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March 9, 2010

Position battles highlight spring ball

Last month, PowerMizzou.com previewed every position on the roster entering spring football (We have linked those stories at the end of this one). But with spring ball starting today, it's time to zero in on particular positions of question for Missouri. Today, we take a look at the major position battles which could unfold over the next five weeks.

Backup Quarterback

Without question, this is the most intriguing spot on the roster. Missouri, for the eighth consecutive season, has the luxury of knowing its starting signal caller entering spring ball. But who will back up Blaine Gabbert? Jimmy Costello held the spot last year and has to be considered the front-runner entering spring drills. But Costello didn't see a meaningful snap last year, even with Gabbert severely hobbled. Ashton Glaser redshirted last season and has a year's experience in the offense. But freshmen James Franklin and Tyler Gabbert did not enroll early to waste time in moving up the depth chart.

Starting Wide Receiver

Jerrell Jackson is a lock at one spot and Wes Kemp is close to one at another. But who gets the third starting role? Rolandis Woodland seems to be the early favorite, particularly with Brandon Gerau out of action this spring with an injured foot. Returners T.J. Moe and Gahn McGaffie look to compete with redshirts Jaleel Clark, Kerwin Stricker and LDamian Washington. And all of them will have to hold off a star-studded freshman class in August. The other question is how many starters will there be? Will Mizzou once again go with four traditional wideouts or will the tight end be a regular starter this season?

Starting Offensive Guard

Austin Wuebbels started last season and Jayson Palmgren was the primary backup. But both struggled with penalties at times and with Kurtis Gregory gone, Mizzou might have two starting roles up for grabs. It was reported that Justin Britt has moved inside to challenge for one of those spots and J.T. Beasley made strides to earn playing time a season ago. The Missouri offensive line got better throughout the year, but this was the problem spot much of the season.

Starting Safeties

The Missouri pass defense was torched once again, particularly late in the season by Baylor and Kansas. Both starters are back, but neither Jasper Simmons or Jarrell Harrison should be written down for those spots in ink. Kenji Jackson looks to bounce back from a disappointing sophomore season and Kenronte Walker comes in early from junior college looking to challenge for time. Redshirts Matt White and Tavon Bolden will also merit some looks before a fully stocked recruiting class of defensive backs comes in this summer.

Defensive Tackle

We did not specify starting or backup because the fact is everything but Dominique Hamilton's spot is up in the air. Word is that Hamilton will miss at least part of spring ball nursing an injured hamstring so there will be no shortage of opportunities for young players to prove themselves. Terrell Resonno has the inside track to a starting job, particularly with Marvin Foster sidelined again with a torn pectoral muscle. George White, Jimmy Burge and Chris Earnhardt should be in the mix as well, but Missouri has almost no proven depth at the position. Without a doubt, this is the top spot to watch in the rotation on either side of the ball.

Click any of the links below to read PowerMizzou.com's spring position previews:

Wide receiver
Offensive line
Defensive line
Special teams

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