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LA Tech Spring Practice: Position Battles

Louisiana Tech begins spring practice today and there a few positions that are up for grabs. Offensive Line and linebacker seem to be the biggest question marks after seeing several seniors move on from those positions.

Beau Fitte will try to grab a starting spot at linebacker this spring.
Beau Fitte will try to grab a starting spot at linebacker this spring.
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

There are a few other position battles that will go on, but the successors are pretty easay to spot. Seniors Bryson Abraham and Adarius Barnes are the best bet to start at corner. Freshman Kam McKnight has the best chance to line up at inside receiver to replace Hunter Lee.

Here are the five positions to watch as the Bulldogs take the field starting today:

1. Quarterback

Make no mistake, Jeff Driskel came from Florida to be the starter. Still, Price Wilson has been in Ruston for a year now and he is ready to show what he can do. Wilson has a strong arm and a headstart on learning the playbook. Driskel will end up being the man, but don't expect Wilson to take a back seat.

Ryan Higgins passed for over 1700 yards as a freshman in 2013. After backing up Cody Sokol last season, Higgins will have another opportunity to win the starting job. The redshirt junior has been in the system for two years and the extra year of practice reps should have him as comfortable as he's ever been.

2. Backup Running Back

There's no secret who the starter is at running back with Kenneth Dixon still in town. The hunt for a primary backup and eventual successor starts this spring. Jarred Craft rushed for 327 yards as the backup in 2014, but the sophomore only averaged 3.5 yards per carry. Tywun Walters redshirted in 2014, but he has the physical tools to be really good. The 5-11 215-pound Mississippi native has been clocked in the 40 at 4.36 and has a vertical jump over 40 inches.

Senior Blake Martin has rushed for 462 yards over the past two seasons. His 6.3 yards per carry was tops on the tram out of anyone with at least 10 carries.

3. The Entire Offensive Line

Center Kirby Wixson is probably the only sure thing when it comes to the starters up front. Offensive Line Coach Robert McFarland has a lot of moving pieces to sort through, but he does have the benefit of having several experienced veterans.

Darrell Brown, Jens Danielson, and Josh Robinson could all end up starting somewhere at guard or tackle. LSU transfer Derek Edinburgh (6-8 330) is a potential replacement for Mitchell Bell at right tackle. Josh Brunson and David Mahaffey both have starting experience at guard. Throw in talented redshirt freshman Shane Carpenter at tackle, and you now have eight guys that have a legitimate chance to win a starting position.

Younger players like Cam Manning and Deonte McCrady will more than likely wind up rounding out the depth chart. Manning will be battling for the backup center position, while McCrady will try to get a head start on some of the 2015 signees at guard.

4. Outside Linebacker

CJ Cleveland and Beau Fitte are the two players with experience that are returning in 2015. With so much depth at safety (Kentrell Brice, Lloyd Grogan, Secdrick Cooper, and Xavier Woods) - it makes sense for the 6-1 211-pound Grogan to make the move. Grogan had 40 tackles last season as a sophomore.

Russell Farris got on the field in 2014 as a true freshman and fellow freshman Solomon Hunter will also be in the mix to make the two-deep.  Tech signed a ton of defensive backs in February; we could also see them experiment with the 4-2-5 again, which was the primary defense used in 2013. Either way, expect to see Grogan and Cooper on the field a ton.

5. Defensive End

Replacing IK Enemkpali was a a tough challenge last year and Skip Holtz went the transfer route in former Illinois defensive end Houston Bates. It worked out great and Bates had a huge year for the Bulldogs.

Deldrick Canty had 4 sacks as a true freshman backing up Bates and the Baton Rouge native is the favorite to replace him. There really isn't a ton of competition out there for Canty. Jaylon Ferguson is the likely backup on the other side behind Vontarrius Dora.

Hakim Gray and Aaron Brown are both 270 pounds and more likely to play inside in Blake Baker's defense. The Bulldogs signed defensive ends Immanuel Turner and Brandon Brinson in the spring and one of them might end up getting on the field in the fall.

In the meantime, I wonder if Tech will experiment with walkons like senior Darchi Anderson (6-1 220) or Mathew Ydarraga (6-3 225)in a stand-up, hybrid linebacker/defensive end role like Bates played last season.