With the Bears returning 7 offensive and defensive starters, there aren't a lot of new spots in the lineup. The biggest coming into the offseason was quarterback, and Bryce Petty has a firm grasp on that position and has already been named the starter. So what other position battles do the Bears have this offseason?
1. Outside Receiver – Jay Lee / Clay Fuller / Robbie Rhodes
One of the two spots on the outside of the Bears' offense will be Antwan Goodley, presuming he is healthy. The other spot though is the question mark. Right now, Fuller and Lee are listed as co-starters with Fuller working his way up the depth chart with an excellent spring. Lee has more of the size Briles likes from his receivers on the outside, but Fuller has good speed and has good enough size. The big wild card here is true freshman Robbie Rhodes. There is little doubt that he will be on the two-deep depth chart somewhere, but can he go from high school to starting for one of the best offenses in the nation?
The other big name freshman recruit (and the other true freshman Briles thinks has a chance to play right away) is Billings. Right now Blackshear is the starter, but with Billings and Brooks (JUCO transfer) coming in the fall, there will be a big fight for the starting spot. Right now Javonte Magee is at the defensive tackle position, and his spot could be challenged as well, but the focus will probably be for the bigger nose tackle spot with the two new players coming to town.
There are only two spots, and three starting caliber senior corners on the roster. With Morton and Goodson both having injury problems over their career though, the Bears will happily use all three. Williams was the most consistent of the cornerbacks last year and seems the most likely to start, while Kenny Morton was excellent late in the 2011 season where he was arguably the best corer the Bears have had since the days of C.J. Wilson and Anthony Arline. Goodson played very well last year before going out early in the West Virginia game, but that is the second year in a row where he has had a season ending injury.
4. Right Guard – Desmine Hillard / Tyler Edwards
Hillard is the starter now, but the sophomore does not have a ton of experience for the Bears. With junior college transfer Tyler Edwards eligible in the fall, the Bears could see some changes at this spot. Edwards will at least be counted on to provide experienced depth across several positions, but could earn his way into the starting lineup.
This is not a negative statement at all about Lloyd, a 3-year starter. The active leader in career starts for the Bears has been a solid and steady contributor from his rush end spot. However, Shawn Oakman brings an entirely different dynamic to the end position and with his size (6-foot-9, 270 lbs) could do a better job in both the passing and running game. Both will definitely be in the rotation along with Chris McCallister and Jamal Palmer on the other side.