College Football: Top 10 Position Battles To Watch This Offseason
With a clean out of some premium college talent this season, every team will have vacancies with the next stars hoping to shine through.
But what will be the most important battles for 2013?
I'm excluding the lesser teams here, I'm looking at teams who have a shot at a BCS game, or at least the bigger conference titles.
Also, it's mostly quarterbacks and running backs, but there's enough variety to please some people.
Alabama - Offensive Line
Some may point to the sterling play of quarterback AJ McCarron or the power running of Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon, but this offense wouldn't have been as successful without the five men up front.
Now, they have to replace their three best players on that unit. LG Chance Warmack, C Barrett Jones and RT DJ Fluker (the only underclassman) will be on NFL rosters next season. Head coach Nick Saban has recruited well, but who will replace these multi-year starters and All-Americans?
Clemson - Running Back
Andre Ellington (1,081 yds, 8 TDs) may have taken a back seat to the Tajh Boyd show this season, but he was a key component of the Tigers' offense and often came through when the rest of the offense was misfiring (such as the Auburn game).
Roderick McDowell ran for 450 yards and 5 scores as a reserve and will probably get the starting nod at the beginning of spring, but don't write off any of the other talented backs on the roster. Keep an eye out for incoming freshman Tyshon Dye, who provides a nice blend of speed and power.
Florida State - Quarterback
EJ Manuel steadily got better over his career in Tallahassee, but now he's off to try his has hand in the NFL. Who replaces him will be the key to the Seminoles ACC chances next season.
Clint Trickett has shown some ability as Manuel's backup the last couple of years and has even won a couple of games, but he's still pretty green. Jacob Coker also saw time in mop-up duty, but Trickett is by far the most experienced on the roster, something that could become an issue in the Seminoles' hunt for another ACC title.
Kansas State - Quarterback
On paper, Klein may not seem to be such a hard act to follow. He was a fine athlete and had nice production, but there are better guys out there. Well, Klein willed this good, but not great (talent-wise) team to 21 victories and a Big 12 championship over the last two years.
He's considered to be Tebow-lite, which is lofty praise (depending on who you here it from), so who has the thankless job of taking his place? Athletic Daniel Sams is the heir apparent, having backed up Klein this season and seeing some action, but watch out for recent JUCO-signee Jake Waters, one of the top pocket passers at the junior college level for 2013.
Michigan State - Running Back
Yeah, Michigan State's defense was really, really good, but their offense was really, really bad. That is, except for this guy - Le'Veon Bell. Last season he ran for 1793 yards and 12 TDs on a huge 382 carries, over 90 percent of his teams rushing production, and almost single-handedly (he got a little help from his O-line) won games for the Spartans.
In the interest of self-preservation, he jumped ship to the NFL, leaving a 242-pound hole in the offense. The good news is, the defense will still be really, really good, while the passing attack should a step forward as the young guys are more experienced, but who takes Bell's spot?
His "backup", Larry Caper is out of eligibility, so someone untested has to shine through. Nick Hill was the third rusher, but had just 21 carries for 61 yards, while Nico Palezeti and Trevon Pendleton played mostly on special teams. The incoming freshman class doesn't appear to provide instant help, so the running game could be a problem for a Big Ten contender.