|Doug Benc/Associated Press|
|Jameis Winston was recruited by home-state school Alabama, but opted to sign with FSU.|
Bill Polian enjoyed a long and successful career as an NFL general manager, and he says he still might be a GM (and not a media member) had he drafted quarterback Andy Dalton as a potential backup to Peyton Manning for the Indianapolis Colts in 2011.
Instead, Polian bypassed Dalton, who ended up going to Cincinnati in the second round. Manning, of course, missed the 2011 season and now is readying for his third season with the Denver Broncos. And Indianapolis now has Andrew Luck at quarterback -- and it has Polian, in a way, to thank for that.
You can play the same kind of "What if ... ?" game in college, in numerous forms. We decided to play "What if ... ?" with some strict ground rules: What if certain star players had decided to remain "home" for college instead of heading to out-of-state schools?
We found some mighty interesting scenarios for some powerful teams. In every instance, the home-state player would've filled a big hole for his home-state team this season.
What if ... Florida State QB Jameis Winston had signed with Alabama?
Winston's background: From Hueytown (Ala.) High
The buzz: Alabama has an opening at quarterback, and if you listen to coach Nick Saban, it might not be filled for a while. Can you imagine the Tide with Winston? We wonder if Tide star WR Amari Cooper cries when he thinks about the possibilities. An offense featuring Winston, Cooper, TE O.J. Howard and that deep group of Tide tailbacks? For once, folks might be talking about the Tide's offense instead of the defense.
Of course, talk of Winston eventually turns to Florida State's one position of concern -- the guys that are supposed to catch Winston's passes.
What if ... USC WR Nelson Agholor had signed with Florida State?
Agholor's background: From Tampa Berkeley Prep
The buzz: Agholor should be one of the best receivers on the West Coast this season, and you have to forgive FSU fans if they think about Agholor lining up opposite Seminoles star WR Rashad Greene. Greene is perhaps the best senior receiver in the nation, but FSU has no clear-cut No. 2 receiver. Trying to cover Agholor, Greene and TE Nick O'Leary would be tough for any opponent.
Agholor is not the only Floridian who took his talents to L.A., though.
What if ... USC DL Leonard Williams had signed with Florida?
Williams' background: From Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland High
The buzz: Williams is a bad man, and we mean that in a good way. He can play tackle and end, and given the way Florida coach Will Muschamp likes to move around his defensive linemen, he would have quite a good time using Williams as a chess piece. And the idea of Williams lining up next to rising-star DE Dante Fowler Jr. would terrorize any SEC offensive lineman. Florida has some competent defensive tackles, but no one who really stands out. That wouldn't be the case with Williams.
Agholor and Williams aren't the only college players in L.A. that have home-state eyes watching and yearning.
What if ... UCLA QB Brett Hundley had signed with Arizona?
Hundley's background: Chandler (Ariz.) High
The buzz: Hundley has put up big numbers in UCLA's offense; his numbers likely would be even better in coach Rich Rodriguez's version of the spread. Arizona likely will have USC transfer Jesse Scroggins at quarterback this season. Nothing against Scroggins, but Hundley is a lot better.
And Arizona's archrival wouldn't have minded if a huge in-state recruit had stayed home.
What if ... Stanford OT Andrus Peat had signed with Arizona State?
Peat's background: From Tempe (Ariz.) Corona del Sol High
The buzz: Peat went to high school about 15 miles from Arizona State's campus. Having him on the left side to serve as underrated QB Taylor Kelly's blindside protector would make coach Todd Graham smile. Arizona State's left tackle this season will be Jamil Douglas, a converted guard who is moving outside this fall. Douglas is a talented player. But he also is a better guard than tackle, and having Douglas lined up next to Peat ... wow.
Peat is one of the nation's best offensive tackles. You have to forgive another team's fan base for wondering what one of the nation's best defensive ends would look like in a different jersey.
What if ... Clemson DE Vic Beasley had signed with Georgia?
Beasley's background: From Adairsville (Ga.) High
The buzz: Beasley is a blur off the edge in Clemson's 4-3 defense. New Georgia coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will use a 3-4 this season, and the idea of Beasley coming off the edge would be a scary sight for SEC quarterbacks. Pruitt could line him up at end or outside linebacker, and he could use Beasley on both sides, too. Georgia junior OLB Jordan Jenkins has a solid pass-rush upside -- and that upside would be even higher if opposing linemen were forced to to focus on Beasley.
But Georgia fans can't get too greedy. After all, the Bulldogs' best player would spruce up an offense in his home state.
What if ... Georgia RB Todd Gurley had signed with North Carolina?
Gurley's background: From Tarboro (N.C.) High
The buzz: North Carolina coach Larry Fedora likes to throw the ball to his backs, and Gurley is the best all-around back in the nation. Given that UNC doesn't have a true feature back, Tar Heels fans can be forgiven if they cry at the thought of Gurley in that offense. What also has to irk Tar Heels fans: Georgia backup TB Keith Marshall, who also would start at UNC, is a North Carolina native, too.
Gurley isn't the only stud tailback who would look good in a home-state offense.
What if ... Nebraska TB Ameer Abdullah had signed with Auburn?
Abdullah's background: From Homewood (Ala.) High
The buzz: Abdullah in the same backfield with Nick Marshall? Auburn coach Gus Malzahn would have an even bigger smile than usual. Tre Mason starred at tailback last season, but now is with the St. Louis Rams. His likely replacement is Corey Grant, who is talented but still rather unproven. That's not the case with Abdullah, who also is a durable back. Plus, he is an excellent receiver. A running back with good hands in that offense? Man ...
What makes it worse for Auburn fans is that three key Alabama players spurned home-state schools when they signed with the Tide.
What if ... Alabama LB Trey DePriest had signed with Ohio State?
DePriest's background: From Springfield (Ohio) High
The buzz: Ryan Shazier was an All-American linebacker for Ohio State last season, when he was the only Buckeyes 'backer to consistently play at a high level. Shazier is with the Pittsburgh Steelers now, and linebacker is a concern for the Buckeyes this fall. Plug in DePriest, and a lot of the issues would go away.
On the other hand, Texas A&M again is going to have a prolific offense. Thing is, the Aggies need a prolific offense because their defense again looks mighty iffy.
What if ... Alabama DE A'Shawn Robinson had signed with Texas A&M?
Robinson's background: From Fort Worth (Texas) Arlington Heights High
The buzz: Robinson is a big, physical guy who still is learning the nuances of the position. At the same time, he has an abundance of physical talent and should contend for All-SEC and maybe even All-American honors this fall. He would slide right in at end in the Aggies' 3-4 and be the most talented player on A&M's defense. Robinson actually would be an Aggies defender the opposing offense would have to game-plan against.
LSU fans aren't the only ones wondering about the next player. His mom might still be mad, too.
What if ... Alabama FS Landon Collins had signed with LSU?
Collins' background: Geismar (La.) Dutchtown High
The buzz: Collins upset his mom when he chose Alabama, as she wanted him to play at LSU. Having Collins patrolling the back of LSU's defense likely would provide a ton of comfort for LSU coaches. Pairing him with senior SS Ronald Martin would give the Tigers a dynamic safety duo and would allow for Jalen Mills to remain at cornerback instead of moving to free safety.
Finally, we get to a Big Ten team whose fans should be hurt because their school couldn't sign a high school teammate of their best player.
What if ... Michigan State CB Trae Waynes had signed with Wisconsin?
Waynes' background: Defensive back at Kenosha (Wis.) Bradford
The buzz: One of Waynes' teammates in high school was Badgers star TB Melvin Gordon. Wisconsin sophomore CB Sojourn Shelton is a good one, but the other corner spot is a question, and pairing Shelton and Waynes would give the Badgers the best corner duo in the league.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.