May 3, 2006

Draft hits top programs

The college football optimist views the NFL Draft as addition by subtraction.

Having players selected is like adding another Buckeye on the Ohio State helmet. It's a badge of honor that high school stars, hopeful to hear their names called in the not-too-distant future, surely recognize.

That's why when the NCAA mandated that media guides be limited 208 pages, most big-time college football programs omitted a lot of information that was actually useful to the media, but made sure their history of producing NFL-caliber players stayed intact.

That way recruits see first-hand State U has a good track record of sending players to the NFL, and then can enthusiastically jump on the assembly line.

Addition by subtraction.

Of course, there's also the realist's view that says too much subtraction adds up to losses, at least initially. There's no guarantee the next guy plays at the same level. Great recruits do not ensure great results.

No doubt it does happen. USC didn't even flinch when Matt Leinart replaced Carson Palmer at quarterback, and one season after Auburn running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown were both taken in the first round, Kenny Irons, their successor, led the SEC in rushing.

But in most cases a void is left that takes time to fill. Who replaced Eli Manning at Ole Miss? Will Oklahoma State ever have another receiver as good as Rashaun Woods? Should we even bring up Syracuse after Donovan McNabb departed?

Though it's not an exact science, the draft - in theory - reveals the best collegiate players. And if we are to believe the best players go in the earliest rounds, then we can deduce which college teams have the largest holes to fill next season. That raises the question of whether those holes can sink national-championship aspirations.

A close examination of Rivals.com's preseason top 10 shows which teams were hit hard, which had minimal damage and which were relatively unscathed.

Hit hard

Ohio State (No. 1 by Rivals.com): This one is obvious. The Buckeyes lost nine defensive starters, including three first-round picks. Everyone knew linebackers A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel were special, and that was proven with Hawk and Carpenter going in the first round and Schlegel in the third. The Buckeyes always have talent, but replacing that trio is a massive undertaking. Of course, the reason the Buckeyes are ranked No. 1 is their offense. Yeah, the offense that must replace first-round picks Santonio Holmes at receiver and Nick Mangold at center.

Southern California (No. 3 by Rivals.com): Eleven players taken and seven in the first three rounds. The Trojans are optimistic their offensive line can absorb the loss of Deuce Lutui, Winston Justice and Fred Matua, but no program loses talent like Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and LenDale White without feeling it. The uncertainty around quarterbacks John David Booty (back injury) and Mark Sanchez (sexual assault charges) and receiver Dwayne Jarrett (eligibility questions) further muddle the outlook.

Texas (No. 5 by Rivals.com): Based on sheer numbers the defending national champs didn't seem to come out that bad, with only four players gone the first day. However, that foursome included quarterback Vince Young, the best player in college football. Yeah, Reggie Bush won the Heisman, but does anyone doubt Young after the Rose Bowl? How can you not doubt the Longhorns after losing Young, not to mention Thorpe Award-winning safety Michael Huff, who also went in the first round?

Oklahoma (No. 8 by Rivals.com): The Sooners offensive line wasn't overpowering last year, and next season it's without first-round choice Davin Joseph and second-round pick Chris Chester. The Sooners' expectations are based on incredible running back Adrian Peterson - who fought through injuries last season - and improving quarterback Rhett Bomar. But they will need consistent blocking up front. We'll see if they get it.

Minimal damage

LSU (No. 4 by Rivals.com): Of the seven Tigers chosen only three were on the first day. Running back Joseph Addai was the only first-rounder, and there's uncertainty in replacing him because Alley Broussard and Justin Vincent are coming back from injuries. The rest of the depth chart is inexperienced. Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, a second-round pick, won't be easily replaced. Three defensive linemen were taken, but LSU was deep there last season and the returnees got considerable time in the rotation.

Florida (No. 9 by Rivals.com). Only three players were chosen, but on every highlight show last season it seemed Chad Jackson was scoring touchdowns. Jackson, who caught 88 passes and scored 11 touchdowns in 2005, is a significant loss.

Miami (No. 10 by Rivals.com): Six players were taken on the first day, but Miami has weathered greater draft storms than this. Cornerback Kelly Jennings was the only first-rounder, while receiver Sinorice Moss, linebacker Rocky McIntosh and return specialist Devin Hester were second-round picks. Five defensive players were selected, but defense should be Miami's strength.

Relatively unscathed

Notre Dame (No. 2 by Rivals.com): Defense may be the Irish's Achilles heel, but not one Notre Dame defender was selected - suggesting new starters could be immediate upgrades. Only three Irish players were taken, with tight end Anthony Fasano a second-round selection the earliest pick.

West Virginia (No. 6 by Rivals.com): The only player taken was cornerback Alton McCann in the sixth round. Looks like a big year coming in Morgantown. Gentlemen, ignite your couches.

Auburn (No. 7 by Rivals.com): Offensive tackle Marcus McNeill was projected as a first-rounder, but fell into the second round. The three other Tigers chosen were all seventh-round picks, including wide receivers Devin Aromashodu and Ben Obomanu, and none of them posted significant numbers.

Nix takes over Tech offense
Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey, 54, has announced he'll be handing over playing-calling duties to offensive coordinator Patrick Nix.

"I think it's a good time to put some new ideas and new thoughts into the offense," Gailey told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "If I believe it's best for the team right now to go that direction, I've got to be smart enough to stay out of it and let him run it."

Georgia Tech averaged 349 yards per game last season to rank 78th nationally in total offense. The Yellow Jackets also averaged just 18.5 points per game, which ranked 103rd nationally.

"I don't know that there will be a huge difference that the fans will notice," Nix, a former Auburn quarterback, told the paper. "I would describe myself as most of the time being in a controlled attack mode."

Hawkins has a crowd at QB
Dan Hawkins hasn't decided on a quarterback at Colorado yet, but the depth chart keeps growing.

Hawkins' son, Cody, has enrolled at Colorado and will compete with five others for the starting job.

The other quarterbacks are senior James Cox, juniors Brian White and Bernard Jackson, and redshirt freshmen Patrick Devenny and Mack Brown.




 

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