Ramadi Warren

    Warren's arrival in the summer will prolong the battle for who replaces prolific rusher Trey Watts. Watts was the lone source of promise on Tulsa's offense last season, and his successor will need to be a consistent contributor.

UAB Blazers

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    Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Jeremiah Briscoe, Cody Clements, Drew Eckels, Pat Thomas

    Three of the four potential starters for Bill Clark's first team are new to the program, so this should be a pretty wide-open competition. UAB needs a good passer to be able to help get back to being respectable.

UCLA Bruins

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Position: Linebacker

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

    The need to find a quality pair of replacements for Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt requires a lengthy evaluation process, far more than UCLA will get from spring ball. And with Whitley, Williams and Young not joining the program until the summer, this competition will go up to the last minute.

UNLV Runnin' Rebels

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Blake Decker, Nick Sherry, Kevin Thomson

    Decker, a former BYU player who spent last season at a junior college, arrived in time for spring ball. But unless he or Sherry blew coach Bobby Hauck away, then 2-star high school recruit Kelvin Thomson will get his chance during preseason camp to replace Caleb Herring.

USC Trojans

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Victor Blackwell, George Farmer, Ajene Harris, Rahshead Johnson, Steven Mitchell, Darreus Rogers, Juju Smith 

    The talent that will compete for Marqise Lee's former starting spot opposite 2013 breakout star Nelson Agholor compares with that of any other school in the country, which is both good and bad for new coach Steve Sarkisian. It means he's got plenty of options, but it also won't be easy to make a decision, especially with 5-star prospect Juju Smith and two other wideout prospects not showing up until the summer.

Utah Utes

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    Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Defensive tackle

    Contenders: Viliseni Fauonuku, Allan Havili, Sese Ianu, Pasoni Tasini, Sam Tevi

    There are plenty of big guys ready to fill in the holes left on Utah's defensive line, but whether any of them can handle the job is up in the air. Backups and recruits will combine in the summer for a fierce competition.

Utah State Aggies

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    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Position: Defensive tackle

    Contenders: Ricky Ali'fua, Edmund Faimalo, Elvis Kamana-Matagi, Gasetoto Schuster, Travis Seefeldt, Mohelika Uasike

    The Aggies defense was among the best in the country and was very effective in getting pressure on the Mountain West's many great quarterbacks. There's a hole at nose tackle, and these six candidates will battle it out all the way until late-August.

UTEP Miners

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    Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sp

    Position: Defensive line

    Contenders: Gino Bresolin, Maurice Chavis, Jason Fao, Silas Firstley, Jordan Kraemer, Devante Richardson, Roy Robertson, Alex Villareal

    The defensive line was pretty bad for UTEP last season, and now it has three holes that need to be filled. The Miners brought in several candidates to take these jobs, but there's also a slew of existing players in the hunt.

UTSA Roadrunners

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Position: Quarterback

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

    Blake Bogenschutz, a 2-star pro-style passer, will join the wide-open race to replace Eric Soza this summer. Carter was the backup in 2013, but he only threw for 190 yards, so there's no clear favorite at this point.

Vanderbilt Commodores

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Rashad Canty, Jordan Cunningham, Ronald Monroe, Trent Pruitt, Latevius Rayford, Caleb Scott, LaDarius Wiley, Trey Wilkins

    Vanderbilt lost more than just its figurehead and coach in James Franklin; the Commodores also have to replace the SEC's all-time receiving leader in Jordan Matthews. To that end, Vandy signed a bevy of wideouts to go with a good crop of existing players, which should make for a nice battle.

Virginia Cavaliers

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    Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sport

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Kyle Dockins, Adrian Gamble, Miles Gooch, Jamil Kamara, Canaan Severin, Dominique Terrell

    Kamara had 23 touchdowns on just 70 receptions in high school, so it's unlikely he'll be sitting out his first year in college. Whether he can beat out a laundry list of returners for Virginia's third wideout position, though, will be a fun thing to watch this summer.

Virginia Tech Hokies

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    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Andrew Ford, Mark Leal, Travon McMillian, Brenden Motley

    Travon McMillian's arrival in the summer will ramp up the competition to replace longtime starter Logan Thomas, and the 4-star dual-threat prospect will be given a solid look. Leal is the senior who has waited patiently as the backup, but the job is wide open.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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    NELL REDMOND/Associated Press

    Position: Defensive tackle

    Contenders: Josh Banks, Tylor Harris, James Looney, Zeek Rodney

    Zeek Rodney will arrive in the summer and beef up the battle to replace standout nose guard Nikita Whitlock. It's not the easiest thing to try and do, but new coach Dave Clawson had to be aware of the challenges he was going to face when he took the job.

Washington Huskies

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    Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: K.J. Carta-Samuels, Jeff Lindquist, Cyler Miles

    New coach Chris Petersen couldn't do much about replacing Keith Price in the spring because of Miles being suspended. Assuming Miles is reinstated in time for preseason camp, he'll get a solid battle from 4-star recruit K.J. Carta-Samuels for the starting job.

Washington State Cougars

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Safety

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

    With Singleton's arrival in the summer, Washington State will have five viable candidates to fill the biggest hole in its defense. Deone Bucannon was one of the best safeties in the country last year, and there's a chance his younger brother could take his place.

West Virginia Mountaineers

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    John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: William Crest, Skyler Howard, Paul Millard, Clint Trickett

    West Virginia's quarterback situation is so murky, it's unlikely it will be cleared up before summer practice begins. So why not throw Crest, a 3-star signee, into the mix as well?

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

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    Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Leon Allen, D'Andre Ferby, Travis Lock, Anthony Wales

    New Hilltoppers coach Jeff Brohm is a quarterback guru, but he understands the importance of a good running back. WKU had that last year in prolific rusher Antonio Andrews, and it needs to find someone solid to replace all that lost production.

Western Michigan Broncos

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    Stew Milne/Associated Press

    Position: Running back

    Contenders: Jamauri Bogan, Leo Ekwoge, Jared Joyner, Jonathan Russell, Trevor Sweeney

    Western Michigan has some future stars at wide receiver, but it needs offensive balance in order to keep 1-11 seasons from being the norm. The running back position is a critical fill for the Broncos, and the coaching staff will use as much time as necessary to evaluate the available talent.

Wisconsin Badgers

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Wide receiver

    Contenders: Alex Erickson, Jordan Frederick, Chris Jones, Reggie Love, Krenwick Sanders, Rob Wheelwright

    The hunt for the next Jared Abbrederis will extend deep into the summer thanks to the late arrival of Jones and Sanders. Wisconsin needs to be able to throw the ball to avoid its run game getting stunted, so someone will need to emerge.

Wyoming Cowboys

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    Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Quarterback

    Contenders: Austin Fort, Colby Kirkegaard, Nick Smith, Tommy Thornton, Aaron Young

    Aaron Young showed up in time for spring ball, while Austin Fort and Nick Smith will arrive in the summer, giving Wyoming coach Craig Bohl five candidates to replace the dynamic production of Brett Smith. It's not going to be an easy task, but the decision will come after plenty of evaluation.