NCAA Football News

Paying CFB Players Should Reduce Number of Underclassmen Declaring for NFL Draft

This year's magic number was 36. 

That's the number of underclassmen who weren't selected in this year's NFL draft. In all, 98 underclassmen declared this past January, meaning roughly 37 percent went undrafted. 

The reality of the numbers and percentages becomes more sobering by the year. It'd be great if every player who entered the draft—early or not—was able to realize their dream of playing in the pros. Watching the likes of Jadeveon Clowney and Michael Sam break down into tears of raw emotion is part of what makes the draft—and its unnecessarily long gap from the end of the NFL season—worthwhile. 

But, that's not the nature of the draft. There's going to be an equally heavy dose of disappointment for those underclassmen who didn't hear their name called. 

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay thinks media plays a role in players making ill-advised decisions to declare early: 

In response, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wrote on Sunday that draft experts actually share a responsibility in the increasing number of undrafted underclassmen.

While crafting mock drafts several months to a year in advance may contribute to the trend, so does bad advice. That can come from family or friends, social media or the NFL Draft Advisory Board. 

B/R's NFL Lead Writer Michael Schottey explains:

In any case, Alabama head coach Nick Saban believes the trend is bad for both the NFL and college football. 

"I don't think the NFL really wants this, I don't really think the colleges want this," Saban said via AL.com. "I don't think it's in the best interest of the players and I don't know what the solution to the problem really is."

The solution itself is hard to find, but ultimately, the decision comes down to dollars and value. There's no reason for a draft-eligible underclassmen not to at least consider jumping to the pros, no matter where he might land—if he lands anywhere at all.  

B/R's Adam Kramer wrote in January that declaring for the NFL draft early is one of the safest risks a player can make: 

It’s easy to assume that those who weren’t drafted made a mistake. Then again, many of these players will latch onto NFL teams and eventually make rosters. For perspective of what this means, the rookie minimum in 2013 was a cool $405,000. 

Think of your post-graduation salary for a moment and process this "disappointment." And was your education paid for—or almost completely paid for—to start?

A quick glance over the list of top undrafted free agents, courtesy of Gil Brandt of NFL.com, boasts plenty of recognizable names: Florida State running back James Wilder Jr., Oklahoma State wide receiver Josh Stewart, Florida defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy and Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla. 

Remember all of those guys? Many weren't drafted for reasons unique to them, whether it was off-the-field issues, injuries or simply because they hit their football ceiling. 

Sometimes, the reasons are even more personal. Texas linebacker Dalton Santos recently took to Twitter to ask for donations, which is allowed under NCAA bylaws, for his mother's open-heart surgery. If a player is draft eligible and his mother is sick, the chance to land a six-figure salary that would pay for medical bills is tempting. 

Almost all of the players on the aforementioned NFL.com list have already signed with teams as undrafted free agents. Perhaps, they'll make the team and the league minimum. 

Suddenly, the bad advice doesn't look so bad. The mistake doesn't look so costly. 

Since NFL teams can draft or pass over any player they want while keeping their hands clean, there's no incentive to make life better for players at the collegiate level. And since the NCAA does not allow athletes who declare early to return and finish out their eligibility, they're left to figure out what to do next. 

One option would be for the NCAA to allow undrafted athletes to return to school, but that requires loosening either scholarship caps or transfer restrictions—or both. 

But if the NCAA paid all of its football players an additional stipend and/or allowed them to profit from their likeness, the value of staying in college football would go up.

Would it prevent all underclassmen from declaring early? No, because a possible six-figure salary is still six figures, but the risk/reward balance shifts. 

This isn't a proposal that affects only the football players in the so-called "Power 5" conferences. This applies to every level of college football that offers a scholarship. 

How does the NCAA make it work? There's no easy answer—certainly nothing easy enough to be explained here. 

It's up to the schools, and their highly educated administrators, to figure it out. After all, the NCAA membership's willingness to act as a de facto D-League for the NFL while refusing to alter the status quo is why this issue exists in the first place. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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Former 4-Star OT Austin Golson Transferring from Ole Miss to Auburn

Sophomore offensive lineman Austin Golson, who played guard for Ole Miss last season and was projected to start at tackle in 2014, will officially transfer to Auburn as a walk-on.

Golson is from Prattville, Alabama and has hinted at the move throughout the winter in order to be closer to his sick grandparents. Though there has been no official word from Auburn, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said the following in a statement, according to Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports:

"Austin Golson has informed us he has decided to move closer to his family and is choosing to walk on at Auburn, following normal transfer rules. We wish him the very best."

Golson didn't start as a true freshman last year, but he appeared in all 12 games as a reserve. According to Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledgerhe left the Grove Bowl (Ole Miss' spring game) atop the depth chart at right tackle, although JUCO signee Fahn Cooper was expected to push him for the position during fall camp.

Without Golson, Cooper is the favorite to start opposite sophomore left tackle Laremy Tunsil.

Kellenberger also suggests that Golson could apply for a hardship waiver and be eligible to play in 2014, although it is more likely that he has to sit out a year, per NCAA transfer rules. In that case, he would have to pay his own way as a walk-on before joining the team in 2015, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

It is hard to fault Golson for wanting to be near sick family members. If that is indeed the primary motivation for his transfer, there is no controversy. However, Steven Godfrey of SB Nation—the writer of "Meet the Bag Man," who has a pretty good grasp on the shady side of southeastern recruiting—is a skeptic of Golson's story:

Regardless of whom and what you believe, Golson will be joining the Auburn football program and should do well in Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee's offense, which makes good use of versatile blockers.

Golson was the No. 10 offensive tackle and No. 94 overall player on the 247Sports composite in 2013.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Rutgers QB Philip Nelson Arrested: Latest Details, Comments on Alleged Assault

Rutgers quarterback Philip Nelson, who transferred from Minnesota in January, allegedly assaulted a man who is now fighting to stay alive from head injuries sustained in the attack. According to Dan Duggan of NJ.com, Nelson was arrested early Sunday morning in Mankato, Minnesota, and booked into Blue Earth County Jail.

Duggan then reported Monday that the victim, a former linebacker for Minnesota State-Mankato by the name of Isaac Kolstad, 24, is in critical condition at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato. Kolstad's father, Blaine Kolstad, provided an update on his son's condition, per CaringBridge.org:

Isaac suffered a severe head injury early this morning. He is currently in Critical condition and fighting for his life. He is young and strong, but the battle he has in front of him is enormous. He had one surgery today to put a pressure gauge in his skull. He may need additional surgeries in the coming days. We do know that his brain did sustain permanent damage. We do not yet know to what extent and won't for many days. He is very sick. Please pray for Isaac and all of those involved.

Seth Kaplan of MyFox9.com tweeted Nelson's mugshot and a rundown of what he faces moving forward:

"We are in the process of gathering information on the situation and reserve comment until the legal process is complete," said Rutgers athletic department spokesman Jason Baum on Sunday, per Duggan.

Nelson, 20, who is from Mankato, allegedly kicked Isaac Kolstad twice in the head and knocked him unconscious. While he could be facing felony third-degree assault charges, he was also charged with underage alcohol consumption.

Police believe there may have been another man involved in the attack on Kolstad.

Nelson started his collegiate career at Minnesota and logged 16 starts in two seasons, establishing himself as a capable runner and thrower for the Golden Gophers. However, he decided to transfer to Rutgers in January and figured to be the top signal-caller for the Scarlet Knights in 2015 after sitting out next season due to transfer rules. Now, Nelson will likely be away from the gridiron for much longer—perhaps for good.

More importantly, the hope is that Kolstad, who graduated in December, recovers from his critical injuries. 

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Star QBs Falling in the NFL Draft Shouldn't Reflect Negatively on SEC Football

Former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel waited around in the green room at the NFL draft a little longer than he anticipated, before he was selected No. 22 by the Cleveland Browns.

Not ideal for "Johnny Football," but first-round money is still first-round money.

For other former star quarterbacks in the SEC, the draft was more of a test of patience than the world's most famous job fair.

Former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger each had to wait until Day 3 to hear their names called, despite having resumes loaded with wins and video game statistics in college football's toughest conference.

McCarron, who was selected in the fifth round (pick No. 164) by the Cincinnati Bengals, attempted to justify his fall on SiriusXM's NFL Radio by saying he wasn't healthy, according to SportingNews.com.

"A lot of people don't realize I wasn't healthy at Alabama," he said. "I sacrificed a lot to play for coach Saban and that university; I played through a lot of injuries and we never leaked it because that's just the way it is."

Both Mettenberger (Round 6, pick No. 168 to the Tennessee Titans) and Murray (Round 5, pick No. 163 to the Kansas City Chiefs) are coming off of ACL injuries suffered late during their senior seasons, and Mettenberger had his NFL combine drug test flagged due to a diluted sample, according to ESPN.com.

Do any of those reasons justify the Arizona Cardinals taking Logan Thomas (Round 4, pick No. 120) and the Houston Texans taking Tom Savage (Round 4, pick No. 135) ahead of the three former SEC stars?

No. 

NFL scouts routinely outthink the room and put an inordinate amount of stock in potential and measurables over game tape, for some inexplicable reason.

Apparently the game tape for Thomas was somehow absent from the film rooms of NFL scouts during the predraft process, because that's inexcusable. There's no way on this planet—or any planet—Thomas is a better quarterback than any of those three former SEC stars, even with the perception of upside that was also prevalent throughout his Virginia Tech career.

Because NFL scouts try to outthink the room and value upside over results, the fall of Murray, McCarron and Mettenberger shouldn't reflect negatively on the SEC or their respective college programs.

Besides, it's not like being selected in the later rounds of the NFL draft is a big problem. Everybody knows about Tom Brady's story, going from the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL draft by the New England Patriots to a surefire NFL Hall of Famer. 

That, of course, is the exception not the rule.

But the three former pro-style SEC quarterbacks have the chance. Every college football player signs on the dotted line out of high school with NFL superstardom in mind, but what they want more than anything else is a chance.

Murray, McCarron and Mettenberger now have that chance.

Don't blame the SEC or their schools for the fall of these three quarterbacks. Their goals are still very much intact, just with a slightly different path than they initially envisioned.

Blame the process. 

 

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com unless otherwise noted

 


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Should the Big Ten Be Worried About Its Lack of Top-10 Draft Picks?

It isn’t unusual, and perhaps the acceptance is what’s most concerning.

For the sixth consecutive year, the Big Ten was absent from the top 10 in the NFL draft, as noted by FoxSports’ Bruce Feldman.

After producing 10 Top-10 picks from 2003-08, the Big Ten has now gone six years without a Top-10 pick.

— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) May 9, 2014

Before diving any deeper, it’s only fair to acknowledge a few noteworthy bullet points. The first being that former Michigan offensive lineman Taylor Lewan was selected at No. 11 in the 2014 draft by the Titans, just outside the top 10.

It’s also worth noting that the No. 11 pick in the 2011 NFL draft was none other than former Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt. The Texans were thrilled to see the Big Ten’s streak continue on because they landed one of the NFL’s top defenders along the way. 

There are always exceptions, and assuming the Big Ten has struggled to produce quality NFL talent over the past six seasons is false. It has. Not everyone has been J.J. Watt in terms of production, but the conference has delivered players at various positions who have turned into solid NFL pros.

With those disclaimers out in the open, the Big Ten’s lack of talent near the top of these drafts is alarming. It’s not one year, or three years, it’s six years: one-and-a-half graduation cycles.

Given recent trends in the recruiting world, it’s also not really hard to believe.

While the Big Ten has been absent from the top 10 in the NFL draft over the past six years, the SEC—the nation’s premier recruiter and developer of talent at the moment—has heard its name called 24 times.

Beyond simply having a presence near the top when it comes to the NFL draft, the Big Ten’s overall presence compared to the SEC delivers a similar discrepancy.

In the past six years, the Big Ten has produced 22 first-round draft picks. In that time span, the SEC has produced 58 first-round picks (including 23 in the past two years alone).

Things don’t just miraculously end up this way. The scouting process and overall evaluation of talent has improved from the NFL level down. It’s still incredibly difficult to project players—especially when it comes to quarterbacks—but it’s light years ahead of where it used to be a decade ago.

This leads us to recruiting, the long corridor to the NFL draft. The process of projecting the nation’s elite high school players to the next level begins here. And like NFL scouting, the results are mixed. 

Not every 5-star player turns out to be a first-round pick. Along those same lines, not every 2-star player pans out to be a lifelong backup. There are outliers, irregularities and situations that arise that serve as lessons going forward.

For proof of this, look at the paths of former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and former Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. Each went in the top five of this year’s draft, and each had unique recruiting expectations.

Clowney was the consensus No. 1 overall player according to 247Sports (and everyone else) in 2011, while Mack was a 2-star talent and the No. 2,212 rated player, according to 247Sports’ Composite Rankings.

Things happen, players develop at different rates and the recruiting world is deemed imperfect plenty. But overall, landing more 4- and 5-star players will lead to bigger, faster and better overall teams. That’s not rocket science; it’s simply connecting the most recent dots.

Since 2009, the Big Ten has not been a regular in 247Sports’ overall team rankings. The SEC, the nation’s premier recruiting fixture by a significant margin, has only increased its presence.

Notice anything similar? You should. The differences between the two conferences in both the recruiting and first-round draft world follow a similar path. As has been the theme during the exercise, there's also nothing about this latest chart that should surprise.

The staples for the Big Ten on the recruiting front are obvious: Ohio State and Michigan have each done their part when it comes to recruiting. Penn State, off to a blazing start with its 2015 class, could enter this conversation under James Franklin in years to come.

There have been fantastic college players to go through the conference and teams—such as Michigan State just this past season—that were developed better than just about every other program in the country.

Overall, however, the sheer depth of talent simply has not been present. And that’s where the NFL draft concerns and lack of top-10 draft picks begin to become a factor.

As is, the Big Ten gets a bum rap. Some of this is deserved. Some of it is not. 

There’s no question that the teams in the conference can recruit better. In fact, they have to recruit better in order to rid themselves of the endless stream of ridicule. Such criticisms become deafening during events such as national signing day, the NFL draft and, most importantly, the national championship.

That’s where the NFL draft drought comes full circle. Forget about what NFL scouts believe in terms of projections. How are the players producing at the college level? In recent years, with the national championship out of reach, the answer has been obvious. 

Sending one player in the top 10 of the 2015 draft won’t suddenly change that for the B1G, but there is an obvious correlation. The streak speaks volumes to the bigger problem at hand.

If the Big Ten can recruit better, it will field more quality teams from the top down. And if it can grab more quality players—4- and 5-star high schoolers with glowing physical ability—the likelihood of some of these players being taken early on the draft will increase. 

It's not a perfect equation, but as the SEC has shown, it comes together plenty. It's on the Big Ten schools beyond the national staples to help change that. Although that's easier said than done.

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Jameis Winston's Father Wants FSU to Have Somebody Around His Son 24/7

Jameis Winston is about to start his third year of college and his second year as an active member of the Florida State football team. By now, one would think he has the autonomy to handle being alone and making responsible decisions.

But after winning the Heisman trophy as a redshirt freshman last season, everything changed. At least according to his father, Antonor Winston, who told Rachel Axon of USA Today that he thinks FSU should have someone with his son at all times to keep him out of trouble.

"He's supposed to have somebody around him 24/7," said Antonor Winston specifically. "He a Heisman Trophy winner so (he's) definitely not supposed to be by (himself)."

This comes on the heels of Winston's most recent transgression: a citation for stealing crab legs from a supermarket, according to Bud Elliot of Tomahawk Nation. More importantly, it also comes on the heels of last year's "Summer of Johnny," when Johnny Manziel transformed from Heisman trophy winner to Internet celebrity and couldn't keep his name out of the news for the wrong reasons.

Florida State athletic director Stan Wilcox responded to Winston's father with the following statement, per Axon:

We are committed to doing everything in our power within NCAA rules to provide Jameis Winston with the resources he needs to thrive as a student and an athlete. We will continue to work with Jameis and his family to make them aware of all the support services the university has to offer.

Winston, of course, was also subject to a high-profile sexual assault investigation last fall, and even though he was ultimately not charged in that case, it was a far more serious offense than stealing crab legs.

For all the good he did on the field last season—going undefeated and winning a national championship along with the sport's top individual honor—he has seen little but bad press this winter and spring.

Perhaps the school and Winston's family should be doing more to shield him from becoming the next "Johnny Football," but at the end of the day, he is a person responsible for his own behavior.

So writes Kevin McGuire of College Football Talk:

USA Today frames the story centering on the interview with Winston’s father as though Winston was failed by his family and Florida State. There may be a small bit of truth somewhere in that angle, but even at the age of 20 years old, Winston is the first person who will be held accountable for his actions, both good and bad. What he does with the spotlight will go far in establishing his future NFL stock as well.

With regard to that NFL stock, Thayer Evans and Pete Thamel of SI.com and Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report have quoted pro scouts who do not look fondly on Winston after his off-field troubles.

We'll see if he can redeem it in the next 12 months.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Georgia Football: Who Is Replacing Every Former Bulldog Taken in 2014 NFL Draft

The 2014 NFL draft was rather uneventful for the Georgia Bulldogs.  Thursday night's first round went off without a hitch and without a Bulldog.  Friday's second- and third-round action was also devoid of Georgia products.  It wasn't until the fifth round that the first Dawg had his name called, and when all was said and done, only two Dawgs were selected.

That being said, several other former Bulldogs have already signed free-agent contracts, and if recent history is any indication, those players have a tremendous chance of making an NFL roster.  Last year alone, three undrafted Dawgs (Marlon Brown, Kwame Geathers and Abry Jones) survived NFL cuts to garner meaningful rookie playing time.

Here is a look at who will replace Georgia's drafted stars and newly signed rookie free agents.

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8 Drafted Players Who Will Be Hardest for College Teams to Replace in 2014

Being a college football fan is a lot like having a wartime romance, you fall in love knowing that it’s a short-term proposition.

You watch a young guy develop into a prolific running back, scoring glorious touchdowns clad in your team colors, all the while aware that the relationship has a definite shelf life of two to four years.

As much as it feels so right when he’s in the lineup, when it’s over, it hurts so bad.

Though all 256 players selected in the NFL draft will be missed by their college programs, some losses will be more painful to the fanbase and the scoreboard than others.

 

 Statistics courtesy of CFB Stats.

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Predicting Preseason AP Top 25 Poll for 2014 College Football Season

Spring practice is in the books, and before you know it players will be going through summer offseason conditioning and preparing for fall camp.

That means preseason polls aren't too far around the corner. So to prepare you for them, let's take a shot at projecting what the preseason Associated Press Top 25 Poll will look like when it's released this August.

The usual suspects will be at or near the top, including Florida State, Alabama, Auburn, Oregon and Oklahoma. But where will they land, who will bring up the rear and who will be left out entirely?

Our projections are in this slideshow.

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Ohio State Football: How Dontre Wilson Can Go from Decoy to Percy Harvin 2.0

When Dontre Wilson flipped his commitment from Oregon to Ohio State in February of 2013, the comparisons to Percy Harvin were instantaneous. 

That's the life of an all-purpose back who decides to play for Urban Meyer. Regardless of talent or ability, there will always be an enormous and inescapable Harvin-shaped shadow overhead.

For Wilson, that shadow looms large as the 2014 season approaches.

With the loss of its leading rusher (Carlos Hyde) and leading receiver (Corey Brown), Ohio State needs a playmaker to step up. Now that spring practice is in the books, Meyer has narrowed in on Wilson, who was named the starting H-back (known as the "Percy Harvin position") for the Buckeyes this year.

What will Wilson's new role look like? How will it differ from last year? 

Before those questions can be answered, here's a brief overview of both players. 

 

If You Can't Do Something Fast, You Can't Do Anything at All

One of Harvin's greatest strengths was one of the easiest to identify when he took the field: speed. 

Harvin operated at a different speed during his time at Florida. The game looked effortless because he was simply faster than everyone, and he paired that with an incredible agility, skill and general awareness that made him a nightmare to defend. 

Wilson has the speed and ability to thrive, but a lack of familiarity with Meyer's playbook prevented him from producing like Harvin did during his freshman season.

Of course, the Gators didn't have a running back like Hyde on their roster during Harvin's first season, so Meyer relied more heavily on him as a playmaker.

That still doesn't excuse Wilson's shortcomings, however. Midway through the 2013 season, Meyer referred to Wilson as a "novelty," which ultimately led to him playing the role of a decoy in Ohio State's offense.

That won't be the case in 2014 for two reasons: Wilson has made huge strides this offseason, and Ohio State desperately needs him to contribute in a much bigger capacity. 

 

The Key Plays

With Harvin sharing a backfield with quarterback Tim Tebow, a simple motion/counter play was devastatingly effective.

Harvin would motion into the backfield from the slot, oftentimes opposite Tebow and another running back, to keep the defense off-balance.

Ohio State implemented similar principles for Wilson last year, but the main goal was rarely to get the ball in his hands. Braxton Miller and Hyde got an overwhelming majority of those touches—as mentioned earlier, Wilson's primary objective was to distract the defense.

When Wilson went in motion, he'd essentially take primary defenders away from the real action designed for Miller in the passing game or for Hyde on the ground.

As shown in the graphic above, even the threat of Wilson getting the ball took two defenders (at the top of the screen) out of the play, and the third defender (at the bottom) was a step behind his man.

The ball fake to Wilson created a number of mismatches down the field. On this play, Miller found Evan Spencer down the seem at the 1-yard line with a perfectly placed pass.

But with Wilson now expected to be a focal point of Ohio State's offense, his presence won't just be a smokescreen. The Buckeyes can open up the playbook and find creative ways such as this to get him the ball.

That play, which was one of Wilson's three touchdowns last season, will be used a lot in 2014. Whether he lines up in the backfield or motions across the field pre-snap, the Buckeyes will be making a concerted effort to get him the ball on the perimeter.

From there, his speed will take over.

Harvin had a lot of success with the interior counter play because he was a more durable all-purpose back. Wilson isn't as sturdy, and because of that, Ohio State will look to get him in space on the edges.

Like Harvin's freshman season, Meyer will need to lean on Wilson as a playmaker. According to Daniel Rogers of The Lantern, the Buckeyes' blazer is ready to shed his decoy role for something bigger:

I just didn’t feel like I was that involved. Basically most of the plays I was pretty much just faking and fly sweeping and the defense would bite and we would throw it downfield. So yeah, I felt like a decoy. But now, things have changed, so now I’m getting my chance and I’m making the best of it.

If that's true, Wilson will have the opportunity to turn his Harvin-like comparisons into Harvin-like production.

 

All recruiting information via 247 Sports.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. 
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Ohio State Football: Who Is Replacing Every Buckeye Taken in 2014 NFL Draft

The 2014 NFL draft proved that Ohio State has a lot of talent to replace.

Six former Buckeyes were selected in the seven-round event in New York City last week. Four of those six were drafted within the first 60 picks, so Urban Meyer will need to identify a number of key playmakers.

That process started at the beginning of March with the start of spring practice. When Meyer and the Buckeyes finished up spring drills last month, the new faces started to emerge.

Here are the top candidates to replace each former Buckeye taken the 2014 NFL draft.

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Florida Football: Who Is Replacing Every Former Gator Taken in 2014 NFL Draft

The Florida Gators had four players selected in the 2014 NFL draft, which equals the number of wins they had last season.

While it’s always great that the university continues to produce top talent, seeing them drafted means the coaching staff must find quality guys to replace them.

The good news for Florida fans is that most of the players stepping in have starting experience already. These players aren’t wet behind the ear. They won't be thrown in the fire with no playing experience.

In fact, replacing Florida’s draftees should cause little concern for the team.

Here are the Gators who heard their names called over the weekend and the players who will replace them this season. 

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USC Football: Who Is Replacing Every Former Trojan Taken in 2014 NFL Draft

The 2014 NFL draft is already fading in the rear-view mirror, and the next crop of Trojans are set to begin their professional careers. Three young men from USC received a coveted phone call over the weekend, giving the Trojans 483 total draftees in school history. Despite a low output this year, USC still has produced more draft picks than any other university. 

In addition to those drafted, a handful more signed with teams after the draft's conclusion as undrafted free agents.

While those Trojans officially close the book on their collegiate careers, the building blocks for USC's 2014 campaign are still being put into place. And with guys like Marqise Lee, Marcus Martin and Devon Kennard having left lasting impressions at USC,  Steve Sarkisian and his coaching staff are tasked with replacing them. 

Looking just at spots vacated by draftees, here's a look at the Trojans on deck who are tasked with stepping in the shoes of former starters.

 

WR Darreus Rogers

There's a huge, huge hole opposite Nelson Agholor where Marqise Lee once lined up, and it is likely that sophomore wide receiver Darreus Rogers will get the honor of filling it.

Rogers hauled in 22 receptions for 257 yards in 2013 and is the most experienced receiver other than Agholor on roster. Victor Blackwell and George Farmer are next on the depth chart, but little playing time for Blackwell and never-ending injuries for Farmer mean those two have an uphill battle to fight if they want to crack the starting rotation.

Giving Rogers a run for his money will be incoming freshmen Adoree' Jackson and John "JuJu" Smith, among a few others. This pair of blue-chip signees will come in looking for playing time, and given their skill sets, they could spend time going between the wide receiver corps and the secondary.

That said, Rogers would probably have to greatly regress to lose his starting job.

USC's wide receiver tradition has been rich in recent years, with students like Lee and Robert Woods stealing the show on Saturdays. Now, it is time for Agholor and Rogers to do the same. 

 

C Max Tuerk

USC's offensive line is undergoing a serious face lift this year, and though there is much uncertainty for this position group, one thing is certain: Max Tuerk is a real gem. 

Tuerk has played all over USC's O-line already, spending time at every position except right guard. This spring, he made yet another position change to center, and he's transitioned quite well.

Not only is he quickly adapting to his new role, but he's also forging a strong bond with his quarterback, Cody Kessler. 

But because USC is looking light on depth at right tackle, it's possible that Tuerk moves yet again back to right tackle. 

If that happens, then early enrollee Toa Lobendahn will be the one filling former center Marcus Martin's shoes. Lobendahn got second-team reps behind Tuerk in the spring before moving over to left guard. 

 

Pass-Rushers J.R. Tavai and Scott Starr

This is a bit tricky, as defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox's scheme uses different terminology to describe his outside linebackers/defensive ends. For simplicity's sake, we will consider the two athletes who will fulfill the roles as pass-rushers: J.R. Tavai and Scott Starr. 

Devon Kennard led USC in sacks in 2013 (nine) and was an absolute beast of a pass-rusher. So whoever ends up getting the start in the fall will have to be immediately productive to live up to expectations. 

Through spring, Tavai and Starr have competed for the job, and both performed exceptionally. Tavai might have a slight advantage, however, as he spent time in the lineup last season when Morgan Breslin was sidelined with injury. He turned heads with how fluidly he filled in for Breslin, alluding to what we can expect from him in 2014.

That said, Starr also blossomed in the spring and will continue to be formidable competition during fall camp.

They have much to live up to in replacing Kennard, as he was a pivotal piece in what made USC's defensive line so formidable last season.  


For a complete look at USC's post-spring depth chart (which also touches on who is in the mix to replace the undrafted Silas Redd, Xavier Grimble, Kevin Graf, George Uko, Morgan Breslin and Dion Bailey) click here.

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