The NFL draft has just passed and we got a chance to see some of the players who were stars in college move on to the next level. Today, we're taking a look at the 2012 season and which college teams are going to have a tough time replacing some of the recent NFL draftees.
Defensive line is about one rung above offensive line when it comes to a thankless job on the football field. Unless they are getting sacks or tackles for loss, most people do not pay too much attention to the big boys up front.
As we saw last week in the draft, guys like Michael Brockers from LSU and Nick Perry from Southern Cal were able to play their way into first-round status. Brockers and Perry will be tough losses for their team, but the Bayou Bengals and the Trojans have enough talent to make title runs without these two studs.
These next five guys made themselves some bank, but they left teams that will be scratching their head trying to fill the voids.
Quinton Coples, North Carolina
Coples was one of the hate-him-or-love-him players of the draft, as his production dropped off in his senior year. However, for the Tar Heels, his is a loss that will truly be felt. Not only does their best player on defense leave, but Donte Paige-Moss is also gone, dealing the Tar Heels a big time blow at the defensive end spot.
Sylvester Williams is a quality player on the interior of the defensive line, but with UNC switching to a hybrid 3-3-5/4-2-5 the Heels could use Coples' versatility. The big guy is now playing for the New York Jets, and North Carolina is going to have to find a way to break in new starters at new positions in Dan Disch's scheme.
Devon Still, Penn State
Still saw his draft stock fall considerably as the draft day approached, ultimately falling into the second round. While the NFL did not see him as a first-round talent, the Nittany Lions will most certainly miss one of college football's best defensive linemen.
Still was a big body, a space eater who was also active behind the line of scrimmage. As a defensive tackle, he posted 17 tackles for loss. With his big power base, he was able to play behind the line almost at the moment the play started.
Still's production will be sorely missed, but the biggest impact will be felt by linebacker Gerald Hodges. Last season, Hodges was free to run, to the tune or 106 tackles. This year, the returning All-Big Ten linebacker will have a bit more traffic to sift through as Penn State looks to replace Still.
Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
Mississippi State is going to be missing the big man in the interior of their defense. Cox could have played football for anyone in the SEC the way his 2011 season went for the junior. He was imposing, covered a lot of ground and set their pace in tackles for loss and sacks.
Now, the SEC's seventh-ranked rushing defense will be going into 2012 without their keystone. A dangerous proposition for a team that will play Alabama, LSU and a healthy Knile Davis at Arkansas in 2012. Josh Boyd and Kaleb Eulls will have to step up as Cox leaves for the NFL and Josh Boyd is out of eligibility.
Things will be dicey for the Bulldogs on the defensive front.
Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
Personally, I love this kid's game. Of all of the defensive linemen taken in the draft, Ingram is my favorite.
Losing Ingram is a problem for South Carolina that is compounded by the loss of defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. Sure, Jadeveon Clowney is back for the Gamecocks, but he loses the versatile running mate he had in Ingram.
Melvin Ingram was as versatile as any linemen in the country in 2011. He played inside, he played outside and he was able to move from side to side. For all of Clowney's ability, it was Ingram that helped make things go.
In 2012, we'll have Lorenzo Ward running the defense for the Gamecocks, and he will not have Ingram there to open up the scheme.
Shea McClellin, Boise State
While everyone is worried about the Broncos losing Kellen Moore and Doug Martin on offense, the Boise State defense is also taking some serious hits. McClellin headlines a list of three Broncos defensive linemen that went into the NFL draft.
McClellin, Tyrone Crawford and Billy Winn all leave the Broncos defensive front. That's a lot of talent to replace for any squad, especially a team that has not been recruiting at the elite level like Alabama or Southern California.
The Broncos finished 17th in the nation in rushing defense, and that will be tough to duplicate with the three experienced defenders leaving. Huge blow for the Broncos. How Chris Petersen fills these holes will be a better feat than him keeping the offense moving when they lost Austin Pettis and Titus Young a year ago.