Topic: Which college FB teams are primed for success in 2021? ESPN
Replies: 1   Last Post: Jan 17, 2021, 3:00 PM by: SocMan2®
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Which college FB teams are primed for success in 2021? ESPN

Posted: Jan 16, 2021, 8:06 PM

With the 2020 college football season in the rearview, it's never too early to look ahead at the next season and which teams are primed for success.

Recruiting is often a good data point to predict the health of a roster and the future success teams could have. It's no secret Alabama has recruited incredibly well under Nick Saban, and the chances his team will be back in the playoff hunt are very high.

A big part of that is because of how much talent is returning next season -- not just for Alabama, but for every team that is looking to reach next season's playoff. This isn't a prediction of where teams will end up at the end of the 2021 season, but rather a look at which teams are returning the most talent to their roster.

Based on recruiting rankings (from 2017 to 2021), transfers and projected returning players, here is a look at the teams returning the most talent for the 2021 season.

Alabama Crimson Tide
Average class ranking: 2.4
Projected ESPN 300 prospects on 2021 roster: 70

Over the past five recruiting classes, Alabama has had the No. 1 class three times and the No. 3 class once. Its lowest-ranked was No. 6 in 2018. With 70 ESPN 300 recruits expected to return, Alabama has nine more than the next closest team (Georgia) and 13 more than Ohio State, who has the third most returning ESPN 300 recruits. Alabama has signed 39 ESPN 300 prospects in the 2020 and 2021 classes, meaning the roster is filled not only with experienced players, but young talent as well. From 2019 to 2021, Alabama has signed 33 recruits ranked in the top 100 of their classes.

The staff is going to lose quarterback Mac Jones, but signed the No. 1-ranked dual-threat quarterback in 2020 with Bryce Young. They'll lose running back Najee Harris, wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, as well as offensive linemen Alex Leatherwood, Landon Dickerson and Deonte Brown.

Saban and his staff have signed 13 ESPN 300 offensive linemen since 2018, though, and that includes five-stars Evan Neal, Pierce Quick, Tommy Brockermeyer and J.C. Latham.

Replacing Harris will be difficult, but Alabama has ESPN 300 backs Brian Robinson Jr., Jase McClellan and Trey Sanders already on the roster, and signed Camar Wheaton, the No. 3-ranked running back in the 2021 class.

For anyone who thought Alabama might slow down in the future, it doesn't appear that will be the case.

Georgia Bulldogs
Average class ranking: 2.2
Projected ESPN 300 prospects on 2021 roster: 61

Georgia has seen a lot of success recruiting under Kirby Smart, landing the No. 1-ranked class in 2018, the No. 2 class twice and the No. 3 class twice over the past five cycles. To finish at worst third overall is impressive, and given what is returning, Georgia has a shot at making noise in 2021.

The staff found a quarterback in JT Daniels, who transferred in from USC, and he's coming back next season along with approximately eight other starters on offense. In addition to Daniels, the coaches signed ESPN 300 quarterback Brock Vandagriff in 2021, who is the No. 34-ranked recruit overall.

In the final four games of the season, all started by Daniels, the team averaged 486 total yards per game, 310.8 pass yards per game and 7.51 yards per play. Compare that to the first six games when Georgia's offense averaged 382.2 yards per game, 209.3 pass yards per game and 5.42 yards per play. Having Daniels back along with more competition at that position only serves as a positive for Georgia.

Most of the returning players next season are on offense, which bodes well for continuity. If Georgia can see some production out of some of the younger offensive players as well, that will be an added bonus. From 2019 to 2021, Georgia signed 29 top-100 recruits, including five-stars Nolan Smith, Clay Webb, Kelee Ringo, Broderick Jones, Jalen Carter and Smael Mondon.

Ohio State Buckeyes
Average class ranking: 5.4
Projected ESPN 300 prospects on 2021 roster: 57

The Buckeyes have an average class ranking of 5.4, which is impressive, especially given how the 2019 class was an outlier. Ohio State had the No. 16 class that year, a class that coincided with Urban Meyer's retirement and was overall smaller in numbers. That shouldn't be held against Ryan Day and his staff.

That class still had nine ESPN 300 commitments, but only 18 in total. It produced wide receiver Garrett Wilson, the team's second-leading wide receiver with 723 yards and six touchdowns, as well as five-star defensive end Zach Harrison. The small numbers are what put the overall class ranking behind.

Outside of that class, Ohio State has had the No. 2-ranked class three times and the No. 5 class once over the past five recruiting cycles.

The team is losing quite a bit after this season, especially on offense. Quarterback Justin Fields, wide receiver Chris Olave, running back Trey Sermon and offensive linemen Thayer Munford, Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis could all be on the way out.

At quarterback, Ohio State has ESPN 300 quarterbacks C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller, and the coaches signed Kyle McCord, the No. 4 pocket-passing quarterback in the 2021 class.

Along the offensive line, the staff signed eight ESPN 300 linemen from 2019 to 2021. That includes interior linemen Harry Miller and Luke Wypler and five-star tackle Paris Johnson Jr., as well as Donovan Jackson and Ben Christman, who both signed in 2021.

Despite likely losing leading receiver Olave, the staff has recruited receiver very well and returns Wilson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jameson Williams and Julian Fleming, who make up four of the top seven receivers on the team. In addition, the coaches are bringing in Emeka Egbuka, the No. 2 wide receiver in 2021, Jayden Ballard and Marvin Harrison Jr., who are all ranked in the top 80 of the 2021 rankings.

Clemson Tigers
Average class ranking: 6
Projected ESPN 300 prospects on 2021 roster: 53

The same teams that are consistently in the playoff picture are the teams recruiting at the highest level, and that includes Clemson. The Tigers are losing quarterback Trevor Lawrence, but the staff's recruiting has put them in position to succeed year after year. That was evident when D.J. Uiagalelei stepped in for Lawrence.

Uiagalelei started against Boston College and Notre Dame when Lawrence was out for COVID-19 protocols and threw for 781 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Uiagalelei was the No. 1-ranked pocket-passer in the 2020 class and already looks primed to take over.

The coaches are going to have to replace quite a bit on offense, but they have been recruiting to fill any holes.

At running back, ESPN 300 backs Lyn-J Dixon and Chez Mellusi are already on the roster, and the staff signed Will Shipley, the No. 2 running back in the 2021 class, as well as ESPN 300 running back Phil Mafah. Shipley could contribute immediately and his elite speed and ability could help in both the run game and the pass game.

What might be most interesting for next season, though, is how much Clemson is returning on defense. Three of the standouts from this past season were true freshman in defensive end Myles Murphy, defensive tackle Bryan Bresee and linebacker Trenton Simpson. All three were leaders in statistics and continued to improve throughout the year.

The staff has signed 22 ESPN 300 prospects from the 2019 to 2021 classes, so on top of those freshmen who played well in 2020, there are more behind them looking to make their mark as well. In the 2021 class, the staff has signed five-star linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr., ESPN 300 defensive tackle Payton Page and ESPN 300 defensive ends Cade Denhoff and Zaire Patterson.

Texas Longhorns
Average class ranking: 12.6
Projected ESPN 300 prospects on 2021 roster: 47

Texas has the fifth most returning talent in terms of high school rankings, which says quite a bit about how much this team has underachieved over the past few years. Talent has not been the issue at Texas; it has been about developing that talent. From 2019 to 2021, Texas has signed 10 of the state's top-20 recruits, second only to Texas A&M (13). The Longhorns also signed six of the state's top-10 recruits from 2019 to 2021, again second to the Aggies.

Those numbers aren't bad, and while they could improve and Texas would like to be ahead of Texas A&M in those numbers, it shows they recruited well under Tom Herman.

With Steve Sarkisian coming in, the biggest question will be if he can develop the talent on the roster. He'll have to work in a new quarterback since Sam Ehlinger is leaving, but the staff has Hudson Card, the No. 40-ranked prospect overall in 2020 and the No. 2-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the class, as well as former ESPN 300 recruit Casey Thompson.

Replenishing that quarterback room will be a priority, as Texas saw ESPN 300 quarterback Ja'Quinden Jackson from the 2020 class transfer to Utah, and the previous staff lost a commitment from ESPN Junior 300 quarterback Quinn Ewers, the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2022 class who flipped to Ohio State.

Defense has been an issue the past few seasons, and Sarkisian's staff will lose more on defense. Part of the problem is some of the players Texas is losing are some from recent classes, like linebacker De'Gabriel Floyd, who had to retire due to a medical issue; corner Kenyatta Watson II, who transferred to Georgia Tech; linebacker Ayodele Adeoye and safety Xavion Alford.

Despite that, Sarkisian enters a positive situation in terms of what's on the roster. He will have some big pieces on offense, including running backs Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson and wide receivers Joshua Moore, Jordan Whittington and Jake Smith.

Whether that talent will translate in year one is yet to be seen, but there is talent there that Sarkisian could maybe surprise a few people if he can get the most out of them.

LSU Tigers
Average class ranking: 7.2
Projected ESPN 300 prospects on 2021 roster: 43

LSU did not have a great 2020 season and is now making staff changes after going 5-5 on the year. There is quite a bit that needs to be replaced, including wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr., tight end Arik Gilbert (who transferred), linebacker Jabril Cox and safety JaCoby Stevens.

But the Tigers will have quarterback Myles Brennan back, who will compete with Max Johnson. Wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, who led the team in receiving yards and had five touchdown receptions, will return as well.

There are a good number of talented players returning, but the staff is going to need immediate help from the younger prospects. Of the 43 projected returning ESPN 300 recruits, 28 are coming from the 2020 and 2021 classes. If LSU can find the right assistants and get early help from the younger players, it might have a shot at turning things around quicker than expected.

Florida Gators
Average class ranking: 10
Projected ESPN 300 prospects on 2021 roster: 42

The Gators had an up-and-down season, finishing 8-4 with losses to LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. The staff is losing Heisman candidate Kyle Trask at quarterback, tight end Kyle Pitts, wide receiver Trevon Grimes, safety Brad Stewart Jr., defensive lineman Kyree Campbell and a few others.

Overall, Florida is returning about five starters on offense and seven on defense. Replacing Trask will be a big task, but the staff has former ESPN 300 quarterbacks Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson on the roster and signed ESPN 300 quarterback Carlos Del Rio and four-star Jalen Kitna in the 2021 class.

The staff brought in transfer running back Demarkcus Bowman, who was the No. 23-ranked recruit in the 2020 class and originally signed with Clemson.

On defense, the coaches have signed 18 ESPN 300 defensive recruits from 2019 to 2021, and they will need some of those younger players to give help early on to a defense that ranked 84th in yards allowed per game (428) in 2020.

Jason Marshall is the No. 1-ranked corner in the 2021 class and Corey Collier is the No. 3 safety, and both should eventually be big contributors to Florida's defense. If their development can be expedited and they see the field early on, it would be a big help for Florida.

Texas A&M Aggies
Average class ranking: 9
Projected ESPN 300 prospects on 2021 roster: 39

The Aggies seem to be on the rise in all categories, and while there are some big pieces that will need to be replaced, a little under half of the starters will be back next season.

Quarterback Kellen Mond is leaving, but Jimbo Fisher has Haynes King, who was the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the 2020 class, and signed Eli Stowers, the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in 2021.

Similar to a few other teams on this list, the majority of the talent returning to this team is going to be from some of the more recent classes. As Fisher and his staff seek to turn their program around, they are bringing in more and more elite prospects.

Of the 39 projected returning ESPN 300 recruits, 35 are from the 2019 to 2021 classes alone. That bodes well for the future that there is talented youth and an infusing of talent being brought in to continue moving the Aggies forward.

Next highest number of projected returning ESPN 300 prospects:

Notre Dame (38)
Oregon (38)
Michigan (36)
Oklahoma (35)
Auburn (35)


Re: Which college FB teams are primed for success in 2021? ESPN

Posted: Jan 17, 2021, 3:00 PM

Thanks for sharing post. It will be interesting to see how Clemson coaches blend all the young talent with all the defensive starters returning.

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