As soon as Alabama finished celebrating its win in the BCS National Championship Game, everyone's eyes should have turned toward next season.
A lot can change between now and September. Underclassmen still have an opportunity to declare for the draft. Players can leave teams for various reasons (like Tyrann Mathieu last season). Also, there are a number of impactful recruits that are still yet to commit to a school.
However, these are the teams that were great this year but should be even better next season.
The team will lose second-team All-American running back Kenjon Barner and projected first-round NFL draft pick Dion Jordan. However, even with these losses the team will be stronger.
Losing Barner clears the way for De'Anthony Thomas, the speedster running back who finished third in the nation in yards per carry this season. He has the ability to score from anywhere on the field and will continue the recent tradition of great Oregon backs.
Thomas will make up a very impressive tandem along with quarterback Marcus Mariota. The freshman was impressive in his first season as both a passer and runner and should be even better with more experience.
In addition, the defense will return most of its players after allowing a solid 21.6 points per game this year.
With Chip Kelly back in the fold as head coach, this team should be dangerous next year.
Many teams have come into seasons with Heisman candidates, but much fewer are led by Heisman winners.
Johnny Manziel became the first player ever to win the prestigious award in his freshman season, and his ability to beat teams with his arm and legs will give him a great chance to win again next year.
One issue that will certainly hold the team back, though, is a weaker offensive line. Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports reported that offensive tackle Luke Joeckel has declared for the NFL draft and Jake Matthews could follow him.
However, Manziel proved this season that he is a rare talent that can completely change any game he is in. As long as the quarterback is on the roster, this team will be in contention for a national championship.
Although the Tigers' future was in jeopardy, it got a big boost as Tajh Boyd has decided to stay in school, according to ESPN's Joe Schad:
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd plans to announce today he will return for a senior season.— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) January 9, 2013
Boyd has thrown for 7,724 yards in the last two years with 69 touchdowns. He is the leader of the No. 6 scoring offense in the country and the unit should be even better next year.
DeAndre Hopkins broke out this year as a star receiver, while Sammy Watkins is still incredibly talented and will be looking to bounce back next year.
Brent Venables did a great job rebuilding the defense this year after the group was terrible last year. If they continue to improve on that side of the ball, there won't be too many teams in the country that will be able to beat Clemson.
|24||San Jose State|