Big shoes to fill (cont.)
Who's gone: S Patrick Chung
Who's next: Talmadge Jackson, Marvin Johnson
Yes, Oregon ranked last in pass defense in 2008, but Chung will still be missed. The rover was a leader and the heart and soul of the Ducks' D. With Chung, corner Jairus Byrd and three defensive lineman gone, the Ducks adjusted their defensive philosophy this offseason, placing more of an emphasis on speed on the outside. To be sure, this exciting young D isn't short on speed or talent. Lockdown corner Walter Thurmond III returns, and juniors Jackson and Johnson possess the athleticism to slide into the rover spot. The question, really, is whether either possesses the intangibles to minimize the impact of losing Chung.
Who's gone: Offensive linemen A.Q. Shipley, Rich Ohrnberger, Gerald Cadogan
Who's next: C Stefen Wisniewski
The Nittany Lions should thank their lucky stars QB Daryll Clark and RB Evan Royster are so dependable, because it's hard to recover from losing three first-team All-Big Ten starters on the o-line. Wisniewski, a junior who is moving from right guard to center, will have to emerge as the line's new anchor. With the veteran Wisniewski calling the shots, sophomore DeOn'tae Pannell, junior Lou Eliades and redshirt freshman Matt Stankiewitch (favored to land the left tackle, right guard and left guard spots, respectively) will have a little more room for error as they ease into their new roles. If, however, Wisniewski fails to adjust to his new role as leader of the line, Penn State's offense will suffer, because solid pass protection will be crucial for Clark as he works to familiarize himself with his new receiving targets.
Who's gone: DE Brian Orakpo
Who's next: Sam Acho
The Longhorns lost three of four starters from their defensive line, including Orakpo who had 11.5 sacks. Longhorns DE Sergio Kindle briefly made Texas fans forget about Orakpo this offseason when he caused a stir by crashing his car into an apartment complex while text messaging. Kindle can't do it all alone, though. Unless Acho proves a capable pass rusher (he notched three sacks as a sophomore last season), teams will be able to shift their focus to preseason All-America Kindle, and in so doing greatly minimize the effectiveness of Texas' already diminished line.
Who's gone: QB Brian Johnson
Who's next: Corbin Louks, Terrance Cain, or Jordan Wynn
Sorting out the QB race is the top priority for the Utes, who will seek to defend their Mountain West title without three-year starter and Sugar Bowl MVP Johnson. When spring ball began, junior Louks and juco transfer Cain were battling for the job. Then Wynn showed up. The early enrollee quickly inserted himself into the equation, and as summer workouts began coach Kyle Whittingham described the race as a dead heat. New offensive coordinator Dave Schramm's arrival may have leveled the playing field for Wynn by forcing Louks and Cain to start at square one with a new spread system. Louks, however, doesn't see it that way. Asked as fall camp began if the QB job belonged to him, he said: "Absolutely it's my position. I've been working my butt off."
Who's gone: QB Pat White
Who's next: Jarrett Brown
White may have been the best player in West Virginia history. He was almost certainly the most popular. White won four bowl games, earned All-Big East honors three times and thrilled crowds countless times with his agility and electric speed. He also got hurt a fair share, and when that happened Brown stepped in. Good thing. If Brown, a senior, hadn't had that time, stepping in for White could seem more daunting. Brown can't move like White, but he displayed fair mobility and poise. He showed in a triple-overtime win over Rutgers he can perform under pressure. And of course, this year Brown will have one thing he never had before -- the knowledge that, after four long years of waiting, this is finally his team.
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