I tend to fall on the side of the fence that doesn't think Barrett is automatically the next guy up. Not saying he can't be. But if he was, I kind of doubt he'd be having much trouble beating out Jones for the backup job. I know it's just spring ball. I actually really like Stephen Collier. I know he's not as highly touted, but watching his film I think he could really excel in this offense. My guess is with Braxton gone after this year, you could see a wide open, four-way battle for the job next year between JT, Jones, Collier and a freshman.
For whatever reason I don't have a good feeling about Hilliard. Hopefully he does commit and opens up the Cincy pipeline.
I remember thinking it was a little premature when Urban said on signing day how the '14 class of linebackers would HAVE to play next year. With Mitchell gone and now Lee taking first team reps in front of Johnson, that comment makes a lot more sense. Probably unfair to call Mitchell a 'miss' but Urban can't be pleased with two highly touted guys making zero impact so far. Obviously Johnson is still on the team and could still put it together, but questions about work ethic don't lead me to be too optimistic. Here's hoping Lee and/or the incoming freshman don't make us miss Shazier too much.
I honestly believe that for a lot of position groups the slate is going to be wiped clean. I'm looking at WR, OL, LB, and DB. At WR, basically everyone disappeared late in the year. Maybe Devin Smith puts it together this year, but I've seen 2 years of the same thing now. Spencer will be coming off injury and might never get his starting spot back. I think we'll see Mike Thomas getting a majority of the snaps at Z, Jeff Greene at X and Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson in the slot. I think James Clark and Johnnie Dixon see time as well. On the line, I think Decker is more suited to play on the left side and he should thrive there. Elflein probably has a guard spot locked up with Boren at C. That leaves RT and the other guard spot. My dark horse is Billy Price, who moved from DT. Gun to my head I'm saying the starters at LB are SAM: Perry, MIKE: McMillain, and WILL: Mitchell with Grant, Johnson Booker on the 2 deep as well. The defensive backfield is the hardest to predict to me. Grant should be the boundary corner (I read somewhere he graded out higher than Roby last year.) What makes the most sense to me is Conley on the other side, Apple as the Nickel, Burrows at Star and Bell and Powell at FS and SS respectively. Absolutely cannot wait for spring ball to see these position battles.
Just read an article on SB Nation about how badly the coaching staff wants to add 2 QB's in the 2015 class. I don't disagree with adding a QB in every class, but I think people are overlooking Stephen Collier, and not just because he is a "class act." I came away very, very impressed after watching his tape. And yes, I understand it's a "highlight film", but his awareness in the pocket and ability to go through his progressions even when flushed from the pocket are very impressive. Elite 11 invitee as well.
I also think Malik Hooker has a different skillset than anyone else in this class (and currently on the defense) and he could be a serious playmaker in the future.