Position Battles to Track

Led by the high-profile fight for the quarterback throne, here's five position battles to track this spring.

Quarterback: It's going to be the storyline that dominates March and early April —who takes over as the face of the franchise? Coach Tim Beckman says he'd like to name a starter sooner than later and if he had his way, it'd be done by the end of spring. That's most likely going to happen. And the competition to replace Nathan Scheelhaase couldn't feature a more diverse pool to choose from. Reilly O'Toole is the rising senior, a prototypical passer with deceptive wheels and starting experience in the past. Wes Lunt is a home-state kid come home, gunning to take over after starting as a true freshman at Oklahoma State. He's the NFL-talent of the bunch, with a rocket arm and a pro-look about his game. Aaron Bailey enters as the playmaker, a linebacker-looking player with running back skills and a quarterback's leadership potential. This has all the makings of a good, spirited battle. It's juicy and exciting, just what the program needs to spark life into a spring set of drills that could otherwise be bland to the taste of fans who desperately want a reason to get behind this program.

Care to speculate? Sure, why not:
Current leader: Wes Lunt
Eventual winner: Wes Lunt

Wide receiver: A lot has left this position, with only Martize Barr and Justin Hardee as returnees with more than one catch left on the roster. The lack of returning production means only one thing — immense opportunity. Or with Bill Cubit's offense in play, opportunities. The spread-out passing attack usually features three and four wideouts, meaning one guy doesn't have to carry the unit. Barr and Hardee have a leg up, but newcomers Geronimo Allison and Mike Dudek are going to get a plenty of reps this spring. Dionte Taylor got on the field some as a freshman last season, with Marchie Murdock, who redshirted in 2013, a name to keep in mind.

Current leaders: Hardee, Barr
Eventual winners: It's a free for all.

Cornerback: The entire contingent of players return at corner, a group that had to learn on the fly in 2013. V'Angelo Bentley and Eaton Spence managed to hold off the young guns, Jaylen Dunlap, Darius Mosely, Dillan Cazley, throughout last season. Will that be the case this spring? This clearly isn't confined to one position and nickel and dime packages will provide each of these guys with an opportunity to play, regardless of who "starts." In any event, this figures to be a heated competition.

Current leaders: Spence, Bentley
Eventual winners: Bentley, Mosely

Linebacker: Just like at quarterback, the defense is losing a cornerstone player in linebacker Jonathan Brown. Mason Monheim will resume his duties, leaving a good competition for the spot opposite him. Mike Svetina and B.J. Bello have moved from Star to the inside spots, bringing more experience (Svetina) and more speed (Bello) this spring. Those guys all join the fray with Ralph Cooper, Zeph Grimes (had a strong '13 fall camp) and T.J. Neal (came on strong last season) as viable candidates. Henry Dickinson, a former contributor on the rise before an injury two seasons ago, is another name in the hat.

Current leader: Svetina
Darkhorse: Grimes
Eventual winner: Neal

Leo: Houston Bates up and left just prior to spring drills, leaving behind a position with a few good options on paper in Dejazz Woods and Dawuane Smoot. Woods has an edge in that he has the cooler first name and is a rising senior. Smoot is one of those kids that pops, his athleticism and potential putting excitement into the voice of coaches and players when asked to talk about him. It's a classic case of age-verus-raw talent. And spring is the time when talent can gain experience… Can the experience also gain talent?

Current leader: Woods
Eventual winner: Smoot

Quick hitter honorable mentions:

Right tackle: Austin Schmidt appears to be in good position here, but it is the only offensive line spot that doesn't return the starter from 2013.

Defensive line: Austin Teitsma was named the offseason workout champion, but given last year's results, every spot on the d-line is up for grabs. Can Teko Powell, Jarrod Clements, Paul James III, Abe Cajuste and Joe Fotu make a move this spring? What happens when Jihad Ward gets here this summer? Questions, questions, questions…

Star: This could be Eric Finney's domain now that Mike Svetina and BJ Bello have moved to linebacker. But James Crawford is an exciting young player and JUCO transfer Carroll Phillips arrives in June.


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