Drew Weatherford (Land O'Lakes) has started 33 games and has dramatically reduced his mistakes but hasn't produced enough big plays. That's something Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson seemingly can do with their arms and legs. They have been challenging for the job.
Antone Smith has underachieved but is determined to live up to his prep hype. Junior-college transfer Tavares Pressley is a big, fast back (6-1, 215) that Jimbo Fisher covets, as is freshman Carlton "Ty" Jones (Middleton).
Preston Parker, right, (out two games/offseason arrest) was the most dynamic threat (62 catches, 791 yards), and Greg Carr has 25 career TDs. JUCO star Corey Surrency is a big, strong target, and redshirt freshmen Bert Reed and Taiwan Easterling look ready.
Caz Piurowski (Land O'Lakes) is back from playing OT and looks ready for a big year; he is out the first three games (academic misconduct scandal).
G Rodney Hudson and C Ryan McMahon were freshmen All-Americans but will be surrounded by newcomers. Last-minute JUCO T Joe Tonga should help; he's played collegiately for two years and is 6-6, 315 pounds.
E Everette Brown emerged as a force last season and should be again. The academic scandal, however, has hit this spot hard with DTs Paul Griffin and Budd Thacker sidelined at the outset. Heralded JUCO Markus White and Kevin McNeil, out all of last year, need to complement Brown.
Dekoda Watson is out for the first three games, but MLB Derek Nicholson is solid (team-high 99 tackles) and savvy and Toddrick Verdell can make plays.
CB Tony Carter struggled a bit last season and must regain his old form, especially during the first three games when fellow CB Patrick Robinson (six INTs) is suspended. S Myron Rolle has been steady but not spectacular.
Zach Hobby (Countryside) figures to take over the placekicking and Shawn Powell the punting while Graham Gano recovers from knee surgery. Parker and CB Michael Ray Garvin, one of the fastest sprinters in the nation, are dangerous returners.
Brian Landman, Times staff writer