The Cowboys have two holes to fill, with departed seniors Ryan Robinson, Nigel Nicholas and Cooper Bassett all gone.
Tyler Johnson, who had arguably the best game of his career in the Heart of Dallas Bowl (six tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles), is the early favorite to occupy the hybrid “Leo” position that will allow him to use his speed and athleticism to occasionally drop into pass coverage. On the other side, junior college transfer Sam Wren and youngsters Trace Clark, Emmanuel Ogbah, Victor Irokansi and Eric Davis will challenge.
Incoming freshman Ben Grogan is sure to compete for both jobs in the fall, but kicker Bobby Stonebreaker and punter Michael Reichenstein will try to make their mark right now. Also keep an eye on Kip Smith, a transfer and former starter at UCLA who was just added to the roster this spring. He was rated the No. 1 high school kicker by Rivals in 2010.
With mainstay Brodrick Brown now a departed senior, sophomores Kevin Peterson and Ashton Lampkin will compete to fill that void. And with Justin Gilbert's disappointing 2012 season, maybe both starting jobs are up for grabs?
Sam Wren, defensive end
The transfer from Arizona Western is in position to earn early playing time, perhaps a starting job.
Brandon Garrett, offensive lineman
A transfer from Trinity Valley Community College in Texas, the 6-6, 295-pound Garrett is best built to be a tackle. Starters Parker Graham and Daniel Koenig both return at those spots, but offensive line coach Joe Wickline said he expects Garrett to compete, as well.
Naim Mustafaa, defensive end
The longtime Georgia commit flipped to the Cowboys late and enrolled early. He could also take advantage of the holes to fill at defensive end.