Its now only 99 days until the first Saturday in the College Football season kicks off, but its never to early to start looking forward to what should be, as always, another terrific college football season. Last year saw Auburn come from the depths of nowhere to win the BCS National Championship game, led by the dominance of transfer QB Cam Newton. Now, that title may be vacated in 5 years, but why start the process of previewing next season by raining on someone’s parade? So we’ll ignore that for now. Anyways, over the course of the next 3 months, we’ll go through a series of topics, hoping to get you better prepared for September 3rd, the first Saturday of the College Football season. Continuing with the 4th part of the preview, we look at some of the players who will step into big shoes looking to replace some of the elite talent across the college football landscape last season. The following schedule is your guide as to what is to come and what has already been done that you can check out by clicking the link, with dates being a rough estimate given my tendency for procrastination. But here’s what you have to look forward to:
Part 1: Ten Teams on the Rise- April 20th
Part 2: Ten Teams due for a Fall- May 3rd
Part 3: New Coaching Faces- May 16th
Part 4: 10 Names to Learn (Replacements)- May 28th
Part 5: 5 Best Non-BCS teams (not named Boise St. or TCU)- June 8th
Part 6: Coaches Needing a Big Season- June 20th
Part 7: Storylines to Follow- July 2nd
Part 8: 5 Days to Circle on Your Calendar- July 14th
Part 9: Ranking the Conferences- July 26th
Part 10: 10 Heisman Candidates- August 8th
Part 11: Ten Games to Define NCG Race- August 20th
Part 12: Season Predictions- September 1st/September 2nd
As teams shift from season to season, much of the attention is often placed on the incoming classes and what future talent may be taking the field for your team in a year or two. But just as important in this process is the reality that every year teams have spots that need to be filled, and often times, NFL talent leaves gaps in a team’s roster. Some schools such as Alabama, Texas, Ohio St., USC, etc. have the ability to just reload every year and replace All-Americans with future All-Americans. Other schools maybe have that one in a decade type talent that can’t just be replaced. Some programs maybe never replace a great player that came through. In Part 4 of the season preview, we’re going to look at some of the major college football players who left us last season, and the names of those given the task of trying to replace them. In some instances, those players end up doing fairly well for themselves, Colt McCoy’s career after Vince Young as an example. Others don’t fare as well. Lets take a look at some players that may end up as future stars, or others the unfortunate replacement to a campus legend.
Departed: Cam Newton
Replacement: Barrett Trotter/Clint Moseley/Kiehl Frazier
We’ve had a run on starting pieces with Auburn so why change for this part? Perhaps the most difficult job in college football this year will be starting at QB for Auburn a year after Cam Newton won the Heisman and led them to an unbeaten national championship season, pretty much dominating all opponents in his path. Coming out of Spring Ball, there was no indication from Gene Chizik that either Barrett Trotter or Clint Moseley was going to be the starter. Though it was widely assumed that incoming freshman Kiehl Frazier would take a back seat, it appears now that he has his name in the running to start and will get a look. Frazier, the reigning Gatorade National Offensive Player of the Year for HS football is the closest mold to Newton of the 3, even though he checks in about 35 pounds lighter and a couple inches shorter. Coming out of HS, he did play in the spread option offense which was predicated on quite a bit of misdirection, a very similar offense to what Gus Malzahn likes to run at Auburn and ran last year. However, many expect Frazier is jumping into the race a little late and won’t be the starter come opening weekend. Of the others, Trotter won the backup spot last year and got in some games in mop-up duty. Moseley, a former Mr. Alabama only had one game of experience last year. In either case, expect the QB position to be nowhere near as emphasized this year, especially in the run game with Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb in the backfield. The loss of Darvin Adams to the NFL on top of the departures of Kodi Burns and Terrell Zachery leaves Auburn with a big gap in their WR core and gives them a lot of personnel change in the passing game. We’ll see what happens with Frazier in the coming weeks, regarding his status for this season (whether he’d be redshirted) but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see him on the field after a couple games of Trotter or Moseley if Auburn starts slow out of the gates. Most fans should recognize this is somewhat of a transition year and I can’t see them contending in the SEC West.
Update: Russell Wilson, former NCST QB met with Auburn OC Gus Malzahn and Head Coach Gene Chizik. He still has a year left of eligibility. Would be an interesting late addition for the Tigers.
Boise St. WR’s
Departed: Austin Pettis and Titus Young
Replacements: Geraldo Hiwat, Aaron Burks, Tyler Shoemaker
NFL talent isn’t something that can be easily replaced at the college level, and it’s even rarer for the “Non-AQs” to do so given the lack of resources they have at their disposal compared to major big conference programs. So the fact Boise St. had two WR’s that will make the leap to the NFL is remarkable in itself. And yet, Boise is losing basically the two best WR’s the program has ever had. To give you an idea of how prolific this tandem was, consider a few of the following facts. Titus Young is Boise’s All-Time leader in receiving yards while Austin Pettis is the Broncos all-time leader in receiving TD’s. Of Kellen Moore’s 273 completions last year, 142 were to Pettis or Young, 52% of the team’s catches, gone in one off season. They combined for 19 of his 35 TD passes. And to give you an idea of how important each was, both caught 71 passes, and though Young had about 260 more yards receiving, Pettis had one extra TD (10-9). No receiver on Boise last year had more than 32 catches besides these two and that player with 32 was Tyler Shoemaker. He’ll be expected to step in to the #1 role for the Broncos who will be thin at the position losing a few others from the depth chart. Kellen Moore is considered by many the elite QB in all of college football and much like Boise replaced Ian Johnson out of the backfield a few years ago, they’re showing no one player is irreplaceable so far with Chris Petersen at the helm. The #’s may not be as pretty for Moore and the receivers this year, but the end results should be similar.
Departing: Patrick Peterson
Replacement: Morris Claiborne
Some would argue that Jim Thorpe award winner Patrick Peterson was not only the nation’s best CB last year, but also its best player. The highly touted CB who went 5th overall to the Cardinals was a dual threat CB and PR last year for LSU and was the catalyst behind the nation’s #11 defense and 10th-stingiest passing defense. However, that only helped Morris Claiborne’s 2010 season as he led the Tigers with 5 interceptions, the target of many a passes from the opposition trying to stay away from Peterson. This year Claiborne will step into Peterson’s shoes as the #1 cornerback for the LSU Tigers, and some publications including nationalchamps.net are already listing him as a pre-season 1st-team All-American. The secondary will be the strength of the Tigers once again in 2011, with 2 starters back, and a CB in Tyrann Mathieu who will step in next to Claiborne, coming off a freshman season where he led the SEC with five forced fumbles and gained valuable experience. With the likes of A.J Green, Darvin Adams, and Julio Jones off to the NFL, the SEC won’t be as strong at the wideout position this year, but odds are the Tigers secondary will make that tidbit irrelevant anyways with their depth and overall talent.
Departed: Andy Dalton
Replacement: Casey Pachall
As tough as the Auburn QB position will be to replace, the TCU job may be just as difficult giving the 4 years Andy Dalton just put together for the Horned Frogs. A program, who like Boise St. has moved past the “Non-AQ” reputation, has merged into a major player most years for a BCS berth and the National Championship. Dalton who left TCU with 42 wins in his 4 years, ranking highly in NCAA history in that regard, led the Horned Frogs to back-to-back BCS bowls including a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin this past year that had some questioning whether they were the best team in CFB at season’s end. Casey Pachall who only threw 9 passes all of last season despite getting into 8 games, is considered a dual threat QB who will be thrown right into the fire with early-season OOC games vs. Baylor, Texas Tech, and SMU. However, the return of the team’s top 3 RB’s, especially Ed Wesley, will be key in breaking him into the flow of D-1 college football. The game of the year in the Mountain West will be their trip to Boise St. where a conference title will almost certainly be on the line and perhaps a BCS bowl. Pachall will have to grow up quick for the Horned Frogs if they have intentions of defending their Mountain West crown and returning to the BCS.
Departed: Mikel Leshoure
Replacement: Jason Ford
Lost perhaps in Illinois’ mediocre 7-6 season last year, which included a 4-4 Big Ten record, was the outstanding season of Mikel Leshoure who left for the NFL following a season where he rushed for just under 1700 yards and 17 TD’s, catching 3 scores as well. His 1697 yards rushing were good for 3rd in the country and basically the key to even getting Illinois into a bowl game. He saved his best for late in the year as well, rushing for over 100 yards in each of the Fighting Illini’s final 5 games of the season, including 140+ in each of the final 4. His most memorable game though, and one of the most memorable moments in all of college football last season was his 330 yards and 2 TDs against Northwestern at Wrigley Field. Drafted by the Lions in the 2nd round this year, he’s expected to be an immediate contributor to their young team. Jason Ford, who did play close to every game last year showed promise, carrying a YPC of just under 5 on his 99 attempts. With the dual-threat Nate Scheelhaase at QB, the Illini will once again look to stay on the ground this year and Ford should benefit plenty from playing alongside Scheelhaase, much like Leshoure did. With an early season OOC schedule that is pretty feeble outside a home game against Arizona St., Ford should get his feet wet as the starter pretty quickly and could have a few strong games to open the year as he prepares to head into Big Ten play. The Illini could be in much worse shape at the RB position heading into 2011. Ford should be a fairly productive replacement, even if he isn’t the dominant back Leshoure was.
Departed: Da’Quan Bowers
Replacement: Malliciah Goodman/Kourtnei Brown
A defense that had 3 players selected in the first two rounds of the NFL draft this year will undoubtedly have the hardest time replacing dominant pass rusher and ACC Defensive Player of the Year winner, Da’Quan Bowers. Bowers, who led the nation with 15.5 sacks and was co-leader in the country with 26 TFL, was named the Bronco Nagurski Award winner, given annually as one of the awards for National Defensive Player of the Year. The leader of the country’s 18th-best defense in 2010, the Clemson Tigers football team can probably thank this unit for their bowl eligibility last season. The offense that many thought would be able to overcome the losses of C.J Spiller, Jacoby Ford, and Michael Palmer was dreadful at times and the exceptional play of the defense was the difference in some wins, most notably a home win over North Carolina State. What the Tigers lose with the departure of Bowers is not only a dominant pass rusher off the end, but also the single coverage that he opened up for the likes of Jarvis Jenkins and Andre Branch. Jenkins is gone as well meaning Branch, who will step into the lead role at DE, will have a heavy load on his back to carry the front 4 of the Tigers. It is presumed at the moment that Malliciah Goodman is the favorite to move into the starting lineup, with Kourtnei Brown challenging for the spot. Brown, a red-shirt senior this season sprained his knee in spring practice and sat out the rest of the spring but is expected back for summer workouts. Goodman, who has spent the past two years waiting in the wings as Bowers, Branch, and Jenkins solidified the line is being asked to help soften the blow from Bowers departure and keep the Clemson defense among the elite in the ACC. With a completely new offensive system in place this season, Clemson may be relying on this defense early in the season as they adjust to Chad Morris’ spread offense.
Departed: Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt, Bill Nagy
Replacements: Ricky Wagner, Travis Frederick, Casey Dehn/Rob Havenstein/Josh Oglesby
The staple of the Wisconsin program for the last decade has been the ground game and that was the case again last year with arguably the best backfield in college football. However, 60% of the big boys up front who paved the way for the Badgers backfield last season are gone to the NFL and Bret Bielema will look to integrate the next group of OL prospects. Carimi finished the 2010 season as the Outland Award Winner, given to the nation’s top interior linemen as well as a consensus All-American. Moffitt was also an All-American selection in 2010. The Badgers line was among the most dominant units in all of CFB last year and had K.M and myself drooling over Wisconsin at the end of the year leading up to the Rose Bowl. As it stands right now Ricky Wagner, a starter at 10 games at RT last season will move to LT, replacing the leader of last year’s line, Gabe Carimi. Travis Frederick, a redshirt sophomore, will start at left guard. He last played in 2009 starting 4 games. The RT position will be the one spot up for grabs with likely 3 players competing for it. Casey Dehn is being labeled the frontrunner right now but a redshirt freshman named Rob Havenstein who checks in at 6’8 350 has apparently caught Bielema’s eye and his expected to be in the hunt. With Montee Ball and James White back, we’ll see how noticeable the losses of these 3 linemen even are. If history has shown us anything at Wisconsin it’s the machine can withstand the loss of almost any parts. Generally whatever they plug in functions just fine, which if that holds true will lead to many a sleepless nights for Big Ten defensive coordinators this fall.
Texas A&M “Joker” LB
Departed: Von Miller
Replacement: Damontre Moore/Caleb Russell
After a sluggish 3-3 start to the 2010 season, the Texas A&M Aggies recovered to win their last 6 games in Big 12 play to enter the Cotton Bowl 9-3, a game they lost to LSU. A large reason for their dominance down the stretch was the recovery of LB Von Miller. After a brief period of dealing with an ankle/foot injury Miller turned it on starting around week 5, recording all 10.5 of his sacks during that stretch as well as recording 6 or more tackles in 7 of those 9 games, after recording no more than 3 in any of the first 4 games. In 2009 he led the nation in sacks with 17 and each of the past two years has been named a first-team All-American. His ability to emerge into essentially an unblockable pass-rusher helped him spring all the way to the 2nd pick in this year’s NFL draft. It was expected coming into the spring that sophomore Damontre Moore would take over the reigns at the Joker LB spot. After a productive freshman year where he finished with 40 tackles and 5.5 sacks, Mike Sherman was confident he had at least a “replacement-in-the-making.” However this spring walk-on Caleb Russell caused havoc on the outside pass rushing and at the end of spring practice was believed to be atop the depth chart and running with the first-team defense at the Joker spot. Race should continue through summer ball and expect a starter to come out around July or Mid-August.
Departed: Jordan Todman
Replacement: DJ Shoemate
Uconn Huskies football took a giant step forward in 2010 winning the Big East conference for the first time and qualifying for the Fiesta Bowl. However, as quickly as they rose up, their downfall may be just as fast. Not only did they lose head coach Randy Edsall to Maryland as we mentioned in ourlast segment, but Jordan Todman their dynamic do-it-all back left for the NFL leaving Uconn scrambling to replace probably the two most important people in the program’s history in one offseason. All Todman managed to do last season was run for just under 17oo yards and 14 TDs, giving Uconn one of the most dominant offensive players in America. DJ Shoemate is pretty much the consensus starter at this point coming out of the Spring Game aided by the transfer of RB Robbie Frey. As one would expect, Shoemate didn’t get many chances last year playing behind both Todman and Frey. He carried the ball only 28 times all season so not much is there to judge off. Coaches have been very impressed with his work all spring though and say he’s working extremely high on the field and off. 19 carries for 110 yards in a wet, cold spring game is a promising sign. However, the fact is Uconn is likely in for a drop this year and it’d be foolish to think Shoemate could even approach replicating what Todman did last year, especially when the passing game is expected to be vastly improved from last year. A 1000 yard season would be more than adequate for the lead RB of Uconn this year.
Departed: A.J. Green
Replacement: Tavarres King
Exhibit 1D of the “arguably the best player in CFB” debate last year was A.J. Green. The talented WR who was suspended by the NCAA for the first four games was the go-to playmaker out wide for Mark Richt’s Bulldogs last season, finishing the year with 57 catches for 848 yards and 9 TDs. His best game came against Auburn on the road, a tightly contested game fr 3 quarters where neither team’s defense seem to have an answer. He finished that day with 9 catches for 164 yards and 2 TDs in the loss. Many in Athens believe that sophomore QB Aaron Murray could emerge into one of the elite QBs in the nation after a very impressive freshman season and one of the keys to his success will be the ability of Tavarres King to move from split end to flanker. Even with the departure of oft-troubled RB Washaun Ealey, it is expected that the offense will again revolve around the running game which still possesses Caleb King and #1 RB recruit Isaiah Crowell. The play-action pass was the lethal weapon the Bulldogs used last season to get Green single-coverage and limit the help over the top. It is expected that will be the major feature of the passing game once again. When talking about replacing Green, Tavarres King didn’t shy away from it. “It’s hard not to feel pressure when you’ve got big shoes to fill like that. But I’m looking at it as a challenge; I’m challenging myself to be great.” Georgia may not need King to be great right away, but if they want a chance to compete in the SEC East and improve off last season’s disappointing 6-7 season, then they’ll need him to eventually step into those shoes.
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