|Eric Gay/Associated Press|
|Freshman QB Kyle Allen is in the running to replace Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M.|
On Jan. 16, the day after a record 98 underclassmen officially became early NFL draft entries, college football coaches everywhere stood on the rim of the crater and surveyed the roster damage that, along with outgoing seniors, had been done to their programs. Weeks later, the rebuilding process began with spring practice, and in August, the replacement cast of ready-or-nots will be set. College Football 24/7 turns its daily focus to next year's crop of draft talent with a look at the up-and-comers looking to replace 256 draftees plus dozens of gifted undrafted free agents, beginning with the SEC.
LB C.J. MosleyRound 1 (17), Baltimore Ravens
Possibilities: Reggie Ragland is among the candidates to step into Mosley's weak-side linebacker role at Alabama, although Mosley's ability to play on both run downs and third down could require more than one replacement. Dillon Lee and Reuben Foster could be involved in the competition, as well.
DB Ha Ha Clinton-DixRound 1 (21), Green Bay Packers
Possibilities: Although Alabama could have some younger, more heralded candidates in the mix to replace Clinton-Dix, don't count out fifth-year senior Nick Perry. Lost for the season last year due to an injury, Perry returns with a strong understanding of the UA defense and could earn the job beside gifted junior Landon Collins.
OT Cyrus KouandjioRound 2 (44), Buffalo Bills
Possibilities: Exiting spring practice, true freshman Cam Robinson was holding down the left tackle spot for the Crimson Tide. One of the nation's top recruits, Robinson enrolled early to compete in spring practice and emerged as UA's best option at a critical position. That could be a great sign for Robinson, or a bad one for UA given his inexperience.
WR Kevin NorwoodRound 4 (123), Seattle Seahawks
Possibilities: A number of receivers could eventually fill in for Norwood, but the most likely candidate is DeAndrew White. A spectacular athlete who has been restricted by injuries and inconsistency in his career, White has one year left to turn NFL scouting heads. Youngster Chris Black could also step forward, but White has the motivation of his draft status being largely at stake this season.
DL Ed StinsonRound 5 (160), Arizona Cardinals
Possibilities: D.J. Pettway, Dalvin Tomlinson and Jonathan Allen could fill a variety of roles on the UA defensive line, and replacing Stinson could be just one of them. Any of them could be more explosive as a pass rusher than Stinson, but none are as proven at gap control and run stopping.
QB AJ McCarronRound 5 (164), Cincinnati Bengals
Possibilities: Transfer Jacob Coker comes in from Florida State this fall with the expectation of competing for the job, along with senior Blake Sims and youngster Cooper Bateman. Coker has plenty of size (6-5) and arm strength, but was stuck behind a Heisman Trophy winner in Jameis Winston last year, hence the transfer. Neither Sims nor Bateman looked especially strong in the spring game.
DB Vinnie SunseriRound 5 (167), New Orleans Saints
Possibilities: Junior Geno Smith has limited experience in various roles in the UA secondary, including the nickelback spot. Sunseri brought good open-field tackling skills and a knack for being around the ball to the UA defense, traits Smith will have to show he can replicate. The job will be open in fall camp, but Smith figures to have the strongest shot at it.
DL Jeoffrey PaganRound 6 (177), Houston Texans
Possibilities: Freshman All-SEC defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson was one of Alabama's top players up front last year in just his first year in the program, leading the team in sacks with 5.5. With further development, he has the potential to be as dominant a force as Marcell Dareus was at Alabama; more so if he stays healthier than Dareus did.
C Travis SwansonRound 3 (76), Detroit Lions
Possibilities: Mitch Smothers moved over from a guard position and commanded first-team reps at center during spring practice, but that competition is expected to continue in fall camp. Smothers made four starts for the Razorbacks last season. Along with being an outstanding blocker, Swanson was also strong in the area of making calls and checks for the Arkansas line. Smothers will be hard-pressed to be as effective mentally.
DE Chris SmithRound 5 (159), Jacksonville Jaguars
Possibilities: A spring battle between Deatrich Wise, Brandon Lewis and JaMichael Winston emerged to replace Smith, and all three showed themselves capable of handling playing time. Wise might be the best bet of the three. He made two sacks last year among 17 tackles. Trey Flowers, a veteran and NFL prospect who will anchor the opposite side, will draw help and keep Smith's replacement in more one-on-one situations.
FB Kiero SmallRound 7 (227), Seattle Seahawks
Possibilities: Patrick Arinze will likely replace Small for the Razorbacks as a senior. He caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in the Razorbacks' spring game and brings punch as a blocker. With a stable of gifted running backs at Arkansas, Arinze will be charged with opening holes more than making plays himself, but at 250 pounds, he should replace Small capably.
K Zack HockerRound 7 (228), Washington Redskins
Possibilities: Lane Saling, John Henson and Adam McFain each converted field goals in Arkansas' spring game, and will continue their competition to replace Hocker in fall camp. None has much, if any, collegiate game experience.
OT Greg RobinsonRound 1 (2), St. Louis Rams
Possibilities: The sentimental choice is definitely Shon Coleman, a cancer survivor who has waited a long, tough turn for this opportunity. Coleman announced a first-round pick at the NFL draft on May 8, and hopes a big year at left tackle will facilitate a return next year. His primary competition is Pat Miller, a returning starter at right tackle who could be called on to slide over.
DE Dee FordRound 1 (23), Kansas City Chiefs
Possibilities: Sophomore Carl Lawson played extensively last season and will be counted on to fill much of the void Ford left as a pass rusher. Having made 10.5 sacks last season for the Tigers, Ford leaves as big a pair of shoes to fill as any player on the team. Lawson made 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks as a freshman last year in a backup role.
RB Tre MasonRound 3 (75), St. Louis Rams
Possibilities: It's now or never for Cameron Artis-Payne, the junior college transfer who arrived at Auburn last year but was unable to beat out Mason for the starting job. He's a between-the-tackles rusher who will compete with speedster Corey Grant. Each rushed for 600-plus yards and six touchdowns last year. A timeshare could result from the competition, given their contrasting styles.
FB Jay ProschRound 6 (211), Houston Texans
Possibilities: The early favorite in replacing one of the SEC's most devastating blockers at the fullback position is Brandon Fulse, who emerged in the H-back role after Auburn's spring practice. At 272 pounds, he's got all the size necessary but perhaps not Prosch's ability to block in the open field. C.J. Uzomah, a 265-pound tight end who worked in the spring to adjust to Prosch's more versatile, H-back type role, is another option.
WR Odell BeckhamRound 1 (12), New York Giants
Possibilities: The only wide receiver LSU returns with any experience to speak of is Travin Dural (seven catches, 145 yards last year). He'll be counted on to step forward in a big-play capacity for a Tigers team facing turnover at all the offensive skill positions.
DL Ego FergusonRound 2 (51), Chicago Bears
Possibilities: Christian LaCouture saw action in every game last season for the Tigers and will be one of two new starters on the interior of LSU's defensive line. The 6-foot-5, 300-pound sophomore made 11 tackles and one sack last year in a reserve role. He'll compete with Quentin Thomas, a junior, but with Anthony Johnson off to the NFL as well, both LaCouture and Thomas could end up in starting roles together.
RB Jeremy HillRound 2 (55), Cincinnati Bengals
Possibilities: The No. 1 running back recruit in the nation, Leonard Fournette, is widely expected to skip ahead of LSU's remaining veterans and make a freshman splash on the Bayou. Among those in his way are Kenny Hilliard, the nephew of former LSU and Saints RB Dalton Hilliard, and Terrence Magee, who ran for 626 impressive yards in a backup role last year.
WR Jarvis LandryRound 2 (63), Miami Dolphins
Possibilities: Malachi Dupre is an incoming freshman with impressive prep credentials as one of the nation's top-rated recruits, but replacing a veteran like Landry will be a tall order. Dupre (6-4, 175) should at least be a red-zone threat with his size, but will lack the overall polish Landry brought to the edge.
OG Trai TurnerRound 3 (92), Carolina Panthers
Possibilities: Evan Washington (6-6, 334) and Ethan Pocic (6-7, 301) are battling for Turner's right guard position entering fall camp. Both competed for the job in the spring and showed well on a veteran offensive line. The early guess here is Washington, but don't count out Hoko Fanaika.
LB Lamin BarrowRound 5 (156), Denver Broncos
Possibilities: Junior Deion Jones is undersized at 218 pounds but is the most likely replacement for Barrow on the weak side for LSU. He made 15 stops last year, a far cry from Barrow's team-high 91, but has excellent speed and instincts and is a proven special-teams player. Jones' ability to play the perimeter and make open-field tackles will be crucial in replacing Barrow.
QB Zach MettenbergerRound 6 (178), Tennessee Titans
Possibilities: Anthony Jennings gave LSU fans an early look at what he can do at quarterback last year after Mettenberger went down with a knee injury late in the season. He engineered a late comeback win over Arkansas, but had a dismal performance in the Outback Bowl against Iowa. For the year, Jennings completed 13 of 29 passes for 181 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Brandon Harris will compete for the job, as well.
RB Alfred BlueRound 6 (181), Houston Texans
Possibilities: Should Fournette replace Hill as the starter, Magee and Hilliard would likely fill Blue's role as a backup. LSU coach Les Miles gets his reserve rushers extensive work in most games, so the No. 2 role isn't caught sitting much.
WR James WrightRound 7 (239), Cincinnati Bengals
Possibilities: Wright was a special-teams standout for the Tigers but didn't make a catch last year for the LSU offense. Incoming freshman Trey Quinn, along with Dupre, figures to make an early contribution to a wide receiving corps gutted by attrition. Quinn (6-1, 200) has the size and speed to help on special teams, as well.
OG Gabe JacksonRound 3 (81), Oakland Raiders
Possibilities: Sophomore Jamaal Clayborn (6-4, 315) stepped in for Jackson in spring practice at left guard and had a solid showing. He saw a bit of action last year, but lacks experience and will have to rely on veteran center Dillon Day at times.
WR Donte MoncriefRound 3 (90), Indianapolis Colts
Possibilities: Senior Vince Sanders will be among those called on to fill Moncrief's void opposite one of the SEC's elite young receivers in Laquon Treadwell. Sanders caught 21 passes for 325 yards last year despite missing a significant portion of the season with a broken collarbone. Collins Moore, a senior, made significant strides in spring practice, as well.
OT Jake MatthewsRound 1 (6), Atlanta Falcons
Possibilities: Right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi slides over to take Matthews' spot on the left side this season, and after choosing to stay in school despite a first-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, the transition is expected to be a smooth one. Ogbuehi was outstanding on the right side last year and has experience at guard, as well. Ogbuehi has a chance to be a top-10 pick in the 2015 NFL draft, according to NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt, which would mark the fifth consecutive draft with a Texas A&M player taken that early ( Von Miller, Ryan Tannehill, Luke Joeckel, Matthews, Mike Evans).
WR Mike EvansRound 1 (7), Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Possibilities: What's the best way to replace a 6-5, 230-pound wide receiver who dominated with his size? How about with one who is 6-6, 240? Ricky Seals-Jones will be the Aggies' big man on the perimeter this year. He comes off a knee injury that shortened his freshman season, but hopes are high for this elite recruit.
QB Johnny ManzielRound 2 (22), Cleveland Browns
Possibilities: Sophomore Kenny Hill will compete against true freshman Kyle Allen to fill college football's biggest pair of shoes. Hill saw limited action last season, but 22 passes wasn't enough to get much of a head start on Allen, who enrolled at TAMU early and participated in spring drills. Hill can move the chains with his feet, as well, something Aggies fans have gotten used to the last two years.