The world awaits the dawn of a new college football season, but for some high-profile players, the 2013 campaign was over before it began.
A myriad of factors can force an athlete to the sidelines for a whole season, and most of that spectrum has already been covered this year.
Whether it be an injury, a transfer, a suspension or a full-fledged dismissal, some college football players always find a way to become ineligible.
Golson helped lead Notre Dame to the BCS National Championship Game as a sophomore, giving the Irish offense a dual-threat playmaker that it sorely lacked. He finished with 2,405 passing yards and nearly 300 yards on the ground.
But he was suspended for academic reasons this fall, making him ineligible to play this season. Tommy Rees, who has already thrown for 4,413 yards and 34 touchdowns in his Notre Dame career, is now charged with leading the team's title game defense.
Hyde finished second in the Big Ten with 16 rushing touchdowns last year, trailing only Montee Ball, the NCAA's all-time leading touchdown scorer. That's pretty elite company.
He also rushed for 970 yards, just 30 shy of becoming the first 1,000-yard rusher Urban Meyer has ever coached. He was named to the Maxwell Award Watch List in 2013 and stood poised to finally break that four-digit barrier.
But mere weeks before opening weekend, Hyde was named a person of interest in the investigation of an assault on a female. And Ohio State doled out swift justice, suspending him indefinitely as police look into the matter.
Ohio State is deep at running back, but the loss of Hyde throws a wrench in its offense. He was a sure-thing around the goal-line and on other short-yardage situations.
Now, unthinkable as it may sound, even more responsibility has been placed on Braxton Miller's shoulders.
Heard was just the fourth-leading rusher at Nebraska last season, which makes his contributions, at first, appear to be fungible. But the three players ahead of him—Ameer Abdullah, Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead—combined for 2,897 yards on 519 carries, so it's not like there were touches to go around.
Even with that Lincoln logjam on the depth chart, Heard still finished with 357 yards and three touchdowns on 52 carriers—an impressive average of 6.7 yards-a-pop. And with Burkhead out of the picture in 2013, the former blue-chip prospect was in line for a much bigger role this season.
But perhaps disenchanted by his scant usage in 2012, Heard ended his career at Nebraska and decamped for Kentucky this spring. He'll be an impact player for Mark Stoops once allowed back on the field.
Shell is still in the process of shopping himself, reportedly narrowing his choices to West Virginia and Kentucky. His courtship has been a bit of a mess, though, starting with a short-lived commitment to UCLA, leading to a brief flirtation with returning to Pitt, and concluding (soon, we hope) with a trip to either Morgantown or Lexington.
About all that's clear with Shell is that he will not be eligible to play this season. He finished 2012 with 627 yards and four touchdowns despite backing up Ray Graham in Pittsburgh, so whoever gets him will have found a nice, young player.
Of last year's 10 Biletnikoff Award semifinalists, only four returned to school in 2013. But of those four, only three are healthy enough to play this season.
Austin Hill, Arizona's leading receiver with 81 catches, 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, tore his ACL in a mid-April practice, leaving his status for the season in doubt.
Though some players and coaches no longer think an ACL tear in the spring means a season-long death sentence, conventional wisdom says he should probably take the year off.
Injuries have plagued George Farmer's college career, but those woes hit their nadir when he tore his ACL this spring. Per the 247Sports composite, he was the No. 1 receiver in the Class of 2011, but nagging health problems have limited him to just five catches for 49 yards over two seasons.
The Trojans are set at receiver, still possessing the country's elite 1-2 duo in Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor. But Farmer was having a great camp and was expected to finally be an impact player this season, so the loss will still be felt in L.A.
Cooper played in every game for the Tigers last year and started the last three. Though he finished with just 10 catches for 93 yards, two of those catches were touchdowns and he was expected to take on a much bigger role in 2013.
He tore his ACL in Clemson's spring game, though, and will now likely have to miss the season. "Sam is the most experienced tight end we have and this is a tough loss," said coach Dabo Sweeney, according to ESPN.com. "He was coming into his own."
Clemson tight ends have caught 218 passes for 2,474 yards and 32 touchdowns over the past four years, so Cooper might have been in line for a massive season.
Skyler Burkland started the final 11 games at right tackle for Michigan State last year, leading the team with 58 knockdown blocks. But nagging injuries caught up to him once again this spring, leading to reports that he has retired from football and left the team. Though the news is not definite, it appears, as of now, that Burkland won't play in 2013.
Troy Baker started as a sophomore for Baylor last year and was projected to do so again as a junior. But a torn ACL in March could keep him out all season, hurting what was supposed to be a strong offensive line in Waco.
Christian Westerman only played two games for Auburn last season, but his pedigree is hard to ignore. According to AL.com, he was Scout.com's No. 1 guard, Rivals and ESPN.com's No. 2 tackle and 247Sports' No. 3 tackle coming out of high school. He opted to transfer and will play for Arizona State in 2014.
Ukwuachu was dismissed from Boise State for violating unspecified team rules and will be a painful loss for the team this season. He started the Broncos' final 12 games of 2012, finishing with 4.5 sacks and earning a spot beside players like Deion Barnes and Devonte Fields on the FWAA Freshman All-American Team.
He decamped back to Texas (where he went to high school) this offseason, opting to join Art Briles's nascent powerhouse at Baylor. And though he'll have to sit out 2013, Ukwuachu still has two years of eligibility left, making him a vital future piece of their defense.
Vanderdoes's status has been mired in controversy, but it is now starting to clear up.
He committed to Notre Dame in February, but for personal reasons decided to leave for UCLA this June. Notre Dame never released him from his National Letter of Intent, though, which means he will not be eligible to play in 2013.
Vanderdoes was a consensus 5-star recruit, the top defensive tackle and the No. 6 player in 247Sports' rankings this past year. When he does become eligible to play in Los Angeles, he will be a cornerstone of the Bruins' defense.
Simmons started all 13 games for Texas Tech last year, but he never quite lived up to the potential he showed in high school. He decided to leave Lubbock this offseason and is set to join the USC Trojans next fall.
USC's current top defensive lineman, Morgan Breslin, was a JUCO transfer who finally realized his D-I potential last season, finishing with 13 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. The Trojans hope Simmons, who in high school received a 95-out-of-100 on 247Sports' composite, will follow suit.
Kansas took a high-risk flier on Martin this offseason, accepting his transfer from junior college after failed stints at Florida and Cal. Though oozing with raw, natural talent, the former 3-star recruit could never keep himself out of trouble off the field.
Those issues came to a head this offseason, when Martin was arrested in connection with an armed robbery and later dismissed from the team by Charlie Weis. The Jayhawks desperately need a versatile pass-rusher with Martin's skill-set, but will now have to look for answers from within.
Brady Hoke is optimistic that Ryan can return to action by October but still less than four months removed from a torn ACL, that sounds like either wishful thinking or decision-making fraught with danger and risk.
Ryan made the All-Big Ten Second Team as a sophomore last season, finishing with 88 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. Along with Ohio State's Ryan Shazier and Michigan State's Max Bullough, he was expected to give the Big Ten three legitimate candidates for All-American honors at linebacker.
He tore his ACL in late March, which makes his "projected" October return date seem exceedingly optimistic. A normal ACL takes about nine months to heal; even "superhuman" specimens like Robert Griffin III aren't ready to play in six or seven, especially at a cut-intensive position like linebacker.
David Perkins recorded just six tackles in his Ohio State career, but the former blue-chip recruit was only a sophomore and still had a world of potential.
Even if his greatest moment in Columbus was a spring-game assault of Brutus the Buckeye, Perkins undeniably has the talent to be a high-level performer.
David Jenkins was in line to start opposite Jason Verrett in 2013, helping TCU assemble what many believed to be college football's best secondary.
The LSU transfer couldn't keep his nose out of trouble, though, getting arrested for suspicions of burglary and subsequently being kicked off the team by head coach Gary Patterson.
247Sports' fifth-ranked cornerback from the Class of 2011, Jenkins left LSU for unknown reasons as a freshman and sat out all of last year. He would have been a redshirt sophomore this season and a nice building block for TCU.
Wilkerson, a true freshman from Citra, Fla., drew rave reviews from Georgia veterans this offseason and was slated to play an immediate role in the Bulldogs' depleted secondary.
But he suffered an ACL injury in June, forcing him to miss the season and take a medical redshirt. ESPN.com's Radi Nabulsi had also made note of Wilkerson's strong pre-injury form, indicating further that the 4-star recruit would have played a big role in Athens this season.
Mitchell shocked Wisconsin last month by declaring his intent to leave the program.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Mitchell was recruited to the Badgers by former assistant Joe Rudolph. But this offseason, Rudolph followed former offensive coordinator Paul Chryst to Pittsburgh, which just so happens to be Mitchell's hometown and reported future school.
Mitchell was just a redshirt freshman, but he ran with the starters this spring and was expected to play a big role during Gary Andersen's first year in Madison. Though not the biggest name on the Badgers' defense, his presence will be sorely missed.