"There are quite a few youngsters that will not have the opportunity to start, who have proven that they can play relatively well." - Head Coach Bill Snyder
Coach Bill Snyder worded it simply on Tuesday, but he really could have said that the team is having a facelift that would make many Hollywood stars jealous. We're talking about possibly 14 new starters among 24 starting positions. While many spots are open because the incumbents graduated, general consensus seems to be that change is good.
"You just have to go out an do what you do," Snyder said when asked about preparing so many young players for their first starting action, "and that's why your practice routine and what you do during the course of the week is so significant, so important."
The two areas that will have the largest turnover are the offensive line and defensive backfield.
On the O-line, only Jeromey Clary returns as a starter, and even he will be in an unfamiliar spot - shifting to left tackle to accommodate injuries and movement.
"I know from experience that moving from position to position is tough," Clary said when asked about the movement of personnel among the offensive line positions, "and I think that all the people that they are shuffling around are doing a really good job with it."
With Clary protecting Allen Webb's blindside at left tackle, new starters will fill the rest of the line positions. Fans should look for Matt Boss, John Hafferty, Greg Wafford, and Brad Rooker or Gerard Spexarth to earn their first career starts on Saturday.
Clary said that all the young players on the offensive line have shown the same team-first attitude, and taken position changes in stride, and instead of complaining they've been more likely to say, "all right, I'm playing center. Let's work."
Clary also said that the position changes can be a good thing, as they encourage more focus on getting plays right, and said that he's impressed with the knowledge of his younger peers.
"I'm very impressed with their mental capabilities and their playing abilities," Clary said.
Thus far, the battle between Watts and Tetuan has been made out to be neck-and-neck. Watts made it sound no different on Tuesday.
"(Tetuan)'s a great competitor, and he's not going to let me get the starting job. He's going to try his hardest to get the starting job, and I'm going to try my hardest," Watts said. "You've got to bring your 'A' game (to practice) everyday."
"In the secondary, we've got seven or eight, nine guys that could start," Watts said concerning the open competition for starting spots. "It's a battle everyday at different spots."
Other than Tetuan, the only returning players who have started games in the defensive backfield are Maurice Porter at cornerback and Maurice Mack in a dime package against Texas Tech. Mack looks to be a starter again, only at weakside linebacker, and Porter was seen backing up Kyle Williams at strong safety at the Fan Appreciation Day practice.
Whether the free safety is Watts and his speed or Tetuan and his knowledge, the winner will most likely be accompanied by Kyle Williams at strong safety and Bryan Baldwin and Byron Garvin at the corners.
Along with these spots, positions that will be occupied by first time starters on Saturday include runningback (Thomas Clayton), tight end (Rashaad Norwood or Bret Alstatt), linebacker (Mack), kicker (Jeff Snodgrass or Tim Schwerdt) and possibly defensive end (if Ian Campbell or Steve Burch overtakes Blake Seiler or Tearrius George).