We ran this right before I returned (Tuesday, August 4 was my first day back), so I’ll add my 2 cents along the way. Let’s see how much this gets updated during the spring:
WR (X): 3 Davonte Allen (sr), 9 Justin Hunt (jr) … My column on seniors having their best year in football sort of calls out Allen. Once you think he has turned the corner toward super, he gets injured or does something to tell you otherwise.
WR (Z): 4 Deon-Tay McManus (r-so), 82 Emanuel Beal (s-Fr) … McManus should upgrade the No. 4 from last year, don’t you think? Beal had a pretty good spring, so many months ago.
WR (slot): 2 Hyleck Foster (so), 1 Angelo Jean-Louis (r-so) OR 19 Deandre Reaves (r-sr) … So does this mean Jean-Louis regains the No. 1 Doc unceremoniously took from him in the spring? Foster looked like the real deal from the first day of spring.
LT: 67 Sandley Jean-Felix (r-So.), 74 AJ Addison (so) … It was a shame Addison played last year, and Doc said as much. As you’ll recall, Addison played before Mendelson finally, finally convinced coaches he could hold up in live fire. Sandley may take a few knocks vs. Purdue, but I think he’s a future NFLer. Can’t get over those long arms.
LG: 71 Sebastien Johansson (jr), 75 Tyler Combs (r-so) … “Swede” looks too husky for 284 pounds … Look for Combs to make most of mop-up downs.
C: 54 Michael Selby (jr), 65 Cody Collins (r-so) … Outsiders expect a drop at this position, with a little less chemistry across the line, and with the quarterback. I don’t agree.
RG: 76 Nate Devers (r-fr), 58 Jordan Dowrey (r-fr): Doc pronounced Devers the strongest man on the team. Wow.
RT: 78 Clint Van Horn (r-sr), 68 Tom Collins (r-sr): Van Horn will leave the largest legacy in the OL room. And he’ll pancake a lot of defenders.
TE: 85 Ryan Yurachek (so), 21 Emanuel Byrd (jr): Between Yurachek’s freshman season and Byrd’s breakout spring, this position appears stronger than outsiders expect.
QB: 11 Michael Birdsong (r-jr), 10 Gunnar Holcombe (r-jr) OR 14 Chase Litton (fr) … Birdsong will make some mistakes in Game 1, but Herd fans hope they won’t be as costly as Cato’s two pick-6s were at Purdue in 2012. Look for Litton to keep redshirt UNLESS Birdsong goes down and the Herd legitimately needs the No. 2 guy. Litton may have come that far.
RB: 47 Devon Johnson (sr), 8 Remi Watson (r-sr), 23 Tony Pittman (r-so) … In a 12- to 14-game season, all 3 will be needed. Let’s see how Pittman does.
DE: 73 Joe Massaquoi (r-jr), 13 Armonze Daniel (r-sr), 88 Ryan Bee (r-fr) … You talk about a position that’s on the spot! Shoot, I’m interested in seeing if 6-foot-8, 263-pound Bee can work himself into a few snaps.
DT: 94 Jarquez Samuel (r-sr), 95 Tomell One (so), 98 Jason Smith (r-fr) … Doc says Samuel must be James Rouse this year. Quite possible.
DT: 93 Steve Dillon (r-sr), 99 Ricardo Williams (r-sr), 97 Malik Thompson (fr) … On how many C-USA teams would Williams start? Hmmm…
DE: 59 Gary Thompson (r-jr), 44 Blake Keller (r-so), 90 Damien Dozier (fr) … Gary? Knock, knock, knock. Where is the Gary Williams we’ve expected to become a beast?
SLB: 22 D.J. Hunter (r-sr), 37 Chase Hancock (r-fr) … We know what Hunter is going to do. Can Hancock follow up on his breakout spring and keep this spot?
MLB: 45 Raheim Huskey (r-so) OR 9 Shawn Petty (r-jr), 3 Stefan Houston (jr) … It’s still amazing what Huskey has done since last October, and amazing he is neck-and-neck with Petty. Houston will find downs somewhere, someway, I figure.
WLB: 31 Evan McKelvey (r-sr), 51 Devontre’a Tyler (jr), 53 Frankie Hernandez (r-fr) … Oh, if McKelvey is indeed 100 percent or more after ACL tear No. 2, this whole defense will be vicious.
Field CB: 5 Keith Baxter (r-sr), 11 Rodney Allen (r-so), 24 Michael Johnson (jr) … Baxter’s dad played out of his mind as a senior, as I recall. I think son can follow those footsteps.
Boundary CB: 10 Corey Tindal (r-jr), 7 Antavis Rowe (so), 12 Chris Williams-Hall (fr) … Tough game vs. WKU will drive Tindal all season.
Boundary S: 17 Letman (r-sr), 40 Corey Neely (jr), 36 Cody Carter (r-jr) … Neely already has coaches’ full attention.
Field S: 1 A.J. Leggett (r-jr), 21 Tiquan Lang (jr), 14 Kendall Gant (so) … Is this position as stacked as I think it is?
Nickel: Rowe, Williams-Hall.
P — 38 Tyler Williams (sr), 30 Kaare Vedvik (r-so) … Doc says Vedvik really improved over the summer, but should get another calendar year of apprentice work. Williams will do what Williams does … BOOM!
FG/PAT — 48 Nick Smith (r-so) OR 39 Amareto Curraj … Great battle. Doc said Curraj can snag job, even if he’s kickoff guy (and he will be).
SNAP — 88 Matt Cincotta (sr), 62 Kyle Varnell (fr) OR 96 Zach Wood … Gosh, is Cincotta a senior?
Holder — Williams, Holcombe.
KO — Curraj, Smith OR Vedvik. Give that KO coverage team some rest.
KO return — 19 Reaves, 8 Watson, 2 Foster. Reaves finally broke one in the Boca Bowl, after being so close so many times.
Punt return — 2 Foster, 19 Reaves, 11 Allen: Betcha Foster burns a punt coverage in the month of September.