February 28, 2024

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College football position battles to watch going forward as spring practices conclude ahead of 2022 season

We’re past the midway point of the 2022 college football spring practice sessions, but some pretty notable spring games featuring prominent programs are still ahead of us. Coaches love the competition of spring ball and the opportunity to see how players perform with coveted depth chart spots on the line. And while we know the “every job is open” message doesn’t apply at every position for every team, the position battles in spring can go a long way in determining who will fill key holes for high-profile teams in 2022. 

Below we’ve identified some position battles to track heading into these final weeks of spring practice. Some very important battles have already wrapped for the spring and will continue into the fall, but these are the ones that have will have our attention the rest of the way. 

Texas: Quarterback 

Spring Game: April 23
Names to know: Quinn Ewers, Hudson Card 

Last year, we were tracking the battle between Card and Casey Thompson, a competition that started in the spring and continued all the way into Steve Sarkisian’s first season as the Longhorns’ head coach. Thompson has since transferred to Nebraska, but Card is far from the frontrunner for this job thanks to the arrival of former five-star prospect Quinn Ewers from Ohio State. The 6-foot-3, 206-pound Ewers rated as the No. 1 high school recruit, according to the 247Sports Composite, and that blue-chip status has many fans handing him the honors of QB1 already. But Card has indicated he’s up for the challenge of going head-to-head against the touted new arrival, and his one year of experience in Sarkisian’s offense could prove to be valuable in the competition. Early scrimmage buzz suggests that experience might not be enough to beat out Ewers’ live arm and explosive passing ability, which has Longhorns fans buzzing heading into the spring game. 

LSU: Quarterback 

Spring Game: April 23 
Names to know: Myles Brennan, Jayden Daniels, Garrett Nussmeier 

The outlook for this competition took a sharp turn earlier this month when Daniels, the former Arizona State quarterback, announced LSU as his transfer destination. Daniels was a three-year starter for coach Herm Edwards and the Sun Devils, emerging as an instant-impact star in 2019 with 17 touchdowns and two interceptions before falling short of matching that high level of play throughout the following two seasons. Brennan figured to be the leader in this competition prior to that news, as he’s been a steady and reliable option when healthy. However, his injury history brings some concern that may have been a factor in Daniels’ arrival in Baton Rouge. The X-factor here is how new coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock want to run the offense, which in turn might be dependent on who wins this job.

USC: Wide receiver 

Spring Game: April 23 
Names to know: Mario Williams, Brendan Rice, Terrell Bynum, Gary Bryant Jr., Tajh Washington, Kyle Ford 

Lincoln Riley’s collection of wide receiver talent suggests a season of airing it out is in store for Year 1 in Los Angeles. The Trojans lost leading receiver Drake London to the NFL Draft but saw a handful of rotation players return, yet Riley and his staff decided to hit this position hard in the transfer portal. Williams (Oklahoma), Rice (Colorado ) and Bynum (Washington) could all be top targets for star quarterback Caleb Williams, but they have to win those roles ahead of players who have been at USC prior to Riley’s arrival. Gary Bryant Jr. was the team’s leading receiver after London’s 2021 campaign was ended by injury, so he figures to be a part of the mix, but Washington, Ford and the rest of the room are battling to secure a favorable position on the depth chart with all the transfer talent added to the mix. 

Oregon: Running back 

Spring Game: April 23 
Names to know: Byron Cardwell, Sean Dollars, Steven McGee, Noah Whittington

Travis Dye and CJ Verdell were the one-two punch for Oregon over a long period of time, so now that Verdell is off to the NFL and Dye has transferred to USC, there’s a major hole at running back. Cardwell has the most production after rolling up 417 rushing yards and three touchdowns during his freshman season, but he’s getting pushed by Sean Dollars, a fourth-year player who is garnering rave reviews from the coaching staff after finally getting back to full health after injury. First-year coach Dan Lanning and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham hit the transfer portal to solidify some depth here with Noah Whittington from Western Kentucky and the group will get a boost in terms of depth and talent when freshman Jordan James, a high four-star prospect the Ducks flipped from Georgia, arrives this summer. 

Notre Dame: Quarterback

Spring Game: April 23
Names to know: Drew Pyne, Tyler Buchner 

It’s assumed there won’t be an official announcement here until mid-August, but that doesn’t change the intrigue into what happens when both quarterbacks hit the field for the spring game. Both players saw the field in 2021 either along with or in place of Jack Coan. But while Pyne played in less games than Buchner — who was used in a specialized package that took advantage of his ability as a runner — the junior did lead an impressive comeback against Wisconsin in one of the biggest wins of the season. Buchner was a highly-rated prospect coming out of high school and figures to be the favorite in the battle, but he’ll have to limit turnovers and show a full body of work this spring and in fall camp to get the tap for QB1 in Week 1. 

Washington: Quarterback

Spring Game: April 30
Names to know: Dylan Morris, Sam Huard, Michael Penix Jr.

The first season Michael Penix was the starter at Indiana, new Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer was the Hoosiers’ offensive coordinator. That, plus Penix saying that he’s finally fully healthy, seem to give the transfer quarterback an edge, but the battle rages on with fourth-year sophomore Dylan Morris and former five-star prospect Sam Huard very much in the mix. Considering Penix’s injury history, it’s important for the Huskies to start the year with depth at the position, and that makes the battle for QB2 just as interesting as QB1 should DeBoer name the Indiana transfer as the starter for Week 1.