Meet the Replacement for Every 2nd-Round NFL Draft Pick of 2015

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2015

Meet the Replacement for Every 2nd-Round NFL Draft Pick of 2015

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    Florida State will be moving safety Jalen Ramsey to cornerback to help replace P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby
    Florida State will be moving safety Jalen Ramsey to cornerback to help replace P.J. Williams and Ronald DarbyMelina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

    It's a tall task for a college football player to step in and replace an NFL draft pick, particularly one who goes as high as the second round. But attrition is part of the college game, and coaching staffs tend to have a plan in place for who will succeed their departed stars.

    This process began last season, particularly when it came to grooming backups to replace seniors, and since then, other reserves have been looked at to take on bigger roles following the announcement by any players who turned pro early.

    Based on how they performed last season as well as what was seen during spring practice, we've identified the individual who is expected to replace each player taken in the second round of the 2015 draft on Friday.

33. Eddie Jackson, SS, Alabama (Landon Collins)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'0", 194 lbs

    Eddie Jackson spent his first two years with Alabama at cornerback, starting four games as a true freshman and 10 more last season. But the need to have someone with experience at the strong safety position prompted the Crimson Tide to move Jackson out of his cover spot and fill in for Landon Collins, one of the hardest hitters in the game in 2014.

    Bleacher Report's Marc Torrence noted that Jackson's experience will make for a different approach to pass coverage this season, one that's less likely to get beat over the top on deep balls as was the case a year ago.

    "Having someone who can play man-to-man while still being physical enough to play against the run next to Geno Smith at free safety could take the Crimson Tide secondary to the next level," Torrence wrote.

34. Paris Palmer, OT, Penn State (Donovan Smith)

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    247Sports

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'7", 278 lbs

    Penn State's line was horrendous last season, with the exception likely being left tackle Donovan Smith. That puts the onus on his replacement to be a guy who makes an instant impact and can learn on the fly, which is why junior college transfer Paris Palmer will end up taking over this spot.

    A 4-star prospect who played at Lackawanna Community College in Pennsylvania, Palmer isn't as thick as the 335-pound Smith, but his long frame should be able to add more weight and combine with that length to make for great blindside protection for quarterback Christian Hackenberg.

35. Chris Casher, DE, Florida State (Mario Edwards)

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    Jeff Gammons/Getty Images

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'4", 249 lbs

    Chris Casher showed his versatility last season by starting games at both defensive end and Jack linebacker, which makes him a perfect fit to step in and replace the similarly diverse Mario Edwards. He even filled in for Edwards against North Carolina State in the starting lineup.

    Casher had 28 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack in 2014, the sack coming late in the comeback win over Notre Dame. He was also part of the game-saving tackle of Clemson's Adam Choice on 4th-and-inches in that overtime win, replacing Edwards after he went down with a concussion.

    "Casher was asked to do what few players in the country can do in replacing Edwards, who has a rare mix of size, power and speed," ESPN.com's Jared Shanker wrote. "Casher made play after play throughout the second half as the Tigers wanted to test the backup. Casher answered the bell every single time."

36. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama (T.J. Yeldon)

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'3", 242 lbs

    It's sort of misleading to consider Derrick Henry a replacement for T.J. Yeldon, both because their size and running styles are so different. Additionally, Henry actually outgained Yeldon despite being the No. 2 back in 2014. Henry ran for a team-high 990 yards and 11 touchdowns (to 979 yards and 11 scores for Yeldon) on fewer carries.

    Henry is a linebacker masquerading as a running back, a player who will opt to run through the tackler rather than around it. He showed this off during the Sugar Bowl last year, when Ohio State's defenders saw him run for 95 yards and a TD on just 13 carries.

    With more than 1,500 yards of total offense and 17 total TDs in his career already, Henry has shown he can handle the job and now will get even more of an opportunity.

37. Johnnie Dixon, WR, Ohio State (Devin Smith)

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    Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

    Year: Redshirt freshman

    Height, weight: 5'11", 194 lbs

    Ohio State's "next man up" mantra last season didn't just apply to its endless supply of quarterbacks, as Johnnie Dixon was one of several players whose injury led to a change of plans. Prior to needing surgery on both knees, the talented freshman wideout was expected to play a bigger role in the offense.

    Dixon was limited this spring, but with Corey Smith and Michael Thomas in line to be the Buckeyes' starting wide receivers, he doesn't need to hurry to get back to full strength since he'd be working toward a role similar to Devin Smith in 2014.

    Last season Smith, who was considered the No. 3 receiver, had only 33 receptions but converted them into 931 yards and 12 touchdowns.

38. A.J. Jefferson, DE, Mississippi State (Preston Smith)

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'3", 270 lbs

    It won't be easy replacing Preston Smith, and Mississippi State might not be looking to have just one guy handle the task. But A.J. Jefferson has shown enough as a backup the past two seasons to be the first choice for this assignment.

    Jefferson had 2.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss in 2014, forcing two fumbles and registering nine quarterback hurries, per CFBStats.com.

39. Nile Lawrence-Stample, DT, Florida State (Eddie Goldman)

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    Year: Senior

    Height, weight: 6'1", 323 lbs

    A massive specimen who has been in and out of the lineup during his Florida State career, Nile Lawrence-Stample is heading into his final season hoping to live up to the potential he's shown several times in small bursts.

    Lawrence-Stample missed 10 games last year with a pectoral muscle injury, coming back to play in the Rose Bowl against Oregon. He'd started two of the Seminoles' first three games before getting hurt, and in 2013 he made six starts opposite Timmy Jernigan on FSU's national championship team.

40. J'Mon Moore, WR, Missouri (Dorial Green-Beckham)

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    Todd Bennett/Getty Images

    Year: Sophomore

    Height, weight: 6'3", 190 lbs

    Since Dorial Green-Beckham didn't play in 2014 after being dismissed from Missouri and then spending the year working out with Oklahoma as a redshirt transfer, J'Mon Moore isn't technically replacing this standout receiver's production. He's actually stepping in for Bud Sasser, who was the Tigers' No. 1 wideout last season and who graduated along with nearly every other key piece of their receiving corps.

    Moore only had two receptions for 33 yards last season, as he was buried deep on the senior-laden depth chart. But according to Bill Connelly of SB Nation, Moore looked strong in spring ball and resembles a "slightly more athletic Bud Sasser," who had 77 receptions for Mizzou a year ago.

41. Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan (Devin Funchess)

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    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'2", 216 lbs

    Michigan's receiving corps was pretty much a one-man show last season in the form of Devin Funchess, but Amara Darboh made some key catches along the way to finish second on the team with 36 receptions, 473 yards and two touchdowns.

    Darboh had a breakout game last November against the Indiana Hoosiers, catching nine balls for 107 yards and a score.

42. Kevin Toliver II, CB, LSU (Jalen Collins)

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    247Sports

    Year: True freshman

    Height, weight: 6'2", 192 lbs

    An early enrollee and one of the top prospects of the 2015 class, Kevin Toliver has been preparing himself to start for LSU for a long time. Jalen Collins' early NFL departure just expedited this process, as Toliver is on pace to be the next great cornerback at the school that's become known as DBU.

    Rated No. 8 overall by 247Sports, Toliver looked masterful this spring and didn't play like someone who should still be in high school. He'll be challenged by sophomore Ed Paris for the starting job, but Toliver is too much of a talent to be held out for long.

    "We see him as a talented guy, big strong guy who can play physical football," LSU coach Les Miles said, per Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com.

43. Gerri Green, LB, Mississippi State (Benardrick McKinney)

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    247Sports

    Year: Redshirt freshman

    Height, weight: 6'4", 240 lbs

    Gerri Green was ready to play as a true freshman last season, but Mississippi State wanted to have something in the tank when Benardrick McKinney inevitably turned pro early. Now Green, one of the Bulldogs' top recruits from 2014, is ready to show his stuff.

    "It's been a great learning experience. Just being able to sit back and learn from the older guys, it's just been fun," Green told Michael Bonner of the Clarion-Ledger. "They've been a great mentor to me and they've helped me out a lot."

    Now Green, rated by 247Sports as the No. 269 overall player in 2014, has to step in for a player in McKinney who had 71 tackles, eight tackles for loss and three sacks.

44. Jarett Finau, LB, Washington (Hau'oli Kikaha)

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    Jarett Finau (95) is being tasked with replacing the FBS sack leader from 2014.
    Jarett Finau (95) is being tasked with replacing the FBS sack leader from 2014.Associated Press

    Year: Senior

    Height, weight: 6'3", 272 lbs

    Jarett Finau doesn't have much to live up to, just replacing a player who led FBS with 19 sacks last season. No big deal.

    Washington isn't really expecting the longtime backup to do all of that, but Finau will need to improve off what he's done to this point in his career. Last year Finau played in eight games but had only seven tackles and one sack.

45. Kenny Young, LB, UCLA (Eric Kendricks)

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Year: Sophomore

    Height, weight: 6'1", 230 lbs

    Eric Kendricks won the Butkus Award given to the nation's top linebacker, registering 145 tackles and having total control of the middle of the field. Kenny Young was his counterpart on the inside for much of last season, starting six games, but he had only 35 tackles.

    Young did that as a true freshman, coming in cold during the summer and getting into the rotation. Now with a full offseason and a strong spring practice under his belt, he's ready to take the next step.

46. Jamerson Blount, S, Samford (Jaquiski Tartt)

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    Jamerson Blount must replace Samford second-round pick Jaquiski Tartt (left)
    Jamerson Blount must replace Samford second-round pick Jaquiski Tartt (left)Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'1",190 lbs

    If Jamerson Blount wants to become Samford's seventh player to be drafted into the NFL in a few years, he'll need to show he can handle the task of replacing the man who just went higher than any other Bulldog in the draft.

    Blount served as Jaquiski Tartt's primary backup last year and handled the job well, and he got plenty of action. In Samford's two games against FBS opponents, he registered 10 tackles with an interception and a fumble recovery against TCU and notched nine tackles against Auburn.

47. Reggie Porter, CB, Utah (Eric Rowe)

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    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 5'11", 181 lbs

    Eric Rowe was Utah's shutdown corner last season, and with backup Davion Orphey also gone, the Utes are thin on experience from 2014 at the position. Reggie Porter was supposed to be a part of that mix, but instead he sat out the year because of a knee injury suffered during training camp.

    Porter started twice as a redshirt freshman in 2013, and if he can return to the form that got him those chances, he'll be an effective replacement on the outside.

48. Juwon Young, LB, Miami (Denzel Perryman)

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    247Sports

    Year: Sophomore

    Height, weight: 6'2", 245 lbs

    An early enrollee from the 2014 recruiting class who made his collegiate debut in the season opener but didn't see much action overall last year, Juwon Young has the skill set that most aligns with what Miami is losing in fierce linebacker Denzel Perryman.

    "He's got the mean streak you look for in the position," Jerry Steinberg of SB Nation wrote.

    Young only had four tackles last season, including one in the Duck Commander Bowl against South Carolina, but a strong spring has him in place to take over the middle of the Hurricanes defense.

49. Malik Cuellar, OT, Missouri (Mitch Morse)

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    247Sports

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'5", 300 lbs

    Only one starter was lost from a Missouri offensive line that helped open holes for two standout running backs last season who combined for nearly 2,000 rushing yards. The Tigers looked to shift people around on that line this spring to find the best fit at left tackle, where Mitch Morse anchored the line, but because of injuries they chose to give a junior college transfer the chance to be that guy.

    Malik Cuellar was a standout the past two years at City College of San Francisco, helping his team win a conference championship last season.

50. Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State (Ronald Darby)

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'1", 201 lbs

    Jalen Ramsey has been Mr. Do-It-All for Florida State in his first two seasons, starting all 28 games of his college career at a variety of positions. He was a cornerback and safety as a true freshman and then was at the star/nickel position last year, but with the Seminoles in need of two new starting corners this fall, he's been moved back to that area and will land opponents' top assignments much like Ronald Darby did in 2014.

    That versatility is why Ramsey is already pegged as a first-round draft pick in 2016, should he come out after his junior season, as WalterFootball.com has him going 11th overall as a safety,but other teams could covet him for his coverage skills if he has a big year at that position.

51. Pita Taumoepenu, DE, Utah (Nate Orchard)

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    Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'1", 240 lbs

    Nate Orchard ranked second in the nation last year with 18.5 sacks, part of one of the best pass-rushing units in the country. Pita Taumoepenu backed Orchard up while also playing some linebacker, and he has a lot of the same traits that turned Orchard into a breakout star in 2014.

    Taumoepenu had four sacks last season and was given much praise by Orchard during Utah's pro day, telling ESPN.com's Chantel Jennings that his successor "has amazing speed off the edge."

52. Matthew Romar, DT, Oklahoma (Jordan Phillips)

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Year: Sophomore

    Height, weight: 6'0", 294 lbs

    Jordan Phillips turned pro after his junior year, which was somewhat of a surprise but one that Oklahoma was well-prepared for. That's because Matthew Romar earned valuable playing time last season as a redshirt freshman.

    The numbers weren't there, as Romar only had nine tackles and one sack, but he has been trending upward since coming to Oklahoma in the 2013 recruiting class.

53. Tyler Johnstone, LT, Oregon (Jake Fisher)

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Year: Senior

    Height, weight: 6'6", 295 lbs

    Tyler Johnstone started 26 straight games at left tackle from 2012-13 before tearing his ACL during the 2013 Alamo Bowl, and then he re-tore the ligament early in fall camp last season and was lost for the year. But even with that injury history, he's being looked at as an experienced anchor on an Oregon offensive line that loses three starters.

    A freshman All-American in 2012, Johnstone will be protecting the blind side of whichever quarterback the Ducks end up choosing to replace departed Heisman winner Marcus Mariota.

54. Imani Cross, RB, Nebraska (Ameer Abdullah)

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    Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

    Year: Senior

    Height, weight: 6'1", 240 lbs

    Imani Cross has spent the past three years as Ameer Abdullah's primary backup, and because of how frequently Nebraska ran the ball under Bo Pelini, that enabled him to get plenty of touches and collect 22 career touchdowns.

    He would figure to be first in line for the featured role, though new coach Mike Riley's pro-style offense might lean more toward a committee approach that would cause Cross to share carries with junior Terrell Newby and others.

    Nebraska has had at least one 1,000-yard rusher every season since 2009.

55. Duke Anyanwu, TE, Minnesota (Maxx Williams)

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    Minnesota's Duke Anyanwu must step in for the nation's top tight end from 2014, Maxx Williams.
    Minnesota's Duke Anyanwu must step in for the nation's top tight end from 2014, Maxx Williams.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Year: Sophomore

    Height, weight: 6'4", 239 lbs

    Maxx Williams was more than just the best tight end in the nation last year; he was also pretty much the entire passing offense for Minnesota. His 36 catches were more than any two other Golden Gophers, and his 569 receiving yards were nearly twice anyone else's production. He also had eight touchdown receptions to four for the remainder of the team.

    Duke Anyanwu won't be asked to replace all, or even most of that production, but the promising target should get plenty of looks in an offense that likes to use the tight end as much for pass-catching as for blocking.

    Anyanwu played on special teams in 2013 and was in line to be a factor last season before missing the season with an ACL injury.

56. Tee Shepard, CB, Ole Miss (Senquez Golson)

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'1", 195 lbs

    The Landsharks defense that was among the best in the country prided itself on being able to intercept passes left and right, and Senquez Golson had 10 of those 22 takeaways last season. But Golson's departure won't feel as bad if Tee Shepard performs like he did during spring ball.

    Shepard, who was part of Notre Dame's 2012 recruiting class but never played there before transferring to a community college, had four tackles, a pass breakup and an interception in Ole Miss' spring game. He missed all of last season after undergoing toe surgery.

57. Hayden Biegel, OT, Wisconsin (Rob Havenstein)

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Year: Sophomore

    Height, weight: 6'6", 303 lbs

    Wisconsin has holes to fill all over its offensive line this season, but having the right guy where Rob Havenstein was at right tackle is critical to continuing its trend of being one of the top rushing teams in the country. Hayden Biegel has been biding his time over the past two years to be Havenstein's successor, and his time is now.

    He is the younger brother of Badgers linebacker Vince Biegel.

58. Harold Brantley, DE, Missouri (Markus Golden)

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'3", 280 lbs

    As the only returning starter on a defensive line that produced two picks in the first two rounds of the 2015 draft, Harold Brantley will enter this fall with a lot of pressure on his shoulders. Missouri can add a little more by shifting the defensive tackle outside to help fill the void left by Markus Golden and first-round pick Shane Ray.

    Brantley is versatile enough to handle the switch, and he's coming off a strong year of 54 tackles, seven tackles for loss, five sacks and three pass breakups. He also had a pair of rushes on offense for 29 yards.

59. Trae Moxley, OT, Colorado State (Ty Sambrailo)

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    Trae Moxley is the likely replacement on Colorado State's offensive line for where second round pick Ty Sambrailo played last season.
    Trae Moxley is the likely replacement on Colorado State's offensive line for where second round pick Ty Sambrailo played last season.Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Year: Sophomore

    Height, weight: 6'5", 300 lbs

    Ty Sambrailo graduated with more than 40 career starts under his belt, and now he gives way to a backup who played in 12 games last season but much of that was on special teams.

    Trae Moxley came to Colorado State as a tight end but was converted to a lineman during his true freshman season.

60. Jack Gangwish, DE, Nebraska (Randy Gregory)

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Year: Senior

    Height, weight: 6'2", 265 lbs

    While the man he's stepping in for saw his stock slip from being a first-round choice to the draft's second day, Jack Gangwish's reputation has been on a near-constant rise throughout his Nebraska career. And having subbed in for Randy Gregory in three starts last season, he's ready to tackle the challenge.

    "It's more than I ever could have asked for," Gangwish, a former walk-on, told Rich Kaipust of Omaha.com. "So, yeah, the fire's stoked and I'm going 100 miles an hour for it, I'll tell you that."

    Though not as tall as the 6'6" Gregory, he carries more bulk and therefore figures to be more of a power player than a speed rusher. Last season Gangwish had 19 tackles, three tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks in 10 games.

61. Justin DiJiulio, OT, Hobart (Ali Marpet)

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    Ali Marpet, from Division III Hobart College, will be replaced this season by Justin DiJiulio.
    Ali Marpet, from Division III Hobart College, will be replaced this season by Justin DiJiulio.Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Year: Senior

    Height, weight: 6'4", 270 lbs

    Justin DiJiulio may some day find himself as the answer to an obscure trivia question, maybe even an out-of-nowhere one that's used as Final Jeopardy: This guy had to replace the first Division III offensive lineman to be drafted into the NFL since 1996.

    DiJiulio has been a starter on Hobart's offensive line the last few years, but as a senior he'll be moved to the prime spot at left tackle that Ali Marpet dominated, from where he caught the eye of pro scouts.

62. Bert Birdsall, CB, Miami Ohio (Quinten Rollins)

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    Miami's Bert Birdsall is the likely successor to Redhawks standout cornerback Quinten Rollins (above).
    Miami's Bert Birdsall is the likely successor to Redhawks standout cornerback Quinten Rollins (above).Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

    Year: Sophomore

    Height, weight: 5'11", 161 lbs

    Quinten Rollins was a hard-hitting corner who also excelled with Miami of Ohio's basketball team. The RedHawks are only hoping that Bert Birdsall can handle the football duties.

    Birdsall, who redshirted in 2013, appeared in nine games last season. He had four tackles for the year, including two against Buffalo.

63. Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan (Frank Clark)

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'6", 273 lbs

    Besides being a candidate for next season's All-Name Team, Taco Charlton has the chance to be a valuable piece of Michigan's defensive line under new coordinator D.J. Durkin. While not directly replacing Frank Clark, who was dismissed from the Wolverines last November, he is stepping into the spot that Clark played most of 2014.

    Charlton served as backup to Michigan's ends last season, logging one start with 19 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

    "Taco is capable of playing either side of the defensive line so Durkin will likely move him around often, but his primary role will be to rush the passer from the weak side," John J. Williams of SB Nation wrote.

64. Kodi Whitfield, SS, Stanford (Jordan Richards)

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Year: Senior

    Height, weight: 6'2", 204 lbs

    After two seasons as a wide receiver, catching 16 passes overall and scoring a touchdown against UCLA, Kodi Whitfield was transitioned over to defense in 2014 to help build depth and versatility in the secondary. That will pay off this fall as Whitfield slides into Jordan Richards' starting spot at strong safety.

    Last year Whitfield played in 12 games and logged five tackles.

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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