Spring look around the non-BCS schools

With spring practices getting started, our non-BCS notebook addresses the big questions facing each team.

Updated: March 23, 2007, 4:54 PM ET
By Adam Rittenberg | Special to ESPN.com

Who will replace John Beck as BYU's quarterback? Who will be Notre Dame's running back? Our non-BCS notebook addresses those questions and much more.

Boise State Broncos
Boise State knows Marty Tadman will be one of its starting safeties this fall, as he has been for the last two seasons. Who lines up next to Tadman? Anyone's guess. Four players are competing for the spot in spring practice, including senior Austin Smith, a starting safety in 2005 who moved to cornerback and played heavily on special teams last year. Freshmen roommates Jason Robinson and Jeron Johnson also are in the mix. "Our safeties run to the ball better than I've ever seen," Robinson told the Idaho Statesman. "None of us is scared. We all want to play. We all have that drive. That keeps me at my best."

BYU Cougars
The competition to replace John Beck is well under way at BYU. The Cougars have six quarterbacks practicing this spring, but so far only Max Hall and Cade Cooper have taken snaps during team periods. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall and his assistants could name a starter by the end of camp or table the decision until the summer. "Both guys [Hall and Cooper] have shown they are capable," quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman told the (Provo) Daily Herald. "This might be a longer battle than we expected."

Miami (OH) Redhawks
Miami (Ohio) has promoted Jay Hood to defensive coordinator after Taver Johnson left to become cornerbacks coach at Ohio State. Hood served as the RedHawks' defensive line coach the last two years. Despite a 2-10 record last year, Miami ranked ninth nationally in pass defense (158.3 ypg). "I feel good about promoting Jay," head coach Shane Montgomery told the Journal News of Hamilton, Ohio. "He's very organized and he's been around a lot of different systems."

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Clint Marks is gone, and four men are vying to replace him at Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders' quarterback competition kicked off Monday with the start of spring practice. Joe Craddock entered spring ball as the starter and is the frontrunner to succeed Marks, but Patrick Jackson, Salin Simpson and Gene Delle Donne, a transfer from Duke, are in the mix. Craddock played in nine games last season, completing 9-of-24 passes for 75 yards. "I have an advantage because I've played a little bit," Craddock told The Daily News Journal. "That's the reason I'm starting right now. I feel like it's my job. Since I have it right now, I feel like they're all battling me."

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis will be "heavily, almost exclusively, involved with the quarterback position" this spring, but he also must monitor the competition at running back with Darius Walker departing for the NFL. Senior Travis Thomas returns to running back after playing last season at linebacker, and sophomores James Aldridge and Munir Prince will contend for the top job. "I'm optimistic," Aldridge told The Times of Northwest Indiana. "Getting to play a little bit last year helped."

Navy Midshipmen
Spring practice takes on an added importance for Navy, which graduates 35 lettermen and 13 starters. Most of the intriguing position battles occur in the defensive back half, as coach Paul Johnson is looking for answers at outside linebacker, safety and cornerback. One of the cornerback candidates is senior Corey Johnson, a three-year starter for Navy's basketball team. "What we do in workouts is conducive to being in basketball shape," Johnson told The (Annapolis) Capital. "He's an aggressive kid so I don't expect him to shy away."

UTEP Miners
Wide receiver Fred Rouse was excused from UTEP's practice Thursday for personal reasons and is expected to make his debut Saturday. Rouse, one of the nation's top high school recruits in 2005, transferred to UTEP after being dismissed from Florida State for conduct detrimental to the football team on Jan. 20, 2006.

Adam Rittenberg covers college football for the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald.

ALSO SEE