The biggest strengths for college football’s leading 25 groups

Feb 28, 2024, 07:00 AM ET Last week, we defined the greatest spring questions for each team in our Way-Too-Early Top 25. Now, we’re searching the intense side by analyzing their biggest strengths. Surprise: There are some huge expectations for brand-new and returning quarterbacks. But there are also running backs, receivers and protective players who we expect to excel in the fall.These are the greatest strengths for each group, according to our press reporters.

Greatest strength: Linebackers

The majority of teams would take a step back after losing an All-SEC linebacker to a conference rival by means of the transfer website and one of its leading young linebackers to his dad’s university. But Georgia’s linebacker corps might still be the best in the FBS, even after Jamon Dumas-Johnson transferred to Kentucky and Marvin Jones Jr. left for Florida State. Coach Kirby Smart has accumulated four- and five-star linebackers like cord wood over the past few seasons. Senior Smael Mondon Jr., the No. 1 athlete in the Class of 2021 according to ESPN Recruiting, has grown into a dominant inside linebacker. Sophomores C.J. Allen and Raylen Wilson were the No. 2 employees at within linebacker and outdoors linebacker in the Class of 2023, respectively. Junior Jalon Walker was the No. 3 outside linebacker in 2022. The Bulldogs simply included the No. 1 inside linebacker (Justin Williams) and No. 1 outside linebacker (Chris Cole) in their newest recruiting class. While Georgia may no longer have a dominant super star on its defensive front like Jalen Carter or Jordan Davis, it has plenty of star power behind it.– Mark Schlabach

Most significant strength: Running backs When running back TreVeyon Henderson decided to return for his senior season, that was already a benefit for the Buckeyes. However then Mississippi running back Quinshon Judkins made his transfer to Columbus official on the night Michigan won the CFP nationwide title against Washington. Henderson (926 hurrying backyards and 11 touchdowns in 2023) and Judkins (2,725 hurrying lawns and 31 goals in 2 years with the Rebels) may be the best running back duo in the country and will make life simpler as quarterback Will Howard makes the transition from Kansas State. — Blake Baumgartner

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Most significant strength: Edge rushers Oregon clearly has 2 elite alternatives at quarterback in Dillon Gabriel and Dante Moore, but where they are possibly even stronger is at the edge rusher position. Junior Jordan Burch was a standout last season, tallying a minimum of 3 sacks for the second year in a row. Burch’s decision to go back to Eugene is a boon for the Ducks, while freshman outside linebacker Teitum Tuioti (19 solo deals with, two sacks) as well as defensive end Matayo Uiagalelei (2 sacks) head into their sophomore seasons having actually shown a lot of possible to make an even bigger impact in 2024.– Paolo Uggetti

Biggest strength: Offending line Four starters return– Jake Majors, Hayden Conner, Kelvin Banks Jr., and DJ Campbell– from an O-line system that was a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award last year as the country’s best. Just Christian Jones leaves, however he’s anticipated to be changed by 6-foot-5, 369-pound junior Cameron Williams, who played in 9 games last year with one start.– Dave Wilson

Biggest strength: Secondary There’s a good case to be made that Notre Dame goes into 2024 with the country’s finest secondary. Security Xavier Watts returns after an All-America season in which he selected off 7 passes. He’ll be surrounded by veteran corner Benjamin Morrison and an appealing transfer from Northwestern, Rod Heard II, whose versatility should allow him to fit anywhere there’s a need. Arizona State transfer Jordan Clark and junior Jaden Mickey have sufficient upside, too.– David Hale

Most significant strength: High-scoring offense The Rebels have actually never had problems scoring points under Lane Kiffin, which again shouldn’t be an issue in 2024. In all 4 of his seasons in Oxford, Kiffin’s offenses have averaged more than 33 points per game. This will be Jaxson Dart’s third season as Ole Miss’ starting quarterback, and the mix of experience and big-play capability at the quarterback position is always an excellent location to begin. Dart’s getting corps, led by wideout Tre Harris and tight end Caden Prieskorn, should be among the very best in the nation. The Rebels likewise added size and experience to their offending line with 4 transfers, consisting of Diego Pounds, who was North Carolina’s left tackle last season. — Chris Low

Greatest strength: QB-receiver combination The quarterback-receiver combo of Brady Cook to Luther Burden III has an opportunity to be as productive as any pass-catch duo in the country. Prepare returns as a senior after a breakthrough season a year ago that saw him pass for 3,317 backyards, 21 goals and 6 interceptions. He’ll do his finest to get the ball to Concern as much as possible. Now a junior, Problem was 2nd in the SEC last season with 86 receptions and ranked third nationally with 725 lawns after the catch. Cook and Burden connected for six death plays of 40 lawns or longer in 2023.– Low

Most significant strength: Running game The Nittany Lions’offense rushed for 184.8 yards per game last fall, which ranked 28th. Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen will be back for their junior seasons, and there’s little reason to think the running game won’t provide similar results this season. Allen ended up fifth in the Big Ten with 902 rushing backyards while Singleton’s eight goals led the team and was connected for 4th in the league. The Big 10’s second-best total offense (399.8 YPG) from a year ago rode its ground game to success. The script most likely will not change in 2024.– Baumgartner

Biggest strength: New-look offense New coach Kalen DeBoer has among the brightest offensive minds in college football. Although there will be a lot that’s brand-new surrounding the program, what won’t be brand-new is DeBoer’s capability to get his quarterback to play at a high level. He’s got a skilled one to deal with in Jalen Milroe, who was among the most better players in college football last season and completed No. 6 total in the Heisman Trophy voting. Milroe accounted for 35 touchdowns (23 death and 12 hurrying) last season and ranked fifth nationally in passer rating (172.1 ). — Low

Most significant strength: Quarterback Maybe no group in the country will benefit more from a returning quarterback than the Utes will when they lastly see Webcam Increasing suit up for their season opener. Increasing’s healing from knee surgery forced him to miss last season and held back Utah’s whole campaign. After 2 seasons where he threw for over 5,500 yards and 46 goals, Rising’s production– along with his leadership– ought to re-energize an offense that struggled to look comfy, not to mention be productive, in his lack.– Uggetti

Most significant strength: Quarterback After Brent Brennan was hired to be the Wildcats’ head coach in the wake of Jedd Fisch’s departure, his primary priority was clear: Keep Noah Fifita in Tucson. Brennan has done just that as Fifita reaffirmed his commitment to Arizona after a breakout, 2,869-yard, 25-touchdown freshman campaign that has him positioned as a sleeper Heisman prospect heading into his second year. The Wildcats’ offense– and their whole group, really– will go as far as Fifita takes them in the Big 12. The 5-foot-11 quarterback from Huntington Beach, California, began only nine games last season, so his very first complete season as QB1 could be rather the repetition.– Uggetti

Most significant strength: Offensive line LSU is going to have a make over on offense in 2024 with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jayden Daniels and star receivers Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. departing for the NFL. One area that won’t alter for the a lot of part, nevertheless, is LSU’s offensive line, which was a finalist for the Joe Moore Award as the leading system in the FBS last season. The Tigers have the best duo of offensive tackles in Will Campbell and Emery Jones. Guards Garrett Dellinger and Miles Frazier also decided to come back for another season, despite having NFL draft grades that probably would have gotten them chosen. The only starter who left was center Charles Turner. Collectively, the 4 returning starters have 83 profession starts between them, and each of them has actually logged more than 700 profession snaps. DJ Chester may be the top prospect to change Turner, but incoming freshman Coen Echols may also get an appearance. New quarterback Garrett Nussmeier has some enormous shoes to fill, however at least he knows he’ll have fantastic defense.– Schlabach

Greatest strength: Defense The Wolverines’defense suffocated the opposition all year long en path to posting a 15-0 record, winning the program’s very first undisputed championship game because 1948. Michigan led the country in total defense (247.0 YPG) and scoring defense (10.4 PPG). New protective coordinator Wink Martindale comes from the New York Giants and will be leading a rebuilt defensive training personnel. The schedule is a bear (home games versus Texas, USC and Oregon while going to both Washington and Ohio State), so the defense will need to keep the requirement that has been set. — Baumgartner

Most significant strength: Wide receiver Yes, the Sooners lose the supreme player in Drake Stoops, who had 84 catches for 962 lawns and 10 touchdowns last season. But nearly every other significant factor is back. Jalil Farooq captured 45 passes for 694 lawns. Nic Anderson flaunted big-play skill with 798 backyards and 10 TDs on just 38 catches. Andrel Anthony had 27 grabs for 429 backyards before suffering a season-ending knee injury in early October. Add in Purdue transfer Deion Burks, one of the most desirable receivers in the website, and there is a ton to work with for brand-new OC Seth Littrell and starting QB Jackson Arnold.– Wilson

Most significant strength: Depth on defense Although Florida State loses three key players from its defensive front, this is a system that will continue to be a strength for the Seminoles. Protective linemen Pat Payton and Joshua Farmer return, and Darrell Jackson Jr. is finally eligible to play for Florida State after sitting out last season as a two-time transfer. Coaches have actually raved about Jackson because his arrival, and at 6-5 and 334 pounds, he will be tough to deal with inside. Add in transfers Sione Lolohea, Marvin Jones Jr., Tomiwa Durojaiye and Grady Kelly and there is a factor defensive planner Adam Fuller feels good about not just the skill however the depth this group has headed into the spring.– Andrea Adelson

Greatest strength: Defensive line Tennessee kept veteran protective line coach Rodney Garner from returning to his alma mater (Auburn) this offseason, which was a big win. He has a strong record of producing elite protective linemen, and the returning talent throughout the protective front should be a tone-setter for the Vols in 2024. James Pearce Jr. is back for his junior season after connecting for the SEC lead with 10 sacks last season. Pearce is poised to be among the top edge rushers taken in the 2025 NFL draft. Beginning defensive takes on Omari Thomas and Omarr Norman-Lott are also back.– Low

Most significant strength: Running back Every football coach in America will tell you that a person of the most demoralizing things an opposing team can do is run the football at will. Doak award winner Ollie Gordon II is one of the very best in the country at doing so. He hurried for 1,732 lawns and 21 goals last season, and that sought not getting lots of touches in Oklahoma State’s very first 3 games against the lighter part of their schedule. There’s a fantastic possibility he ends up in New york city for the Heisman ceremony by the end of the season.– Harry Lyles Jr.

Greatest strength: Offensive line The NC State offending line looks like it could be amongst the ACC’s finest in 2024. Five members of the two-deep are fifth-year players, led by returning starters take on Anthony Belton and Anthony Carter Jr. on the left side, in addition to right guard Timothy McKay. Notre Dame transfer Zeke Correll must be a fantastic fit in the middle of the line, and Jacarrius Peak has a possibility to become a star at right take on after allowing simply three pressures (and no sacks) on 406 snaps at the position in 2015. — Hale

Most significant strength: Defensive line The protective line has long been Clemson’s support, and it ought to be once again in 2024. While some of the system’s veterans– Xavier Thomas, Tyler Davis, Ruke Orhorhoro– have actually moved on, there’s sufficient young skill prepared to take over. Peter Woods exploded onto the scene as perhaps the country’s finest freshman interior lineman in 2015, and his ceiling is exceptionally high. T.J. Parker racked up 12.5 deals with for loss off the edge as a freshman last season, too. A host of veterans stepping into bigger functions, led by Cade Denhoff and Payton Page, add to the depth. This should, when again, be amongst the ACC’s best fronts. — Hale

Biggest strength: Running game Kansas State’s personnel on offense is going to look really various in 2024, with basically a new offensive line and quarterback Will Howard gone to Ohio State. However QB Avery Johnson is an excellent athlete (he handled nearly 300 yards and seven goals on 52 carries in eight looks in 2023), and the Wildcats return running back DJ Giddens, who hurried for 1,226 backyards and 10 touchdowns. Giddens is their best player on that side of the football. It seems like there’s a lot of capacity on the ground in between those two, as long as this new offending line works.– Lyles

Biggest strength: Ashton Gillotte Though the Cards lost some players along the defensive line, they return their best total player here in Ashton Gillotte, who will be a preseason preferred to win ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Gillotte had 11 sacks and 14.5 tackles for last season and has actually gradually enhanced every year he has actually been at Louisville. Dez Inform, Jermayne Lole, Ramon Puryear and Mason Reiger likewise return, and the Cards included Tyler Baron, Harvard transfer Thor Griffith (won’t be there until the summer season) and FIU transfer Jordan Guerad. Restoring the depth this group had last season will be a leading priority. — Adelson

Most significant strength: Quarterback There are certainly concerns about Jalon Daniels’ capability to stay healthy, given that he missed about half of his breakout 2022 season with a shoulder injury, and after that a bulk of the 2023 season due to back concerns. However, when Daniels has actually been on the field, he’s been among the most dynamic players in college football. In his nine-game sample from 2022 when he was a Heisman contender, Daniels completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,014 yards with 18 touchdowns versus four interceptions. In three games in 2023, he completed 75 percent for 705 yards, 5 goals and just one interception. He will be must-see when again in 2024.– Lyles

Greatest strength: Defensive front If the Wildcats are going to turn the corner under coach Mark Stoops, it’s going to begin with their protective front seven. 6 beginners are back on the protective line and at linebacker, and Stoops snagged Jamon Dumas-Johnson to fill the hole at linebacker. Tackle Deone Walker is a physical inequality for many challengers and is one of the most disruptive interior linemen in the FBS. The 6-foot-6, 348-pound junior is made use of in a great deal of various methods Kentucky’s system. Last season, he had 55 tackles, 12 1/2 deals with for loss and 7 1/2 sacks. He had 48 quarterback pressures, which led all protective deals with in 2023, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s a prospective top-10 pick in the 2025 NFL draft due to the fact that of his size, strength and athleticism. Tackles Josaih Hayes and Keeshawn Silver are huge and knowledgeable, too. Last season, Kentucky enabled just 3.27 yards per hurrying attempt, which ranked second in the SEC. It had 36 sacks, including nine in its 38-35 loss to Clemson in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. If UK can repair some things in the secondary, it may have among the much better defenses in the SEC.– Schlabach

Greatest strength: Offense On paper, the answer to Miami’s offending problems should be transfer quarterback Cam Ward, whose late signing after pulling his name from the NFL draft provided the Hurricanes a substantial increase. This is a program that had a hard time to move the ball regularly through the air the previous 2 seasons and enhancing that is a major area of focus this spring. However there are some questions attached to this answer. Spring will be our first chance to see how Ward fits into the offensive system under Shannon Dawson. It will also be our very first possibility to see how his chemistry and rhythm is developing with Miami’s receivers. 2 standouts return in Xavier Restrepo and Jacolby George. How Ward assists the others come along will be an area to watch. Fortunately for Ward and the offense is the running back room ought to be a significant strength with Henry Parrish Jr. and Mark Fletcher Jr. returning, alongside the continued advancement of the offending line.– Adelson

Greatest strength: Quarterback

The Aggies have actually been trying to find the ideal guy for the job considering that the departure of Kellen Mond in 2020, and Jimbo Fisher’s complicated offense– integrated with a having a hard time offensive line– did them no favors. However the benefit of all those quarterbacks getting thrown into the fire due to injuries is that there’s now a strong QB room loaded with confidence. Starter Conner Weigman tossed for 979 yards, eight TDs and 2 INTs in four starts with a 68.9 conclusion portion. Unheralded Fresno State transfer Jaylen Henderson got the job after an injury to backup Max Johnson, and Henderson finished 67.9 percent for 715 yards and 6 TDs to 2 INTs. When Henderson was harmed on the first play of the Texas Bowl against Oklahoma State, real freshman Marcel Reed completed 20 of 33 passes for 361 yards and included a 20-yard TD run. New offending planner Collin Klein molded Will Howard and Avery Johnson before leaving for College Station and Weigman could be the best Aggies quarterback given that Johnny Manziel if he measures up to his capacity.– Wilson

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