Grading Depth Charts for Every Top 25 College Football Team Entering 2013 Season
Depth charts for college football teams across the country are not set in stone, but with the USA Today Coaches' Poll just having been released, it is time to grade the current depth charts of every Top 25 college football team.
There are many ways to look at a depth chart, but for the sake of this article we will discuss both the first and second-string players from all Top 25 teams, with a huge concentration on the starters. Grades will be given specifically for offense, defense and overall. They will be based on talent on each side of the ball, as well as potential of both incoming recruits and younger players on the roster.
While depth charts can certainly change before the beginning of the season, most coaches have an excellent idea of who is going to be starting for their football team a few weeks from now.
With that being said, here is a letter grade for the depth charts of every Top 25 college football team, just a few weeks from the start of the year.
*Depth charts are according to Scout.com
No. 25 Oregon State Beavers
The biggest question on the offensive side of the ball for Oregon State is who will be the starting quarterback. While that has not been decided, it looks like junior Sean Mannion might hold the slight edge. Either way, the Beavers will be in good hands.
There is a lot of talent, particularly at the skill positions, as running back Storm Woods returns after rushing for 940 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman. He will be joined by wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Cooks caught 67 passes for 1,151 yards and 11 touchdowns last season as a sophomore.
The offensive line returns four starters. The group should be especially strong on the interior.
No question that the star on the defense is end Scott Crichton. The interior of the defensive line is gone, but Crichton will be joined by fellow end Dylan Wynn, who was a starter last season.
The linebacker group should also be solid, led by third-year starter Michael Doctor. The secondary has to replace star cornerback Jordan Poyer, but brings back everybody else.
Overall Grade: B
There are certainly playmakers on both sides of the ball. Oregon State has a chance to compete in the Pac-12 if the skill players can stay healthy.
The keys to the season might be stopping the run and protecting the quarterback, whoever that might be.
No. 24 USC Trojans
USC is in a similar position as Oregon State. The Trojans are still looking for a quarterback, with three to choose from. Sophomore Cody Kessler might hold the slight edge in the battle, but it is still too early to tell.
Running back Silas Redd returns after rushing for 905 yards and nine touchdowns, despite splitting carries with Curtis McNeal in 2012. The star of the offense will without question be wide receiver Marqise Lee. Last season he caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2012.
The offensive line brings back four starters, so that group should be solid once again. Replacing center Khaled Holmes will be no easy task, but there is plenty of talent to fill the void.
The defense should be decent, but nothing spectacular. The Trojans will be employing a 3-4 scheme and return a pair of defensive linemen, including Leonard Williams and George Uko.
At linebacker Hayes Pullard will be counted on heavily in the middle. He has spent the past two seasons as the starter at the weak-side linebacker spot.
The secondary should be relatively strong, led by Dion Bailey, who is shifting to strong safety from linebacker. True freshman Su’a Cravens might earn the starting nod at free safety.
Overall Grade: B
This is another team that has some high-level talent, but not the depth of a lot of other schools. Still, the Trojans have some excellent skill players that not many other schools in the nation can match.
Do not expect a title contender, but winning more than the seven games they did last year is very possible, particularly if the play from the quarterback position is adequate.
No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers
This is yet another school with a huge battle at the quarterback position. It is hard to say just who has the edge, but sixth-year senior Curt Phillips is certainly in the mix along with sophomore Joel Stave.
Running back will definitely not be a problem with James White returning after rushing for 806 yards and 12 touchdowns on only 125 carries, running behind Montee Ball. Top wide receiver Jared Abbrederis also returns. Last season he caught 49 balls for 837 yards and five touchdowns.
Once again, the offensive line has plenty of talent coming back, but is sorely going to miss center Travis Frederick.
On defense, Wisconsin is led by senior linebacker Chris Borland. Borland led the team with 104 tackles and is joined at the linebacker position by fellow senior Ethan Armstrong. That duo is one of the best in the Big Ten.
Along the line, tackle Beau Allen will be the big man in the middle for the Badgers. He will be joined by Pat Muldoon, who is one of the largest players in the conference. The secondary will feature safety Dezmen Southward.
Overall Grade: B-
Wisconsin has a lot of questions once again at the quarterback position, but the running game will certainly be strong once again.
On defense, the team will be led by its linebackers and should be just as good as it was last year.
No. 22 Northwestern Wildcats
There is little doubt that the best player on the Northwestern roster is running back Venric Mark. Last season he rushed for 1,366 yards and 12 scores. He also doubles as a kick returner.
Quarterback Cain Kolter emerged as the starter last season. Entering his senior campaign, he will get pushed by junior Trevor Siemian.
There are major questions at the wide receiver position, but even bigger ones along the offensive line where three starters are going to have to be replaced.
On defense, Northwestern has talent on each of the three levels. The front seven is anchored by end Tyler Scott. He totaled nine sacks last season.
Perhaps the best player on the defensive side of the ball is linebacker Damien Proby. He is the leading returning tackler, posting 112 stops last year.
The secondary will be led by safety Ibraheim Campbell. He has totaled 188 tackles over the past two seasons. Expect a big year from this junior, as he is not afraid to put a lick on anybody.
Overall Grade: B-
It should be another solid season once again for Northwestern. The offense will likely be slightly better than last year, particularly if there are improvements at the wide receiver position.
The defense will once again be one of the best in the Big Ten, as the group only allowed 22.5 points a game last year.
Still, expecting another double-digit win season is easier said than done.
No. 21 UCLA Bruins
For UCLA it all starts with quarterback Brett Hundley. He was a star last season during his freshman campaign, but will have to do it this season without star running back Johnathan Franklin. That brings about the question surrounding the running game, as Franklin is leaving some huge shoes to fill.
While the running game may be a question mark, the strength of the team will certainly be through the air. Among the top players on the roster are a pair of wide receivers, including Shaq Evans and Jordan Payton.
The offensive line should be solid, with four starters returning. The group was young last season, but now has a year of experience under its belt.
The strength of the defense for UCLA comes from the linebackers. Senior Anthony Barr is one of the best in the country and he returns along with junior Eric Kendricks. Kendricks led the team with 150 tackles last year, while Barr totaled 13.5 sacks.
Defensive end Cassius Marsh will be the biggest force up front for the Bruins. He returns, but the Bruins will have to replace Datone Jones at the other end position.
The secondary will have a lot of question marks. The group is looking to replace starters at every spot, so that is not going to be an easy task. Depth might be a serious issue here.
UCLA surprised a lot of people last season, but the Bruins will have a bigger target on their back this year.
Look for both sides of the ball to struggle slightly. The offense will have trouble developing a running game right away and the defense will not be able to slow down opposing passing attacks.
No. 20 TCU Horned Frogs
The biggest question mark for TCU is certainly the quarterback position. If Casey Pachall can return to old form, this team could be a Big 12 title contender. If not, it could be another five or six-loss year.
Running back is a huge issue, although there is a lot of talent. It is hard to say who will be the starter here, but head coach Gary Patterson will have plenty to choose from, including B.J. Catalon and Waymon James. Wide receiver Josh Boyce departed early for the NFL, but there are a few players who could step in and fill his shoes, including Brandon Carter and Deante’ Gray.
The offensive line struggled last season at protecting its quarterback and has two starters to replace in 2013. It could be a bit of a struggle up front for the Horned Frogs.
No question that the strength of the team is the defense. The best players on the roster can be found on that side of the ball. Cornerback Jason Verrett is as good as it gets. He is one of the best in the country at his position.
There is no question that the strength of the team is along the defensive line. That group is led by sophomore Devonte Fields. The end was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year last season, totaling 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. He is joined by tackle Chucky Hunter.
The linebacker group was anchored by Joel Hasley, but he has reportedly left the team. Marcus Mallett will now be faced with a lot more responsibility at that position.
Overall Grade: B
The Horned Frogs should be one of the best teams in the country on the defensive side of the ball. The group was 30th in the nation last season in points allowed. They should be even better this year.
Offense could have its fair share of struggles, but if Pachall returns to old form, that unit will be just fine.
No. 19 Boise State Broncos
Boise State returns five starters on the offensive side of the ball. One of those is quarterback Joe Southwick. Last season he stepped in to fill the large void left by Kellen Moore. He did an admirable job, throwing for 2,730 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Some new players will need to step up at the skill positions. Running back Jay Ajayi is taking over for D.J. Harper and head coach Chris Petersen will be looking for a new starter at the wide receiver position to go along with Matt Miller and Kirby Moore.
Two starters come back on the offensive line, as the entire right side will need to be replaced.
Defense will also have a lot of holes to fill, particularly at the linebacker position, as two new starters will be welcomed into the fold.
The defensive line should be strong with Demarcus Lawrence returning at defensive end. He will be joined by the big man in the middle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe.
Along the secondary, Boise State welcomes back safety Jeremy Ioane. He was second on the team last season with 70 tackles.
Overall Grade: B-
Boise State was down last season, but still managed to put together a double-digit win total. This season might be much of the same.
It will be somewhat of a struggle, particularly early on, but this should be another solid Broncos squad.
No. 18 Nebraska Cornhuskers
Nebraska has a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball, led by quarterback Taylor Martinez. He returns for his senior season after showing last year that he could throw the football a little bit.
Junior running back Ameer Abdullah will join Martinez to form one of the best rushing attacks in the nation.
Nebraska can also throw the ball around a little bit. Wide receiver Kenny Bell is very dangerous. Last season he caught 50 passes for 863 yards and eight touchdowns. No question he is deep play threat on every down.
The offensive line returns four starters led by guard Spencer Long.
The Nebraska defense struggled last season compared to most other years. This year could also be a bit of a struggle.
There is a pair of seniors anchoring the group. Defensive end Jason Ankrah will be the force up front for the Cornhuskers.
In the secondary Ciante Evans has shown the versatility to play both cornerback and safety when needed. He is also the leading returning tackler.
Replacing all three linebackers is not going to be easy either.
Overall Grade: B
It could be a season similar to 2012 for the Cornhuskers. The offense will once again have no trouble putting points on the board.
Look for a completely different story for the defense as the group struggled last season, allowing nearly 28 points a game. Do not expect it to get much better this year.
No. 17 Michigan Wolverines
The Michigan offense returns five starters, including quarterback Devin Gardner. The key to the season might lie in the hands of the former wide receiver.
There is a lot of talent at the running back position for the Wolverines, led by senior Fitzgerald Toussaint. The wide receiver position will need to fill some holes, but Jeremy Gallon returns after leading the team with 49 receptions and 829 yards last year.
Both tackles return along the offensive line, led by All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan. Replacing the three spots on the interior will be one of the keys to the season.
The defense for the Wolverines brings six starters back, with somebody returning at each level. The big question for the team is if and when star linebacker Jake Ryan can come back after tearing his ACL during the offseason. That group will be the strength as the other two linebackers on the roster return.
Up front, the Wolverines will be led by big nose tackle Quinton Washington. He will be joined by a trio of new starters along the defensive line.
The secondary will see two starters return, and while it might not be the strength of the defense, it will not be a major weakness either.
Overall Grade: B
This should be another solid Michigan team that could find itself in the mix for the Big Ten title.
There are a lot of question marks surrounding this team on both sides of the ball, but there are also some proven studs as well. The defense and overall grade might be a notch higher if Ryan was healthy.
No. 16 Oklahoma Sooners
It is not very often that Oklahoma struggles on the offensive side of the ball. Even with a new quarterback in Blake Bell this season, that is not likely to be the case.
The Sooners will have some talented skill players returning, led by running back Damien Williams. He will be joined by ultra-skilled wide receiver Jalen Saunders. Williams rushed for 946 yards and 11 scores last season, while Saunders caught 62 passes for 829 yards, despite missing the first four games of the season.
One of the wildcards is fullback Trey Millard. He might be the best in the nation at his position.
The offensive line is anchored by Gabe Ikard. The senior is one of the best centers in all of the land and leads an offensive line that returns four starters.
Defense might be a different story, however. The Sooners only return four starters on that side of the ball.
Perhaps the biggest question mark surrounding the group comes up front, where tackle Chuka Ndulue is the only starter returning. But, he has found himself in legal trouble recently. Fellow tackle Jordan Phillips could have a breakout sophomore campaign, however.
Cornerback Aaron Colvin is a stud, who should be one of the best in the Big 12 at his position. Linebacker Corey Nelson returns to lead a linebacker group with a few questions to be answered.
Overall Grade: B
Oklahoma should once again have no trouble putting points on the board. The offense might not average 38.2 points a game like it did last season, but should be very close.
On defense, it might be a little bit of a struggle, but expect similar results to the team that gave up 25.5 points a game last year.
No. 15 Texas Longhorns
The Texas offense brings back virtually every player of any significance as 10 starters return. Leading the way is quarterback David Ash. He is beginning to develop into the player many were expecting him to a few years ago.
The stable of running backs is led by Johnathan Gray. He will be joined by Joe Bergeron Jr. and Malcolm Brown. Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis will be the go-to players from the wide receiver position. Greg Daniels Jr. returns at tight end.
The offensive line will remain completely intact from last year. Not many teams return more on offense in 2012 than Texas, as nearly everybody is coming back.
It is much of the same story for the defense, as nine starters return. That group is led by defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. He missed action last season due to injury, but is one of the top defensive ends in the nation. Tackle Malcolm Brown will also be a factor, as he could have a monster sophomore season.
The entire secondary is intact for the Longhorns. The group is led by cornerback Quandre Diggs. The linebacker group returns two starters, led by Jordan Hicks.
Texas once again appears to have the talent to compete with nearly anybody in the country. That seemed to be the case heading into last year, but it did not quite work out.
Overall Grade: B+
The defense ranked 74th in the country, allowing 29.2 points a game in 2012, leaving cause for concern heading into the 2013 season.
Still, there is enough talent here to be the Big 12 favorite.
No. 14 Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State is another team that returns a lot of starters. The Cowboys bring back eight on the offensive side of the ball.
No question that the most talented player in that group is wide receiver Josh Stewart. Last season Stewart caught 101 passes for 1,210 yards and seven touchdowns.
The battle for the starting quarterback job is still up in the air as Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh are in a heated competition.
Three offensive linemen return to help anchor a unit that finished third in the country, averaging 45.7 points a game.
On defense, the Cowboys bring back seven starters, with the strength being in the secondary. That group is anchored by Daytawion Lowe who led the team with 97 tackles a year ago.
The interior of the defense should be strong once again with both defensive tackles returning as well as middle linebacker Caleb Lavey.
This group did allow 28.2 points a game last season, but a lot of that had to do with the pace at which the offense played.
Overall Grade: B+
Oklahoma State is without question one of the top four teams in the Big 12. The offense might be the best in the country by the end of the year.
On defense, it is going to take a solid effort by some of the experienced players if this team wants to bring home that Big 12 crown.
No. 13 LSU Tigers
For LSU there is a lot of depth at certain positions on the offensive side of the ball. The one position that sticks out is running back. Head coach Les Miles will likely be splitting carries between a few players, including Kenny Hilliard, Alfred Blue and Jeremy Hill, if he can stay on the field.
The wide receiver group welcomes the return of leading pass catcher Odell Beckham. He hauled in 43 passes for 713 yards last year.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger will be entering his second season as the starter, but there are still some question marks there as well.
The offensive line will be solid, but nothing spectacular, with a mixture of youth and experience.
On defense, LSU lost virtually everybody to the NFL draft. Some were expected to go, but a few came as a bit of a surprise.
Perhaps the strength of that team will be the defensive tackles. Two players stand out in that mix. Both Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson saw action last year.
The secondary will be very young, as a pair of freshmen could be starting at cornerback. Safety Craig Loston will anchor the group.
The linebackers are young as well, but Les Miles certainly knows how to recruit that side of the ball.
Overall Grade: B+
LSU has depth throughout the roster, but there are still plenty of question marks with so many new starters, particularly on defense.
With that being said, this group has enough talent to compete against anybody in the country.
No. 12 Florida State Seminoles
Even though Florida State lost quarterback E.J. Manuel to the NFL draft, the Seminoles have enough talent coming back for new quarterback Jameis Winston to work with.
That group is led by a pair of running backs who complement each other very well. Juniors Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. make solid 1-2 punch.
The Seminoles also bring back No. 1 receiver Rashad Greene. He caught 57 passes for 741 yards and six touchdowns last season.
Finishing out the offense is a line that will feature four starters returning from last year. The group is very talented as three of the four were second-team All-ACC a year ago.
Replacing the talented defensive line from a year ago will not be an easy task. Florida State lost as much talent there as some teams do in a decade. Tackle Timmy Jernigan appears ready to step into the starting role this year.
At linebacker, leading tackler Christian Jones returns, after recording 95 stops a season ago. Anchoring the secondary is Lamarcus Joyner. He is another player who opted to return to school instead of leaving early for the NFL draft. There is a lot of depth in the secondary with Nick Waisome and Terrence Brooks also back in the fold.
Overall Grade: A-
The main question surrounding the Seminoles offense is the play of quarterback Jameis Winston. If he can live up to the hype, this could be a very dangerous team.
On defense, the group ranked sixth in the country last season, allowing only 14.7 points a game. They might not be that good this year, but should still be very talented in 2013.
No. 11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Losing a guy like Everett Golson at the quarterback position certainly does not help the depth of the Fighting Irish. With that being said, it will not be impossible to replace the former starter.
There are a lot of holes to fill at the skill positions. Tight end Tyler Eifert has moved on, and Notre Dame lost both its running backs from last season. The Fighting Irish do have a viable replacement in George Atkinson III and a nice complement in Amir Carlisle.
Some players appear ready to step up at wide receiver, including T.J. Jones. He caught 50 passes last season for 649 yards and four touchdowns. Names like DaVaris Daniels and Chris Brown are younger players who could make an impact.
The offensive line will be very strong with big time players Zack Martin and Christian Lombard returning at tackle and guard Chris Watt also coming back.
On defense, the line will once again be one of the strongest in the country. The group is led by big tackle Louis Nix III. He decided to return for his senior season. End Stephon Tuitt could be one of the best pass rushers in the country.
There are some talented linebackers returning, but replacing a guy like Manti Te’o is no easy task. A trio, including Prince Shembo, Dan Fox and Jaylon Smith should be viable replacements.
As far as the secondary goes, Notre Dame should be better equipped to have success in that area this year. Cornerback Bennett Jackson certainly leads the way for that group.
Overall Grade: B+
Notre Dame will not be quite as talented as it was last season, but the Fighting Irish will still possess one of the best defenses in the country.
Offense might be a bit of a struggle, but the offensive line will help immensely. If some playmakers step up, this could be another excellent season for the Fighting Irish.
No. 10 Florida Gators
Florida could use some improved play from quarterback Jeff Driskel to take the next step this season and be in the national title conversation.
There are some question marks on offense, including the running back position, as both Matt Jones and Mack Brown will be asked to contribute, after doing virtually nothing last season.
At wide receiver, there are plenty of athletes to choose from, but head coach Will Muschamp will need a few of those players to step up, most notably Quinton Dunbar and Andre Dubose.
The offensive line also possesses its fair share of question marks with the entire left side having to be replaced.
On defense, Florida should be excellent once again. It all starts up front along the defensive line with Dominique Easley anchoring the middle from his defensive tackle position. Defensive end Dante Fowler should also be a force in 2013.
Ronald Powell is a pass-rusher from his defensive end position. He can also play linebacker. Speaking of linebackers, the group should be very strong once again with Antonio Morrison and Michael Taylor topping the list.
The secondary is filled with plenty of talented players, including Loucheiz Purifoy Jr. He may also spend time at wide receiver because of the amount of talent in this group. Freshman Vernon Hargreaves III is one of the most explosive players in the class.
Overall Grade: B
It should be another similar season to what Florida went through last year. The Gators will once again win games with a very talented defense.
If the offense can step up, this could be a very dangerous team. If not, it could be another three-loss season.
No. 9 Louisville Cardinals
For the Louisville Cardinals it all starts with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He is one of the most talented offensive players in the nation and could be in the Heisman conversation in 2013.
The Cardinals also have some depth at running back with Senorise Perry and Dominique Brown both in the mix.
At wide receiver, DaVante Parker returns after catching 40 passes for 744 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. He might develop into one of the top receivers in the nation. Damian Copeland is also back after leading the team with 50 receptions a season ago.
Replacing two starters along the offensive line will be somewhat of an issue, but there is enough depth in the program to get past that.
On defense, Louisville has a lot of talented players, but the strength of the group is the safety position. Free safety Calvin Pryor and strong safety Hakeem Smith form one of the better safety combinations in all of college football.
At linebacker, Preston Brown will lead the way along with George Durant.
Up front, the Cardinals will rely on Marcus Smith. He is the only returning lineman to start every game last season. This might be the weakest spot on the team, but could easily be improved upon this season.
Overall Grade: B+
Louisville looks to be the class of the American Athletic Conference. If the Cardinals run the table, there is a chance they could be playing for the national title. With how easy the schedule is, if everything falls into place that might happen.
There is excellent balance on both sides of the ball for the Cardinals in 2013.
No. 8 Clemson Tigers
The Clemson offense is similar to that of the Louisville Cardinals. It all starts with quarterback Tajh Boyd. He is one of the best in the country at his position and could be in the Heisman conversation by the end of the season.
Replacing running back Andre Ellington is not going to be easy, but senior Roderick McDowell should suffice.
At wide receiver, Sammy Watkins will be looking to have a bounce back season after struggling during his sophomore campaign. There are question marks surrounding the other wide receiver spots, as a number of players are vying for playing time.
The offensive line will need to find two new starters, but there is enough depth in the second unit from a season ago to make for an easy transition.
On defense Clemson will be looking to improve on a group that allowed nearly 25 points a game last year.
Three of the four defensive linemen are coming back, as are the linebackers with the exception of leading tackler Jonathan Willard.
Defensive tackles Grady Jarrett and Josh Watson will be a force in the middle.
The weakness of the defense can be found in the secondary as three starters have to be replaced. Travis Blanks is the only returning starter. He started eight games last season as a freshman.
Overall Grade: B+
Clemson has some challenging games, but could be one of the most talented teams in the country if everything falls into place.
The Tigers need a little bit of consistency from the secondary, but the offense will be one of the best in the country once again this season.
No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina should be very balanced once again on the offensive side of the ball. The Gamecocks have a pair of talented quarterbacks in Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson.
At running back, Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds will be able to adequately replace Marcus Lattimore.
There is a lot of talent at wide receiver, but only junior Bruce Ellington has accomplished much on the field. Names like Damiere Byrd and Shaq Roland have a chance to be special if they can live up to expectations.
The offensive line is virtually intact, led by third-year starter A.J. Cann. He anchors the group from his left guard position.
On defense, everybody knows about the talent of end Jadeveon Clowney. He is one of the most gifted players in the entire country and will team with fellow defensive end Chaz Sutton. The middle of the line should be set as well with Kelcy Quarles returning.
At linebacker, Kaiwan Lewis is back after an excellent freshman year to anchor a decent unit.
There are some players to replace in the secondary, including safety D.J. Swearinger. He was one of the best in the SEC last season, and will certainly be missed. The best player in that group is cornerback Victor Hampton. He will be joined by Jimmy Legree to form a lethal combination at corner.
Overall Grade: A-
South Carolina has the talent to compete with anybody in the country. The Gamecocks can even beat anybody, with the talent they possess on the defensive side of the ball.
If some playmakers can step up on offense, this could be a team that is in the race for the SEC title.
No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies
The Texas A&M offense only returns six starters, but there are plenty of playmakers to go around. Led by quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, this is one of the best offenses in the nation, as long as Manziel can remain on the field.
Ben Malena takes over at running back and that group should be fine. The wide receiver group is young and loaded. Sophomore Mike Evans caught 82 passes for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns last season. Among the young talented wide receivers are sophomore Sabian Holmes and incoming freshmen Ja’Quay Williams and Ricky Seals-Jones.
Three starters return on the offensive line, anchored by tackle Jake Matthews who might be one of the best players in the nation.
This offense averaged 44.5 points a game last season. Expect much of the same this year.
On defense, it is a little bit more of a struggle for the Aggies. Up front Damontre Moore will need to be replaced. He led the team with 12.5 sacks and 85 tackles. Tackle Kirby Ennis is a player to watch out for but he has been suspended for the season opener.
Linebacker Steven Jenkins is the leading returning tackler, as he came up with 79 stops a season ago. He will be the top linebacker in the group.
In the secondary, safety Howard Matthews should continue to improve and anchor a solid group.
Overall Grade: A-
No question that this is one of the best teams in the country. The Aggies might have the most talent on offense. They also have a solid defense to go along with it.
There is little doubt that this team is a national title contender in 2013.
No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia is blessed with one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Aaron Murray. He has seemingly been in Athens for nearly a decade, but will now be back for his fifth and final season.
He has the best running back combination in the country to hand the ball to. Sophomores Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combined for over 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns on the ground last year.
Malcolm Mitchell is a stud at wide receiver. Last season he caught 40 balls for 572 yards and four scores. Finding a second receiver will be the task for head coach Mark Richt and his coaching staff.
One of the strengths of the team is the offensive line. All five starters are back. The group has combined for over 100 career starts. This is a unit that could develop into one of the best in the SEC. That could mean good things in Athens this year.
On defense, Georgia will once again have a solid group.
The emergence of linebacker Jordan Jenkins was huge last season, as the true freshman saw action in all 14 games with six starts. He will be joined by fellow returning starter Amarlo Herrera.
Up front, Georgia has a number of talented players, including defensive end Ray Drew and defensive tackle John Atkins.
In the secondary, it is virtually wide open. Georgia lost the likes of Bacarri Rambo, Shawn Williams, Branden Smith and Sanders Commings. Replacing these players is no easy task, but cornerback Josh Harvey-Clemons is a viable candidate, once he returns from suspension, along with safety Tray Matthews.
Overall Grade: A-
This Georgia team has enough talent to hang with anybody in the country. If another wide receiver can emerge, this could be the best team in the nation.
The play of the secondary will also be a key this season for the Bulldogs.
No. 4 Stanford Cardinal
The key for the Stanford offense this season might be the development of quarterback Kevin Hogan. The sophomore showed signs last year as a freshman and could be one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12 this year.
Running back Anthony Wilkerson will have the task of replacing Stepfan Taylor. As far as the other skill positions go, the tight ends will not be as much of a factor this year. Hogan will have some huge targets at wide receiver, including Ty Montgomery.
Once again, the offensive line will be outstanding. Guard David Yankey is one of the best in the country at his position. He will anchor a group that will be the best in the Pac-12.
The Stanford defense has been excellent the past few seasons. The 2013 year will not be any different. The strength of the defense will be the linebackers. Seniors Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy are the best two players on that side of the ball.
Defensive line is also a position of strength as Ben Gardner and Henry Anderson are the top two players in the group.
The secondary is led by strong safety Jordan Richards.
Overall Grade: B+
The Pac-12 will likely come down to a battle between Stanford and Oregon. Both teams are relatively evenly matched, but it will likely be decided based on the development of Hogan at quarterback.
No doubt that the defense will be solid. If a few playmakers develop on offense, this team will be a national title contender by the end of the season.
No. 3 Oregon Ducks
The Oregon offense is considered by many to be the most explosive in the country. The group averaged 49.6 points a game last season, ranking second in the country.
Returning is quarterback Marcus Mariota. Last season he put up some astronomical numbers, including 37 total touchdowns. He passed for 2,677 yards and rushed for 752 more.
The running game will be excellent with both De’Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall returning, along with incoming freshman Thomas Tyner.
At wide receiver, Josh Huff is back after leading the team with 493 yards and seven touchdowns on 32 receptions.
The offensive line brings back three starters. The group should be just as good as or better than it was a season ago.
On defense, Oregon looks like a team that will continue to improve. Without question the star of the group will be cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. He is one of the best cover corners in the Pac-12. Terrance Mitchell will start alongside Ekpre-Olomu. He is also one of the top players on defense.
Defensive end Taylor Hart is a force up front for the Ducks. He will be joined by two-year starter Wade Keliikipi in the middle.
The biggest questions on defense will be linebacker where senior Boseko Lokombo is the only returning starter. Still, this group should play close to the level it did last season.
Overall Grade: A-
The Oregon offense will put plenty of points on the board, even without Chip Kelly in the fold.
If the defense is just average, this team will be playing for the national championship in January.
No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes
The Ohio State offense has a lot of young talent. This might be the season that the group develops into what it is capable of, and the Buckeyes reach the national championship game.
Quarterback Braxton Miller is the star of the team. He will be in the Heisman conversation all season long.
Even with the suspension of running back Carlos Hyde, the Buckeyes still have the likes of Jordan Hall, Rod Smith and Bri’onte Dunn to fill the void.
The wide receivers must continue to develop. There is big play capability all over the field with Devin Smith and Corey Brown. Names like Chris Fields and Evan Spencer are also guys to keep an eye on.
The offensive line was solid last season, particularly in the run game. The group returns four starters and should be even better in 2013.
Defense has also been a strong suit for Ohio State teams in recent years. While 2012 was not exactly what many fans would expect, during the 2013 season, the group should return to old form.
The unit is very young, particularly up front with sophomore defensive ends Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington stepping into starting roles. The interior of the line will also be new starters as Michael Bennett and Tommy Schutt are the front-runners.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier is one of the best players in the country. The junior anchors a group that is looking for some stability at the other spots.
Once again, the strength of the Ohio State defense will likely be the secondary. The group is led by junior cornerback Bradley Roby. He is one of the best in the nation at his position and will be a shutdown corner again this year. Safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett also return for their senior seasons.
Overall Grade: A-
Ohio State has the inside edge to get to the national championship game if it can win all 13 games during the season.
The Buckeyes have the talent, but might need somebody to step up at one of the wide receiver positions to give Miller a target to rely on.
No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide
The offense starts with Heisman Trophy contender A.J. McCarron. The quarterback passed for 2,933 yards and 30 touchdowns last season with only three interceptions.
He will be handing the ball to superstar in the making T.J. Yeldon. The sophomore rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns in a backup role last season as a freshman.
The star of the receiving corps is Amari Cooper. In 2012 he caught 59 passes for 1,000 yards and 11 scores. The Crimson Tide will need more production from players like Kevin Norwood and DeAndrew White at wide receiver. The return of Kenny Bell from injury could also help the cause.
There are a few holes to fill along the offensive line, as three starters need to be replaced. There are however, players ready to step into the starting role.
The Alabama defense just reloads every season. The 2013 campaign will be no different. Linebacker C.J. Mosley is the best in the country at his position and anchors the defense during his senior season. Fellow linebackers Adrian Hubbard and Trey DePriest are the other top players on defense.
There are some holes to fill along the defensive line, but there are plenty of players to fill those roles. End Ed Stinson is back along the line. Incoming freshmen Dee Liner and Tim Williams might be factors as true freshmen.
In the secondary, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will be the anchor. Vinnie Sunseri returns at the other safety spot, but will have to battle for playing time. Cornerback Deion Belue will be the shutdown guy this season.
Overall Grade: A
When it comes to depth charts, nobody comes close to Alabama. The two-deep for the Crimson Tide is not only the best in the country, but it is not even that close.
With that being said, Alabama is beatable, as is everybody else. If the Crimson Tide lives up to the hype and does not choke under pressure, this is easily the best team in the country this coming season with a depth chart that is untouched by anybody else.
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