BOWLING GREEN - College football teams undergo a major changing of the guard each year as the senior class completes its playing days and gets removed from the depth chart.
A shuffle takes place as the backups, recruits, transfers and redshirts compete for the positions that open up in this transition.
That competition has been lively and very noticeable at Bowling Green State University throughout spring football practice, since the departure of 14 seniors from last season's 8-3 team has left a number of spots vacant on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Auditions continue today, when the Falcons play their annual spring game at 1 p.m. at Perry Stadium.
BGSU coach Urban Meyer is looking to replace some pretty decent players, including defensive linemen Brandon Hicks, Chris Glantzis and Ryan Wingrove, and linebacker Khary Campbell - all of whom signed professional contracts this past week.
“In the good programs, you just trade players - like the personnel director on a pro team - but we have to find out when a guy like Khary Campbell leaves, who do we trade and put in his place,” Meyer said. “We have some talent out there now, but it's nothing close to what it was a year ago. When you have a lot of depth on your team, you know the answers to all of those questions - but we don't have that kind of depth here, not yet.”
The quest to fill those vacancies on the depth chart will not lose any intensity in today's final day of spring drills. Meyer has elected to use a format that will spread the talent equally, and not pit a team of projected starters going against their likely backups.
“We want to let them compete,” Meyer said. “The majority of schools across the country put their “ones” versus the “twos”, and then they leave feeling good after you beat the “twos” something like 76-12 - we're not going to do that. We want our best tackle against our best defensive end, and we want our quarterback throwing against a good secondary. We're going to try and use one more day to get better - because we need it.”
Meyer said progress this spring has been hampered by injuries to veteran players, especially on offense - there have been five offensive linemen miss time.
He said there was a lot of buzz around the program over the past week as 400 high school coaches attended practice and took part in a clinic, 650 people turned out for a fund-raising banquet featuring South Carolina head coach Lou Holtz, and the four players who signed professional contracts received an emotional sendoff from their former teammates.
“There's a lot of big-time football programs across the country and Bowling Green is trying to break into that group,” Meyer said.
“If you were a spectator or a visitor here last week, you'd walk away saying there's some big-time element to this place.
“I've very proud of that, but the negative we face at the same time is that we're still a very young program and it's really showed up the last 10 days. We've got some guys hurt, and now we're playing some guys who are not ready. We have some severe and significant depth issues.”