Besides QB, other position battles ongoing in Wildcats' camp

Yet some players do have early advantage

ccosby@herald-leader.comAugust 13, 2010 

The three-way quarterback competition among Mike Hartline, Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski will be by far the most discussed position battle during the University of Kentucky's fall camp, but that doesn't mean it will be the only one.

Several other positions will be up for grabs until the football season opener Sept. 4 at Louisville, and here's a look at those battles.

Center

The candidates: Matt Smith, Jake Lanefski, Marcus Davis, Sam Simpson

Summary: Three of the four candidates have playing experience. Last year, with Jorge Gonzalez serving a one-game suspension, Davis started the opener against Miami University, but he suffered a season-ending ankle injury; Smith played in six games as backup after Gonzalez returned; and Lanefski has four career starts at guard. Simpson redshirted in 2009.

The early verdict: Lanefski's switch from guard in the offseason was done in order to stabilize the center position. He'll be given every opportunity to win the job.

Tight end

The candidates: Nick Melillo, Anthony Kendrick, Jordan Aumiller, Alex Smith

Summary: Melillo is the only tight end on the roster with game experience, and while he's a bit undersized he's shown that he can be a reliable pass-catcher. Kendrick has ideal size (6-foot-3, 252 pounds) and can also catch, but he is still developing as a blocker. Aumiller, a former linebacker, might have the most upside. Smith comes in with a big-time prep reputation; he was ranked as the nation's 11th-best tight end by Rivals.com.

The early verdict: This one appears to be wide open. Melillo and Kendrick started off the spring as the top two on the depth, but Aumiller made a big push as practice moved along. If Smith can pick up the system he'll make a push as well.

Middle linebacker

The candidates: Ronnie Sneed, Qua Huzzie

Summary: Sneed spent the last couple of seasons as Micah Johnson's backup and has had some decent moments when he's had the chance to play. Huzzie is smaller than Sneed but brings more speed to the position. He may have been Johnson's backup last year had he not been shut down in fall camp in order to have shoulder surgery.

The early verdict: It's hard to imagine Huzzie not becoming the starter at some point in the season, but Sneed won't go quietly. Early on it will come down to what the coaching staff prefers to go with, the size and experience of Sneed or the speed and potential of Huzzie.

Strong-side linebacker

The candidates: Jacob Dufrene, Ridge Wilson

Summary: Dufrene did a decent job in his only career start — in place of the injured Sam Maxwell — by picking up three tackles and a tackle for loss during last year's Music City Bowl. He knows the system and is usually in the right place at the right time. Wilson played mostly on special teams as a true freshman. He's got the talent and athleticism to excel at the position, but the coaches want him to pick up his intensity and brush up on his assignments.

The early verdict: Dufrene ended the spring as the starter, and Wilson will need to clearly outplay him in fall camp to win the job. This position could be de-emphasized, however, because of the need to play more nickel packages against spread offenses. Wilson could also be used as a rush end in the nickel.

Defensive tackle

The candidates: Mark Crawford, Shane McCord, Antwane Glenn, Donte Rumph, Brice Laughlin

Summary: Senior Ricky Lumpkin probably has one spot nailed down, but a replacement for Corey Peters still must be found. Redshirt freshman Mister Cobble looked like the guy, but he must sit out the season for academic reasons. Crawford, a junior-college transfer with two seasons of eligibility remaining, showed flashes as a reserve last season, and now he needs to prove he can be consistent. McCord, a senior, has been in and out of the rotation the past two seasons and is still looking to make an impact. Glenn has played in five games in two years. Rumph is a highly touted recruit who finally arrived on campus after originally signing in 2008. Laughlin is another big-bodied true freshman who could see action.

The early verdict: Crawford's experience would appear to give him an edge, but don't discount Rumph, especially if he can continue to shake off the rust and then work himself into shape after sitting out two years.

Left offensive tackle

The candidates: Chandler Burden, Billy Joe Murphy

Summary: Physically, Burden is a beast who has been labeled by many as the strongest player on the team. He's also light on his feet and has been timed at under 5.0 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He transitioned to left tackle in the spring after spending his two years at defensive end. The 6-foot-6, 294-pound Murphy has never been a full-time starter, but he has played in 20 games with three starts under his belt. The versatile Murphy is capable of playing both tackle positions and worked out at right guard in 2008.

Early verdict: This really isn't a battle, as the coaching staff felt Burden's size, strength and footwork would make him an ideal replacement for Zipp Duncan and potential standout on the edge. But if Burden is unable to pick things up in time for the season opener, the staff at least has a veteran option in Murphy.

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