BOWLING GREEN - There are holes, and then there are holes.
Bowling Green State University football coach Gregg Brandon and his staff will begin the task of filling in the latter when spring drills begin tomorrow. BG will have the NCAA-mandated 15 practices leading up to its spring game on April 16 at Perry Stadium.
The holes opened with the loss of 15 seniors from last season's 9-3 squad that captured the school's second straight bowl victory with a win over Memphis in the GMAC Bowl. The losses leave just six returning starters on each side of the ball.
"We have some holes to fill since we have only 12 starters back," Brandon said. "Hopefully we will get [filling those holes] accomplished as much as we can this spring."
The holes are primarily on the offensive line and at wide receiver, where the losses were the greatest.
Take the offensive line as an example. Three starters are gone in center Scott Mruczkowski, a two-time All-MAC performer; guard Andy Grubb and tackle Andrew Hart.
"We are hoping that either [John] Lanning or [Jonathan] Culp will be the guy at center," Brandon said. "Kory [Lichtensteiger] is an option, but he's an all-conference guard so if we move him to center we still have to replace him at guard."
Brandon said other possible replacements include Drew Nystrom and Kevin Huelsman at tackle and Patrick Watson and Derrick Markray at guard.
At wide receiver, graduation stripped the position of Cole Magner, James Hawkins and Cornelius McGrady - three players who had combined for roughly 4,500 career receiving yards.
"We have Steve [Sanders] and Charles [Sharon] back, but we still lost half of our receiving corps," Brandon said.
A bevy of possible replacements include Derrick Lett, Brandon Jones, Kenneth Brantley and Marques Parks as well as freshmen Luke Alexander, who signed with Bowling Green in February but enrolled in school at the start of the spring semester.
Another hole that has Brandon concerned is at the two safety spots, where the Falcons lost seniors Keon Newson and T.J. Carswell. But there are options available, including Deaudre Perry, Tim Arnold and Mike Crumpler as well as redshirted freshmen Erique Dozier and Nate Waldron.
Brandon said he is not as concerned with the other losses on defense, which include two linebackers and a defensive end. Linebackers Terrel White and Jamien Johnson saw game action behind graduated seniors Jovon Burkes and Daniel Sayles, and the defensive line returns a number of experienced players in Monty Cooley, Devon Parks, Mike Thaler and Brad Williams.
One other hole Brandon wants to fill is at placekicker, where All-MAC second-team pick Shaun Suisham has graduated.
"Josef Timchenko needs to step up and be the guy," Brandon said. "If not, we have some walk-on kickers and we'll have to find somebody else to be the guy."
The best way to fill these holes, according to Brandon, is to strike a delicate balance between running drills and conducting scrimmages.
"You need the drill work in the spring, because you need to be fundamentally sound," he said. "But you want to give kids a chance to show their football-playing ability, and that lends itself to scrimmages. You need to put them in game situations to see what they can do."
Brandon said no players will be held out of spring practice because of injury, but some players might see limited action to build depth. An example of this would be at quarterback, where Omar Jacobs may see less action to give back-up Anthony Turner repetitions that would help sharpen his skills after sitting out last fall.
But in general the starters will see plenty of action to prepare for next season, which begins at Wisconsin Sept. 3.
"We need to shore up our pass defense, because we gave up too many yards last season," Brandon said. "And we need to tackle better, but that's always a goal."
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