College football’s top-10 burning questions heading into summer

As student-athletes near their return to campuses across the country, we draw ever closer to the start of college football season. While the opening kickoff is still months away, there are many burning questions that will shape the 2019 season.

Many of the biggest questions across the country surround the quarterback position, as it carries the greatest influence on a team’s performance. There are also compelling coaching questions facing some of the top teams in the country, especially in an offseason that saw a lot of player and staff turnover.

Here are college football’s 10 biggest questions heading into summer.

Can Jalen Hurts become Oklahoma’s next star QB?

Hurts will be following in the footsteps of consecutive Heisman Trophy winners, so expectations will be high for the former Alabama star. He went 26-2 as a starter with the Crimson Tide and his dual-threat ability is a perfect fit in Lincoln Riley’s offense. The skill players and play calling are in place to thrive. If Hurts builds upon his great first impression, Oklahoma might have a shot at the three-peat Heisman run.

Will freshman Bo Nix make Auburn history?

There’s an opportunity for Nix to make history this season. He’s in the thick of Auburn’s quarterback battle, and if he wins, he’ll be the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Auburn in the opener. Nix excelled in the spring game with two touchdowns and 155 yards on 11 completions. If he can maintain that play and show off even more of his arm and touch this summer, he earned the historic opening start.

Will there be any more transfer portal surprises?

The transfer portal provided plenty of shakeup in college football throughout the offseason and it could be a source of even more surprises this summer. Five-star wide receiver Bru McCoy is the biggest name to use the portal this summer, but his case shows that surprises happen. Recruits get homesick, position battles will be decided early and those who lost out will want to explore other options. It could result in significant roster shakeup and leave some top teams without depth during the year.

Who steps up on Clemson’s defensive line?

Clemson’s depth on the defensive line will be tested after Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant went to the NFL. In their absence, sophomore edge rusher Xavier Thomas is the breakout star to watch in 2019. Nyles Pinckney and K.J. Henry need to step up as starters, but watch for freshman defensive tackle Tyler Davis to potentially surprise. While the big names are gone, the talent is in place to help Clemson dominate the line of scrimmage once again.

Will Michigan’s offense take a step forward with new OC?

Josh Gattis did wonders with Alabama’s receiving corps during his tenure and now the Wolverines hope that is one of the benefits he will bring to Ann Arbor. We saw early signs of a more explosive offense in Michigan’s spring game with routes and schemes to get playmakers open for Shea Patterson. The summer will give Michigan’s starters more time to learn and execute Gattis’ scheme, which will be key if the Wolverines ever wants to live up to the expectations they fail to reach each year.

Who steps up to replace McKenzie Milton at UCF?

The Knights are still dealing with the impact of McKenzie Milton’s gruesome knee injury. There is some hope he could return in 2020, so in the meantime either Darriel Mack Jr. or Brandon Wimbush will be starting early in the season. Mack is the most experienced in the offense, however Wimbush showed flashes at Notre Dame and his skills could fit well here. One of them needs to step up because early games against Stanford and Pittsburgh could prove challenging for a UCF team that can’t afford losses.

Is Justin Fields ready for the pressure at Ohio State?

Fields never found the opportunity he wanted at Georgia, but he now finds himself in prime position for success. Ohio State’s offense is set up to post jaw-dropping numbers in 2019, but it needs more from Fields than what he showed in the spring game when he completed just 4-of-13 attempts. This is a quarterback battle that can be lost and if Fields doesn’t pick up the offense quickly, questions will linger about his ability to step up under real pressure and win a starting spot.

Can Army handle the preseason hype?

Army enters the summer viewed as a consensus top-25 team and a potential dark horse to rise even further. There is plenty of experience and talent on this roster in a fundamentally-sound offense and defense, but dealing with the bigger spotlight could be challenging. It’s something many of these young men won’t be familiar with. Given part of their preparation is for a matchup against Michigan, it will make the next few months of training even more critical for the Black Knights.

How does revamped coaching staff impact Alabama?

Alabama lost five coaches during the offseason, including both coordinators, which creates a challenge for Nick Saban. There’s no doubt the talent is in place to win and Saban makes everything mesh, but the summer will provide an adjustment period. New quarterback, running back, wide receiver and offensive line coaches will be a change for the position players at those spots. This new wave of voices could impact the Crimson Tide at a key time for development and preparation. While it might seem like a subtle element, these are the little challenges that can make or break a championship contender.

Will Graham Harrell transform USC’s offense?

After Kliff Kingsbury left for an NFL job, the Trojans found a gem with Harrell. The 34-year-old quickly rose through the coaching ranks from being mentored by Dana Holgorsen and Mike Leach to serving as North Texas’ quarterback coach and offensive coordinator from 2016-18. Harrell learned from bright minds and he now could be the next rising coaching star in college football. He’ll get to work with an extremely talented cast of skill players. If his Air Raid-style of offense clicks with them and they can buy in early, Harrell might quickly be viewed as the most important coach for USC’s long-term success.

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