Replacements For The Early
The big shoe-fillers for 2010
2009 Early-Entry Replacements
2008 Early-Entry Replacements
2007 Early-Entry Replacements
While juniors and third-year sophomores will forego their final years of college eligibility for a variety of different reasons, the goal for each is always the same—fulfilling the life-long dream of making it to the NFL.
Every January, anywhere from four to five dozen players declare as early entries into that April's draft, sobering announcements for the campuses they leave behind, but not such bad news for those heir apparents eagerly hoping to move up the depth chart. The reality is that for every athlete that leaves with unused eligibility, there are at least two or three holdovers staring at the opening with wide eyes. For the bean-counter in you, it's a perpetual system of debits and credits and a natural cycle of athletics that'll continue as long as the NFL pays for play.
From Southern California to South Florida, applications are already being taken for a slew of new jobs that have opened up over the past couple of weeks.
RB Toney Baker, NC State
Opens the door for…James Washington. With Baker and Jamelle Eugene gone, Washington gets first crack at being the feature back in Tom O'Brien's system. As a true freshman, he 21 times for 76 yards and two scores before being lost to a knee injury.
DE Kevin Basped, Nevada
Opens the door for…Ryan Coulson. With Basped gone, Coulson stands to be the primary beneficiary of playing on the opposite side as Dontay Moch. A glorified outside linebacker at 6-3 and 255 pounds, he's a scrapper coming off his best season in Reno.
WR Arrelious Benn, Illinois
Opens the door for…Jarred Fayson. Is this the opening Fayson needs to enter the spotlight and fulfill expectations when he originally signed with Florida in 2005? A fantastic all-around athlete, he started five games in his Illini debut, making 16 catches for 218 yards and a score.
SEric Berry, Tennessee
Opens the door for…Darren Myles. One of Lane Kiffin's prized recruits from a year ago, Myles played in seven games and made seven tackles in his first season. He's long and lean, and eager to break into the lineup after being saddled with injuries throughout his rookie year.
RB Jahvid Best, Cal
Opens the door for…Shane Vereen. Best's departure represents a wonderful opportunity for Vereen to raise his profile well beyond the Pac-10 borders. Playing in Best's shadow, he's rushed for 1,667 yards and 16 touchdowns in two seasons, exploding after getting the starting nod in last year's final four games.
LB Navorro Bowman, Penn State
Opens the door for…Michael Mauti. Before suffering a season-ending knee injury in August, Mauti appeared headed for a starting job in just his second year. Dubbed the next big thing in a Penn State linebacker, he has all the tools to blossom into a star, provided there are no recurring issues from the surgery.
QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
Opens the door for…Landry Jones. In an emergency role, Jones supplanted an injured Bradford with mixed results. Now, he gets to be the undisputed leader of the offense without looking over his shoulder. Redshirt freshman Drew Allen might be in the hunt, but it'll be tough unseating Jones after he played in a dozen games and threw 26 touchdowns.
WR Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas
Opens the door for…Johnathan Wilson. Now that both Briscoe and Kerry Meier are gone, Wilson and Bradley McDougald have opportunities to ramp up their production. At 6-3 and 189 pounds, Wilson has good size and enters his final season with 81 career catches for 1,074 yards, and three touchdowns.
WR Antonio Brown, Central Michigan
Opens the door for…Kito Poblah. With Brown and Bryan Anderson go 174 receptions, so there's lots of slack that needs to be picked up by the holdovers. Poblah had 53 catches in 2009, a number he might dwarf in the upcoming season. True freshman Cody Wilson is also in line for a lot more looks.
WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
Opens the door for…Hubert Anyiam. Anyiam became the Cowboys' go-to receiver after Bryant was suspended last fall, a role he'll likely maintain now that Bryant is gone. He had a team-high 42 catches for 515 yards and three scores, but will get plenty of competition from Tracy Moore, Josh Cooper, and Justin Blackmon.
OT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa
Opens the door for…Riley Reiff. Iowa got a dress rehearsal for life after Bulaga when the junior was injured last fall. Reiff slid into the lineup as a rookie and excelled, eventually shifting to left guard when Bulaga returned. He'll be back at left tackle, beginning his own pursuit of an NFL career down the road.
SMorgan Burnett, Georgia Tech
Opens the door for…Jemea Thomas. Thomas got a crash course on being a Yellow Jacket defender last year, playing caddy to Burnett in the secondary. After appearing in all 14 games and making 10 stops as a true freshman, he's poised for a promotion.
OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland
Opens the door for…R.J. Dill. After bouncing in and out of the lineup, depending on Campbell's health, Dill should be a fixture on the right side. As expected, he faced growing pains as a redshirt freshman, but at 6-7 and 320 pounds, has the frame to be one of the anchors of this group.
QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame
Opens the door for…Dayne Crist. Provided there are no setbacks from his November knee surgery, Crist is the favorite to be Brian Kelly's first quarterback in South Bend. One of the nation's premier quarterbacks from the class of 2008, he's got a terrific arm, good mobility, and three years of eligibility to make his mark.
LB Rennie Curran, Georgia
Opens the door for…Marcus Dowtin. While Dowtin is the youngest of the projected starters, he has the talent to be the leader of the unit now that Curran has left. He only started four games in 2009, yet got better as the season unfolded and finished with 57 tackles, seven tackles for loss, and two sacks.
OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers
Opens the door for…Devon Watkis. Watkis spent most of his redshirt freshman season watching Davis from the sidelines. He better have taken good notes because he could be protecting Tom Savage's backside this fall. At 6-7 and 320 pounds, he looks the part, but still needs a lot of work with his technique and fundamentals.
DE Carlos Dunlap, Florida
Opens the door for…William Green. After playing some over the last two seasons, Green gets a chance to be an every-down lineman. While he certainly doesn't have the size to be confused with Dunlap, he does have the closing speed and quick first step to spend a lot of time in the backfield.
RB Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech
Opens the door for…Anthony Allen. With Dwyer moving on, Allen is shifting from A-back to B-back. In Yellow Jacket land, that means he has a chance to be the team's next 1,000-yard. As a complement in his debut after transferring from Louisville, he ran for 618 yards and six scores on only 64 carries.
CB Dominique Franks, Oklahoma
Opens the door for…Demontre Hurst. The Sooners love the upside potential of Hurst, who ditched a redshirt in 2009 and played in all 13 games. While not nearly as big as Franks, he has the cover skills and hips to take opposing receivers out of the game.
DE Clifton Geathers, South Carolina
Opens the door for…Devin Taylor. Geathers' decision means more reps for Taylor, who played well as a redshirt freshman. A part-time starter, he had 28 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks, using his long arms and 6-7 frame to get around the edge and opposing tackles.
RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford
Opens the door for…Stepfan Taylor. Although you don't get better by losing Gerhart, the Cardinal is excited about unleashing Taylor on the Pac-10. The second option as a true freshman, he impressed in limited chances, turning 56 carries into 303 yards and a pair of scores.
DE Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State
Opens the door for…Nathan Williams. With Gibson gone, someone will be asked to provide a bookend to Cameron Heyward, who'll get all kinds of attention. That someone should be Williams, a junior with good explosiveness and a couple of productive seasons in the rotation.
TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma
Opens the door for…Trent Ratterree. While clearly not in the same league as a Gresham, Ratterree is a serviceable receiver, with the speed to split the seam of a defense. A former walk-on, he had 11 receptions for 152 yards in 2009, saving his best effort for the Sun Bowl.
DE Everson Griffen, USC
Opens the door for…Nick Perry. Just a redshirt freshman, Perry had a team-high eight sacks without even cracking the starting lineup. What happens when he's a regular? We're going to find out. Griffen is clearing a path for Perry and the other kids, Devon Kennard, Wes Horton, and Malik Jackson, to get more snaps.
TE Rob Gronkowski, Arizona
Opens the door for…A.J. Simmons. By leaving two years of eligibility on the table, Gronkowski allows Simmons to be Nick Foles' favorite tight end target for a second straight year. He caught 10 balls for 132 yards and a score last fall, performing more like an H-back than a traditional in-line tight end.
CB Joe Haden, Florida
Opens the door for…Adrian Bushell. As a backup, Bushell showed the instincts and aggressiveness that the Gators have grown used to from their cornerbacks. He received a healthy dose of playing time as a redshirt freshman, which will serve him well as he joins Janoris Jenkins in the starting lineup.
DE Jerome Hayes, Penn State
Opens the door for…Eric Latimore. After sharing time with Hayes a year ago and starting five games, Latimore gets a chance to thrive in a more expanded role. At 6-6 and 270 pounds, he won't be an Aaron Maybin-line edge rusher, but he does provide plenty of muscle up front and support in run defense.
TE Aaron Hernandez, Florida
Opens the door for…Desmond Parks. The only scholarship tight end on the roster, Parks has an opportunity to join John Brantley's rotation of preferred targets. A slender 6-6 athlete when he arrived, he used his redshirt season to add more weight and thickness to his frame.
CB Kareem Jackson, Alabama
Opens the door for…Dre Kirkpatrick. If you're looking for a weakness on the national champs, this could be it. Not only is Jackson gone, but so are Javier Arenas and backups Marquis Johnson and Chris Rogers. Kirkpatrick playing sparingly as a true freshman, but will be asked to shed the training wheels in 2010.
SChad Jones, LSU
Opens the door for…Craig Loston. Jones' departure means Loston gets an early opportunity to show why he was rated the nation's top safety of the 2009 recruiting class. He redshirted after breaking his hand, but already has the size and instincts of a player ready to contribute to the Tiger D.
S Reshad Jones, Georgia
Opens the door for…Bacarri Rambo. A crowd favorite around Athens, Dawg fans will enjoy seeing a lot more of Rambo in 2010. Known for his big hits and big plays on defense and special teams, he'll bring an enforcer's mentality to that Georgia defensive backfield.
DT Linval Joseph, East Carolina
Opens the door for…Michael Brooks. That cavernous space in the middle of the Pirate line is the result of Joseph's exit and the graduations of two other key interior linemen. Brooks is in a great position to capitalize after making 23 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss to earn Conference USA All-Freshman honors.
RB Darius Marshall, Marshall
Opens the door for…Martin Ward. While the Herd would certainly love to have Marshall back in Huntington for one more year, Ward quelled many concerns with his late-season play. Just a redshirt freshman, he went for 268 yards and three scores over the final three games, earning Little Caesars Pizza Bowl MVP honors. Now he'll become the feature guy.
RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State
Opens the door for…Robbie Rouse. Mathews is gone. Lonyae Miller is out of eligibility. It's Robbie Rouse time in the Valley. Although he may not look like a traditional workhorse at 5-7 and 185 pounds, he runs with good leverage and impressed in his debut, going for 479 yards and four scores on 82 carries.
LB Rolando McClain, Alabama
Opens the door for…Nico Johnson. Although a lot of shifting could occur when Don't'a Hightower returns from injury, Johnson has the look of a possible star in the middle. Pressed into action as a true freshman, he learned on the job, making 28 stops and gobbling up a ton of valuable experience.
DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma
Opens the door for… Jamarkus McFarland . Although he's only been in Norman for a year, McFarland already has the look of the next big thing in a Sooner tackle. He's come a long way in a short period of time, lettering and playing much older than his class at times last season.
RB Joe McKnight, USC
Opens the door for…C.J. Gable. Is the logjam in the Trojan backfield finally beginning to show some daylight? If so, Gable figures to take advantage when the offense seeks a change-of-pace to 235-pound Allen Bradford. Since showing so much promise as a true freshman, he's been sort of lost in the crowd the last three years.
RBShawnbrey McNeal, SMU
Opens the door for…Zach Line. As the backup to McNeal and an excellent short-yardage option, Line is sure to get more snaps in his second season in Dallas. A very different runner at 6-1 and 238 pounds, he pounded his way to 189 yards and seven touchdowns on 49 carries.
WRCarlton Mitchell, South Florida
Opens the door for…Sterling Griffin. Even without Mitchell, there'll be plenty of options for B.J. Daniels in 2010. A.J. Love and Dontavia Bogan are the veterans, but Griffin is a young kid worth monitoring. The 6-1, 174-pound burner carved out a niche as a rookie, catching 14 passes for 265 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
CB Joshua Moore, Kansas State
Opens the door for…Darious Thomas. After playing in nine games and earning the backup role behind Moore, there's reason to believe he'll win the job this fall. At 6-0 and 185 pounds, he's got good size, but needs to quickly flatten the learning curve in a Big 12 that likes to air it out.
DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech
Opens the door for…Izaan Cross. With the shift to a 3-4, the Yellow Jackets will be favoring bigger linemen to help stop the run. That helps Cross, a 6-4, 272-pound end, with the motor and strength to fight through blocks. He appeared in all but one game as a true freshman, setting the table for a bright future in Atlanta.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida
Opens the door for…Ryne Giddins. This departure really leaves the Bulls in a bind since George Selvie is also off to the NFL. Skip Holtz will be putting out an APB for pass rushers, which will create an opportunity for Giddins to shine right away. The program's top recruit of 2009, he also had offers from USC, Florida, and Auburn.
C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida
Opens the door for…Maurice Hurt. The early chatter around Gainesville has Pouncey's twin brother Mike shifting inside from his starting guard position. If that happens, it'll create a void that might be filled by Hurt. A senior, he's played a lot of football for the Gators, and would love one more shot to impress pro scouts.
DT Brian Price, UCLA
Opens the door for…David Carter. Price leaves a gaping hole in the middle of that Bruin line. One of the players looking to plug it will be Carter, a senior who's mostly been a backup throughout his career. He's played in 28 games, peaking with 13 tackles in 2008, needing to bring leadership to a youthful front wall.
DB Dennis Rogan, Tennessee
Opens the door for…Anthony Anderson. By the end of the season, Anderson was backing up Rogan at one cornerback spot, a good sign for him heading into spring. He'll be asked to come up big for a Volunteer secondary that's also trying to cope with the loss of All-American S Eric Berry.
QB Jevan Snead, Ole Miss
Opens the door for…Nathan Stanley. Ideally, the Rebels would have taken the wraps off Stanley in 2011. No such luck. With Snead gone, Ole Miss will hand the ball to its prized quarterback recruit from the 2008 class. He has the size and pocket presence, but needs a lot more reps and to fend off the challenge from Raymond Cotton.
CB Amari Spievey, Iowa
Opens the door for…Jordan Bernstine. The forgotten man at cornerback, that'll change when the Hawkeyes begin practice in the spring. Bernstine has outstanding physical tools and was slated to be the starter opposite Spievey before an ankle injury ended his season during summer drills. Barring another setback, he'll join Shaun Prater in the lineup.
WR Golden Tate, Notre Dame
Opens the door for…John Goodman. Goodman is not Tate, but he is a very interesting weapon for the offense. A terrific all-around athlete at 6-3 and 203 pounds, he caught six passes for 104 yards and a score, and could dabble at quarterback, his former position.
WR Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech
Opens the door for…Stephen Hill. The next big thing in a Yellow Jacket receiver, Hill has all of the physical attributes to be a dangerous playmaker on those rare occasions when Tech airs it out. A 6-4, 196-pound thoroughbred, he has outstanding speed and the downfield blocking skills that Paul Johnson demands from his receivers.
S Earl Thomas, Texas
Opens the door for…Nolan Brewster. A very different type of player than Thomas, he's ready to make a step up in the Longhorn pecking order. He doesn't have nearly the same ball skills, but at 6-2 and 210 pounds, he can hit like a linebacker and be a real enforcer on running plays and crossing patterns.
CB Donovan Warren, Michigan
Opens the door for…J.T. Floyd. Floyd was thrust into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman after Boubacar Cissoko was dismissed from the team. Now he gets an entire offseason to prepare for the job and its myriad responsibilities. He flashes the desirable athleticism and the hands of a former high school wide receiver.
WR Damian Williams, USC
Opens the door for…Ronald Johnson. A bit of an underachiever up to this point, Johnson has one final chance to turn all of his speed and physical ability into more production and a marquee role. He's never caught more than 34 balls in a season, but the opening now exists to become Matt Barkley's go-to guy and a legit NFL prospect.
WR Mike Williams, Syracuse
Opens the door for…Alec Lemon. It's full steam ahead for Lemon, who saw his playing time and catches increase after Williams left the team late in the fall. As a true freshman, he had 29 grabs for 295 yards and a score, sending a message with nine receptions in the finale at Connecticut.
DE Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech
Opens the door for…Chris Drager. The departure of Worilds and graduation of Nekos Brown affords an opportunity for Drager to excel. A converted tight end, he's picked up the new position rather quickly, playing in 13 games a year ago and making 6.5 stops behind the line as a valuable reserve.
S Major Wright, Florida
Opens the door for…Will Hill. Although depth at safety may be taking a hit, the Gators might actually be upgrading at the position. Hill is an immense talent, who's played plenty over the last two seasons and has been itching for the chance to be the every-down guy at free safety. Thanks to Wright, that time has arrived.