Every year in college there are stars that have to either graduate or leave for the NFL and they leave huge shoes to fill, these are the top 5 biggest shoes left to fill in the 2014 season and who I think will fill them for their respective teams.
1. Johnny Manziel - Job: QB for Texas A&M
This guy was a once in a lifetime QB that won many games by simply putting the team on his back when his defense kept giving the opposing team score after score. The Aggies will have to hope whoever replaces him can be a huge playmaker for an offense that has to carry the load for its team.
There are three very unique candidates ready to take this job and run with it.
These three candidates are (in order of who I think has the best chance of getting the job)
A. Kenny Hill - So - He was the Texas Gatorade Player of the Year for the 2012-13 season. Hill is a well-built dual-threat quarterback that lacks ideal height, but is highly productive as both a runner and passer. He is sturdy and a tough, elusive runner. As a passer he does an excellent job of finding throwing lanes and subtly moving around the pocket to get the ball out. Shows very good feet, drop speed and a quick set up. Can scan the field and work through progressions. Has the ability to make every throw from within the pocket and displays adequate-to-good arm strength. Has flashed the ability to drive the ball to the sideline from the opposite hash and push the ball deep downfield from within the pocket. Is very proficient in the short-to-intermediate passing game and can fit the ball between tight coverage on in routes, curls and crossing routes. When he is set, he will show very sound accuracy to all levels. Athletically he can buy time, move around and make plays on the move, but he is always looking to throw and make a play with his arm. He is a long strider as a runner and can cover a lot of ground with good overall elusiveness. Will lower his shoulder and shows some power. Has good speed, not great for the position. Outside of the pocket he is very good as a run/pass option as he throws very well on the move. While Hill is consistent in his mechanics and is sound in his footwork, balance and set up, there is something quirky about his motion. Cocks and slightly pushes the ball at times. He shows sound zip, but may lack elite power. Hill is a prospect that is a spread offense fit. He comes from a great program with a high expectation level.
B. Kyle Allen - Fr - He is the #1 ranked pocket passing QB on ESPN for the Class of 2014. Allen is a rhythm and timing pocket passer who does so many of the little things well. A better prospect as a passer than he is athlete or runner. Reminds me of some of the QBs Boise State has had in terms of accuracy, rhythm, timing and anticipation. It is easy to like him due to his savvy and productivity as a passer.
C. Matt Joeckel - Rs Sr - He was the #58 ranked QB on ESPN for the Class of 2010. Joeckel is a pocket passer in a shotgun, spread scheme with prototypical size and quality arm strength. He is a player that can get hot and when protected with his feet set can make most, if not all the college level throws in the intermediate and deep passing game. He is a rhythm passer that needs to get rid of the ball on time to be at his finest. He can dink and dunk with good overall accuracy on underneath routes and shows adequate zip to fit the ball into tight spots on shorter throws. Keeps his feet underneath him and does a nice job following through and transferring his weight on throws he needs to get some mustard on. Release is adequate and over-the-top and he is mechanically consistent in his overall methods. Stands tall in the pocket and can see the field well with good size and height. Shows flashes of being a powerful passer and will make some impressive throws downfield and outside of the numbers. However, Joeckel is not a great athlete when it comes to creating or buying time consistently to keep the play alive. Can be very effective with protection and when on time, but if he holds onto the ball and faces pressure he lacks the ability to make plays with his legs and elude the rush. Doesn't have much experience dropping from center and having to work through progressions on the move or with his back turned to the defense off play-action. His best assets are his size and arm to throw from within the pocket and pick apart coverage. Overall, Joeckel has promise as a pocket passer in the right scheme. He is confident and makes good decisions with the football, but will be limited athletically and would not necessarily be the right fit for a scheme that asks the QB to improvise or have a role in the run game. Good passer with great measurables.
2. Khalil Mack - Job: LB for Buffalo
Now I know what you're thinking, BUFFALO??? Who could have big shoes to fill on that team? Well Khalil Mack was by far and away the best player on this team and frankly usually the only guy on opposing offensive coordinator and QB's minds during gameplans against the Bulls.
The Bulls are gonna to have a hard time replacing their star but these are the two main guys who are gonna have to attempt to do so.
A. Gary Hosey - Fr - He is #45 ranked ILB on ESPN for Class of 2014. He flashes the ability to maintain gap discipline but can over run at times, which hinders his ability to get into good position and make a solid tackle. Physical at the point of attack taking on blocks and showing the ability to shoot hands and shuffle, but has shorter arms and can get caught on blocks at times. Will generate good short-area power to drive shoulder through ball carrier. May need to be more consistent with ability to breakdown and wrap-up. Can leave feet at times.Disruptive off the edge in blitz situations.
B. Greg Lis - Rs Fr - He was #83 ranked ILB on ESPN for Class of 2013. Lis is an aggressive run stopper who will need to gain experience as a zone coverage defender. Has the size and athleticism for the inside linebacker position at the next level of competition. His frame appears capable of adding some bulk over time however care should be taken to improve his flexibility and overall playing speed. I see a prospect who flashes wrap tackling ability but needs to improve his balance and finishing leverage; allows some leaky yardage after contact; his toughness and determination getting to the football should prove beneficial as a special team's coverage defender. Although I like his ability to move through traffic and work off the edge, there is the need to improve his initial quickness when attacking downhill to the inside run; displays the playing strength needed to take on blockers at the point of attack while demonstrating the ability to maintain leverage and not overrun the football when pursuing to the sideline. Does a good job pressuring the quarterback with his inside rush capability; times the blitz well and although lacking a closing burst, I like his motor and determination when chasing down the football. I see zone coverage potential however man assignments could test his open field athleticism; his intelligence will be a positive however hip flexibility along with the agility to maneuver in tight spots must improve. This guy is a tough customer with the instincts and nose for the football which consistently get him around the football.
3. AJ McCarron - Job: QB for Alabama
The QB that seemed to do nothing but win 90% of the time with pinpoint accuracy at QB position while doing so will leave some big shoes to fill for the Tide. Saban will have to see if he can plug in another legendary Bama QB like he plugged in McCarron after McElroy left.
There are 6 candidates who could possibly fill his shoes, but I will list the three most likely to take his place.
A. Jacob Coker - Rs Jr - He was ranked #70 QB on ESPN for Class of 2011, he backed up Heisman winning QB Jameis Winston this season for the BCS champs Florida State. He transferred to Alabama in the 2014 spring semester. Coker is a tall, prototypical pocket passer that has not had the luxury of playing in a pass-happy scheme where he is winging it all over the field. Operates a lot of three-step short passes as well as play-action that get him outside of the pocket. Is an above average athlete. He has very good measurables and good overall arm strength. Shows a smooth, over-the-top release. He is very efficient in the short passing game. Shows flashes of really being able to drive the ball into tight spots and gets the ball out quickly. Has the arm to make throws off balance and when on the move and derive power across his body when throwing to his left on intermediate range throws like drag routes and comebacks. Shows good touch on the vertical and fade throws and has the arm and upside to develop into a quality deep ball passer. Right now Coker can also be very raw and unpolished. Does not always set his feet consistently as a passer and has not developed the consistently footwork and pocket set-up you would like to see. His overall accuracy can be inconsistent. He possesses the arm, size and overall tools you would like to see for a pro-style passer though.
B. Blake Sims - Rs Sr - He was ranked #64 ATH on ESPN for Class of 2010. Sims has below average size for a QB. He displays solid accuracy in the short-to-intermediate passing game and fundamentally is very consistent with his mechanics. Shows a quick delivery and generally gets rid of the ball on time and appears to have a nice grasp of the scheme. He possesses very good feet and his drop speed and set up is solid. Also displays good ball handling skills on play action and is dangerous when he breaks contain on bootlegs and nakeds where he can be a dual-threat and throw on the run which he does a nice job of. Sims' arm strength is adequate, but not rare or elite. He must have his feet set and follow through to get as much power as he can and this will make him an adequate-to-good consistent thrower up to the intermediate levels, but driving the ball vertically probably isn't his strength. He shows good initial quickness to elude the rush and make some plays with his feet. Can throw on the move and buy time with his athleticism, but he can be a bit straight-lined as a runner at times. Mechanically Sims is consistent, but he throws with some tension in his upper body and can be a little rigid in his mechanics and release. Overall, Sims is a productive athlete that flashes some playmaking ability and athleticism. He has good personnel around him and does a nice job of dispersing the ball and allowing the players around him to make plays.
C. Cooper Bateman - Rs Fr - He was ranked #3 pocket passing QB on ESPN for Class of 2013. Bateman is tall (and could still have some height to add) with a lean body mass and the frame to expand. He shows adequate-to-good athleticism and mobility to sidestep the rush and buy time for a second passing chance. He is not a dynamic running threat. He sees the field well and gets the ball out efficiently, rarely forces the football and does not take many risks. He shows command of the scheme to work through progressions and take what the defense gives him. He is decisive with the ball. Shows a calm and cool demeanor. He maintains poise and focus scanning the field and rarely do his eyes come down to pressure in his face. Maintains accuracy when rushed and shows the presence to evade and keep the play alive. He is a shotgun passer exclusively. His drop speed and set up is quick and balanced and he has very good feet. His drops are deep and he gets from snap to plant smoothly and consistently. Lacks three/five-step drop experience from under center. His release is high, over-the-top and very consistent. The ball comes out clean and he is capable of beating the rush with his delivery. Flashes very good arm strength on intermediate range throws that require power and velocity. Is a very good deep ball passer who can employ touch and zip with proper trajectory. Timing and arm strength allow for him to make every throw on the field. One of his best traits is his accuracy. He leads receivers to open areas. He will stick it on them in tight spaces and does not miss the strike zone much. Footwork, balance, weight transfer are all consistently sound. He has some zone action to move the pocket and throw on the run, but no real true play-action experience. He is a pocket passer who is going to win with his arm and accuracy. He is not a significant running threat aside from pocket movement. He does throw very well on the run, especially to his right. Bateman is impressive and has a high ceiling for development.
4. Andre Williams - Job: RB for Boston College
Andre Williams had a season for the ages last year at Boston College. He ran for 2,177 rushing yards and 18 TD's. The Eagles are having to replace a huge chunk of their 2013 total yardage with his departure.
I have two main candidates who I think could take the starting job.
A. Myles Willis - So - He was ranked #94 ATH on ESPN for Class of 2013. Willis is a very gifted runner and overall athlete. He lacks height, but is a stout, well-built prospect with deceptive power and lower body strength. Possesses a wide, powerful hip-base and strong lower-body that allows him to absorb the big hit and bounce off initial contact on a consistent basis. Balance may be his best attribute as he's difficult to get a direct shot on and knock off his feet. Quick to and through the hole with good change-of-direction skill and cutback ability. Follows his blocks, sees the crease and hits it sharply and decisively without gearing down and losing speed. Shows good stop-start and jump-cut lateral agility to make the first defender miss through the hole. Flashes very good initial burst out of his cuts when he gets north. Not a homerun threat but he's dangerous when he gets into the second level with his ability to break tackles and spin out of traffic. Runs very low to the ground with a strong base. Lowers his pads on contact but keeps driving and never stops his feet. While he flashes good foot-quickness and burst, he does not demonstrate great outside speed and an extra gear to turn the corner and separate. This is a player that is very competent in a lot of areas. Willis may lack elite speed, but he is fast enough in my opinion.
B. Jonathan Hilliman - Fr - He is ranked #25 RB on ESPN for Class of 2014. Shows very quick feet in the hole and good quicks and suddenness out of his cuts for a bigger back. Will stretch and bounce laterally without losing much in transition. Shows he can switch gears and pull away in the second level. Shifty but not overly elusive in the second level and is somewhat straight-lined. Good blend of size, strength and speed at the position. Has potential load-back, every-down measurables and skill set. Will run with good downhill strength and balance. Lowers the shoulder when needed. Flashes explosive power but he is not a pile mover and more of a back who will slip and break arm tackles rather than run through. Shows he can absorb a heavy blow and keep forward momentum. Hilliman is a back who can move the chains in a variety of ways, both inside and out and as a pass catcher. His size and speed combo along with his natural vision and feet project well.
5. Cyril Richardson - Job: OG for Baylor
Cyril Richardson has been a very important part of the most explosive offense in the nation. He has been making huge holes in the trenches that have led to Baylor having a great running game to pair with its high octane passing attack. Losing him will leave big shoes to fill in the left side of that Baylor O-Line.
I have two main candidates who I think will replace him and sit next to Spencer Drango on the left side for the Bears.
A. Jarell Broxton - Jr - He is ranked #2 OG on ESPN for JUCO Class of 2014. Big, thickly built athlete that displays good playing strength. Can come off the ball with pad level and deliver a nice pop on contact and with good leg drive can knock defenders off the ball. Displays good pull/trap ability for size and flashes ability to adjust and get a hat on moving targets at times with crushing results. In pass pro when he gets locked on can slide with rushers. Needs to continue to improve hand placement. Can get top heavy, narrow and lean and slide off blocks. Broxton is a big and physical presence in the trenches.
B. LaQuan McGowan - Jr - He was ranked #92 OT on ESPN for Class of 2011. McGowan flashes the explosion and playing strength needed to become a good run blocker. He flashes the balance and agility to play on his feet in space; is inconsistent coming off the ball out of a three point stance when drive blocking. Flashes good initial quickness, fit and pad level however there is a tendency to depend on his size and wall off opponents rather than knock'em off the line of scrimmage. When this guy puts his mind to it he can be a dominant run blocker. Demonstrates short trap potential however if he is to get a hat on active 1st and 2nd level defenders his initial quickness and pad level must become more consistent. I see flashes of foot quickness in a reduced area, this must be extended to the deep set point to become an effective pass blocker; his arm length should be an asset. Although I see the occasional ability to dominate an opponent we would like it to become more consistent. McGowan's great size is a positive.