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Biggest position battles for each Top 25 team

Kelly Bryant will face challengers for the Clemson starting quarterback job. Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY Sports

Another football season is right around the corner, but the Top 25 teams still have decisions to make. Even defending champ Clemson has to decide if Kelly Bryant is ready to take over at QB.

Here are the key position battles for the top teams.


1. Ohio State

If the Buckeyes plan to air it out this season, they will need to settle on the targets quarterback J.T. Barrett can trust. Urban Meyer said the receiver performance left something to be desired a year ago, which sets up a challenge for Johnnie Dixon, Binjimen Victor, Terry McLaurin and others competing for playing time. -- Dan Murphy


2. Florida State

Much of the focus has been on replacing running back Dalvin Cook, but the Seminoles have a big hole on the offensive line to fill, too. Left tackle Rod Johnson, voted the ACC's best lineman the past two seasons, is gone. As it stands right now, Josh Ball is the leader to replace him, but that could change depending on what happens in practice. Given the ups and downs Florida State had on the offensive line last season, it's imperative that the Seminoles get this position squared away quickly. -- Andrea Adelson


3. Alabama

Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris and the Alabama backfield are loaded. What about receiver? Calvin Ridley is as good as it gets, but he needs a sidekick with ArDarius Stewart and O.J. Howard gone. -- Alex Scarborough


4. USC

The toughest hole to plug defensively will be at defensive tackle, where Stevie Tu'ikolovatu was relied on heavily last season. Candidates to replace him include Josh Fatu, Malik Dorton, Kenny Bigelow Jr. and true freshman Marlon Tuipulotu. In all likelihood, all four players will be used as part of a rotation. -- Kyle Bonagura


5. Penn State

Finding a partner for safety Marcus Allen in the middle of the secondary would solidify a good secondary for the Nittany Lions. Ayron Monroe, Troy Apke, Nick Scott and Garrett Taylor are all in the running for the job. -- Dan Murphy


6. Oklahoma State

With Ramon Richards sliding over to safety, the Pokes don't have a single cornerback who has started a game for them. Clemson grad transfer Adrian Baker should nail down one of the open starting spots. The other will be up for grabs, as Rodarius Williams, Madre Harper and A.J. Green will look to step into the void. -- Jake Trotter


7. Clemson

Dabo Swinney has maintained throughout the winter and spring that Kelly Bryant is in the best position to take over for Deshaun Watson at quarterback. The competition will intensify during fall practice, when Hunter Johnson and Zerrick Cooper make another push to win the starting job. Swinney has played multiple quarterbacks before (he did so with Watson and Cole Stoudt in 2014), so don't rule that out as a possibility in the early going. -- Adelson


8. Oklahoma

With Dede Westbrook gone, the Sooners are trying to find a new go-to receiver for QB Baker Mayfield. OU has intriguing options, including senior Jeff Mead, juco transfer Marquise Brown, tight end Mark Andrews and Kentucky grad transfer Jeff Badet. All four, among others, will be trying to prove to Mayfield this camp that they can be trusted in big moments. -- Trotter


9. Washington

The secondary is an obvious group to pay attention to, but the Huskies also need to replace pass-rushing linebacker Joe Mathis. Connor O'Brien took over that role for the second half of the season after Mathis was lost to injury, but he missed the spring due to injury. Benning Potoa'e and Myles Rice are in the mix. -- Bonagura


10. Auburn

The good news is that Auburn is loaded on the offensive line. The problem is figuring out how all the pieces will fit. An interesting battle is brewing between Darius James and Prince Tega Wanogho at left tackle. -- Scarborough


11. Wisconsin

Redshirt junior Jacob Maxwell started the first seven games of the 2016 season at offensive tackle for the Badgers. A shoulder injury ended his year early and put him in jeopardy of losing his spot. He'll have to battle redshirt freshman Patrick Kasl, who had a solid spring practice. -- Murphy


12. LSU

With Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith both gone at inside linebacker, there are serious holes to patch on Dave Aranda's defense. Donnie Alexander is back, and converted tailback Devin White is an intriguing option, but don't forget Jacob Phillips, the No. 3-rated inside linebacker in the 2017 class. -- Scarborough


13. Georgia

The Bulldogs return 10 starters on defense but are still looking for a starting nickelback. The good news is that Georgia has the able bodies to fill that position before the first kickoff of the season. Leaving spring, sophomore Tyrique McGhee and freshman DeAngelo Gibbs appeared to lead the way at the position. Fifth-year senior Aaron Davis showed some flashes. All three improved their stock at the position this spring, but none of them has much experience there. -- Edward Aschoff


14. Michigan

The Wolverines graduated two top-notch cover corners who allowed them to be one of the most aggressive defenses in the nation last season. There is plenty of young talent at the spot with David Long and Lavert Hill leading that group. They have yet to lock down a starting pair. -- Murphy


15. Miami

The preseason favorite to win the Coastal Division has just about every piece in place to make a run -- except a starter at quarterback. Freshman N'Kosi Perry takes his first snap for Miami once fall practice begins, when he will compete with top challengers Malik Rosier and Evan Shirreffs. Rosier is the only one who has started a game, but there's a reason coach Mark Richt left the competition open until Perry arrived. -- Adelson


16. Stanford

The Cardinal lost a pair of top-10 picks in Christian McCaffrey and Solomon Thomas but lost only four other players who were listed as starters headed into the Sun Bowl last season. The result? This team is fairly set. It will be interesting to see if incoming freshmen offensive linemen Foster Sarell and Walker Little can earn their way into the rotation. -- Bonagura


17. Louisville

Stacy Thomas returns as a stalwart at linebacker, but there is competition at one of the outside spots. London Iakopo, a converted safety, is atop the preseason depth chart, but he will be in a wide-open competition with Malik Staples. It will be interesting to see how the competition plays out, especially because Staples spent time as an inside linebacker. -- Adelson


18. Kansas State

The Wildcats must replace their entire top group of linebackers. Trent Tanking is a heavy favorite to take over in the middle for All-Big 12 choice Elijah Lee, but the outside spots look more uncertain. Complicating matters, K-State often plays just two linebackers, so left to fight for essentially one spot are junior Sam Sizelove and senior Jayd Kirby, who bring experience in the K-State system and strong play on special teams, talented juco transfer Da'Quan Patton, and sophomores Justin Hughes and Elijah Sullivan. It might not get sorted out soon. -- Mitch Sherman


19. USF

The biggest issue the Bulls are facing in camp is developing depth along their front seven. In particular, depth at linebacker continues to be a concern. Beyond Auggie Sanchez, nobody has started a game. There is plenty of potential, with high expectations for players such as Jimmy Bayes and Nico Sawtelle. But building quality players behind them is an absolute priority. -- Adelson


20. West Virginia

Superior play at cornerback greatly solidifies the entire defense in coordinator Tony Gibson's scheme. The Mountaineers found it last year with Rasul Douglas. Who's next? Perhaps Elijah Battle is ready to take the torch, but the other spot remains an open competition. Mike Daniels played a reserve role last year. Corey Winfield started for two years at Syracuse before arriving as a grad transfer. Hakeem Bailey and Fontez Davis add intrigue as newcomers out of junior college. -- Sherman


21. Florida

Yet again, it's the quarterback. The Gators haven't had stable QB play in nearly a decade, but coach Jim McElwain recently said that he feels a lot more confident in his quarterback room. Redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks left spring atop the depth chart and had a terrific offseason. However, he'll immediately battle more mobile and more experienced Notre Dame grad transfer Malik Zaire, along with former starter Luke Del Rio and classmate Kyle Trask. -- Aschoff


22. Virginia Tech

For the second straight season, Virginia Tech has uncertainty at quarterback. With Jerod Evans gone, the competition continues among Josh Jackson, A.J. Bush and Hendon Hooker. Coach Justin Fuente doesn't have a timetable to name a starter, though Jackson could have the edge because he has been in the system longer. -- Adelson


23. Texas

New coach Tom Herman has been trying to instill a competitive attitude in his team all offseason. His competition at quarterback trumps all. Incumbent sophomore Shane Buechele is the overwhelming favorite to win the job over freshman Sam Ehlinger, but the Longhorns will be in a bit of a holding pattern until Herman officially names Buechele the starter. -- Trotter


24. Boise State

The Broncos return a clear No. 1 option in receiver Cedrick Wilson but have to find a way to replace the production from last season lost by the departures of Thomas Sperbeck (80 catches) and Chaz Anderson (30 catches). A.J. Richardson and Sean Modster both begin the year atop the depth chart, but they combined for just 10 catches last season. -- Bonagura


25. Washington State

The Cougars said goodbye to two of the best receivers in school history, Gabe Marks and River Cracraft, and several players will be in the mix to help make up for the lost production (142 catches between them last season). Tavares Martin Jr. could develop into an all-conference player, while several others are in line for larger roles, including Dezmon Patmon, Isaiah Johnson-Mack, Kyle Sweet, Robert Lewis and, possibly, Renard Bell. -- Bonagura