Going into the offseason, which teams are the most unsettled? Which ones came out of spring ball with the most work to do, and which ones face the most uncertainty going into the summer?
With spring football long over now, every team is trying to figure out what it’s got to work on and what positions are in place going into fall camp. But which teams are facing the most uncertainty? Which ones still have a ton of work to do?
10. Ole Miss
Who’s dealing with more uncertainty than Ole Miss? From the Laremy Tunsil fiasco that could and should make the NCAA take a bigger looksee, to losing three first round talents, to needing to come up with the right combination on the offensive line and in the secondary, this should be an interesting summer.
The Bears were just above okay last year with the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft at quarterback, and now the Pac-12 is better. The Sonny Dykes offense makes stars out of all the offensive skill guys who get to play in it, but it’s going to be a battle into the fall between Chase Forrest – a quarterback, not something an extra had to do in a Tom Hanks movie – Ross Bowers, and a few other candidates to try replacing Jared Goff.
There was some thought throughout the strangeness of Mike Riley’s first season that the team just didn’t have any luck. It lost way too many games in heartbreaking fashion, but it still played hard and it still found a way to close out strong with a bowl win over UCLA. But 6-7 isn’t okay at Nebraska, and this team doesn’t appear to be even close to the level needed to be in the playoff hunt considering the losses at defensive tackle, the offensive line, and without a boatload of next-level prospects. Riley isn’t on a flaming hot seat quite yet, but at least Bo Pelini won.
The Tiger offense that finished 126th in the nation in scoring offense and couldn’t seem to move the ball a lick in key moments still has plenty of work to do under new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. The offense doesn’t have a set scheme yet, but it’s going to try moving quicker and dictate the tempo. The problem? A line that was shaky at best this spring and needs to quickly become a spotlight area come fall. If it doesn’t come together, the O won’t be making too many big strides.
6. Arizona State
Few Power Five programs lose as many key parts as the Sun Devils with seven starters gone on offense and five on defense. While there was some good news this week with star quarterback recruit Ryan Kelley blowing off Oregon for ASU, the program has to wait for him. In the meantime, it’s still a race for the starting quarterback gig with three options still fighting it out. There no leader yet, and that’s just part of the depth chart head coach Todd Graham has to put together.
Gene Chizik won a national title and got launched a few years later. What’ll happen to Gus Malzahn if the Tigers don’t make a whole lot more noise in the SEC? Making matters exponentially worse is the continued success of Alabama, but for now, the Tigers just have to worry about the Tigers. How did the disappointing offense of 2015 look throughout the spring of 2016? To be kind, it’s not back up to snuff yet. Either that, or the defense is going to be great. There has to be more pop from the O in fall camp.
4. Ohio State
The Buckeyes are absolutely loaded with young, athletic talent worthy of being on any and every list of future NFL mock drafts. So, in theory, it shouldn’t be all that hard to replace five first round NFL Draft picks and 12 players taken by the big league.
But as good as the Buckeyes should be, they still have to find sure-thing wide receivers for J.T. Barrett to throw to. Replacing Ezekiel Elliott isn’t going to be all that easy, the promising prospects in the secondary have to be that good in primetime, and tackles need to emerge on both sides of the ball. There’s no panic in any way, and there isn’t the uncertainty like there was last year at quarterback, but this still all has to work. The trip to Oklahoma is on September 17th.
The defense is going to be outstanding with just a little bit of work this fall, and the offense will be fine – eventually. But the quarterback situation still isn’t settled between Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill and last year’s late-season backup, Foster Sawyer, and even if it is, can anyone possible replace Trevone Boykin and everything he was able to do?
As good as the Horned Frog coaching staff is at cranking up the attack, losing four starters on the line along with big-time receivers Josh Doctson, Kolby Listenbee and running back Aaron Green – along with Boykin – is going to hurt.
The Cardinal have Christian McCaffrey, a tremendous coaching staff, and almost nothing else off of last year’s Rose Bowl champion. Thanks to McCaffrey, and on brand name – which is impressive considering where Stanford was before Jim Harbaugh arrived – the program will get a ton of preseason love, but there are issues.
Eight starters are gone on offense including almost everyone that matters on the line, the receiving corps, and QB Kevin Hogan. The program is a factory now for O linemen, but the quarterback situation isn’t any clearer now than when spring ball started with Keller Chryst and Ryan Burns still locked in a battle.
The defensive side isn’t quite as bad, but seven starters are gone and many of the leaders and tough guys from last year have to be replaced.
Even the most ardent of Charlie Strong supporters would admit that this is the year the change has to come. He had to completely change the culture and overhaul the entire roster over the last few seasons, but Texas is bound by absolutely nothing – there’s no reason it should be just okay.
The money is going to keep flowing in no matter what, but there’s pressure from the fan base that wants Texas football to not be lousy anymore, there’s pressure to help make the struggling Longhorn network start to be decent, and there’s pressure to not lose so many Big 12 games.
Strong and Texas don’t have to go to the College Football Playoff, but they have to take a step to get a whole lot closer. The running back situation is tremendous, but several young linemen have to quickly become stars, the quarterback battle has to be settled – that’s not a problem, though – and the offense overall has to be able to start keeping up with the Big 12 big boys.
With Notre Dame coming up right away in what might be a make-or-break moment for the direction of the program, the pressure and scrutiny will be ramped up to a whole other level this fall.