Every season a slew of talent moves on from the NCAA to the NFL, and the key to success is implementing a seamless transition from the old to the new.
This season is no different, as the face of college football will change dramatically.
Here is a look at 10 of the most important players who are replacing an important piece to their team’s puzzle.
These are guys who will impact the national championship picture. So, sorry Tennessee fans, but even if Eric Berry’s replacement is somehow better than him, I don’t see the Vols winning it all this year.
Also, guys like Sam Bradford and Dez Bryant missed a chunk of time last season. So, their teams have already experienced some form of life without them.
Also, I kept it to one player per team to get some variety in here. I picked the guys expected to start, so if someone else will actually start, please let me know.
Here are 10 faces that need to become household names to keep their team in the championship picture.
Crist is expected to replace Jimmy Clausen at Notre Dame.
Your opinion probably varies as to whether you think Notre Dame is a legitimate title contender. I personally don’t, but Brian Kelly has the opportunity to instill a lot of life in the program.
Either way, Clausen was one of the most talented signal callers last year, so these are not easy shoes to fill.
The Irish will probably only go as far as Crist can lead them.
Kyle Wilson was one of the only losses Boise State suffered, so replacing him may not be that important.
The Broncos may be able to run the table without him, but you cannot discount the importance of having a shutdown corner on your defense.
The regular season slate may not provide many challenges that make the Broncos wish they still had Wilson. But if they do run the table and get in a big bowl game, they may need a shutdown corner against one of the top offenses in the country.
Then again, by that time, I’m sure the Broncos will have found a replacement, so this point may be moot.
Forrest will be replacing two-time All-American Jerry Hughes at defensive end.
Forrest missed all of last season with an injury, but he will be stepping into a defensive line with three returning starters. That should ease the transition a bit.
TCU shot up the standings largely on the back of their defense last season.
Not surprisingly, many people are slating them as a top-10 team again.
How Forrest replaces Hughes’ production might be a big factor in how high they can go.
(I couldn’t find a picture of Forrest, so here is one of Hughes)
Brantley will be replacing Tim Tebow, the guy many refer to as one of the best college players in some time.
Whether you agree with that or not, you know that these are perhaps the biggest shoes to fill in college football.
But Brantley only comes in at seven because he has seen a decent amount of time and he has a lot of weapons around him.
He should be fine, and the nation will soon realize that the Gators won’t miss Tebow as much as they might have imagined.
You know Gilbert as the guy who stepped in for Colt McCoy in the championship game.
Not surprisingly, he seemed like a deer in the headlights for much of the night. But what did you expect when he started his first game against Alabama?
Gilbert is supposedly the real deal. He will be following big shadows of McCoy and Vince Young.
The key may be finding the right primary target for him with Jordan Shipley leaving as well.
Texas should be in good hands, though.
Reiff will be replacing the big shoes of Brian Bulaga, who went in the first round.
Reiff was recruited as a defensive end, so he has come a long way to left tackle.
Iowa is expected to be a contender for the Big Ten title, and obviously, a stout left tackle is an important piece to that puzzle.
Reiff played a lot on the offensive line last season. He had three starts at left tackle, seven at left guard and one at right tackle.
This season, it’s all on him at left tackle.
But, as this picture shows, going up against Adrian Clayborn everyday will improve his game quickly.
Taylor will be replacing Heisman finalist Toby Gerhart.
With Andrew Luck behind center, the Cardinal are at least contenders for the Pac-10 title.
Gerhart was a unique player due to his large size and bruising style, so Taylor has a lot to replace.
He had 303 yards (5.4 average), so he will be picking up a lot of the load this season. But Taylor is supposed to be a workhorse running back, which is just what Stanford will need to keep the load off Luck.
Chapman is expected to replace Terrence Cody at nose tackle for Alabama.
You may wonder why I picked Cody’s replacement over Rolando McClain’s. The answer is simple: Dont’a Hightower.
Hightower is a talent and was hurt last season. He will be a seamless transition at MLB for Alabama.
Cody, however, is known as Mount Cody for a reason. You don’t see many players that big come along who can play football. But Chapman looks like he’s getting a start on the Cody girth.
The nose tackle is the point of attack for most defenses, so this is integral to Alabama’s quest to repeat.
Also, if defensive end Marcell Dareus does not play this season, the nose tackle’s job is that much harder.
Crick will take over for the indomitable Ndamukong Suh, perhaps the nation’s most dominant force last season.
Crick is certainly talented, but Suh was considered the most talented defensive tackle in years. So, Crick has his work cut out for him.
Suh did say that Crick will be even better than he was, but that remains to be seen.
Nebraska is a top-10 team, and their success will largely depend on Bo Pelini’s defense.
That means Crick is a very important piece to the Cornhuskers’ success.
The Ducks were considered a top-10 team before Jeremiah Masoli was dismissed.
This one probably hurts more than any of the others on the list because it was so unexpected.
The Ducks will have to quickly regroup to replace his production.
Thomas provides the explosiveness that Masoli did, but Costa, pictured, may be a more complete quarterback.
Whoever steps up will have big shoes to fill, and a lot sooner than he probably thought.