Shooting the breeze at 99 Yards Towers we got talking about the impact on College teams when their superstars move on to the NFL. How do you replace Saquon Barkley quizzed Johnny Eagles our Philadelphian correspondent.
Which kind of planted the seed for this article. Well to be honest Eagles exact words were, “well this is your next article”.
And it does beg the question. When you get a once in a generation talent how do you replace them? Well lets be honest. College ball is a highly organised and serious set up so its never going to be a “oh Lordy, Saquon’s gone, what will we do now” moment. It’s down to planning, recruitment and well, the ol’ next man up mentality.
So I thought it would be interesting to take this year’s top 5 draft picks and see who the next man up is for each team. Let’s see how accurate this is in December.
- Baker Mayfield : Oklahoma Sooners to Cleveland Browns. This my friends is a doozy. Say what you want about Mayfield (and there is a lot to say) he may be a polarising figure but was an immense talent for the Sooners. So how do you replace a talisman? Ever heard of Kyler Murray? I bet you have, but maybe not as the starting QB for the 2018/19 Sooners? Ninth overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft for the Oakland A’s? Yes, definitely. That’s this guy. Murray will play one season for the Sooners and then report for 2019 Spring Training in Oakland. All this suggests that Murray is a relative newcomer to College football but not so. Originally at Texas A&M, he won out the starting QB role in 2015. However after a dip in performance he was benched and not taking kindly to this benching he did what every 5 star recruit QB does and transferred to Oklahoma. Under NCAA rules Murray had to sit out 2016 as a result. With Mayfield (the irony being that Mayfield was a walk on at Oklahoma having transferred from Texas Tech) holding down the top job until this year, means 2018 is finally Murray’s year. And yes it is only a year.
- Saquon Barkley : Penn State to New York Giants. Penn State fan’s have just witnessed a once in a generation talent leave for New York. But at the same time a number of Nittany Lions return to Happy Valley for Junior and Senior years and expectations remain high for James Franklin’s young Lions. So who fills those fast and big shoes of Barkley? Miles Sanders it seems is the next man up. In fact it’s almost a certainty that Sanders starts given that CJ Holmes has transferred from Notre Dame (so will sit out this season as a result) and 4 star commit Devon Ford will play out his final year in High School this year. The highly regarded Ricky Slade is expected to play a key role this season, but Sanders remains the first choice back this season. Sanders comes with pedigree being the number one running back of his high school class. While Barkley holds almost all Penn running school records, Sanders holds the school record for kick off returns in a season (33) as a Freshman. More happy times in Happy Valley? Wouldn’t bet against it.
- Sam Darnold : USC to New York Jets. Many thought Darnold should have stayed on for his senior year including his Head Coach, Clay Helton. Who is taking over as QB at the Colisseum this year remains a mystery and quite possibly a mystery still in Coach Clayton’s head as well. All three QB’s have been given time during team scrimmages and realistically all seem to be still in the running. However JT Daniels, the only true Freshman seems to have an edge over the other two. The highly rated Daniels is only 18 but is said to have the bigger arm of the three. In two team scrimmages thus far Daniels has completed 17 of 21 passes for 4 TD’s. But that is his only exposure to College football. Red shirt Sophomore, Matt Fink has had two seasons in the program but again little playing time. He has also been guilty of turning the ball over in practice which does not bode well for the starting job. Jack Sears, a red shirt freshman seems behind in practice time. USC opens its schedule on Saturday by welcoming UNLV to the Colisseum. Much as it pains me (I have spent many a summer on Maryland Parkway), the Running Rebels won’t be the toughest test USC faces this year. But by the following Saturday, the Trojans travel up the PCH to Palo Alto to take on a strong Stanford. So a week to bed a new QB in and then its all business. Helton will name his QB1 this week. Interesting times in LA. *Breaking news out of University Park. Sunday night Clay Helton named JT Daniels as starter.
- Denzel Ward : Ohio State to Cleveland Browns. Given the lead up to the season opener in Columbus against Oregon State, you would think that the Buckeyes have more to worry about than who replaces Denzel Ward. In fact much more. The scandal hanging over head coach Urban Meyer will have been as disruptive a start to a season as there has been in many a year in Columbus. Of course this serves to ignore the injustice Courtney Smith has received , but that is for another article. Notwithstanding all of this, including Meyer’s three game suspension, a program the size of Ohio State’s is well versed in players moving on to the NFL. But this year Ohio State do not need to have to worry about the secondary. The embarrassment of riches at Cornerback has been described as comical. Shaun Wade, Jeffrey Okudah, Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette will be fighting out and while there are injuries to be overcome, the competition for starting places is expected to be severe. Sheffield is hotly tipped to be the successor to Ward.
- Bradley Chubb : NC State to Denver Broncos. NC State had a record seven players leave for the NFL this year which means the Wolfpack has a lot to worry about this year. And Chubb was HUGE for NC State. Not since Mario Williams has the Wolfpack had such a dominant defensive lineman. Last year Chubb was the ACC defensive lineman of the year with 10 sacks over the season. But worse than that fellow D-linemen BJ Hill, Justin Jones and Kentavius Street all followed Chubb to the NFL. But the pipeline is strong in Raleigh with Darian Roseboro, Shugg Frazier, Eurndraus Bryant, James Smith Williams and Grant Gibson all returning. New recruits Murchison, Babros and Alim McNeill are expected to contribute from the get go and are considered high calibre recruits. It is less obvious how NC State will fare this season without last year’s defensive stars. But with opening games against James Madison and Georgia State it probably isn’t until week 3 when the highly fancied West Virginia heads across the Blue Ridge mountains (those of the lonesome pine fame) that the defensive unit sans-Chubb will be really tested. But have no doubts Chubb will be sorely missed. Wolfpack loss = Broncos gain.
So there you have it.Nothing to worry about. 2018 will be just fine. I’m sure those five head coaches are getting plenty of sleep. Not.
Photo credit : Sports Illutrated