Replacing the Stars, Part II: How programs will try to fill big holes
Every year college football programs have to replace stars who head off to the NFL Draft and of course this year is no exception. Here is part two of Replacing The Stars starting with the best tight end we have seen in years.
RELATED: How programs will try to fill big holes
CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State
CLASS OF 2022 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State
COVERAGE: Rivals Transfer Tracker | Rivals Camp Series
FLORIDA: KYLE PITTS - Kemore Gamble and Keon Zipperer
The skinny: Pitts’ All-American season, with 43 receptions for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns, will be impossible to replace, but the Gators came close to doing it after almost grabbing Arik Gilbert from the transfer portal. However, that fell apart and now Florida is back at square one. There are two veterans available who will likely both see time. Zipperer and Gamble combined for 21 receptions, 305 yards and five touchdowns in 2020 so the potential is there for production. They will also need to adjust to a new quarterback, as Emory Jones will taking control of the offense this fall.
ALABAMA: MAC JONES - Bryce Young
The skinny: Jones was only the starter at Alabama for one season, but it was a memorable one. Leading the team to another national title, he passed for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Young was the only other quarterback who saw action last season, albeit limited. Now the job will be his — or so we assume. The former five-star has the potential to be a star, but now it will be up to him to make an immediate impact.
TEXAS: JOSEPH OSSAI - DeMarvion Overshown
The skinny: Over his last two seasons at Texas, Ossai was machine, totaling 145 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss, 10.5 tackles for a loss and four forced fumbles. While he may not be an exact positional replacement, look for Overshown to step up and become a defensive leader. Moved from safety to linebacker before the 2020 season, he had 60 tackles, eight tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles. It will be interesting to see how his role develops with the new coaching staff, but look for him to be put into more positions to be a top-level playmaker this fall. From a pass rushing perspective Collins could step up huge.
NOTRE DAME: IAN BOOK - Jack Coan
The skinny: Book’s long and successful Notre Dame career came to an end, after passing for 8,948 yards and 72 touchdowns with the Irish. To try and ease the loss, Notre Dame was able to scoop Coan from the transfer portal. Coan missed the 2020 season with an injury but experienced plenty of success in 2019 at Wisconsin with 2,727 yards, 18 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He is expected to take over the Irish offense without there being too much of a drop off from Book’s production levels.
BYU: ZACH WILSON - Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney, Jacob Conover and Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters
The skinny: This may be one of the more impossible replacements in the country. Wilson became a national talking point in 2020 with 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns and only three interceptions. There will be a four-way battle for the starting job this spring and summer, with Hall being the current favorite. Romney, Conover and Maiava-Peters will also be given equal opportunities, but Hall possesses the skillset that should put him over the top. Having passed for 420 yards and one touchdown in 2019, look for him to take a big step forward in 2021.
ALABAMA: ALEX LEATHERWOOD - Evan Neal, Tommy Brockermeyer and J.C. Latham
The skinny: Alabama has had a revolving door at left tackle in recent years. While this would be an issue for most programs, each replacement has been extremely successful. So now they hope that the next in line after Leatherwood will continue this trend. There are a few options here, but sliding Evan Neal over from the right side to the left likely makes the most sense. He has plenty of experience and has the size and athleticism to excel. There are also two incoming freshmen, Brockermeyer and Latham, who will have a chance to prove themselves early.
TENNESSEE: TREY SMITH - Cooper Mays and Jerome Carvin
The skinny: Tennessee didn’t have too many highlights in recent seasons, but the play of Smith was definitely one. While his loss will be missed, the Vols do have several options to replace him. The combo of Mays and Carvin have already shown that they have the potential to be successful SEC guards so look for one of the two to grab the starting spot during the spring and summer. Another name to watch is Javontez Spraggins, who flashed his potential in 2020.
NOTRE DAME: JEREMIAH OWUSU-KORAMOAH - Drew White and Prince Kollie
The skinny: Owusu-Kormoah was extremely productive during his two seasons in South Bend, totaling 142 tackles, 24.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks and five forced fumbles. Both his production and leadership will be greatly missed. White will be expected to make a bigger impact after his successful 2020 season with 56 tackles, nine tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Kollie is likely the answer for the future though, but since he doesn’t arrive on campus until the summer look for him to be eased into his role this fall.
GEORGIA: AZEEZ OJULARI - Nolan Smith and Adam Anderson
The skinny: The 2020 season saw Ojulari breakout, as he finished with 31 tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. The good news for the Bulldogs is that with their recent recruiting success, the cupboard is far from bare. Anderson is expected to take his game to the next level this fall, however he is more dynamic in passing situations. The best bet to make the biggest overall impact while replacing Ojulari is Smith. He saw time as the backup the last two seasons and now looks ready to take the next step.
CLEMSON: TRAVIS ETIENNE - Lyn-J Dixon, Will Shipley
The skinny: Etienne surprised many by returning for his senior season, which further entrenched him as one of the top running backs in Clemson history. Finishing with 4,952 rushing yards, 1,155 receiving yards and 78 career touchdowns, it will likely be a group effort to replace his production this fall. Dixon has patiently waited his turn to become the main man, although he has already rushed for an impressive 1,372 yards and 13 touchdowns during his career as a backup. Also keep an eye on Shipley, a true freshman whose athleticism will likely make him impossible to keep off the field.