Even in a 2020 college football season with more starts and stops than Los Angeles, some like Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State have reached the college football playoffs.
Even a pandemic could not unbalance the balance of power in the toughest sport.
Will we finally see these heavyweights fall in 2021? Clemson’s star quarterback Trevor Lawrence has already declared his participation in the NFL draft. Are Alabama’s Mac Jones and Ohio State’s Justin Fields next? Will it be enough for programs like Georgia, North Carolina and Texas A&M to close the gap on the teams that have dominated their conferences for most of the last decade?
It will take about eight months to find out.
In the meantime, this is the first edition of the top 25 Way-Too-Early 2021 team rankings, with return projections, potential starters, additions and key projections for each team.
( * Refers to players who have already announced their departure for the NFL draft, their transfer, or who are not returning to their current program).
Sheet 2020: 10-2, 8-1 ACC Predictable returns: five offensive teams, 10 defensive teams and one special teams.
Expected losses QB Trevor Lawrence*, RB Travis Etienne*, RB Amari Rogers*, QB Darion Kendrick, LB Baylon Spector, FS Nolan Turner, OT Jackson Carman*.
Main additions LB Jeremiah Trotter Jr, RB Will Shipley, DT Peyton Paige, RB Beau Collins.
Outlook: The Tigers’ shortcomings were exposed in the CFP for the second game in a row when they rushed the defense and were unable to defend Lawrence. These problems, at least this time, can be attributed to their youth and inexperience. Potential No. 1 NFL draft pick, Lawrence, like Etienne, will be remembered as one of the best players in school history. Rodgers’ presence on the perimeter is another big loss.
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The good news is that Clemson has a more than capable quarterback: Newcomer D.J. Viagalley threw for 781 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in two games while Lawrence was sidelined by COVID-19. Star receiver Justine Ross could be back after a neck injury, as could Joseph Ngata. There is no clear tailback follow-up, so it will be the focus this spring. Three starting offensive lineups should return.
Defense was pretty young in 2020 and is only expected to get better. Six of the top 14 tacklers were sophomores and freshmen Miles Murphy, Brian Bresee and Trenton Simpson were arguably the best players in the unit. Clemson has the clearest path to the CFP, especially when Our Lady returns from the CCR. The Tigers open the season against Georgia in Charlotte, North Carolina and the winner of the first weekend is ranked No. 1 in the polls.
Sheet 2020: 13-0 Predictable return of incumbents: four offensive teams, nine defensive teams and one special teams.
Expected losses QB Mac Jones, RB Najee Harris, WR DeVonta Smith, WR Jaylen Waddle, OT Alex Leatherwood, C Landon Dickerson, G Deonte Brown, LB Dylan Moses, BC Patrick Stein II, TE Miller Forristall.
Main additions OT Tommy Brockermeier, OT JC Latham, OLB Dallas Turner, DT Damon Payne, ATH Ga’Quincy McKinstry, RB Camar Wheaton, QB Khairy Jackson.
Outlook: The Crimson Tide will likely lose several players in the NFL draft, including potential first-round picks Jones, Smith, Waddle, Staind and Harris. But perhaps no program has brought together as much talent as Alabama’s, and coach Nick Saban has some capable replacements at his disposal.
Still, Alabama is losing a lot of experience, as is offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who Texas has hired as their new coach. In most cases, Tide will find out. Bill O’Brien, former coach of Houston, Texas, could be Saban’s best choice to replace Sarkisian. Bryce Young was the number one dual threat quarterback on ESPN’s 2020 300 list and is the clear successor to Jones. Brian Robinson Jr., Jace McClellan and Trey Sanders, often injured, will try to take Harris’ place. Replacing Smith and Waddell won’t be easy; John Metchey III and Slade Bolden are next on the list.
Moses was the only senior on defense, although a handful of juniors and sophomores were able to participate in the NFL draft. The Tide opens the 2021 season against Miami and plays in SEC away games at Auburn, Florida, Mississippi and Texas A&M.
Sheet 2020: 9-2 (6-2 Big 12) Expected return: 6 attacks, 8 defenses, 2 special teams
Expected losses OT Adrian Ealy*, OT Eric Swenson, CB Creed Humphrey*, RB Rammondre Stevenson*, DE Ronnie Perkins*, CB Tre Brown*, DB Tre Norwood*, WR Charleston Rambo.
Main additions RB Kennedy Brooks, RB Mario Williams Jr, OT Savion Bird, QB Caleb Williams, RB Billy Bowman Jr, OLB Clayton Smith.
Outlook: It’s been two decades since the Sooners have won a national championship and they have a chance to end this drought, if all goes according to plan, in 2021. Quarterback Spencer Rattler improved in his first season and will be one of the top contenders for the Heisman Trophy next season. Five other starters are expected to return to the offense, though Stevenson’s departure is coveted. OR plans to bring back Brooks, a 1,000 yard runner in 2019 who did not compete last season. Big receiver Charleston Rambo, who has started the last two seasons, has entered the transfer portal.
Defensively, the Sooners have made great strides under the leadership of coordinator Alex Grinch. Last season, they finished second in the Big 12 for defense (21.7 points) and defense (105.1 yards) and third for total defense (350.6). График неконференций OR в 2021 году более чем выполним с дорожным соревнованием Тулане домашними против и програмой FCS Западная Каролина.
Sheet 2020: 8-2 (7-2 SEC) Expected return: nine offensive, five defensive, two special teams.
Expected losses G Ben Cleveland*, LB Aziz Ojulari*, LB Monty Rice*, LB Jermaine Johnson*, CB Eric Stokes*, CB Tyson Campbell*, S Richard LeCounte*, DE Malik Herring*, C Trey Hill*.
Main additions BC Kelee Ringo, WR Dominic Blaylock, ATH Smael Mondon, OT Amarius Mims, ATH Xavian Sorey, QB Brock Vandagriff.
Outlook: Georgia’s offense has made great strides with the transfer of USC JT Daniels who has played as quarterback in the last four games, and offensive coordinator Todd Monken should be even better with a full season. He completed 67% of his passes for 1,231 yards with 10 touchdowns and two throws in his four game attempts. They brought in a host of playmakers at wide receiver George Pickens, Jermaine Burton, Arian Smith and Kearis Jackson, as well as tight receiver Darnell Washington.
The defense will need to replace some of its most productive linebackers, but Adam Anderson, Nolan Smith and Quay Walker are more than capable. The return of Jordan Davis and Devonta Wyatt to the front line helps a lot. With the departure of Stokes, Campbell and DJ Daniel, creating cornerback depth will be a priority in the spring. Georgia has amassed a wealth of talent. Is that enough to get us over the defeat against Alabama?
Sheet 2020: 7-1 Predictable return of incumbents: six offense, five defense, no special teams.
Expected losses QB Justin Fields, WR Chris Olave, RB Trey Sermon, OT Thayer Munford, K Josh Myers, G Wyatt Davis, LB Pete Werner, LB Tuf Borland, QB Sean Wade.
Main additions By Jack Sawyer, RB TreVeion Henderson, WR Emeka Egbuka, QB Kyle McCord, WR Jayden Ballard.
Outlook: The Buckeyes benefited from a smooth transition between Urban Meyer and Ryan Day, allowing them to make two consecutive CFP appearances. The Buckeyes don’t look like they’re ready to slow down anytime soon. Fields is considered one of the top five picks in the NFL draft, so he’ll likely be gone after two seasons at OSU. Newcomer Jack Miller III, who set a school record at Arizona with 115 career tackles, was a replacement for Fields last season. C.J. Stroud was the No. 2 ESPN 300 setter in 2020 and newcomer McCord was No. 4 in 2021.
There are a handful of other offensive rookies who are candidates for the starting lineup, including Olawa and Sermon. Defensively, the Buckeyes could have big holes to fill on the defensive line and at cornerback and linebacker, depending on the return. The Buckeyes’ schedule for next season includes home games against Oregon and Tulsa, as well as away games scheduled as part of the Big Ten in Minnesota, Nebraska, Rutgers, Indiana and Michigan.
Sheet 2020: 9-1 (8-1 SEC) Expected return: six offensive, six defensive, two special teams.
Expected losses QB Kellen Mond*, OT Dan Moore Jr*, C Ryan McCollum*, G Jared Hawker*, OT Carson Green, LB Buddy Johnson*, QB Miles Jones.
Main additions DE Shemar Turner, DE Tunmiz Adelje, WR Shadrach Banks, ATH Dreyden Norwood, G Bryce Foster, BC Elijah Blades, LB Ke’Shun Brown, WR Camron Buckley.
Outlook: In the end, the Aggies got a return on their $75 million investment in coach Jimbo Fisher: They finished the season with eight straight wins (each of the last seven by 10 points or more), including a 41-27 victory over North Carolina in the Capital Orange Bowl.
Texas A&M could be destined for even bigger things in 2021 if it can replace some key pieces on the offensive line. Monday and at least three quarters of a very good offensive line will disappear. Newcomers Zach Calzada and Haynes King will compete for the QB position this spring.
Backers Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane, henchman Ainias Smith and fullback Jalen Wydermyer give the Aggies a nice core of players coming back to attack. We need more players on the field. The defense, led by coordinator Mike Elko, led the SEC in total offense (317.3 yards per game). Johnson and Hansford are replaced by the best forwards and Bobby Brown III by the best hitter.
Sheet 2020: 8-4 (7-3 ACC)
Anticipated Returns: 8 on offense, 10 on defense, two special teams.
Expected losses RB Michael Carter*, RB Javonte Williams*, WR Dazz Newsome*, WR Diami Brown*, LB Chazz Surratt*.
Main additions DE Keeshawn Silver, QB Drake Maye, LB Raneiria Dillworth, LB Power Echols, WR Gavin Blackwell.
Outlook: Mac Brown can only start at UNC. Even if Carter, Williams, Newsome and Brown move on, UNC should have a potent offensive attack in 2021. Quarterback Sam Howell is a favorite for the Heisman Trophy, and all five offensive players from the starting lineup are expected to return.
Young receivers Josh Downs and Hafre Brown played well in the Orange Bowl against Texas A&M, and injured receiver Bo Corrales is expected to return after a hernia limited him to four games in 2020. Last season, six of UNC’s defenders were in their first or second year. The return of top passer Tomon Fox and defender Tyrone Hopper is a big boost. The Tar Heels will play Notre Dame this season.
Sheet 2020: 9-3 (8-1 Big 12)
Expected Revenue: 10 on offense, 8 on defense, 0 on special teams.
Expected losses From Jaquan Bailey, FS Lawrence White IV.
Main additions OT Tyler Maro, DT Howard Brown, OT Jim Boniface, RB Deon Silas, S Ben Langston.
Outlook: It’s hard to say which is more noteworthy: Iowa State coach Matt Campbell has led his teams to 32 wins in the last four seasons – the most in four years of school history – where the Cyclones remain loyal to Campbell despite the openings of many top-level programs and NFL teams. Last season, the Cyclones set a school record with nine wins and three victories over ranked opponents, including a 34-17 victory over Oregon in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, their first appearance in the New Year’s Six Bowl.
With the return of quarterback Brock Purdy (2,750 yards on pass, 382 yards on pass and 24 touchdowns) and Breece Hall back (1,572 yards on pass and 21 touchdowns), the Cyclones could have two contenders for the Heisman Trophy in 2021. Five ahead from the starting line will be back after Sean Foster decided to return and Charlie Kolar did the same on Sunday. Bailey, the school’s leader in career interceptions, has already announced his departure for the NFL draft. Eyoma Uwazurike and linebackers Jake Hummel and Mike Rose chose to return.
Sheet 2020: 5-1 Pac-12 Predictable back starts: eight offensive, eight defensive, two special teams.
Expected losses OT Alijah Vera-Tucker*, SS Talanoa Hufanga*, RP Tyler Vons*, RP Amon-Ra St. Bruin, QB Olaijah Griffin, DT Marlon Tuipulotu.
Main additions DE Corey Foreman, DT Ishmael Sofscher, S Havion Alford, QB Miller Moss, QB Jackson Dart, ATH Kyron Ware-Hudson, ATH Julien Simon.
Outlook: The Trojans missed their chance to win the Pac-12 title and advance to the sixth game of the new year by losing 31-24 to Oregon in the championship game. USC won their first Southern Division title since 2017, but the Ducks’ defeat ruined what could have been a great capital for coach Clay Helton. He’s only been out the last three seasons at 18-13, so USC should be making progress in 2021 as well.
The Trojans can begin to improve on their inadequate running game, which is averaging 97.3 yards per game, last in the league and 120th in the FBS. Maybe that’s why Helton fired offensive line coach Tim Drevno and strength and conditioning coach Aaron Osvmas. USC’s defense has improved under new coordinator Todd Orlando, who ranks third in the Pac-12 in terms of points (26 points) and distance traveled on defense (153.3 yards). The Trojans plan to play Notre Dame next season, but they will avoid Oregon and Washington in conference play.
Sheet 2020: 6-2 (6-1 Big Ten) Projected returns: Nine offensive, ten defensive, one special teams.
Expected losses WR Whop Philyor, C Harry Crider, DT Jerome Johnson.
Main additions Ryder Anderson, Zach Carpenter, Rashawn Williams, Tim Baldwin, Matthews, Luke Haggard, Dylan Powell, O.T. Luke.
Outlook: Indiana had one of the best seasons in school history, but he never felt like he got the credit he deserved. The Hoosiers were defeated by Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game and were subsequently eliminated from the Big Ten hierarchy. The Hoosiers, playing without injured quarterback Michael Penix Jr. lost 26-20 to Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl.
There are potentially 19 first-timers returning to the offense and defense, and it looks like coach Tom Allen is just getting started. Led by a very talented sophomore, the Hoosiers finished fourth in the Big Ten on defense (20.3 points), although Allen is looking for a new coordinator after Kane Wommack was named head coach of South Alabama.
Penix’s recovery from an ACL tear in his right knee will be closely watched this summer. Matthews, who has 84 strikes and 582 yards kicking returning in 35 games at Florida, transferred to Indiana. Ole Miss Anderson’s former smuggler Miss Anderson also plans to join the Hoosiers.
Sheet 2020: 9-1 (6-0 AAC) Scheduled return starts: eight offensive teams, seven defensive teams and one special teams.
Expected losses С. James Wiggins*, S. Darrick Forrest*, L. B. Jarrell White, D. Elijah Ponder*, R. B. Gerrid Doakes*, O. T. James Hudson*, O. T. Darius Harper
Main additions DL Jovon Briggs, QB Evan Prater, WR Jadon Thompson, LB Jahame Thomas …
Outlook: The Bears just missed the mark, losing to Georgia 24-21 on a 53-yard field goal by Jack Podlesny three seconds from the end of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. It was another memorable season for Cincinnati, which has won 31 games in the last three seasons under Luke Fickell. Even with the departure of defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to Notre Dame, the Bearcats will once again be a strong contender in the AAC in 2021.
The new defensive coordinator will have to replace some key players, including Ponder and the two starting safeties. The good news is that quarterback Desmond Ridder has announced his return, along with at least three offensive linemen. Next season, the Bearcats will host away games at Indiana and Notre Dame.
Sheet 2020: 6-2 The ten great players projected for kickoff: seven offensive, six defensive, one special teams.
Expected losses OT Alaric Jackson*, DT Davien Nixon*, DT Chauncey Gholston*, DT Jack Heflin*, RR Ymir Smith-Marsett*, RR Brandon Smith*, LB Nick Nieman*, G Cole Banwarth*, Keith Duncan*.
Main additions DB Xavior Williams, DB Matt Lorbeck, DB Deontae Craig, RB Keegan Johnson, LB Judge Sullivan.
Outlook: Iowa’s season was postponed and then cancelled when the regular season finale against Michigan and the bowl game against Missouri were cancelled due to VIDOC-19 issues. However, the Hawkeyes showed promise by ending the season on a six-game winning streak after an 0-2 start. Tyler Goodson (762 yards) was one of the best fullbacks in the Big Ten and he’ll carry more in 2021 when Mehi Sargent leaves for the NFL.
Quarterback Spencer Petras has thrown for eight touchdowns in the last six games. The offensive line strengthened when Tyler Linderbaum’s center decided to come back. The defensive line needs to be rebuilt, but the end of Zach Van Valkenburgh’s return is also good news. Second place will remain intact if cornerback Matt Hankins does not turn professional.
Sheet 2020: 4-3 (3-2 Pac-12) Projected returns: seven offensive, seven defensive, two special teams.
Expected losses TE Hunter Kampmeyer*, N.G. Jordon Scott*, DT Austin Faolliu*, QB Demonmore Lenoir*, RD Jaylon Redd, RD Johnny Johnson III, OT George Moore, S Nick Pickett*.
Main additions WR Isaiah Brevard, QB Ty Thompson, WR Troy Franklin, WR Dont’e Thornton.
Outlook: Oregon’s performance in 2020 is difficult to gauge, as it has played just seven games and lost a handful of its top players after signing before the start of the season, including tackle Peney Sewell, fullback Javon Holland, linebacker Brady Brees and cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. They won the Pac-12 title without winning their division and lost to Iowa State at the Fiesta Bowl. Overall, Oregon fans probably expected a little more from coach Mario Cristobal in his third season.
First and foremost, the Ducks must decide on a starting quarterback this spring. Tyler Shaw, former replacement for Justin Herbert, completed 63.5% of his passes for 1,559 yards with 13 touchdowns and six picks. Anthony Brown, a transfer from Boston College, has made numerous appearances in the Pac-12 Championship Game and Bowl Game. It is not certain that Brown will return for another season.
Oregon’s defense features three stars, Kayvon Thibodeau, Mays Funa and Mikael Wright, backed by linebacker Justin Flow and cornerback Dontae Manning, who has played sparingly because of injury. Defensive coordinator Andy Avalos has taken over as Boise State’s head coach, his alma mater.
Sheet 2020: 3-1 Pac-12
Anticipated Returns: 11 offensive teams, 8 defensive, one special teams.
Expected losses DB Elijah Molden*, DB Keith Taylor*, DL Josiah Bronson*.
Main additions QB Sam Huard, TE Quentin Moore, QB Patrick O’Brien, LB Will Latu, WR Jabez Tinae, G Owen Prentice.
Outlook: Jimmy Lake’s first season as Washington’s head coach was incomplete as the Huskies played just four games and won the Pac-12 North, but were unable to play in the Pac-12 championship game due to issues with COVID-19.
The good news is that all but three starters could return in 2021 and the Huskies added Huard, ESPN 300’s No. 1 pocket passer in 2021. The other three quarterbacks – Ethan Garbers, Jacob Sirmon and Kevin Thomson – are gone. So the Huskies also added O’Brien, a transfer from Colorado State. Huard and O’Brien take on returning starter Dylan Morris, who completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 897 yards with four touchdowns and three picks.
Washington’s priorities this spring are finding a true No. 1 receiver and rebuilding the high school.
Sheet 2020: 10-2 (9-0 ACC) Expected return: three offense, six defense, two special teams.
Expected losses OT Liam Eichenberg*, G Tommy Kraemer, G Aaron Banks*, OT Robert Hainsey*, QB Ian Book*, PR Javon McKinley, PR Ben Skowronek*, PR Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoa*, SS Sean Crawford*, DE Daelin Hayes*.
Main additions QB Jack Coan, QB Tyler Buechner, TE Cain Burrong, G Rocco Spindler, WR Deion Colzie.
Outlook: With its 31-14 loss to Alabama in the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs at the Rose Bowl presented by Capital One, the Fighting Irish have fallen to 0-7 in the BCS or New Year’s Six Bowl since 1998 and have scored 161 points in those games, with all seven losses coming by at least 14 points. If the Irish have been very good under Brian Kelly’s leadership, they’re still not at the level of Alabama (like just about every other FBS program).
The Irish will get a face-lift in the offense, starting with the quarterback. Coan, a transfer from Wisconsin, will face Buckner, Drew Pine and Brandon Clark for the starting position this spring. Notre Dame has some good offensive elements including fullbacks Kieren Williams and Chris Tyree and receivers Braden Lenzie and Jordan Johnson.
Four starters are gone; Jarrett Patterson returns after breaking his leg. Kelly hired Cincinnati’s Marcus Freeman to replace defensive coordinator Clark Lea, who left to become Vanderbilt’s coach. Freeman will need to rebuild the defensive line and find more depth in the secondary.
Sheet 2020: 8-4 (8-2 SEC) Projection of return starts: five offensive teams, seven defensive teams and one special teams.
Expected losses QB Kyle Trask*, TE Kyle Pitts*, WR Kadarius Tony*, WR Trevon Grimes*, C Brett Heggie*, OT Stone Forsythe*, LB Ventrell Miller, S Brad Stewart Jr, DL Kyree Campbell*, BC Marco Wilson*, K Evan McPherson*.
Main additions RB Demarcus Bowman, DB Ethan Pouncey, OL Jaylin Humphries, QB Jason Marshall, QB Carlos Del Rio, S Corey Collier, D Jeremiah Williams, D Tyreek Sapp.
Outlook: Florida’s breakthrough under coach Dan Mullen ended with a major setback as the Gators lost their final three games, including a 55-20 loss to Oklahoma in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. Most of Florida’s offensive forces are gone, including Heisman Trophy finalist Trask. Sophomore Emory Jones is the quarterback of the future and the Gators need to find reliable passers after the departures of Pitts, Grimes and Tony.
Defense will also need a serious facelift after allowing 144 points and more than 1,700 yards of offense in three late losses. The Gators have allowed 28 touchdown passes this season, putting them at the bottom of FBS teams. They gave up 30.8 points per game, the most since 41.2 per game in six games in 1917. Todd Grantham, one of the highest paid defensive coordinators in the FBS, appears to be on thin ice. Second-year coaches Ron English and Torrian Gray have already been fired.
Sheet 2020: 4-3 (3-3 Big Ten) Projected return: eight offensive, seven defensive, two special teams.
Expected losses OT Cole Van Lanen, G. John Dietzen, D. Isaiah Loud Milk, D. Garrett Rand, S. Eric Burrell.
Main additions Marcus Allen, OT Nolan Rucci, S. Hunter Wooler, D.T.J. Bollers, S. Braylon Allen.
Outlook: Few programs were more disrupted by COVID-19 than the Badgers, who canceled two games and postponed another. They looked like the Big Ten contenders in the West after an early 49-11 win over Michigan, but quarterback Graham Mertz was suspended after testing positive for coronavirus.
Wisconsin never seems to get back from that. He also played without top receivers Danny Davis III and Kendrick Pryor for most of the season due to concussions. The Badgers have scored less than seven points in three straight losses. Mertz should have a full offseason under his belt, and Pryor has already announced his return.
Jim Leonhardt’s defense is back in the top 10 in terms of scoring and total defense. With the return of linebackers Jack Sanborn and Leo Chenal, the unit will be one of the best in FBS in 2021.
Sheet 2020: 5-5 (4-5 SEC) Predictable returns: eight offensive teams, nine defensive teams and one special teams.
Expected losses Elijah Moore, Kenny Yeboah, OT Royce Newman, D Ryder Anderson.
Main additions С. Jake Springer, BC DeAntre Prince, RR Bralon Brown, BC Markevid Brown, S. Dink Jackson, S. Tyshim Johnson, D. Jamond Gordon, D. Isaiah Eaton.
Outlook: Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss’ first-year coach, showed the SEC that his teams can score on just about anything: 35 points against Florida and 48 against Alabama and LSU. Problem: The Rebels gave up a total of 167 points in those games and lost all three. If Ole Miss can improve a bit in 2021, she could be good enough to move to the next tier of the Western SEC.
Quarterback Matt Corral is back, and alternate John Reece Plumlee shows what he can do with the ball in his hands in the Outback Bowl. The Rebels will miss Moore (86 strikes for 1,193 yards) and Yeboah (27 strikes with six touchdowns). The defense was bolstered by the return of Sam Williams and Lakia Henry, attacker and front-line defender, respectively.
Sheet 2020: 10-1 (7-1 Sun Belt) Projected Yields: Nine offensive, eight defensive, two special teams.
Expected losses RB Elijah Mitchell*, RB Trey Ragas*, G Ken Marks, LB Ferrod Gardner, DT Tayland Humphrey.
Main additions T.T. Glenn Beal, S. Tyrone Lewis, Jr.
Outlook: The Cajun Ragin’ Cajuns have won at least 10 games in two consecutive seasons, won the West Sun Belt three times in a row and won several straight bowl games – and managed to keep coach Billy Napier for at least another year despite the fact that at least two SEC schools have expressed interest in him. Their only shortcoming last season was a 30-27 loss to Coastal Carolina.
Quarterback Levi Lewis (2,274 passing yards and 335 race yards) has already announced his return for a fifth straight season. Best shortstop Ferrod Gardner and runner Tayland Humphrey could suffer big losses on defense. Texas is ready to start the new season on the 4th. Opened in September.
Sheet 2020: 5-5 SEC Predictable Returners: eight offensive, eight defensive, one special teams.
Expected losses LB Jabril Cox*, S JaCoby Stevens*, WR Terrace Marshall Jr.*, TE Arik Gilbert, P Zach Von Rosenberg*, WR Racey McMath*, TE/FB Tory Carter*.
Main additions С. Derrick Davis Jr., O. T. Garrett Dellinger, D. Mason Smith, A. T. Sage Ryan, D. Bryce Langston.
Outlook: As magical as the 2019 LSU National Championship season was, the aftermath was disappointing. The Tigers claimed an encore for winning the last two games for a record 500. Coach Ed Orgeron fired defensive coordinator Bo Pelini after just one season in the USL; fellow offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger transferred; and the Tigers separated themselves from passing coordinator Scott Linehan. Carolina Panthers quarterback coach Jake Pitz, who worked with Joe Brady, was hired as offensive coordinator. Orgeron is still looking for a new defensive coordinator.
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Despite the massive overhaul, a lot of talent is coming back to LSU. Quarterback Myles Brennan just returned from an abdominal injury to face Max Johnson for the starting spot. Receiver Kayshon Boutte was a pleasant surprise, and he has a lot of backstops on his hands. The return of several junior and senior linemen gives the Tigers hope for next season.
Sheet 2020: 7-3 (5-3 Big 12) Projected returns: five offensive, seven defensive, two special teams.
Expected losses QB Sam Ehlinger*, PR Brennan Eagles*, S Derek Kerstetter, OT Samuel Cosmy*, DT Ta’Quon Graham*, LB Joseph Ossai*, SS Chris Brown*, FS Caden Stearns*.
Main additions ATH Ja’Tavion Sanders, BC Ishmael Ibraheem, OLB Derrick Harris Jr, S.J.D. Coffey, BC Darion Dunn.
Outlook: Tom Herman’s teams have never won a Big 12 title and lost 1-4 to their Oklahoma rival, which wasn’t enough for Athletic Director Chris Del Conte. Del Conte fired him on the 2nd. January and quickly hired Sarkisian to replace him. While Ehlinger was knocked out with a shoulder injury in the Valero Alamo Bowl, alternate Casey Thompson threw for 170 yards and four touchdowns in a 55-23 victory over Colorado.
Thompson will have to replace Hudson Card with Ehlinger. An even greater sign of hope: Hedgehog Bijan Robinson ran for 183 yards and scored a punt on 10 carries. The Longhorns will miss Osay, Brown and Stearns in defence, but at least there is a good core returning in defence from debutants Alfred Collins and defenders Juwan Mitchell and DeMarvion Overshown. Sarkisian is looking for a handful of former and current SEC assistants to join his staff, including defensive coordinators Zach Arnett of Mississippi State and Barry Odom of Missouri.
Sheet 2020: 4-5 The ten big starts scheduled for return: eight on offense, six on defense, two special teams.
Expected losses Pat Freyermuth*, G. Will Freeze*, D. Shaka Tony*, D. Antonio Shelton*, D. Jason Ouwe*, S. Jaquan Brisker*, S. Lamont Wade*.
Main additions CB John Dixon, DE Arnold Abickety, RB John Lovett, DT Derrick Tangelo, OT Landon Tengwall, S Jaylen Reed.
Outlook: Penn State’s 2020 season went off the rails shortly after it began when the backs of Journey Brown and Noah Kane were sidelined by late-season injuries. Shortly after, the Nittany Lions lost Freyermuth after shoulder surgery. They lost their first five games and then won their last four. With the expected return of quarterback Sean Clifford and Cain, Penn State’s offense should be more balanced in 2021. On Friday, coach James Franklin fired Kirk Charrock and replaced him with the Texans’ former offensive coordinator Mike Jurcic.
The defensive line will need to be rebuilt, but help will come from the transfer of the Ebiketie Temple and the transfer of Duke Tangelo. Penn State will also need to find two new starters. Dixon, who was the starting cornerback at South Carolina last season, will bring some depth in the second half. Two weeks into next season in Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions welcome Auburn.
Sheet 2020: 11-1 (8-0 Sun Belt) Projected returns: six offensive, six defensive, two special teams.
Expected losses DE Tarron Jackson*, RB CJ Marable*, C Sam Thompson, OT Steven Bedosky, LB Silas Kelly, LB Teddy Gallagher, DT C.J. Bierbrauer.
Main additions CB Tre’ Douglas, C Michael Myslinski, G Kimo Makaneole, QB Jay Allen.
Outlook: League coaches and media voted for the finalists in the Sun Belt’s pre-season 2020 poll to finish in last place. Instead, South Carolina won 11-0 in the regular season, captured the title, played its first skittles game and entered the top 10 in the AP standings. What will blackmailers do for an encore? They will undoubtedly pass Jackson’s best runner (8.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss) and Marable’s best runner.
However, quarterback Grayson McCall is expected to return after throwing for 2,488 yards and 26 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. When most of the Coastal Carolina seniors return, the team should be back at the top of the New Year’s fork. The Chanticleers have a home game against Kansas in 2021, which they have lost in each of the last two seasons.
Sheet 2020: 10-1 Predictable return of incumbents: six offensive, seven defensive, one special teams.
Expected losses WR DJ Stubbs, OT Tristan Schultz, C Thomas Sargeant, LB Anthony Butler*.
Main additions Л. B. Rashaad Harding, D.B. Skyler Thomas, Cedric Stone, D.A. Zachary, L.B. Kaci Sigars.
Outlook: It was a real season for the Flames, who beat their Syracuse ACC and Virginia Tech rivals away from home and ruined Coastal Carolina’s perfect season with their second straight Healing Bowl victory. It was Liberty’s first win against a nationally ranked FBS opponent. And Liberty will keep Coach Hugh Freeze for at least another year, even though he has been named SEC twice.
The Flames can keep Power 5 fans at bay this season for star striker Malik Willis, an Auburn transfer who led the FBS quarterbacks in rushing (944 yards) and scored 34 touchdowns. Liberty has five seniors on offense and four more on defense, which could lead to some turnovers. Johnny Huntley has already announced his return, as has Joshua Mack.
Sheet 2020: 8-3 (7-2 ACC) Projected returns: nine offensive, seven defensive, one special teams.
Expected losses DE Jaelan Phillips*, DE Quincy Roche*, DT Jonathan Ford, S Amari Carter, OT Jarryd Williams, TE Brevin Jordan, C Jose Borregales*.
Main additions Deandre Johnson, S. Avante Williams, D. Leonard Taylor, L. B. James Williams, C. B. Jake Garcia, W. R. Jacoby George, W. R. Romello Brinson.
Outlook: The Hurricanes’ 37-34 defeat of Oklahoma in the Cheese-It Bowl couldn’t have been much worse. The Miami defense was gutted for the second straight game: In the final eight quarters of the 2020 season, the Hurricanes have allowed 1,196 yards and 99 points. Even worse: The Eriq King quarterback suffered an ACL tear in the first half, just three days after announcing his return for next season. He hopes to be ready for the 2021 kickoff on the 4th. September against Alabama in Atlanta to get ready.
Miami’s defense has improved significantly so far and it won’t be easy with the two top baseball players, Phillips and Roche, heading to the NFL. Hurricanes added Johnson, a transfer from Tennessee, to replace them. A major upgrade is needed at the linebacker level, and the secondary needs to be more consistent. If King isn’t usable next season, the Hurricanes probably won’t be in the top 25.
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