On Monday, the Panthers will start their first game week in preparation for their home opener against Villanova Sept. 3.
Monday will also be when head coach Pat Narduzzi updates his depth-chart and two-deep roster. I’ll make some projections about what I expect to see when that happens.
BACKUP QB: It’s pretty clear to me that Manny Stocker is going to be the guy. I don’t get to see what happens in 11-on-11 drills, but Stocker’s playmaking ability when things go wrong can be a separator. Redshirt freshman Ben DiNucci needs to get better “everywhere” according to offensive coordinator Matt Canada — not exactly a sparkling endorsement. I’d expect freshman Thomas MacVitte to redshirt unless there’s an injury to starter Nate Peterman. Transfer Bo Schneider will also help run the scout team.
BACKUP RB: James Conner is the starter, but after that this depth chart is a mess. My guess is that Narduzzi will make liberal use of the “OR” designation while letting these guys settle it out on the field. I think Rachid Ibrahim will get looks as a pass-catching option, especially on third downs. Qadree Ollison could be the second back in some sets, playing almost a hybrid fullback role. Don’t count out sophomore Darrin Hall and true freshman Chawntez Moss as potential contributors, either.
WR: Dontez Ford is a lock at one outside spot, and I would expect that Jester Weah will get the early nod at the other, with Quadree Henderson doing most of his work inside. Rafael Araujo-Lopes, Zach Challingsworth and Tre Tipton also seem poised to get plenty of touches this season.
C/RG: My feeling is that Alex Officer is going to be the starting center and Alex Bookser will start at right guard, but to be honest, they could be switched without much drama. John Guy will be the primary interior backup and expect him to get some reps.
RT: This one is still a bit uncertain to me. Brian O’Neill has been with the starters all camp, but I’m sure the coaching staff wants Jaryd Jones-Smith to get some snaps, as well. I’d expect both will get at least some action, but O’Neill should start.
DE: Dwayne Hendrix will likely get the majority of the snaps, but expect he and Rori Blair to rotate a lot at defensive end. I was down on Blair after his disappointing year in 2015, but he revealed this week that a shoulder injury had severely limited him. Allen Edwards will provide depth at that spot, with James Folston behind Ejuan Price on the other side.
BACKUP DT: Jeremiah Taleni is the only player with experience here, but Shane Roy and freshmen Keyshon Camp and Amir Watts have made significant strides in camp. To be honest, all four might play behind Tyrique Jarrett and Shakir Soto. This one still seems uncertain to me.
STAR LB: Seun Idowu and Elijah Zeise are both going to play a lot and I would expect this spot to stay fluid throughout the season. Linebackers coach Rob Harley said he has six players — those two, starters Mike Carrara and Matt Galambos and backups Bam Bradley and Quintin Wirginis — that will all see significant playing time.
FS: Reggie Mitchell and Terrish Webb are both going to play and going to play a lot. Which one starts is anyone’s guess. Expect this to be an “OR” situation all season.
CB: Avonte Maddox has a starting spot locked down and it seems that Ryan Lewis will hold down the other one, at least for now. Damar Hamlin’s nagging injury has prevented him from getting enough reps to make an early contribution. Dane Jackson has emerged as a wild-card option from a deep group of backups that includes Malik Henderson and Phillipie Motley.