Pac-12 Spotlight: Position battles to watch
Position battles in spring football are always of interest to fans. Here’s a look at six key position battles in the Pac-12.
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1. USC WIDE RECEIVER
The Trojans lost two highly productive receivers in Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns to the NFL, but the USC pass-catching factory should have little trouble filling in the gaps left by the former five-stars.
Drake London is a lock at one of the three starting spots in Graham Harrell's offense, as he returns having lead the team with 33 catches for 502 yards from the slot in the truncated 2020 season. Bru McCoy will have the first crack to be at the top of the depth chart on one outside spot, with John Jackson and Colorado transfer K.D. Nixon battling for the spot across from the former five-star recruit.
Recent transfer Tahj Washington from Memphis is productive as well and could push in the slot and Gary Bryant is as dynamic after the catch as any receiver on the roster.
2. OREGON QUARTERBACK
With the somewhat surprising transfer of starting quarterback Tyler Shough to Texas Tech, the Ducks enter 2021 as the favorites in the Pac-12 despite having a big question mark behind center.
True freshman Ty Thompson has a lot of buzz around him as he enters as an early enrollee and should get a fair shake to start in his first year on campus. But he will have competition from two redshirt freshmen in former four-star Jay Butterfield and three-star Robby Ashford, both of whom did not see the field in 2020 but gained valuable experience behind the scenes.
And the returning leader for the job is Anthony Brown who could flourish in the offense and is fighting off the competition.
3. STANFORD OFFENSIVE TACKLE
The Cardinal lose both starting tackles from their 2020 team, as Walker Little and Foster Sarell have left for the draft, so the bookends in Mike Bloomgren's offense are both open for competition this spring.
Former 2020 five-star Myles Hinton, who saw reps as a true freshman in the fall, should have the inside track at one of the two open positions, and Walter Rouse looks to be the favorite to start opposite of him.
However, don't be surprised if Barrett Miller, who started all six games in the fall at left guard, gets a chance to kick outside.
4. UCLA RUNNING BACK
Demetric Felton is off to the pros, and his versatility out of the backfield will be sorely missed. Brittain Brown, the former Duke transfer, is the leading candidate to start in the backfield after being the team's primary backup in 2020.
Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet will push him for carries. No matter who starts, however, in Chip Kelly's offense, both backs are sure to see a lot of action.
5. WASHINGTON CORNERBACK
The Huskies lost two starters from the 2020 campaign to the draft, where Keith Taylor and Elijah Molden combined for 87 career starts. That being said, if there's one position on Washington that can always be counted on for having depth of talent it's the defensive backfield.
Trent McDuffie started every game in the fall and earned second-team all-conference honors at outside corner, but across from him the position is up for grabs. Kyler Gordon and Jacobe Covington are primed to battle for Taylor's former spot, and Oklahoma transfer Bookie Radley-Hiles is the favorite to take over for Molden in the slot.
6. UTAH QUARTERBACK
With Jake Bentley and Drew Lisk both gone in Salt Lake, the Utes have to replace the two guys who took snaps behind center last season. The battle this spring will be between two Big 12 transfers in former Baylor signal caller Charlie Brewer and Texas backup Ja’Quinden Jackson.
Brewer has the edge in experience, but Jackson’s dual threat ability fits better with what Utah has traditionally looked for on offense, so look for a tight battle that extends into fall camp when Cam Rising arrives to push everyone. Peter Costelli, Cooper Justice and Bryson Barnes are also in the mix.