I outlined the main candidates in my preview on the defensive backfield and pointed out that there will be at least five, and as many as seven, viable candidates competing against one another for the starting spot. Defensive coordinator Jaime Hill has a tough task ahead of him this coming practice session.
2. Battle for Backup Running Back - The two most likely candidates will be J.J. DiLuigi and Malosi Te'o. They'll battle with others to see if at least one of them can take valuable reps away from Harvey Unga during games.
Unga has had to shoulder just about all the work from the very demanding running back spot, and it would serve the offense and Unga very well if someone would step up and provide quality reps in his stead during games. Which player that might be will certainly be of interest during fall practices.
3. Who is playing fullback? - Most assume that the role will be taken by Manase Tonga, who started at fullback each of his first three seasons. How Tonga looks will certainly be worth noting throughout fall camp. Should Tonga not prove equal to the task, others will have to step up.
4. Impact of the incoming freshmen - It's always one of the more intriguing aspects of fall camp. For months we hear about these incoming freshmen and the TBS staff tries to educate readers on what their prospects are, but one never really knows how they'll look until they show up.
Which true freshmen look promising and which ones look to make an immediate impact are things we'll be focusing on intently throughout fall camp.
5. The impact of McKay Jacobson - Jacobson was able to contribute immediately as a true freshman, and now that he's home from his mission he'll be looked on to play an even greater role. Jacobson has had plenty of time to recover physically and get into football shape. What type of impact he will have and how much of a focal point he'll be within the Cougar offense will be one of the bigger stories this fall.
6. Backing Hall - Brenden Gaskins has assumed the backup role in past seasons, but with the arrival of Riley Nelson, Gaskins could be challenged for the backup spot behind Max Hall. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall has mentioned that Nelson will be used in games, making his progress certainly worth noting during fall camp.
7. Nose Tackle - Having a solid middle along the defensive front is essential to the success of any 3-4 system. Having Russell Tialavea is huge in regards to providing solid play at the nose tackle position. How Tialavea, Romney Fuga, Tevita Hola and others look will be a big story throughout fall camp.
8. Sorting out the offensive line - There are front-runners at every offensive line position heading into fall camp, but there is some work to do before Coach Weber can put forth his best five offensive linemen. Will it be Nick Alletto or Braden Hansen at right tackle? Does Jesse Taufi find his way into a starting spot? These are all questions that will hopefully be answered by the end of August.
9. Pendleton's Progress - Strong side linebacker is a critical position in Jaime Hill's 3-4 system. Pendleton switched over and provided good play during the spring. What progress Pendleton makes this fall will largely indicate how well the defense will do overall.
10. Riley Stephenson - It was no secret this past spring that the team lacked an adequate replacement for the punting duties. The hope is that Stephenson will come in and assume the role nicely. Field position for any team during any game is huge. Having a capable punter can go a long way towards winning the ever-important field position battle.