Replacements For The 2012 Early Entries
Stanford QB Brett Nottingham
Stanford QB Brett Nottingham
Posted Jan 16, 2012

Who'll replace the players who ducked out early for the NFL? If a player is good enough to bolt, he was likely a big-time talent who'll be missed, but Richard Cirminiello shows how each team will be able to fill the holes.

Replacements for the Early Entries

The shoe-fillers on O for 2012

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- 2011 Early-Entry Replacements
- 2010 Early-Entry Replacements
- 2009 Early-Entry Replacements
- 2008 Early-Entry Replacements
- 2007 Early-Entry Replacements 
- 2012 Early-Entries - Good or Bad Move?
- 2012 Early-Entries - The Winners
- 2012 Early-Entries - The Losers
- 2012 Early-Entries - The Offensive Replacements
- 2012 Early-Entries - The Defensive Replacements  

While juniors and third-year sophomores forego their final years of college eligibility for all kinds of different reasons, the goal for each is always the same—fulfilling the life-long dream of making an NFL roster, and cashing the enormous paychecks that come with the new gig.

Each January, four to five dozen athletes leave amateur eligibility on the table, declaring as early entries into that April's draft. While somber announcements for the campuses they leave behind, the news isn't so disturbing for those heir apparents eagerly hoping to climb up the depth chart.

The reality is that for every player who leaves school with unused eligibility, there are at least two or three holdovers staring at the opening with opportunistic and wide eyes. For the bean-counter in you, it's a perpetual system of debits and credits, and a natural cycle of attrition that'll remain as long as the NFL continues to pay for play.

From the Farm to the U., applications are already being taken for a mess of new jobs that have opened up over the past month or so. The labor market may be soft elsewhere, but on select campuses across the country, it's just beginning to percolate with possibilities.

RB Alvester Alexander, Wyoming
Opens the door for… Ghaali Muhammad

When Muhammad suffered a season-ending knee injury in early November, he was leading the Cowboys in rushing with 379 yards and two scores on only 60 carries. The former starting linebacker in Laramie brought some much-needed punch and pop in short yardage situations, and figures to form an ideal complement with the shiftier Brandon Miller and Kody Sutton in 2012.

TE Dwayne Allen, Clemson
Opens the door for… Brandon Ford

Ford, like Allen, is a pass-catcher with the athletic ability to bust the seam on opposing defenses. The 6-4, 235-pound junior and former wide receiver caught 13 balls for 166 yards and two scores in 2011, and is set to get his best chance yet to be a primary option in the passing game.

RB Edwin Baker, Michigan State
Opens the door for…Larry Caper

While Le'Veon Bell will remain the Spartans' feature back, Baker's questionable departure is great news for Caper. The one-time top prospect has been lost in the shuffle in East Lansing, topping out at 468 yards as a rookie, but gets a new lease on life at a school that prefers using a backfield rotation.

RB Mike Ball, Nevada
Opens the door for…Stefphon Jefferson

The Wolf Pack got a head start on life after Ball, who was dismissed from the team on Nov. 22. Lampford Mark erupted in his place, but he's exhausted his eligibility. Enter Jefferson, the sophomore who showed feature-back flashes at the end of lopsided games, rushing for 429 yards and five touchdowns on only 70 carries.

WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Opens the door for… Michael Harrison

Someone will need to step up in the receiving corps. In Stillwater, someone always does. Tracy Moore will be the guy on the inside, but Harrison could be asked to offset some of Blackmon's immense production on the outside. As a sophomore, the 6-1, 211-pounder got his feet wet with 20 catches for 255 yards and three scores.

TE Orson Charles, Georgia
Opens the door for…Arthur Lynch

One of the nation's top tight ends of 2009 is finally going to get a chance to showcase his skills in Athens. At 6-5 and 272 pounds, he won't be a playmaker, such as Charles or backup Aron White, but he'll give QB Aaron Murray a can't-miss target, while run blocking like a sixth offensive linemen on the field for the Dawgs.

OG David DeCastro, Stanford
Opens the door for…Kevin Danser

DeCastro leaves a gaping void on the right side of the line, especially since backup Matt Bentler was a fifth-year senior. One option will be to relocate Danser, David Yankey's caddy at left guard, a two-time letterwinner with the upper body strength to help keep the ground game rolling downhill.

WR Chris Givens, Wake Forest
Opens the door for… Terence Davis

With the departure of Givens, Davis will have a chance to turn last year's part-time starting assignment into a fill-time gig. The junior, with the great leaping ability and speed, has shown a knack for making plays in the end zone, turning 24 career catches into 289 yards and six touchdowns.

QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
Opens the door for… Nick Florence

There's no easy way to replace a transformational Heisman winner, but Florence should make the transition slightly less painful. He'll be a fourth-year senior, with seven starts on his resume, and a nice feel for Art Briles' offense. In his only action of 2011, he was sharp in the second half of a blowout win over Texas Tech.

WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
Opens the door for… Jeff Greene

Just because the Yellow Jackets operate out of triple-option sets does not mean that they don't covet the value of the passing game. Hill was an important component, as was his successor, Demaryius Thomas. Greene possesses similar qualities, a big and physical receiver who can go up and make the average Tech passers appear more effective.

RB Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State
Opens the door for… Walter Kazee

After a brief but electrifying career on the Mesa, Hillman is gone. In his place steps Kazee, an underrated backup who's been productive off the bench the last three years, rushing for 1,030 yards and nine scores. He'll spend the early part of the offseason rehabbing a knee injury before beginning his quest to become the starter.

RB LaMichael James, Oregon
Opens the door for… Kenjon Barner

James' departure is a gift for Barner, who finally gets a shot at the lead role in Eugene. Yeah, De'Anthony Thomas will get his share of touches, but Barner will be more of a traditional feature runner in an offense that accentuates its backs. Arguably the country's best complement on the ground, he rushed for 939 yards and 11 scores as a junior.

WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
Opens the door for… Shaq Roland

The decision of Jeffery to leave school could mean immediate playing time for Roland, one of the gems of the 2012 recruiting class. The latest Mr. Football from the state of South Carolina to join forces with Steve Spurrier in Columbia, he'll be asked to hit the ground running at a position of need for the Gamecocks.

WR Damaris Johnson, Tulsa
Opens the door for… Bryan Burnham

The Golden Hurricane played all of 2011 without their star receiver and return man, so there'll be no extra preparation needed on offense next fall. In fact, five of last season's top six pass-catchers are expected back, headed by Burnham. The junior will reprise his role as Tulsa's best set of hands a year after ably filling Johnson's void with 54 receptions for 850 yards and nine touchdowns.

OT Matt Kalil, USC
Opens the door for… Aundrey Walker

One way or another, Walker's playing time will increase now that Kalil is no longer on campus. How much and where he winds up will depend on his weight, which ballooned to 375 pounds before the 2011 season began. If he can get below 350, the rookie from Cleveland is capable of beating out sophomore Kevin Graf, the starting right tackle.

C Peter Konz, Wisconsin
Opens the door for… Ryan Groy

The Badgers got a glimpse of the future when Konz injured his ankle in November. They first used Groy at the pivot before successfully replacing him with another sophomore, starting G Travis Frederick. With Konz out of the picture, look for Wisconsin to keep Frederick at center, slotting Groy in at the left guard void.

QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
Opens the door for… Brett Nottingham

Or Robbie Picazo and Josh Nunes. There'll be a wide-open competition to replace Luck, though Nottingham figures to rate a slight edge in the race. The redshirt freshman has already beaten out his elders once, winning the No. 2 job in 2011. He was a top recruit of 2010, and one of the most prolific passers to play in the state of California.

OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford
Opens the door for… Brendon Austin

Freshman All-American Cameron Fleming could make the shift to the left side to succeed Martin, which would create an opening at right tackle. Enter Austin, one of the program's plum recruits from 2011, who spent the year getting stronger, and learning on the scout team. The staff is eager to break the seal on him this spring.

OT Bobby Massie, Ole Miss
Opens the door for… Aaron Morris

New head coach Hugh Freeze's job just got a little tougher in Oxford. The 6-5, 325-pound Morris saw plenty of action, starting half of his rookie season at guard in order to fill a pressing need. However, now that Massie and LT Bradley Sowell are gone, the true freshman will be a candidate to fill an opening at tackle.

RB Lamar Miller, Miami
Opens the door for… Duke Johnson

Yes, Mike James is the veteran and leading returning rusher, but Johnson has the highest ceiling of anyone on the roster. The local five-star recruit and Mr. Football in Florida possesses the big-play ability to immediately help offset some of the lost pop that Miller will be taking to the NFL.

QB Brock Osweiler, Arizona State
Opens the door for… Mike Bercovici and Taylor Kelly

One of Todd Graham's top priorities in Tempe will be to decide on a new hurler to replace Osweiler. Both main competitors will be inexperienced sophomores next season, Bercovici in his second year, and Taylor in his third. Kelly is the more mobile of the two, which could provide an edge for a staff that prefers agile quarterbacks.

WR Eric Page, Toledo
Opens the door for… Bernard Reedy

The Rockets got a glimpse of life after Page in the Military Bowl, and it didn't appear so glum. Reedy, the sophomore from Florida, flashed go-to qualities in an MVP performance, catching four balls for 126 yards and three touchdowns. He is in many ways a carbon copy of Page, undersized, lightning-quick and tougher after the catch than his appearance might indicate.

RB Bernard Pierce, Temple
Opens the door for… Matt Brown

While the Owls are losing depth in the backfield, their production remains intact. Pierce was No. 1, but Brown has been No. 1A for three seasons, rushing for 2,275 yards and 18 touchdowns on 406 carries. Despite being only 5-5 and 170 pounds, he can shoulder the load, topping out with 28 rushes for 226 yards and four touchdowns in a 2010 win over Army.

RB Chris Polk, Washington
Opens the door for… Jesse Callier

It's a good thing that the Huskies have recruited this position well in recent years because it could take multiple players to replace Polk. Callier has flashed considerable potential during the last two seasons, posting a healthy 5.6-yard average on 124 carries. He's added weight since arriving from California in order to prepare for this very moment.

WR Reuben Randle, LSU
Opens the door for… Odell Beckham, Jr.

Beckham was going to be a major factor in the offense no matter what Randle decided, but now he becomes the unrivaled go-to guy for likely starting QB Zach Mettenberger. He quickly flattened the learning curve as an unusually polished rookie in Baton Rouge, finishing second to Randle with 41 catches for 475 yards and two scores.

OT Riley Reiff, Iowa
Opens the door for… Andrew Donnal

Reiff might be passing the torch to Donnal, who was recruited out of the state of Ohio to compete for a starting job early in his career. At 6-7 and 302 pounds, he has the long arms and frame to seal off the edge for opposing pass rushers. However, he's also unpolished, having appeared in just four games as a redshirt freshman in 2011.

RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
Opens the door for… Eddie Lacy

From second banana to top banana, Lacy is in line to become the feature back in the ‘Bama offense. The powerful, north-south runner has enjoyed a productive first half of his college career, rushing for 1,080 yards and 13 touchdowns on 151 carries. As long as the fumbling problems that plagued Lacy in 2010 don't resurface, he'll relegate young Dee Hart to a complimentary role next fall.

WR Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers
Opens the door for…Brandon Coleman

The early exit of Sanu means more chances for all of the Scarlet Knights receivers who were largely ignored all season. The 6-6, 220-pound Coleman was one of the impressive exceptions as a redshirt freshman, turning 17 receptions into 552 yards and six touchdowns, including a key 86-yarder in the Pinstripe Bowl win over Iowa State.

RB Darrell Scott, South Florida
Opens the door for… Demetris Murray

Bulls fans hardly got to know Scott, the former Colorado blue-chipper who spent one fall in Tampa. It's a good thing for the program that Murray is no stranger to the field, carrying the ball exactly 121 times in each of the last two seasons. No longer forced to share the load, he's one solid offseason away from producing the best year of his career.

WR Tommy Streeter, Miami
Opens the door for… Allen Hurns

Too bad for Miami, which enjoyed just one complete season from the upwardly-mobile Streeter. For Hurns, though, the path toward becoming one of the ACC's finest young pass-catchers just became a little clearer. Despite coming off the bench for most of the year, he finished third on the team with 31 receptions for 415 yards and four touchdowns. He's expected back from shoulder surgery sometime after the spring.

QB Darron Thomas, Oregon
Opens the door for… Bryan Bennett

Welcome to the big leagues, Bryan. Thomas' unexpected decision to forego his senior year means Bennett becomes the next dual-threat to operate Chip Kelly's potent spread option. All parties are thrilled that he saw meaningful action as a redshirt freshman last October, even briefly creating some debate over who was best suited to run the offense. A healthy Thomas regained the job, but Bennett left an impression, especially with his legs, rushing for 200 yards on 23 carries, and throwing six touchdowns without a pick.

RB Robert Turbin, Utah State
Opens the door for… Kerwynn Williams

Not only is Turbin leaving, but underrated backup Michael Smith has exhausted his eligibility as well. It'll be interesting to see what Williams can do in 2012 with a beefed-up workload. The playmaking junior from Las Vegas has rushed for seven scores and almost 1,000 yards on only 162 carries over the past two seasons.

OL Brandon Washington, Miami
Opens the door for…Seantrel Henderson

Losing Washington will exacerbate an already difficult situation up front for the Hurricanes. It's incumbent upon some of the younger blockers, like Henderson, Jon Feliciano and Malcolm Bunche to take their games to higher levels in 2012. The 6-8, 345-pound Henderson, a 2010 mega-recruit, has been a little too quiet in his first two seasons in South Florida.

RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech
Opens the door for… Michael Holmes

While the Hokies are rarely without talented backs to commandeer the ground game, their depth is going to be severely tested next fall. Holmes figures to earn the majority of the touches in the spring, especially as veteran Tony Gregory recovers from ACL surgery. A redshirt freshman, Holmes has nice size, and the quickness to beat a defense to the edge.

- 2012 Early-Entries - Good or Bad Move?
- 2012 Early-Entries - The Winners
- 2012 Early-Entries - The Losers
- 2012 Early-Entries - The Offensive Replacements
- 2012 Early-Entries - The Defensive Replacements