With a record number of underclassmen declaring early for the NFL draft this spring piled on top of the seniors graduating and a number of transfers, the 2019 season could see plenty of position battles brewing this spring. Big shoes need to be filled across the Big Ten and other conferences, some more difficult to replace than others.
Here are the 10 (or more) players that will be the most difficult to replace around the Big Ten in 2019.
Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Haskins was the best offensive player in the Big Ten who just had a record-setting season in leading Ohio State to a Big Ten title. His loss in 2019 could potentially be difficult if transfer quarterback Justin Fields isn’t granted an exemption to be eligible right away this season. With Tate Martell already gone to Miami, Ohio State could be in a slight bind at quarterback in 2019 with Haskins moving on to the NFL.
Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
Iowa had the luxury of having two of the Big Ten’s best tight ends on their roster, but they are each heading off to the NFL this spring. That leaves Iowa with a severe lack of experience at the position for the 2019 season. Nate Wieting is the only tight end on the current roster with any previous stats with three receptions for 68 yards.
Amari Hooker, S, Iowa
One of the top safeties in the Big Ten is also on his way out at Iowa, leaving the Hawkeyes with a bit of a concern in the secondary. With four interceptions and the team’s second-most tackles in 2018, Hooker proved to be a reliable player anchoring the back of the defense.
Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich, DE, Michigan
Michigan’s defense will be moving on with some tough losses on the defensive side of the football this upcoming season. On the defensive line, the Wolverines lose Gary, potentially one of the top linemen off the board in the draft, and Winovich, the emotional leader who became the front man for Michigan’s revenge tour in 2018. Losing one would have been tough enough, but losing both in the same year should open the door for a competition for at least one spot this spring.
Dre’Mont Jones and Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Similar to their rivals up north, Ohio State is also moving on without two key defensive linemen. Bosa left the team earlier in the year after an injury and Jones showed why he is one of the top defensive linemen in the Big Ten last fall. The good news for Ohio State is the Buckeyes tend to have a pretty easy time sliding new bodies into key roles on the defensive line with the talent they manage to recruit.
Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State
Although the 2018 season may not have gone quite according to plan for McSorley, the loss of a three-year starting quarterback is always a valid concern for any program. Tommy Stevens figures to step into the starting job next fall as the offense undergoes a few more changes with roster turnover and coaching.
Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
Another key loss for Michigan will come right in the middle of the defense with Bush. He was one of the top linebackers in the Big Ten and had been a steady force leading the Wolverines' defense. His awareness and leadership will be difficult to replace at such a vital position for Michigan.
David Edwards, OL, Wisconsin
Wisconsin tends to have a steady line of offensive linemen to rely on when needed, but the departure of one of the top linemen means Wisconsin has another hole to fill in 2019. The Badgers are in need of a jolt on the offensive line too, especially in pass protection.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.