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June 23, 2009

Questions facing possible BCS crashers

Not every question was answered during spring practice, and every school has at least one big, vexing query that hangs over its program. This is part seven of a series examining the biggest question each squad faces. This week, we look at our highest-ranked teams outside the major conferences.

Boise State: Will the offensive line hold up? The big guys must gel quickly if Boise hopes to enjoy the magical season many have forecast. It will be vital for QB Kellen Moore to have time to operate. The unit lost key starters in Andrew Woodruff and Jon Gott. Now, Boise will have a line that features six underclassmen and no seniors.

BYU: Are there any blockers in the house? The only returning starter on the offensive line is left tackle Matt Reynolds. The four departed starters Dallas Reynolds, David Oswald, Travis Bright and Ray Feinga combined to make 154 career starts. This group must develop quickly so a wealth of skill-position talent, such as quarterback Max Hall, tight end Dennis Pitta and running back Harvey Unga, can thrive.

Central Michigan: Can the offensive line hold up? The Chippewas figure to start a redshirt freshman at left tackle (Jake Olson) and a sophomore who played tight end last fall at right tackle (Rocky Weaver). If that isn't concern enough, depth across the board is dicey. Entering camp, none of the offensive line backups will have played in more than one career game.

Navy: Who will emerge at slotback and fullback? The Middies lost slotback Shun White and fullback Eric Kettani. Bobby Doyle and Cory Finnerty played last season at slotback, but they saw limited action. Sophomore Marcus Curry has a chance to be a 1,000-yard rusher but still has to prove it. Fellow sophomore Alex Teich will be the fullback but, like Curry, has lots to prove.

Southern Miss: Can WR DeAndre Brown regain his form after a serious injury? He suffered a broken leg in the New Orleans Bowl last season, suffering a mid-shaft fracture of the left tibia. Still, Brown has been given the go-ahead to hit the field in August. He was one of the nation's top freshman wide receivers last season, catching 67 passes for 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns. If he's healthy, he provides quarterback Austin Davis with a go-to guy and a big-play threat. If Brown is hobbled, the passing attack will suffer.

TCU: Can the defense continue to dominate? Star players such as linebackers Jason Phillips and Robert Henson have departed. Keep an especially close eye on the line. No doubt, end Jerry Hughes is a good one. But he'll be surrounded by unproven commodities.

Tulsa: Will the offensive line gel? The unit received a blow when C Jody Whaley opted not to return for his fifth-year senior season. That makes finding a center a top priority. For now, Clint Anderson has moved from guard to fill the void, but it's hoped a newcomer can fill the void so Anderson can move back to guard.

Utah: Will the Utes get decent quarterback play? Brian Johnson is impossible to replace. The competition among Corbin Louks, junior college transfer Terrance Cain and true freshman Jordan Wynn will continue in August. Further muddling things is that running back Darrell Mack has departed along with wide receivers Freddie Brown, Brent Casteel and Brandon Godfrey.

Western Michigan: Will the defense hold up? The unit lost nine starters, including the entire secondary. Coordinator Steve Morrison likes his young talent, but the defense may not be able to be as aggressive given the inexperience. Western has the offense to win the MAC, but a shaky defense might be too much for the offense to overcome.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.

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