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10 Players Replacing the Biggest Names in College Football for 2015

Sean Maguire

Sean Maguire

Attrition and finding replacements are a key part of any college football offseason. A coaching staff may find answers through the junior college ranks for a quick fix, or they may feel comfortable with a replacement that’s been on the roster waiting for his turn to step into the starting lineup. Regardless of how the player is replaced, all-conference and All-America talent departs every year, leaving big shoes to fill for coaching staffs at all 128 FBS teams.

Athlon has examined five key players leaving and their replacements by conference. Now, let’s take a look at the national scene and breakdown which 10 players are expected to step up in their absence in 2015.

Key Replacements for 2015: ACCBig 12Big TenPac-12SEC


10 Players Replacing the Biggest Names in CFB for 2015

Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin

Replacing: Melvin Gordon (2,587 yards, 29 TDs in 2014)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Wisconsin has recorded a 1,000-yard rusher in 10 consecutive seasons, and it’s a safe bet to assume that streak will extend to 11 by the end of 2015. Melvin Gordon was the nation’s top running back last year, rushing for 2,587 yards and 29 scores on 343 attempts. New coach Paul Chryst could have certainly used Gordon in 2015, but the cupboard is far from bare. Clement is a breakout star waiting for his opportunity to start. On 147 carries in 2014, Clement rushed for 949 yards and nine scores. Overall, in his first two years in Madison, Clement has 1,496 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. Gordon will be missed, but Clement should ensure Wisconsin’s ground attack doesn’t miss a beat.

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Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn

Replacing: Nick Marshall (3,330 total yards in 2014)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott should be the early favorite to earn preseason first-team All-SEC honors next year. But don’t be shocked to see Johnson receive some consideration as the starter in a high-powered offense. The Montgomery native started two games over the last two seasons and appeared in 12 overall contests. In the 2014 season opener against Arkansas, Johnson started for Nick Marshall (suspension) and completed 12 of 16 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns against the Razorbacks. In his two-year career, Johnson has completed 57 of 78 passes for 858 yards and nine scores. The junior isn’t as dynamic of a runner as Marshall was but has 40 rushing yards on 11 attempts in two seasons. Coming out of high school, Johnson was ranked as the No. 165 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite and was regarded as a four-star recruit. Malzahn’s offense is adaptable to mobile quarterbacks or pro-style passers. Expect Johnson to thrive in his first year as the starter for Auburn.

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Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

Replacing:
Vic Beasley (33 career sacks, first-team AP All-American in 2014)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

Clemson’s defense led the nation by holding opponents to 4.03 yards per play in 2014. The Tigers also limited opposing offenses to 16.7 points per game, recorded 45 sacks and led the nation in third-down defense. Matching those totals in 2015 will be a challenge for coordinator Brent Venables. Of the nine players listed in the trenches on the final 2014 depth chart, six expired their eligibility after the Russell Athletic Bowl. Lawson was listed as the backup to Vic Beasley and is a breakout candidate for 2015 after recording 34 tackles (11 for a loss) and 3.5 sacks last year.

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Jeff Lockie, QB, Oregon

Replacing: Marcus Mariota (2014 Heisman Trophy Winner)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior


There’s no doubt Lockie has the biggest shoes to fill of any player on this list. Needless to say, following a Heisman winner and replacing Marcus Mariota’s production will be nearly impossible for the Ducks in 2015. The quarterback battle in Eugene is up for grabs, but Lockie has to have a slight edge based on his experience for the last two seasons as the backup. In his brief Oregon career (2013-14) Lockie has completed 29 of 41 passes for 264 yards and one score, while adding 32 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Although Lockie enters the spring at the top of the depth chart, the battle to replace Mariota is far from finished. Freshmen Travis Waller and Morgan Mahalak are expected to push for time, while sophomore Ty Griffin is eligible after sitting out 2014 due to NCAA transfer rules. Could the Ducks land a graduate transfer like Eastern Washington's Vernon Adams?

Marcus Loud/Charles Harris, DE, Missouri

Replacing: Markus Golden/Shane Ray (24.5 total sacks in 2014)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

Missouri consistently churns out talent from the defensive line to the NFL. Three linemen were selected over the 2013-14 drafts, and the number drafted only grows if you expand into 2011 (Aldon Smith) and 2009 (Ziggy Hood and Stryker Sulak). The Tigers will add to that total in 2015, as Shane Ray (a likely first-round pick) and Markus Golden (a top-100 prospect) will be targeted high in the draft. Replacing productive linemen is nothing new for the Tigers, and the focus shifts in 2015 to Harris and Loud as they replace Golden and Ray in the starting lineup. Loud recorded 14 tackles in 14 games last season, while Harris registered 19 tackles (four for a loss) and two sacks in 14 appearances. Golden and Ray leave big shoes to fill, but Missouri also has a track record of finding the right answers at defensive end.

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Sean Maguire, QB, Florida State

Replacing:
Jameis Winston (2013 Heisman winner)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Out of the five players mentioned in this article, Maguire has the biggest shoes to fill. The New Jersey native has played in 12 career games and made one start against Clemson in 2014. With Jameis Winston suspended against the Tigers, Maguire stepped into the starting lineup and completed 21 of 39 passes for 304 yards and one score. And in his career, Maguire has completed 38 out of 70 passes for 455 yards, three scores and four interceptions. Regardless of whether it’s Maguire, J.J. Cosentino, John Franklin III or an incoming freshman, Florida State’s quarterback in 2015 isn’t going to match Winston’s production and ability to perform in the clutch. However, coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the top quarterback gurus in the nation. The Seminoles will find enough production in the passing game to conted in the ACC in 2015.

Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford

Replacing: LT Andrus Peat (first-team All-Pac-12 in 2014)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Stanford’s offensive line has been one of the Pac-12’s top units in recent years, placing a lineman on the first-team for all-conference honors for seven consecutive seasons. The Cardinal return four starters in 2015, but there’s a huge hole to replace on the left side. Andrus Peat finished his career with 27 consecutive starts at left tackle and should be a first-round pick in the 2015 draft after leaving with one season of eligibility remaining. Murphy started all 14 games at right tackle in 2014 and is a candidate to flip to the left side to replace Peat. Murphy earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2014 and will be counted upon to replace Peat, as well as be the lead blocker for a Stanford ground attack that averaged 4.4 yards per carry in conference games last year.

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Seth Russell, QB, Baylor

Replacing: Bryce Petty

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

Bryce Petty will be missed, but Baylor’s offense isn’t going to miss a beat with a new signal-caller at the controls. In each of the last five years, the Bears had a quarterback throw for at least 3,500 yards. And from 2011-13, Baylor signal-callers eclipsed the 4,00-yard mark. Coach Art Briles clearly has one of the top offensive systems in the nation, and Russell is expected to take control of the high-powered attack in 2015. In two years of playing time in Waco, Russell has completed 74 of 128 throws for 1,231 yards and 11 scores. The Texas native also has good mobility, rushing for 332 yards and six touchdowns on 56 attempts the last two years. Russell will be pushed by sophomore Chris Johnson and incoming freshman Jarrett Stidham. However, he should get the first opportunity to replace Petty in 2015.

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Cam Sims, WR, Alabama

Replacing: Amari Cooper (228 career catches)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

Replacing Amari Cooper’s production will be more of a team effort than just one individual for the Crimson Tide in 2015. Cooper was one of college football’s top players in 2014, catching 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 scores. While there’s no doubt losing an All-American receiver is a huge blow to any offense, Alabama also has to replace DeAndrew White (40 catches in 2014) and Christion Jones (19 catches in 2014). Sims was regarded as the No. 84 prospect in the 2014 signing class and caught seven passes for 62 yards and one score in his true freshman campaign. Sims was listed as the backup to Cooper at the “X” receiver position, and the 6-foot-4 Louisiana native figures to be an even bigger part of the receiving corps next season for coordinator Lane Kiffin.

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JuJu Smith, WR, USC

Replacing: Nelson Agholor (first-team All-Pac-12 in 2014)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

USC is pegged as the early favorite in the Pac-12 South, but for coach Steve Sarkisian’s team to claim the conference title, the offense has to find a replacement for standout receiver Nelson Agholor. The first-team All-Pac-12 performer isn’t the only loss for USC, as top end Leonard Williams also must be replaced. Both sides of the ball have key holes to fill, but Smith is one of the Pac-12’s rising stars and caught 54 passes for 724 yards and five scores in his first season with the Trojans. The California native was a five-star prospect in the 2014 247Sports Composite and may play a few snaps on defense next year. Regardless of whether Smith is on offense or defense, he’s one of USC’s top playmakers and will play a key role in replacing Agholor.

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