Way Too Early Preview: #4 Ohio State

We are back again with another Way Too Early Preview, and this time we are looking at the team who many of you know as my favorite college football team. Yes, THE Ohio State Buckeyes (I realize some you will stop reading there. No, I do not care.). Ohio State made it to the College Football National Championship after beating Clemson in the Sugar Bowl and winning the Big Ten. Ryan Day heads into year three and will be looking for a new quarterback as well as needing to replace a couple key players. Let’s dive into it.

Quarterback: This will be the most talked about position this off season for Ohio State because of the departure of Justin Fields. Fields was a Heisman finalist and the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year during his tenure as a Buckeye. Behind him there will be a three way battle between C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller and Kyle McCord. Stroud and Miller both saw snaps in mop up duty in 2020 but neither threw a pass. McCord will step on campus this winter and enter the competition. Currently, the odds on favorite is Stroud who was a five star QB in the 2020 class. McCord was also a five star in the 2021 class so do not count out the freshman. No matter who wins, they have talent at the position, just a massive lack of experience.

Running Back: Trey Sermon transferred into Ohio State and then entered the record books breaking Eddie George’s single game rushing record in the Big Ten Title game. With him leaving for the NFL, there are a few candidates to replace him. Master Teague had moments where he looked the part, and then times where he struggled to help move the chains. He averaged less than 5 yards per carry while others competing with him average well over that mark. Next in line could be Miyan Williams. He showed big play ability in the Big Ten Title game and the Sugar Bowl. Marcus Crowley and Steele Chambers will also be involved in the competition. Lastly is true freshman TreVeyon Henderson. He is the highest rated running back since Beanie Wells and should push for snaps early in his career.

Wide Receiver: Ryan Day was the recipient of great news when he found out Chris Olave was going to return for his senior year. Olave was expected to be a late first round or early second pick and chose to return to school. He played in just seven games and had over 700 yards receiving. Opposite of Olave is Garrett Wilson who may be more talented than Olave. The duo could very well be the best combination of wide receivers in college football next year. Ohio State has depth at receiver as well. Jameson Williams, Julian Fleming, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba all saw considerable playing time this fall and should improve before the 2021 season. Ohio State also adds the number one wide receiver in the 2021 class in Emeka Egbuka. Brian Hartline is arguably the best wide receiver coach in America.

Tight End: Ohio State loses their starting tight end in Luke Farrell but lucky for them, Jeremy Ruckert returns and he is more of threat in the passing game. Farrell was a very good blocker and was an asset in the run game. Ohio State tends to rotate tight ends so Cade Stover and Joe Royer are expected to step into roles where they will be the second tight end on the field. Tight ends tend to be a safety net for young quarterbacks, so I expect Ruckert to see an uptick in his targets in 2021.

Offensive Line: The Buckeyes will be looking to replace two offensive linemen. Both Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers declared for the NFL Draft. Offensive tackles, Nicholas Petit-Frere and Thayer Munford, are returning for one more season after strong seasons allowing almost no pressure. Harry Miller is expected to move from guard to center to replace Myers. At guard, former five star Paris Johnson will compete for one of the positions. Enokk Vimahi, Matt Jones, and Dawand Jones are also expected to compete for the starting positions. Matt Jones started for Harry Miller in a few games including the Sugar Bowl and National Championship.

Defensive Line: The heart of the defense was defensive end Jonathon Cooper. He has moved onto the NFL as has DT Tommy Togiai. The Buckeyes did get good news with DE Tyreke Smith and DT Haskell Garrett declaring their intentions to return. At end, Zach Harrison, Tyler Friday, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, and Smith will rotate. Incoming freshman and five star defensive end Jack Sawyer should also contend for playing time. Along with Garrett, Jerron Cage, Taron Vincent and Antwaun Jackson will control the interior of the defensive line.

Linebackers: Ohio State used numerous linebackers last season but the core four consisted of Justin Hilliard, Tuf Borland, Pete Werner, and Baron Browning. All of them are off to the NFL Draft so Ryan Day will be looking for new linebackers this year. Teradja Mitchell, Dallas Gant, and K’Vaughn Pope appear to be the first in line to get a shot at starting. Following them will be Cody Simon, Craig Young, and Tommy Eichenberg. Linebacker coach, Al Washington, will have his work cut out for him this off season.

Defensive Backs: Shaun Wade declared for the NFL draft after many considered it to be an underwhelming season. The Buckeyes return the rest of their defensive backs. Sevyn Banks started for a majority of the season after Cam Brown went down with an ACL injury. Both should be in line to start at outside corners. Marcus Williamson was the slot corner and should hold down that spot next year. Ryan Watts, Tyreke Johnson, Lathan Ransom, and Lejond Cavazos are a few names to watch out for at corner. At safety, the Buckeyes switched between Marcus Hooker and Josh Proctor. Proctor ended the season starting and should start again next fall. Hooker will rotate in when two safeties are needed as well as Ronnie Hickman and Ransom. Freshman Kourt Williams could work his way into the rotation as well after tearing his ACL prior to the year.

Special Teams: Ohio State will be replacing both their punter and kicker. Blake Haubeil started at kicker but missed a few games this season and Jake Seibert filled in nicely for him. Seibert made all of his extra points and went 1 for 2 on field goals. At punter, replacing Drue Chrisman will be a tall task. Walk-on Zach Hoover filled in during the Big Ten title game and was named special teams player of the game. Day also brought in an Australian named Jesse Mirco who will compete for the position.

Analysis: Ohio State has needs they have to fill this spring in quarterback, running back, offensive line and linebacker. Finding a quarterback could be the hardest part because Day needs to make the right choice. I would not expect him to name a starter until near the first game this fall. The starter will not need to play lights out for them to win the Big Ten, but they have to be above average. Having weapons such as Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson will make the quarterback’s job that much easier. With a full spring, I expect Day to have his team ready to play this fall. I have the Buckeyes going 11-1 and making the Big Ten title game this season. I cannot point out the exact loss, but I think having a young quarterback could cause a potential upset during the year.

Way Too Early Preview: #3 Oklahoma

For the first time in four years, Oklahoma did not make the college football playoffs. They ended the season with a beat down of the Florida Gators and look to return to the playoffs with key pieces returning. Lincoln Riley has proven to be one of the best offensive minds in college football and he looks to surge back to the top. Will Oklahoma be able to return to the playoffs in the 2021?

Quarterback: There is no question who the signal caller of the Sooners is. Spencer Rattler struggled early in the year but as the season went on, he became much more comfortable and limited his mistakes. Rattler threw seven interceptions this season, but only two in the last seven games. Rattler threw for over 3,000 yards and should be an early favorite for the Heisman next year. If for some reason Rattler gets injured, or they are just up by so much they want to put the backup in, they bring in five star freshman Caleb Williams. Williams will be the next QB at Oklahoma after Rattler leaves for the NFL, potentially after the 2021 season.

Running Back: This time last year, Oklahoma looked like they had a quality duo of running backs in Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks. Then Brooks opted out and Sermon transferred to Ohio State. Reports are stating Brooks will be back for Oklahoma next year which is huge for the Sooners. In his career, he averages 7.5 yards per carry. He should become the lead running back. Following him should be Seth McGowan. McGowan saw considerable action this year and should provide some much needed depth and experience at the position.

Wide Receiver: Rattler will have plenty of weapons to throw to next season, even with the loss of Charleston Rambo. Marvin Mims was a standout freshman who lead the team in receiving yards and touchdowns. Sophomore Theo Wease tied him for the lead in receptions. After Wease and Mims, the Sooners should get a fully healthy Jadon Haselwood. Haselwood is a former five star wide receiver who was limited to just four catches this year because of injury. Oklahoma also saw Drake Stoops step up and earn considerable playing time. No matter who is on the field for the Sooners, they will have one of the top receiving rooms in the country.

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Tight End: It is always a good thing for an offense when they return most of their wide receivers, as well as their tight ends. This is the case for Oklahoma. Austin Stogner and Jeremiah Hall are both coming back to Oklahoma after solid seasons. The duo combined for over 40 catches and just over 600 yards. Stogner was the leader in both categories and should looked to be the starter again next season.

Offensive Line: The Sooners lost one starting offensive lineman to early entry to the NFL Draft, with that being RT Adrian Ealy. Luckily for Oklahoma, they were able to hit the transfer portal and find a quality starting tackle in Wayna Morris from Tennessee. He started 19 games and should be eligible immediately with two years of eligibility remaining. Oklahoma returns both guards offensive linemen in Marquis Hayes and Tyrese Robinson At left tackle, Erik Swenson and Anton Harrison rotated throughout the season. Picking one to hold down the tackle position will be key to maintaining success with the offensive line. Center Creed Humphrey is heading to the NFL draft and Chris Murray is expected to take over. Murray started 24 games at UCLA and should make a nice transition for the Sooners offensive line.

Defensive Line: Oklahoma will be searching for a replacement for DE Ronnie Perkins as he declared for the NFL draft. Perkins was third on the team in sacks with 5.5. Sophomore Marcus Stripling and freshman Reggie Grimes figure to be two of the main competitors to replace Perkins on the defensive line.Isaiah Thomas and Perrion Winfrey both declared their intentions to come back to Oklahoma next season. The Sooners also will get Jalen Redmond back after he opted out this season because of blood clots. Kori Roberson and LaRon Stokes will give the defensive like experience and depth to make one of the better Oklahoma defensive lines in recent memory.

Linebackers: The Sooners return keys pieces in their linebacker core including the leading tackler and WILL LB, Brian Asamoah. Nik Bonitto returns as the RUSH LB where he had 8.5 sacks and 11 TFL. Another year of practice and experience should help him become one of the best pass rushers in the Big 12 and help the improving Oklahoma defense. Returning to his MIKE LB spot is DaShaun White. White split time with David Ugwoegbu. The duo combined for 62 tackles and 3.5 sacks. The Sooners will also see Caleb Kelly return after he tore his ACL prior to the season starting. Depth will not be a concern for the linebackers next season.

Defensive Backs: The secondary is taking a hit this off season with a handful of departures. Tre Brown and Tre Norwood are both heading to the NFL after strong seasons. At cornerback, Woodi Washington is expected to be the number one corner after having 40 tackles and one interception this season. Following Washington will be Jaden Davis and D.J. Graham. Both played in more than six games this year so will have valuable game experience going into next season. Pat Fields and Dellarin Turner-Yell are expected to return to their safety spots this fall. At nickleback will be Brendan Radley-Hiles who had an up and down season. He was benched in favor of Norwood during the season. Radley-Hiles will look to bounce back in his final season.

Special Teams: Gabe Brkic is one of the nation’s best kickers. He converted over 74% of his field goal attempts after being perfect in 2019. He also hit 100% of his extra points. Do not be surprised if Brkic is the winner of the Lou Groza award next year. Reeves Mundschau returns as punter for Oklahoma. He averaged just over 39 yards per punt. Oklahoma should score plenty of points meaning Mundschau will not be needed often.

Analysis: Oklahoma’s offense should continue to be high powered as it has been for the last two decades. Rattler should be at the top of every quarterback award including the Heisman. The return of Kennedy Brooks along with another year of experience for Marvin Mims will be too much for most teams to slow down. The secondary is a concern after losing a few players, but DC Alex Grinch has shown he can build a quality defense. Oklahoma’s non conference schedule is highlighted with a renewal of their rivalry with Nebraska. Other than it being a heartwarming reunion, the game will not be that close. The Sooners get Iowa State at home next year which helps their odds to win the Big 12 regular season title. Expect Oklahoma to finish 12-0 next year.

Way Too Early Preview: #2 Clemson

Next up on the previews, we have the Clemson Tigers. Clemson finished the season 10-2, ACC champions, and College Football Semifinalists. Dabo Swinney is back coaching the Tigers who look to be contenders for the National Title once again. Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne are off to the NFL, but that does not mean the cabinets are left bare. Clemson still has plenty of talent on the team and guys who should take a step forward in 2021. Let’s get down to it!

Quarterback: Sunshine aka Trevor Lawrence (shame on your if you do not get the reference) is off to the NFL and should be the first player taken in the draft. For most teams, that would set them back, but not at Clemson. The air apparent DJ Uiagalelei will be taking over at quarterback. As a true freshman, Uiagalelei started two games for Clemson this year while Lawrence was out with Covid-19. While the Tigers did go 1-1 in his starts, the loss was not because Uiagalelei had a poor game. In his two starts, he threw for 781 yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions, and ran in two more scores. The future is bright at quarterback for Clemson.

Running Back: The biggest question mark I have for Clemson is who is going to replace Travis Etienne at running back. Etienne is one of the more decorated running backs in Clemson history. The Tigers have three guys who could all step up and be the lead back. First is Lyn-J Dixon who was the second leading running back in 2020 but he only had 190 yards. This will be Dixon’s fourth year in the program, and could be passed up by a younger back. Next is third year running back Chez Mellusi. He averaged over 5.5 yards per carry on 27 attempts. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry as a freshman. The final candidate is true freshman Will Shipley. Shipley comes in as a five star running back out of North Carolina, though there are some concerns of him being an every down back. No matter what, Clemson has a strong rotation of running backs they can play to replace Etienne.

Wide Receiver: Clemson got great news earlier this week when Justyn Ross announced he will be returning in 2021 and appears to have healed from his spinal injury. Ross was one of the ACC’s best wide receivers in 2019 and will be a great weapon for Uiagalelei. Ross should be an early candidate for All-ACC and All-American honors. Following Ross, Clemson brings back EJ Williams and Frank Ladson Jr who both rotated in for Clemson. The Tigers do lose Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell, who were their leading receivers, but luckily this is an area of depth for Clemson.

Amari Rodgers leavings Clemson, but Justyn Ross should do a nice job replacing him.

Tight End: The Tigers return both of their leading tight ends for the 2021 season. Braden Galloway and Davis Allen both return after productive seasons. Davis and Galloway combined to catch 43 passes and score six touchdowns. When bringing in a new quarterback, having experienced tight ends is always a helpful piece to have. Neither of them are going to be all world, but they are not a liability either. Both are solid and will continue to contribute next year.

Offensive Line: If running back is the biggest concern, then offensive line is a very close second. Depending who you ask, this might be a bigger concern. Left tackle Jackson Carmen declared early for the NFL. Four of the Five starters return from a group that was not considered to be so good. Guard Matt Bockhorst, guard Will Putnam, center Cade Stewart, and tackle Jordan McFadden all return with tackle Walker Parks expected to step in and play the other tackle position.

Defensive Line: Clemson returns all 11 starters on defense, but we are still going to go through them position by position. DE Myles Murphy and DT Bryan Breese were both two of the best freshman in the country last year with Murphy being a freshman All-American. Both should continue to anchor the defensive line next year. DT Tyler Davis and DE KJ Henry should fill out the rest of the starting defensive line. DE Xavier Thomas is a former five star prospect who has yet to live up to his hype and will look to rotate in as well. Clemson also has depth with DE Justin Mascoll and DT Jordan Williams both returning as well. Clemson signed a few defensive linemen in the 2021 class, but I do not expect many to push for significant playing time this year.

Linebackers: Braylon Spector, James Skalski, and Mike Jones Jr all return to lead the Clemson linebackers. Spector lead the team in tackles and sacks while also being tied for the lead in tackles for loss. Having him return for the Tigers defense is significant. The heart and soul of the defense is Skalski. He was ejected for targeting in the Sugar Bowl and is back for redemption. Jones Jr started seven games for the Tigers defense and had an interception in the Sugar Bowl. Having all three starters back at linebacker for Clemson helps with chemistry and should improve in 2021.

Defensive Backs: Clemson received good news when S Nolan Turner announced he was going to return next year officially giving Clemson all 11 starters back on defense. Turner was the second leading tackler on the team. Turner was a Second Team All-American in 2020 and will be looking to become one of the best safeties in the nation next year. S Lannden Zanders had nine starts at safety for Clemson this year. CBs Sheridan Jones and Derion Kendrick also return after Kendrick was named First Team All-ACC. Kendrick also led the team in passes defended with six. If Clemson has one position that needs to take a step forward on defense next year, it is the secondary. Overall, they had a good secondary, but I look for them to try and reach elite next year. Overall, Clemson averaged less than 200 yards passing per game. When they played upper echelon teams (Notre Dame twice, Ohio State) the secondary allowed more than 300 yards per game. To get back to a championship level, this is where they need to improve.

Special Teams: Continuing with a trend, Clemson’s punter Will Spiers said he will be returning for his extra year. Spiers is a four year starter who had a career high in average punt in 2020. Returning Spiers is huge for the Tigers special teams. BT Potter returns for his third season starting as Clemson’s kicker. Potter’s sophomore year he made 62% of his kicks and his junior season he jumped to 78%. Having a reliable kicker can be vital for championship contenders.

Analysis: Other than losing Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne, Clemson does not lose much from their team. The rest of the players leaving have backups that are ready to take over. Clemson’s success is going to be based on how well DJ Uiagalelei plays next year. If he plays up to his five star capability, Clemson should roll through their schedule. With all this said, I do have Clemson going 11-1 and winning the ACC. Clemson plays Georgia the first game and because it is the first game of the year, I like the Bulldogs in that game. Overall, I like Clemson in the long run. Tigers fans can expect another playoff appearance next fall.

Tennessee Coaching Search Candidates

Tennessee has fired Jeremy Pruitt following an internal investigation showing he committed recruiting violations which puts the Volunteers in an interesting position searching for a new coach in mid January. I wanted to take a look at some candidates they could look at to fill the position. Since this is Tennessee, and Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer is stepping down, this is sure to be a whirlwind of a search so grab onto your seat and let’s look at the candidates:

Hugh Freeze (Liberty HC) – Freeze should be the betting favorite for the next Tennessee head coach. It has been rumored that the Vols is his dream job and he is a coach who has proven he can win. There is the whole issue of having a scandal at Ole Miss and if Tennessee would be willing to accept that since they just fired a coach for breaking rules. Freeze is 18-6 at Liberty in two years and was 39-25 at Ole Miss. Freeze has only had one losing season dating back to his time at Lambuth starting in 2009. Freeze makes sense, it depends if Tennessee is will take the risk.

Jamey Chadwell (Coastal Carolina HC) – The head coach of Coastal Carolina has built programs up at nearly stop he has made including going 11-1 this past season. Chadwell just signed an extension to keep him with Coastal Carolina through 2027 so from the outside, he has the intention on staying there for a while. Chadwell is from Tennessee and played at East Tennessee State so he has connections to the state. Joining a program this late can be a risk. Is this a job he would jump for or would he wait for a better opportunity?

Billy Napier (Louisiana HC) – Napier is 28-11 at Louisiana and a proven winner. His last two seasons he 21-4 and has shown he is ready for a bigger job. He has worked for some of the best coaches in college football working at Clemson under Dabo Swinney and Alabama under Nick Saban. Napier, coincidentally, was also born in Tennessee and went to high school in Georgia right on the Tennessee boarder. Napier has his Louisana program rolling, does he think the Vols is the right program for him?

Tom Herman (Former Texas/Houston HC) – Herman was recently let go from Texas and is looking for work. He has no ties to the SEC or the state of Tennessee, but Herman is overall a good coach. Herman was 32-18 at Texas and was 4-0 in bowl games. Herman would not be expected to win immediately and could bring in a staff to help him recruit against the SEC. His price tag would not be cheap, but it could be worth it if he can compete with the SEC East.

Kevin Steele (Tennessee Interim HC/DC) – Steele just arrived in Knoxville, but he was named Interim Head Coach after Pruitt was let go. Most likely, Tennessee will find someone from outside the program to take the reigns, but Steele is the favorite internal candidate should Tennessee choose to go this season with an interim head coach. Steele has been all through the SEC with previous stops at Auburn, Alabama, LSU as well as being a GA at Tennessee. His only head coaching experience was a stop at Baylor from 1999-2002 in which he was 9-37. If there was an underdog in this race, it would be Kevin Steele.

Brent Venables (Clemson DC) – Venables is not taking the Tennessee job. Let me make that clear. That does not mean it will stop Tennessee from reaching out to check his interest. Venables has been by Dabo’s side and has had chances to leave to run his own program at better places than Tennessee (This is not saying Tennessee is a bad place, but firing your coach with cause in January makes the program less attractive). Tennessee will call Venables, but will he even answer the phone call?

Gus Malzahn (Former Auburn HC) – Malzahn had an overall successful career at Auburn including a National Championship apperance. He went 68-35 at Auburn and finished ranked five times in nine seasons. Malzahn’s next stop will almost certainly be as a head coach again and he should be able to get another power five coaching job. Malzahn is considered to be one of the better offensive minded coaches in college football and can recruit in the SEC. This would also give him a chance to play in the SEC East which is viewed as the easier side of the SEC.

Dan Lanning (Georgia Defensive Coordinator) – This is a reach here, and I will admit that. Lanning nearly went to Texas to be the new DC under Steve Sarkisian but chose to stay at Georgia. He is only 34 years old and was a graduate assistant under Nick Saban in 2015 so he has not been coaching long. Kirby Smart thinks highly of him to make him defensive coordinator after Mel Tucker left. Lanning also received a raise where he is now making more than a million per season. If Tennessee were to look at a potential young and upcoming coach, Lanning would be an interesting choice. He coached at Memphis so this gives him ties to the state of Tennessee.

Bill Clark (UAB Head Coach) – Clark is one of the most underrated head coaches in all of college football. In a short summary, he watched his program completely eliminated, fought to get them back, and has had a winning season in each season since the return. Most programs would have had a major setback, Clark’s team somehow got better. He won Conference USA in 2018 and 2020 and is ready for a bigger job. Tennessee may look at some bigger name candidates, but Bill Clark would be an excellent hire.

Analysis: Hugh Freeze makes the most sense, but I think Tennessee passes on him because of his history at Ole Miss. Most schools do not want a coach to leave in controversy then hire a controversial head coach. Billy Napier is who I would make my top candidate. My gut says they hire either Gus Malzahn, keep Kevin Steele for a year, or sell Chadwell on the program. The interesting part of this whole process is Tennessee does not have an Athletic Director, so who knows how long it will take to get a head coach in place. Who knows how long a hire will actually take?

Way Too Early Preview: #1 Alabama

Time to kick off the top 25 previews, and we kick it off with the defending National Champions Alabama. For these previews, we will take a look at who is departing, who is returning, and major questions facing each team. Let’s jump right in!

Quarterback: Mac Jones is heading to the draft after one of the best statistical years in college football history. While that might sound like a major loss, the Tide should still be in a good position. Bryce Young was a five star QB out of California who competed with Jones for the job and inevitably lost. It is time for Young to step into the role and continue the trend of successful Alabama QBs. While the Tide do lose a lot of play-makers on offense, Nick Saban has recruited well enough to keep plenty of talent waiting in the wings.

Running Back: Najee Harris is off to the NFL and looks like Derrick Henry but as Alabama typically does, they have recruited this position incredibly well. Brian Robinson Jr should be the first in line to take snaps but he will be pushed for touches behind him. Trey Sanders has been injured, but when healthy he can take the role of lead tailback. Sanders is a former five star RB. Jase McClellan was a four star running back in the class of 2020 who could look to make splash. Saban also signed five star running back Camar Wheaton in the most recent class. The Crimson Tide have plenty of talent at running back to replace Harris. The question is who works their way to the top.

Wide Receiver: For most teams, losing a Heisman Trophy winner would seriously hurt their offense, but this is Alabama. The Tide also lose Jaylen Waddle. Good news for Saban is his second leading receiver, John Metchie III, returns and should be the number one target. Slade Bolden who scored in the National Title game also returns to give Bryce Young another viable option. After Bolden and Metchie, the rest are relatively unproven. Alabama’s next leading receivers that are returning are Xavier Williams who only had three catches all season and Javon Baker who only had two.

Tight End: While wide receiver might be a question mark, tight end is not. Jahleel Billingsley returns after a productive season. He was the leading tight end with 287 yards and three touchdowns. Miller Forristall departs after being the second tight end but Major Tennison saw playing time and should step into that role nicely.

Offensive Line: Alabama loses three key starters on the line with Landon Dickerson, guard Deonte Brown and tackle Alex Leatherwood all entering the draft. The good news for Alabama is they do return experience on the line that should help with the transition of a few new starters. Chris Owens announced he will use his free year of eligibility to come back to Alabama. He started in place of Dickerson in the playoffs. Emil Ekiyor and Evan Neal both return as well giving Bama at least a center, guard, and tackle. Which side of the line those guys play are still up in the air. Overall, the offensive line should be solid once again, but do not be surprised if it takes a slight step back, as it was the best offensive line in football last year. Top 10 is still pretty good.

Defensive Line: As with most years, Alabama should have another formidable defensive line. As of when I am writing this, we do not have a decision on Labryan Ray. Should he leave, guys such as Justin Eboigbe and Byron Young will step up which should not be an issue as they both have playing experience. DJ Dale and Tim Smith should anchor down the middle of the line. On the other end, there are a plethora of guys who could step in such as Phidarian Mathis, Jamil Burroughs, and Jah-Marien Latham.

Linebackers: Alabama should return three of their four starting linebackers with Christopher Allen expected to return. Christian Harris and Will Anderson are both expected to return as well. Anderson had 7.0 sacks last year while Harris led the Bama defense in tackles. The remaining spot should be a battle between Jaylen Moody and Shane Lee, both of which have game experience and should fill in nicely for Dylan Moses. Drew Sanders should also look to rotate in as he showed he was ready for a larger role in limited snaps this year. Linebackers were the biggest weakness of the Crimson Tide defense, but returning three starters should help the chemistry and allow the unit to get better in 2021.

Defensive Backs: CB Patrick Surtain II is heading to the NFL and is likely a top 10 pick. Nick Saban did get good news as CB Josh Jobe is planning to return. Jalyn Armour-Davis and Ronald Williams Jr are expected to compete to start opposite Jobe. The pair have a combined three total tackles. One of them will have to step up to help replace the All-American. At safety, Jordan Battle returns to help solidify the secondary. Battle is a candidate to take a large step forward and be an All-SEC safety. Opposite of Battle will be a combination of Daniel Wright and DeMarcco Hellams. Expect Hellams to come out on top in this battle. Malachi Moore returns to play the STAR position, where he had three interceptions and a forced fumble as a freshman. Expect more of the same from the second year player.

Special Teams: Alabama only returned 18 kickoffs this year, once again proving kick returns are nearly dead. Replacing DeVonta Smith at punt returner should be an interesting competition. Slade Bolden took seven punt returns, the second most on the team, and I expect him to be the lead returner in 2021. Will Reichard did not miss a field goal or extra point this year. Has Saban finally found a reliable kicker? It appears so. Charlie Scott transferred from Air Force and lead the team in punting as a senior. Sam Johnson had limited opportunities to punt this year, but is expected to take over.

Coaching: OC Steve Sarkisian is the big name that departed the Alabama coaching staff as he took the head ball coach job at Texas. OL coach Kyle Flood and ST/TE Jeff Banks are expected to follow Sarkisian to Texas. AHC/RB Charlie Huff is heading to Marshall to be the new head coach for the Thundering Herd. Charlie Strong is following Urban Meyer to Jacksonville. This is not unusual for Nick Saban, most years his coaching staff is raided. Bill O’Brien is expected to be named the next offensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide. Saban continues to find good coaches to replace those that leave, I would not worry about any of these departures.

Overall Analysis: Alabama loses a lot on offense, and the defense was suspect at times this year, but Nick Saban is still the best coach in college football history. Bryce Young should lead this team to another SEC Title appearance and the defense should take a step forward next year. The Tide open the season in Atlanta vs Miami which should be a formidable test, but not one that they cannot win. Most of their toughest conference games are on the road this year with them traveling to Florida, Texas A&M and Auburn. They do get LSU at home this season.

Overall prediction: 12-0

The Way Way Too Early Top 25

It’s January, does anyone actually know who will be the top 25 teams next year? No. But everyone eats this stuff up, so I’ll make my own because why not? Haters come at me. And HERE WE GO:

  1. Alabama – Yes, they lose all their coaches, Mac Jones, Najee Harris, Alex Leatherwood, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, and everyone but the kitchen sink. I don’t care. Nick Saban is still running the show, Bryce Young is a former five star QB and Alabama is loaded with talent. Once again, they have the top recruiting class and they will be back once again.
  2. Clemson – The Trevor Lawrence era has ended at Clemson. Travis Etienne and Jackson Carmen will move on too. The Tigers received good news that Justyn Ross is expected to return. We were able to get a sneak preview at the future of Clemson when DJ Uiagalelei played for Lawrence against Notre Dame earlier this year and it is promising.
  3. Oklahoma – Possibly the hottest team to end the 2020 season, including rolling Florida to end the season. Spencer Rattler struggled early in the season but turned it around as the season went on. In his last seven games, he threw 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions while also running for four more touchdowns. Rattler returns most of his receivers and Kennedy Brooks is expected to return.
  4. Ohio State – The big question for Ohio State is who will replace Justin Fields? Ohio State has three QBs who are all expected to compete for the job with CJ Stroud projected to start. The Buckeyes also lose Trey Sermon, but return one of the stronger wide receiver groups in the country. The Ohio State defensive line should be the anchor for the team.
  5. Georgia – Can we name JT Daniels the preseason Heisman winner yet? Daniels played well when he finally took over at QB for the Bulldogs. Georgia is returning Zamir White and George Pickens which should make Georgia an exciting offense to watch next year. Georgia has recruited well to put them in the top 5 preseason.
  6. Iowa State – Matt Campbell has been putting the cyclones on the rise. Brock Purdy is returning and should be one of the best signal callers in the country. Breece Hall is expected to be one of the best running backs in the country giving Iowa State the firepower to score. Campbell has always had a solid defense and there’s no reason to expect otherwise next year.
  7. Indiana – Tom Allen has his players bought into the program and Michael Penix was having a great season prior to his injury. A few questions remain for the Hoosiers with the main one being, who will replace Whop Philyor and Ty Fryfogle? Indiana only had one other receiver with more than five catches this past season, so the Hoosiers will need guys to step up.
    • Correction: Fryfogle is returning to IU
  8. Texas A&M – The Aggies are coming off their best season under Jimbo Fisher and are recruiting well to replace their departing seniors. The Aggies have to replace one of their best QBs ever in Kellen Mond. Good news for the Aggies is Isaiah Spiller returns for the next QB to lean on.
  9. Cincinnati – Luke Fickell continues to show that the Bearcats are the crown jewel of the AAC. They nearly beat Georgia in the Peach Bowl this year. Cincinnati returns two key players in QB Desmond Ridder and Myjai Sanders. Both were All-AAC with Ridder also being the Offensive Player of the year. Defensive Coordinator departs for Notre Dame, but expect Cincinnati to still play tough defense.
  10. North Carolina – If JT Daniels is the preseason Heisman, Sam Howell should be the preseason runner up. Howell will come into the season with plenty of hype, and it is all warranted. The defense returns 10 starters including DB Tony Grimes who started as a true freshman. WR Dazz Newsome and RB Michael Carter both depart for the NFL which leaves a few questions on offense.
  11. Notre Dame – Ian Book’s career has ended with Notre Dame and they welcome former Wisconsin QB Jack Coan who is expected to compete for the job. Notre Dame will have an excellent RB room with Chris Tyree and Kyren Williams. Brian Kelly has shown he can build a winning program. The Fighting Irish are back to being an independent next year after spending the season in the ACC.
  12. Miami FL – This might be a little high, but these are my rankings. D’Eriq King returns and the Hurricanes showed real promise. Charleston Rambo is transferring to the Canes which should give King a reliable option on the outside. The defensive line loses Quincy Roche and Jaelan Phillips after both having productive seasons. Manny Diaz should have another good season ahead of him.
  13. Iowa – Iowa quietly finished 6-2 and top 20 in the country. DE Zach VanValkenburg returns to help lead the defense while QB Spencer Petras and RB Tyler Goodson should lead the offense to productive year. Goodson averaged over 5 yards per carry and had seven touchdowns while also splitting carries this year.
  14. Florida – Emory Jones is expected to take over as the signal caller for Florida next season. The Gators got close to knocking off Alabama in the SEC title and seemed like a shoe in to the playoffs had they not lost to LSU. TE Kyle Pitts also departs after an amazing career. Florida will need to see improvements from their defense if they want to compete with the top of the SEC.
  15. Oregon – There are lots of questions around Oregon after having players opt out before the season. The biggest question is who will play QB for the Ducks. Anthony Brown and Tyler Shough both saw time in the Fiesta Bowl. The Ducks need to lock in on their QB early to contend for the Pac-12. One area they should not be an issue is the defense. Oregon should have the best defense in the Pac-12, and I do not expect it to be that close.
  16. Wisconsin – Graham Mertz lit the world on fire in his first game and then got Covid-19. With a spring season, look for Mertz to be one of the top two or three quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Jalen Berger averaged 5.0 yards per carry as a true freshman, he should build upon that next year with more experience. Wisconsin should be able to compete with Iowa for the Big Ten West.
  17. USC – The Pac-12 season made very little sense this year. USC lost to Oregon after USC was supposed to play Washington in the title game but then Washington got Covid. USC was undefeated prior to the Oregon game but every game had been close. They are showing a foundation for winning. Kedon Slovis returns and should have play makers around him with Drake London and Bru McCoy.
  18. Coastal Carolina – The Cinderella of college football returns to the preseason top 25. Grayson McCall was a redshirt freshman and should continue to get better. DT CJ Brewer returns after registered 11 TFL and 6.5 sacks. Coastal Carolina should be on the favorites for a New Year’s Six Bowl Game.
  19. Arizona State – The Sun Devils only played four games this year, so it was hard to get a read on their progress. Jayden Daniels appears to be the part of Arizona State and Herm Edwards looks to be trending in the right direction. Arizona State scored 70 on Arizona which resulted in Kevin Sumlin being fired.
  20. Ole Miss – Lane Kiffin and his team showed promise at times this year. The offense scored over 50 multiple times but also lost multiple times when scoring more than 40. Matt Corral threw for over 3,000 yards and ran for another 500. He should lead another strong Ole Miss offense in 2021.
  21. Northwestern – Peyton Ramsey lifted the Wildcats back to the level of success they have become accustomed to with Pat Fitzgerald. The main question is who will replace Ramsey?RB Cam Porter should help carry Northwestern to continue playing the style of football Fitzgerald likes. As is tradition with Northwestern, expect more stout defense.
  22. Louisiana – Billy Napier was a hot commodity this year but he chose to remain at Louisiana for at least one more season. QB Levi Lewis returns to Louisiana next year as well. The Ragin’ Cajuns only loss came to Costal Carolina by three in mid October. When is the last time two Sun Belt teams were in the preseason top 25?
  23. Washington – The Huskies technically won the Pac-12 North but were unable to play in the game because of Covid-19. They will be searching for a new QB this off season. Sophomore Dylan Morris and true freshman, and five star prospect, Sam Huard are expected to be the leaders. LB Zion Tupuola-Fetui returns for the Washington defense who had seven sacks in just four games.
  24. Penn State – James Franklin had his worst season in his Big Ten career finishing under .500. There are plenty of questions with Penn State but they should be solid at running back. Jahan Dotson returns and should be one of the best receivers in the Big Ten. Franklin will have to decide does he start Sean Clifford, Will Levis, or does he look into the transfer portal?
  25. Boston College – Jeff Hafley’s first season at Boston College is largely viewed as a success. QB Phil Jurkovec completed 61% of his passes while also throwing 17 touchdowns. They took North Carolina and Clemson wire to wire. Another year of practice, and Boston College could start to push towards the upper half of the ACC.

Just missed: LSU, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Auburn, Ball State

Welcome to the Walk-On Redshirts

As many of you have been followers for quite some time, you know that this used to be a podcast. While I thoroughly enjoyed doing the podcast, you do not realize how much time would go into all the prep work, recording time, issues while recording, social media, and doing everything we desired to do. It was a ton of fun, and I obviously have kept the social media accounts going because I do love using those an interacting with fan bases all across the country, even if I do manage to annoy a new fan base just about weekly.

Aaron and Nick are great people, I have known them for such a long time, and I still keep in contact with them to this day. Hell, I just went to the National Title game with Nick and my dad. Overall, the commitment was just too much all around with our work schedules, personal lives and frankly, I was burned out with the podcast. Before we started it all, we had the idea of what we wanted it to be, and the podcast was great. When the uncertainty started to pop up with Covid-19 and the Big Ten and Pac-12 originally cancelled their seasons, it sort of sucked the life out of college football for me, at least momentarily. 

So here we are, with a new adventure. I have considered doing this for a few weeks, but lack of knowledge on how to operate a website prolonged the process. I welcome all of you, no matter what your alliance is, or your knowledge of college football. We are all on this path together so we might as well enjoy it.

What should expect out of this new and exciting site? Well if you have been following me for awhile, you know that I am an Ohio State fan, some might call me a die hard. So when I said everyone is welcome, I meant everyone except Michigan fans (kidding, but I will probably make fun of you a lot). I do not take myself serious so do not expect me to be serious with all of my posts. There will be plenty of ribbing and as much as I dish out, I am just as likely to get it back.

This is new, and I am not a professional journalist, so if you are looking for top notch writing, this will not be the place to look for it. I do know what I am talking about, I read a lot of some of the best writers in all of sports consistently, but I want to have my style on it. That does not mean you cannot give me feedback, because honestly I will welcome it.

The off season just begun, but that does not mean we cannot still get quality content. Be on the lookout because I am sure I will have content you will enjoy in the not too distant future. Cheers, my friend.