The last big group of non-AQ teams begins spring practice this week (two start next week) with hopes of being better than the year before.
Only three of the seven teams opening spring practice this week went to bowl games, while the rest will be looking for ways to rectify that.
Here’s a look at the teams opening spring practice this week:
Navy, March 29
Biggest issue: Linebacker used to be one of the deepest positions for the Midshipmen, but after losing five to graduation, including four starters, the competition to find replacements will be heated this spring.
Arkansas State, March 29
Biggest issue: Quarterback will be an interesting battle this spring with Ryan Aplin returning after starting three games last season. However, Phillip Butterfield, who was supposed to be in the mix last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury, will challenge for the top spot.
SMU, March 29
Biggest issue: The Mustangs are looking for a new starting strong safety this spring after Rock Dennis graduated. Dennis led the team with four interceptions and had 57 tackles. Last year’s backup, Tyler Jones, will be a candidate to start, but he’ll face some stiff competition.
Ohio, March 30
Biggest issue: Iowa State transfer Phillip Bates will get his shot at quarterback this spring as he tries to assert himself as starter. Senior Boo Jackson, who received a medical redshirt, is limited this spring while still nursing a shoulder injury.
Marshall, March 31
Biggest issue: Marshall has a couple of issues, the least of which is learning a new coaching staff, but the key to this season will be getting more players involved in the passing offense. Departed tight end Cody Slate was the main weapon before a season-ending injury. Antavious Wilson stepped in nicely, but now it’s time to get some of the other receivers in the mix to make the Thundering Herd a more versatile offense.
Florida Atlantic, March 31
Biggest issue: The Owls lost seven starters from last year’s defense, including four from the offensive line, and six of the team’s top seven receivers are also gone. Quarterback Jeff Vancamp will be tasked with holding things together as the Owls try to find an offensive rapport this spring.
Hawaii, April 1
Biggest issue: The pass rush was a big concern last season after the Warriors ranked near the bottom of the country in sacks and pass efficiency defense. Paipai Falemalu will move to right end to provide more speed off that edge, and Kamalu Umu could be the starter on the other side of the line.