The replacements (cont.)
Who's Gone: Daryll Clark, QB
Who's next: Penn State lost three starting linebackers, but the absence of veteran starter Clark will be even more glaring with the Nittany Lions fielding an inexperienced offensive line. Conventional wisdom says sophomore Kevin Newsome, who appeared in eight games in '09, should be the heir apparent, but a four-player battle is still ragging with kickoff rapidly approaching. In addition to Newsome, there's former walk-on Matt McGloin, the most conventional passer of the bunch; freshman Paul Jones, who made strides as an early enrollee; and fellow freshman Robert Bolden, who recently arrived on campus and is generating buzz.
With Joe Paterno likely making veteran running back Evan Royster the focus of a scaled-back offense, a game manager like McGloin could be the right fit, but Newsome's experience may win out.
Who's Gone: Toby Gerhart, RB
Who's next: It won't be easy to replace the production Stanford came to expect from Gerhart, who led the nation in yards and attempts last season while carrying the ball 343 times. No other Cardinal back had more than 56 carries.
There's not another 235-pound workhorse waiting in the wings. Instead, it appears Stanford will go the running back-by-committee route, with senior Jeremy Stewart (6-0, 218) and sophomores Tyler Gaffney (6-1, 216) and Stepfan Taylor, who had 303 yards on 56 carries as Gerhart's backup last season. But even with three backs, it may be difficult to replicate Gerhart's 1,871 yards and 28 TDs.
Who's Gone: Jerry Hughes, DE
Who's next: Despite losing a two-time All-America in Hughes, coach Gary Patterson feels this defensive line could be better as a whole than last year's unit. Experience won't be an issue, as the returnees have 51 career starts between them. But if Patterson believes this line can be as effective without Hughes, he's clearly banking on Wayne Daniels' star to keep rising.
In his first year as a starter, Daniels (6-2, 250) was second on the Frogs with 5 ½ sacks. He also had nine tackles for loss and earned second-team all-Mountain West Conference honors. There's no doubting his pass-rushing talent, but his ability to handle the pressure -- and double-teams -- that comes with being the star of the Frogs' line should determine how dominant this defense is in 2010.
Who's Gone: Colt McCoy, QB
Who's next: Thanks to being thrust into the BCS title game after McCoy's injury, Garrett Gilbert isn't an unknown commodity. Now it's time for the sophomore to begin carving his own legacy.
He has some tough acts to follow. McCoy ended his career as the NCAA's alltime winningest quarterback. His predecessor, Vince Young, brought Texas a championship. Coach Mack Brown isn't expecting Gilbert to live up to that lineage just yet. The Longhorns will scale back the offense to more heavily feature the running game and take pressure off the young passer. The new approach will also have Gilbert taking snaps under center, something he hasn't done since pee-wee football.
In order to keep teams from keying on the run, though, Gilbert and an inexperienced receiving corps will have to pose a threat. It's imperative Gilbert find a go-to pass-catcher like McCoy had with Jordan Shipley. Two names to watch: wide receiver Malcolm Williams, and, considering the emphasis on the run, tight end Barrett Matthews.
Who's Gone: Jason Worilds, DE
Who's next: Worilds' early departure left the Hokies in a bind on the defensive front, with only one returning starter, tackle John Graves. For Virginia Tech to produce a top 10 scoring defense for the seventh straight year, Steven Friday will have to help the revamped line produce.
The fifth-year senior came to Tech as a four-star recruit, but has been biding his time while Chris Ellis and Worilds starred, totaling just 19 tackles and 3 ½ sacks while appearing in 24 games. Friday is big (6-4, 235) and strong (he's bench-pressed 440 pounds) and will surely draw plenty of attention from the opposition, but the Hokies need him to step up and lead a line missing a true force.