After junior receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant left for the NFL draft, and record-setting quarterback Tajh Boyd exhausted his eligibility, the Tigers are going to have to replace most of their firepower on that side of the ball. It might have been worse if offensive coordinator Chad Morris had left for a head-coaching job, but he's expected to be back at Clemson for at least one more season. Clemson's quarterback battle this coming season will be interesting, as coach Dabo Swinney will have to choose a starter from among rising senior Cole Stoudt, sophomore Chad Kelly and incoming freshman Deshaun Watson, one of the country's top recruits, who has verbally committed to the Tigers. On defense, junior end Vic Beasley decided to return for his senior season, while cornerback Bashaud Breeland left a year early.
After slipping from 12-1 in 2012 to 9-4 this past season, the Fighting Irish will have new play callers on both sides of the ball this coming season. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is going to call the offensive plays, after former offensive coordinator Chuck Martin left to become the Miami (Ohio) coach. Kelly hired former Georgia and Auburn defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder, who was most recently the New York Jets' linebackers coach. The Irish might bring back seven starters on offense, after junior tailback George Atkinson III and tight end Troy Niklas entered the NFL draft. Quarterback Everett Golson, who missed the 2013 season while on academic suspension, has enrolled in classes and is expected to re-assume his starting job. Junior defensive tackle Louis Nix III and end Stephon Tuitt also turned pro, leaving gaping holes in Notre Dame's defensive front.
Besides LSU, the Trojans were hit harder than any other program by early defections to the NFL draft. Five juniors -- All-American receiver Marqise Lee, tight end Xavier Grimble, center Marcus Martin, defensive end George Uko and safety Dion Bailey -- are forgoing their final college seasons. Steve Sarkisian's first season as USC's coach won't be easy, especially since the Trojans are still feeling the effects of scholarship reductions from NCAA sanctions. The good news? Quarterback Cody Kessler and receiver Nelson Agholor are coming back, along with tailbacks Javorius Allen, Tre Madden and Justin Davis. New defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox also inherits eight returning starters on defense, including end Leonard Williams and safety Su'a Cravens.