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It won’t be too many more seasons until “mid-majors” are a dated concept, but until then, we present assorted burning questions for non-AQ conferences and independents heading into spring ball:
Dual-threat redshirt freshman Everett Golson could beat out Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix for Notre Dame's starting job. (US PRESSWIRE)
Time once again for everybody’s favorite game show, “Name! That! Irish! Quarterback!” A familiar question for Notre Dame, with a couple familiar answers. The oft-maligned Tommy Rees returns, as does Andrew Hendrix, both of whom you’ll remember from the 2011 position race. In hot pursuit: dual-threat redshirt freshman Everett Golson, who topped Bruce Feldman’s Tuesday Top 10 “most intriguing” list, and shiny recruitnik brass ring Gunner Kiel, whose chest has been insulted by Les Miles. Standout veteran tailback talent Cierre Wood will alleviate some of the pressure to produce yardage, but star receiver Michael Floyd won’t be around to make whoever wins out look pretty anymore.
Will changes at Houston hobble forward progress? Pinball wizard Case Keenum isn’t walking through that door, and neither is Kevin Sumlin. Gone, too, are Bryce Beall, Michael Hayes, Tyron Carrier, Justin Johnson and Patrick Edwards. Newly installed head coach Tony Levine is running right at these vacancies, and creating a few more, announcing open competition at every position with a cheeky depth chart graphic. Look to last year’s leading rusher Charles Sims to shoulder the bulk of offensive production as the rest of his unit readjusts. Also re-acclimating: A defense that didn’t spend enough seasons in Brian Stewart’s 3-4 to build a full complement of players to run it and is now flipping back to the 4-3 under promoted former linebackers coach Jamie Bryant. Whee!
What the Cougars do have, apart from Sims, is a poppin’ fresh, patisserie-made schedule that should allow them plenty of room to flex and grow into Levine’s regime. And then some. Get past Louisiana Tech on September 8 and they won’t face another team that finished 2011 with a winning record until SMU on October 20. Tulsa and Marshall are Houston’s only other opponents not currently smarting from sub-.500 seasons. It’s a nice lull in which the Cougars can get their feet set as a team before they head off to the Big East, which will provide marginally fewer pushover teams.