With Quinn Gooch and Dustin Gabriel both returning as starters at the free and strong safety positions respectively, not a lot will need to be sorted out during spring practices in regards to who is named as the two starting safeties. Both Gooch and Gabriel performed at a high level last season and will undoubtedly only improve upon their play collectively heading into the 2007 season.
The question of who will back up Gooch and Gabriel does have to be addressed and a full cadre of safeties will have their opportunity this spring to show what they got in hopes of breaking the two-deep roster:
-David Tafuna: Tafuna will likely reestablish himself as the prime backup at both safety positions as he was last season. Tafuna proved solid when asked to step in for either Gooch or Gabriel last season and he'll likely log a lot of reps with the 1s on defense due to Gabriel's health issues, which will again keep him out of full contact drills.
-Corby Hodgkiss: Hodgkiss, like Tafuna, has a lot of experience on the playing field, being part of the two-deep roster in each of his last two seasons. Hodgkiss will be back and ready to secure his spot again on the two-deep roster.
-Chris Warner: Warner established himself as a solid contributor on special teams units last season and hopes to break into the mix at safety starting tomorrow with spring practices. Warner has good size and athleticism and could make some noise as he looks to earn himself a spot.
-Kellen Fowler: Fowler was as solid as anyone on last year's defensive scout team. Fowler won't be content playing on the scout team again this season, and like Warner hopes to earn himself a spot on the two-deep depth chart at the safety position.
Some other walk-ons may step up and make some noise, but the battle and overall depth is likely to be provided by the six safeties named above.
9. Coach Weber
We'll be keeping an eye on Mark Weber's methods and how the offensive linemen on the team respond to their new position coach. Weber comes to BYU with a wealth of experience, but has some big shoes to fill as Grimes proved to be a very good coach while he was here in Provo.
8. The new offensive linemen
Depth will hardly be a huge concern along the offensive front as BYU returns a lot of experience at the offensive line coupled with some quality depth provided by second-year players and recently-returned missionaries. The starting positions look secure, but there will be a host of promising linemen vying for spots on the two-deep roster.
-Tom Sorensen: There is little doubt that Sorenson can contribute this coming season as he's proven his worth before his mission at Vanderbilt and during last year's fall practices before he went down with a season-ending injury. What we'll be watching is how he's progressed off his ACL injury and if he'll earn himself a spot playing either guard or at the center position.
-Nick Alleto: Alleto is back from his mission and looking to make an impact this coming season. Alleto practiced about as well as any true freshman OL could be expected to in his inaugural year, as he broke the two-deep chart before the coaching staff decided to redshirt him.
-Walter Kahaialii: Kahaialii will be participating during spring ball before leaving for his church mission this summer. While he obviously won't be a factor for the 2007 season, it will be interesting to note how he's progressed since last season.
-Rick Wolfley: He'll be in the same boat, although he does plan on staying and playing for the 2007 season.
-Garrett Reden: Reden added valuable depth last season, opting for a redshirt year. Now he's ready to play and earn a spot on the two-deep roster. Reden will likely get a lot more looks with the 1s and the 2s this spring as he aims to prove his worth.
-Jeff Rhea: Rhea will again provide valuable depth at the OL position and will see a lot of work this spring.
-Jason Speredon: Speredon will finally be able to take the practice field as he's recovered from his leg injuries that kept him out of the better part of last season. Speredon has been working out with the team and should be good to go for a full set of reps during spring practices, where he'll show his wares, having come to BYU with impressive credentials out of high school.
-RJ Willing: Willing performed extremely well before his mission, starting some games at the tackle position. Willing is back from his mission and looks to get his legs back starting with spring practices. Willing is obviously very talented as he showed prior to his mission and looks to be a factor again starting this spring.
7. Two-deep at Linebacker
Much like the safety position the starting linebackers are readily established heading into spring. Kelly Poppinga will make the switch to inside linebacker and start there with Markell Staffieri, while Bryan Kehl and David Nixon man the outside positions. What isn't known is who will back them up.
-Chris Bolden: Bolden started out fast last season, but faded as the year went on as he struggled with the position change and some minor injuries. Bolden is an exciting prospect out outside linebacker, as he'll continue his development as a real threat off the edges in blitzing situations.
-Rex Doman: Rex Doman will again provide good depth at linebacker primarily from the inside as he heads into his senior season.
-Shawn Doman: Shawn Doman, meanwhile, will compete with his brother for a spot at inside linebacker. Doman saw good production last season, primarily in passing situations backing up Aaron Wagner. Doman has received offseason raves from his teammates and could make some serious noise during the spring.
-Terrance Hooks: Hooks has steadily been improving since first arriving at BYU. Entering his sophomore season, Hooks looks to log some playing time at inside linebacker this season, as he played well on kick coverages during last season.
-Austen Jorgensen: Jorgensen was able to transfer midyear directly out of high school and has been working out with the team since January. During that time he has served notice that he could very well make a strong impact during his true freshman season at outside linebacker, as he's drawn early comparisons to David Nixon.
-Grant Nelson: Nelson is back from his mission and will try and make an impact this spring. Nelson came to BYU as a highly-rated recruit out of Pennsylvania and will likely play inside linebacker.
-Matt Bauman: Bauman, like Nelson, has recently returned from his mission, but has the added advantage of contributing a lot on the field during his freshman year before his mission. Bauman is certainly one to watch and will likely compete at the inside linebacker position.
-Dan Van Sweden: Van Sweden logged some valuable time on special teams last season and was a standout there in a lot of games. Now Van Sweden looks to compete at the outside linebacker position as a sophomore.
6. The fourth outside receiver
Last season BYU had a consistent and productive rotation at the X and Z receiving positions. Zac Collie, Michael Reed, McKay Jacobson and Matt Allen rotated throughout the year, while each of them saw some good production.
This season the early word is that coaches are set to have a three-man rotation as Reed, Allen and Austin Collie will rotate in and out of the lineup at both the X and Z positions. Until a fourth outside receiver steps up this spring or this coming fall, coaches will likely stay with the three-man rotation. Spring practices will provide some candidates who could step in and demand a spot in the rotation as the fourth outside receiver.
-Ryan Neely: Neely was a standout on the scout team last season and has good size and overall athleticism to earn a spot this coming year. Neely does everything well and has proven to have very good hands.
-Andrew "Rudy" Beck: The brother of John Beck has had his share of stellar practice moments as well and will be the primary competitor with Neely for the fourth outside receiver position.
Other receivers like Reed White, Daniel Tervort and some others are players who could step up as well, although Tervort looks to play primarily at the HR receiving position.
Stay tuned for part two.