For college football teams, success often breeds attraction from the NFL sides. In a year that was already going to be tough, it was made even more difficult by a worldwide pandemic. Coaches from the SEC and other various conferences were dealt major blows as players started dropping out of the season due to COVID-19. Campaigns are difficult enough in their natural form, with players often opting out for fear of injury ahead of the NFL Draft, but the added concern of contracting a potentially career-debilitating disease caused serious worry amongst players and staff.
Despite the frustration of losing their best players to injury, COVID, or the NFL Draft, some sides remain on course to continue their positive runs of form. Take Alabama, for example, last seasons’ national champions. Losing the leading passer, fastest wideout, and one of the very best cornerbacks in the country is something most teams wouldn’t recover from, but thanks to their quality scouting system you can expect to see the Crimson Tide competing again this time around; NFL Odds suggest as much.
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It remains to be seen how Alabama manages their roster without the likes of Mac Jones, Dylan Moses, and Christian Barmore, with the latter boasting phenomenal displays during his junior career. With the championship in their trophy cabinet, all eyes will be on Nick Saban’s men. Considering the veteran coach has lost more players to the NFL Draft than any other, it’ll be understandable if Alabama can’t quite reach last year’s heights.
More teams need to produce high-quality players
California, Florida, and Texas comfortably produce the highest number of NFL players, with USC and Ohio State following Notre Dame in terms of colleges. Despite the vast array of talent at their disposal, replacing college talent will always be the biggest challenge for college football teams. The Texas Longhorns will be without Samuel Cosmi, wide receiver Brennan Eagles, and defensive back Caden Sterns as the trio declared for the Draft this year. Moreover, Joseph Ossai has also moved on and will be sorely missed having led the team with five sacks. Most within the staff will admit that they expected so many departures this year, though, as Texas missed out on the Big 12 Championship Game.
Penn State was left without Micah Parsons from the outset as the linebacker opted out before the season opener. Jayson Oweh and Pat Freiermuth were massive players for the team, so their absence going into the upcoming campaign will be notable. Admittedly, these departures were expected, but that doesn’t detract from the impact they’ll have.
Stanford has a crucial number of weeks ahead as they’re faced with replacing players that helped them win four on the bounce towards the end of 2020. Cornerback Paulson Adebo, wide receiver Simi Fehoko, and quarterback Davis Mills all left for the Draft. Adebo was an All-American, which in itself tells you everything you need to know, while team captain and All-Pac-12 pick Drew Dalman will leave a sizable hole in the team.
SEC dominates proceedings once again
Every year we expect the SEC to dominate the NFL Draft, but not quite to this extent. Seeing the most players make their way into the NFL since the beginning of the Common Draft Era, it’s clear where professional football teams feel the most talent comes from at the moment. For teams like South Carolina, this sort of domination could be a blessing in disguise.
After ending the season 2-8 and struggling defensively, South Carolina must now rebuild a defensive structure that finished 12th on PPG allowed. Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu were stalwarts in defense, while linebacker Ernest Jones was the sides’ top tackler over the previous two years. Now without the spine of their defense and having fired coach Will Muschamp following a miserable season, South Carolina’s future is hard to predict. Nevertheless, shrewd recruitment will be vital.
We can’t mention the SEC without discussing Georgia. The Bulldogs have been taking on new players to rebuild, although succeeding players like Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell will be no mean feat. The dynamic duo, alongside Azeez Ojulari, entered the NFL Draft this year and thus left Georgia with tough decisions to make. It’s not easy replacing an All-America pick for any team, but Georgia has aspirations of winning the SEC East title next season. They cannot afford any slip-ups due to a lack of quality.
Important that teams don’t lose confidence
One of the most entertaining teams to watch last season, the BYU Cougars went on a devastating run of nine successive victories in a row. Until they faced Coastal Carolina, it looked as though they were going to finish the season unscathed – but they had to settle for an 11-1 record. Quarterback Zach Wilson, offensive lineman Brady Christensen and receiver Dax Milne each declared for the NFL Draft, all of which were mainstays in Kalani Sitake’s team sheet.
Wilson, being one of the most impressive performers across the US, and Christensen as an All-America tackle, will undoubtedly leave big shoes to fill. The understanding between Milne and Wilson was virtually unmatched in the conference, so scouts have a real job on their hands to find something similar.
All in all, most teams face a battle to find a winning formula next season. No coach should feel overly comfortable with what they currently have, especially considering there will be further opt-outs going into the 2021 schedule. It’s time to regroup, get acquainted with unfamiliar faces by welcoming new players, and prepare for a competitive set of fixtures. As things begin to return to some sort of normality, fans can look ahead to an exciting college football season in September.