SAN JOSE -- A quarterback competition and a change in defensive scheme provide plenty to keep an eye on for San Jose State, which opened spring practice on Friday.
Senior Blake Jurich and junior Joe Gray are in a head-to-head battle to succeed David Fales, the record-setting quarterback who is now preparing for the NFL draft. Coach Ron Caragher didn't rule out naming a starter by the time spring practice concludes in a month.
"If it was obvious, we could have a starter out of spring," Caragher said. "Competition is a good thing. I think the guys respect each other. The players on our football team respect those two. If it doesn't get decided, it'll carry over into fall camp."
Both players were involved in the quarterback competition in 2012 that was ultimately won by Fales, but this is the first big shot for either to win the starting job.
"It means everything to me," Jurich said of the chance to be a starter. "I've been working for 14 years now playing football. This is the biggest opportunity I've had. I've got to make the most of it."
Gray said the competition between him and Jurich isn't about replacing Fales, "it's about giving the coaches and the team the best chance to win." He also said his relationship with Jurich is positive.
"We're competing against each other, but we're not enemies. We're not rivals, we're not anything of that nature," Gray said. "We're teammates competing for the same goal, but we help each other."
Here are three other top priorities for the Spartans over their remaining 14 spring practices:
Caragher said after a year of getting to know his team, he sees the personnel as a better fit in the 4-3.
"A year ago, I would say being new I didn't know our personnel as well," Caragher said. "I feel like we have the right people to line up and play the four-down front."
Senior linebacker Vince Buhagiar, who missed all of last year with a shoulder injury, said the players are happy about the change.
"I know that we're a lot more comfortable with it," Buhagiar said of the 4-3. "For me and my class and the class after us, this is what we were taught the whole time. It's kind of like going back to your roots."
Buhagiar was moved to outside linebacker last season before he was injured but now is playing his more natural middle linebacker spot. Travis Raciti is back at defensive tackle after spending last year at defensive end. Both were first-team All-Western Athletic Conference at those positions in 2012.
Senior receiver Jabari Carr, with 120 career catches, should start along with Winston and can help fill the void. Tyler Ervin, who missed nearly all of last year with a high ankle sprain, is back and will switch to a hybrid wide receiver/running back role.
Redshirt freshmen Jeremiah Kolone, Keoni Taylor and junior Keith Bendixen should challenge for the two guard positions.