College Football’s Top 26 Fall Camp Focuses

(Bart Boatwright/The Clemson Insider)

Fall Camp is Back!

With fall camps getting going again, many teams will be looking at one or two main focuses to work on. We outline some of the main concerns for teams in my Top 26.

1. Clemson – Defensive replacements (LBs)

The Tigers will reload on defense. However, with only 4 starters returning and their 2 toughest games coming in the first 3 weeks, it will be crucial to get everything worked out in fall camp. Linebacker is the position of concern, where they lost 5 of their top 8 tacklers. SLB Isaiah Simmons returns and is one the nation’s top guys. But the other 2 spots aren’t as sure. WLB could be James Skalski (61 tackles) and MLB could be Chad Smith (35 tackles). However, depth behind those guys is a concern and will be the focus in fall camp.

2. Alabama – Special Teams – Tua’s growth vs Top defenses

Alabama always has a little trouble in the kicking game. Kicker Joseph Bulovas missed 6 extra points last season, which is an area that Nick Saban for sure would like to improve. Punter Skyler DeLong is the new starter. But he only averaged 34.4 yds per punt, which is well below the national average. The other area of improvement for the Tide to focus on is Tua and his growth vs top defenses. Tua threw for 57 yds below his average and a 4-5 TD/INT ratio vs the best defenses faced. If Alabama is going to get past Georgia and Clemson again, they are going to need improvement from Tua vs solid defenses.

3. Oklahoma Defensive Improvement (Secondary)

New DC Alex Grinch has the task of improving a defense that ranked 130th in passing last year and 101st in scoring, allowing 33.3 pts per game. The defense returns 8 starters and 8/10 top tacklers. So improvement should come this year. The biggest improvement needs to come in the secondary where they were consistently torched. They allowed over 300 pass yds 8 times. If they could show a decent level of improvement, not only in the secondary, but as a defense overall, they could really be a national title contender.

4. Georgia WR depth/targets

This fall camp for the Bulldogs will be focused on finding new targets for QB Jake Fromm. UGA lost their top 5 WRs. Their top guy back is TE Charlie Woerner (148 yds) and Miami FL transfer WR Lawrence Cager (681 yds). Guys like Demetris Robertson, Matthew Landers and Tyler Simmons will need to step up. Fall camp will be important to find who will step up and what other guys can join the rotation.

5. Ohio State QB situation – O-line

It has been quite the offseason for the Buckeye QB room. Matthew Baldwin and Tate Martell left, but they added transfers Justin Fields (UGA) and Gunnar Hoak (Kentucky). While Fields has a lot of hype surrounding his name, reports suggest that the QB battle is still open into fall camp. Finding a starter will be pivotal to their season, as will the meshing of 4 new O-line starters. If Ohio St is going to contend in the Big 10 and for the CFP, they are going to have to iron out some things on the offensive side of the ball in fall camp.

6. Washington Creating depth on defense

The Huskies return just 2 starters from last years 5th ranked scoring defense. While I am confident in their ability to reload, depth is a concern. Health may end up playing a large part, too. The big focus in fall camp will be finding out what guys will step up and become possible candidates to help build depth.

7. LSU The new offense – Main RB

All offseason we have heard about the new offense the Tigers will be installing. There will be more RPOs for QB Joe Burrow, along with a more spread out attack. The Tigers will need the offense to be running smoothly by Week 2 when they face Texas. The other focus is finding out who the main RB will be. Freshman John Emery, along with upper classmen Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Lanard Fournette, figure to be the top 3. But one needs to step forward as the main back.

8. Michigan Sorting out RBs – DL depth

The biggest concern for Michigan will be the RB group. With Karan Higdon and Chris Evans gone, they will have to lean on 2 freshman and Tru Wilson (364 yds). The position will need someone to step up in the first half of the year, because they face Wisconsin and Iowa in the first 6 weeks. The depth of the D-line is also a major concern. Especially when you play in the run first, hard-nosed B1G. DT Carlo Kemp is back (17 tackles) as is DE Kwity Paye (29 tackles). But they will need to build depth this fall and find some other guys, who can make an impact (Aidan Hutchinson, Mike Danna).

9. Oregon Playing up to potential in every game this season

The focus for the Ducks needs to be playing up to their potential in every game. They scored 40.2 ppg in wins, but just 22.7 ppg in their 4 losses. The defense will be very good again, which means the offense just needs to do its part. When the Ducks are scoring and the defense is playing well, this team is hard to beat.

10. Utah  Linebackers since Manny Bowen left

It looked as though they had the hole filled. Manny Bowen and Francis Bernard were the new starters at LB for the Utes. However, now they must look to fill the gap left by Manny Bowen (quit). Devin Lloyd had 6 tackles last year and is possibly the next guy up. The fall will be used to find the new starter as well as hopefully find some other guys who can provide depth at the position.

11. Florida Rebuilding the O-line

The Gators O-line is easily the biggest question on the team going into fall camp. They return just 1 starter (C Nick Buchanan). They must fill out the other 4 starters with guys that have a grand total of 12 starts between them. Fall camp will be very important to get lots of live snaps with the lineman to make sure they are ready to open the season against Miami.

12. Texas  Replacing all the losses on both sides

All the hype is around Texas being “back”, but they must first make sure they have all of the pieces filled in this fall camp. While the Longhorns return just 8 TOTAL starters from a year ago, but have a lot of talent. The position of concern on offense is WR. While they do return Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay, they still need another 2-3 guys to step up to fill out the rotation (Josh Moore, Cade Brewer). On defense the biggest question comes at LB, where they only return 53 tackles among the projected starters. Jeffrey McCulloch will be the leader of the group, but they will need Joseph Ossai and redshirt freshman Ayodele Adeoye to step up and make a big impact.

13. Notre Dame  LB depth

LB is the position of focus this fall camp for the Irish, as they must replace Te’von Coney and Drue Tranquill (209 tackles) from a year ago. Asmar Bilal figures to take over the MLB spot and Jordan Genmark-Heath (16 tackles) is projected at the BUCK spot. Other than that, the Irish return less than 30 tackles from the rest of the group, meaning depth could be a concern.

14. TCU Getting injured players back into games – QB Battle

I am very high on TCU this year, but it will be a busy fall camp for the Horned Frogs. It will be important to get the returning injured players back into lots of live snaps and game-like settings, to insure they are ready to go. The main focus however, will be the QB battle. That still has possibly 4 guys in the running to start Week 1 vs Arkansas Pine-Bluff. Alex Delton and Justin Rogers seem to be the front runners, but Mike Collins and freshman Max Duggan are still in the thick of it. Finding a solid starter to rely on will be a large key to whether or not TCU can live up to expectations.

15. Penn St  Getting young QBs/RBs live reps

The focus for the Nittany Lions in fall camp will not only be picking a starting QB (Sean Clifford/Will Levis), but also getting them lots of live snaps. The whole backfield is young and can use every live snap to get ready for the season. The RBs collectively rushed for 301 yds and the Sean Clifford threw 7 passes last year. But the good news is the talent is there for James Franklin and OC Ricky Rahne to work with.

16. Texas A&M Replacing the losses at LB

The Aggies lose their top 3 from the group (201 tackles 25 TFL) and only return 72 tackles  between LBs Tyree Johnson, Buddy Johnson and Charles Oliver. A&M should be alright in terms of finding the starters, unless an injury happens. However, fall camp will be important to make sure there isn’t a huge drop in production from last season.

17. Syracuse  LB depth

The Orange seem to be in pretty good shape at almost every position. However, LB is the one area that has some concern going into fall camp. They lose Ryan Guthrie and Kielan Whitner (207 tackles) from last year, meaning they need 2 brand new starters. Expect LBs Andrew Armstrong (45 tackles) and Lakiem Williams (4 tackles) to take over. They do have a little depth with Tyrell Richards (16 tackles) and freshman Mikel Jones, who was the team’s top recruit for 2019. The nickel back spot also was low on depth, until Antwan Cordy was given another year of eligibility. Now they have Cordy and Trill Williams (58 tackles combined). The LB position isn’t bare, but still needs to iron a few things out in fall camp.

18. Iowa  Replacing TE production – Oliver Martin Waiver

The Hawkeyes lost 2 first round TEs from last season and must find a way to replace at least some of the production. The WRs look to be solid and could take some of the pressure off the TEs. Shaun Beyer has made a lot of progress after an injury sidelined him last year. He just has to put it together this season. Nate Wieting caught 2 passes for 51 yards, but both Beyer and him will be asked to do more this year. WR Oliver Martin put in for immediate eligibility with no word yet on if he’ll be cleared. If they can bolster the WR core even more, it will continue to take pressure off the inexperienced TE group.

19. Iowa St  Sorting out RB depth chart – Finding main WR target

The Cyclones have up to 5 guys that can carry the ball. Fall camp will be used to sort out those 5 and figure out what guys will get the bulk of the carries. Kene Nwangwu, Johnnie Lang, and Sheldon Croney have some experience, but Jirehl Brock and Breece Hall are highly touted recruits. All 5 guys have their own niche and don’t be surprised to see them all have a role this fall. At WR the question is much the same. Deshaunte Jones and Tarique Milton return and they add La’Michael Pettway from Arkansas, but none of those 3 are the decided main target. Fall camp will be the time to see who will emerge as the go to target early in the season. We will also get to learn more about where TEs Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen will fall in the gameplan, as well as WRs Landen Akers and redshirt freshman Joseph Scates.

20. Wazzu  QB Battle

Transfer QB Gage Gubrud is the presumed starter for the Cougs this season, but Trey Tinsley and Anthony Gordon, are right there with him. With the type of offense that Mike Leach runs, a good accurate passer is 100% a must. It is a battle to watch, but Mike Leach has mentioned that Tinsley and Gordon were very close behind Gardner Minshew last year, which may take away some of the stress from having a new QB starter.

21. UCF  Rush D Improvement

Last year, the Knights didn’t have many problems when it came to stopping the pass. However, stopping the run was a different story. They allowed over 200 yds rushing 6 times last season. With the schedule getting tougher due to an improving AAC, they will need to improve up front to continue their success. They return 2 starters in their front 7, but bring in 3 transfers on the D-line, plus breakout candidate Eriq Gilyard at LB. This will be the focus of the defense in fall camp.

22. Army  Finding depth and new starters in the Front 7

The Black Knights only return 1 starter in their front 7, meaning fall camp will be all about creating some depth. The D-line is full of veterans on the roster, but only returns 36 tackles from a year ago. DEs Edriece Patterson and Jacob Covington figure to be the top 2. At LB they must replace 3 of 4, but return Cole Christiansen. They return 22 tackles between the 3 projected starters and LB Amadeo West is a breakout candidate. They will have a lot of new faces up front and fall camp will be huge for getting them reps.

23. Cincinnati  Finding new starters at DT Kicker

DTs Cortez Broughton and Marquise Copeland are gone (101 tackles, 14.5 TFL) from last year, meaning the middle of the line will be bringing in 2 new starters. Curtis Brooks, Jabari Taylor and Malik Vann all logged time, but combined for just 35 tackles. The question is how well can those 3 replaces Cortez Broughton and Marquise Copeland, to insure the drop isn’t severe. The kicker position may be changing as they brought in transfer Sam Crosa from Western Ill. Last year, kicker Cole Smith was 5/12 on FGs. The Bearcats will look to pick a starter at kicker during fall camp and work on improvement in the FG department this year.

24. Boise St  QB Battle – RBs

The Broncos have 2 very talented QBs battling for the opening day. Freshman Hank Bachmeier battles sophomore Chase Cord, who attempted 9 passes last year. The winner of the battle will be decided in fall camp and will lead a team that has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. The concern on the offense is RB, where they lose 1400 yds rusher Alexander Mattison. Andrew Van Buren and Robert Mahone will be the top 2, but they combined for only 291 yds last season. So there is concern of a drop-off.

25. Memphis  Defensive Improvement

The rush defense wasn’t bad last year. It was the pass defense that allowed 256 yds per game and over 300 yds 6 times. New DC Adam Fuller will be in charge of cutting those numbers down. When I spoke to him this summer, he was adamant about keeping teams off the scoreboard. They return 5 starters in their back 7 including LB Austin Hall and CB TJ Carter. They have the pieces back, and fall camp will be important to continue to work on progress they made in the spring with Fuller guiding them.

26. Virginia  Running Backs

Everyone knows about QB Bryce Perkins and his ability to run the ball for the Cavaliers. However, they have some questions at RB. One thousand yd rusher Jordan Ellis departs and backup PK Kier only rushed for 80 yds last season. Lamont Atkins had 4 carries last year and sophomore Wayne Taulapapa could break into the rotation as well. Whether or not a 800-1000 yd back can emerge may decide if Virginia can make a run to the ACC Title this season.