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2013 NFL Underclassmen Replacements - Defense
LSU DT Ego Ferguson
LSU DT Ego Ferguson
Posted Jan 18, 2013

Who's going to take over for the early entries into the 2013 NFL Draft?

Early Entry Replacements

The shoe-fillers on D for 2013

E-mail Richard Cirminiello
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Past Early Entry Replacements
- 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
- 2013 Early-Entries - Good or Bad Move?
- 2013 Early-Entries - The Winners & Losers  

- 2013 Early Entry, Underclassmen Replacements - Offense

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

Each January, scads of athletes leave amateur eligibility on the table, declaring as early entries into that April’s draft. This year, the number of dissidents reached a record level. 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 USC to LSU, 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.  

CB David Amerson, NC State
Opens the door for… Juston Burris.

Ouch. The Pack is taking a beating in the secondary this offseason, with Amerson’s departure being the biggest hit. Burris is next in line, a rangy defender who played rather well as a redshirt freshman. He had 44 tackles, three picks and nine passes defended, despite starting just four times.

CB Terrence Brown, Stanford
Opens the door for…Wayne Lyons or Barry Browning.

Brown made strides as a junior, but the news of his departure was no less surprising. The curious decision creates an opening for Lyons and Browning, who’ll lock horns throughout the offseason. Both have starting experience, as does hard-hitting rookie Alex Carter, providing the Cardinal with three veterans to build around.

CB Mike Edwards, Hawaii
Opens the door for…Ne’Quan Phillips.

Tough blow for Norm Chow, who loses his best all-around player to the NFL. The staff will need to help flatten the learning curve for Phillips, a returning letterman in his debut with the Warriors. The Miami product picked off a pair of passes and made 25 tackles as he adapted to the speed of the game.

S Matt Elam, Florida
Opens the door for… Valdez Showers.

Safety will be a conundrum in Gainesville, especially since Josh Evans is graduating and Pop Saunders has decided to transfer. Backup Showers gets first crack at the gig, but is not a sure-thing. Talented Marcus Maye will compete, and a physical corner, like Loucheiz Purifoy, could be asked to shift spots.

DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
Opens the door for… Darious Cummings.

Senior Damien Jacobs has been a Gator longer, but Cummings was signed out of East Mississippi Community College to provide an instant impact at a position of major need. The one-time four-star recruit of Florida State will be looking to make the most of his second chance to contribute at this level.

NT Kwame Geathers, Georgia
Opens the door for… Jonathan Taylor.

The losses of Geathers and John Jenkins leave a gaping void in the middle of the Bulldogs defense heading into 2013. The onus could fall on Taylor to emerge a year earlier than expected. Ranked No. 9 nationally among defensive tackle recruits last February, he possesses the 6-4, 335-pound frame and footwork to fit nicely in Todd Grantham’s D.

DE William Gholston, Michigan State
Opens the door for… Shilique Calhoun.

While Marcus Rush is back for what figures to be his third season as a starter, Calhoun is an early favorite to compete for the spot on the opposite side of the line. He showed flashes as a redshirt freshman, and possesses the quickness and athleticism to emerge into a force coming off the edge.

DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
Opens the door for… Adolphus Washington or Tommy Schutt.

Hankins’ career decision was little surprise, which is why the staff tried in 2012 to get valuable reps for both of its coveted five-star rookies. While Schutt is more of a prototypical run-stuffer, Washington showed the quick first step and athleticism to collect three sacks in limited playing time as a reserve.

S Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
Opens the door for…Quentin Hayes.

Few positions are experiencing more turnover on the Sooners roster than safety. Javon Harris and now Jefferson are through in Norman. Hayes is hoping to make a triumphant return next fall after being suspended along with two teammates for the 2012 season. With a fat opening atop the depth chart, he has ample motivation to remain focused.

LB Jelani Jenkins, Florida
Opens the door for… Antonio Morrison.

Then-true freshman Morrison replaced an injured Jenkins at weakside following an injury last fall. Without Jenkins in the equation, Morrison is almost assured of a starting gig, either on the outside or inside to succeed Jon Bostic. He collected 34 stops, impressing the staff with his toughness, instincts and elevated football IQ.

LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Opens the door for… Jordan Jenkins.

There’s no sense in making comparisons, particularly when one party has limited experience. However, it’s say to say that Jenkins has the tools to make his predecessor real proud. The second-half starter displayed excellent closing speed and range as a rookie, amassing eight tackles for loss, five sacks and a whopping 22 quarterback hurries. He’s on the tarmac heading into 2013.

DE Joe Kruger, Utah
Opens the door for… Niasi Leota.

Leota didn’t get much of an opportunity to contribute in his first year out of Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) College, making just six stops in 10 games. But that dynamic figures to change in 2013. At 6-4 and 278 pounds, he has the right combination of size and strength that the Utes look for in a strongside end.

DE Corey Lemonier, Auburn
Opens the door for… Nosa Eguae.

Dee Ford takes over as the Tigers’ most reliable pass rusher now that Lemonier is gone. However, there’s an opening on the other side that Eguae will be battling all offseason to fill. There was a time that No. 94 was considered a riser in this program, but he’s gone cold of late with just one sack in two years.

DT Bennie Logan, LSU
Opens the door for… Ego Ferguson.

While the Tigers are rebuilding at the tackles, they won’t do so without plenty of talent. One of the nation’s elite recruits of 2010, Ferguson is about to enter the pivotal second-half of his college career. He’ll do so with a chance to bloom alongside Anthony Johnson, a pair of gifted athletes just itching for a chance to shine.

DE Stansly Maponga, TCU
Opens the door for… James McFarland.

Is McFarland the next breakout star at defensive end for the Horned Frogs? With Maponga out of the picture, the question will be answered a year earlier than anticipated. McFarland played sparingly in his rookie year, making six stops, but possesses the burst to provide a nice complement to Devonte Fields on the other side.

CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
Opens the door for… Geno Smith.

It’ll be tough for the Tide to replace its best pass defender, and arguably one of the nation’s best cover guys. John Fulton will be in the mix to start opposite Deion Belue, but Smith has a higher ceiling. The blue-chipper from last February is ready to take the next step after going through a valuable baptism by fire in Year 1.

DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Opens the door for… Jermauria Rasco.

If the season started now, Rasco would be in the lineup for a D-line that’s practically starting over from scratch. The five-star find from 2011 has lettered in each of his first two seasons, but has yet to earn the spotlight befitting his sizable potential. That figures to change beginning this fall.

LB Kevin Minter, LSU
Opens the door for… Ronnie Feist.

After emerging as the team MVP, Minter leaves behind youth and uncertainty at middle linebacker. Feist will attempt to build on his debut, which included occasional reps and a spot on the second unit. He’s added much-needed weight, while using his first season out of high school to get a better grasp on the LSU D.

DE Sam Montgomery, LSU
Opens the door for… Frank Herron.

Or any number of true freshmen who’ll be signing with the Tigers in a couple of weeks. As if becoming a part of a national powerhouse, like LSU, isn’t compelling enough for new recruits, Les Miles can sell them on immediate playing time, because the D is going to need a couple of its rookies to contribute immediately.

DT Brandon Moore, Texas
Opens the door for… Malcom Brown.

While the ‘Horns hate to lose Moore after just one year as a JUCO transfer, tackle is a position of great depth in Austin. Texas used a deep rotation in 2012, with Brown getting increased reps as his debut season progressed. He notched 17 tackles and two stops loss, laying the foundation for a promising future in burnt orange.

DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
Opens the door for… Tyrell Taylor.

First dibs on filling the sizable shoes of Moore belongs to Taylor, the primary backup at rush end this past season. Built like an outside linebacker, the 6-4, 230-pounder has the edge speed and athleticism to form a bookend with rookie Julien Obioha. Topping his offseason to-do list will be to add weight and muscle.

LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
Opens the door for… Amarlo Herrera.

Herrera is expected to make the transition from part-time starter to full-time leader on the second level of the D. He’s played plenty in his first two seasons, bringing maximum energy and passion to field. As a sophomore, he started eight games, and finished fifth on the team with 70 tackles.

S Eric Reid, LSU
Opens the door for… Ronald Martin.

Hey, at least strong safety Craig Loston resisted the temptation to leave early. Martin is expected to slide up the depth chart after serving as the No. 2 to Reid a year ago. He was active and showed good ball skills off the bench, chipping in with 35 tackles and a couple of picks in his second year on campus.

CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
Opens the door for… Keelin Smith and Ronald Darby.

Jimbo Fisher recruits for moments just like this one. Yeah, Rhodes is a top talent, but the coach really likes Smith and Darby, a couple of first-year players who’ll lock horns in a battle to escape the second team. Smith is built like a safety, while the five-star Darby is flush with speed, confidence and cover skills.

DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Opens the door for… Lucas Vincent.

Matt Hoch is penciled in at the nose. Lining up next to him might be Vincent, especially since veteran interior lineman Jimmy Burge has also graduated. The third-year player has minimal experience at this level, but does have the requisite toughness and know-how to win this job during the offseason.

CB Nickell Robey, USC
Opens the door for… Kevon Seymour.

Ready or not, the Trojans are about to get very young in the defensive backfield. Seymour is one of the top underclassmen who’ll be vying for a corner job now that Robey is NFL-bound. Pursued by just about every Pac-12 member at this time last year, he got small tastes of action while appearing in eight games off the bench.

CB Logan Ryan, Rutgers
Opens the door for… Tejay Johnson.

Ryan is one of three veteran cornerbacks who’ll no longer be in Piscataway in 2013. The sophomore-to-be has all of the physical tools needed to be successful in the Big East, including ideal size and speed. All he needs now is to hone his coverage skills, which will be addressed in the spring.

DE Darrington Sentimore, Tennessee
Opens the door for… Jacques Smith.

It wasn’t a surprise that Sentimore left with a year of eligibility remaining. It was a shock. The curious decision should encourage the new staff to move Smith from Jack linebacker to a more familiar defensive end in the 4-3. As a lineman two years ago, he was showing flashes of potential with 7.5 stops for loss.

CB Tharold Simon, LSU
Opens the door for… Jalen Collins.

Collins was groomed during his redshirt freshman to be the successor to Simon and a partner with fellow rookie Jalen Mills. He’s long and lean, and improving with each season he spends on campus. He impressively had 30 tackles, two picks and six pass breakups in his debut on the field.

DT Akeem Spence, Illinois
Opens the door for… Teko Powell.

The Illini snuck Powell out of Miami, believing he was a hidden gem out of South Florida. With Spence leaving, they’ll get a first good chance to see if they’re correct. Quick off the snap and a fast learner, he got a feel for Big Ten action in a half-dozen games in his first year.

DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Opens the door for… Mario Edwards Jr..

The blue-chipper from the 2012 class might have been in line for a promotion no matter what since Cornellius Carradine was graduating. But now he has a chance to become the Seminoles’ top pass rusher. Edwards started a pair of games, getting his feet wet before taking flight in 2013.

CB Steve Williams, Cal
Opens the door for… Stefan McClure.

The upcoming season for McClure will be a critical one, as he attempts to offset the losses of both starting cornerbacks. He missed all of last season to recover from a severe knee injury suffered at the tail end of the prior year. McClure and junior-to-be Kameron Jackson are the most experienced corners on the roster.

P Brad Wing, LSU
Opens the door for… Jamie Keehn.

Everything about Wing is unorthodox, including the decision of a punter to leave for the NFL after his sophomore year. Yet, he’s good enough to make the move look shrewd. Waiting in the wings is another strong-legged Aussie, the 23-year-old Keehn who didn’t even play the sport in high school.

LB Tom Wort, Oklahoma
Opens the door for… Frank Shannon.

Wort actually began to lose playing time to Shannon in 2012, so maybe the handwriting was already on the wall for the veteran. As a first-year player, Shannon impressed, starting a pair of games and making 38 stops, three tackles for loss and two sacks. He’s one of the young cornerstones of a D out to turn the corner in 2013. 

- 2013 Early Entry, Underclassmen Replacements - Offense