Some high groups want to exchange generational quarterbacks. Others have new coaches who have to fill huge roles. Nobody, not even Clemson and Alabama, is ideal heading into 2021.
Here is a breakdown of probably the most urgent offseason questions for every of the Way-Too-Early Top 25 groups.
1. Clemson Tigers: Can the offensive line enhance?
Positive, the Tigers are changing some huge names at high-profile positions this offseason, however maybe the larger concern upfront of the 2021 marketing campaign is on the offensive line, the place 4 starters are set to return. Clemson’s run blocking in 2020 was problematic, and within the Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio State, the Buckeyes dominated the road of scrimmage. There’s ample expertise on the road for the Tigers, they usually’re including five-star sort out Tristan Leigh, but it surely’s a gaggle that should present real progress if the offense is to get again to the kind of manufacturing Clemson followers have been used to seeing in the course of the Tigers’ championship seasons. — David M. Hale
An enormous a part of what made Alabama’s offense so nice a season in the past was the sudden return of Najee Harris, Alex Leatherwood and DeVonta Smith for his or her senior seasons. And, effectively, now they’re all gone and what stays is a comparatively inexperienced group. Three-fifths of the offensive line have been seniors who have to be changed, together with fifth-year senior tight finish Miller Forristall. Changing a fourth-year junior (Mac Jones) at quarterback is a real sophomore, Bryce Young. Throw in a brand new offensive coordinator (Invoice O’Brien), a brand new offensive line coach (Doug Marrone) and a brand new working backs coach (Robert Gillespie) and that is a heck of a studying curve to account for. — Alex Scarborough
3. Oklahoma Sooners: Can they win a Faculty Soccer Playoff sport?
The Sooners completed the season taking part in as one of many hottest groups of the nation, permitting 21 factors or fewer of their final 5 video games. The protection appears to have turned the nook underneath Alex Grinch, and quarterback Spencer Rattler returns with breakout star Marvin Mims Jr. and good gamers throughout the board. This is perhaps the whole bundle Lincoln Riley has hoped to see since getting the keys to the Sooners’ machine. So, then, is that this the crew to interrupt by means of and get his first win within the Faculty Soccer Playoff? — Dave Wilson
4. Georgia Bulldogs: Can they take the ultimate step towards elite standing?
For the previous decade, it has been Alabama and Clemson. Stepping into the playoff has been a very good accomplishment for anybody, but it surely has been fairly clear that does not add as much as nice odds at profitable a nationwide title, or in lots of circumstances even taking part in a aggressive sport. Georgia got here shut in 2018 in opposition to Alabama earlier than Tua Tagovailoa and DeVonta Smith cemented themselves in faculty soccer historical past. In 2021, the Bulldogs open in opposition to Clemson earlier than working by means of their SEC slate. The offense must be in a a lot better spot with JT Daniels, and defensively, ought to be capable to reload regardless of a major quantity of expertise departing. In the event that they’re in a position to come out with one loss on the finish of the season, maybe Georgia lastly breaks by means of. — Harry Lyles Jr.
Ohio State has former ESPN 300 quarterback recruits C.J Stroud and Jack Miller, however neither accomplished a cross final season. Each have been a part of the 2020 recruiting class and shall be sophomores. Ryan Day and his employees signed ESPN 300 quarterback Kyle McCord, the No. 5-ranked pocket-passing quarterback, on this 2021 cycle. Stroud was a late pickup in that 2020 cycle and wanted time to develop. Was that one yr sufficient for him to push himself previous Miller for the beginning spot? Can Miller win out or does McCord are available and beat everybody out in his first season? We cannot know till the competitors performs out, but it surely’s a query on the way you change somebody like Fields and what he was in a position to do throughout the offense. — Tom VanHaaren
6. Texas A&M Aggies: What’s life with out Kellen Mond like?
For the primary time since 2017, somebody not named Kellen Mond will line up at quarterback for the Aggies. Mond’s reliability has allowed Jimbo Fisher to inventory his QB room with hand-picked recruits in Haynes King, Zach Calzada and Eli Stowers. Calzada and King have each seen extraordinarily restricted motion, however solely King appeared in video games in 2020, making an attempt simply 4 passes. The 6-3, 200-pound sophomore is the possible starter. He’ll have a particularly reliable working assault behind him, however the Aggies’ vast receivers did not play a lot of a featured function final season. In a season the place the Aggies are bona fide contenders, King must rise up to hurry shortly. — Dave Wilson
The Heels want to determine a brand new pecking order at receiver and tailback, and the protection had too many dangerous video games in 2020, however the fact is, the largest impediment for North Carolina won’t be its shortcomings, however reasonably its success. Few groups will enter 2021 with extra hype than the Heels, who shall be a classy decide to lastly finish Clemson’s dominance within the ACC. Given a few of UNC’s implosions in opposition to lesser competitors in 2020, it is honest to marvel how an up-and-coming crew will deal with a lot hype. The Heels have the expertise to be particular, however studying tips on how to deal with the burdens of success is usually the final huge stumbling block to reaching the mountaintop. — Hale
8. Iowa State Cyclones: Can the passing sport present extra huge performs?
The Cyclones’ offense was splendidly environment friendly in 2020 and must be once more with the return of quarterback Brock Purdy, working again Breece Hall and all the beginning line. But when Corridor wasn’t creating a piece play, nobody was: Purdy averaged solely 11.3 yards per completion, and ISU managed simply 1.3 passes per sport of 30+ yards (71st in FBS). An absence of massive performs means you must execute effectively for fairly a number of performs in a row to attain, and ISU’s crimson zone numbers have been fairly mediocre — the Cyclones have been 83rd in goal-to-go landing charge. A couple of easier factors may make the distinction between one other pretty season and a run on the CFP. — Invoice Connelly
9. USC Trojans: How does the offensive line develop?
USC’s skill to degree up in 2021 may hinge on the event of its offensive line. The Trojans return 4 of 5 starters from 2020, but it surely’s a gaggle that did not play significantly effectively and the lone departure, Alijah Vera-Tucker, was simply the unit’s greatest participant. New offensive line coach Clay Maguire has intensive information working in air-raid schemes, which ought to present a lift to a crew that’s loaded on the talent positions and includes a quarterback, Kedon Slovis, who will start the yr within the Heisman dialogue — Kyle Bonagura
10. Indiana Hoosiers: How does QB Michael Penix Jr. recuperate from an ACL tear?
It is a easy one. Penix suffered the harm on Nov. 28 in opposition to Maryland, tearing the identical ACL as in his freshman season. There is no query Penix shall be at full well being sooner or later, however the timing is essential because the Hoosiers open the season with a highway take a look at at Iowa on Sept. 4. Simply a few weeks earlier than Penix’s harm, Indiana coach Tom Allen informed ESPN he believes that Penix may be an elite quarterback not simply within the Massive Ten, however in all the nation. We’ll have a good suggestion of whether or not or not 2021 shall be a good larger step for Penix and the Hoosiers if he is wholesome they usually’re in a position to knock off the Hawkeyes — Lyles
11. Cincinnati Bearcats: Can a brand new coordinator preserve the identical elite protection?
Can new defensive coordinator Mike Tressel uphold the usual set by predecessor Marcus Freeman? The Bearcats’ greatest power was of their protection, which was one of many high within the nation, and completed No. 5 within the closing SP+ rankings, and sometimes was within the high three for many of the season. Fortunately for Tressel, the Bearcats acquired a few surprises within the returns of Curtis Brooks and Marcus Brown, who took benefit of the added yr of eligibility by the NCAA and gave Cincinnati extra depth than anticipated on the line of defense. With consecutive Energy 5 highway video games at Indiana and Notre Dame, Tressel may have a chance to indicate that the expectation of a clean transition of energy between him and Freeman wasn’t a lofty one in any respect. — Lyles
12. Iowa Hawkeyes: What does a new-look DL produce?
The Hawkeyes are shedding so much up entrance defensively, so the query is how that manufacturing is changed. The employees is shedding defensive finish Chauncey Golston, who had 45 complete tackles and 5.5 sacks final season. The coaches are also shedding defensive tackles Daviyon Nixon, Austin Schulte and Jack Helflin. Add in linebackers Nick Niemann and Barrington Wade, who additionally will not be returning, and there are huge query marks inside this protection. Niemann led the crew in tackles, Nixon was third and Golston was sixth. Having linebacker Seth Benson and defensive finish Zach VanValkenburg again will assist up entrance, however how Iowa replaces the departures goes to be a key for the crew this coming season. — VanHaaren
13. Oregon Ducks: What occurs at quarterback now?
It is uncommon for a sophomore quarterback to steer a crew to a convention title after which determine to switch, particularly on the Energy 5 degree, however that is the choice Tyler Shough made this offseason. With Shough on his approach out, the Geese’ quarterback state of affairs is cloudy. Anthony Brown figures to have the perfect shot at profitable the job after he noticed prolonged taking part in time within the Fiesta Bowl, however Ty Thompson and Jay Butterfield additionally determine to issue into the competitors. — Bonagura
14. Washington Huskies: What does a brand new defensive coordinator imply?
Pete Kwiatkowski’s departure to change into the defensive coordinator at Texas is a major loss for the Huskies, who’ve been among the many Pac-12’s greatest defensive groups since Kwiatkowski arrived with Chris Petersen in 2014. His alternative, Bob Gregory, has intensive historical past as each a coordinator (Cal 2002-09; Boise State 2001) and on the Huskies’ employees (2014-present), but it surely’s honest to marvel how one other main personnel shift may influence the crew. — Bonagura
The Irish have to exchange a ton of manufacturing on offense and it is not going to be a straightforward activity. Quarterback Ian Book is gone, in addition to tight ends Tommy Tremble and Brock Wright, and receiver Ben Skowronek. The employees introduced in Wisconsin quarterback switch Jack Coan and signed ESPN 300 quarterback Tyler Buchner to assist fill E book’s function. However, as Brian Kelly has described him, E book was a winner, the all-time winningest quarterback for the Irish, and helped make them the playoff this previous season. The offensive line is shedding 4 of the 5 starters, Tommy Kraemer, Liam Eichenberg, Aaron Banks and Robert Hainsey. How the employees replaces that veteran management and expertise is a query going into this season. — VanHaaren
16. Florida Gators: How does Dan Mullen change a number of offensive starpower?
Except for fixing well-documented issues on protection, a lot of the main focus shall be on the offense, with Kyle Trask and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson each gone. With Trask behind heart in 2020, the offense flourished — and he ended up as a Heisman Trophy finalist. Now that he’s on to the NFL, backup Emory Jones is ready to take over at quarterback after three years ready his flip. He’s completely different than Trask — most notably he’s a dual-threat quarterback — so the offense is certain to look completely different. As well as, the Gators may also have to exchange tight finish Kyle Pitts, and receivers Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes — their high three receivers from a yr in the past. — Andrea Adelson
17. Wisconsin Badgers: What is going to the offense appear to be?
All the pieces in regards to the Badgers’ offense is available in query kind in 2021. What was actual in regards to the Graham Mertz we’ll see transferring ahead — the good begin (74% completion charge, seven TDs, no interceptions in his first two video games), or the prolonged malaise (passer score underneath 100 for video games 3-6)? Will the run sport rebound after posting extraordinarily mediocre numbers for many of the yr? Is blue-chip repeat freshman Jalen Berger nonetheless the subsequent nice Badgers again? Can the road change its left aspect (sort out Cole Van Lanen, Jon Dietzen) with out one other step backward? What was extra telling in 2020: the three video games over 40 factors or the three video games underneath 10? Issues are most likely high quality right here, however that midseason malaise is tough to neglect. — Connelly
18. Ole Miss Rebels: Can they repair the protection?
Few groups have been extra enjoyable to observe on offense final season than Ole Miss, which ranked third nationally in complete offense (555.5 yards per sport) and 14th nationally in scoring offense (39.2 factors per sport). However the Rebels have been as dangerous on protection as they have been good on offense. They gave up greater than 40 factors in 5 of their 10 video games and ranked 126th out of 127 FBS groups in complete protection. Lane Kiffin, coming into his second season as coach, has pushed laborious to improve the expertise on protection. He is aware of in addition to anybody that you would be able to’t make a residing profitable 50-something to 40-something in each sport. Maryland grad switch Chance Campbell ought to assist at linebacker, and the place Ole Miss actually must get higher is within the line of defense. That is the place coveted junior faculty tackles Isaiah Iton and Jamond Gordon are available, to not point out Tywone Malone, ESPN’s No. 5-ranked highschool sort out nationally. Having security Otis Reese for a whole season may also assist. His switch waiver wasn’t cleared till late within the yr final season. — Chris Low
It is an ambiguous query, but it surely begs to be requested: What does Billy Napier see on this program? What gave him the boldness to show down so many big-time jobs this offseason? Certainly it is not the nice and cozy climate in Lafayette retaining him. There needs to be one thing about this crew that he believes in. Perhaps it is the return of quarterback Levi Lewis or linebacker Ferrod Gardner or nostril sort out Tayland Humphrey or vast receiver Jalen Williams. 9 gamers took benefit of the additional yr of eligibility, making Louisiana one of the crucial skilled groups within the Solar Bel. If Napier thinks this group coming again can knock on the door of the Faculty Soccer Playoff, then possibly sticking round in Lafayette a bit longer makes some sense. — Scarborough
20. LSU Tigers: Did Ed Orgeron get the teaching employees proper this time?
The query that faces LSU this offseason is identical it confronted final offseason: Will Ed Orgeron encompass himself with a profitable teaching employees? Granted, the dismantling of the 2019 Tigers employees was a results of profitable a nationwide championship, whereas the 2020 Tigers barely managed to complete at .500, however the end result was the identical as a slew of coordinators and assistants left or have been proven the door. Orgeron is clearly making an attempt to recreate the magic of 2019 by hiring Joe Brady disciples Jake Peetz and DJ Mangas to steer the offense, whereas former Dave Aranda assistant Daronte Jones was tabbed to function offensive coordinator. On paper, they make way more sense than the choice final offseason to usher in Bo Pelini and Scott Linehan, however solely time will inform if Orgeron pulled the suitable levers this go-around. — Scarborough
21. Texas Longhorns: Rising pains for Steve Sarkisian?
The Longhorns have expertise. And Steve Sarkisian has proved his mettle as a playcaller. However teaching modifications aren’t all the time an instantaneous success. Simply ask Sarkisian’s former mentor, Nick Saban, who misplaced to Louisiana-Monroe in his first season at Alabama. Mack Brown went 8-5 in his closing season, and Charlie Sturdy went 6-7 the subsequent yr in Austin. Sturdy went 5-7 his final season and Tom Herman adopted with a 7-6 season. After a 7-3 season final yr, can Sarkisian break in a brand new quarterback and hit the gasoline? — Wilson
New offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich tends to supply a number of factors wherever he goes, however you’ll be able to solely go so far as your quarterback can take you, and Sean Clifford has left conflicting impressions over the previous two seasons. He produced a 155.5 passer score with a 27-to-5 TD-to-INT ratio in wins in 2019-20, however in seven losses these numbers have been simply 123.6 and 12-to-11. He’ll have one of many convention’s higher 1-2 receiver punches in Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington and will have a stellar run sport at his disposal. However his ceiling will decide Penn State’s, and it is laborious to know what that ceiling really is. — Connelly
Coming off an 11-win season and a share of the Solar Belt Convention championship, Coastal Carolina would not have many holes to fill. Jamey Chadwell’s Chanticleers return 20 of twenty-two starters, together with quarterback Grayson McCall, who as a redshirt freshman dazzled with 2,488 passing yards, 26 landing passes, 569 speeding yards and 7 speeding touchdowns. However McCall additionally was banged up for a part of the season, which suggests discovering a reliable No. 2 quarterback shall be a precedence now that final yr’s backup, Fred Payton, transferred to Mercer. Redshirt sophomore Jarrett Guest got here in the identical class as McCall and is poised to make a giant leap this offseason. Senior Bryce Carpenter has probably the most expertise and began the final six video games of the 2019 season, whereas Ty Lyles is a promising true freshman who enrolled in January. — Low
24. Liberty Flames: How will they discover depth on protection?
Despite the fact that Liberty returns 10 of 11 starters on protection, one of many priorities heading into subsequent season shall be constructing depth at linebacker and cornerback. Linebacker Anthony Butler is the one starter not coming back from a protection that allowed 21 or fewer factors in six of its 11 video games a yr in the past. Two newcomers who may assist immediately at linebacker are Louisiana-Monroe switch Rashaad Harding and freshman Ahmad Walker, each of whom will take part in spring follow. With the ability to go away Marcus Haskins at cornerback and never having to maneuver him to security can be a bonus for Liberty’s secondary, creating a giant alternative this offseason for Washington State switch Skyler Thompson and Incarnate Phrase switch Jaylon Jimmerson, a pair of safeties who may also be going by means of spring follow. Former UTEP cornerback Duron Lowe can be transferring in, giving the Flames one other skilled cowl man on the again finish. — Low
25. Miami Hurricanes: When will D’Eriq King be wholesome?
Will quarterback D’Eriq King be recovered from a proper knee harm in time to begin the opener in opposition to Alabama? We is not going to have a solution to that till we get nearer to the beginning of the season, however there is no such thing as a query that every one eyes shall be targeted on his rehab, and the way shortly he can return to kind after tearing his ACL within the bowl sport. Miami has not given a timetable, apart from it expects him to be out there for the beginning of fall camp. However a lot of that can rely on how he recovers over the subsequent six months. With out him this spring, Miami may have a superb alternative to develop its younger quarterbacks behind King as they start to search out their quarterback of the longer term. Redshirt freshman Peyton Matocha, true freshman Tyler Van Dyke and early enrollee Jake Garcia — who flipped from USC late — will get intensive snaps and achieve much-needed expertise. — Adelson