With spring football underway, I thought I'd take a look at some of the position battles that will be discussed in the spring, and likely be carried over into fall camp.
This is the battle that everybody is going to be talking about. I mean, it wouldn't be football if fans weren't chatting up who they believe ought to be the QB. Jerome Tiller is listed as the #1 QB heading into the spring with Jantz, Capello, and Barnett following. Tiller may have an edge in regards to experience in this system, but in listening to Rhoads' press conference heading into the spring, it's going to be about who can deliver the ball more accurately than anything else. I just don't think you bring in a JUCO QB if you believe you have a solution on your roster. Because of that, I would put Jantz as the favorite to earn the starting job, with Capello as my dark horse.
I just hope they have an answer between these guys. The offense is only going to make strides if the quarterback play improves. I love Austin Arnuad as a person, but we need improvement at this position.
One could argue this is the most important position on the field after the quarterback. The center is the quarterback of the offensive line. They need to be able to snap the ball accurately, but they also need to recognize fronts and blitzes to call protections at the line of scrimmage.
Redshirt freshmen Tom Farniok is listed as the #1 going into the spring, with Sam Tautolo, and Bob Graham listed after him. This is a hard one to get a feel for, since we aren't at practice or anything. Tuatolo is a JUCO, but unlike the QB situation, there isn't any experience from Farniok or Graham at the college level as they are both freshmen coming off their redshirts. Tuatolo could very well win the job, but he's also an insurance policy if he doesn't get the nod.
Staying with the offensive line here. Why? Because our offense stunk, and the line is where it all starts. Currently listed at #1 is redshirt sophomore Ethan Tuftee, followed by Shaban Dika and Ben Loth. Although there isn't any game experience from these guys, these were 3 solid recruits. Tuftee didn't have any big offers, but is just an Iowa kid who has probably worked his tail off the last couple of years, while Dika was a 3 star with offers from Kansas and Utah, and Loth was a 3 star guy as well. I think whoever wins the job is going to be pretty good.
It doesn't help when you don't have great quarterback play, but the wide receivers have been pretty disappointing. Courtney Messingham and Luke Wells are going to swap spots as position coaches. Messingham is going to coach the WRs while Wells is going to coach the TEs. Hopefully that leads to better results from the group.
Right now the listed starters in the 3 starting WR spots are Darius Reynolds, Josh Lenz, and Darius Darks. I don't get too worked up over RB and WR position battles. In today's game, you will see the field and get the ball if you are any good. Darks and Reynolds have potential but have been inconsistent. Lenz has been productive. Chris Young, Jarvis West, and Donnie Jennert were all guys that had interest from some good programs while being recruited. It also wouldn't surprise me if one of the all purpose running backs like Shontrelle or Nealy (when he gets on campus) sees some time in the slot as well if needed.
Bottom line, is this position hasn't been productive. There is some returning experience, but when the experience hasn't been that great, I don't know if it's a good thing. I would be more worried about this group, but to me the offensive line and the quarterback spots are much more important. If this turns out to be the position group I worry about the most, then we're probably having a pretty decent year.
Similar to the Wide Receivers, there is a good amount of experience coming back to this team. Also similar to the wide receivers, our defensive line play has been the worst in the Big 12. The listed starters are Neal at LE, Laing at DT, Ruempolhamer at NG, and Maggitt at RE. Lattimer is still on the team as of right now, but is not listed on the depth chart.
When you have a D-Line like this one, you are going to play quite a few guys and try to see if anybody can get any pressure on the QB. In the presser Rhoads talked about probably having to send 5-6 guys to rush the passer this coming season. That doesn't sound like a guy who thinks his front four is going to be able to get pressure on the QB. But that should not really come at a surprise from any Cyclone fan, given the (lack of) production the last several years.
Longer term, this is the position I worry the most about with this program. Getting an impact defense linemen is so tough. I think it is the hardest position to recruit. I just hope the staff can develop guys over time.
David Sims leaving leaves a big hole in the secondary. Jacques Washington is listed as the #1 for now, but it sounded like the coaching staff is going to try as many guys as possible here to see if anybody can step up and play the position. Free Safety is a difficult position to play, and with the team blitzing more, it is going to be important to figure out who the guy at this spot is going to be.