Every year top athletes leave for the NFL due to early declaration or graduation. Some programs can handle that loss at certain positions due to backups or incoming recruits. Some programs historically just always seem to be strong at certain positions. When some players leave though, it just seems like it will be a huge hole on that team in the next season due to how talented that player was and how hard that position is to replace with that caliber of talent. These are the toughest players to replace on their respective teams in 2015.
1. Amari Cooper - WR - Alabama
Coming into this year, people were extremely worried about the QB position in Alabama and were also worried how new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin would work with that QB. Thanks to a talent like Amari Cooper at WR, things were a lot easier than planned. Look at these stats and realize how valuable Cooper was to that offense and receiving corps (heck, he pretty much was the receiving corps).
Next best receiver was 1200 yards beneath him. Good luck replacing that percentage of your receiving production on your team Alabama.
2. Jameis Winston - QB - Florida State
When you have an athlete like this, with the football IQ that he has, that is hard to replace. He was a true leader inside that locker room. No matter what people think of him off the field, his impact for FSU on the field was undeniable. His team had to go to OT without him just to get a victory over Clemson who Jameis had killed the year before. He was a huge reason why they were so dominant last year, and why they were able to overcome so much adversity this year. Will Jimbo miss his antics off of the field? Heck no he won't, but I bet if he could keep his talent on the field for a couple of more years he would forget about that stuff real quick. Luckily for Florida State, the top QB recruit of 2016 is currently committed to them so they have much hope for the future.
3. Marcus Mariota - QB - Oregon
Oregon's system...as good as it is, will still suffer at least a little bit from losing a QB like this. Not every QB recruit out there has the unbelievable skill set combo that this guy has. His ridiculous combo of football IQ, decision making, accuracy, and speed is almost impossible to find. This is why this guy won a Heisman. His quiet leadership and work ethic will also be sorely missed in that locker room, and whoever Oregon starts QB next year will have a very hard time filling Mariota's shoes.
4. Shane Carden - QB - East Carolina
Maybe for most schools, replacing a Carden is a little bit easier...for East Carolina though it will be a very tough transition to the next phase for their football program. I might cheat here and also add in WR Justin Hardy. That QB/WR combo leaving could be devastating for that offense. Hopefully they have been going hard after a top QB and WR in recruiting to replace them otherwise it will be tough season next year.
5. Rakeem Cato - QB - Marshall
Another situation just like East Carolina's...a small school who is losing a player who has meant everything for their offense throughout their career. Cato almost led Marshall to an undefeated season in his senior year. Now just like they had to move on from the likes of Chad Pennington all those years ago, they'll have to move on from Cato. It won't be an easy transition.
6. Bryce Petty - QB - Baylor
I was tempted to leave him off. Baylor has gone through different QB's seamlessly the past few years. This offense under Petty went to different heights though, even more insane than the RG3 or Florence offenses. Maybe with Jarrett Stidham coming in (expert has said he is somewhere in between a RG3 and Petty type) this offense can somehow keep pace, but I will have to see it to believe it. Luckily for Stidham (or Seth Russell) whoever starts at QB will have an amazing WR corps and RB (Linwood) to work with.
7. Tevin Coleman - RB - Indiana
To be frank, this team wasn't even that good with Coleman. Trying to replace him though? Good luck with that. He was everything for this squad and there is no way somebody can step in and do what he did behind that Indiana OLine. They will have to find different ways to score points now. It will be tougher to pull off upsets over teams like Missouri in the future unless they find out how to move on from Coleman fast.
8. Brandon Doughty - QB - Western Kentucky
Yet another big time small school QB who carried his team's offense to new heights. This guy was the only reason Cato's Marshall team lost a game this season. Doughty's Hilltoppers took down Marshall 67-66 in overtime in an absolute barnburner of a game to watch. Doughty led the FBS in passing yards this year, that kind of production would be sorely missed at any school, much less a school that typically has trouble bringing in top recruits who might have a chance of replicating or topping those numbers.
9. Tyler Lockett - WR - Kansas State
Lockett is the career record holder for many receiving stats at Kansas State, and that kind of reliability from a top WR will be sorely missed. Curry Sexton had over 1000 yards as #2 WR last year with Lockett taking off coverage, but with Lockett gone will Sexton be able to step up as the #1? Will the new #2 have the same freedom that Sexton did if Sexton doesn't draw extra coverage like Lockett did? I'm sure Bill Snyder is worried at least a little bit about that area of his offense with a star like Lockett gone.
10. Melvin Gordon - RB - Wisconsin
It really was kind of hard to keep Gordon off this list. Yes I am aware of the amazing OLine Wisconsin always has that "any RB can run through for 5 yards per carry". Wisconsin will have a slight drop in RB production though. While Gordon did have an amazing line to run behind, once he got to the next level, that was where he really shined.His ability to punish defenses with speed or brute force, it will be very hard to replace at the level he did it. Melvin Gordon's don't just pop out of nowhere, not even for teams like Wisconsin.