Tag:LSU
Posted on: March 6, 2012 1:38 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 2:09 pm
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A&M president confirms series with Gamecocks

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The SEC still hasn't confirmed (or denied) South Carolina president Harris Pastides's claim that the league's athletic directors and presidents have signed off on a plan to maintain the league's annual cross-divisional rivalry games, or his assertion that his Gamecocks would be exchanging their yearly battle against Arkansas for one vs. league newcomers Texas A&M.

But even if the league won't confirm it, someone who would most certainly be in a position to know has: Aggie president R. Bowen Loftin. Loftin tweeted the following Monday afternoon:

 

Yes, that's the bow-tied president of a major research university of more than 50,000 students tweeting "#WHOOP" over a future football game. Clearly, the Aggies will be even more at home in the SEC than we've thought.

That aside, Loftin's confirmation should -- finally -- end any speculation or controversy over whether or not the SEC will keep the permanent cross-division games that have allowed series like Auburn-Georgia and Alabama-Tennessee to continue since its 1992 divisional split. If the SEC is going to bother forcing the Gamecocks and Aggies -- two teams without any geographic rivalry or gridiron history -- to play each season, it's safe to assume that every SEC team is going to play someone in their opposite division, eliminating the possibility of a compromise that would see some teams (like the Tide and Vols) keep their cross-division rivalries while others did not.

This decision does mean that if the SEC remains wedded to an eight-game schedule, teams in opposite divisions who don't share a rivalry game (like say, Alabama and Florida, or Georgia and LSU ) will play each other just twice in a 12-year rotation. To judge by Pastides's and Loftin's comments, though, whether that will be often enough to keep all 14 schools (and the SEC's television partners) happy will be a bridge the conference will cross when it comes to it.

HT: TSK. 

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Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:19 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 2:37 pm
 

LSU female goalkeeper Mo Isom to try out for PK

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

There's rarely a dull moment where LSU football -- the program of Les Miles, the "Honey Badger," Death Valley, etc. -- is concerned. And as if we needed any further evidence, the first week of the Tigers' 2012 spring camp could see even more SEC history being made on the bayou.

Former LSU women's soccer goalkeeper Mo Isom will attempt to walk on to the Tiger roster Tuesday, putting her soccer-honed leg to the test in a tryout to become the team's newest placekicker. Isom would become the first female college football player in SEC history and just the second in FBS history, following former Colorado and New Mexico kicker Katie Hnida. 

A fifth-year senior who has exhausted her eligibility on the soccer field, Isom has been planning the tryout since early 2011 and began working on field goals and kickoffs with the football team in workouts last September, station WDSU reported.

"I had [trying out] in my mind, and I approached some of the players I know, and they were so enthusiastic. And then I talked to some of the coaching staff, because of course I wanted to be in their good graces," Isom told LSU blog And the Valley Shook in a November interview. "I was expecting to see some resistance but all the doors were open to me, and everybody has been so excited, which is so great."

The daughter of a former college football player at Division II Carson-Newman , Isom said Tuesday her only motivation was attempting to make the team.

"People's first presumption is that it's a media stunt or some attempt for attention and glory," she said. "That couldn't be any farther from the truth."

Miles said in a statement following practice Tuesday that if he felt adding Isom to the roster would help the team, he wouldn't hesitate to do it.

"If she gave us an opportunity and an advantage, and I mean add an advantage, then certainly we would consider that," he said. "The good thing about it is she's an athlete. She's been through team before. She understands the commitment."

"I would have much less reservations with her than I would any number of other people that frankly didn't know what they were getting into," he added. "Obviously, she's got ball skills. She's been around it."

A Georgia native, Isom's difficult life away from the soccer field -- including her father's suicide and a battle with bulimia, as documented in this SI.com piece -- means she won't likely find the tryout process over-intimidating.

Isom told ATVS that she had connected on a 51-yarder in practice, and to judge by this highlight, leg strength may not be much of an issue:

"It would just be a fantastic way to spend my last year as a Tiger," she told ATVS. "And I love the guys on the team. I just think it would be a really special experience."

Isom would have a difficult time seeing the field even if she made the roster; rising senior Drew Alleman returns as the Tiger starter after hitting 16-of-18 field goals and 62 of his 63 extra points in 2011.

But whatever level of success she found with the Tigers, Isom would be breaking new ground in the SEC. The Southeast as a region has not been unfriendly towards female kickers, however; Ashley Martin became the first woman to score in a Division I game for FCS Jacksonville (Ala.) State, and in 2003 Tonya Butler became the first female kicker to kick an NCAA field goal at Division II West Alabama.

Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples pointed out that Isom has already competed against members of the current Tigers' roster, taking on defensive back Tryann Mathieu in an episode of Isom's "Meaux Vs." YouTube series.


 

Photo by LSU Sports Information, via ATVS. HT their way for the SI link as well. For more on Isom and other reports from LSU's spring practice, follow Glenn Guilbeau's CBSSports.com Tiger RapidReports.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 5:35 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 5:37 pm
 

SEC announces Media Days dates, schedule

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



For those of you who see SEC Media Days as the starter's pistol signaling the final dash to the end of another endless college football offseason, we have good news: that pistol is going to fire earlier than ever.

The SEC announced its schedule for the 2012 edition of Media Days Monday, which will run from July 17 through July 19 in its typical home at the Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham. (Journalists in attendance should begin sharpening their complaints about the Wynfrey's notoriously difficult Internet access now.) That July 17 date stands as a full three days earlier than any of the past five year's editions, and if you don't think that's that big a deal, you've forgotten how it feels in mid-July when every scrap of football news is a delicious morsel to save. (Also, you may be sane.)

Here's the full schedule: 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

1st session (approx. 1 – 3:30 p.m.) – South Carolina, Texas A&M
2nd session (approx. 3:20 – 6 p.m.) -- Missouri, Vanderbilt

Wednesday, July 18, 2012
1st session (approx. 8:30 – 11:20 a.m.) – Florida, Mississippi State
2nd session (approx. 10:50 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.) – Arkansas, Kentucky
3rd session (approx. 2:30 – 5 p.m.) – Auburn, LSU

Thursday, July 19, 2012
1st session (approx. 8:30 – 11:20 a.m.) – Alabama, Tennessee
2nd session (approx. 10:50 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.) – Ole Miss, Georgia

Our expected highlights from each session:

Tues., 1stSteve Spurrier casually joking about asking Kevin Sumlin where he might be able to find an old-school Fun N' Gun-style quarterback like Case Keenum, then afterwards seriously asking Kevin Sumlin where he might be able to find an old-school Fun N' Gun-style quarterback like Case Keenum.

Tues., 2ndJames Franklin being asked about James Franklin, followed by James Franklin being asked about James Franklin.

Wed., 1stWill Muschamp oh-so-subtly suggesting he might welcome Dan Mullen back to Florida if things don't improve this season in Gainesville; Dan Mullen oh-so-subtly suggesting he might go back to back to Florida if things don't improve this season in Starkville.

Wed., 2ndBobby Petrino being unable to stifle his chuckles from the back of the room as Joker Phillips outlines the steps forward he expects his offense to take this season.

Wed., 3rd: The stoic-at-a-molecular level in front of press Gene Chizik and the molecularly un-stoic in front of press Les Miles causing a press-conference antimatter explosion when they shake hands.

Thurs., 1st: Derek Dooley and Nick Saban singing a duet on the Dooley-penned bluegrass tune "Your Best Interests Have Tamed My Triflin' Heart." As it turns out, Saban plays the most technically proficient banjo you've ever heard.

Thurs., 2nd: Hugh Freeze asks Mark Richt if he arm-wrestle him for that "League's Nicest Guy" coffee mug he thought he spotted in his office.

The best news? The actual Media Days will likely be even better than our expectations. July 17 isn't that far away, and it still can't come soon enough.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 3:19 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 3:24 pm
 

Mathieu 'hopes' to go pro after 2012 season

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Whether on Twitter or in an interview, Tyrann Mathieu has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind. And so when the topic of the 2013 NFL Draft came up in a radio interview Friday, Mathieu didn't mince words: he intends to be in it.

"I hope so," Mathieu said on Philadelphia's 97.5 "The Fanatic" when asked if 2012 would be his final year in an LSU uniform. "If I'm fortunate enough."

Mathieu was speaking from the Maxwell Athletic Club dinner in Atlantic City, N.J., where he was on hand to receive the Bednarik Award as the nation's best defensive player for 2011. Mathieu missed the opening day of LSU spring practice but is expected to participate in Monday's drills.

It's honors like the Bednarik that make Mathieu's pronouncement more surprising for its timing and honesty than for its content itself. After a sophomore season that saw him travel to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist and earn him multiple All-American nods, a successful junior year -- particularly in the realm of one-on-one coverage, the one area where Mathieu could (in this blogger's opinion) stand to sharpen his skills -- would leave him with little left to prove on an individual level.

After his Tigers' embarrassing defeat in the BCS national championship, though, there's still plenty of unfinished business on a team level entering 2012. But Mathieu also said he expects big things from LSU this fall.

"We’ve got a pretty good team coming back next year, pretty much the same team from a year ago minus the quarterback, a few receivers and obviously Morris [Claiborne] and Brandon Taylor and Ron Brooks in the secondary," Mathieu said. "But we have a lot of guys that are going to step up and make a name for themselves.”

Mathieu's name was already big enough that a draft declaration was already more "when" than "if"--meaning we can't blame him for making it a non-issue at nearly the first opportunity.

For more Tiger football, follow Glenn Guilbeau's CBSSports.com LSU RapidReports.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 5:45 pm
 

The SEC schedule paradox: what are the options?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



Attention Birmingham residents: don't be surprised if you look in the "help wanted" section of your local Craigslist this weekend and find an ad from a user named "NoJiveSlive6nCounting" seeking "experienced cat-herder, must be able to wrangle up to 14 strong-willed athletic direc ... er, cats, with 14 differing agendas into moving in the same direction. Happily. Or at least, not angrily."

If you do, you can bet it's a response to this week's meeting of SEC athletic directors, where efforts to begin hammering out a football schedule for 2013 -- and, more importantly, a planned rotation for the seasons beyond -- seemed to have gone just an inch or two past nowhere. Reading the comments of those A.D.'s both during and after the meetings, it's easy to see why; not only is every SEC school bringing its own aims and ideas to the table, but they can't even agree on what they think they agree on. Just ask LSU and Florida, who are both willing to give up their annual cross-division rivalry or, in fact, aren't, depending on who you ask.

Of course, anyone who wasn't expecting these kinds of difficulties as soon as Texas A&M and Missouri joined the league wasn't paying attention. As we've repeated ad nauseum in this space, what the SEC wants -- preserved cross-divisional rivalries, semi-regular rotations for other East-West matchups, a divisional round-robin -- and the number of league games in which it wants them -- i.e., eight -- is flatly impossible, the scheduling equivalent of dividing by zero. Some kind of compromise somewhere in that tangled thicket of demands is inevitable.

But which compromise makes the most sense? Let's break down the SEC's options:

1. A NINE-GAME SCHEDULE

Pros: The simplest solution would give the conference room to preserve one annual cross-division game per team (saving the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry and Third Saturday in October), two slots for rotating cross-division opponents (shortening the gap between home-and-homes to four years), and still fit in the NCAA-mandated six-game intra-divisional round-robin. There's little doubt the league's television partners would vastly prefer another round of conference contests to a snoozer over yet another faceless Sun Belt punching bag.

Cons: They are many, the biggest one being that half the league would be giving up the cash bonanza of a guaranteed home game each year; for teams committed to a nonconference rivalry that requires a biannual road game (South Carolina with Clemson, Georgia with Georgia Tech, etc.) that loss will be particularly tough to swallow. There's also the increased difficulty of bottom-rung teams scheduling their way to a bowl berth; the inevitable loss of one-off nonconference series like LSU's with West Virginia; the inherent unfairness of half the league getting five home games and half just four ... all in all, it's understandable why the league would prefer to stick at eight if at all possible.

2. KEEP SELECTED CROSS-DIVISIONAL RIVALRIES

Pros: In other words, let Georgia play Auburn and Alabama play Tennessee (and maybe LSU and Florida? Arkansas and Missouri?) on an annual basis while everyone else rotates their cross-division opponents. The rivalries that matter are preserved while teams without such rivalries maintain scheduling flexibility.

Cons: For the teams with permanent cross-division rivals and just one rotating cross-division slot, match-ups with the rest of the opposite division will be few and far between--just one home-and-home over 12 years. Will teams in the West who want to recruit Georgia be happy with one trip to Athens every dozen seasons? Will East teams that struggle to fill their stadiums like Vanderbilt or Kentucky be happy with one visit from the Crimson Tide every 12 years? Will traditional rivals Auburn and Florida live with almost never playing each other again? This compromise is better than assigning every team a permanent cross-divisional rival, but it still has major problems.

3. PLAY ONLY FIVE INTRA-DIVISIONAL GAMES

Pros: As discussed by Mississippi State A.D. Scott Stricklin here, this would require an NCAA waiver or repeal of the current rule requiring conferences to stage intra-divisional round-robins to hold a title game (and such a waiver was granted to the MAC, albeit when that league had 13 teams and needed it to make an eight-game schedule work). But it would free up one key slot for a cross-divisional game--and it's hard to think of a team in the league that wouldn't take someone in the opposite division over someone in their own. League regularly dealt with tiebreaks between teams that hadn't played head-to-head back in the pre-divisional days.

Cons: Just because they dealt with them doesn't mean awkward tiebreaks are somehow a good thing; ask the Big 12 about its 2008 season sometime. And it may all be moot anyway--the NCAA may not be inclined to grant the waiver in the first place.

4. REALIGN DIVISIONS

Pros: If Auburn/Georgia and Tennessee/Alabama need to play every year, why not just lump them all into the same division and make the issue of cross-division rivalries irrelevant? You'd have to ignore geography entirely where South Carolina was concerned, but a "Rivalry" division of Tigers, Bulldogs, Volunteers, Crimson Tide, Gators, Commodores, and Wildcats -- with LSU, A&M, Missouri, Arkansas, the Mississippi schools, and the Gamecocks in the "Other" division -- would preserve almost every classic SEC series. And if you don't like that arrangement, there's always other options.

Cons: Hoo boy, the Gamecocks would not be happy with having their Georgia series dissolved in the above scenario. And even if you convince them, any scenario which lumps both Alabama schools in with the traditional East powers is going to be far too competitively weighted towards that division--the West could have just one team (LSU) that had won the league since 1963. 

5. ELIMINATE DIVISIONS ENTIRELY

ProsMore than one SEC fan has proposed simply doing away with the divisional setup -- allowing teams to schedule as many annual rivals or rotated games as they wish -- and having the top two teams in the standings play off in the league championship game. No other suggestion in this list would make scheduling easier.

Cons: That the NCAA has mandated divisions for a championship game since the game's inception is a hurdle just a shade smaller than the Empire State Building, and of course the money-tree that is the SEC Championship Game is going to go away when Razorbacks fly. Then there's the tiebreaking issues, the regressive feel of reverting to the pre-1992 standings table ... this isn't happening.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Short of pitching two schools overboard, which will happen immediately after the league gives up its championship game to help it live a life of "monastic conferencehood, in which championships are awarded for each team's level of enlightenment," nope.

SO WHAT SHOULD THE LEAGUE DO?

Simple: go to nine games. For the likes of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Kentucky, this means just two nonconference "paycheck" breathers and some massaging of the road/home split to make sure each team doesn't have too many games away from home in one season.

But guess what? The Bulldogs only played two paycheck games last season, and they ended up all right. LSU played only six true home games last year, only two of them vs. tomato can opposition, and their world somehow continued to spin as well. We're not sure there's a fan in the league that wouldn't be willing to trade two seasons' worth of exhibitions against Cupcake State for one ticket vs. legitimate SEC opposition.

BUT WHAT WILL THEY DO?

Despite the noises coming from Georgia's Greg McGarity, we expect -- and fervently hope -- that even a money-grab as naked as this round of SEC expansion has its limits, and that those limits stop outside the cancellation of Georgia-Auburn and Alabama-Tennessee. For now, expect the league to opt for option No. 2, where the schools who want permanent cross-division rivalries get them and those that don't don't. And in the long run? When the demands of television viewers and high price of paying off bodybags makes that extra home game more trouble than it's worth, the ninth game will make it debut. 

Unfortunately, there's going to be a lot of hand-wringing, a lot of scary-sounding statements, and a lot of Mike Slive cat-herding before we get to that or any compromise. Buckle in, SEC, fans.

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Posted on: March 2, 2012 4:15 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 4:22 pm
 

Terry Joseph is seventh assistant to leave Vols

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's March 2, and even after February had an extra day in it this year, Tennessee is somehow still hemorrhaging assistant coaches.

According to a report from Tennessee Rivals affiliate Volquest.com and confirmed by CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman, Vol defensive backs coach (and recruiting coordinator) Terry Joseph has resigned to accept the same position at Nebraska. The Huskers' secondary coaching position came open when LSU hired Bayou Bengal alum Corey Raymond away from Nebraska Feb. 27. Joseph served as a graduate assistant under Huskers head coach Bo Pelini during Pelini's tenure as defensive coordinator at (you guessed it) LSU.

Joseph becomes the seventh Volunteer assistant to depart Derek Dooley's struggling program this offseason, with his decision ensuring that Dooley will enter the 2012 season with an entirely new defensive staff. The only holdovers from the Vols' 2011 staff will be offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and current wide receivers coach Darin Hinshaw. With Hinshaw having moved to the receivers' role after coaching quarterbacks last season, not one position on the Vol depth chart will be coached by the same position coach as in 2011.

On the one hand, Joseph's individual departure isn't that big a deal; it comes too late to make any impact on the 2012 recruiting class, but early enough that Dooley should be able to repair the damage both in terms of the 2013 class and in finding someone worthwhile to coach DB's before the 2012 season.

On the other, every shred of stability Dooley could hang onto in a program that's been reeling ever since its season-ending defeat at Kentucky is a huge help, and losing seven assistants in a matter of months -- many of them in moves there's no way other to describe other than "lateral" -- not only erodes that stability, it creates the image of a program that's unstable enough to have its head coach dismissed if things don't turn around.

That image, in turn, does make the program more unstable. Dooley still has plenty going for him, but the lack of confidence shown in him and his program by his now-former assistants has made what already shaped up as a make-or-break season that much more difficult. If there's a coach in the SEC in more dire need of a positive spring camp, we haven't seen him.

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Posted on: March 1, 2012 1:51 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: LSU

Posted by Jerry Hinnen


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at LSU.

Spring Practice Starts: March 2, or a day after it had been scheduledthat date two days after the start had originally been scheduled. Les Miles has said the delay is due to getting new defensive backs coach Corey Raymond up to speed.

Spring Game: March 31

Returning starters: Seven on offense, five on defense, both specialists.

Three Things To Look For:

1.  Is Zach Mettenberger ready to take over at quarterback? Miles has made no secret of his expectations for the former Georgia and JUCO quarterback, saying he expects the Tigers to immediately take a step forward in the passing game thanks to the big-armed senior--not that with Jordan Jefferson (fresh off his rock-bottom performance at the NFL Draft combine) finally relinquishing the reins, there's really anywhere for that passing game to go but up. But for the Tigers to live up to their preseason No. 1 ranking, Mettenberger will have to live up to his advance hype and then some. Unlike during the days of his Jefferson-Jarrett Lee platoon, Miles won't have many options if he doesn't; none of the other three quarterbacks on the roster (including brother-of-Phillip Stephen Rivers, a redshirt freshman) have taken a college snap or come with much in the way of advance hype. (In retrospect, maybe it's no surprise Miles lost his cool over Gunner Kiel's decision to go to Notre Dame instead.) 

2. Can anyone fill the shoes of Rueben Randle? The Tigers aren't exactly hurting at wide receiver, not with Odell Beckham Jr. looking to build on a highly promising freshman season and the brutally underused Russell Shepard bound to get the attention of his coaching staff one of these years. But both players are more the shifty, undersized type that thrived on Randle opening up coverage underneath than a replacement for Randle's 6'4" downfield presence; Beckham's 11.6 yards per-reception average in 2011 was nearly 6 yards shy of Randle's (outstanding) mark, for instance. And outside of Beckham and Shepard, no other wideout on the team finished in double-digits for receptions in 2011. Mettenberger's deep touch is nice, but it won't do a whole lot for the Tigers if someone -- sophomore Landry Fields, maybe, or junior Kadron Boone -- can't put it to use down the field. 

3. How will the Tigers react to their BCS debacle? Even without the likes of Jefferson, Randle, or Morris Claiborne, there's still no roster in the FBS more fully stocked with talent than this one. (It won't surprise anyone if the Tigers' entire starting defensive line -- Barkevious Mingo, Anthony Johnson, Bennie Logan, and Sam Montgomery -- ends up starting in the NFL as well.) Miles has been a master motivator in the past, and if he turns his team's faceplant in the Superdome into a rallying point and driving force, there's no reason they can't run the regular season table again. But if it instead becomes a black cloud that hangs over their spring drills and results in half-hearted efforts from player and coach alike, the Tigers don't have to look any further than the previous team to lose a national title game to Alabama -- Mack Brown's Texas, still struggling to recover from their loss in Pasadena -- to see how damaging the consequences can be.

To check in on the rest of the SEC and other BCS conferences, check out the Spring Practice Schedule

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:01 am
 

The biggest shoes to fill in college football



Posted by Tom Fornelli


With teams having already started or starting spring practice over the next few weeks. there are a lot of players across the country who will be charged with replacing someone who has come and gone before them. It's an annual rite of spring in college football, when the senior quarterback from last season is putting the finishing touches on his final semester as a college student, and the sophomore who isn't even sure what he's majoring in yet realizes he's going to be majoring in Playbook 101 for the next few weeks.

Of course, while roster turnover is a common occurence in college football, there are bigger shoes to fill than others, and in this post we take a look at the ten biggest pairs looking for a new owner this spring.

10. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma

Ryan Broyles began re-writing the Oklahoma record books the moment he stepped on the field in his first game as a Sooner. He caught 7 passes for 141 yards against Cincinnati, both of which were freshman records. Four years later he finished his career having caught more passes than any other receiver in FBS history, pulling in 349 passes for 4,586 yards and 45 touchdowns.

In other words, he's not the type of player that Oklahoma can just replace with anybody. This spring receivers like Kenny Stills, Jaz Reynolds and Trey Metoyer will try to replicate Broyles' production in Norman. Whether it will be one of them doing it, or a group effort, Oklahoma will need it to happen if the Sooners want to win the Big 12 and contend for a national title.

9. Matt Kalil, OT, USC

Understandably, USC fans were extremely excited by the news that Matt Barkley would be returning for his senior season, and many have pegged the Trojans as a title favorite because of it. What you don't want to do, however, is overlook the fact that the man who was in charge of protecting Barkley's blindside these last few years won't be back.

Though that's how life generally works for offensive lineman like Matt Kalil. As large as they are, they're often overlooked. Kevin Graf, Jeremy Galten, David Garness and Nathan Guertler will all be competing for the unenviable task of being the man in charge of making sure nothing happens to the most valuable piece of the USC offense.

8. Mark Barron, S, Alabama

One of the problems with having a defense as strong as the one we saw in Tuscaloosa last season is that you're bound to lose players to the next level, and the Crimson Tide have no shortage of beasts making their way to greener pastures. Still, the Tide have a knack for churning out defensive lineman and linebackers, but safeties like Mark Barron don't come along all that often.

Barron made 231 tackles for Nick Saban in his four seasons, including 13 for a loss, while picking off 12 passes. Barron was the type of player that could defend the pass and the run, and he won't be easily replaced. Can Robert Lester or freshman Vinnie Sunseri step up and be the next stud in the Alabama secondary?

7. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

Based purely on production, there may be no larger shoes to fill in the country than Luke Kuechly's. There may not have been more than 3 plays run by opposing offenses in which Kuechly wasn't in on the tackle. Kuechly finished 2011 with 191 tackles. The next highest total on the Boston College defense belonged to Kevin Pierre-Louis, who had 74.

As our own Chip Patterson put it, "for Boston College, replacing Kuechly is like any other team replacing 2 1/2 players." Though it's been proven that it can be done, as Kuechly himself once had to fill the shoes left behind by Mark Herzlich. Pierre-Louis and Steele Divitto -- who has a name that would be hard to replace -- will be the two linebackers looking to repeat the feat.

6. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Many casual college football fans never truly appreciated how amazing a player Morris Claiborne was for LSU in 2011 simply because opposing offenses weren't dumb enough to test him all that often. Throw in some Honey Badger exploits with a bit of Les Miles being Les Miles, and Claiborne gets a bit lost in the gumbo. Still, Claiborne truly was the definition of a shutdown corner for LSU, playing a pivotal role on one of the best defenses in the country.

While Tyrann Mathieu will be back in 2012, he's not the cover corner that Claiborne was, so it will be up to Tharold Simon to fill the role. One he seems capable of considering he led LSU with 10 passes broken up in 2011 playing mostly as a nickel back.

5. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

I won't lie to you. Even when Mark Ingram will still in Tuscaloosa running through SEC defenses, I always felt that Trent Richardson was the best running back on the Alabama roster. Now both are gone, and Richardson will be harder to replace than Ingram was simply because Trent can't replace himself.

Can Eddie Lacy be the next Heisman finalist in the Alabama backfield? He showed some promise in 2011, and in an offense like Alabama's, the opportunities will be there. Still, even if Lacy is extremely talented, there are only so many shoes capable of doing this.

4. Brandon Weeden/Justin Blackmon, QB/WR, Oklahoma State

A bit of a cheat, I know, but the truth is that Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon felt like extensions of one another for the past two seasons in Stillwater. Their success was as a duo. I mean, Blackmon caught 40 touchdowns over the last three seasons, which accounted for 53% of the 75 touchdown passes Weeden threw with the Cowboys.

Now we know that Oklahoma State is going to continue putting points on the board without them, but will the offense ever be as prolific when the combination is Clint Chelf or Wes Lunt to Tracy Moore? We'll get our first clues this spring.

3. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon

Maybe you think that LaMichael James isn't all that hard to replace given the weapons Oregon has in the backfield. I can see your point, but I can also point out that James nearly doubled Kenjon Barner's rushing total (1,805 yards to 939) in 2011. I mean, this is a man who rushed for 1,805 yards and 18 touchdowns while averaging 7.3 yards per carry in 2011, yet we didn't think it was so amazing based simply on the fact we'd already seen him do similar things in the previous two seasons.

We just got used to it.

Yes, Barner and DeAnthony Thomas are extremely talented backs, but the fact is there's no easy way to replace a back who accounted for 5,888 all-purpose yards and 58 touchdowns in three seasons as a Duck, all at the speed of light.

2. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Will it be harder to fill RG3's shoes, or his socks? Neither will be easy. While we all know how talented Griffin was as a quarterback for Baylor in 2011 and the two seasons before it, it's his impact on the program that will leave the biggest impression. Baylor went from a perennial bottom-feeder in the Big 12 to a team that can call itself the home of a Heisman Trophy winner.

Nick Florence will be the favorite to replace Griffin this spring, but he'll never be able to have the impact on the Baylor program that Griffin did. Instead he'd be much better served to focus on replacing the production on the field. Something that won't be easy, either, but given Art Briles' history with quarterbacks and the way Florence performed in place of Griffin against Texas Tech, it may not be that far-fetched, either.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Andrew Luck didn't win the Heisman Trophy like Robert Griffin did, but that doesn't diminish the impact he had on the Stanford program. In the three seasons before Luck showed up in Palo Alto, Stanford was 10-26, including a 1-11 season in 2006. In Luck's three seasons the Cardinal went 31-8, played in two BCS bowl games and became a national program.

Stanford is essentially the school Notre Dame used to be, and it's all thanks to Luck. Of course, the question now is whether or not Stanford can maintain the success they had under Luck with a new quarterback. Brett Nottingham, Josh Nunes and Robbie Picazo will all enter spring practice looking to replace the most important player in the history of Stanford football, and that's a list that includes John Elway.

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