These are the four major issues San Jose State must address before its Aug. 28 opener against North Dakota:
The record-setting quarterback is now with the Chicago Bears. Spartans coach Ron Caragher knows Fales won't be easily replaced, but Caragher is excited about the chance to develop a new starter.
Junior Joe Gray and senior Blake Jurich are battling and Caragher says he could see both getting playing time in the first few games. He doesn't want to have a quick hook after he names a starter, but that will be determined by how close the competition is.
"If there's a gap, you have more patience with that position," Caragher said. "If it's really even, you're a little quicker but you don't want to be super quick to make a change."
Caragher is targeting an announcement sometime around the team's second scrimmage of camp Aug. 16.
Returning members of the Spartans' offensive line have just 23 career starts, last in the Mountain West and 125th (out of 128) in the country.
The two players back come at the key positions of left tackle (Wes Schweitzer, 13 starts) and center (David Peterson, 10 starts). But SJSU likely will play a sophomore at right tackle in Evan Sarver and a freshman at left guard in Jeremiah Kolone. Another freshman, A.J. Samataua, is battling injury-prone senior Keith Bendixen at right guard.
"It's a new line so we all had to learn each other," Peterson said. "But this fall we're going to hit the ground running."
The performance of the new starters could go a long way in determining if the Spartans can protect their new quarterback and establish a running game.
After a disaster of a year defensively in 2013, the Spartans have switched back from the 3-4 alignment to the 4-3 under new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson.
The presence of the veteran coach, who won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos as a coordinator, already has people feeling like the defense should be much improved. That's despite losing the unit's two best players to graduation in linebacker Keith Smith and cornerback Bené Benwikere.
"There's more of a confidence exuded by our team going into the season than uncertainty," Caragher said of his defense. "Not just in Greg and the staff, but the team as well."
Junior kicker Austin Lopez is as reliable as they come, but SJSU must replace punter Harrison Waid -- the school's all-time leader in punting average. Redshirt freshman Zach Steinberg is the clubhouse leader, but there's uncertainty at the position.
The Spartans also must improve a kick return game that was one of the worst in the country last year, averaging a paltry 18.5 yards per return. The return of Tyler Ervin (three career kick return scores) should help, so long as he stays healthy after missing nearly all of last year with a sprained ankle.