The quarterback position was obviously the most talked about. Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman went back and forth for the last several months and I'm excited to see how well Freeman will do under new coach Patrick Nix. He's like Nix in a lot of ways -- he's not the 6-5 prototype with the cannon of an arm. Sure, Wright had more experience but in the end that didn't matter and now Freeman is looking at the possibility of being a two-year starter. Shannon said the coaches still consider Wright a starter and I think they won't hesitate to make the change at any time if the offense is really struggling.
At running back, everyone knows what Javarris James is capable of doing. After that he did last season as a true freshman, you'd have a hard time finding anyone who isn't convinced that he could be a 1,000-yard runner in this offense. When you consider Graig Cooper is already listed as a co-starter with James, it just goes to show you how much excitement the true freshman brings to the table. I think the two of them will provide an excellent 1-2 punch.
One of the fullbacks listed, Dedrick Epps, is interesting because he was widely considered a tight end. This will probably be more like an H-Back role for him. Shannon mentioned that we could see a third receiver on the field at times instead of the fullback.
At wide receiver, it was a bit surprising to see Khalil Jones get the starting nod over Darnell Jenkins. Perhaps it's a motivational thing to get Jenkins to step up his game. Or perhaps Jones really outplayed him in the preseason. Shannon pointed out how well Jones played in some of the preseason scrimmages. Sam Shields is serving a suspension and will likely return as a backup against Oklahoma.
John Rochford getting the starting nod at center was a bit surprising but I think it came down to him beating out Orlando Franklin for the fifth spot. It's rare for a true freshman to make a big impact right away along the offensive line. While it's not talked about publicly, I still wonder if A.J. Trump being left-handed has hindered his development as a college center.
Switching over to defense, the surprise up front was Dwayne Hendricks getting the starting nod over Antonio Dixon. Hendricks is finally healthy and is coming off a good camp but I think Dixon will play just as much. His weight still needs to come down before he can be considered an every down guy (a starter).
At linebacker, Shannon said that the injury to Darryl Sharpton was a factor in why he's not a starter. I think Spencer Adkins and Colin McCarthy are solid starters on the outside but don't be surprised if Sharpton outplays Gooden on Saturday and becomes the starter heading into the following week. I like Adkins at will because of his ability to rush the passer. That was his specialty in high school and Canes fans surely remember how well Shannon and co. used D.J. Williams at that spot a few years ago.
In the secondary, the biggest surprise was probably DeMarcus Van Dyke getting a starting role. He earned it, Shannon said, with his performance the last few weeks. Randy Phillips missed some key practice time lately and that's why Carlos Armour will likely start on Saturday.
Kenny Phillips listed at strong safety probably has more to do with how much Marshall likes to use their tight end. Even Shannon said the safeties are often different simply by lining up on the right or the left (compared to free/strong).
On special teams, it's interesting that Matt Bosher is the team's punter and Darren Daly is the team's kickoff guy when the players came in as the exact opposite. Shannon mentioned former All-American Carlos Huerta when asked about Francesco Zampogna's situation. Here's hoping he's anywhere close to what Huerta was here in the early 90's.