College football teams are making their way through their spring games, and coaches have gotten a glimpse at new additions, younger players starting to make strides and upperclassmen ready to take on bigger roles.
Holes have been left by stars and contributors who have moved on after last season, leaving spots on depth charts that need to be filled. Some teams, including Alabama, USC and LSU, have used the transfer portal to fill those holes.
Others have depth players already on the roster or incoming freshmen who are looking to make an impact.
Here is a look at some of the more important losses for each team in the Way-Too-Early Top 25, and how those holes are being filled this season.
Who will replace them? Not all of the key losses will be replaced, but Alabama has reserves waiting from past recruiting classes and also is bringing in top transfers.
At running back, Jahmyr Gibbs transferred in from Georgia Tech and will help share the load with Trey Sanders and Roydell Williams. At receiver, Georgia’s Jermaine Burton transferred in to help replace some of the production lost. The staff also has tight end Cameron Latu returning and is hoping to get more out of JoJo Earle and Ja’Corey Brooks.
Alabama signed five-star receiver Shazz Preston, the No. 16 prospect overall, in this most recent recruiting class. Preston has an opportunity to come in and compete right away, especially with Alabama losing Agiye Hall to transfer.
Who will replace them? Olave and Wilson are moving on to the NFL after being highly productive and reliable players for Ohio State’s offense.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba came on last season and should be able to pick up where he left off. He finished the year by catching passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns in the 48-45 Rose Bowl win over Utah. Smith-Njigba will be joined by former five-star recruit Marvin Harrison Jr., who also had three touchdown receptions in that game and flashed his capabilities.
The staff has done an excellent job of recruiting wide receivers over the past few classes, with five-star Julian Fleming, who was in the same class as Smith-Njigba, and Emeka Egbuka, who was the No. 2 receiver in the 2021 class with Harrison. The coaches also added ESPN 300 receivers Caleb Burton, Kyion Grayes and Kojo Antwi. Another name to watch at receiver for Ohio State is Jayden Ballard, who was the No. 50 recruit in the 2021 class.
Who will replace them? On the defensive line, tackle Jalen Carter is returning, which provides some experience. The unit is going to need help from Zion Logue, Warren Brinson and Nazir Stackhouse, among others. The staff also signed ESPN 300 defensive linemen Mykel Williams and Bear Alexander in the 2022 class, with Williams ranked No. 24 overall and Alexander at 56 in the rankings.
Redshirt freshman Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins played well in Georgia’s spring game, and while he didn’t contribute his first season, he could be someone who jumps on the radar this season.
At linebacker, Nolan Smith and Robert Beal Jr. both return and bring some experience. The staff has recruited the linebacker position really well and has quite a few options. Trezmen Marshall and Jamon Dumas-Johnson will likely have a bigger role as well. Georgia had four ESPN 300 linebackers in the 2021 class, including Xavian Sorey Jr., Smael Mondon Jr. and Chaz Chambliss.
Who will replace them? Utah is losing its two leading tacklers from this past season. Lloyd had 110 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, eight sacks and four interceptions. Sewell had 89 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and one interception.
That is a lot to replace in one offseason, but the staff brought in Florida linebacker transfer Mohamoud Diabate to help fill that void. Diabate was second in total tackles last season for Florida with 89, and he also had 2.5 tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries.
Karene Reid is returning this season and had 45 total tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and one interception last season.
The coaching staff also has recruited the position really well in the 2022 class, landing ESPN 300 linebacker Lander Barton, four-star Justin Medlock and three-star Carson Tabaracci. Those three could have an opportunity for playing time given what needs to be replaced.
Who will replace them? The defensive line is an area with a lot of losses, as five of the team’s six leading sackers are gone, including Leal and Johnson, who led the team with 8.5 sacks each.
Younger players will need to step up, including defensive end Fadil Diggs, who had nine total tackles and one sack this past season, as well as Shemar Turner, a former five-star recruit in the 2021 class. Jahzion Harris was in that 2021 class with Turner and could also provide a pass rush for the Aggies.
Jimbo Fisher and his staff also just signed a class that includes seven ESPN 300 defensive linemen, including the Nos. 1 and 2 defensive tackles in Walter Nolen and Gabe Brownlow-Dindy and the Nos. 1 and 2 defensive ends in Lebbeus Overton and Shemar Stewart. Those four recruits, all ranked in the top 10 overall, are joined by Enai White (No. 40 overall), Malick Sylla (No. 82) and Anthony Lucas (No. 117).
Who will replace them? Losing Hamilton at safety was a big blow given how versatile and important he was to the defensive unit. Coach Marcus Freeman was able to get All-American Northwestern safety Brandon Joseph to transfer in for this season to help replace Hamilton’s production.
Another question for the Irish is at quarterback, with Coan moving on. Coan threw for 3,150 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season. The coaches have recruited the position well behind him and have a few options going into this season. Tyler Buchner was the No. 41 prospect overall in the 2021 class; Drew Pyne was ranked No. 221 in the 2020 class; Steven Angeli was the No. 179 recruit in the 2022 class.
Buchner attempted 35 passes last season, throwing for 298 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions, while Pyne threw 30 times for 224 yards and two touchdowns. That battle hasn’t played out yet, but Freeman and his staff have some options at the position.
Who will replace them? NC State has a lot of depth returning across the entire team, but running back is one area where the team is losing a lot of production. The tandem combined for 1,389 of the team’s 1,514 rushing yards, with Knight leading the Wolfpack with 753 yards and Person leading the team with five rushing touchdowns.
Running back Jordan Houston had only 83 yards on 20 carries last season, but he’ll likely be the guy the Wolfpack look to in the ground game. Houston had a good showing in the spring game and is versatile, so he can help in both the run and pass game.
Notable loss: Kenneth Walker III
Who will replace him? Michigan State is replacing quite a bit of its offensive line from last season, so that group could be included here as well. But Walker was a Heisman candidate and a valuable piece of the Spartans’ offense with 1,636 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.
The staff utilized the transfer portal to fill needs in the past, including with bringing Walker to Michigan State from Wake Forest, and did it again this season. Wisconsin running back Jalen Berger transferred to play for the Spartans, as did Colorado running back Jarek Broussard. The staff also has redshirt freshman Davion Primm, as well as Harold Joiner, Simmons and Elijah Collins to shore up the run game.
Who will replace them? Michigan is going to have a tough time replacing all the talent it’s losing on defense, especially up front. The coaches are going to need to get production out of defensive tackle Kris Jenkins and TJ Guy, as well as defensive end Taylor Upshaw, to pick up the slack.
Lineman George Rooks, the No. 205 prospect in the 2021 class, is a younger player who could see his role increase this season. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has also mentioned defensive end Derrick Moore.
At linebacker, Junior Colson was fourth on the team in total tackles as a true freshman and is taking on a bigger leadership role this season. To help with some of the losses in the secondary, Michigan coaches moved wide receiver Mike Sainristil to corner to pair with Gemon Green. The staff also added corner William Johnson, the No. 23 prospect in the 2022 class, who should be able to provide some help.
Who will replace them? Harvell-Peel led the team with three interceptions and Bernard-Converse led the team in pass breakups, but in addition to the personnel losses, defensive coordinator Jim Knowles left for the same job at Ohio State, and McCalister followed him to Columbus.
Oklahoma State has safety Jason Taylor, who had 48 total tackles, two interceptions and four pass breakups last season, returning. Jabbar Muhammad, Thomas Harper and Korie Black all have game experience as well and are going to have to take on bigger roles. Muhammad had 23 total tackles and three pass breakups in 2021.
The Cowboys’ biggest loss is Rodriguez, who led the team in tackles (123), tied for the most tackles for loss (14) and had two sacks, one interception and 10 quarterback hurries. It will be difficult to replace that production, especially given Kamryn Farrar had 13 total tackles last season and Mason Cobb had 10. So the staff will need other positions to pick up the slack.
One player that could make a big impact is defensive end Collin Oliver. He had 29 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks last season as a true freshman. If he can make a jump and build upon his success, that will help fill some holes left by the stars on their way out.
11. Clemson Tigers: Secondary and linebacker
Who will replace them? Clemson isn’t losing a ton of starters across the board, which bodes well for the 2022 season, but the defensive losses are significant. Skalski has been a leader on defense and recorded a team-high 100 total tackles a season ago. Spector was second on the team with 85 tackles, and the two combined for five sacks as well.
Clemson is returning linebacker Trenton Simpson, who was third on the team in tackles with 78. LaVonta Bentley has some experience at linebacker and is battling with Keith Maguire for a starting spot. Bentley was an ESPN 300 recruit, while Maguire was a three-star in the 2019 class. As the Tigers reload at linebacker, Barrett Carter, the 105th-ranked recruit in the 2021 class, is another name to watch.
At cornerback, Sheridan Jones, who has plenty of game experience and had an interception last season, returns. The coaches also have Fred Davis, who was the No. 65 prospect in the 2020 class, and Nate Wiggins, who was ranked No. 222 overall in 2021. Corner Toriano Pride could be a younger player who steps up, as the No. 150-ranked recruit in the 2022 class has already turned heads in spring practice and had a good outing in the spring game.
12. USC Trojans: Offensive playmakers
Who will replace them? USC has a lot of holes throughout the roster, but coach Lincoln Riley’s offensive background cannot be understated.
Slovis and Dart transferred to Pitt and Ole Miss, respectively, leaving a big hole under center with just former ESPN 300 quarterback Miller Moss on the roster. That was until Riley filled that with Caleb Williams, who starred for Riley as a true freshman at Oklahoma last season.
The staff loses its two leading rushers from last season in Ingram and Malepeai but is adding Travis Dye, who had 1,271 yards and 16 touchdowns for Oregon last season, and Stanford running back Austin Jones, who ran for 378 yards and two touchdowns. Williams also had 568 rush yards and six rushing touchdowns at quarterback last season, so he should be factored in to the run game as well.
London, the team’s leading receiver with 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns, is off to the NFL. Gary Bryant Jr., who also had seven touchdowns, returns, but the staff has brought in quite a few transfers to help out at the position. Dye had over 400 receiving yards, but Riley also added Mario Williams from Oklahoma, who had four receiving touchdowns as a freshman, Terrell Bynum, who had four touchdowns last season for Washington and Brenden Rice from Colorado, who had three receiving touchdowns.
Though USC’s recruiting class last cycle was small in numbers, Riley added ESPN 300 running back Raleek Brown, who was the No. 64 prospect overall, and ESPN 300 wide receiver C.J. Williams, the No. 138 prospect.
13. Houston Cougars: Offensive line and wide receiver
Who will replace them? The Cougars have quite a few players returning this season, though receiver is one area in which the staff must replace some production.
Singleton and Herslow were the second- and third- leading receivers, each with five touchdowns. The staff returns leading receiver Nathaniel Dell, who had 12 touchdowns last season. They added Joseph Manjack IV from USC and Sam Brown from West Virginia to help with some of that depth. The coaches were also able to sign ESPN 300 wide receiver Matthew Golden and three-star C.J. Nelson, while also signing junior college tight end Logan Compton and receiver Willie McCoy.
On the offensive line, the staff added Middle Tennessee State offensive lineman Lance Robinson, as well as former Texas offensive lineman Tyler Johnson, who is a former top-50 prospect from the 2019 class.
14. Oklahoma Sooners: Quarterback and wide receiver
Who will replace them? Caleb and Mario Williams both followed Lincoln Riley to USC, leaving a gap after Rattler transferred to South Carolina. New coach Brent Venables brought in UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who should be plugged in right away. The coaches also signed ESPN 300 quarterback Nick Evers in the 2022 class, so there should be some competition and depth considering what the staff inherited.
At receiver, Theo Wease had initially put his name into the transfer portal, but ultimately decided to stay at Oklahoma. That was a win for Venables and his staff to have some experience back at the position. Marvin Mims is still on the roster, as is running back Eric Gray, who has been part of the passing game.
Notable loss: Kenny Pickett
Who will replace him? Pickett was a Heisman finalist this past season, throwing for 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He is a potential first-round draft pick in the upcoming NFL draft and a big loss for the offense.
The staff went out and got USC quarterback transfer Kedon Slovis to help fill that spot. Slovis threw for 2,153 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season in nine games. Slovis had 1,921 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions in six games during the 2020 season, as well.
16. Oregon Ducks: Offensive playmakers
Who will replace them? At quarterback, new head coach Dan Lanning is reuniting offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham and Bo Nix, who worked together at Auburn during Nix’s freshman season, when he had one of his best seasons — 2,542 yards, 16 touchdowns, six interceptions.
Brown and Dye were the team’s two leading rushers this past season, so losing both of them is significant. The coaches will have CJ Verdell and Byron Cardwell back, who combined for over 800 yards and nine touchdowns in 2021.
At receiver, the coaches added UCLA receiver Chase Cota, who had 286 receiving yards and one touchdown last season. They also have Kris Hutson, who had over 400 receiving yards, returning as well as Troy Franklin, who could be someone that increases his production. The previous staff recruited the position well with Franklin, Isaiah Brevard, Dont’e Thornton and Seven McGee, all ESPN 300 prospects in the 2021 class.
Who will replace them? Wake Forest was able to get Richmond defensive tackle transfer Kobie Turner, who was an All-Colonial Athletic Association first-team selection. The defense is also returning Rondell Bothroyd, who was fourth on the team in total tackles with 63. Eli Hall was a three-star defensive end addition to the 2022 class and could provide some early help as well.
In the secondary, Wake Forest is adding Vanderbilt safety transfer Brendon Harris, who had 34 tackles and two pass breakups last season. The coaches have some depth on the roster at secondary and will return sophomore safety Nick Anderson, who had 44 tackles, one interception and three pass breakups as a freshman.
18. Baylor Bears: Running back and secondary
Who will replace them? The coaching staff didn’t bring any transfers in at running back to help replace the two leading rushers in Smith and Ebner. Quarterback Gerry Bohanon contributed to the ground game last season with nine rushing touchdowns. He will be back, which will help, but the staff needs running backs to step up.
They don’t have a ton of experience in the backfield as it stands. After Bohanon, Taye McWilliams was the next leading rusher returning, but he had only 181 rush yards and two touchdowns last season. The coaches also brought in three-star running back Richard Reese in the 2022 class.
In the secondary, Pitre is a big name to replace, as he had 18 tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions and seven pass breakups. Lorando Johnson played in eight games this past season and has a chance to help fill Pitre’s shoes this upcoming season. Christian Morgan and Al Walcott both have playing experience, as well, and should factor in to the defense.
Notable loss: Tyler Allgeier
Who will replace him? BYU doesn’t have a lot of holes or a lot of contributors leaving from last season. Running back is one area where the team is losing a starter, as Allgeier was the leading rusher with 1,606 yards and 23 touchdowns.
The next-closest running back on the team was Lopini Katoa, who had 242 yards and two touchdowns. The staff brought in Cal running back transfer Christopher Brooks to try to bring more depth to the position. Brooks had 607 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Who will replace them? On the defensive line, the Arkansas coaches signed LSU defensive end transfer Landon Jackson, who was the No. 78 prospect in the 2021 class. Georgia Tech transfer Jordan Domineck will also help Jackson in the pass rush.
In the secondary, the staff landed LSU corner transfer Dwight McGlothern and Georgia safety Latavious Brini. Replacing three starters in the secondary will be difficult, but there are quite a few returning players with experience, including Simeon Blair, who recorded 38 tackles in 2021, Myles Slusher, who had two interceptions last season, Jalen Catalon, who also had two interceptions and Keuan Parker, who was a redshirt freshman last season.
Who will replace them? Lane Kiffin utilized the transfer portal and signed quite a few highly sought-after transfers. At quarterback, Kiffin got USC transfer Jaxson Dart, who had 1,353 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions in six games as a freshman last season.
Kiffin was also tasked with replacing the top four rushers on the team with Ealy, Conner, Corral and Henry Parrish Jr., so he got former five-star back Zach Evans from TCU. Evans had 648 rush yards and five touchdowns last season for the Horned Frogs.
To help in the passing game, Kiffin added Louisville wide receiver Jordan Watkins, who had 529 yards and four touchdowns this past season. USC tight end transfer Michael Trigg will also be able to provide help in the pass game, and the staff returns Jonathan Mingo, who had 346 yards and three touchdowns last season.
22. Kentucky Wildcats: Wide receiver and offensive line
Who will replace them? Robinson was a big part of Kentucky’s offense with 1,334 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season. To help replace some of that production, the coaches added Virginia Tech wide receiver Tayvion Robinson and Alabama’s Javon Baker. Tayvion Robinson had 559 yards and five touchdowns last season, while Baker had 101 yards and one touchdown.
Chris Lewis is a redshirt freshman that could see his role increase this season, and at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, he is a big target. Izayah Cummings is also returning and had 195 yards and three touchdowns last season. In addition to those returning players, the staff added ESPN 300 receivers Barion Brown and Dane Key.
23. Cincinnati Bearcats: Quarterback, running back and secondary
Who will replace them? The staff has to try to replace multiple potential first-round picks, which will be difficult to do. At quarterback, transfer Ben Bryant threw for 3,121 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season for Eastern Michigan.
At running back, losing Ford, who had 1,319 yards and 19 touchdowns last season creates a big hole at the position. The staff got a commitment from LSU running back Corey Kiner, who had 324 yards and two touchdowns last season. Ryan Montgomery is a senior and had three touchdowns along with 312 yards last season.
In the secondary, Arquon Bush had 39 total tackles, two tackles for loss, three interceptions and six pass breakups last season. Bush will likely have a bigger role with the departures of Gardner and Bryant. The coaches signed three-star corner J.Q. Hardaway, who will have a shot at playing time, and are returning Todd Bumphis and Taj Ward, among a few others with experience.
Who will replace them? Tennessee doesn’t have many major holes to fill outside of an offensive line spot, a few defensive linemen and wide receiver. Jones and Payton combined for over 1,200 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
The staff does return leading receiver Cedric Tillman, who had 12 touchdowns himself, but will need others to fill in around him. Some of the returning players that could make a bigger impact this season include Jalin Hyatt, who had 226 yards and two touchdowns last season, and Jimmy Calloway, who had 84 yards and one touchdown.
The coaches also signed quite a few receivers in the 2022 class who have an opportunity to play early, including three-stars Charles Nimrod and Marquarius White, as well as Cameron Miller and Kaleb Webb.
25. Iowa Hawkeyes? Defensive end, center and safety
Who will replace them: VanValkenburg had 58 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks last season for the Hawkeyes. His leadership was something that won’t show up on the stat sheet that Iowa is going to have to replace, but it looks as though Lukas Van Ness is someone who can come in and help fill the production loss. Van Ness had 33 total tackles last season, but had 8.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He has experience, and the coaches have already noted his performance in the spring.
At center, Linderbaum is a potential first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft and was Iowa’s best lineman. Matt Fagan is a junior who will get the chance to compete for that spot, as will sophomore Tyler Elsbury. Neither played a significant number of snaps last season, but the experience around them along the line should make the transition easier.
At safety, Belton led the team with seven interceptions last season, and Koerner had two, along with 88 total tackles. The coaches signed ESPN 300 safety Xavier Nwankpa, one of the top safeties in the 2022 class who should have every opportunity to play early and fill a spot on the defense. T.J. Hall also signed in the 2022 class and has been mentioned by the coaches as someone who could see the field early. Outside of incoming freshmen, Cooper DeJean is also in the mix to help in some capacity within the secondary.
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