NCAA football teams across the country are getting ready for the start of their fall training camps. Here in Texas, some might be preparing on practice fields, while others are in an air-conditioned bubble. Still, several teams have questions going into the season.
We’ll start with the members of the Power 5 conferences beginning with their offenses.
Texas — New offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert installed a faster-paced spread offense that utilizes four- and five-receiver sets. While head coach Charlie Strong didn’t name true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele the starter, he hasn’t stopped praising the youngster since Buchele arrived in January. Sophomore wide receiver John Burt is a returning starter in that position, but another true freshman, Collin Johnson, is expected to take the other wide receiver position. True frreshman Devin Duvernay’s speed makes him an ideal slot receiver. That leaves one other position that could go to Armanti Foreman, Lorenzo Joe, Dorian Leonard or even Jerrod Heard. The Longhorns also have several other true freshmen who are capable of playing. The strength of the team is in the running back room thanks to lettermen D’Onta Foreman and Chris Warren III and true freshman Kyle Porter. But it would be foolish to think the offensive line, led by sophomores Connor Williams and Patrick Vahe, isn’t capable of challenging for strength of the squad. After all, the running game will be counted on to take pressure off a quarterback who has never played a down of college football.
TCU — Who will take over at quarterback? Even head coach Gary Patterson wants to know. Weeks ago he said the competition between Kenny Hill and Foster Sawyer will go through training camp. Patterson didn’t sway far from that Aug. 3 when he said the starter would be named several days before the Horned Frogs open the season against South Dakota State Sept. 3 unless one makes it crystal clear he should be the guy. Quarterbacks coach Sonny Cumbie said the two are even with neither separating from the other during summer conditioning. While Sawyer is bigger, he can still move and throw. Hill is shiftier but still delivers the ball on time. Other question mark remain at number two tailback behind Kyle Hicks since Shaun Nixon suffered an injury that will force him to miss the entire season. TCU also has to find receivers to replace the production of Josh Doctson. But at the Alamo Bowl, where the Horned Frogs came back from a 31-point deficit in triple overtime to beat Oregon 47-41, several true freshmen who are now sophomores emerged. They include Jalen Austin (4 catches-67 yards-1 touchdown), KaVontae Turpin (5-65-0) and Jarrison Stewart (2-39-0). Patterson said he is looking for offensive linemen to grow up. Junior center Austin Schlottman started three games last year and junior offensive tackle Matt Pryor is expected to contribute.
Texas Tech — No starting quarterback questions for the Red Raiders, but they must find another running back who can move the chains because of the loss of DeAndre Washington, who had 233 rushes for 1,513 and 14 touchdowns. Junior running back Justin Stockton (61-395-5) will take over. Tech also is searching for another every down receiver with Jakeem Grant (90-1,268-10) in the NFL. Senior receiver Reggie Davis (38-536-8), junior transfer Derrick Willies and junior receiver Dylan Cantrell, who redshirted last year, are vying for playing time. Junior transfer Nic Shimonek and true freshman Jett Duffey are battling for backup quarterback.
Baylor — The Bears’ biggest concern on the football field is finding enough depth to overcome injuries. Coach Jim Grobe anticipated having 70 scholarship players, 15 down from the maximum allowed by the NCAA. While senior quarterback Seth Russell is the starter, Baylor must find a backup. The top three running backs also return led by senior Shock Linwood (196-1,362-10), junior Johnny Jefferson (136-1,009-8), and sophomore Terrence Williams (88-563-3). Junior receiver K.D. Cannon (50-868-6) is the leader of the receivers. Only sophomore Chris Platt (11-55-1) had double-digit catches.
Texas A&M — The Aggies will have a new starting quarterback for the third consecutive year, four years removed from Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy-winning season. The player penciled in is Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight, who is learning a scheme from new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. One fact about Knight fans will love is that he has already beaten Alabama in the 2013 Sugar Bowl. He threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for seven yards on five carries. Despite the new starting quarterback and coordinator, this is A&M’s best team since 2012, their first year in the Southeastern Conference. Receivers Christian Kirk (70-925-6), Speedy Noil (67-809-7) Ricky Seals-Jones (94-1,091-8) and Josh Reynolds (92-1,572-18) are back. Junior running back James White has the most experience (72-342-4). One side note on training camp — it will start without new offensive line coach Jim Turner and tight ends coach Jeff Banks, who were suspended after a women’s clinic hosted by the coaching staff. The two presented information of the basics of the sport using sexual terms.