Fall camp begins Monday and it is the unofficial start to the 2015 season. Spring practices and the spring game are fun, but that quickly ends when you realize meaningful football is still four months away. Three of those four months have passed and it is time to officially start the countdown to game day. There are major question marks surrounding the 2015 Ducks, especially at quarterback. Most people only obsess over who will start at QB (rightfully so), but there are other question marks regarding other positions. Here are three position battles we should all keep an eye on throughout fall camp and heading into Week 1.
Cornerback: Arrion Springs, Ugo Amadi, Charles Nelson
2014 was a year the secondary benefited from the veteran talent of Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Troy Hill, and Dior Mathis. That isn’t the case in 2015.
2015 has a few question marks in the secondary and primarily at cornerback. Chris Seisay played well in the absence of Ekpre-Olomu during the college football playoff, but who is going to be playing opposite him Week 1?
The Ducks have talent at cornerback, but it isn’t yet proven. Springs, a prized class of 2014 recruit, saw only limited action a year ago. So did Amadi, although Amadi (also a highly sought-after recruit) was an early freshman enrollee and competed throughout spring ball to make a name for himself. Springs and Amadi will compete over the next month to win the starter’s position.
The wildcard in this position battle is Nelson. He was a playmaker last year on offense, to say the least, but due to lack of depth at CB he has taken reps in the defensive secondary. Mark Helfrich has yet to specify if Nelson will be used on offense, defense or potentially as a two-way player.
Defensive End: T.J Daniel, Tui Talia, Canton Kaumatule
The defensive line returns two of the three starters from a season ago. With Arik Armstead leaving for the NFL, the Ducks’ defensive line has a starting spot open. The Ducks don’t lack talent at 5the position, but it’s somewhat the same as the cornerback situation — it’s unproven. Daniel and Talia both played in all 15 games a season ago but have zero starts between them. Along with Daniel and Talia, Kaumatule is the other player mentioned as a potential starter.
Kaumatule, arguably the biggest recruit of the 2015 class, played in the Under Armour All-American Game in January and at one point was rated as the best recruit in the nation according to some recruiting websites. Unlike Daniel and Talia, Kaumatule has yet to play in a meaningful game in college. He did enroll early, which expedited the process of learning the defense and schemes, as well as putting himself in a good spot heading into the summer.
Offensive Line: Doug Brenner, Jake Pisarcik, Matt Hegarty
Arguably the biggest question mark besides QB is the offensive line. The 2015 Ducks will have to replace Jake Fisher, Hamani Stevens, and four-year starter Hroniss Grasu. Those three had 115 combined starts.
With Tyler Johnstone returning from injury and most likely replacing Fisher at left tackle, there are only two open positions left (one guard position, and center). During spring practices, the starting center position was a position with much concern due to Grassu’s departure.
Brenner seemed to be the next in line at center, but with the arrival of graduate transfer Hegarty, we now have someone on the roster who has true game experience at center. Hegarty, a transfer from Notre Dame, started at center for the Irish before being asked to switch positions. So, the problem at center may be resolved. If that assumption holds true and Hegarty starts at center, that leaves Brenner and Pisarcik to battle it out over the next month for the lone remaining position on the offensive line.
The 2015 Ducks will be much different than the 2014 Ducks. A year ago there were many household names in key positions, guys who had a lot of experience and playing time. That is not the case with the this year’s Ducks.
There are many questions surrounding this team and many openings for players to step up and take over. Over the course of the month of August the players mentioned, as well as others, will do what they can to top the depth chart at their positions, solidify themselves as starters and potentially become household names themselves.
Top photo by Craig Strobeck