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Fall Camp Updates: Position Battles

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With football less than a week away, battles are still raging for playing time.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

More than in previous years, Hoke has been encouraged by what he's seen in fall camp. This team has been hungrier, more focused, and more committed to each other. There's competition throughout, and all the players have a common goal in mind. It's something that's brought out the best in every player.

"There is a lot of competition," said Derrick Green. "That's not going to do anything but make each one of us push even harder in practice. At the end of the day, we are brothers. We are going to push one another."

This level of competition has resulted in plenty of starting spots still up for grabs, just a week before the team takes the field at the Big House.

On the offensive line, Hoke named four starters for Appalachian State: Mason Cole at LT, Erik Magnuson at LG, Jack Miller at C, and Ben Braden at RT. Right guard, in the absence of Graham Glasgow, has been a battle between Joey Burzynski, Kyle Bosch, and Kyle Kalis, who has been working at both guard spots. If Kalis does enter the starting lineup, there are a couple well-circulated possibilities for Week 2: that he pushes Glasgow over to center, benching Jack Miller, or that he pushes Magnuson over to left tackle, replacing Cole. But as Hoke said, Cole and Miller have been two of the most consistent performers on the line.

"I think Jack's been pretty daggone consistent. I think Magnuson has been consistent. I think Mason Cole [has]. But I think they've all worked extremely hard, and they've all improved themselves since the beginning of fall camp."

Another competition in flux is at corner, where Hoke said Friday that Countess and Raymon Taylor would start if the season was underway, even though Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers have both gotten heavy playing time with the 1's. Jourdan Lewis echoed that sentiment.

"Coach was trying to get me out there to get experience and get as much time with the 1's. But I knew that wasn't really indication of a depth chart, it was just about getting reps with the 1's."

Running back has also been neck-and-neck, with Hoke saying most recently that Justice Hayes and Drake Johnson were more likely to see the field as 3rd down backs, and De'Veon and Derrick Green were more powerful, early down runners. But then he backed off of even that, saying, "though, Drake had some really powerful [runs] yesterday."

Jeremy Clark has been playing opposite Jarrod Wilson, but that is also not set in stone. Delano Hill has recovered enough to be able to practice, and he'll be evaluated again this week to see if he can play. On special teams, Matt Wile has settled in to being the team's field goal kicker as well as on kickoffs. Will Hagerup is likely going to assume punting responsibilities, and Jabrill Peppers has snagged the punt returner duties.

Defensive tackle is also starting to get settled. On Friday, Hoke pointed to a depth chart of Ryan Glasgow, Ondre Pipkins, Bryan Mone, and Maurice Hurst, Jr. at the nose tackle, with Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, Matt Godin, and Tom Strobel at the three-technique. He pointed to Glasgow and Henry as two guys who have started to "separate themselves." On the outside, Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer are two guaranteed starters, but Hoke also pointed to Poggi as someone who had a great fall camp and is still competing with Taco Charlton for the #2 reps at SDE.

And at slot receiver, Dennis Norfleet is currently sitting ahead of Jourdan Lewis, thanks to a more consistent camp. "The one thing with Freddy, he started a little slower, but he's finished very well."

For the younger guys and the veterans, time is running out to separate themselves from the competition, but the competition itself seems better than ever.