Football filled with position battles

There are numerous position battles that will be taking place in a matter of months. Read on to find out which ones to keep an eye on.

There are a few spots up for grabs heading into the 2011 football season for the Arizona Wildcats. Whether it is due to departed players or injuries to current ones, there are multiple positions that are wide open in terms of competition.

Fall camp – which is a little over two months away – will decide just who wins these battles. There are certain to be several to keep an eye on both sides of the ball.

Starting with the offensive line, UA will bring an entirely new starting unit to the field in 2011, but there will be some interesting competition at both the tackle and guard positions. On the outside, the main contenders for the two tackle jobs will be Mickey Baucus, Trent Spurgeon and Fabbians Ebbele. They are all very tall, very wide players that fit the bill perfectly on the bookends.

All three played very well in spring ball with Baucus and Ebbele taking command on the outside. Spurgeon has been solid as well and was one of the top-rated offensive tackles in his recruiting class, so expect him to make a strong push for starting job during fall camp.

The guard position is going to have a pretty intense battle as well. Players like Chris Putton, Trace Biskin, Eric Bender-Ramsay, Addison Bachman, Jake Baratz and Carter Lees are all likely to battle for the right to start. It should be an intense competition as all of these players have been sitting on the sidelines (or in Bachman's case the JUCO ranks) for quite some period waiting for consistent playing time.

Biskin has been on the team the longest and Putton has some game experience under his belt. Bender-Ramsay has the size and strength to be a road grader when healthy. Those three are going to be tough to beat out, but the players battling with them are going to give those three all they can handle.

With Greg Nwoko out, the battle for the backup job behind Keola Antolin is an important one for the offense. Daniel Jenkins, Kylan Butler, Ka'Deem Carey and Jared Baker all believe they have a chance to be the second in line on the depth chart.

Given his solid spring, Jenkins looks to be ahead of the pack right now, but as long as Butler is fully healthy, he should be in play during fall camp. Both Carey and Baker are expected to come in and at least make the incumbents work hard for their jobs. Carey will have a microscope on him from the local fan-base as his high school career at Canyon Del Oro has been equaled by very few in the history of Tucson high school football.

Defensive end doesn't have too much depth, but each player with a legitimate shot at playing time looks to push for a starting job. C.J. Parish and Mohammad Usman are the early leaders to start, but expect Daniel Pettinato to make a major push as the staff is high on his potential.

Also look for Lamar De Rego to throw his hat into the ring once he arrives on campus. He already has the size to play at the Pac-12 level and was very productive at the JUCO level.

One of the more intriguing battles should be at the third linebacker / nickel position. There are only two linebackers currently on the roster with experience, which means three freshmen – Rob Hankins, Hank Hobson and Dominique Petties – will be asked to come in and immediately compete for a starting position.

Hankins is widely thought to have star-potential and is regarded as an extremely hard worker and a football junkie. Hobson was one of the top defensive players in his region of California and Petties' athleticism could make him a viable pass rusher while his experience in the secondary will help him in coverage schemes.

Given the lack of depth at linebacker, expect Arizona to utilize the nickel with regularity. Players such as Marquis Flowers, Rob Golden, Josh Robbins, and Mark Watley lead the pack of players looking to make an impact at safety in 2011 and with that could potentially come more chances to play closer to the line of scrimmage.

One position that will surprisingly have plenty of attention is the kicker position. Given the way the 2010 campaign ended for incumbent Alex Zendejas, many expect JUCO All-American Jaime Salazar to come in and take over the job.

It's really hard to expect something of that stature out of someone who has never kicked in front of a sizable crowd before, but after Zendejas' blunders at the end of the year, it's easy to understand why people are looking forward to seeing what Salazar is capable of.

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