College Football's 50 Players with the Biggest Shoes to Fill

Tom PerryCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2012

College Football's 50 Players with the Biggest Shoes to Fill

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    Andrew Luck didn't win the Heisman Trophy, and he never led Stanford to a Pac-12 (or Pac-10) championship.

    Still, the future No. 1 NFL draft pick leaves some pretty big shoes to fill after leading the Cardinal to back-to-back BCS bowls.

    Maybe you don't really replace someone like Luck, but you sure have to try.

    Every college football team out there has that one player it needs to find a suitable replacement for, or maybe a future All-American.

    Here are the top 50 players who will be the toughest to replace in 2012.

Will Lowery, S, Alabama

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    Will Lowery tore his ACL in November and has been out since, but after a tough offseason of rehabilitation, he will be the leading candidate to replace safety Mark Barron.

    Lowery had 20 tackles and broke up two passes in 11 games this fall.

    He was even more productive in 2010 with 33 tackles and two interceptions in 13 games.

    Taking over for Barron won't be easy.

    The All-American is Alabama's second-leading tackler with 64 tackles, and he also has two interceptions.

Nick Florence, QB, Baylor

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    Baylor's coaches and fans would love nothing more than Heisman winner Robert Griffin III to return for one more season in Waco, Texas.

    Sorry, not going to happen.

    Now the 2012 starter will probably be Nick Florence, but Bryce Petty may get a serious look as well.

    Since Griffin won't be back, the Bears probably won't start the season in the Top 25.

    However, Florence is not a slouch.

    In one game this season he completed nine of 12 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Texas Tech.

Steven Staggs, WR, Iowa

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    Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg will need to find a new go-to receiver as he says goodbye to Marvin McNutt.

    That guy may be Steven Staggs.

    The 6'3" Staggs managed just five receptions in 10 games this season.

    That's a far cry from McNutt's 82 catches for 1,315 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Joe Southwick, QB, Boise State

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    Joe Southwick gets the difficult task of replacing Kellen Moore, college football's all-time winningest quarterback.

    No pressure, Joe.

    Since Boise State built up large leads in many games, Southwick has seen some considerable action.

    In eight games this fall, he completed 23 of 30 passes for 198 yards and one touchdown. Southwick also played in eight games in 2010 and completed 17 of 24 passes for 202 yards and one touchdown.

    Over that same two-year period, Moore completed 599 of 822 passes for 7,645 yards and 78 touchdowns.

    Under the tutelage of Chris Petersen, Southwick could become the next great Boise quarterback.

James Rouse, DE, Marshall

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    James Rouse is so unknown that I couldn't even find a photo of him.

    Instead, I give you the Marshall defensive end he will try to replace in 2012—All-American Vinny Curry.

    The sophomore Rouse played in just three games this fall and had just one tackle.

    At 6'5", 250 pounds, Rouse could develop into a nice replacement.

    But he has a long way to go to reach Curry's 77 tackles and 11 sacks.

Cotton Turner, QB, Houston

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    Cotton Turner is a former walk-on quarterback who earned a scholarship.

    He hasn't started a game since high school, but that should change in the fall of 2012, when all he will try to do is replace one of the statistically best quarterbacks in college football history.

    That's right—he will take over for Case Keenum, who has thrown for 18,685 yards and 152 touchdowns in his career.

    In mop-up duty, Turner completed 50 of 77 passes for 652 yards and six touchdowns this season.

Mike James, RB, Miami

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    Mike James will have competition for the No. 1 running back spot at Miami, but he had a solid junior year as Lamar Miller's backup.

    Miller bolted early for the NFL after rushing for 1,272 yards and nine touchdowns in a down season in Coral Gables.

    James rushed for just 275 yards, but he scored seven touchdowns.

    He has seen playing time the past three seasons and gives Al Golden an experienced back for next year.

William Campbell, DT, Michigan

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    At times, William Campbell has impressed with his raw physical skills.

    However, he hasn't delivered consistent performances. That is until recently.

    The timing may be just right, as he will replace All-American tackle Mike Martin next year.

    The 6'5", 322-pound former 5-star recruit has the ability to make Michigan fans forget about Martin.

Andrew Maxwell, QB, Michigan State

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    Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been the heart and soul of the Michigan State football program the past three seasons.

    Andrew Maxwell has only played in nine games over the past two seasons, so the learning curve could be pretty steep in the fall.

    Michigan State's coaches have a lot of confidence in Maxwell's ability.

    They should, as he was rated one of the nation's best pro-style quarterbacks coming out of Midland (Mich.) High School.

LaDarius Perkins, RB, Mississippi State

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    LaDarius Perkins is loaded with talent, and he should be up to the challenge of replacing Vick Ballard, an All-SEC performer.

    Perkins had a solid sophomore season as Ballard's backup.

    He rushed for 422 yards and two touchdowns on 87 carries.

    Perkins' best performance came against Auburn, when he rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown in the loss.

Brian Bobek, C, Ohio State

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    Ohio State's Michael Brewster has been the Big Ten's best center for the past three seasons.

    Brian Bobek may never be as good as Brewster, but he should anchor the line for the next few seasons.

    At 6'2", 280 pounds, Bobek could benefit from adding about 10 to 15 pounds.

Adam Dingwell, QB, San Diego State

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    Adam Dingwell may be Ryan Lindley's backup, but he isn't guaranteed the starting job in the fall.

    He only threw two passes this season.

    San Diego State plans to have a major battle for the position this spring with incoming freshman Matt Morin, Chad Jeffries, Jake Bernards and Dingwell.

    There's even a chance former Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz will transfer to San Diego State and compete for the job.

Victor Hampton, CB, South Carolina

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    South Carolina expects to lose shutdown corner Stephon Gilmore early to the NFL, so the search for his replacement could begin with Victor Hampton.

    Hampton was suspended for three games this season because of off-field issues, but he if he can stay on Steve Spurrier's good side, Hampton has a chance to be a starter in 2012.

    He is loaded with natural ability and did manage to get one interception this season. South Carolina will need him to become more consistent, though.

Jesse Callier, RB, Washington

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    Chris Polk has been a workhorse the past three seasons at Washington, and the conventional wisdom is he won't be returning for his final season with the Huskies.

    Because most of the carries have gone to Polk, that hasn't left many for Jesse Callier, who will likely be the first option to start.

    Callier has 264 yards on 45 attempts this year, which is down from 2010, when he rushed for 433 yards on 77 carries.

Matt Brown, RB, Temple

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    All-American Bernard Pierce has yet to make a call on his future, but it's hard to imagine he won't leave a year early.

    So Temple will probably turn to the much smaller Matt Brown to carry the rushing load for the Owls in 2012.

    Brown is a proven talent. He played in all 13 games in 2011 and rushed for 914 yards and six touchdowns.

    But when you compare that to Pierce's 1,481 yards and 27 touchdowns, you can see that Brown does not have an easy task in replacing him.

Jon Budmayr, QB, Wisconsin

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    Before Russell Wilson decided to transfer to Wisconsin for one season, Jon Budmayr was slotted to start at quarterback this season.

    Budmayr not only lost the starting job, he also missed most of the season with a nerve issue in his throwing arm.

    He believes he'll be ready for 2012, and the Badgers will need a healthy Budmayr. If not, Wisconsin may go with Joe Brennan.

    No matter who it is, he will have some huge shoes to fill after the year Wilson had.

Tim Kynard, DE, Illinois

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    Tim Kynard will have the difficult job of taking over for Whitney Mercilus, who turned in an All-American season for Illinois.

    Kynard managed just eight tackles this season, but he will be an every-down player next fall if Mercilus leaves early for the NFL.

    The 6'3", 260-pounder is a little undersized, but he's athletic and will fit in new coach Tim Beckman's system.

Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU

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    Zach Mettenberger is being asked to replace two players—Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee.

    The former Georgia quarterback should be the No. 1 guy in the fall, but he'll probably get some competition from true freshman Gunner Kiel.

    Before the 2011 season began, there were many who felt Mettenberger would be the starter this fall. While he saw limited action, Mettenberger will officially take over in 2012.

Tony Gregory, RB, Virginia Tech

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    He hasn't said yet, but it's likely tonight's Sugar Bowl will be David Wilson's last game at Virginia Tech.

    Wilson's 2011 earned him ACC Player of the Year honors, and with 29 yards against Michigan he will break Ryan Williams' single-season school rushing record.

    Wilson's backup is a senior, so Tech will likely promote Tony Gregory to No. 1 on the depth chart.

    Gregory played in all 13 games this season, mostly on special teams. He did have 16 carries for 27 yards.

    For the first time in a while, Frank Beamer will enter a season without a clear-cut star at running back.

Marquel Wade, PR, Arkansas

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    While Marquel Wade will become a bigger part of Bobby Petrino's offense in 2012 as a wide receiver, his biggest impact may come on special teams.

    Wade is the most likely candidate to replace All-American Joe Adams as Arkansas' punt returner.

    Wade should excite Razorbacks fans for the next two or three seasons.

DeAndre Jones, LB, Vanderbilt

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    DeAndre Jones is experienced, but he will take over for veteran Chris Marve, who was a leader of the Vanderbilt defense.

    Jones had 16 tackles during the regular season in 2011 and 13 last year.

    Marve led the team with 84 tackles this season, so you can see a lot is going to be expected of Jones in 2012.

D.L. Moore, WR, South Carolina

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    If junior Alshon Jeffery leaves early for the NFL, which is expected, then quarterback Connor Shaw will need someone to step up and be a big target.

    D.L. Moore could be the guy if he can stay healthy and produce better than he did so far in 2011.

    Moore played in 11 games and managed just eight catches for 52 yards and one touchdown.

    He should get a legitimate shot in the spring to be a go-to receiver.

Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon

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    All-American LaMichael James is not going to be easy to replace, but Oregon should have a pretty smooth transition.

    Chip Kelly can rest at night knowing Kenjon Barner will be back to carry the bulk of the rushing load in 2012.

    Barner rushed for 909 yards and 11 touchdowns on 145 carries.

    Not that everyone involved with the Oregon program doesn't know this already, but Barner's 171-yard performance against Arizona State is the type of performance they can expect more of next fall.

Daniel Smith, WR, Notre Dame

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    Daniel Smith doesn't possess the same skills of the man he might replace—Michael Floyd—but he does give Notre Dame a huge target at 6'4".

    He is considered to have the best hands on the receiving corps and will give the Irish quarterback a nice target on fade patterns.

    Smith will never be confused for Floyd, but if he becomes a reliable receiver, Irish fans should be pleased.

Cole Underwood, OL, Stanford

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    Stanford's offensive line was considered one of the best in the nation this season.

    Protecting Andrew Luck was priority No. 1.

    It will be a new era in Palo Alto, Calif., and Cole Underwood will be one of those expected to take the lead.

    He hopes to replace All-American David DeCastro.

Carter Bykowski, OL, Iowa State

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    Replacing superstar offensive linemen is just as important as finding a new quarterback.

    Iowa State has a special talent in All-American lineman Kelechi Osemele.

    The job of replacing him will fall to Carter Bykowski, a 6'7", 306-pounder.

    He began his career as a tight end, and he played in all 13 games this fall.

Detrick Bonner, CB, Virginia Tech

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    Junior Jayron Hosley, who was an All-American, didn't have a great 2011.

    He did have a super 2010, and many opponents avoided throwing his way this season.

    He's likely to leave early for the NFL, and that means Detrick Bonner will play a much larger role on Bud Foster's defense.

    He had 26 tackles and an interception in 12 games.

Marlin Lane, RB, Tennessee

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    Marlin Lane has shown some flashes of greatness in his short career at Tennessee.

    He had some health concerns, but he should be ready for spring practice, where he hopes to replace All-SEC running back Tauren Poole.

    Lane finished 2011 with 280 yards and two touchdowns on 75 carries. He also had 17 receptions for 161 yards and two scores.

    He also had an impact on special teams with seven punt returns for 36 yards and seven kickoff returns for 143 yards.

Taylor Bertolet, K, Texas A&M

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    Texas A&M gave Taylor Bertolet, a Pennsylvania high school kicking star, a full scholarship after he built a reputation of having a strong leg.

    The Aggies will need him to step up big time for Lou Groza Award winner Randy Bullock.

    Bertolet has a big leg and has booted field goals from 55-plus many times in practice.

DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State

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    While DaQuan Jones' playing time has been limited while playing behind All-American defensive tackle Devon Still, the Nittany Lions believe they have another superstar in the making.

    Jones saw more time than expected in the TicketCity Bowl because Still was dealing with turf toe.

    At 6'3", 313 pounds, Jones is physically imposing, but he is also relatively athletic for his build.

George Winn, RB, Cincinnati

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    George Winn gave the Cincinnati coaches a preview of what they can expect in 2012 when he raced 69 yards for a touchdown against Vanderbilt in the Liberty Bowl.

    But it will take many more of those types of runs to completely replace Big East Offensive Player of the Year Isaiah Pead.

    Winn averaged more than five yards a carry in 2011, but he managed just 40 rushes, as Pead and quarterback Zach Collaros accounted for more than 50 percent of the team's rushes.

Jeremy Galten, OT, USC

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    All-American offensive tackle Matt Kalil was the next great lineman at USC.

    While many of his USC teammates have decided to return for their senior season, Kalil will skip it to possibly become a top-five pick in the NFL draft.

    That means Jeremy Galten is the most likely candidate to help protect quarterback Matt Barkley next fall.

    The 6'5", 280-pounder has been used plenty in games, but now is his time to shine. If Galten can't fill the void left by Kalil, Nathan Guertler may earn the starting spot.

Jameill Showers, QB, Texas A&M

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    Texas A&M's final season in the Big 12 was a huge disappointment.

    The Aggies were a preseason Top 10 team, and with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback they felt a conference championship was a realistic goal.

    A&M was a disappointing 6-6 during the regular season and closed with a bowl win to get to seven victories.

    Tannehill threw for 3,744 yards and 29 touchdowns, but he also had 15 interceptions.

    With A&M entering the SEC, finding a quality quarterback is vital.

    Entering spring practice, Jameill Showers should get the majority of the reps and will likely be under center when 2012 begins.

Tim Wright, WR, Rutgers

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    When Greg Schiano lured the athletic Mohamed Sanu to attend Rutgers, it was a major coup.

    The coach probably realized he would never get four full seasons out of Sanu, who is likely to leave early.

    His all-conference receiver finished 2011 with 115 receptions for 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns.

    Replacing that type of production will probably be impossible.

    Rising senior Tim Wright, who had just 11 catches this season, will get first crack at being the No. 1 receiver.

Zack Craig, S, Oklahoma State

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    So you thought Oklahoma State only had offensive players to replace.

    Mike Gundy must also find someone to step in for All-American safety Markelle Martin, who had 65 tackles and 11 passes broken up in 2011.

    Zack Craig had 18 tackles and a sack this fall. He's a big hitter who should make the loss of Martin less painful for the Cowboys.

Keshawn Simpson, RB, Western Kentucky

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    Most of you reading this right now probably haven't heard of Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey, but he was second in the nation in rushing yards per game (141.3).

    Rainey was a workhorse with 369 carries, and he's a big reason why the Hilltoppers went 7-5 and finished second in the Sun Belt Conference.

    Keshawn Simpson is expected to be the next great back for Willie Taggart.

    He rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown this season.

Clay Fuller, WR, Baylor

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    While Baylor's Robert Griffin III was a major reason why the Bears enjoyed one of their finest seasons ever, Art Briles must also find a substitute for wide receiver Kendall Wright.

    Wright had a monster season with 108 receptions for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was also a big-play receiver.

    Compare that to Clay Fuller, who had just one catch.

    The rising sophomore is a nice target at 6'1", 195 pounds.

Jack Miller, C, Michigan

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    Michigan center David Molk is a key reason why the Wolverines had the nation's No. 12 rushing offense this season.

    OK, you have to give Denard Robinson a lot of credit as well.

    But Molk is the anchor of that line.

    Brady Hoke will likely turn to Jack Miller to replace his star center. Also under consideration will be Rocko Khoury and Ricky Barnum.

Kalen Henderson, QB, Tulsa

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    Kalen Henderson almost lost his spot on the Tulsa football team last year after breaking team rules.

    Now he looks like the heir apparent to replace G.J. Kinne, arguably one of Tulsa's greatest quarterbacks.

    Henderson is a dual-threat quarterback like Kinne, and he should step right in for Tulsa and make an impact.

Tharold Simon, CB, LSU

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    LSU is stockpiled with future NFL players, so Les Miles is faced with this dilemma every season.

    Last year it was defensive back Patrick Peterson who needed to be replaced, and this year it is likely to be Morris Claiborne, who is expected to leave early for the pros.

    Tharold Simon had two interceptions and 40 tackles this season.

Adrian Hubbard, LB, Alabama

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    If you are going to find someone to replace All-American Courtney Upshaw, who will probably leave early for the NFL, then you might as well pick another guy with good size and the speed to rush off the edge.

    That would have to be redshirt freshman Adrian Hubbard.

    Hubbard is 6'6", 237 pounds and has emerged as a potential All-SEC-caliber player.

    He played in eight games this fall and made nine tackles.

Greg Burks, LB, TCU

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    Linebacker Tank Carder has been the face of the TCU defense the past two seasons.

    He earned that title because of his physical play and infectious personality.

    Now it is up to Greg Burks to step in at linebacker as the Horned Frogs make the jump from the Mountain West Conference to the Big 12.

    The 6'1", 220-pound rising senior had eight tackles in 10 games this fall. He's never been more than a backup during his career.

Corey Nelson, LB, Oklahoma

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    Many at Oklahoma felt they would have needed to replace linebacker Travis Lewis after 2010.

    However, he shocked a lot of people by returning to Norman, Okla., for his senior season.

    Now Bob Stoops knows he will need to replace his all-conference player.

    Corey Nelson, a rising junior, made 58 tackles this season. He also had 4.5 sacks.

    Nelson is one of Oklahoma's leaders, and he should step right in for Lewis.

Drew Allen, QB, Oklahoma

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    It seems likely that Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones will leave early for the NFL.

    If he doesn't, then this slide is moot.

    But since Jones has been an extremely productive quarterback the past two seasons, the Sooners must find a suitable replacement.

    Right now it looks like Drew Allen is the front-runner, but it could also be Blake Bell.

    Neither quarterback saw considerable action this fall, so the battle for the starting job could be a close one.

Jerome Smith, RB, Syracuse

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    Syracuse will likely use two players to fill the void left by the departure of All-Big East selection Antwon Bailey.

    Jerome Smith will share running duties with Prince-Tyson Gulley, who is more of a shifty back. Smith has a more bruising style.

    Both will be juniors this fall, and the competition for the starting job could be intense.

    However, Doug Marrone will likely prefer the more physical back Smith.

Malcolm McDuffen, LB, Kentucky

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    All-SEC linebacker Danny Trevathan was a tackling machine during his career at Kentucky.

    The Wildcats had a down season, but Trevathan is a tough player to replace.

    The early prediction is Malcolm McDuffen will draw the assignment at linebacker.

    McDuffen is 6'3", 250 pounds and a physically gifted athlete.

    He played in 12 games this fall, mostly on special teams, and managed to tally nine tackles.

Clint Chelf, QB, Oklahoma State

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    Like most seasons, there are some highly successful quarterbacks that need someone to fill in once they leave.

    Oklahoma State is in that position after enjoying its greatest season ever. The Cowboys headed into the Fiesta Bowl at 11-1 and ranked third nationally behind the strong play of quarterback Brandon Weeden.

    Clint Chelf seems like the odds-on favorite to be the starter in 2012, but he won't be handed the job without a fight.

    Top high school recruit Wes Lunt and J.W. Walsh will also get a long look from Mike Gundy.

    Chelf was 20-of-30 for 307 yards and three touchdowns this fall.

Charlie Moore, WR, Oklahoma State

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    So you think replacing Brandon Weeden is going to be tough? How about finding any receiver that can replicate what Justin Blackmon has meant to Oklahoma State's offense?

    It's probably impossible, but Charlie Moore might be the player tabbed to start in Blackmon's place.

    Moore saw limited action at receiver, but he is a big target at 6'2", and the Cowboys graduate a lot of talent.

    If not Charlie Moore, the Cowboys may rely on Tracy Moore to pick up the slack.

Brett Nottingham, QB, Stanford

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    If Brett Nottingham doesn't know the name John Paye, then he should look him up and maybe even give him a call.

    Paye replaced John Elway as Stanford's quarterback in 1983.

    Now Nottingham has the task of replacing Andrew Luck, who has led the Cardinal to back-to-back BCS bowls.

    Nottingham threw a whopping eight passes this fall. Yep, that production will need to increase a bit.

Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

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    If junior Trent Richardson surprises everyone in Tuscaloosa and returns for another season, then the pressure is off Eddie Lacy.

    Lacy's 2011 season was derailed because of turf toe, but recent reports say he is almost 100 percent now.

    At 6'1", 220 pounds, Lacy is much bigger than Richardson and is a powerful runner. He may not be as explosive, but Lacy should have a huge season in Alabama's offense and behind that line.

    Lacy won't make you forget Richardson, but he'll definitely ease the pain.