With spring football about to kick in, how do each of the teams look? What are the first impressions? These are the first thoughts that can and will change over the next several months before diving deep into the team-by-team previews. Please, give us your thoughts and questions – be pleasant – hitting us at @ColFootballNews.
- The best and the brightest teams going into spring football.
- Crank up the realistic playoff expectations if everything breaks right.
- They'll all be in the mix for a conference title, with a little luck.
- Probably a bit low - all could challenge for big things.
- Some new high-risers - there's promise and potential.
- Likely bowl teams - or at least that's the expectation.
- Low-end Power 5 teams, but there's surprise potential.
- Possible bowl teams and some star Group of 5ers.
- Some bottom Power 5s and top Group of 5ers as the rankings roll on.
- Teams that have several major question marks, or are missing top talent.
- They need to replace too many key parts, but there's hope.
- They're not quite at the bottom, but they need a whole bunch of work.
- As spring ball is rolling, which teams come into the year looking up?
The Bottom Ten
39. . Virginia Tech
Biggest Positive: All four starters are back on the defensive front – the pass rush should be devastating. QB Michael Brewer is back along with a great group of running backs. J.C. Coleman is the headliner, but it’s a deep corps that should come up with a strong rotation. The receivers will be better.
Biggest Negative: The D will be fine, but three of the top four tacklers are finished. The O will also be good, but three starters have to be replaced up front.
Biggest Positive: The offensive line gets four starters back to help make QB Patrick Towles shine. Despite a few key losses, there’s more than enough talent and depth returning on defense to expect a little bit of an improvement. There’s a whole bunch of talent ready to rise up on both sides of the ball.
Biggest Negative: Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith are gone from the front seven – they were dangerous defenders who’ll have long NFL careers. Two good targets – Javess Blue and Demarco Robinson – have to be replaced.
Biggest Positive: Get ready for the offensive onslaught with QB Jared Goff helped by a deadly receiving corps. Throw in 1,115-yard RB Daniel Lasco, and a good O line, and the attack should be balanced. The D is also back with talent with almost everyone back along with enough depth to be fresh.
Biggest Negative: The experience has to turn into production when it comes to the pass rush. The kicking game could be a concern with PK Chris Borrayo done and P Cole Leininger needing to be better.
42. North Carolina
Biggest Positive: Outside of TE Jack Tabb, every starter is back on an offense that should be impressively explosive. QB Marquise Williams should be ready to blow up on a national scene, and all five starters are back up front to protect him. The top five receivers are also back.
Biggest Negative: Can the defense be remotely consistent and effective? Four of the top six tacklers are back, but the D was really, really bad giving up close to 500 yards and 39 points per game.
Biggest Positive: The system might just be good enough to overcome key personnel losses. Jerry Kill has the right pieces in place on the offensive front to keep the ground game going, and the receiving corps has a few nice options for QB Mitch Leidner to work with. However …
Biggest Negative: TE Maxx Williams is more than just a piece to be replaced. RB David Cobb is, too. The team’s top two tacklers - LB Damien Wilson and S Cedric Thompson – are gone. Losing C Tommy Olson and OG Zac Epping on the O line matters.
Biggest Positive: With QB Cyler Myles leading the way, the offense should have a few impressive moments with the talent at the skill spots to hang with anyone in the Pac-12. The secondary is all back full with a good enough group to grow into something special. PK Cameron Van Winkle should be among the best in America.
Biggest Negative: DT Danny Shelton, DE Haul’oli Kikaha and LB/S Shaq Thompson are big-time NFL prospects and horrible losses for a terrific D. All four starters on the defensive line are done, as are four starters on the offensive line that has to try to keep Myles upright.
45. Penn State
Biggest Positive: If Christian Hackenberg really is an NFL starting quarterback, he has to step up and become that sort of a player. If he is, then Penn State can beat anyone. The defensive front was a brick wall, and despite losing Mike Hull, it should be terrific to go along with a secondary that gets everyone back.
Biggest Negative: Are there any receivers? They have to be far better and far more explosive, and the O line has to be night-and-day better to keep Hackenberg upright and coming up with something for the woeful ground game.
Biggest Positive: There might be way too many big losses on both sides of the ball, but there’s plenty of speed and athleticism among the young talents and the quarterback situation – whether or not it’s Brad Kaaya – should be excellent.
Biggest Negative: RB Duke Johnson, OT Ereck Flowers and WR Phillip Dorsett are gone from the offense – this isn’t 1980s Miami; losing three NFL talents hurts – and three of the top four tacklers are gone along with heart-and-soul leader Denzel Perryman. Three starters are done on the O line.
Biggest Positive: The linebacking corps should be fine despite the loss of Quinton Alston in the middle – the run defense should be a bit better. The quarterback situation is stronger with Jake Rudock and C.J. Beathard pushing for the gig, and Jordan Canzeri is a good running back to take over the ground attack.
Biggest Negative: There are way too many losses with the biggest on the defensive front losing tackles Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat. The O line can’t replace Brandon Scherff right away, and Kevonte Martin-Manley and a few key receivers are gone.
Biggest Positive: The passing game should blow up with QB Gunner Kiel throwing to a deep and talented receiving corps full of seniors. The secondary is full of talent and experience, but the Bearcats will be all about the air show – Kiel will make up for a whole slew of problems.
Biggest Negative: The defensive front is an issue with four of the top five pass rushers needing to be replaced. There’s promise, but it might take a little bit to come up with the right front four. The linebackers are also a concern with two of the team’s top three tacklers finished.
2015 Pre-Preseason Rankings: No. 39-48
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