Football

Charlotte 49ers spring football game: What to watch for

Charlotte 49ers' running backs coach Damien Gary, left, uses boxing gloves to try to punch the ball out of the hands of Damarrell Alexander (32), as Garrison Duncan (33), and Kalif Phillips (3) wait their turn during the first day of Charlotte 49ers' spring football practice at Jerry Richardson Stadium on March 14, 2015.
Charlotte 49ers' running backs coach Damien Gary, left, uses boxing gloves to try to punch the ball out of the hands of Damarrell Alexander (32), as Garrison Duncan (33), and Kalif Phillips (3) wait their turn during the first day of Charlotte 49ers' spring football practice at Jerry Richardson Stadium on March 14, 2015. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Five things to watch for during the Charlotte 49ers’ Green-White spring football game that begins at 6 p.m. Saturday at Richardson Stadium:

New format

Instead of the traditional method of having the first and second teams play with and against each other, 49ers coaches split up and drafted teams earlier this week for a game that will last four 15-minute quarters with a running clock. That means starters and backups will play together on the two teams. The only exception is quarterback, where Matt Johnson will switch back and forth between the two teams (Lee McNeill will start for the White, Brooks Barden for the Green). This will be a first look at redshirt freshman Barden, who is in the mix to compete for the starting job in the fall.

All healthy

Barden missed some time late in spring practice with mononucleosis, and McNeill was out for two weeks with a hamstring injury. They’re healthy for Saturday, as is most of the rest of the team. Several receivers, including Trent Bostick, Uriah LeMay and Workpeh Kofa, are back at full strength after hamstring injuries.

Offensively

Coach Brad Lambert said he’s most interested in seeing how the receivers – the position he said at which the team is most deep – look. Returners Austin Duke and Bostick are set to start, but the No. 3 spot is wide open to guys like LeMay, Kofa and Juwan Foggie. Watch for a lot of balls in the air: the 49ers aren’t deep at running back and Lambert said starter Kalif Phillips won’t play much.

Defensively

One defensive player to watch is lineman Devon Johnson, who missed last season with an Achilles tendon injury has beaten out James Middleton for one of the starting defensive end positions. Mark Pettit has been moved to outside linebacker (replacing Nico Alcalde, who left school). And Devin Pearson, who redshirted last season as a sophomore, appears to have locked down one of the starting cornerback spots.

Under the lights

Saturday night will be the first time the 49ers play in public under the new lights that were installed recently (they have scrimmaged and practiced at night already). The day at Charlotte also includes a baseball doubleheader between the 49ers and Middle Tennessee (first game is at 1 p.m., nightcap at 4 p.m.) next door at Hayes Stadium.

Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14

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