Well, here we are exactly one week away from the season opener against Boise State, and here comes Coach Sark with an official depth chart, the first one released by the team so far this summer/fall. I will speak about the chart as final, saying “this guy will start,” but obviously the starting lineup is subject to change at any time based on the whims of the coaching staff. Nothing is set in stone until we see the players jog onto the field. Here is a link to the chart (thanks to the News Tribune), and here are some quick points of interest:
-Cory Littleton beat out Josh Shirley for the starting spot at rush end. The coaches have been super positive about the sophomore, so isn’t totally out of the blue. Still, to see a guy like Josh Shirley that has had a lot of hype surrounding him as a pass-rushing specialist lose his spot to a younger, less experienced player seems to be a clear statement that Coach Sarkisian and his staff are serious about competition at every spot. Shirley also saw his production slip from 2011 to 2012, with his sack total falling from 8.5 to 6.0, so he didn’t exactly have an irreplaceable impact on the field. Expect Shirley to still get a lot of snaps, and if Littleton fails to impress, look for Shirley to reclaim that spot.
-The veteran Hau’oli Kikaha (formerly Jamora) has won the starting defensive end spot over veteran Andrew Hudson and true freshman Joe Mathis. Hudson and Mathis are listed as an “OR” for the number two or three spots, and expect both backups to see serious time on the field as well.
-Converted tight end Evan Hudson has won the defensive tackle job opposite nose tackle Danny Shelton. At 6’5″ and 277 pound, the junior has enough size, and it will be intriguing to see how suited he is to the defensive line. Obviously the coaches have been impressed.
-John Ross will indeed start at slot receiver ahead of Jaydon Mickens, with the two wide receiver starters being Kasen Williams and the senior Kevin Smith. Stringfellow is listed second to Williams and DiAndre Campbell is listed second to Smith.
-Greg Ducre and Marcus Peters will start at corner. Cleveland Wallace is listed as the backup to both starters, indicating that there may be a drop off after those top three.
-John Ross or Kasen Williams will return punts, Kevin Smith will return kicks.
-Will Shamburger will be the starting free safety.
-The battle between Princeton Fuimaono and Travis Feeney rages on, with an OR separating the names of the two outside linebackers.