NCF Nation: Christopher Bynes

Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Arkansas State Red Wolves
Spring practice starts: March 29
Spring game: April 24
What to watch:
  • Three-time All-Sun Belt rusher Reggie Arnold is gone and finding his replacement will be their top priority. Derek Lawson, who was third on the team in rushing with 244 yards and two touchdowns, returns and he’ll be the incumbent through spring. But he’ll face competition from Sir Gregory Thornton and Frankie Jackson in the fall.
  • Ryan Aplin, who started three of the final four games last season, should be the leading quarterback this spring. Redshirt freshman Phillip Butterfield, however, will also challenge him for the spot. Butterfield was in the mix last fall camp before his season ended with a knee injury.
  • Arkansas State is currently without an offensive coordinator after Clay Helton, who came over from Memphis last month, left for USC last week. The Red Wolves still have a month before spring football starts, but trying to fill that void this late is going to make any transition to a new offense tough.
Florida Atlantic Owls
Spring practice starts: March 31
Spring game: April 24
What to watch:
  • The Owls lost seven starters from the offense, including four from the offensive line. The only player returning is center Ryan Wischnefski. Several players will be fighting for those spots, including Troy Niblack, Samuel McRoy, Jared Pizzuti and Max Karrick. The 2009 FAU offensive line was the best in the program’s short history. It helped FAU become the No. 2 passing offense in the Sun Belt.
  • FAU returns senior quarterback Jeff Van Camp, who started the second half of the season after Rusty Smith was injured. But six of the team’s top seven receivers are gone, including both tight ends Jason Harmon and Jamari Grant. Senior Lester Jean is the lone returning receiver. He had 501 yards and four touchdowns last season. The good thing is that FAU quarterbacks like to spread the ball around, so developing a new rapport with some receivers this spring shouldn’t be too difficult.
  • The team is counting on new defensive coordinator Kurt Van Valkenburgh and secondary coach Dick Hopkins to make the defense competitive. The Owls had one of the worst defenses in the country and one of the worst in program history. There will be a lot of competition in the secondary, especially since three walk-ons filled those starting roles.
Florida International Golden Panthers
Spring practice starts: March 3
Spring game: April 1
What to watch:
  • Senior Wayne Younger and junior transfer Wesley Carroll, who came from Mississippi State where he was an all-freshman selection in 2008, will compete for the starting quarterback job after Paul McCall graduated. Younger played in spot time last year and threw four interceptions and no touchdowns.
  • Darriet Perry should be the leader heading into the running back competition, but Perry struggled at times last year, mostly because of injuries. Kendall Berry, who played out of the Wildcat last year, and Syracuse transfer Jeremiah Harden also will compete for the starting role.
  • New offensive coordinator Scott Satterfield will be happy to see star receiver T.Y. Hilton back after he struggled with knee injuries most of last year. Hilton is one of the most dynamic receivers in the conference and having him healthy should give the offense confidence.

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One of the great parts of the spring is watching the various position battles unfold and reading the quotes from the coaches criticizing the poor play of the competitors (talking to you, Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild).

There are a lot of teams with questions and below I look at some of the bigger ones as we head into spring practices.

1. BYU quarterback: Three players will be vying for the starting quarterback role left vacant by Max Hall this spring. Riley Nelson is the incumbent since he was the backup last year, but he’ll be challenged by true freshman Jake Heaps and James Lark, who is returning from his mission.

2. Louisiana Tech quarterback: Ross Jenkins has been the starting quarterback for the past season and a half and has done a decent job, but with a new head coach, new coordinator and new system, the starting quarterback role is going to go to the player who wings the ball around Texas Tech-style.

3. Central Michigan quarterback: With Dan LeFevour gone and a new head coach, Central Michigan is basically entering a new era. Ryan Radcliff and Derek Rifenbury will be the top two competitors for the starting position, but don’t count out Kyle Smith and A.J. Westendorp.

4. Colorado State running back: The Rams know they have a competent running game, but picking the player to spearhead that running game will be a challenge. Both John Mosure and Leonard Mason return as seniors, but the Rams also have Lou Greenwood, Raymond Carter (a transfer from UCLA), power back Chris Nwoke (a redshirt freshman in 2010), and true freshman Tony Drake, who was one of the top all-purpose backs in the country.

5. TCU defensive end: Jerry Hughes is gone and Braylon Broughton is next in line on the depth chart, but don’t rule out any of the other athletes on the roster. The Horned Frogs signed a lot of running backs and they won’t all stay at that position. Remember, Hughes was a running back before turning into an All-America defensive end.

6. Utah running back: It looked like Eddie Wide was going to be the premier back, but with Matt Asiata applying for a sixth season things could get dicey in the backfield. Add Sausan Shakerin to the mix and the Utes have a trio of guys who could start in the backfield for many teams. Which one will start for the Utes, though, is up for competition.

7. San Diego State running back: The running game has been downright awful for the Aztecs the past few years, so coach Brady Hoke has brought in a stable of running backs to find the right one. SDSU could be auditioning as many as nine running backs this year in an effort to find one who will get the Aztec running game out of the cellar.

8. North Texas receivers: The Mean Green struggled last year, but return their top six receivers and add Oklahoma transfer Tyler Stradford, who was the offensive scout team player of the year last year while sitting out, and junior college transfer Christopher Bynes. But finding the go-to receiver will be a chore this spring and into fall camp.

9. East Carolina running back: Giavanni Ruffin returns, but the rest of the running back depth is a little sketchy to replace 1,000-yard rusher Dominique Lindsay. Senior Norman Whitley, senior Jonathan Williams and junior Brandon Jackson are the other running backs on the rosters, but both Whitley and Williams have had trouble with suspensions and Jackson was inconsistent last year.

10. Southern Miss O-line: The Golden Eagles must replace four offensive linemen from last year’s squad, which is no easy task. Guys who will be competing for spots include senior R.J. Brown, redshirt freshman Ed Preston, senior Trevor Newsom and junior Ben Schoenberger as well as early enrollees Jamar Holmes and Jason Weaver and four other freshmen signed in this year’s class.

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