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Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Five position battles to watch in the Big 12


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Spring practice is a time for competition across college football. Clashes for jobs are as much a part of offseason work as gassers and not hitting quarterbacks in inter-squad games and scrimmages.

Some of the spring competition across the Big 12 will be particularly notable. Here are some positional battles that bear watching over the next few weeks.

Nebraska quarterback: Even though Patrick Witt left, there still should be an intense battle between Zac Lee, Kody Spano and heralded freshman Cody Green to replace Joe Ganz. Don't expect this battle to be settled until shortly before the season -- perhaps the major reason Witt decided to leave for another opportunity.

Oklahoma right tackle: Although the Sooners' offensive line should be their most pressing concern this spring, there will be notable competition at one position. Trent Williams has moved to left tackle to protect Sam Bradford's blind side. That will leave Cory Brandon and heralded LSU transfer Jarvis Jones battling for snaps on the other side.

Texas running back: The Longhorns have to develop some kind of running threat to keep from using Colt McCoy too much again as a runner. Without a dominant back, it looks like Mack Brown again will opt for a rotation-by-committee setup. Fozzy Whittaker has impressed coaches with his breakaway burst, but must stay healthy. Vondrell McGee will get his chance, but better learn how to pick up blitzes better. Redshirt freshman Tre' Newton has shown flashes of becoming the next Chris Ogbonnaya because of his receiving abilities. Cody Johnson might be the best move-the-pile runner if he can stay in shape. And all of this is before heralded incoming freshman Chris Whaley arrives this summer.

Colorado quarterback: Cody Hawkins arrives as the favorite because of his experience, but burning Tyler Hansen's redshirt last season indicated the need at that point of the season for a change. Both will compete for the job along with true freshmen Clark Evans and Matt Ballenger, who appear to have some of the qualities of both of last season's starters.

Texas Tech kicker: Matt "Lynwood" Williams was one of the best stories in college football when he joined Texas Tech's team after coaches discovered him in an in-game kicking promotion. Williams converted 33 straight extra points, but wasn't counted on to kick field goals very often. Donnie Carona, who received a rare scholarship offer from Mike Leach before last season, could be poised to challenge if he can forget about last season's struggles. And Blinn College kicker Brad Hicks will try to walk-on at the position. Whoever emerges has to boost Tech's kicking after the Red Raiders converted only seven field goals to tie for the second fewest in the Big 12. The Red Raiders' field-goal conversion rate was 54 percent -- second worst in the conference.