A chuckle was the immediate response from Tarleton State offensive line coach Marcus White when asked who his starting five would be if the college football season began immediately.

That's because White, who is new on the job after a professional career as a defensive lineman that took him to the NFL and arena leagues, is too busy enjoying the competition he sees in practice every day to name starters.

"We're keeping it wide open until game week," he said. "It's competitive out there right now. The guys know spots are open and they're fighting for them, making themselves and each other better. That's what you want to see.

"We don't want to name starters now because I don't want to see anyone get discouraged and stop improving," White added. "I also don't want to see anyone thinking they have it made."

Tarleton head coach Cary Fowler says competition within the team is a positive.

"Right now that's a fun group to watch because they're all working so hard," Fowler said. "They might be a 'one' today, slip up and be a 'three' tomorrow. That makes it interesting and keeps them all fighting."

White said the group looked good during Tuesday's early practice, which Fowler labeled the team's best to this point of camp.

"We looked good (Tuesday), but it's obvious we still have a long, long way to go," White said.

The new line coach says he has been impressed by veteran tackle Adrian Campbell, and noted the importance of the leadership he and other veterans like tackle Jessie Green and guard Shawn Wyatt provide.

"Those guys are working to keep their own spots, but at the same time, they are being leaders," White said. "We have some freshmen we'll be counting on, and those older guys are doing a good job helping give them some direction."

One of the freshmen White speaks of is Stephenville product Nic Perez, a 2010 Associated Press and Texas Sports Writers Association all-state honoree who is among the underclassmen fighting for a starting nod. Perez was a guard in high school but has moved to center, where he's currently second on the depth chart behind returning letterman Jonathan Arnold.

"Nic's one of those guys we'll be counting on this year whether he's starting or not," said White. "It's difficult for a player to come right out of high school and be ready to go as a freshman in football, or any sport for that matter. But Nic is fighting and learning just like everyone else. He just has to keep up the hard work and he'll get there."

Fowler says the group certainly passes the eye test.

"We have some big, long, lean athletes in that group, and they're getting great coaching," Fowler said. "(White) coaches just the way he played - with great passion. He works them hard and stays on them the whole time, but he also knows when it's time to give them hug."

Coaches may not be naming starters until game week, but Fowler says he's confident the competition in practice will produce a solid starting unit.

"Whoever the five starters are against Abilene Christian, they're going to be ready," he said. "The way they're fighting out there now is the way they're going to have to fight against (ACU) and everyone else, because it's a war every week in the Lone Star Conference."