Biggest shoes to fill in the PAC-12
Justin Herbert broke all kinds of records during his time in Eugene and helped the Ducks return to a positon of power within the conference. He is now vying for playing time with the LA Chargers. The next signal caller for the Ducks will have much to live up to. Luckily. whoever it is will have plenty of weapons at their disposal. Although not listed on the roster, former Boston College QB Anthony Brown has announced he will transfer to Oregon, and you have to think he is the favorite for the job. I detailed his accomplishments in the ACC shoes to fill article, but he is pretty much a perfect fit for the team. He is the exact type of dual-threat they love to have. Tyler Shough is the only other QB on the roster to throw a collegiate pass. They also have Top-300 recruit Jay Butterfield, who enrolled early.
Zack Moss returned from injury to win PAC-12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2019 and was the first Utes running back to run for over 1,000 yards in 3 straight seasons. With Moss now on the Buffalo Bills, the torch will be passed to the next in line. Devin Brumfield, Jordan Wilmore, and T.J. Green all saw time as backups to Moss and figure to be the leading candidates.
Utah had one of the nation's best defensive lines in 2019 but will have to replace 3 starters. Bradlee Anae (Cowboys), John Penisini (Lions), and Leki Fotu (Cardinals) are all in the NFL. Anae will be a huge loss, as he is the school's all-time leader in sacks, a multi-year 1st team All-Conference selection, and consensus All-America honoree. Penisini and Fotu formed an elite DT tandem, both earning All-Conference honors. The lone returning starter is DE Mika Tafua. Their are several options to join Tafua in the starting lineup. DT Mufi Hill-Hunt was ahighly recruited player but has had little playing time at the college level. Viane Moala and Pita Tonga are the more likely candidates to start at DT. At defensive end, Maxs Tupai should fill in for Anae.
The Huskies will have to replace Jacob Eason, who was drafted by the Colts. After transferring from Georgia, Eason only started for one season in Seattle. While his play tended to be a little inconsistent, he showed promise with the 4th most single-season passing yards and 6th most single-season touchdown passes by a Husky quarterback. Their are several QBs currently on the roster, many of them freshmen. Kevin Thomson joins the team as a transfer from Sacramento State. He was the Big Sky-Conference Offensive Player of the Year, an FCS All-American, and a candidate for the Walter Payton Award in 2019. Having moved up a level, Thomson will be trying to prove he can have similar production against perceived better competition.
Washington State QB
A year after finding a suitable replacement for Gardner Minshew, the Cougars must do the same for Anthony Gordon. Gordon was the second straight transfer QB that head coach Mike Leach had found success with. In one year as the starter, Gordon ranked highly among passing statistic leaders and was a semi-finalist for the nation's top QB. I know Leach is now at Mississippi State, but could they possibly turn to another transfer in Will Heckman? Or will another gunslinger emerge.
While struggling a little bit during his senior season, Steven Montez had a great career in terms of Buffaloes history. He ranks 2nd in total offense and was just the 2nd QB in school history to throw for over 9,000 yards in his career. He also has the most TD passes in Buffaloes history. Replacing a 3 year starter at such a pivotal position is daunting. Western Colorado transfer Dylan Jacob enters the fold and should compete with the likes of Tyler Lytle, Sam Noyer, Brendon Lewis, and others.
Oregon State QB
Jake Luton was one of those college players whose career just seemed to last forever. He spent 6 years with the Beavers, staring 21 games, and ranking 5th in career TD passes and 7th in career passing yards among Beaver QBs. While not a storied program. losing a player with those career accolades will hurt to some degree. Only Tristan Gebbia and Aidan Willard have a bit of playing experience, while they also bring in junior college transfer Chance Nolan.
Salvon Ahmed broke out for a 1000 yard rushing season and earned All-PAC-12 Honors from several publications in 2019. He was the 9th Husky rusher to reach that mark in the past 10 seasons, which shows the program has a history of both finding suitable replacements and high standards at the position. With limited experienced options, it looks like a pretty open competition. Richard Newton and Kamri Pleasant have been used the most out of the returning players, but neither has amassed 500 yards in a season.
Oregon State WR
Isaiah Hodgins was not only the biggest receiver the Beavers had in terms of size but the best on the team. He leaves the program 7th all-time in receiving yards, 6th all-time in receptions, and 2nd all-time in touchdowns. His departure leaves Trevon Bradford as the teams leading receiver. While Bradford is a good one, he only has half the career numbers that Hodgins put up. He will also have a less deep receiving corps and an inexperienced QB. Very big shoes to step into here.
The Utes lost several key pieces of their great secondary. 1st Team All-PAC-12 defenders Jaylon Johnson and Julian Blackmon, as well as honorable mention honorees Terrell Burgess and Javelin Guidry, are now in the NFL. The players on their current roster have mostly experience on special teams. R.J. Hubert, Malone Mataele, and JaTravis Broughton are the only 3 to play any snaps defensively. That's a huge change to go through for this defense.
J.J. Taylor surprised people by declaring for the NFL Draft and, even more so, staying in it. While he had all the accolades, he did not seem to be very high on anyone's radar and had another year of eligibility remaining. While not having a clear successor, the Wildcats have several experienced backs who could break through.
Oregon State RB- The Beavers lost the programs 10th all-time leading rusher but will replace him with Jermar Jefferson, who currently ranks 12th on the same list.
Colorardo WR- Laviska Shenault leaves a sizeable hole, but his partner in crime, K.D. Nixon is back in Boulder. They just need one other guy to step up.
Stanford TE- Colby Parkinson was an All-Conference performer and huge presence to have in the redzone. They'll certainly miss what he could do for them, but, with 3 senior and 1 junior at the position, they should be able to get someone to emerge.
Cal LB- Evan Weaver was a tackling machine but definitely struggled in pass coverage. Kuony Deng earned honorable mention All-Conference in 2019 and will be a good replacement if he takes the next step.
Stanford OLB- The Cardinal lose starter Casey Toohill, who led the team in sacks and tackles for loss. However, Gabe Reid should have no problems sliding into the vacated spot.