Who's next? Check out these replacements for the stars of 2005.
|Selvin Young is one of many weapons returning to the Texas backfield. (Getty Images)|
CBS SportsLine.com is sticking with the Buckeyes as its preseason No. 1 despite the loss of nine starters on defense. Hey, Southern California got to the title game with an average defense, why not Ohio State? Of course, the defense should be anything but average even with the losses. Remember, this is Ohio State. ... Everyone wants to know who is taking over for uber-linebacker A.J. Hawk. Indiana transfer John Kerr was the backup last year, but most of his time came on special teams. In 2002, Kerr was the leading freshman tackler in the Big Ten (114 for the Hoosiers). As good as Hawk? No way. No one is. Fellow senior LBs Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel are also gone. Mike D'Andrea (Schlegel's backup) returns with a sixth year of eligibility. ... Has any other team lost its top nine tacklers? Coach Jim Tressel was caught somewhat by surprise with the loss of both Donte Whitner and Ashton Youboty in the defensive backfield. Sophomore Jamario O'Neal will get first crack at Whitner's strong safety spot after playing most of his rookie year on special teams. Sophomore Malcolm Jenkins started three games at boundary corner and was listed as Youboty's backup last season. ... Two seniors return on the defensive line: David Patterson and Quinn Pitcock. ... Tressel typically recruits well and by the end of the season should have the defense in shape. The Michigan game is in Columbus. Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr. are Heisman candidates. The offense will have to carry the Buckeyes early until new household names are developed on defense.
It's a tribute to Pete Carroll (again) that he has revamped the heart of USC. The Trojans are still considered a top 10 property to begin 2006. ... An experienced Hershel Dennis probably will start at tailback. But as Reggie Bush found out, starting doesn't necessarily mean stardom at Troy. Junior Desmond Reed, if recovered from a shredded knee suffered at Notre Dame, will take over Bush's role as an all-purpose back. One-time prep All-American Chauncey Washington will take over for LenDale White if he's eligible; he has spent two years academically ineligible. Hard to believe, but USC won't miss much in the backfield. ... John David Booty has waited patiently for two years behind Matt Leinart. Now the junior gets his chance. If, that is, he can beat out freshman Mark Sanchez, a jewel from last year's recruiting class. Sanchez is thought to have more upside, and a good spring could make things interesting. ... Junior Winston Justice left early for the draft against the advice of some coaches. Justice was considered (at some point) to be the Trojan with the most pro potential on the offensive line. But he didn't have a great year. Justice will be replaced by senior Kyle Williams. ... USC should have one of the best linebacker units in the country. Dallas Sartz returns from a shoulder injury, and rising sophomore Rey Maualuga should be in the mix for a starting spot, along with fellow sophomore Brian Cushing. Keith Rivers returns and was fantastic at times as a sophomore. Safety Darnell Bing is gone but will be replaced by sophomore Kevin Ellison or Josh Pinkard. Ellison was having a great freshman year as a backup at safety and special teams player before tearing ligaments and breaking his left knee making an interception against Arizona State.
The departure of receiver Maurice Stovall is tempered by the return of reliable Rhema McKnight. He'll start opposite Jeff Samardzija, giving Notre Dame one of the top attacks in the country. Darius Walker, Brady Quinn, McKnight, Samardzija, etc. Wow. Tight end Anthony Fasano chose to leave early, meaning 6-foot-6 junior John Carlson gets his shot. He has 13 career catches but will get plenty of chances under Charlie Weis.
Around the Big Ten
- The next 1,500-yard (or more) rusher at Minnesota looks like junior Gary Russell. While backing up Laurence Maroney, Russell rushed for 1,045 yards and 18 touchdowns.
- What comes after G and H (all-stars Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge) in the Iowa dictionary? Things stay in alphabetical order with juniors Mike Humpal and Mike Linkenborg. The pair played in every game, combining for 36 tackles. Hey, Greenway and Hodge weren't familiar names when they arrived.
- Northwestern loses the Big Ten offensive player of the year in Brett Basanez. Look for redshirt sophomore C.J. Bacher (6-of-15, 59 yards in five games) to have the lead going into the spring.
- New Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema will have to do without leading rusher Brian Calhoun, who left after his junior year. Booker Stanley was the logical successor but is suspended after being charged with sexual assault and bail jumping. Booker rushed for 340 yards as a junior. If not Stanley, then Jamil Walker (nine games, 96 yards) looks like the guy. Does it matter? Wisconsin is the college version of the Denver Broncos. Stick a tailback in there and watch him go.
Around the SEC
- In 2005, Steve Spurrier relied as much on his defense (a serviceable eighth in the SEC) than on his offense, which was even more limited. The defense loses eight starters in '06, including All-American rover Ko Simpson. The favorites are senior Brandon Isaacs (33 tackles) and junior Ty Erving (four of his eight tackles last season came against Auburn).
- Auburn was nicked by the loss of All-American Marcus McNeill on the offensive line and Stanley McClover on the D-line. King Dunlap backed up McNeill at left tackle. He is one inch shorter and 40 pounds lighter. Quentin Groves made 21 tackles while backing up at the other end spot.
- Alabama takes a huge hit with the loss of 10 starters. Sophomore quarterback John Parker will replace Brodie Croyle after playing in five games as a freshman. Senior Terrence Jones has the task of taking over for Lott Trophy winner DeMeco Ryans..
- Georgia is in good shape after the departure of D.J. Shockley. They got a firm commitment from Matthew Stafford, rival.com's No. 1 quarterback in the country. Stafford, 6-3 and 210 pounds, should be in the mix right away. Mark Richt is a quarterback maker. This was a major coup considering Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan and Florida State also were finalists. Joe Tereshinski III, the almost-hero of the Florida game, is returning as well.
Around the Big 12
- Oklahoma's Bob Stoops has developed a great reputation for producing defensive lineman. After losing Dusty Dvoracek, Stoops expects DeMarcus Granger to step up after his redshirt year. Granger was one of the top 10 recruits in the country in '05 from Dallas Kimball. Redshirt sophomore Cory Bennett and junior Steve Coleman both saw action in '05.
Around the Pac-10
- Best trivia question of '05: Who was the nation's pass efficiency leader? Going into the Rose Bowl, it was Young. But Young finished a distant third to Arizona State's Rudy Carpenter, the first freshman in history to lead the nation in that category. Carpenter will have to fight off the guy he replaced due to injury, senior Sam Keller. Should be an interesting spring. Both threw for 2,000 yards last year. ... Record-setting receiver Derek Hagan will be replaced by senior Terry Richardson (No. 7 nationally in punt returns), converted tailback Rudy Burgess (who actually started his career as a receiver) and sophomore Nat Kimbrough. ... The Sun Devils will be loaded at tight end, where Zach Miller returns and Florida transfer Dane Guthrie is eligible.
- Oregon loses All-American Halati Ngata, one of the best interior playmakers in the nation. Juniors David Faaeteete and Cole Linehan played quite a bit though in '05. Most telling was the fourth quarter of the Holiday Bowl when they played together and helped limit Oklahoma to 42 total yards.
- National rushing leader Jerome Harrison of Washington State was gone before we noticed him. His replacement is probably sophomore DeMaundray Woolridge, who averaged 6 yards per carry as a freshman and had back-to-back 100-yard games against Nevada and Grambling.
- UCLA also will have to retool on offense. Tailback Maurice Drew left early. He will be replaced by Kahlil Bell and/or Chris Markey. Both rushed for more than 100 yards in the Sun Bowl. ... Karl Dorrell switches Olsons at quarterback -- departing Drew for Ben, a one-time five-star recruit from Thousand Oaks who originally attended BYU. ... Three guys have a shot at Marcedes Lewis' tight end spot. Senior J.J. Hair (one catch) and sophomore Ryan Mora (10 catches) played in every game. Sophomore Logan Paulsen (two catches) played in eight.
Around the ACC
- Florida State's defense has been ripped up pretty well with the departure of linebackers Ernie Sims and A.J. Nicholson, cornerback Antonio Cromartie and All-American defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley. Junior Lawrence Timmons gets first shot at Sims' strong-side spot. Geno Hayes, formerly a top-five national recruit, will try to take Nicholson's weak-side spot. No pressure there. Nicholson just led the team with 100 tackles. Senior Buster Davis can play all three linebacking spots. There's a big dropoff at Bunkley's spot, where sophomores Letroy Guion and Emmanuel Dunbar will try to take over.
- The best spring quarterback battle in the country might be in Blacksburg. With the loss of Marcus Vick, Frank Beamer will have to sift between redshirt sophomores Sean Glennon (the favorite) and Cory Holt. But Hokie Nation is waiting to see how run-pass threat Ike Whitaker develops. Whitaker redshirted in '05.
- After throwing all of 34 career passes, Will Proctor gets his chance to lead what looks like a loaded Clemson. Fifteen starters return, plus both specialists. Tommy Bowden's challenge will be to make Proctor more consistent than Charlie Whitehurst, although tailback James Davis (879 yards as a freshman) will ease the transition.
- North Carolina State lost both its star junior defensive ends, Mario Williams and Manny Lawson. 2004 defensive newcomer of the year Ray Brooks returns from a year of ineligibility. Highly regarded Willie Young gets a shot after redshirting in '05.
- Despite the loss of receiver Sinorice Moss, Miami is loaded at receiver. The loss of defensive lineman Orien Harris means Kareem Brown gets his chance as a senior.
- Junior Wesley Jefferson will get a shot to replace All-American linebacker D'Qwell Jackson at Maryland. Jefferson had 57 tackles and three TFLs as a sophomore. The brother of former great E.J. Henderson, Erin Henderson, was tearing it up before getting hurt in the fall. He will play outside.
- Louisville senior Zach Anderson got plenty of action backing up at defensive end. Bobby Petrino rotated his ends a lot. Still it will be hard to replace national defensive player of the year Elvis Dumervil.
- At Fresno State, quarterback Paul Pinegar will be replaced by a 6-5 sophomore (backup Tom Brandstater), a Parade prep All-American (sophomore Sean Norton) or a freshman (Ryan Colburn) who reminds many of David Carr. ... Star defensive tackle Garrett McIntyre, the WAC defensive player of the year, will be replaced by Jason Shirley, a 6-5, 315-pound junior who played in 12 games as a backup. Also look for Washington State transfer Jason Roberts.
- Senior Steve Rissler and redshirt freshman Ronnie Wilson will have a lot to live up to at Florida. The two will battle it out at center to replace Mike Degory. Not only was Degory the unofficial team spokesman, he held together an offensive line that was shaky early in the season.
- It will be impossible for Tulsa to replace Garrett Mills, the most prolific pass-catching tight end in history. But watch for sophomore Jacob Collums. Coach Steve Kragthorpe might simply have to refocus the attack. He gets back seven offensive starters for a unit that averaged 33 points. The defense gets nine back on a unit was 17th in pass defense. Why do you care? Because Tulsa won Conference USA in its first year in the league, winning at Central Florida in the championship game and almost winning at Oklahoma.