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Charlotte 49ers Spring Game Preview: What To Watch For

The Niners step under the lights to play their final spring game before entering FBS play in the fall.

Saturday will be a historic day for the Charlotte 49ers. It's their third spring game, but it will be their first as a team preparing to play FBS football. It's also the first time they'll be playing their spring game in the evening, as lights were installed over Jerry Richardson Stadium over the past few months. So what should those in attendance be on the lookout for as the team takes the field this weekend?

--Quarterback. It's pretty natural to think that Matt Johnson is the presumptive starter in 2015, but from the way Brad Lambert's made it sound, the slot is very much up for grabs. Here's the thing: Lee McNeill has been dealing with a hamstring and redshirt freshman Brooks Barden came down with mono. For those reasons alone, Johnson has the job for now. As for Barden's progress, that will be severely stunted with him being sidelined with his illness.

--Wide receivers. Write it in ink, underline it and circle it: Austin Duke will be the starting slot receiver in 2015. But this group is so deep that many other players can emerge as the other primary options for Matt Johnson to get the ball to. I'd expect redshirt freshmen Workpeh Kofa and Mark Quattlebaum, along with Georgia transfer Uriah Lemay to get a good amount of first-team reps along with incumbents Trent Bostick and T.L. Ford.

--Running back. I put running back knowing full well that Kalif Phillips is the #1 guy going into 2015 and may be the team's best player not named Austin Duke. But it's time to start thinking about who's #2 and what happens after Phillips is gone.

--Center. Mason Sledge was a ten-game starter as a redshirt freshman in 2013, but he was pushed back on the depth chart last year. He'll have a chance to regain a starting role at center but will have to push Thomas LaBianca for it. Apart from Jarred Barr moving from backup center to right guard to replace Daniel Blitch, that's the only change on the o-line.