Position battles are a regular feature of college football’s preseason. With the inevitable roster turnover, star players will eventually move on, and new faces will have to come in to take their place. That decision is usually made after preseason work.
Those decisions haven’t been made yet due to spring workouts being largely canceled, but they’ll have to be made eventually. Here are five big position battles worth watching before the season starts.
5. Ohio State CB
The loss of top corners Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette will definitely be tough for the Buckeyes to overcome. As usual, though, the Ohio State recruiting machine has left them well-equipped to absorb those losses. Shaun Wade’s return will at least ensure that some stability and experience is in the Ohio State secondary. They will also be buoyed by safety Josh Proctor, a top-100 recruit who should provide continuity at safety. That said, for the Buckeyes to be title contenders again, some cornerbacks are going to have to step things up.
4. Michigan QB
Michigan may ultimately use Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton as something of a tandem at the quarterback position, with both bringing different things to the table. McCaffrey is mobile but has questions about his arm. Milton is basically the opposite. It may depend on what Michigan needs on any given day, but someone has to get more reps than the other one. McCaffrey has a bit more experience, but it remains to be seen whether that will ultimately matter to Jim Harbaugh.
3. Clemson OL
The Tigers have few questions when it comes to their skill players, but the offensive line is a different story. Clemson is tasked with replacing four starters on the offensive line, a tough feat when the job is to protect Heisman candidate Trevor Lawrence. The good news is two of the projected starters, Jordan McFadden and Matt Bockhorst, got some playing time in 2019, so they’re not completely raw. Dabo Swinney will go with whoever can show him the most for this very important job.
2. LSU RB
Clyde Edwards-Helaire burst onto the scene for LSU last season, becoming a vital cog in 2019’s title-winning team. Someone else will have to do the job in 2020 now that Edwards-Helaire is in the NFL. Tyrion Davis-Prince is the leading returning rusher, but with only 295 yards in 2019. The other intriguing candidate is sophomore Chris Curry, who ran for 90 yards in the title win over Oklahoma. Those two will get the bulk of the carries, with John Emery Jr. also figuring in. Who gets more will likely be decided during offseason work.
1. Alabama QB
We actually have a pretty good guess as to who will start the season as Alabama’s quarterback. Mac Jones has experience and threw for 14 touchdowns and three interceptions last season. Two of those three picks came in a loss against Auburn, though, suggesting Jones has some work to do to clean things up against top teams that Alabama needs to beat to make the College Football Playoff. Expect Jones to be pushed by freshman Bryce Young, a dual threat five-star prospect who is the future of the Crimson Tide. Jones has to show Nick Saban enough to ensure that Young doesn’t become the present, too.
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