College Football 2013: Every BCS Team's Most Important Spring Position Battle

Danny FlynnSenior Analyst IFebruary 19, 2013

College Football 2013: Every BCS Team's Most Important Spring Position Battle

0 of 72

    Very rarely are starting jobs definitively won or lost during spring practice. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that the 15 sessions that college football teams are allotted don’t play a critical role in determining how a team is shaped for the upcoming season.

    At this point, every team has holes in its depth chart. Spring ball gives coaches an early chance to see which players are worthy of becoming new starters.

    There are plenty of interesting position battles to monitor. Here’s a look at every BCS team’s most important one.

Alabama Crimson Tide: Right Tackle

1 of 72

    Alabama will have to replace three stellar offensive linemen—Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker, who will be high picks in the 2013 NFL draft.

    Jones and Warmack were the most important players of the trio, but it’s actually Fluker who leaves the biggest and most important hole to fill at right tackle.

    There will likely be three players in the running to win the job—Kellen Williams, Austin Shepherd and Brandon Greene.

    Williams, a 6’6’’, 303-pound senior, is the most experienced. However, Greene, a former 4-star recruit from Georgia, appears to be the most talented.

Arizona Wildcats: Center

2 of 72

    Besides the quarterback position, where B.J. Denker will take over for Matt Scott, Arizona returns pretty much every key starter.

    The one exception is at center, where the two players who started at the position this past season, Kyle Quinn and Addison Bachman, have departed. 

    It will be interesting to see who Rich Rodriguez sticks at center in spring practice, since the Wildcats lack a proven player at the position. 

Arizona State Sun Devils: Wide Receiver

3 of 72

    Arizona State has an intriguing dual-threat quarterback in Taylor Kelly. But for him to reach his full potential, he's going to need new go-to receivers to emerge. 

    The Sun Devils lost their two best wide receivers, Rashad Ross and Jamal Miles. Their most productive returning pass-catcher, Kevin Ozier, had just 17 total catches in 2012. 

    Ozier will be the favorite to become Kelly's new top target. But there will be plenty of other receivers to watch this spring as well, such as Richard Smith, Alonzo Agwuenu, J.J. Holliday and Kyle Middlebrooks.

Arkansas Razorbacks: Quarterback

4 of 72

    New Arkansas coach Bret Bielema will be keeping a close eye on the "Battle of the Brandons" this offseason. 

    Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell will be fighting for the starting quarterback job left vacant by Tyler Wilson. 

    Allen is favored to win the job, but he didn't exactly look spectacular during limited action in 2012. He completed just 42 percent of his passes, averaged just 3.8 yards per attempt and threw three interceptions compared to just one touchdown. 

Auburn Tigers: Quarterback

5 of 72

    Don't be fooled by Auburn's 3-9 record. The Tigers actually have a lot of quality talent on both sides of the ball. 

    The problem is, they don't have a proven quarterback. 

    The team started three different signal-callers in 2012—Kiehl Frazier, Clint Moseley and Jonathan Wallace, but none could get the offense going. 

    Moseley has left the team, which means it will be Frazier and Wallace who will battle for the starting job this offseason.

    Frazier will be the favorite to win the job. But he has to show more improvement to justify all the hype he received coming out of high school.

Baylor Bears: Cornerback

6 of 72

    Baylor's pass defense was one of the worst in the country last season, ranking second to last in the nation, giving up an average of 323 passing yards per game. 

    The only defensive backs who seem to be guaranteed a starting job for 2013 are nickel back Ahmad Dixon and safety Sam Holl. 

    It will be interesting to see who ends up as the team's two starting cornerbacks. 

    The top contenders for the two jobs will be seniors K.J. Morton, Demetri Goodson and Joe Williams.

Boston College Eagles: Offensive Tackle

7 of 72

    Boston College's offensive line allowed 34 sacks this past season, which was the third most in the ACC. That number could increase in 2013 if the Eagles can't find the proper replacements for offensive tackles John Wetzel and Emmett Cleary. 

    Wetzel and Cleary may not have been standouts, but they were solid starters who will certainly be missed.

    Sophomore Dan Lembke will be the favorite to replace Clearly at left tackle, while junior Aaron Kramer will have the upper hand to replace Wetzel on the right side. 

California Golden Bears: Quarterback

8 of 72

    New Cal head coach Sonny Dykes will spend most of the spring trying to figure out which of his quarterbacks is best equipped to run his high-octane passing offense. 

    The race will likely come down to Allan Bridgford and Zach Kline. 

    Bridgford has the clear edge in experience, having thrown 100 career passes compared to none by Kline so far. However, Kline, a former highly touted 4-star recruit, seems to have more potential. 

Cincinnati Bearcats: Defensive End

9 of 72

    New Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville has major rebuilding to do on defense this offseason.

    That starts up front, where the Bearcats lost starting defensive ends Dan Giordano and Walter Stewart, along with reserve Brandon Mills, who filled in for Stewart after his injury. 

    Elijah Shuler, a 6'4'', 260-pound senior, has a good chance to win one of the two starting jobs, but it will likely be a wide-open competition. 

Clemson Tigers: Running Back

10 of 72

    Clemson welcomes back Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, who form one of the most explosive quarterback-receiver combinations in the country. However, the Tigers are going to miss having RB Andre Ellington in the backfield. 

    Ellington, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his final two college seasons, gave the offense an explosive added dimension that will be tough to replicate. 

    Roderick McDowell, who averaged 5.3 yards per carry in 2012, is the favorite to become the team's new featured back. But he'll be challenged by younger backs such as D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks. 

Colorado Buffaloes: Offensive Tackle

11 of 72

    New Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre has a lot of work to do just to turn the Buffaloes into a competitive team in 2013.

    Unfortunately, MacIntyre will have to do that rebuilding without the team's best player, OT David Bakhtiari, who left school early and declared for the 2013 NFL draft. 

    Bakhtiari was one of the most underrated lineman in the country in 2012. Replacing him will be no easy task, especially since the team's top backup at the position, Ryan Dannewitz, is also gone. 

    If Colorado wants to improve from its miserable one-win total last season, the team is going to need to find a dependable left tackle who can keep QB Jordan Webb safe. 

Connecticut Huskies: Cornerback

12 of 72

    Connecticut will have to replace two cornerbacks, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz, who will both be playing on Sundays this fall. 

    Losing two cornerbacks of that caliber is definitely a big blow to the Huskies' defense.

    The team's current crop of cornerbacks has one career interception. That came courtesy of Taylor Mack all the way back in 2010. 

    Mack will be one of the favorites to take over as a starting cornerback in 2013. But it still remains to be seen just how the race to win the two open starting jobs will ultimately play out. 

Duke Blue Devils: Quarterback

13 of 72

    After dealing with one of the longest postseason droughts in college football history, Duke finally made it to a bowl game in 2012.

    The Blue Devils won't have an easy time making it back to the postseason in 2013, though, unless they can find a capable quarterback to replace Sean Renfree. 

    Renfree didn't receive a ton of recognition, but he quietly had a rather impressive showing during his three years as a starter in Durham. 

    Juniors Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette will compete for the starting job this offseason. 

Florida Gators: Safety

14 of 72

    With Louchiez Purifoy and Marcus Roberson, Florida will go into the 2013 season with arguably the best cornerback duo in the country.

    The Gators have big questions in the back end of the secondary, however, after losing star strong safety Matt Elam and free safety Josh Evans. 

    Since the team is already set at corner, don't be surprised if cornerback Jaylen Watkins makes the move to safety. Watkins' potential position switch is something coach Will Muschamp recently hinted at in an interview with CBS Sports.

    Still, even if Watkins ends up taking over at free safety, there's still big shoes to fill at strong safety, following the departure of Elam.

Florida State Seminoles: Quarterback

15 of 72

    Florida State has the type of talent on both sides of the ball that it takes to compete for a national championship in 2013. However, first, the team must find a new starting signal-caller to lead the offense.

    EJ Manuel never became the true bona fide star that many projected him to be when he first arrived in Tallahassee as a blue-chip recruit. However, Manuel did put together a very successful senior season, leading the Seminoles to 12 wins, an ACC title and an Orange Bowl victory. 

    Supremely gifted former 5-star recruit Jameis Winston is the favorite to replace him. But don't be surprised if experienced redshirt junior Clint Trickett makes it a tighter race than expected.

Georgia Bulldogs: Nose Tackle

16 of 72

    Georgia coaches knew that they would have to replace monstrous nose tackle John Jenkins following the 2012 season.

    They thought they would be able to just plug Kwame Geathers, another big, talented tackle, into the middle of the defense to take over for Jenkins. 

    That changed, however, when Geathers announced that he would declare for the 2013 NFL draft, even though he's likely to be a Day-3 pick.

    It will be interesting to see whether the smaller but more experienced Mike Thornton, or the bigger but unproven John Taylor ends up winning the starting job this offseason. 

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Defensive Tackle

17 of 72

    Georgia Tech will be switching from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense under new coordinator Ted Roof. 

    Roof has solid talent on hand, including potential standouts such as edge-rusher Jeremiah Attaochu, LB Jabari Hunt-Days and safety Isaiah Johnson. However, he has big holes to fill at defensive tackle, following the departures of T.J. Barnes and Izaan Cross. 

    Sophomore Shawn Green looks like he should be a great fit for Roof's defense. But the Yellow Jackets will need to find more big bodies to stick in the middle of the defense for 2013. 

Houston Cougars: Linebacker

18 of 72

    Houston has one of the most underrated linebackers in the country in Derrick Matthews.

    Still, the Cougars will have big holes to fill in their linebacker corps this offseason after losing Phillip Steward and Everett Daniels, who each had more than 100 tackles in 2012. 

    Besides Matthews, the team doesn't have a linebacker who had more than 10 tackles in 2012.

Illinois Fighting Illini: Quarterback

19 of 72

    How bad was the Illinois offense in 2012?

    Well, all you have to do is look at the numbers. The Illini ranked 122nd in the nation in total offense and scoring offense, averaging just 16 points and 296 yards per game. 

    The regression and poor play of QB Nathan Scheelhaase was one of the main reasons the unit struggled. 

    This offseason, Scheelhaase will have to prove to second-year head coach Tim Beckman that he's worthy of being the starter again. He'll likely receive stiff competition from Reilly O'Toole.

Indiana Hoosiers: Defensive Tackle

20 of 72

    Indiana's defense was downright awful in 2012, especially against the run.

    The Hoosiers ranked 119th in the country in rushing defense, giving up an average of 231 yards per game. 

    It seems like those numbers couldn't get any worse until you realize that the team will have to replace its two starting tackles from last season, Adam Replogle and Larry Black. 

    The Hoosiers will need tackles such as Adarius Rayner to step up in a big way if they hope to fix their porous run defense in 2013. 

Iowa Hawkeyes: Quarterback

21 of 72

    Iowa had one of its worst seasons of Kirk Ferentz's tenure in 2012, going 4-8, 2-6 against Big Ten opponents. 

    The highly inconsistent play of QB James Vandenberg was one of the main reasons why the team struggled.

    Hawkeyes fans won't have to worry about Vandenberg holding back the offense again next season, since his eligibility has run out. What they will have to worry about, though, is that there isn't a quarterback on the roster who's ever thrown a pass at the college level. 

    Cody Sokol, a JUCO transfer from Scottsdale Community College, and redshirt freshman Jake Rudock are the team's top contenders to replace Vanderberg heading into the spring. 

Iowa State Cyclones: Linebacker

22 of 72

    For the past three years, in Jake Knott and A.J. Klein, Iowa State has had one of the best linebacker duos in college football. 

    Sadly for Cyclones fans, the days of watching those two fly around the field are over. 

    Replacing the dynamic duo definitely won't be easy.

    Luckily, the team returns senior Jeremiah George to be the leader of the linebacker corps. But finding the proper replacements for the other two spots won't be easy. 

Kansas Jayhawks: Wide Receiver

23 of 72

    Following the Jayhawks' embarrassing one-win performance in 2012, it seems as if every position besides running back should be up for grabs at Kansas this offseason.

    One position that will be especially interesting to watch is wide receiver. 

    The receiver corps was one of the most pitiful in the country this past season. Departed senior Kale Pick led the team with just 26 catches.

    This offseason, Charlie Weis better at least find one receiver who's worthy of playing in the Big 12, or his team is going to suffer a similar fate again in 2013. 

Kansas State Wildcats: Defensive End

24 of 72

    Star QB Collin Klein may have received all the credit for Kansas State's success in 2012. However, the Wildcats' defense, which ranked first in the Big 12 in fewest points allowed, also played a huge role in the team's run to a conference championship. 

    Two of the unit's key players were defensive ends Meshak Williams and Adam Davis, who combined for 16.5 sacks and 27 tackles for loss. 

    Williams and Davis both leave big holes to fill on the edges of the defensive line.

    Ryan Mueller and Alauna Finau, who combined for just three sacks in 2012, will enter spring practice as the favorites to win the two open spots, but neither has proven enough on the field yet to be guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup. 

Kentucky Wildcats: Wide Receiver

25 of 72

    Only one wide receiver on Kentucky's roster caught more than 20 passes in 2012. That was Demarco Robinson, who finished with just 28 receptions. 

    Robinson looks like he should be the face of the receiver corps for 2013. But besides him, the unit is full of uncertainty, inexperience and youth. 

    New coach Mark Stoops and his staff will be eager to get a good look at which potential playmakers can contribute in the passing game next season. 

Louisville Cardinals: Offensive Line

26 of 72

    Star QB Teddy Bridgewater is the Louisville player who everyone is going to be talking about this offseason. But the Cardinals are also bringing back plenty of other impact players. 

    One of the only real question marks is the offensive line. Two of the team's top linemen from 2012, left tackle Alex Kupper and center Mario Benavides, will have to be replaced. 

    Keeping Bridgewater well-protected is one of Louisville's top priorities, so it will be interesting to see who the Cardinals choose as his new bodyguards up front. 

LSU Tigers: Defensive End

27 of 72

    LSU's defense was hit extremely hard by underclassmen declarations for the 2013 NFL draft. The Tigers lost defensive ends Barkevious MIngo and Sam Montgomery, DT Bennie Logan, LB Kevin Minter, CB Tharold Simon and safety Eric Reid early to the pros. 

    All six will be sorely missed, but Mingo and Montgomery will clearly be the toughest to replace. 

    The team has an intriguing young pass-rusher in Jermauria Rasco. But the reality is, neither Rasco nor any other defensive end on the roster recorded a single sack in 2012.

Maryland Terrapins: Quarterback

28 of 72

    Maryland came close to having to start one of the ball boys at quarterback near the end of the 2012 season, as the Terps lost four quarterbacks to injury. 

    C.J. Brown and Perry Hills, who both suffered torn ACLs last year, will now likely be the top candidates competing for the starting job.

    Coach Randy Edsall knows he needs to put together a winning season and earn a bowl berth in 2013 or else he'll likely be out of a job. So it will be interesting to see which signal-caller he chooses as his starter.

Memphis Tigers: Wide Receiver

29 of 72

    Former Alabama transfer Keiwone Malone is Memphis' only returning receiver who had more than 11 catches in 2012. 

    If the Tigers want to actually be competitive in the Big East in 2013, they're going to need to find more reliable receiving options than Malone this offseason. 

    Tevin Jones, who had just 10 catches in 2012, will be the receiver to watch for in the spring. Memphis needs a player like Jones to step up and become a solid complementary option to Malone. 

Miami Hurricanes: Linebacker

30 of 72

    Miami shuffled its linebacker unit quite a bit in 2012. Seven linebackers started at least one game this past season.

    Five of those players—Eddie Johnson, Denzel Perryman, Jimmy Gaines, Thurston Armbrister and Tyrone Cornelius—are returning.

    Johnson and Perryman appear to be the standouts of the linebacker crew, and they'll most likely end up as full-time starters. But Gaines, Armbrister and Cornelius all have what it takes to win the third starting job. 

Michigan Wolverines: Offensive Guard

31 of 72

    Michigan's offense received a major boost when the team's offensive line leader, All-American tackle Taylor Lewan, announced that he would forgo the chance to be a high pick in the 2013 NFL draft and return to Ann Arbor for his senior year. 

    Lewan's return is huge, but it still doesn't change the fact that the Wolverines will have to replace both starting offensive guards from 2012, Patrick Omameh and Ricky Barnum. 

    Kyle Kalis, Joey Burzynski and Chris Bryant will likely be the top contenders for the two open spots. Of the three, Kalis, a highly touted former 5-star recruit, will be the key player to watch.

Michigan State Spartans: Running Back

32 of 72

    Le'Veon Bell was one of college football's true workhorse running backs in 2012. He led the nation with 382 carries, which obviously didn't leave many touches for the team's other rushers. 

    Now, with Bell gone, the running back position is one of the most unproven spots on the roster heading into spring practice. 

    Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford, who combined to carry the ball just 30 times in 2012, will compete to be the team's new featured back. 

Minnesota Golden Gophers: Cornerback

33 of 72

    This past season, in Troy Stoudermire and Michal Carter, Minnesota quietly had one of the best cornerback tandems in the country. 

    Both leave big holes on the outside of the defense that will have to be filled this offseason. 

    Seniors Jeremy Baltazar and Martez Shabazz appear to be the early favorites to take over the open spots. However, neither is a proven commodity. They have one combined career interception between them.

Mississippi State Bulldogs: Wide Receiver

34 of 72

    Mississippi State has lost its three most productive wide receivers from 2012—Chad Bumphis, Arceto Clark and Chris Smith, who combined for 142 catches and 15 touchdowns. 

    That means new pass-catchers are going to have to prove their worth this offseason. 

    The receiver to keep a close eye on this spring will be Robert Johnson, a former 4-star recruit, who possesses plenty of potential and natural ability.

Missouri Tigers: Quarterback

35 of 72

    Who's the dummy who said James Franklin was ready to become a breakout star in 2012?

    Oh wait, that was me. Never mind. 

    Not only did Franklin not have a breakout campaign as a junior, he dramatically regressed, although injuries did play a part in his struggles. 

    Following last year's disappointing 5-7 campaign, there's a good chunk of the Tigers' fanbase that probably wouldn't mind seeing Corbin Berkstresser win the starting job this offseason. 

    No matter if it's Franklin or Berkstresser who ends up emerging as the starter, it should definitely be an interesting battle to follow. 

N.C. State Wolfpack: Safety

36 of 72

    N.C. State lost its two starting safeties from 2012, Earl Wolff and Brandon Bishop, who finished first and second on the team in tackles, combining for 222 stops. 

    Replacing those two won't be easy, especially since there isn't a safety on the roster who had more than 10 tackles last year. 

Nebraska Cornhuskers: Linebacker

37 of 72

    Nebraska is going to have to replace all three members of its starting linebacker corps from 2012—Will Compton, Sean Fisher and Alonzo Whaley.

    Luckily, the team has stockpiled quality talent at the position, including a potential future standout in David Santos.

    Still, Cornhuskers fans have to be at least a little concerned about how much inexperience will be on such a key unit.

North Carolina Tar Heels: Running Back

38 of 72

    Giovani Bernard was one of the most productive players in the country in 2012, ranking first in the nation with 171 yards from scrimmage per game. 

    Bernard's explosiveness and playmaking ability added a dynamic element to the Tar Heels' offense.  It's clear that the unit won't be the same without him. 

    It will be interesting to see whether it's A.J. Blue or Romar Morris who emerges as the team's new featured back this offseason. 

Northwestern Wildcats: Offensive Guard

39 of 72

    Northwestern is returning plenty of key starters from its highly successful 10-win 2012 campaign. But the Wildcats will have to replace both of their starting guards, Brian Mulroe and Neal Deiters.

    For Northwestern to have another potent rushing attack in 2013, the Wildcats are going to need to find big, strong and physical guards who can push defenders around in the trenches. 

Ohio State Buckeyes: Defensive Tackle

40 of 72

    Ohio State has all the pieces in place to compete not just for a Big Ten title, but a national championship as well in 2013. 

    The only real area of uncertainty is the defensive line, which lost all four starters from 2012, including future high NFL draft pick Johnathan Hankins. 

    Fortunately, the Buckeyes have stockpiled the line with big-name recruits in recent years. 

    Former 5-star recruit Adolphus Washington has the size, speed and strength to line up either inside or outside, which is why it will be interesting to see what the coaches decide to do with him this spring. 

    Juniors Michael Bennett and Joel Hale and sophomore Tommy Schutt are also versatile players who the team could use in the interior. 

Oklahoma Sooners: Defensive Line

41 of 72

    Oklahoma's defense will look much different in the trenches in 2013, following the loss of the talented tackle trio of Jamarkus McFarland, Casey Walker and Stacy McGee, along with starting defensive end David King. 

    Losing three starting defensive linemen is always tough to handle, no matter how much depth a team has. However, the Sooners do have potential standout defensive linemen such as DE Chuka Ndule and DT Jordan Phillips to help fill the gap.

Oklahoma State Cowboys: Quarterback

42 of 72

    Oklahoma State has the benefit of having three quarterbacks—J.W. Walsh, Wes Lunt and Clint Chelf— who proved that they could handle the starting role in 2012. 

    That's why Stillwater will be home to one of the most heated and intriguing quarterback battles of the offseason. 

    The Cowboys' offense is loaded with explosive playmakers such as WR Josh Stewart, RB Jeremy Smith and TE Blake Jackson. All the unit needs is the right captain to guide the ship. 

    Walsh seems to be the most physically talented of the three, but Lunt and Chelf are each capable of winning the starting job as well.

Ole Miss Rebels: Tight End

43 of 72

    Not only did Ole Miss bring in one of the best recruiting classes this offseason, the Rebels also bring back several experienced starters from last year's surprisingly successful seven-win team. 

    There aren't many huge holes to fill except for tight end, where the Rebels lost the only three players at the position who caught a pass in 2012, Jamal Mosley, Ferbia Allen and H.R. Greer. 

    It will be interesting to see which tight end tops the depth chart following spring practice. 

Oregon Ducks: Linebacker

44 of 72

    Oregon lost its two top tacklers from 2012, linebackers Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay, who combined for 182 stops. 

    They were not only the defense's two most productive players this past season, they were also two of the unit's key leaders, which is why it hurts so much to lose them. 

    Senior strongside 'backer Boseko Lokombo will now take over as the leader of the linebacker corps. But it remains to be seen who will join him in the starting lineup. 

    Juniors Derrick Malone and Rodney Hardrick and sophomores Tyson Coleman and Rahim Cassell should all be in the hunt to land the two open jobs. 

Oregon State Beavers: Quarterback

45 of 72

    Sean Mannion or Cody Vaz?

    That's the key quarterback question that Oregon State coach Mike Riley will have to answer this offseason. 

    Both Mannion and Vaz had their ups and downs when they were given the chance to prove themselves in 2012. 

    The Beavers have enough talent to be a dark-horse contender in the Pac-12, but first they have to find a stable signal-caller to lead the offense. 

Penn State Nittany Lions: Linebacker

46 of 72

    Penn State will have the tough task of having to replace its two top tacklers from 2012, linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, who combined for 205 stops. 

    They leave big shoes to fill. But fortunately, the Nittany Lions will at least have Glenn Carson back to lead the inexperienced group in 2013. 

Pittsburgh Panthers: Quarterback

47 of 72

    Tino Sunseri certainly didn't make any Pitt fans forget Dan Marino. However, Sunseri did put together a pretty solid senior season in 2012. 

    Now that he's gone, second-year coach Paul Chryst will have to find a starting signal-caller from a group that includes former Rutgers transfer Tom Savage, Trey Anderson and Chad Voytik. 

Purdue Boilermakers: Running Back

48 of 72

    Purdue won't have last season's starting RB Akeem Shavers in the backfield any longer. But the Boilermakers could have another Akeem leading the ground game in 2013 if junior Akeem Hunt can show this offseason that he deserves to be the team's new featured back. 

    Hunt, who averaged nearly eight yards on 42 carries in 2012, will be the early favorite to win the job. However, he'll have competition for carries from fellow junior Brandon Cottom, who averaged nine yards on 23 carries last season. 

Rutgers Scarlet Knights: Linebacker

49 of 72

    Rutgers will have to replace its two best linebackers, Khaseem Greene and Steve Beauharnais.

    Luckily, the team has an experienced veteran, Jamal Merrell, who it can build its linebacker corps around for 2013.

    Still, replacing a rare star 'backer like Greene, a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year, is going to be challenging. 

SMU Mustangs: Linebacker

50 of 72

    SMU will have to replace two of its best defenders, linebackers Ja'Gared Davis and Taylor Reed, who combined for 174 tackles in 2012. 

    They will be missed. But fortunately for the Mustangs, they'll have LB Randall Joyner, who ranked second on the team with 93 tackles this past season, back to lead the way. 

    Stephon Sanders and Kevin Pope will enter spring practice as the favorites to fill the vacant spots.

South Carolina Gamecocks: Linebacker

51 of 72

    South Carolina's defense may feature the best defensive player in the country, DE Jadeveon Clowney, but the unit also has big holes at linebacker that need to be filled. 

    The Gamecocks lost their top five linebackers from 2012—Shaq Wilson, Reginald Bowens, DeVonte Holloman, Quin Smith and Damario Jeffery. 

    The team's most productive returning linebacker is Mason Harris, who had just three tackles this past season. 

South Florida Bulls: Cornerback

52 of 72

    South Florida had one of the worst passing defenses in the country in 2012, giving up an average of 251 yards a game.

    Following the loss of starting cornerbacks Kayvon Webster and George Baker, the Bulls won't have an easy time improving their secondary.

    That will be one new coach Willie Taggart's biggest challenges, and it starts with finding two starters at cornerback. 

Stanford Cardinal: Tight End

53 of 72

    This past season, Stanford's tight-end tandem of Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo combined to catch 93 passes and score 10 touchdowns. 

    Unfortunately for the Cardinal, both Ertz and Toilolo left Palo Alto a year early to enter the NFL draft.

    Considering how important the tight end position is in Stanford's pro-style offensive attack, it's crucial that the Cardinal find new weapons at the position for 2013. 

Syracuse Orange: Quarterback

54 of 72

    For the first time since 2009, Syracuse will go into a season with a quarterback not named Ryan Nassib as its starter. 

    Nassib put together a solid career during his time with the Orange. But because he was so durable and consistent, no other quarterback got the chance to see game action. 

    Returning senior Charley Loeb is the only returning quarterback who has thrown a pass in a college game.

    Loeb will enter spring practice as the favorite to take over the starting job, but John Kinder and Terrel Hunt will also be in the mix. 

TCU Horned Frogs: Quarterback

55 of 72

    One of the most interesting storylines to watch this offseason will be how Casey Pachall handles his return to TCU.

    Last year, Pachall looked like he was on his way to becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12 before he left the team midway through the season to try to overcome his personal struggles.

    Pachall is one of the most naturally gifted quarterbacks in the country, but it remains to be seen if he can gain back the full trust of the coaching staff and his fellow players. 

    Trevone Boykin, who was unexpectedly thrust into the starting role as a freshman when Pachall left, is coming off a highly inconsistent first campaign. But he did at least show intriguing flashes of potential in 2012. 

    The quarterback competition between Pachall and Boykin will be worth watching.

Temple Owls: Quarterback

56 of 72

    Temple ranked 120th in the nation in passing offense last season, averaging just 120 yards per game. 

    Obviously, a team can't win many games in this day and age with those type of terrible passing numbers.

    That's why new coach Matt Rhule will have to focus on finding a quarterback who he can consistently count on in 2013.

    He'll have three returning players to choose from this offseason—Clinton Granger, Chris Coyle and Kevin Newsome. 

Tennessee Volunteers: Wide Receiver

57 of 72

    Not only does Tennessee have to replace three-year starting QB Tyler Bray, the Volunteers also have to replace their three most productive wide receivers—Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Zach Rogers. 

    Tennessee's leading returning receiver, Alton Howard, had just 13 catches last season. 

Texas Longhorns: Linebacker

58 of 72

    One of the reasons that Texas' defense struggled so much in 2012 was the inconsistent play from the linebacker unit. 

    If the Longhorns want a more stable defense, they're going to need to find linebackers who can get the job done. 

    This offseason, the team will have to find three capable starters from a group consisting of Jordan Hicks, Steve Edmond, Kendall Thompson, Peter Jinkens, Dalton Santos and Tevin Jackson.

Texas A&M Aggies: Linebacker

59 of 72

    Texas A&M's biggest loss on defense was clearly the departure of star pass-rusher Damontre Moore. However, the Aggies also experienced key defections in the linebacker corps. 

    The team will have to replace its two best linebackers from 2012, Jonathan Stewart and Sean Porter, who combined for 147 tackles. 

    Senior Steven Jenkins will be back to lead the inexperienced group, but it remains to be seen who will emerge as the two new starters. 

Texas Tech Red Raiders: Safety

60 of 72

    Texas Tech had the top pass defense in the Big 12 this past season. However, it's highly doubtful that the Red Raiders' secondary will be that strong once again in 2013, following the losses of starting safeties Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson. 

    Davis and Johnson were the team's two leading tacklers in 2012, combining for 191 stops. 

UCF Knights: Linebacker

61 of 72

    UCF welcomes back its most productive linebacker from 2012, Terrance Plummer, who had 108 tackles this past season. However, the Knights will still have to replace their two other starting 'backers, Jonathan Davis and Ray Shipman, who combined for 190 stops. 

    Troy Gray and Mark Rucker will be in the hunt for the two open starting jobs. But the problem is, neither is all that big, as both are listed as weighing less than 210 pounds. 

UCLA Bruins: Running Back

62 of 72

    Johnathan Franklin put together a fantastic senior season in 2012, totaling more than 2,000 yards of offense and scoring 15 touchdowns. 

    Franklin's presence in the backfield will certainly be missed, especially since he was such a durable workhorse this past season, ranking 10th in the nation with 282 carries. 

    Since the team's top returning rusher Damien Thigpen will miss spring practice with a torn ACL, the spotlight will be on Jordon James and former blue-chip recruit Malcolm Jones, who left the program last year but will return as a walk-on for the 2013 season. 

USC Trojans: Quarterback

63 of 72

    If you're a USC fan, you certainly can't be very encouraged about the type of performances QB Max Wittek had in relief duty of Matt Barkley in the team's final two games against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. 

    Wittek's numbers from 2012—52 percent completion percentage, 3-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 99.3 passer rating—are cause for concern, as is the fact that the offense looked like it was stuck in neutral when he was under center.

    Luckily, though, he's not the only option that the Trojans have. 

    Acclaimed 5-star freshman recruit Max Browne is already enrolled at USC, and he'll be competing for the starting job in spring practice. 

    The Wittek vs. Browne battle should be one of the most scrutinized and talked-about quarterback races of the offseason. Ultimately, the outcome will have a major effect on the Trojans' chances to compete for a Pac-12  title in 2013. 

Utah Utes: Defensive Line

64 of 72

    Utah had one of the strongest run defenses in the Pac-12 this past season. But that's surely going to change in 2013 due to the departure of DT Star Lotulelei, who was one of college football's top run-stuffers. 

    Not only will the Utes have to replace Lotulelei; they'll also have to replace the Kruger brothers, Joe and Dave, two other starters on the defensive line. 

    Tenny Palepoi is a big 300-plus-pound tackle who should help ease the loss of Lotulelei, but there's still plenty more help that's needed up front. 

Vanderbilt Commodores: Offensive Guard

65 of 72

    Vanderbilt lost its starting quarterback, Jordan Rodgers, and its best running back, Zac Stacy. But luckily, the Commodores have two quality replacements in QB Austyn Carta-Samuels and RB Brian Kimbrow. 

    It will be interesting to see if the Commodores can find quality replacements for their two starting guards, Josh Jelesky and Ryan Seymour, as well. They were key cogs up front, and they'll be tough to replace. 

    Sophomores Jake Bernstein and Adam Butler are the leading candidates to replace them. But both still have to prove that they are worthy of the starting jobs. 

Virginia Cavaliers: Linebacker

66 of 72

    Virginia's defense lost its two leading tacklers from 2012, linebackers Steve Greer and LaRoy Reynolds, who combined for 212 tackles and provided key leadership for the unit this past season. 

    The team's lone returning starter in the linebacker corps, junior Daquan Romero, is an intriguing player, but obviously, the losses of Greer and Reynolds are big blows to the Cavs' defense. 

Virginia Tech Hokies: Wide Receiver

67 of 72

    Virginia Tech's offense got a big boost when QB Logan Thomas announced that he would return to Blacksburg for his senior year. 

    Thomas will be looking to put his dreadful junior campaign behind and finish his career in strong fashion in 2013.

    He'll have new challenges awaiting him this offseason, though, as he tries to get acclimated to playing with a new-look corps of wide receivers. 

    The Hokies lost their three most productive wide receivers from this past season—Marcus Davis, Corey Fuller and Dyrell Roberts. The team's leading returning receiver is Demitri Knowles, who had just 19 catches in 2012. 

Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Linebacker

68 of 72

    Wake Forest welcomes back its top two linebackers from 2012, Justin Jackson and Mike Olson. However, the Demon Deacons still have two other starting spots to fill in the linebacker corps following the departures of Mike Haynes and Joey Ehrmann.

Washington Huskies: Cornerback

69 of 72

    In Sean Parker and Shaq Thompson, Washington's secondary will feature one of the best safety tandems in the country in 2013. However, it's also a unit that will feature major questions at the cornerback position, as Desmond Trufant leaves a big hole to fill. 

    Sophomore Marcus Peters looks like he should occupy one of the starting cornerback spots in 2013, but there's still a lot that has to be settled at the position this offseason. 

Washington State Cougars: Running Back

70 of 72

    Washington State's rushing attack (if you could even call it an attack) was downright dreadful in 2012. The Cougars ranked dead last in the nation in rushing offense, averaging just 29 yards per game. 

    Their 1.3 yards-per-carry average was one of the lowest in modern college football history. 

    Mike Leach may love high-powered passing offenses, but even he knows that a team simply can't win many games with rushing totals like that. 

    Teondray Caldwell, who carried the ball just 56 times in 2012, will enter spring practice on the top of the depth chart. But Caldwell still has plenty to prove, just like the rest of the rushers on the roster. 

West Virginia Mountaineers: Quarterback

71 of 72

    West Virginia's passing attack is going to feature several new faces in 2013, following the loss of the dynamic and dangerous trio of QB Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. 

    Dana Holgorsen will have to choose between two largely unproven signal-callers, Paul Millard and Ford Childress, to replace the highly productive Smith and be the new leader of his pass-heavy attack. 

    Childress is a big, strong-armed former 3-star recruit from Houston, who would seem to be a great fit for Holgorsen's system. The problem is, he hasn't exactly been the model of maturity thus far during his time in Morgantown. 

Wisconsin Badgers: Quarterback

72 of 72

    Wisconsin's passing attack deteriorated in 2012 without QB Russell Wilson. The Badgers ranked 115th in the nation in passing offense, averaging just 156 yards per game. 

    If the team wants to compete for a Big Ten title next season, those passing numbers simply aren't going to cut it. 

    That's why it will be interesting to see who emerges as the top dog in the race between Curt Phillips, Joel Stave and Bart Houston this offseason.