With 23 teams in non-AQ conferences set to play their spring games between tonight and tomorrow, here is a quick look at big-time questions for a selected few.
Big question: Receiver. Austin Pettis and Titus Young formed one of the best receiver duos in the nation over the last several years. But now they are gone, leaving the Broncos looking for a deep threat to replace Young and a possession receiver to replace Pettis. Tyler Shoemaker, Chris Potter, Geraldo Hiwat and Kirby Moore all figure to make contributions. Watch for freshman Troy Ware as well. Starting quarterback Kellen Moore is not expected to do much in the game Saturday, but the receivers need all the work they can get to prepare for bigger roles.
Others in the MWC playing: New Mexico.
Big question: Defense. The Pirates were lucky to make a bowl game last season with the way their defense played. They ranked last in all of college football in total defense, giving up an average of 479 yards a game, and closed the season with losses in five of their final six games. A prolific offense is all that saved them. Granted, East Carolina lost nine starters on defense, but there was still no excuse for that type of performance. The Pirates are now switching to a 3-4 though it is unclear what they have headed into the spring game. Injuries to several players have left them thin in the front seven. Defensive tackles Michael Brooks (right knee), Robert Jones (right shoulder) and Chrishon Rose (left shoulder) and linebacker/defensive end Justin Dixon (left knee) all sat out the spring. Defensive tackle Leroy Vick, a transfer from Georgia Military Institute, injured his left knee in a scrimmage and is out for the season. Linebacker Lamar McLendon, who started 10 of 13 games last season, left the team for personal reasons. So it is safe to say coach Ruffin McNeill will have to wait until the fall to find out more about this group.
Others in C-USA playing: UCF, Tulsa, Tulane, UAB, Memphis.
Big question: Receiver. The Warriors lose Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares, who combined for over 3,000 yards in the pass-happy Hawaii offense. Royce Pollard returns after having 901 yards as the Z receiver last season and will be counted on to step up and become a go-to receiver for returning quarterback Bryant Moniz. Others to watch: Allen Sampson and Terrence Bell, who would bring an added boost of speed; Miah Ostrowski, the point guard on the hoops team who has a good bond with Moniz; and Darius Bright and Corey Paclebar.
Others in the WAC playing: Nevada
Big question: Quarterback. The surprise MAC champions have a new coach in Don Treadwell, so there are plenty of areas that have been open to competition. The biggest is at quarterback, where Zac Dysert and Austin Boucher are competing for the starting job. Dysert went into 2010 as the starter before missing the rest of the season with a rib injury. Boucher came in and led the RedHawks to the MAC title and one of the biggest turnaround seasons in NCAA history. Both have been even throughout the spring, and Treadwell has been mum on who has the edge.
Others in the MAC playing: Kent State, Bowling Green (Friday), Western Michigan, Central Michigan (Friday), Toledo (Friday), Buffalo, Akron, Ohio, Temple
Big question: Quarterback. Derek Thompson and junior college transfer Brent Osborn went into the spring competing for the starting job, and it appears Thompson has the edge going into the spring game. North Texas had major injury problems at quarterback last season -- Thompson broke his leg in the only game he started. Even though Thompson has been with the team longer, he is still relatively inexperienced.
Others in the Sun Belt with games: Western Kentucky, Arkansas State