2013 NFL Underclassmen Replacements
Oklahoma WR Jalen Saunders
Oklahoma WR Jalen Saunders
CollegeFootballNews.com
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 O 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 - Defense

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.

WR Keenan Allen, Cal
Opens the door for… Chris Harper.

And Bryce Treggs. Yeah, losing Allen hurts, but the Bears are fortunate that two of last year’s top three receivers were freshmen. Harper and Treggs were blue-chippers, who’ll be looking for an expanded role next fall. The former adapted very quickly to his surroundings, catching 41 passes for 544 yards and two scores.

OG Alvin Bailey, Arkansas
Opens the door for… Luke Charpentier.

After serving last fall as the backup for both offensive guards, Bailey and senior Tyler Deacon, Charpentier is poised for a promotion in 2013. He’s a heady 6-4, 305-pound junior-to-be, whose only career start came in the loss to Rutgers last Sept. 22.

WR Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
Opens the door for… Devonte Robinson.

The departure of Bailey means that the Mountaineers will be missing last year’s top three pass-catchers. Robinson elevated to the second team in his first year in Morgantown, but appeared in just five games. He and a bunch of other unproven underclassmen, like Dante Campbell and Jordan Thompson, will get a crack at becoming playmakers in Dana Holgorsen’s offense.

OT David Bakhtiari, Colorado
Opens the door for… Marc Mustoe.

The Buffs are in no position to be losing their best player a year earlier than anticipated. But, such is life in Boulder. Mustoe was a one-time UCLA commit from 2011, who was being groomed to replace Bakhtiari on the left side. The hope, though, was that he’d be taking the baton in 2014 instead of 2013.

RB Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State
Opens the door for…Nick Hill.

Bell is gone, as is experienced veteran Larry Caper. The opening at the top could go to Hill, a junior in 2013, who did most of his work on special teams last fall. Mark Dantonio needs a workhorse in the backfield; Hill could get first dibs on the all-important position in East Lansing.

RB Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
Opens the door for…A.J. Blue and Romar Morris.

It’ll take more than one player to adequately replace Bernard in 2013. The Tar Heels appear to have a suitable duo in the 6-2, 225-pound Blue and the speedy Morris. The pair combined for 819 yards and 14 touchdowns last fall coming off the bench.

WR Josh Boyce, TCU
Opens the door for… LaDarius Brown.

Boyce may have left campus, but four of the six Frogs who caught at least 20 passes last season are still in Fort Worth. Brown is one of them. The 6-4, 220-pounder can create mismatches with his size, catching 27 balls for 385 yards and five touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. He just needs more reps and seasoning before the new season begins.

QB Tyler Bray, Tennessee
Opens the door for… Justin Worley.

The junior-to-be was Bray’s backup in 2012, and one of just two scholarship quarterbacks inherited by new coach Butch Jones. He’s played some in each of his first two seasons, completing 63-of-110 passes for 738 yards, a touchdown and five picks. Three-star Nathan Peterman from the 2012 class will also be competing for the job.

RB Knile Davis, Arkansas
Opens the door for…Jonathan Williams.

Since Davis had a diminished role in the offense, his absence could go unnoticed. However, leading rusher Dennis Johnson is also gone, and new coach Bret Bielema will employ a run-first system. Williams is a four-star gem from Allen, Tex., who debuted with 231 yards on 45 carries in spot duty.

TE Zach Ertz, Stanford
Opens the door for… Ryan Hewitt.

The versatile Hewitt will be a factor in this offense no matter where he lines up. He’s been a fullback, an H-back … and a tight end during his stay on the Farm. The coaches might consider moving him to Ertz’s old position since he has the sticky hands and runs the tight routes needed to help support the development of QB Kevin Hogan.

TE Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
Opens the door for… Adam Roberts.

Roberts may not be Escobar, but he is a quality all-around athlete, with the hands to earn the confidence of his quarterback. The 6-3, 235-pound tight end in an H-back’s body caught three passes for 23 yards, including his first career touchdown in the Nov. 24 win at Wyoming.

OT Chris Faulk, LSU
Opens the door for… Jerald Hawkins.

Faulk was supposed to return from a season-long injury to recapture his old left tackle job, but will instead head to the pros. Chris Davenport was next in line, but plans to finish his career at Tulane. Either the three-star Hawkins will win the job, or one of the guards could be asked to shift outside.

OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
Opens the door for…Austin Shepherd.

Fluker’s decision to leave early means the Tide will need to rebuild three-fifths of its vaunted O-line. Next in line at right tackle is budding junior Shepherd, a 6-5, 312-pounder who plays with a nasty streak. The job is his to lose unless the staff decides to do a little shuffling, such as moving a guard outside if Shepherd fumbles the promotion.

RB Michael Ford, LSU
Opens the door for… Kenny Hilliard.

Do not sleep on Hilliard because he was a non-factor down the stretch. Sure, he got passed on the depth chart by rookie Jeremy Hill last fall, and didn’t rush for than 40 yards in any of the final 10 games. But this is the same young back who has rushed for 100 yards three times, including twice last September.

C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
Opens the door for… Dan Voltz.

In an ideal world, Voltz is ready to succeed Frederick at the pivot. The four-star recruit from a year ago is a quintessential Badger, tough, smart and bucking to contribute early in his career. If he’s unable to capitalize on the opening, G Ryan Groy has the reps at center to slide inside if needed.

WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Opens the door for… Martavis Bryant.

Sammy Watkins is the undisputed leading man of the receiving corps, but there’s ample room for more playmakers in this attack. Bryant was a disappointment a year ago, catching only 10 balls for 305 yards and four touchdowns. However, the 6-5, 200-pounder has a great frame, and the motivation to deliver his best year as a Tiger.

WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee
Opens the door for… Vincent Dallas.

With the departures of Hunter and QB Tyler Bray, the entire Vols passing game is being overhauled. Dallas is the most experienced of the returners, a converted defensive back, who caught nine passes for 149 yards and a touchdown as a reserve. Redshirt freshman Drae Bowles has a chance to realize his potential early on.

RB Jawan Jamison, Rutgers
Opens the door for… Savon Huggins.

A somewhat curious decision from Jamison affords Huggins his best chance to date to be the every-down guy in Piscataway. The five-star gem from the 2011 class has been hampered by injuries and inconsistency. However, he’s also the back who shredded a pretty good Cincinnati D for 179 yards on Nov. 17 as Jamison nursed an injury.

RB Stefphon Jefferson, Nevada
Opens the door for… Don Jackson.

Talk about a golden opportunity to play right away. When Jackson committed following a career at Iowa Western Community College, he was unaware of Jefferson’s decision about 2013. No holdover back rushed for more than 10 yards last fall, meaning the JUCO transfer is nicely positioned to make an instant impact.

OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
Opens the door for… Germain Ifedi. The Aggies will consider a number of options to replace one of the country’s premier blockers. Ifedi, though, will get a chance to prevent any massive shifting of positions if he can win the job on either the left or right side. The 6-5, 338-pounder backed up Joeckel as a true freshman, but that’s a far cry from actually keeping the pocket clean for Johnny Manziel.

RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama
Opens the door for… T.J. Yeldon.

Now that Lacy has departed, Yeldon assumes the feature role, with a chance to contend for national honors. He was brilliant as the complement in his debut, rushing for 12 scores and more than 1,000 yards. With a year in the vault and an increase in touches, Yeldon is poised to become the next really big thing out of the ‘Bama backfield.

RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Opens the door for… Mike Davis.

Life without Lattimore began a half-year earlier than anyone had hoped. With the graduation of Kenny Miles, it could be the Davis show in Columbia in 2013. The gem of last year’s recruiting class carried the ball 52 times for 275 yards and two scores, but Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson return from injury to provide stiff competition.

WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Opens the door for… Paul Harris.

Few units in America have plummeted faster—or further—than the Vols wide receivers. The group that not long ago had Patterson, Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers is now destitute. Harris is already enrolled in classes, acting as if he plans on avoiding a redshirt season in his first year in Knoxville.

OT Justin Pugh, Syracuse
Opens the door for… Andrew Phillips.

When Pugh was nursing an injured shoulder last September, Sean Hickey took his spot at left tackle. If Hickey returns to that spot in 2013, it’ll create an opening on the right side that might be filled by Phillips in his final year of eligibility. He’s been around the program for four years, but has just one start to his credit.

RB Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
Opens the door for… Jeremy Smith.

Even without Randle, the Cowboys figure to be in good shape in the backfield. Smith is a proven veteran, a power back who has rushed for 1,439 yards and 25 touchdowns during his career. After averaging more than six yards a carry in 2012, Desmond Roland has also earned an expanded role next fall.

TE Jordan Reed, Florida
Opens the door for… Kent Taylor.

Solving the Gators’ offensive woes just got quite a bit tougher. Reed was Jeff Driskel’s most reliable target in the passing game, but leaves behind a mediocre collection of tight ends in his wake. Most of his successors are better blockers than pass-catchers, though the 6-5, 223-pound Taylor has the skills to be an exception.

TE Dion Sims, Michigan State
Opens the door for… Paul Lang.

The Spartans have developed a reputation for birthing pass-catching tight ends, with NFL potential. Lang hopes to be the next one in line. The 6-5 former three-star recruit from the 2010 class has good size and hands, but must flatten the learning curve after catching just three balls in 2012.

WR Kenny Stills, Oklahoma
Opens the door for… Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard.

Stills and Justin Brown are off to the NFL, but the Sooners might not feel it if as much as expected. The newcomers, Saunders from Fresno State and Shepard from high school, were terrific complements in the passing game in 2012. The pair will look to further raise their production after combining for 107 catches and six touchdowns. Oh, and don’t forget about Jaz Reynolds, who was suspended in 2012.

TE Levine Toilolo, Stanford
Opens the door for… Luke Kaumatule.

After moonlighting at defensive end in 2012, Kaumatule will concentrate on playing tight end full-time now that the pipeline at the position is getting a little dry. At 6-7 and 253 pounds, he’s built an awful lot like Toilolo, with the long frame needed to be a dangerous weapon in the end zone.

RB Spencer Ware, LSU
Opens the door for… Jeremy Hill.

Ware was fourth on the Tigers in rushing in 2012, so his absence might go unnoticed. It’ll simply mean a much tighter committee in Baton Rouge, with Hill and others getting more touches. The rookie began the year fifth on the depth chart, yet ended it with a team-best 755 yards and 12 touchdowns on 142 carries.

OT Menelik Watson, Florida State
Opens the door for…Bobby Hart.

The unorthodox journey of Watson, who grew up in England, will continue in the NFL. Might this be the impetus for Hart to get back into the starting lineup? After serving a baptism by fire as a rookie tackle in 2011, he slid behind Watson, and was eventually moved to guard. He has an offseason to recapture the confidence of the staff.

RB Cierre Wood, Notre Dame
Opens the door for… George Atkinson III.

Wood’s decision coupled with Theo Riddick’s graduation means Atkinson could be the Irish feature back in 2013. In his second year of eligibility, the speedy playmaker rushed for 361 yards and five touchdowns on 51 carries. Cam McDaniel will vie for touches, as will USC transfer Amir Carlisle if he’s fully recovered from an ankle injury.

WR Robert Woods, USC
Opens the door for… Nelson Agholor.

Someone is going to prosper from being the guy on the opposite side of Marqise Lee. And that guy is Agholor, a second-year speedster who rose up to the No. 3 spot at wide receiver in his rookie year. He flashed signs of explosiveness, peaking with six catches for 162 yards and a touchdown in the Oregon game. 

- 2013 Early Entry, Underclassmen Replacements - Defense