Biggest shoes to fill in other conferences
Edditor's note*: This list was compiled before it was announced that Notre Dame would join the ACC for 2020. As such, Notre Dame players have been included in the "Other Conferences" category of offseson articles.
Notre Dame TE
The Irish have a long track record of producing great tight ends. Cole Kmet finally broke through last year to the tune of 515 receiving yards. Kmet had always shown potential and now has a chance to leave a bigger mark with the Chicago Bears. The Irish will be looking for his replacement with junior Brock Wright and sophomores Tommy Tremble and George Takacs leading the way.
Notre Dame DE
The Irish were dealt a big blow when DE Julian Okwara suffered a season-ending injury in their game against Duke. Okwara was a 2019 Preseason All-American, a team captain, and the team's best pass rusher. He went on to become a 3rd round pick of the Detroit Lions. Their best returning defensive ends are seniors Daelin Hayes and Adetokunbo Ogundeji. Hayes also suffered a season-ending injury last year, but is a great player if he can stay healthy. Ogundeji has played in every game the past 2 seasons. Last year, he notched a career high 34 tackles with 4.5 sacks.
Notre Dame S
The Irish lose both starting safeties from last year's team, Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott. Gilman earned All-Conference honors at Navy and was named a team captain after transferring to South Bend. Elliott was also a captain and a 3 year starter. In his junior season, Elliott was one of only 35 players in the nation to have 4 or more interceptions on the year. With no real experienced options, the Irish may lean heavily on Ohio State transfer Isaiah Pryor to hold down the fort.
Central Michigan TE
A late, somewhat surprising transfer by Tony Poljan (now at Virginia) has left a whole in the Chippewas' offense. While he didn't put up huge stats, he was a player who made a difference. He's a tall and athletic former quarterback who saw the field very well. His size came in handy in the redzone, and his blocking had improved. I'd expect Bernhard Raimann to be the next man up, since he is the only remaining tight end on the roster to have played in double-digit games. Raimann has played in 26 games, including 11 starts.
Air Force QB
This one is only if Donald Hammond is unable to play. I noted in a previous post that Hammond's season may be in jeopardy due to his standing with the school. Hammond played in all 13 games last year and was a difference maker, throwing for over 1300 yards and rushing for another 553. After leading the team to an 11-2 record, not having Hammond to play would be a big setback for the Falcons.
Boise State STUD (LB/DE)
This is a hybrid linebacker/defensive end position the Broncos call "STUD." Last year, the position belonged to Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year and All-American Curtis Weaver. All Weaver did at Boise was break the conference's sack record. Extremely impressive and very big shoes to fill. Weaver may not be replaceable, because he was just that good for them, but they'll have to try. Demetri Washington will lead the group attempting to accomplish that task.
Utah State QB
We have a similarly irreplaceable player here. Jordan Love was the best quarterback the Aggies have ever had. In just over 2 years as the starter, Love threw for 8.600 yards and 60 touchdowns. He holds the school's career records for yards of total offense, 300 yard passing games, and completions over 80 yards. He also holds 8 single-season records and tied the record for TD passes in one game. With a player like Love at the helm, there wasn't much playing time for anyone else, so there are few options with game experience. They did land Utah transfer Jason Shelley, who started 5 games for the Utes in 2018 and has to be considered the Aggies' new starter.
Appalachian State RB
Darrynton Evans ran for 2,884 yards in his career (App St:9th all-time) in just 23 games. He was the 2019 Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year, and a 2-time 1st Team All-Conference honoree and Conference Championship MVP. He also set the school record for carries without a fumble, which tends to be a slightly undervalued skill. With their superstar now in the NFL, App State has a big hole to fill. Marcus Williams Jr will likely be this year's starter with Raykwon Anderson and Daetrich Harrington providing support.
Florida Atlantic TE
Harrison Bryant was a unanimous All-American and John Mackey Award winner (nation's best TE) in 2019. He finished his FAU career with 148 catches for 2,137 yards and 16 TDs, which is a great amount of production for a tight end. This included 1000 yards receiving during his senior season, something very few tight ends do. Miami transfer Michael Irvin II will help lead the effort to emulate that production.
The Cowboys lost two senior leaders, Logan Wilson and Cassh Maluia, from their 2019 roster. Wilson racked up over 400 tackles and was constantly among the leaders in defensive touchdowns scored during his career. He is the 13th leading tackler in NCAA history. Maluia had almost 200 career tackles and 4 interceptions. He played a key role as the WILL linebacker for the team, seeing significant playing time in each of his 4 seasons. Their combined experience and Wilson's play-making will be sorely missed, as they turn to a linebacker corps made up of predominantly special teamers.
Fresno State LB- Mykal Walker was an All-Conference player that the Bulldogs could use all over the field. He was a big leader for their defense the past 2 years. While they may not have a player exactly like him, they have experienced guys at 2 of the LB spots and should be able to find others to contribute.
San Diego State DB- Luq Barcoo was a great corner for the Aztecs, earning all kinds of accolades after transferring from junior college. While they'll miss him, look for Darren Hall to step up while the others adapt.
Arkansas State WR- Kirk Merritt put up 2 great seasons for the Red Wolves, and Omar Bayless did well as his number two. With a senior-heavy receiving corps that includes Jonathan Adams, I wouldn't worry enough about the losses to put them on the above list.