NCF Nation: 2010 camp opens

Opening camp: Western Michigan

August, 9, 2010
8/09/10
10:00
AM ET
We continue our series of camp previews for selected non-AQ schools.

Opening camp: Western Michigan

Schedule: Practice starts today.

Sidelined: DE Freddie Bishop; DT Drew Nowak; DE Weston Peiffer could all be limited at the start of camp because of injuries. CB Deshon Lawrence is out after suffering a potential career-ending neck injury in the spring.

What’s new: The entire defensive staff was fired after a dismal 2009 in which the defense ranked No. 101 in the country. Former Hofstra head coach Dave Cohen was hired as defensive coordinator and plans on installing a more aggressive style of play.

Key battle: The cornerback position is wide open. Lawrence is out, and Dave Lewis is no longer with the team. That leaves sophomore Damond Smith as the only player at cornerback with game experience. Among the other contenders -- redshirt freshman Lewis Toler, who had a nice spring, and Tronic Williams, a converted wide receiver.

New on the scene: LB Dex Jones. A transfer from Wisconsin, Jones played running back with the Badgers before leaving for the Broncos. After sitting out last season because of NCAA transfer rules, Jones had a fantastic spring and is penciled in as the starter on the weak side. He is going to need a big year to make up for the loss of Austin Pritchard, the best player on defense in 2009.

Breaking out: TE Blake Hammond. The 6-foot-4, 239-pound sophomore fits the mold of predecessors Tony Scheffler and Branden Ledbetter. He has great hands, and can spread the field as a deep threat. Good blocker, too. Without Ledbetter last season, the Broncos struggled to find consistency at the position. Hammond emerged in the spring and is a player to watch.

Don’t forget about: DT John Rice, a transfer from East Mississippi Community College, arrived in time for the spring. His addition was much needed, considering some of the injuries along the line. Rice, whose uncle is Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, should be able to provide depth for a unit that needs it.

All eyes on: QB Alex Carder. When you are taking over for the face of the program, then all eyes most certainly are on you. Tim Hiller started for three years at Western Michigan and became one of the best players in school history, setting records for career passing yards and total offense. Carder, a sophomore, won the job over Drew Burdi in the spring and has only seen limited playing time.

Quoting: “I really like him. I know everyone’s concerned about Hiller moving on. He was a great quarterback for us, but that’s just an opportunity for the next guy.” -- Coach Bill Cubit on Carder

Opening camp: Temple

August, 7, 2010
8/07/10
11:00
AM ET
We continue our series of camp previews for select non-AQ schools.

Opening camp: Temple

Schedule: Practice starts Saturday.

What’s new: Winning. Temple posted its first winning season since 1990 and made its first bowl game in 30 years in 2009. Now the Owls are being picked to win the East in the MAC.

Key battle: There is a lot of competition at wide receiver if you believe the post-spring depth chart. There are no favorites going into camp even though Michael Campbell and Rod Streater return as starters. Coach Al Golden lists C.J. Hammond, Deon Miller and Joey Jones as potential first-teamers. The Owls are going to need a more reliable passing game to help out RB Bernard Pierce.

New on the scene: He is not exactly new, but Vaughn Charlton is new on the tight end scene. The former quarterback switched to tight end in the spring when it became clear that Chester Stewart would be the starter there. Charlton now has the tough task of filling the shoes of Steve Maneri, a great blocker, if he can win the starting job.

Breaking out: Wide receiver Delano Green. He had two punt returns for touchdowns last season, and could see even more playing time at wide receiver, where the Owls need a deep threat to emerge.

Don’t forget about: Amara Kamara has moved from defensive end to outside linebacker. He has the size, at 6-2 and 235 pounds, to play on the outside and should help out a unit that lost two starters.

All eyes on: Bernard Pierce. After rushing for 1,361 yards and a single-season school record 16 touchdowns last season as a freshman last season, Temple has launched a Heisman campaign for the runner. Pierce already had 1,000 yards through eight games last season, and he missed the final two regular-season games with injuries. He is fine now, but he will have to handle the heightened expectations that have come with his superb rookie campaign.

Quoting: "What that says is that we've become a relevant program. But, it's not going to change the way we operate. Hopefully, our kids will continue to focus on the process. If we do that, and don't worry about what people say, the product will take care of itself." -- Coach Al Golden on his team being picked to win the MAC East.

Opening Camp: BYU

August, 7, 2010
8/07/10
10:00
AM ET
We continue our series of camp previews for select non-AQ schools.

Opening camp: BYU

Schedule: Practice starts Saturday.

What’s new: Many of the skill players on offense. Gone are Max Hall, Dennis Pitta and Harvey Unga. The defense must replace six starters as well.

Key battle: Quarterbacks. There is a four-man race for the job to replace Max Hall. The competition is between freshman Jake Heaps, Riley Nelson, Jason Munns and James Lark. Though coach Bronco Mendenhall won’t concede any front-runners, many believe the job could come down to Heaps vs. Nelson. And even, then there might not be a decision. BYU could go into the season playing two quarterbacks.

New on the scene: Lots of freshmen tight ends. Six in fact. This is another huge position battle to replace Dennis Pitta, who led the team in receiving last season. Among the candidates: Devin Mahina, Mike Muehlmann, Richard Wilson and Austin Holt. Holt is expected to be in the mix now that he has returned from his mission.

Breaking out: Running back Bryan Kariya. Somebody will have to carry the load now that last year’s leading rusher, Harvey Unga, is no longer with the team. Kariya ran for 221 yards and 2 TDs last season. He and J.J. DiLuigi should be handling the rushing duties.

Sidelined: Junior defensive end Matt Putnam and senior linebacker Jordan Atkinson will miss the first few practices for academic and personal reasons.

Don’t forget about: Defensive end Eathyn Manumaleuna, who started 13 games in 2007 as a true freshman, has returned from his mission. Remember, he blocked UCLA's 28-yard field goal attempt with 3 seconds left in the Las Vegas Bowl to seal the win for the Cougars. He should provide good depth behind Vic So’oto at left end.

All eyes on: The quarterbacks. This is BYU after all, known for developing stellar signal callers. BYU is an extremely young team this season, so there is much uncertainty in Provo. Who emerges as the starter will help determine how the season goes.

Quoting: “We’ll still demand a lot with this team but our intent is to build the confidence, build team chemistry. Not that we’re conceding a championship or a top 20 year, but we’ll have to be different in the way we handle them because of our inexperience.” -- Coach Bronco Mendenhall.

Opening Camp: Middle Tennessee

August, 6, 2010
8/06/10
11:30
AM ET
We continue our series of camp previews for select non-AQ schools.

Opening camp: Middle Tennessee

Schedule: Practice starts today.

Sidelined: WR Jamar Brown (hernia) is out for three weeks. DT Dwight Smith, RG Alex Stuart, RT Mark Fisher, CB Kenneth Gilstrap and DT SaCoby Carter are coming off offseason surgery and could be limited.

What’s new: Both coordinators. Mike Schultz runs the offense after spending last season at Illinois and 2007-08 at TCU. Randall McCray runs the defense after spending the last four years as an assistant at Wisconsin.

Key battle: Middle linebacker. Senior Antwan Davis and junior Gorby Loreus are competing to replace Danny Carmichael, the leader of the defense and second-leading tackler with 94. Davis has more experience, but Loreus is a better athlete.

New on the scene: LB Stephen Roberts. Don’t forget about Roberts in the battle for MLB, either. Roberts has plenty of potential but needs more experience.

Breaking out: Look for Garrett Andrews to become the go-to guy for Dwight Dasher with leading receiver Chris McClover gone. Andrews had 530 yards receiving and four TDs last season and ended the spring as the team’s top receiver.

Don’t forget about: RB Phillip Tanner. After leading the team in rushing as a junior, Tanner went into last season with high hopes. But he injured his knee in the second game of the season and took a redshirt. He leads a deep unit, joining Benjamin Cunningham and D.D. Kyles.

All eyes on: QB Dwight Dasher. Last season, Dasher became the fourth player in NCAA history to throw for more than 2,500 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season, while breaking school records for total offense, rushing yards in a season for a quarterback and single-season TD passes. He had a monster bowl game against Southern Miss (201 yards rushing, 162 yards passing, 4 TDs) -- can he keep it up for this season?

Quoting: “A lot of expectations are surrounding our team and we are excited about the challenges that are in front of us. It's a chance to get out and compete and football is all about competition." -- Coach Rick Stockstill

Opening camp: Houston

August, 6, 2010
8/06/10
11:00
AM ET
We continue our series of camp previews for select non-AQ schools.

Opening camp: Houston

Schedule: Practice starts today.

Sidelined: LB Matt Nicholson (knee) will be limited. DL Zeke Riser (knee) is out for the season.

What’s new: Two new coordinators -- Jason Phillips and Kliff Kingsbury will serve as co-offensive coordinators in place of the departed Dana Holgorsen. Brian Stewart takes over on defense, which is switching to the 3-4.

Key battle: Left guard. Senior Isaiah Thompson has switched from the defensive line, where he started every game at nose tackle last year. Thompson has played both guard and tackle in the spring and should be able to fill in somewhere along the re-shuffled line. It appears right guard Chris Thompson is the only player returning to the spot he played last season.

New on the scene: LB Sammy Brown. A junior college transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Brown is expected to fill one of the outside linebacker spots in the new defensive alignment. Brown was in school in time for spring practice and showed off his athleticism and ability to drop into coverage and rush the passer.

Breaking out: Another junior college transfer on defense should make a big impact in defensive end Matangi Tonga out of the College of San Mateo. Houston had one of the worst rush defenses in the country last season so his presence should help, especially with Riser out for the year.

Don’t forget about: WR James Cleveland. He led the team with 1,214 yards and 14 TDs last season -- playing with a torn labrum. Cleveland had offseason surgery and missed spring practice but should be good to go for the fall.

All eyes on: Case Keenum. Already garnering Heisman hype, Keenum is on pace to break the NCAA’s career record for passing yards. He is 4,167 yards behind Timmy Chang. Keenum already has been selected Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year and is on several watch lists. Can he top the 5,671 yards and 44 TDs he threw last season?

Quoting: “Our guys know what the expectations are. We've expected to compete for the conference championship from the first day I got here. Hopefully, that conversation will continue every year. We're not running from that. Our guys have been in big games and realize that. We're not going to approach it much differently than we have since we first got here.” -- Coach Kevin Sumlin

Opening Camp: Boise State

August, 6, 2010
8/06/10
10:00
AM ET
We continue our series of camp previews for select non-AQ schools.

Opening camp: Boise St.

Schedule: Practice starts today.

Sidelined: Linebacker Daron Mackey (knee), running back Matt Kaiserman (leg) and offensive lineman Garett Pendergast (ankle) will be limited.

What’s new: Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski takes over for Justin Wilcox, who left for Tennessee. Kwiatkowski was promoted from defensive line coach, and as he showed in the spring, this defense will continue to be aggressive.

Key battle: How many key battles can there be when nearly every starter returns? There is one, and it is a doozy. Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins are fighting to take over the starting cornerback spot that belonged to Kyle Wilson. Taylor redshirted last season after getting hurt, while Gavins served as a backup.

New on the scene: Fans have high hopes for true freshman safety Jeremy Ioane out of Honolulu. Though most of the starters return, there are some depth concerns at safety. Ioane could end up contributing, depending on how well he does during fall practice.

Breaking out: Defensive end Tyrone Crawford should figure into the rotation on the defensive line. Last season at Bakersfield College in California, Crawford was a first-team JUCO All-American after recording eight sacks and 42 tackles (14 for loss).

Don’t forget about: Running back D.J. Harper. Last year was supposed to be his time to shine in the backfield. But he tore the ACL in his left knee in the third week against Fresno St. and missed the rest of the season. Harper should be OK for fall drills, and hopes to be able to share the load with Jeremy Avery.

All eyes on: Quarterback Kellen Moore. Of course they are all on Moore, who goes into the season with Heisman Trophy hype after a stellar 2009 in which he won WAC Player of the Year honors after throwing for 3,536 yards, 39 touchdowns and only three interceptions. With 10 players returning on offense, Moore is going to bear the brunt of the high expectations on the program.

Quoting: “If we want to even think about some of those BCS type goals, we have to win the WAC. That’s what we want to do. It definitely would be nice to go out with another championship.” -- senior safety Jeron Johnson.



Other previews:

Southern Miss

Nevada

UCF

Utah

Fresno St.

TCU

Opening camp: Minnesota

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
2:32
PM ET
Schedule: The Gophers hit the field Friday for their first practice.

What's new: Another offensive coordinator, the Gophers' third in as many seasons. Jeff Horton isn't bringing dramatic changes like his predecessor Jedd Fish, and he'll try to simplify things for senior quarterback Adam Weber, who retained his starting job after spring ball. There are also a ton of new faces on defense as Minnesota loses nine starters, including productive linebackers Lee Campbell, Nate Triplett and Simoni Lawrence. The Gophers also have a new wide receivers coach in former NFL player Steve Watson, who must identify some playmakers after the loss of standout Eric Decker.

Sidelined: We thought Kim Royston would be in this category, but the senior safety has healed extremely well from a broken leg this spring. Royston won't be 100 percent for the start of camp, but barring any setbacks, he should be ready for the start of the season. As one of only two returning starters on defense, Royston provides a strong presence in the secondary. Linebacker Sam Maresh, a possible starter, isn't with the team as he improves his grades at a junior college.

Key battle: Name a spot on defense and there's probably some competition there, as Minnesota must find answers at linebacker, defensive end and cornerback. The linebacker group should be particularly interesting. Mike Rallis locked up a starting job this spring, but the other spots are open as Keanon Cooper, Gary Tinsley and others are in the mix. Cornerback also is a spot to watch as Michael Carter and Christyn Lewis try to lock up starting spots.

New on the scene: Head coach Tim Brewster and his staff have recruited well, and it's time they start to see the rewards. Lewis and tight end Tiree Eure both are junior-college transfers who should contribute right away. Minnesota really likes redshirt freshmen offensive linemen Ed Olson and Brooks Michel, and incoming freshman tackle Jimmy Gjere is a name to watch. It also will be interesting to see if freshmen running backs Lamonte Edwards and Donnell Kirkwood can work their way into the mix.

Breaking out: Brewster sings the praises of defensive end Ra'Shede Hageman, and Minnesota could really use a boost in the pass rush from the redshirt freshman. MarQueis Gray didn't win the starting quarterback spot, but he's a guy who needs the ball in his hands one way or another. Replacing Decker will be tough, but Minnesota has high hopes for Da'Jon McKnight, who averaged 18.3 yards on 17 receptions last year.

Time to step up: Without a doubt, Minnesota's offensive line is the group that needs to elevate its play in camp. The line boasts both experience and some exciting young talent, and the players are used to coach Tim Davis and his demands. Minnesota simply can't rank last in the league in rushing year after year. It's time for the line to get tougher, come together and build off of a strong spring.

Quotable: "We're bigger. We're stronger. We're faster. We're more athletic than we've been. And rightfully so. We need to be. We know that we're going to play one of the most challenging schedules in America this season. And our players are going to have to be prepared." -- head coach Tim Brewster

Opening camp: TCU

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
10:36
AM ET
We continue our series of camp previews for select non-AQ schools.

Opening camp: TCU

Schedule: Practice starts today.

What’s new: Not much, really. Not when you return 16 starters off a 12-1 team that made it to the Fiesta Bowl. Expectations will be higher than ever in Forth Worth, with the hopes that TCU can not only bust the BCS again, but perhaps become the first non-AQ school to get into a national title game.

Key battle: Defensive end. Replacing Jerry Hughes is not going to be easy, and three players left spring ball in the mix: Ross Forrest, Braylon Broughton and senior Clarence Leatch. Broughton went into the spring listed as No. 1 but got banged up, leaving Forrest atop the depth chart, at least for now. Forrest got hurt in the season opener last year and missed the rest of the season. Broughton started playing football in high school. Leatch is a career backup.

New on the scene: Aundre Dean. The former Parade All-American tailback transferred from UCLA and sat out last season per NCAA rules. Dean switched to safety in the spring but is back in the backfield.

Breaking out: LB Tanner Brock. He has the tough task of replacing Daryl Washington, but Brock proved his worth last season, picking up second-team Freshman All-America honors. His helmet-less block on a Jeremy Kerley punt return for a TD against SMU is the stuff of YouTube legend.

Don’t forget about: CB Jason Teague. Slated to replace first-team All-MWC player Nick Sanders, Teague has the size (6-2, 197) and the ability to help fill the big shoes he has to replace.

All eyes on: Quarterback Andy Dalton. The unquestioned leader of the Horned Frogs spearheads an offense that returns nine starters, along with increased expectations after a BCS berth last season. Can the team be as hungry as it was last season?

Quoting: "I could stand up here and tell you we'd like to be 12-0, but I would tell you that's what I would have said the last nine years. Those goals have not changed. For us, it's going to be business as usual." TCU coach Gary Patterson.

Other previews:

Southern Miss

Nevada

UCF

Utah

Fresno St.

Opening camp: Fresno State

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
10:00
AM ET
We continue our series of camp previews for selected non-AQ teams.

Opening camp: Fresno State

Schedule: Practice starts today. First two-a-day practice is Aug. 10.

What’s new: Fresno State has seven home games this season for the first time since 1994, and the first time under coach Pat Hill. The Bulldogs also were able to retain their offensive coordinator for the first time since 2004-05.

Key battle: Hard to say there is a battle at quarterback, with Ryan Colburn heading into fall as the starter. But coach Pat Hill has said he wants to see some competition out of Derek Carr during two-a-day practices. If Colburn remains the starter, Carr would redshirt.

New on the scene: Josh Harper, a true freshman wide receiver, was a California commit at one point before switching to Fresno State. One of the most highly touted players in the state of California, Harper could contribute immediately, considering the team lost three of its top four receivers. He is the son of former NFL player Willie Harper.

Breaking out: Redshirt freshman cornerback L.J. Jones. He had a great spring game, including an interception return for a touchdown. Fresno State is going to need him for its young secondary.

Don’t forget about: Rashad Evans. The sophomore wide receiver had a good freshman year in 2008 but redshirted last season. His return could help the Bulldogs’ passing attack.

All eyes on: Robbie Rouse. The sophomore running back is slated to take over for NCAA leading rusher Ryan Mathews. Fresno State has had a good track record of producing exceptional backs. Rouse is a different mold at 5-foot-7 and 185 pounds. Last season he ran for 479 yards and 4 TDs behind Mathews, who is now in the NFL.

Quoting: “It’s not about potential it’s about production. We’ll find out a lot about our football team in the opener against Cincinnati. In the first three weeks of the season our young kids will get broken in quickly. If we keep our health we should be a very competitive team in November.” -- Fresno State coach Pat Hill

Other previews:

Southern Miss

Nevada

UCF

Utah

Opening Camp: Utah

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
9:00
AM ET
We continue our series of camp previews for select non-AQ schools.

Opening camp: Utah

Schedule: Practice starts today. First day in full pads is Aug. 10.

Sidelined: Defensive lineman Lei Talamaivao is out indefinitely with a knee injury. Wide receiver Martavious Lee and defensive tackle Star Lotulelei are out for the start of camp (academics). JC signee offensive lineman Po'u Palelei will enroll in January.

What’s new: Former Utah quarterback Brian Johnson is back, returning to coach his old position. Aaron Roderick was also promoted to co-offensive coordinator.

Key battle: Wide receiver. Coach Kyle Whittingham wants to see separation out of his receivers so they can get a good two-deep chart. Utah lost three of its top four receivers from a year ago, including leading pass-catcher David Reed. Jereme Brooks is back, but Luke Matthews, DeVonte Christopher and Shaky Smithson are going to have to step up.

New on the scene: Freshman tight end Westlee Tonga had a great spring game after enrolling in January following a church mission.

Breaking out: J.J. Williams. After starting for Utah in 2006, he went on a two-year church mission and returned last season. But he wasn’t in the best physical shape. Now he is, and he takes over the rover spot. Whittingham expects big plays out of him.

Don’t forget about: Conroy Black. The junior cornerback redshirted last season but is penciled in as a starter in a secondary that is missing three starters from last season. He is the fastest player on the team with 4.3 40-speed. Whittingham highlighted him as a player to watch.

All eyes on: Jordan Wynn. Can the true sophomore pick up where he left off last season? If not, experienced backup Terrance Cain is waiting.

Quoting: “Our teams in the past three or four years have been very good at staying focused and taking things one game at a time. That’s particularly important this year for obvious reasons.” -- Coach Kyle Whittingham.

Opening camp: UCF

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
8:00
AM ET
We continue our series of camp previews for selected non-AQ schools.

Opening camp: UCF

Schedule: Practice starts today.

Sidelined: RB Brynn Harvey is out with a knee injury but could return as early as mid-September.

What’s new: Jeff Brinson has transferred in from Iowa and is eligible to play immediately because he was granted a hardship waiver from the NCAA. He could help UCF while Harvey is out, but has had problems staying healthy in the past.

Key battle: Though most every position has been settled going into fall camp, watch the center spot. Jordan Rae is atop the depth chart, but Zac Norris is right there behind him. Rae is a converted defensive linemen.

New on the scene: Watch for true freshman quarterback Jeffrey Godfrey. Though George O’Leary hates playing true freshmen at quarterback, Godfrey has the athleticism and the skill to play. If Rob Calabrese struggles, Godfrey’s number could be called.

Breaking out: Quincy McDuffie. Though the sophomore wide receiver is behind Kamar Aiken and A.J. Guyton on the depth chart, O’Leary says he has got to find a way to get McDuffie more touches. Considering McDuffie is one of the fastest players on the team, that would be a wise decision.

Don’t forget about: Jonathan Davis. With Harvey out, Davis figures heavily in the running game. He and Brendan Kelly split the reps in the spring game, but this is Davis’ time to shine.

All eyes on: Rob Calabrese. To say Calabrese has struggled in his previous stint as a starter is putting it mildly. He was benched after the first two games of last season in favor of Brett Hodges because he simply couldn’t get the job done. O’Leary insists Calabrese is more confident behind center. With an excellent defense returning, the 2010 season hinges largely on whether Calabrese can get the job done.

Quoting: "This is the first year that I have so many seniors back that are actually playing lettermen. … They know what's going on. I think it's the chemistry of that group that's important. I think they all understand what it takes to win. Now basically it's on their shoulders.” -- Coach George O’Leary, via The Orlando Sentinel.

Previous camp previews:

Southern Miss

Nevada

Opening camp: Nevada

August, 4, 2010
8/04/10
8:36
AM ET
Here is the second in a series of camp previews for selected non-AQ schools.

Opening camp: Nevada

Schedule: Practice starts today.

What’s new: Both coordinators left after last season, leaving Cameron Norcross as the running game coordinator and head coach Chris Ault as the passing game coordinator. Andy Buh comes in as defensive coordinator from Stanford, in the hopes of transforming one of the worst pass defenses in the country last season.

Key battle: Starting center is an important part of the Pistol offense. Jeff Meads looks like the favorite to replace second-team WAC center Kenneth Ackerman, though Jordan Mudge and Scott Frisbie are also competing for the job.

New on the scene: Corbin Louks transferred from Utah after losing out on the starting quarterback job last season. Now he is penciled in to start at free safety and is expected to contribute to a secondary that is in desperate need of improvement. His 4.4-speed is a huge plus.

Breaking out: Dontay Moch. OK, so he broke out last year, but Moch is the reigning WAC defensive player of the year and all of the attention most certainly will be on him, especially with fellow defensive end Kevin Basped (9.5 sacks) gone.

Don’t forget about: The kickers. With Ricky Drake suspended for the first two games of the season following a DUI arrest, Ault is going to have to get somebody ready to play. Neither Nick Rhodes nor Anthony Martinez has attempted a kick in a game.

All eyes on: Colin Kaepernick. After rushing for more than 1,000 yards and passing for more than 2,000, the senior quarterback became the first player to have back-to-back 1,000/2,000 yard seasons. Can he make it three straight? He should, considering his value to the offense.

Quoting: “We want to be more balanced on offense. I’m not saying pass for more yardage; I’m saying be more efficient.” -- Nevada coach Chris Ault.

Previous camp previews:

Southern Miss

Opening camp: Southern Miss

August, 3, 2010
8/03/10
8:33
AM ET
Here is the first in a series of camp previews for selected non-AQ schools.

Opening camp: Southern Miss

Schedule: Practice starts today. The first day in full pads is Friday.

What’s new: Record-setting running back Damion Fletcher is gone, along with his 5,032 career yards. A mainstay in the backfield for four seasons, Southern Miss is going to have to make do without him. V.J. Floyd is a top candidate to start, but watch out for Tracey Lampley and freshman Kendrick Hardy.

[+] EnlargeDavis
John Rieger/US PresswireAustin Davis threw for 1,165 yards in five games last season.
Sidelined: Quarterback Austin Davis was cleared to practice in June and should be 100 percent for practice after injuring his foot last season. Still, coach Larry Fedora expects good competition between Davis and Martevious Young during fall camp. Wide receiver DeAndre Brown should also be healthy after a hamstring injury slowed him in the spring.

Key battle: Four starters are gone on the offensive line, leaving some major battles going into camp. The two biggest could be at tackle. On the left side, the race is between sophomore Darius Barnes and junior college transfer Lamar Holmes; at right tackle it is between Jason Weaver and Thomas Edenfield.

New on the scene: Hardy came in as a highly touted freshman and redshirted in 2009. But he had a great spring and could have a great season.

Breaking out: Let’s give this to the entire defense, which is going to have to break out for Southern Miss to do better than 7-6. With nine starters returning, the pressure is on this unit to show it can stop opponents on a consistent basis. The talent is there, with defensive end Cordarro Law along with the best linebacking corps in C-USA of Korey Williams, Martez Smith and Ronnie Thornton.

Don’t forget about: Defensive end Roshaad Byrd. He missed the second half of last season with an ankle injury and is confident he will be healthy. He could be a good complement for Law.

All eyes on: The secondary. The front seven is just fine for the Golden Eagles. But two starters are gone and so is Alabama transfer Alonzo Lawrence, leaving this unit with question marks.

Quoting: “We are expecting a breakout year. We’re going into our third year. We’ve upgraded our talent level and I’ve got the pieces of the puzzle in place. We’ll be a major player in this league.” -- Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora

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