10 College Football Units Needing The Biggest Rebuild This Spring

    These college football units are in need of the biggest rebuilds this spring session. Who needs the most help and what top teams need to figure out a key area - fast.

    March 24, 2016


    Which units are in need of the biggest facelift this spring football session? Who needs the most help and what top teams need to figure out a key area – fast.


    To varying degrees, every program in America must deal with graduations, transfers, and early entries to the NFL Draft. It’s the nature of a system with eligibility limitations.

    A handful of schools, however, are reeling at the prospect of rebuilding from the ground floor up, cobbling together new units that have been excavated by departures.

    Everyone loses players. It’s a part of the game that each staff must navigate. However, when an entire unit takes a beating, it’s up to the coaches and the holdovers to limit the damage and make a smooth landing. An inability to do so in the offseason could have a lingering effect when the games count in September.

    10. UCLA Receivers

    The quarterback will be better in his second season on campus. But his development might be stifled somewhat by the inexperience of his receiving corps.

    While Josh Rosen is one of the undisputed young stars behind center, three of last year’s top four receivers are no longer around. He’ll need to develop chemistry with a whole new set of pass-catchers. Junior Darren Andrews brings the most experience after catching 42 balls in 2015.

    After Andrews, fingers are crossed that underperforming vets Eldridge Massington and Kenneth Walker will finally arrive. If not, the cubs will get a chance to shine.

    9. Oregon Defensive Line

    New coordinator Brady Hoke will have his hands full in his return to the sidelines. No unit will warrant more heavy lifting than the Ducks up front.

    Oregon is dealing with a double-whammy this offseason, the losses of three starters as well as the shift to a 4-3 that’ll mandate a need for more big bodies. All-Pac-12 defensive end DeForest Buckner and underrated nose guard Alex Balducci leave behind gaping holes. However, the Ducks are optimistic about the size and the futures of last season’s underclassmen, particularly Henry Mondeaux, Canton Kaumatule and Rex Manu.

    8. Notre Dame Offensive Line

    The Irish line didn’t look so bad following the Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State. But then Steve Elmer opted to forego his final year to take a job in the private sector, meaning Notre Dame has three blockers to replace.

    Besides Elmer, Notre Dame will be without one of the nation’s top left tackles, Ronnie Stanley, and centers, Nick Martin. Now, Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey are a terrific place to start. Both are coming off good years. But this line’s ultimate grade will depend on how well vets Colin McGovern and Hunter Bivin and unproven Alex Bars and Tristen Hoge handle expanded roles.

    7. Stanford Offensive Line

    Another year, another opportunity for assistant Mike Bloomgren to showcase his ability to rebuild in the trenches.

    Stanford is a pipeline to the NFL for massive, road-grading linemen, with all-stars Joshua Garnett and Kyle Murphy set to expand the next-level fraternity. Bloomgren welcomes back just two returning starters, right guard Johnny Caspers and right tackle Casey Tucker. If needed, Caspers could move inside to center. The balance of Christian McCaffrey’s blockers will be up in the air, though senior leader David Bright is poised to grab the opening at left tackle.

    6. Michigan State Offensive Line

    The Spartan defensive line is getting a makeover, too, but protecting a first-time starting quarterback will be the top priority in 2016.

    Michigan State lost more than just three starters from the front wall; it waved goodbye to a pair of All-Big Ten First Team performers, left tackle Jack Conklin and C Jack Allen, as well as steady right guard Donavon Clark. Up-and-coming Brian Allen is a rock at guard and Kodi Kieler is a returning starter at tackle, but all eyes will be on the next group of starters, like super-sub veteran Benny McGowan.

    5. Alabama Backfield

    Bama should be okay, because Nick Saban is in charge and the talent pool is always deep in Tuscaloosa. Still, there are challenges ahead.

    The Tide begins 2016 with a new starting quarterback for a third year in a row and a need to replace a pair of pro-caliber backs, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake. Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris will vie to be Saban’s next running game duo, each hoping to be the feature guy.

    Jacob Coker’s successor is far less certain, a three-headed race comprising junior Cooper Bateman, sophomore David Cornwell and redshirt freshman Blake Barnett. For the first time since 2012, Bama won’t have a senior helming the offense.

    4. USC Defensive Line

    Welcome back to Troy, Clancy. Now go retool the defensive line.

    Clancy Pendergast is overseeing a Trojan defense with a lot of questions up front. All three of last year’s starters have graduated, as well as backup defensive tackle Claude Pelon and edge linebacker Su’a Cravens. To avoid being handled at the point of attack, USC will need its next wave of linemen to deliver this offseason.

    Nose tackle Noah Jefferson and defensive end Rasheem Green earned valuable reps as rookies in 2015, but it’s also time for upperclassmen Jordan Simmons and Kenny Bigelow to contribute this fall.

    3. Clemson Secondary

    The Tigers’ 11th-ranked pass efficiency defense contained no seniors last year. They’re rebuilding on the back end this spring nonetheless.

    Three Clemson defensive backs, star cornerback Mackensie Alexander and safeties Jayron Kearse and T.J. Green, left school early to be a part of the NFL Draft. The fallout leaves quality CB Cordrea Tankersley as the new leader of the defensive backfield. Plus, less pass rush support is expected now that both defensive ends, Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd, are gone as well. Junior Adrian Baker and sophomore Mark Fields will battle for Alexander’s spot, while the new safeties line up for a chance at reps.

    2. Ohio State Secondary

    The Buckeyes have been gutted this offseason by graduations and early departures, none more so than in the defensive backfield.

    Junior cornerback Gareon Conley stands alone as a returning starter, so he’ll have to assume a greater leadership role in 2016. Plus, Ohio State didn’t rotate or use a lot of backups out of the secondary in 2015. Since corners Marshon Lattimore and Damon Webb and safeties Jarrod Barnes and Malik Hooker were second-teamers for the Fiesta Bowl, they all figure to be in the hunt. Ditto cornerback Denzel Ward and safety Erick Smith, who missed most of last season to injury.

    1. Baylor Offensive Line

    Who thinks of linemen when the topic is Baylor? But it’s up front—on offense and defense—that the Bears will face their heaviest lifting this offseason.

    Both lines have been turned upside down, with C Kyle Fuller as the only returning regular on either side of the ball. About the only thing that might slow down Art Briles’ gang is if QB Seth Russell and running back Shock Linwood experience too much company in the backfield. Of the four graduating blockers, three were All-Big 12 and left tackle Spencer Drango will be a high NFL Draft pick. Since no one other than Fuller is locked into a job, competition ought to be hot and heavy right through August.

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