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Early look at '07

With an experienced defense and QB, USC leads pack

Posted: Tuesday January 16, 2007 12:20PM; Updated: Wednesday January 17, 2007 12:54AM
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NCAA Football Power Rankings
Rank LW School
1 4
USC Trojans (11-2 in 2006)
Who's back: QB John David Booty, T Sam Baker, DE Lawrence Jackson, LBs Keith Rivers and Brian Cushing.
Who's not: WRs Dwayne Jarrett* and Steve Smith, C Ryan Kalil.
Skinny: All but one starter return from an already dominant defense, and Booty will have a new set of stud receivers, Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton, at his disposal.
* -- underclassman who declared for the draft
2 3
LSU Tigers (11-2)
Who's back: RB Keiland Williams, WR Early Doucet, DE Tyson Jackson, DT Glenn Dorsey, LB Ali Highsmith.
Who's not: QB JaMarcus Russell*, WR Dwayne Bowe, S LaRon Landry, S Jessie Daniels.
Skinny: New QB Matt Flynn will benefit from a veteran offensive line. All-American Dorsey's unexpected return ensures the Tigers yet another loaded defense.
3 1 Who's back: QB Tim Tebow, WRs Andre Caldwell and Percy Harvin, DE Derrick Harvey, S Tony Joiner.
Who's not: QB Chris Leak, WR Dallas Baker, DE Jarvis Moss*, LB Brandon Siler*, S Reggie Nelson*, CB Ryan Smith*.
Skinny: Urban Meyer's offense will be even more dynamic with Tebow as the starter, but nine of the 11 defensive starters from the BCS championship game have departed.
4 6 Who's back: QB Brian Brohm, WRs Harry Douglas and Mario Urrutia, C Eric Wood, LB Malik Jackson.
Who's not: RB Michael Bush*, DT Amobi Okoye, LB Nate Harris, CB William Gay.
Skinny: Projected first-rounder Brohm's decision to come back is a huge boost for first-year coach Steve Kragthorpe. A healthy Brohm is capable of throwing for 4,000 yards.
5 8 Who's back: QB Pat White, RB Steve Slaton, RB Owen Schmitt, WR Darius Reynard, S Eric Wicks.
Who's not: C Dan Mozes.
Skinny: It's hard to believe White and Slaton each have two years of eligibility left. White could become the nation's most dangerous weapon, and the Mountaineers' defense will be more experienced.
6 9 Who's back: QB Chad Henne, RB Mike Hart, WR Mario Manningham, T Jake Long, LB Shawn Crable.
Who's not: WR Steve Breaston, DE LaMarr Woodley, DT Alan Branch*, LB David Harris, CB Leon Hall.
Skinny: There's no questioning the Wolverines' offense. The last two games of '06, however, raised doubts about a defense that must now replace its four biggest stars.
7 7 Who's back: RB P.J. Hill, TE Travis Beckum, DE Matt Shaughnessy, LB Jonathan Casillas, CB Jack Ikegwuonu.
Who's not: QB John Stocco, T Joe Thomas, LB Mark Zalewski.
Skinny: Nearly every key starter returns for the nation's fifth-ranked defense. Senior Tyler Donovan will be a capable replacement for the underrated Stocco.
8 14 Who's back: QB Colt McCoy, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Limas Sweed, DT Frank Okam, LB Rashad Bobino.
Who's not: T Justin Blalock, DE Tim Crowder, CB Aaron Ross, S Michael Griffin.
Skinny: The sky's the limit for McCoy, Charles and the rest of the 'Horns offense, though the line loses several veterans. Improving the pass defense will be a priority.
9 2 Who's back: RB Chris Wells, T Alex Boone, DE Vernon Gholston, LB James Laurinaitis, CB Malcolm Jenkins.
Who's not: QB Troy Smith, RB Antonio Pittman*, WRs Ted Ginn Jr.* and Anthony Gonzalez*, DT Quinn Pitcock.
Skinny: With Smith's departure, this team could look more like the 2002 Buckeyes, with Jim Tressel leaning on new feature back Wells and a veteran defense.
10 21 Who's back: RB Branden Ore, DE Chris Ellis, LBs Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi, CB Brandon Flowers.
Who's not: DE Noland Burchette, S Aaron Rouse.
Skinny: Seventeen starters return for a team that should boast one of the nation's top defenses yet again but needs to get more production out of its quarterback.

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