This is the time when college football coaches relax, right?
The 2013 season is over, and the 2014 season doesn't really kick into gear until the summer, when preseason training camps pop up on campuses all over the country.
After all those long hours and sleepless nights from July into December or early January, this is the recuperation period, correct?
Not a chance.
The offseason can provide just as much stress, if not more, for those in charge of a football program. There's the constant recruiting battle, culminating in the Feb. 5 national signing day. There are preparations to be made for spring practice, not to mention making sure players stay in class and out of trouble.
It's a time when anything and everything can go wrong, and what happens during this time period can often directly affect a team's performance come the fall.
There's something really bad that could go wrong for each and every FBS team. Can't think of what that might be for your team? Fear not, we've created a nightmare scenario for all of them.
The 2013 struggles continue in spring ball
Air Force had one of the worst seasons in school history last year, going 2-10 with wins over equally woeful Army and an FCS team. The Falcons' normally effective option offense was out of sync, while their defense allowed 40 points per game.
The program has been backsliding the last few years under Troy Calhoun. The hope is that 2013 was the bottom.
The worst nightmare for Air Force would be signs during spring ball that no improvement is expected for the 2014 season, which could make it possible that Calhoun won't be around after it.
Loss of "Tank" Arrington looms
The 2013 season brought many positives for a program that's been long on the downswing, and with plenty of standouts from that 5-7 team coming back, a chance at Akron's first bowl game since 2005 looks possible.
But tragedy hit the Zips shortly after the season ended when offensive line/assistant head coach Alan "Tank" Arrington was killed in a car accident in Mississippi.
More transfers thin the roster
Not being a part of the BCS National Championship Game made the 2013 season feel like a disappointment for Alabama, but the year was even more frustrating for a pair of Crimson Tide players who didn't get a chance to see the field.
Quarterback Luke Del Rio and running back Alvin Kamara are both transferring, with Del Rio announcing on Jan. 18 his move to Oregon State and Kamara reportedly looking to go to Clemson, according to 247Sports (via College Football Talk).
The quarterback situation stays unclear
B.J. Denker was recruited to Arizona out of junior college as a backup plan, a stopgap in case none of the Wildcats' younger quarterbacks stepped up for 2013.
Denker ended up starting every game last year, getting better as the season went on.
With him gone, Arizona is once again in a pickle when it comes to its quarterback situation. At least six players are likely to be battling for the starting job, including redshirts, transfers and two incoming recruits.
Rich Rodriguez would like that list to be down to no more than two or three after spring ball, but if no separation occurs, it could make for a stressful and uncertain summer.
Sun Devil Stadium renovations hit a snag
Earlier this month, Arizona State unveiled its grand plan for a $260 million renovation of Sun Devil Stadium, which is necessary to keep the program moving in the right direction according to the hype videos produced for the "Momentum" campaign.
The school plans to play in the stadium throughout the construction, which is set to begin in 2015, while a smaller project that will tear out part of the North side of the complex is scheduled to start in February.
Though it might not have an immediate impact on the 2014 season, any hiccups in either the fundraising for the big project or the work on the smaller endeavor could cause distractions, not to mention possible ramifications for future recruiting classes.
Bret Bielema's wife gets back on Twitter
Jen Bielema, the wife of Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, drew some unwanted attention to her husband's program when she tweeted #karma shortly after Bielema's former team, Wisconsin, lost at Arizona State in bizarre fashion in mid-September.
The tweet started a firestorm of online backlash toward her, Bielema and Arkansas, further burning bridges after Bielema's departure from Wisconsin.
The fact that Arkansas had its worst season since joining the SEC added to the irony of the Twitter war. Odds are such a situation involving Jen Bielema won't arise again anytime soon, but if that were to happen this offseason, needless to say it wouldn't be a good thing.
Markel Owens' death
Yet another coaching change has come and gone for Arkansas State, with Blake Anderson slowly putting his plan in place in Jonesboro. But the future took a backseat on Jan. 15 after tragic new broke that defensive lineman Markel Brown was killed in a home invasion in Tennessee. Police said Owens and his stepfather, Johnny Shivers, were shot to death.
Whatever else happens this offseason, it's hard to imagine it will cause as much pain as Brown's death.
Monken struggles with uphill battle
Jeff Monken comes from the option run-game family tree, having worked for Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson before having success of his own at FCS Georgia Southern.
But Monken might find himself facing a tougher rebuilding plan at Army, where he was hired last month to replace Rich Ellerson. Though Army ran the same type of offense en route to going 3-9 in 2013, the service academies don't tend to get the same kind of athletes that non-military institutions pick up.
Monken presumably has a plan to deal with this, but if it doesn't look like it will work right off the bat, there might not be hope for a strong 2014 season.
Defense shows no improvement
Auburn's 2013 turnaround was one of the most spectacular in college football history, with nearly all the credit going to the offense Gus Malzahn was able to put in place to get the Tigers to the national title game.
But Auburn's defense left plenty to be desired. Many games became shootouts because the defenders couldn't make enough stops.
The Tiger offense should be just as good in 2014, but the offseason will likely be devoted to finding the right guys and schemes to make the defense contribute in its own way. If that doesn't happen, it could make for a frustrating attempt to replicate 2013's success.
A replacement for Wenning doesn't emerge
Quarterback Keith Wenning threw for more than 4,000 yards in 2013, leading Ball State to a 10-win season that put the program back on the map after a few years out of the spotlight.
But Wenning was a senior, and his time with the Cardinals is over. The biggest goal this offseason will be finding an adequate successor, and if that doesn't happen before games resume in August, then Ball State will be hard-pressed to repeat what it did last year.
McLane Stadium construction hits snag
Baylor's success the past few years helped get the program to a level it had never been at before. And beyond improved play on the field and better recruiting classes, that success has led to plenty of donations and booster support.
It's how the school was able to raise the $250 million needed to build McLane Stadium, which is set to open in time for the 2014 season.
The school is providing regular updates on the construction's progress, and all signs point to it being done on time. A worst-case scenario, though, would make it so the stadium isn't ready and Baylor has to rejigger plans so it could play a little longer in old, run-down Floyd Casey Stadium.
De-commits dilute recruiting class
Bryan Harsin has put together his staff at Boise State, helping to make the transition from Chris Petersen to him complete.
But while that facet of the change is going smoothly, the Broncos have seen recruits jump ship.
According to Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman, at least seven commitments from the 2014 recruiting class have backed out and plan to go elsewhere. That's knocked Boise down to 101st in the team rankings, according to 247Sports.
As bad as this seems, it could get worse: There are still two weeks left until national signing day.
The backups aren't ready
Boston College had a solid first year under Steve Addazio, winning seven games and making it to a bowl game. But the Eagles were very senior-laden, with their quarterback, top running back and No. 1 receiver all on the way out.
BC didn't get many opportunities to groom their successors in 2013, which puts a premium on getting some things situated during spring practice.
The worst thing that could happen for the Eagles this offseason is for the replacements not to be ready.
Returners don't fit Babers' system
Bowling Green's great 2013 paid off in spades for coach Dave Clawson, who got a promotion by being hired to take over Wake Forest. The school acted quickly to replace him, hiring Eastern Illinois' Dino Babers.
Babers ran a high-octane offense at Eastern Illinois, which reached the FCS semifinals. Bowling Green was good on that side of the ball, but the Falcons were best known for a solid defense.
Such a change in approach could lead to offseason turmoil, especially if the existing players don't fit well with the new coach's style.
Khalil Mack's void proves unfillable
Most of the top NFL draft picks come from the major FBS conferences, but each year a few diamonds are found in the rough of the lower-tier conferences.
Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack was one of those, and he's projected as a top-10 pick in May.
Mack made such an impact for the Bulls, getting them back to a bowl game, that it will be very difficult for him to be replaced. In fact, the effort Buffalo makes to fill that void could lead to not enough time being devoted to the school's other deficiencies, such as quarterback and running back. Poor planning like that could lead to a 2014 backslide.
Taysom Hill's throwing gets worse
Hill logged nearly 4,300 yards of total offense in 2013, putting together a stellar sophomore year that makes him one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks coming into next season.
But Hill still had accuracy issues throughout last year, which will likely be an emphasis for him and BYU's coaches to work on during the offseason. The worst thing that could happen during that time, though, is for the passing drills to actually hamper Hill's progress, specifically in terms of confidence. If he struggles to throw, that could affect his ability to run effectively.
The Air Raid remains grounded
Jared Goff set numerous passing records for California in 2013, one of the few bright spots from a 1-11 season. But he separated his shoulder during the Golden Bears' season finale against Stanford and underwent shoulder surgery in late November.
Cal expects to have Goff ready for spring ball, but who knows how his recovery will go.
Any hiccups could keep him out of that practice period, and the last thing the Bears need is to have a vital piece of their air attack be stuck on the tarmac.
Knights have passport problems
It's bad enough the Central Florida Knights must replace superstar quarterback Blake Bortles and standout running back Storm Johnson, let alone put together another season remotely close to the just-completed Fiesta Bowl-winning campaign.
But the Knights have a rather odd 2014 opener, a game against Penn State. In Dublin, Ireland. The game was first announced in July, and no doubt school officials have been working on the trip's logistics since then.
There are going to be plenty of new players on the team headed to Dublin, and all it takes are a few passport issues and the Knights might have to head overseas with an even thinner roster.
The run game continues to struggle
Central Michigan went on a three-game win streak to end the 2013 season and get to 6-6, but the Chippewas didn't get invited to a bowl game. Had they been able to figure out how to be more consistent on the ground earlier in the year, that might have been different.
Look for coach Dan Enos to put a lot of emphasis on improving the run game during spring ball.
But that doesn't just get better automatically, and if progress isn't shown, then another .500 season could be in the cards.
The new coaches aren't getting the job done
Cincinnati won nine games in its first season under Tommy Tuberville, but apparently that wasn't enough.
Tuberville dismissed defensive coordinator Art Kaufman and Fred Tate, citing a desire to go in a different direction with his staff's approach to recruiting. Corresponding shifts in coaching responsibilities, as well as some new hires, happened last week.
But what if these moves, which Tuberville hopes will help with the types of players that Cincinnati gets to play for it, result in coaches being in over their heads? The Bearcats had a respectable defense in 2013, allowing just 21 points per game. What if the new guys can't produce the same results?
Dabo Swinney gets complacent
Another 10-win season and an Orange Bowl victory were two of the many reasons Clemson rewarded coach Dabo Swinney with an eight-year contract extension worth at least $3.15 million per year.
While that kind of compensation and job security is great for Swinney, could it lead to complacency?
The Tigers have to replace Tajh Boyd, the most prolific passer in ACC history. That's already a tough task, but if the man in charge isn't feeling the immediacy to do so thanks to a fat new contract, will as much effort be made?
Not enough quarterbacks
Colorado switched quarterbacks midway through its 4-8 campaign in 2013, with Sefo Liufau becoming the (for now) arm of the future.
But though he'll go into spring camp being "the guy," depth is always a necessity at such a fragile position.
The Buffaloes' offseason is already hitting a nightmare-like scenario with the announcement on Jan. 17 that Connor Wood was leaving the program for undisclosed reasons. That leaves Colorado with just two quarterbacks for spring ball, not a desirable situation.
Bibbs goes undrafted
Kapri Bibbs was one of those "where did he come from?" running backs in 2013, suddenly racing up the touchdown charts to finish with 31 as a redshirt sophomore. His year was incredibly productive, and Colorado State was looking forward to seeing what he'd be able to do with a full offseason of preparation as the starter.
Then Bibbs announced he was going to the NFL, leaving two years of eligibility on the table, and all those plans changed. At 5'11" and 203 pounds, Bibbs has decent size for a pro prospect, but that wasn't enough to get him higher than 20th on the list for his position, according to CBS Sports.
How he does during draft combines and workouts will ultimately determine where he ends up, but if Bibbs were to go undrafted, that would make his decision to leave look really bad.
Religion overshadows production
Bob Diaco is going to have a hard enough time righting the sinking ship that was Connecticut's football program. The last thing he'll want is religious issues distracting his team's offseason path.
But Diaco is already seeing the difference between the public, state-funded institution and the private, faith-based Notre Dame where he'd been the past few years. That became an unintended storyline earlier this week when his assistant, Ernest Jones, drew criticism from the public and the school for infusing religion into the team's approach, according to Desmond Conner of the Hartford (Conn.) Courant.
Jones, who was also at Notre Dame, made references to having Jesus Christ at the "center of our huddle," according to the Courant. Though it's an issue that should go away quickly, if it lingers and becomes a source of constant distraction, the Huskies' spring practices might not be as productive as Diaco would like.
Offense trudges through spring
Duke has had two of its best offensive seasons in school history the past two years. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper gets a lot of credit for that.
Roper is gone now after getting hired for the same position at Florida, which puts pressure on head coach David Cutcliffe to put together the right staff and game plan for the Blue Devils' offensive production to continue in 2014.
The worst scenario Duke could find itself in this offseason is one where, without that offensive consistency, spring practices fail to provide the forward momentum needed for a program trying to stay on the upswing.
Carden looks too far ahead
East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden had a breakout junior season, throwing for more than 4,100 yards with 33 touchdowns as the Pirates won 10 games. He smartly stayed in school, and he should be one of the top FBS passers in 2014.
But the added attention he'll get this offseason could be a distraction, such as his being named to the Touchdown Club of Columbus' 2014 Players to Watch list.
If Carden gets swept up in the hype, it could affect how he prepares this offseason, which is the last thing the Pirates need heading into their first year in the American Athletic Conference.
More Ron English audio emerges
Eastern Michigan has moved on from the mostly unsuccessful Ron English era. New coach Chris Creighton is in place, working toward trying to bring one of the nation's worst programs to a level of respectability.
That could be difficult if anything related to his predecessor surfaces during the offseason, such as additional audio tapes of English using profanity and homophobic comments. English was fired in November when a tape of him flipping out was discovered, and if more of those exist and come out they could get in the way of Creighton's progress.
The offense shows no spring improvement
Florida's offense bottomed out in 2013, averaging fewer than 19 points per game. Injuries were an issue, but so was the talent and approach, leading to offensive coordinator Brent Pease being fired shortly after the Gators finished a dismal 4-8 season.
Will Muschamp has brought in Duke's Kurt Roper to revamp Florida's offense. But what if nothing appears changed or improved when spring ball comes and goes?
The Gators' spring game will likely draw a sizable crowd, and if they're not impressed with what happens on offense, it could lead to even more pressure on Muschamp.
Pelini backlash lingers
Carl Pelini first resigned, and then later was fired by Florida Atlantic midway through his second season, a messy situation that included allegations of drug use as well as his "failure to supervise his staff," according to ESPN.
New coach Charlie Partridge has been working tirelessly to right the ship and mend fences in Southeast Florida, particularly when it comes to relationships with area high school coaches. According to Anthony Chiang of the Palm Beach Post, Pelini rubbed local coaches the wrong way by not recruiting their kids, something Partridge aims to change.
While all that sounds great on paper, what if some of those coaches aren't as easily convinced of the changes at FAU? If so, the offseason recruiting—particularly for the 2015 class—could be impacted.
Ron Turner's players are worse than what he inherited
Florida International went 1-11 in 2013, the first year under Ron Turner. It was a woeful season in which the Golden Panthers averaged fewer than 10 points per game and allowed 37.
But that year was played mostly with holdovers from previous coach Mario Cristobal's tenure. Now Turner will get to coach his own players, both from last season's recruiting class and the 2014 class that currently has 24 commitments, according to 247Sports.
Cristobal was considered a solid recruiter, particularly in South Florida. If Turner's players turn out to be no better than the ones who were already there at FIU, the Panthers might get worse.
Jameis Winston channels his inner Johnny Football
Florida State is the national champion, and though it lost many players early to the NFL, all signs point to the Seminoles being a title front-runner in 2014.
Much of that has to do with the return of Jameis Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
The last thing FSU wants is for Winston, the second straight freshman to win the award, to follow in the offseason footsteps of Johnny Manziel. Manziel's off-field actions became bigger than the football program, and the Seminoles don't want to have to deal with that.
DeRuyter's defense doesn't jell
Tim DeRuyter was a defensive coordinator before becoming Fresno State's head coach before the 2012 season, yet he's piloted one of the nation's top offenses the last two years thanks to quarterback Derek Carr and receiver Davante Adams.
They're both gone now, which likely will lead to some production backslide. That gives DeRuyter the motivation he needs to shore up one of the country's worst defenses.
But if the players he's recruited to Fresno don't translate into such defensive improvement, the Bulldogs might have to find a way to just outscore teams again. DeRuyter would prefer to be more balanced.
Pruitt doesn't make a difference
Georgia has a new defensive coordinator, with Florida State's Jeremy Pruitt replacing the now-Louisville DC Todd Grantham. While Grantham's departure has been looked at as a good thing, considering how much the Bulldogs struggled on defense in 2013, a new person running that side of the ball doesn't automatically spell improvement.
The worst thing that could happen for Georgia this offseason is that, even with Pruitt in place, it's realized that the problem is the players and not the schemes.
Panthers don't show progress
It's hard not to go up from an 0-12 season, Georgia State's first as part of the transition from FCS to FBS. The Panthers showed promise in a few contests, going to overtime once and playing within a touchdown of their opponents on three other occasions.
And while the rough 2013 should help make the returning players battle-tested, that doesn't immediately translate into improvement. The Panthers need to make progress in the offseason, and if that doesn't happen it could make for another winless campaign.
A replacement for Vad Lee doesn't emerge
One of the more surprising transfer announcements this offseason was that of Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee, who announced in early January he was leaving the team despite starting all 13 games for the Yellow Jackets as a sophomore 2013.
Lee mentioned his "first-hand" knowledge of the talent Tech would bring back in 2014, saying the school would have no trouble filling his spot in the triple-option offense.
But while Lee got plenty of playing time as a freshman, the same couldn't be said for his backup, Justin Thomas. With that in mind, the worst thing that could happen this offseason would be a discovery that Thomas (or anyone else on the roster) doesn't have what it takes to run the offense.
The run game disappears
Hawaii didn't win in 2013 until its final game, outlasting Army to finish 1-11. The Warriors showed promise late, though, thanks to an improved run game.
Rushing hasn't really been the Warriors' forte over the years, so this was a surprise. It would be bad for Hawaii's chance of doing well this fall if that run game didn't continue to develop during the offseason. Since June Jones left as coach, the Warriors haven't been able to do it with just a passing game, so they need the rushing attack to keep getting better.
New staff leads to player-coach relationship issues
Houston's coaching staff will be very different this spring thanks to departures and changing of roles, mostly on the offensive side of the ball.
While the new coaches all come with their own accolades, any such change can bring with it uncertainty.
For Houston, if these new coaches have trouble working with the returning players and new recruits this spring, it can set the program's timeline back a few months. It would make the preseason training camp have extra importance, and it could lead to a slow start to 2014.
Airline prices skyrocket
Idaho was forced to be an independent in 2013, which meant playing a schedule that included three long road trips to the Southeast part of the U.S.
Now, as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, the Vandals will once again be playing many games in the South. In addition to a season-opening trip to Florida, Idaho will play league games in Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina.
There's no avoiding this, and Idaho hopefully has budgeted for these trips. But if the airlines decide to start another round of fare increases before the flights are booked, the Vandals might be in for a long and pricey year.
A replacement for Scheelhaase doesn't step up
Nate Scheelhaase had a solid senior year, despite Illinois struggling to a 4-8 season. He kept the Fighting Illini in games it had no business in, and his production will be hard to replace.
Illinois is hoping Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt will be the answer, but he hasn't gotten consistent or important reps in more than a year. If he doesn't step up and show promise during the spring, Illinois might be in for a rough 2014.
New assistants struggle early
Indiana had quite a bit of turnover on its coaching staff during the offseason, with head coach Kevin Wilson firing his defensive coordinator and then losing his offensive coordinator to another school.
Now it's up to new coordinators Kevin Johns (offense) and Brian Knorr (defense) to lead those units.
Players all handle such changes differently, especially if they had a strong relationship with the outgoing coach. Indiana's worst nightmare would involve players struggling to jell with their new leaders, which would make for tough sledding during spring workouts.
The momentum from 2013 doesn't carry over
Iowa put together a pretty solid season in 2013, getting into a New Year's Day bowl game a year after finishing below .500. That success has translated into increased expectations for the Hawkeyes in 2014, especially with many players coming back.
But with those raised hopes comes an greater chance of a letdown, and Iowa could be ripe for one.
The fanbase is anxious to see an even better team next time out, and any perceived struggles during spring ball are likely to be met with much concern.
Mark Mangino doesn't fit in
Iowa State's hiring of former Kansas coach Mark Mangino has been met with mostly praise. The plan is for him to call the plays and make do with the talent the Cyclones can bring in.
But if ISU looks sloppy on offense in the spring, as it did for good parts of the 2013 season, don't be surprised if critics start pointing out the flaws that pushed Mangino out at Kansas. That included allegations he verbally abused players, something that would be a death knell to the Cyclones program if such claims popped up again.
Weis clashes with new offensive coordinator
Kansas coach Charlie Weis hired John Reagan from Rice to be the Jayhawks' offensive coordinator in 2014, a position he essentially held last season. He joked with the Kansas City Star's Rustin Dodd that he fired himself, an attempt to make light of what was a pretty bad Kansas offense.
It remains to be seen how Weis handles someone else running the offense. If Reagan and Weis were to disagree over the spring progress, Kansas could be in for added turmoil that it doesn't need.
Tyler Lockett regrets not going pro
Kansas State's best offensive weapon had a breakout season in 2013 and has a chance to set numerous school records when he comes back as a senior.
Lockett was considered a draft sleeper by experts had he chosen to go pro a year early, but he ultimately chose to return to school.
If he were to start doubting that decision—say, while going through another spring training camp, when he could instead have been prepping for the draft and a big payday—he might slack off on his work.
Last year's backslide becomes a trend
Kent State won 11 games and the Mid-American title in 2012, then finished this past season with a 4-8 record.
The Golden Flashes won their last two to end the season, though, giving hope for a good 2014. But if that momentum doesn't carry over from November into spring ball, Kent might be setting itself up for another losing season.
The stellar recruiting class fizzles out at the last moment
Kentucky's recruiting class is currently ranked 20th in the nation by 247Sports, a pretty amazing feat for a team that went 2-10 in 2013. Mark Stoops is still working the recruiting trail, trying to grab one or two more standouts before national signing day.
But the Wildcats' commitments have almost two weeks to change their minds, something rival schools likely will do their best to make happen.
If Kentucky were to lose even just two or three of those recruits, that suddenly stellar class would just become above average.
Petrino's eyes start to wander
Bobby Petrino's return to Louisville has been one of the most polarizing hires of the offseason coaching carousel. You either loved the move or hated it, with no middle ground.
A $10 million buyout and assurances from Petrino that he's in it for the long haul will only ease concerns about his past so much. All it will take is one rumor about him being a candidate for another position—the Cleveland Browns are hiring, right?—and the Louisville public relations machine will need to kick into overdrive.
Mark Hudspeth gets hired away
The coaching carousel appears to be over at the FBS level. And as the dust settles, Louisiana-Lafayette has managed to hold onto hot commodity Mark Hudspeth as its head coach.
But late vacancies can pop up, as was the case in 2013 when New Mexico State's job opened in late January or when Bobby Petrino was fired by Arkansas in April 2012.
With that in mind, Ragin' Cajuns fans shouldn't relax too much. If another opening occurs, Hudspeth could be a target, and losing him at this point would be terrible for the program's offseason.
Kolton Browning proves irreplaceable
Louisiana-Monroe had four years of consistency at the quarterback position thanks to Kolton Browning, but his eligibility is done and the Warhawks must search for a replacement.
ULM used backup Brayle Brown when Browning was injured midseason, but he may not be the long-term answer. And if no one else steps up in spring ball, the Warhawks could be up for a long 2014.
Manny Diaz gets a better offer
Louisiana Tech pulled off a miniature coup by hiring former Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Though his departure from Texas was a rough one, getting fired early into the 2013 season, he's had success there and other places.
With that in mind, Diaz has the pedigree that could land him a job at a more prestigious program. And though most of the offseason coaching moves are done, it's not unheard of for a coach to take on a job and then jump quickly to another.
Anthony Jennings can't cut it
When Zach Mettenberger went down in LSU's season finale against Arkansas, it started the clock early on the succession plan to Anthony Jennings. While he fared well in relief in that game, he struggled mightily against Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
Les Miles will give Jennings every opportunity to thrive, but it might become evident early in spring practice that he's not the answer.
If that's the case, the Tigers will face far more uncertainty than they have in many years.
Herd can't find a running back
Rakeem Cato was the unquestionable star of Marshall's offense in 2013, but he also had a trusty running back in Essray Taliaferro. The senior rushed for 1,140 yards and 10 touchdowns, helping to take some pressure off Cato from having to do everything.
For the Thundering Herd to have another season like they just did, they will need to find another dependable back. If that proves impossible in the spring, the game plan might need to be tweaked, which could lead to Cato having to take on too much responsibility.
No Big Ten-style run game is available
Maryland's move from the ACC is purely a business move; it takes the school far from its geographical rivals. How the Terrapins are going to handle this transfer in football has been a concern for fans since the realignment was first announced, and now the final touches are being made.
Maryland will need to learn how to run the ball effectively to compete in the Big Ten, but that might be a difficult task. The Terps' most effective rusher in 2013 was their quarterback, and that won't cut it alone.
Without improved depth and development out of the run game, the first Big Ten year could be a long one.
Second time's not a charm for Whipple
Winning hasn't come easily for Massachusetts since it moved to FBS. The Minutemen have gone 2-22 in their first two seasons.
Apparently, the solution was to bring back Mark Whipple, who had coached the team from 1998 to 2003, winning 49 games and making three appearances in the FCS playoffs.
But that was at a much easier level.
Now among the big boys, Whipple will quickly find out it's not the same game. If he handles that poorly, don't expect the Minutemen to make a quick turnaround.
Defense takes a step back
The saving grace for an otherwise bad Memphis team in 2013 was its defense, which slowed down some strong teams and helped make up for a very poor offensive attack.
Most of the Tigers' top defenders are back in 2014, but odds are the majority of spring ball is going to be spent working on improving the offense.
If too much attention is paid to that side of the ball, it could lead to the defense slacking.
Duke Johnson's ankle doesn't heal properly
Johnson was on his way to an amazing season in 2013 when he broke his ankle in early November, requiring surgery. The rehab is a lengthy one, Johnson told the Miami Herald's Safid Deen, and will likely keep him out of spring ball.
As bad as that already sounds, things could go worse for the Hurricanes if the rehab has any unexpected hiccups, such as complications from the surgery that cause the ankle not to heal properly. Miami's offense was abysmal after Johnson went down, and without his availability it might be more of the same in 2014.
Notre Dame transfers add friction
New coach Chuck Martin has already made a solid impact for a team that was 0-12 in 2013 and couldn't have played much worse. He's managed to get three Notre Dame players to follow him to the RedHawks: quarterback Andrew Hendrix, tight end Alex Welsh and defensive back Lo Wood.
Getting players who were considered good enough to go to Notre Dame to play in the Mid-American Conference should be considered a big deal, and it is. But those players will likely expect to play right away, which could rub Miami's holdovers the wrong way.
If Martin shows any sort of preferential treatment to those former Irish recruits, friction could develop.
Jabrill Peppers flips
Peppers is a 5-star superstar recruit who is considered the crown jewel of Michigan's 2014 recruiting class. The Wolverines got his commitment in May, but speculation kept popping up that he might flip and go elsewhere.
Currently ranked No. 3 overall by 247Sports, Peppers is a 6'1", 205-pound athlete who could beef up either side of Michigan's team. Put simply, he's needed.
But this is a teenager, and teenagers change their minds.
Without a doubt, the worst thing that could happen to Michigan this offseason would be for Peppers' fax not to show up on Feb. 5's national signing day.
Narduzzi has second thoughts
Michigan State's acclaimed defensive coordinator won awards and became a star assistant in 2013, but Pat Narduzzi didn't give in to the allure of head-coach openings that he could have gotten during the offseason.
Keeping Narduzzi on the staff, at least for one more year, was a boon for the Spartans. But what if Narduzzi starts looking ahead to after 2014, when that cycle will start up again? Should he have gone with one of these openings? Did he make a mistake?
Such second-guessing could affect preparation during the offseason, and if MSU is going to be a national title contender, it can't have distractions like that.
Taking a step back
Middle Tennessee's appearance in a bowl game in 2013 was a big deal for a program making the jump up to Conference USA. The Blue Raiders excelled in their first season in that league but struggled outside of it.
The fear in Murfreesboro is that last season was a one-hit wonder, that the Blue Raiders will regress back to a sub-.500 team in 2014. If those worries manifest into poor offseason workouts, they could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Jerry Kill's medical issues worsen
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has had a well-publicized battle with epilepsy, a condition that has led to in-game seizures on numerous occasions and caused him to take a leave of absence from the Golden Gophers for part of the 2013 season.
Kill returned to the sidelines for the first time in months during Minnesota's bowl game in late December, and he appears to be handling his condition well. But despite all that, another seizure could happen at any time.
"Wallacing" trends again on Twitter
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace gained some unwanted web fame when, after losing a fumble at the goal line in the Rebels' overtime loss to rival Mississippi State, the image of him splayed out trying to get the ball spawned an Internet meme.
Wallace rebounded to have a great game in Ole Miss' bowl win over Georgia Tech, but now that "Wallacing" is out there, any time he messes up it will likely resurface. The worst thing for the Rebels would be that something happens in the offseason to make that meme start trending again.
Dak Prescott's ailments come back
Mississippi State's dual-threat quarterback, Dak Prescott, had a signature moment when he came off the bench despite injury to lead the Bulldogs to a comeback win over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. He then paced a convincing bowl win over Rice.
Prescott gets banged around a lot as a running quarterback, and if those injuries start to compound and slow down his offseason training, it could hurt MSU's chances of starting off 2014 on a high note.
Dorial Green-Beckham's legal troubles linger
Standout wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was arrested on Jan. 11 after he was found in a vehicle that contained nearly a pound of marijuana, according to police in Springfield, Mo.
Though he and the two other people in the vehicle were later released without being formally charged, the incident marks Green-Beckham's second drug-related run-in with the law; he was arrested in Columbia, Mo. along with two teammates in 2012. All three players pleaded guilty to a trespassing charge, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune's Steve Morrison.
It's unknown at this time what will come from Green-Beckham's latest arrest, but the longer it stays unresolved the more of a distraction it can cause for the program during offseason preparations.
Reynolds becomes too big of a star
Keenan Reynolds became known to the college football world last season with his breakout sophomore performance, rushing for 31 touchdowns (including an FBS single-game record seven rushing TDs by a quarterback) and stepping beyond the normally faceless realm of service academy players.
It's not a likely scenario, but there has to be some concern that Reynolds' 2013 efforts garner him too much attention this offseason, and that the added notoriety causes him to slack off on preparations for his junior year. Such is not a common situation for Navy players, so there has to be some trepidation.
More Pelini audio files emerge
Nebraska's Gator Bowl win over Georgia gave the Cornhuskers a 9-4 record for 2013, a mark that might not be as good as fans would like, but still solid considering the season's roller coaster-like turmoil.
The sailing should be a little smoother in Lincoln for coach Bo Pelini this offseason. That is, unless another audio tape surfaces (like the one that Deadpin reported on in September) featuring him cussing out the Nebraska fanbase.
Fajardo falls apart
Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo battled through numerous injuries in 2013, missing a pair of early games and looking hobbled in others. It was a big reason the Wolf Pack finished below .500 and missed a bowl game for the first time since 2004.
With an offseason to get healthy, the hope is Fajardo can return to the form he showed in 2012. But once a player starts mounting injuries, there's always that worry that further ailments will pop up or that he'll never be able to get back to the old version.
Defensive stoppers don't materialize
The slow rebuilding process that former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie is trying to do at New Mexico hasn't achieved much success yet, though the Lobos have managed to put together a solid run game that offset their inability to recruit offensive playmakers.
But more troubling has been the breakdowns on defense, which certainly will be a point of emphasis this offseason. However, if standouts on that side of the ball don't step up early in spring practice, New Mexico could be working toward another year when it allows more than 42 points per game.
Conference play proves no better
New Mexico State had to suffer through a laborious season as an independent in 2013 after the Western Athletic Conference dropped football. The Aggies were lucky to get as solid a schedule as they did last year, bringing in the likes of Boston College, Minnesota and Rice for home games.
Now in the Sun Belt Conference, the slate won't look as appealing for NMSU fans. If prospective ticket-buyers scoff at a home slate that includes nothing better than rival New Mexico, it could lead to reduced revenues for a program that's in desperate need of every penny possible.
No protection plan is formulated
North Carolina suffered significant losses on its offensive line following the 2013 season, which will put a lot of pressure on the Tar Heels to find replacements so that quarterback Marquise Williams gets protection to keep the offense moving smoothly.
If UNC struggles to develop adequate linemen this spring, Larry Fedora might need to re-tool the attack to lessen the chance of losing another quarterback to a severe injury.
Florida transfer doesn't fit the bill
North Carolina State used two quarterbacks in 2013, and neither fared well. This year the Wolfpack is likely to place its fate in the hands of Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett.
Brissett will be expected to operate the spread attack that coach Dave Doeren is trying to implement at NC State. But if he struggles in spring ball, the team might have to completely scrap its plans and try a different approach.
Dan McCarney hangs it up
McCarney got North Texas into a bowl game for the first time since 2004 this past season, completing the turnaround he started when he came to the school in 2011. During that time, though, he suffered a stroke in 2012 and underwent surgery in 2013 for what NBC Sports reported was a heart bypass procedure.
McCarney, 60, hasn't spoken publicly about how long he plans to coach the Mean Green, but he recently saw one of his assistants hang it up when defensive line coach Scott Nelson retired.
If McCarney were to follow suit this offseason, it would no doubt leave North Texas in a lurch.
Loss of Lynch proves too much
Jordan Lynch was, without a doubt, the most important part of Northern Illinois' team the last two seasons. His ability to run or throw pretty much carried the Huskies to back-to-back Mid-American titles and provided plenty of media attention.
Lynch is gone now, trying to get an NFL career started up.
Coach Rod Carey's toughest task will not just be to replace Lynch, but to find someone who can bring the same leadership to the Huskies. It's probably impossible to find someone similar, and if NIU tries too hard to replicate that past approach, it could derail its overall offseason plan.
A one-quarterback system is no better than using two
Northwestern rotated junior Trevor Siemian and senior Kain Colter at quarterback last season, and it worked—for the first few games, before the bottom fell out on the Wildcats' season.
Colter is no longer around, leaving Siemian alone under center. He'll be getting the bulk of the snaps with the chance to be the leader and get the Wildcats back into a bowl game.
But if he isn't making progress during the spring, him being "the" guy might not be as exciting as it should be.
Golson's academic issues resurface
Everett Golson missed the 2013 season after academic issues caused him to be suspended by Notre Dame, but he was reinstated and will be a part of the Fighting Irish when spring ball starts up.
His return is huge for a team that struggled offensively without him last year. Golson makes the Irish instantly better.
But if the same academic concerns that caused the 2013 suspension pop up again, he could be in jeopardy for the fall. Odds are he's learned from his past mistakes, but if not, Notre Dame could be in trouble.
Replacements don't pass muster
Ohio loses its quarterback, its top receiver and top running back from the 2013 team, a large exodus of talent that would be hard enough for a major program to overcome, let alone one in the Mid-American Conference.
Frank Solich will have to get by with the next ones up at each position, but it will be hard for him and his staff not to expect the same kind of production from the replacements. Ohio's worst nightmare would be putting too much pressure on the new starters to do just as well as their predecessors.
Braxton Miller's body breaks down again
Miller missed a few games last season with a knee injury, then got banged up in the Buckeyes' Orange Bowl loss to Clemson. As the face of the program, he needs to stay healthy in order for OSU to make another title run in 2014.
Miller likely won't see much contact during spring ball, but freak injuries can happen. If he gets hurt during the offseason, OSU will be in trouble.
The quarterback situation becomes an issue...again
Trevor Knight's performance against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl should have laid to rest the issue of who will be Oklahoma's future quarterback. He's the guy heading into spring ball, with Blake Bell a clear backup whose skills can be utilized in other ways.
But now that Knight's got the job, what if he stinks it up in the spring?
If he gives the Sooners coaches any reason to doubt he can handle the job, Bob Stoops and his staff are right back where they were to start 2013. And no one in Sooner Nation wants that.
Desmond Roland struggles with increased role
Roland didn't become a major part of Oklahoma State's offense until the second half of the 2013 season, but the junior running back handled the increased workload well.
But Roland wasn't exactly a workhorse, tallying more than 20 carries only three times. In 2014 he might be asked to do a lot more, and if he doesn't show during spring ball that this is going to work, it could put the Cowboys' plans up in the air.
Heinicke doesn't continue development
Taylor Heinicke threw for more than 4,000 yards during Old Dominion's debut season in FBS, but seven of those games were against FCS opponents. Much more will be expected of him in 2014, when the Monarchs face nearly a full slate of FBS foes.
Heinicke will be expected to perform just as well, if not better, as a senior. The worst thing that could happen to ODU is that its quarterback doesn't show the kind of progress and development needed for the Monarchs to fare well this fall.
Mariota's knee keeps acting up
Marcus Mariota is coming back to Oregon for his redshirt junior year, news that was welcomed with much joy in Duck Nation. The quarterback had an uneven 2013 season after his knee gave out on him, thus compromising Oregon's spread attack.
All signs point to Mariota's knee being fine for 2014, but if something goes wrong during the offseason, such as further damage or a setback in rehab, Oregon's hopes of getting back into the national title picture could take a major hit.
Mannion has no one to throw to
Brandin Cooks caught 32 percent of Sean Mannion's 400 pass completions in 2013, also accounting for more than 35 percent of the yardage and 16 of the 37 passing touchdowns.
With Cooks leaving early for the NFL, it will be up to the rest of the Beavers' receivers to step up and fill that void. Many of them caught a lot of passes last season, but that might have been more because Cooks was getting double-teamed and they were wide open.
If spring practice shows these receivers can't step up, OSU is going to have problems.
More recruits make late flips
Penn State's strong 2014 recruiting class, put together admirably by Bill O'Brien despite NCAA sanctions, took a major hit when 4-star defensive tackle Thomas Holley flipped to Florida not long after James Franklin was hired as O'Brien's replacement.
The Nittany Lions' class is still solid, ranked 29th nationally by 247Sports, but more flips could happen. It happens before signing day every year.
If PSU loses anyone else before Feb. 5, it's going to reflect badly on the star of Franklin's tenure, which could make for an auspicious start and a tense offseason.
Panthers can't get the ball to Boyd
Tyler Boyd set several freshman records for receivers at Pittsburgh, breaking ones previously held by the likes of Antonio Bryant and Larry Fitzgerald. He's a star in the making.
But someone has to throw to Boyd, and though Tom Savage wasn't the most consistent passer, he seemed to have a good connection with the talented receiver. It remains to be seen if likely starter Chad Voytik can do the same; if he cannot, that completely changes how Pittsburgh looks heading into the 2014 season.
Etling's finale was a fluke
Danny Etling gave Purdue fans hope for the future when he threw for 485 yards and four touchdowns in the season-ending loss to Indiana. A true freshman, he'll go into spring as the starting quarterback.
But if Etling doesn't show continued progress in spring ball, that game is going to look like a flash in the pan, and once again the Boilermakers will be staring down another dismal season.
Owls can't replicate success
Rice won its first conference title in 56 years when it took the Conference USA championship, capping a 10-win season that was the program's best yet under coach David Bailiff.
But many of the key contributors from that team are gone, signalling a likely backslide for the Owls in 2014. Rice would like to avoid that, but trying to press too hard to shove untested backups into key roles could make things worse.
Too much coaching turmoil
Rutgers currently has no coordinators, as its top defensive coach was fired before the bowl game and offensive coordinator Ron Prince was hired away by the Detroit Lions.
Those changes were among many to Kyle Flood's staff following a season that saw the Scarlet Knights barely squeak into a bowl and look awful down the stretch. Several other assistants were let go or shuffled around, an attempt by Flood to right the ship.
The longer Rutgers goes without a full coaching staff, the likelier the team makes a thud, rather than a splash, with the move to the Big Ten.
Comeback formula leads to laziness
San Diego State trailed in the second half of nearly every one of its victories in 2013, a testament to the team's ability to not give up and keep fighting.
While that was a great trait last year, it's not something that can easily be carried over. However, if holdover players head into spring practice thinking they can still get by with that same level of early struggles followed by late heroics, it could lead to laziness.
Huge dropoff without Fales
San Jose State didn't make a bowl game in 2013 despite going 6-6, which left only individual accolades to look back on from that season. Most notable was the play of senior quarterback David Fales, who had back-to-back 4,000-yard passing seasons and is now trying to impress NFL scouts leading up to the draft.
Fales was so effective last season that the Spartans never gave any time to a backup quarterback, meaning the position will be wide open heading into spring ball. The worst-case scenario for SJSU is that, because of the lack of experience at quarterback, none of the candidates look sharp or ready in spring practice.
Too much time chasing transfers
SMU benefited from an unhappy quarterback from a power program when the Mustangs got former Texas player Garrett Gilbert to transfer there a few years ago. With Gilbert's career over and his backup, Neal Burcham, unimpressive during 2013, SMU might be in the market for another transfer.
There are a couple of those notables on the market, including Texas Tech's Michael Brewer and Minnesota's Phillip Nelson. If the Mustangs go after one or both of those guys but don't land one, it won't sit well with whoever June Jones settles on from his own roster.
Progress hits a wall
South Alabama won two games in its first year of FBS play, then finished last season with a 6-6 record. The program's quick ascent has been impressive, but it will take even more work to get over the hump and become a bowl participant and league title contender.
The push to make that happen will start in spring practice, but if the returning players try too hard to make this happen right away it could actually lead to a backslide.
Mike Davis hobbles through spring ball
With Connor Shaw graduating and top receiver Bruce Ellington leaving early for the NFL, South Carolina's offense will look a lot different in 2014.
At least the Gamecocks will have talented running back Mike Davis.
That is, if Davis gets back to full strength. He hobbled through most of 2013 with various ailments and had to leave the field on multiple occasions because of injury in South Carolina's bowl win over Wisconsin.
Davis will likely be a focal point of South Carolina's offense in the fall. Not having him able to do everything this spring would affect that, though.
Aaron Lynch's void cannot be filled
While South Florida's offense was on the wrong side of bad in 2013, its defense was a moderate source of pride in a 2-10 season. Most of that praise was due to Aaron Lynch on the defensive line, but he's moving on to the NFL.
The Bulls will have to rely on incoming recruits to replace Lynch and help keep the defense moving forward. Only one of those players has already enrolled, meaning USF will need to make do with what it has for the spring. That could mean that, come the preseason camp, the players who were getting all the reps might get pushed aside, thus creating friction.
The 2013 finale proved to be a fluke
Southern Miss averaged 13 points per game during the first 11 contests of last season, all losses. Then the Golden Eagles erupted for 62 points in a season-ending win over UAB, snapping a 23-game losing streak.
That victory was the perfect way for the Eagles to go into the offseason, but a nightmare for the program would be the realization in spring ball (based on performance and execution) that the win was more a one-time thing than representative of USM's future.
Staff turnover creates too much turmoil
This past offseason saw Stanford lose several coaches to other programs, a trend that has been consistent at the school during its return to national prominence.
While such turnover has been great for those coaches who get promoted internally and to bigger jobs at other schools, eventually all that movement has to have an effect on the players.
If the Cardinal notice friction between players and the new staff this spring, precious time might need to be devoted to building relationships that could go toward preparing for the 2014 season.
Consistency doesn't come about
Syracuse won seven games in its first season in the ACC, beating Minnesota in the Texas Bowl to cap off a surprisingly successful year. But the Orange were wildly inconsistent throughout 2013, looking really good one week and awful the next.
The offseason goal is to become more down-the-middle, with an emphasis on defense and a slowly improving offense. But if consistency issues continue in offseason workouts, look for Syracuse to once again be an enigma.
The new offensive coaches don't make a difference
TCU overhauled its offensive staff since the 2013 season ended, hiring Doug Meacham away from Houston and Sonny Cumbie from Texas Tech. The Horned Frogs needed new direction on that side of the ball after a woefully uneven campaign.
But even with those new guys in place, the coaches could find that no matter what schemes are implemented, the talent just isn't there.
That's the worst-case scenario for TCU this offseason, and one that's not that far-fetched.
Athletic funding backlash leads to football cuts
Temple announced earlier this month it was eliminating several sports programs because of budget issues, mainly due to the school's football program not producing enough revenue.
The fact that football didn't have to take any cuts hasn't exactly been embraced by the other teams, or the student body itself. If the angst continues to linger, thus affecting ticket sales or other ancillary parts of the football program, the work coach Matt Rhule is doing to improve the Owls won't matter much.
Too many recruits, not enough room
Tennessee's 2014 recruiting class currently sits at 34 commitments, more than any other school in FBS and far above the annual limit of 25 scholarships a school can award.
Fourteen of those players have already enrolled in school, including two top junior college standouts and a pair of 4-star high school stars.
The Volunteers will need to figure out which players to greyshirt for 2014, which could lead to turmoil if recruits who expected to get a full scholarship and be on the team have to pay their own way and sit out a season. That's not the distraction Butch Jones needs in his rebuilding effort, but it's what the Vols are facing.
The new rules don't fly
New Texas coach Charlie Strong has come out firing in his short time at the helm, with expectations that should lead to a culture change with the Longhorns program.
According to SB Nation's Scipio Tex, Strong's rules for his players include banning of earrings in the football facility, running if a class is missed and the elimination of off-campus living.
The ink is still fresh on those new rules, but what if they don't go over well with players? If there's conflict between Strong and his first roster, and players are either suspended or leave the team, it could cause Longhorn Nation's expectation of a quick turnaround to go unfulfilled.
Aggies' offense takes a big step back
Kevin Sumlin has had prolific offenses at both Houston and Texas A&M, teams that have routinely been near the top nationally in yards and points.
But there's a caveat to that success: At both stops he's done it with quarterbacks he didn't recruit.
Now that Johnny Manziel is gone from College Station, Sumlin will finally have one of his own guys running things. Though the system helps make quarterbacks better, if A&M's young quarterbacks struggle in spring ball it could lead to a massive re-evaluation of the team's expectations for 2014.
Franchione makes another move
Dennis Franchione is in his second stint at Texas State, having coached there back in the early 1990s before his career took off. Before, he moved from there to New Mexico, to TCU, to Alabama and then to Texas A&M.
Franchione has looked content back at the lower levels again, trying to move the Bobcats successfully into FBS. But his history shows he likes finding bigger challenges, and if a late-in-the-season vacancy were to pop up, he could be a candidate.
If Franchione were to leave TSU again, it would definitely hurt the program's progress.
Lack of quarterbacks becomes an issue
Davis Webb shined in the Holiday Bowl for Texas Tech, and as a result he appears to have the starting quarterback job locked up for the Red Raiders. It helps that his top competitors, fellow freshman Baker Mayfield and redshirt sophomore Michael Brewer, have both transferred.
The Red Raiders have one quarterback commitment as part of their 2014 recruiting class, but otherwise they will be very thin at the position in spring ball. If Webb were to get injured or show a lack of improvement, Tech could be spending much of the offseason worrying about the slot it thought was all taken care of.
Kareem Hunt is asked to do too much
Toledo's quarterback and top running back are both graduating, leaving sophomore-to-be rusher Kareem Hunt as the Rockets' best returning weapon.
He had a solid first year of college ball, filling in nicely when David Fluellen was hurt late in the season.
However, Hunt might not be the kind of player who can be relied on to be the focal point of the offense. Expecting him to be, and trying to force that role, could set back his natural progress and put Toledo in a lurch going into 2014.
Corey Robinson's successor doesn't succeed
Quarterback Corey Robinson threw for more than 13,000 yards in his four years running the Trojans' offense. That's a lot of production to replace.
Who will take over that role is a key part of Troy's offseason work. The worst thing that could happen to the program is that none of the players show enough promise in the spring to be counted on as the starter.
The offense keeps lagging
Tulane had a breakout season in 2013, winning seven games and getting into a bowl game. With the Green Wave set to open a new on-campus stadium this year, the future is looking bright.
But Tulane still needs to figure out how to move the ball and be consistent on offense, which will be the emphasis during spring game. If progress isn't made, more pressure will be put on Tulane's defense, which held its own last year in Conference USA but might not be able to do so in the tougher American Athletic Conference.
No replacement for Trey Watts
Tulsa wasn't very good on offense last year, but at least it knew that senior Trey Watts would provide consistent numbers out of the run game.
But he's gone now, meaning the Golden Hurricane move to the American Athletic Conference with almost no experience in the backfield.
Someone needs to step up to fill Watts' shoes, but the longer Tulsa goes without figuring out who that will be, the less chance the Hurricane have of bouncing back from last season's 3-9 record.
New coach must blow up the team
Bill Clark won 11 games at FCS Jacksonville State last season, a team that probably could have beaten the UAB club he takes over for 2014. The Blazers were not very good in any aspect and were particularly bad on defense.
While there may be a few players Clark can use from the old regime to get the ball rolling, he might need to completely revamp the team and start from scratch. This could slow the turnaround process, which might make UAB's 2014 season another rough one.
Hundley looks too far ahead
Brett Hundley made the smart choice to come back to UCLA for another season, but he no doubt has his sights set on the pro career.
The point of him returning in 2014 was both to lead the Bruins to great things but also to shore up the deficiencies that might limit him in the NFL. If too much of the latter presents itself during the offseason, thus taking away from the team goals, he could cause problems.
Offensive holes don't go filled
UNLV's first bowl appearance since 2000 was fueled by an offense that had three key contributors: quarterback Caleb Herring, running back Tim Cornett and receiver Devante Davis. Only Davis will be back in 2014.
The Runnin' Rebels weren't very deep at those positions, explaining why Cornett and Davis got most of the work last year. With them gone, new blood will need to step up, and the worry is that won't happen.
Attrition starts early
USC is still feeling the affects of NCAA sanctions that limited its scholarship count, with the Trojans unable to exceed 75 full-ride players in 2014. Throw in the numerous early departures to the NFL, and new coach Steve Sarkisian is heading into spring ball with a thin roster.
Injuries decimated USC's depth during the 2013 season, and it's inevitable that a player or two will get hurt during the offseason. But if too many start getting injured, the result of fewer bodies available for drills, the Trojans could head into the fall even thinner than last year.
The middle of the defense goes unfilled
Trevor Reilly was a key part of a Utah defense that often had to carry the load when the Utes' sputtering offense disappeared. He anchored everything that unit did, and his loss is going to be hard to overcome.
In fact, the worst thing that could happen to Utah is that the void from Reilly's departure is so big that the team needs to overhaul how it plays defense.
For a program that's had numerous staff rearrangements the last few years, the last thing it needs is more change.
Chuckie Keeton isn't the same
Before going down with a season-ending injury, Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton was one of the most fun players in college football to watch. He found a way to make plays with his arm and legs, and somehow the Aggies made it without him down the stretch.
Keeton's knee should be ready in time for the 2014 season, but the hope is he could come back and get workouts in earlier. But if he can't make a go of that and therefore heads into the season rusty, Utah State's plans might need to be re-worked.
The same 2013 problems stick around
UTEP was competitive in the first half of last season before injuries to its offense ruined any chance of the Miners doing well. Its defense, though, was just bad and inexperienced all year long.
The worst thing that could happen for UTEP this offseason would be for one or both of those trends to continue. A freak injury to a key contributor or a lack of progress from the young defenders would likely spell doom.
Coker battles playing time issues
Larry Coker has quickly moved UTSA up the ranks from an FCS program to one that should be a viable contender for Conference USA division titles now that the Roadrunners have completed their transition to FBS.
But he's also playing in Texas, where the expectations are high.
After going 7-5 last season and using tons of players, he could end up with some headaches in the spring as his many contributors squabble over who should be getting the bulk of the touches.
The recruits keep skipping out
Vanderbilt had 20 commitments in its 2014 recruiting class before James Franklin left for Penn State. Since then, many have bolted, leaving the Commodores with just nine active pledges less than two weeks before signing day.
Derek Mason is facing an uphill battle with such a thin recruiting class coming in, but it could still get worse. His attempts to hold onto the remaining commitments might lead to more going elsewhere, as the impressionable high school kids find the new coach isn't promising the same things the old one had.
Super recruits don't make the grade
Virginia amazingly pulled in a great recruiting class despite going 2-10 last year, successfully tilling the fertile in-state landscape to nab a pair of 5-star high school players and the nation's top pro-style junior college quarterback.
Defensive tackle Andrew Brown has already enrolled, but the remaining top recruits won't be on campus until the summer. The worst thing that could happen to the Cavaliers and their rebuilding efforts would be for one or more of these blue-chippers to end up not qualifying academically, a scenario that would completely kill any momentum Virginia gained during the offseason.
It doesn't get better after Logan Thomas
Virginia Tech's offense was very inconsistent and sometimes borderline lethargic during the 2013 season. Senior quarterback Logan Thomas was asked to do too much, and he didn't live up to the potential he came to school with.
Mark Leal is Thomas' most likely successor, but what if he proves not to be the answer during spring workouts? The Hokies can't go into the fall with uncertainty at quarterback, not if they want to get back to their old, loftier standards.
Defending in the ACC isn't as easy as in the MAC
Dave Clawson and his defensive coordinator, Mike Elko, had a stellar defense when they were at Bowling Green. But that was the Mid-American Conference, and outside of a few players there wasn't much to worry about.
At Wake Forest, Clawson and Elko have to game-plan to stop the likes of Clemson, Duke, Florida State and Louisville. They had to know that coming in, but as spring workouts progress they might quickly see the players aren't there to get that job done.
Petersen finds tough sledding
Chris Petersen has made a strong impact on Washington's recruiting since he was hired away from Boise State, but it remains to be seen how those new additions will fit in with the Huskies' existing returners.
Washington's biggest issue heading into 2014 is replacing the production of quarterback Keith Price and running back Bishop Sankey. Petersen had standouts at those positions at Boise, but he might find it's a little harder to fill those spots at the Pac-12 level.
Halliday's arm falls off
Connor Halliday was a passing maniac in 2013, throwing the ball 714 times in 13 games, including an FBS-record 89 times in an October loss to Oregon.
Amazingly, Halliday hasn't suffered any arm or shoulder issues from all that usage. If he were to develop a throwing-related injury during the spring, all of the Cougars' plans would need to be completely redone.
The quarterback situation gets muddier
West Virginia has only two quarterbacks fighting for legitimate playing time this spring, with holdovers Clint Trickett and Paul Millard battling it out. A third player was supposed to be in the mix, but Ford Childress was suspended from the team and didn't enroll for the spring semester.
Quarterback play, normally a staple of the Mountaineers' offense, was one of their biggest problems in 2013. If neither Trickett nor Millard impresses in the spring, or another were to somehow fall by the wayside, it could be a rough offseason in Morgantown.
No replacement for Andrews
New Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm inherits a program that is moving to Conference USA and has to do so without its most consistent player from 2013.
Running back Antonio Andrews ran for more than 3,400 yards over the previous two seasons, but he's now graduated. The Hilltoppers will likely be very pass-heavy under Brohm, a former Louisville quarterback, but they will need to have that run balance to be successful. It will be tough sledding if a viable candidate to replace Wallace doesn't emerge in spring ball.
The defense doesn't improve
Western Michigan went 1-11 in 2013, and though it took a while for the Broncos' offense to start clicking, it did happen down the stretch.
The same couldn't be said for WMU's defense, which allowed 35 points per game and failed to make any big stops.
The defense needs to get better for WMU to succeed, but it's going to be a gradual process. Trying to force this improvement onto a faster track would only derail the proces and lead to the Broncos once again giving up too many points.
Defensive replacements fail to impress
Wisconsin had one of the best defenses in the country in 2013, but six of its front seven are gone for next season. This means it's time for Gary Andersen to show if he can coach a defense made up of his recruits.
Pulling in players to Madison is easier than it was for Andersen at Utah State, but that doesn't mean he got the best ones for the Badgers. If the backups and newbies on the defense struggle early in training camp, look for some panic as Wisconsin's traditionally strong defensive attack risks becoming mediocre.
Bohl doesn't find talent
Wyoming's hiring of wildly successful North Dakota State coach Craig Bohl has been praised, and expectations for a solid turnaround are running rampant among Cowboys fans. But Bohl doesn't have a quarterback due to the somewhat surprising move by junior Brett Smith to leave early for the NFL.
Smith was a dynamic dual-threat QB who, despite mounting injuries, played all year and put up mostly solid numbers all the way through. With him gone, Wyoming has a huge void to fill, and the quarterback position is key to Bohl's offensive scheme.
The worst fear for the Cowboys is not being able to rely on any of the team's available quarterback options.