1. Notre Dame
Is it really the beginning of the Malik Zaire era? At the very least, he appears to be ready to go into the offseason as the main man to run the attack, but he’ll have to work behind a line that loses three starters. The receiving corps should be dominant with four of the team’s top pass catchers returning including William Fuller. Top runner Tarean Folston is back along with Greg Bryant, but Zaire could be the team’s most dangerous runner.
The defense has nothing to worry about compared to the turnover coming into 2014, and all the injuries – and potentially getting back a few other key parts from suspension - should mean plenty of players should be ready. How experienced is the D? Corner Cody Riggs is the only senior. LB Jaylon Smith is a mortal lock for all-star honors as the leader of the veteran group, while other top tacklers Elijah Shumate and Max Redfield are also back in the defensive backfield. Kyle Brindza is gone after handling the punting and placekicking duties.
When is Taysom Hill going to be back and healthy? Christian Stewart is a senior, but McCoy Hill is a 6-6, 230-pound passer who could make the BYU offense shine if Hill isn’t back to normal after suffering a horrendous ankle injury. Can Jamaal Williams come back and be the same Jamaal Williams at running back? Banged up all throughout last year, he was eventually knocked out with a knee injury. Algernon Brown showed in the bowl that he could handle the workload, and he might be featured even more along with Mitchell Juergens. Missions always make things interesting in terms of the depth chart, but four starters are projected to be back up front, while three of the top four targets for the passing game return to go along with the return of 2014 top JUCO pickup Nick Kurtz, who was never healthy.
BYU always experiences big turnover and ends up fine on defense, but the loss of FS Skye PoVey and linebacker Zac Stout will be felt. Fortunately, LBs Maona Pikula and Bronson Kaufusi return, and the entire front three is back along with three starters in a good secondary. Kicker Trevor Samson and punter Scott Arellano are gone.
The Black Knights have some work to do on the O line that loses two starters but gets back Drew Hennessy at left tackles and Matt Hugenberg at center. QB Angel Santiago is gone, but A.J. Schurr is ready to take over. There aren’t as many sure things returning at running back with FB Larry Dixon and RBs Terry Baggett and Raymond Maples done. The receiving corps has talent and experience, but they’re decorations in the Army offense.
The defensive line is gutted with all four starters gone, but linebackers Andrew King and Jeremy Timpf are back. Three starters return in the secondary, only losing S Hayden Pierce – fortunately, Luke Proulx is ready to take over. In all, the top four tacklers return including S Josh Jenkins and CB Chris Carnegie. P Alex Tardieu is back after averaging just 39.34 yards per punt, and PK Daniel Grochowski returns after hitting just 7-of-13 field goals.
2015 Pre-Preseason Independent Rankings
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