College football teams who are eligible to sign up faced a deadline Monday to submit announcement papers for the 2022 NFL Draft. While there is a reconsideration period before final approval from the league, we have a good idea of who will leave and who will return for another college season.
Many of the trips discussed here were predictable, at least by the end of the season based on performance through 2021 and/or first-round predictions for the 2022 draft. So coaches either have a backup plan, or are keeping an eye on the transfer gate hoping to meet a pre-fall need. The spring exercise will provide more information to help us determine exactly who will be involved in replacing the lost production of these stars.
For now, though, we’ve got a few suggestions as to who might be in line to step in for some of the stars headed to the NFL Draft this spring.
Alabama Out Evan Neal
Replacement – JC Latham or Tommy Brockermeyer: The two biggest prospects from the 2021 signing class in Alabama were both five-stars, and efforts to secure those commitments are likely with the expectation that Neal will be on his way to the NFL after his third year with Crimson Tide. Latham, the No. 1 and expected No. 3 in the recruiting category for 2021, played on special teams and worked as a guard at Cotton Bowl due to injury. Although Brockermeyer, the No. 2 and potential No. 6 player in the 2021 class, has not seen a game in 2021, he will likely play a role in this substitution wave in attack because Nick Saban is tasked with substitutions that both started in 2022.
Oregon de Cayvon Thibodox
Substitution – Braden Swenson: The entire defense will be aided by a healthy Justin Flowe, but Flowe and fellow high-back line Noah Sewell were inside players and couldn’t directly address Thibodeaux’s absence. Although he was just a three-star prospect coming out of Georgia, Swenson has emerged as a regular contributor to a defensive end during his freshman sophomore season in 2021 with 24 tackles and four tackles to lose in 11 games. New Ducks coach Dan Lanning will likely head to the transfer gate for more help on the edge, but Swinson was reliable enough to hold onto the position.
Georgia LP Nakobi Din
Replacement – Nolan Smith: While a handful of recently crowned National Champions have decided to enter the 2022 NFL Draft, Smith started the hype for next year with his decision to return for a big season. The boots are too big and hard to fill after Dean’s Butkus award-winning campaign in 2021, but Smith has been very impressive from the outside full-back position with 56 tackles (fifth in the team) and nine tackles for a loss (second in the team) that falls. The youth movement at the linebacker will have more work for 2021 signers Jamon Dumas Johnson, Smile Mundon and Xavian Suri, but Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart is pleased to know he has the experience and proven production of Smith in the wake of all the departures.
Notre Dame Kyle Hamilton
Substitution – Brandon Joseph: Joseph has been all-American already since his time at Northwestern, and is set to follow in Hamilton’s footsteps on the path from the defensive backfield of Notre Dame to the NFL draft. Houston Griffiths and DJ Brown are on hand to provide depth and competition, but Joseph arrives as a highly desirable transfer with star power and anticipates closing the back end of a defense that may be among the best in the country in 2022.
Ole Miss QB Matt Corral
Replacement – Luke Altmyer or TBD from Transfer Gate: When Coral fell due to an injury in the Sugar Bowl, Altmyer, the top five player from Mississippi State in the 2021 enlistment class, got his first chance to make a case as the next QB1 at Oxford. Although the performance (15 of 28 passes for 174 yards with one touchdown and two ball interceptions) boosted up quite a bit, I expect he will still be part of the competition, at a minimum, and the favorite depending on Lane Kevin off-season with the transfer gate. The Ole Miss has used the portal a lot to answer defense-related needs by 2021, and now it’s the offensive side of the ball that requires attention in multiple locations, including the midfielder.
LSU DB Derek Stingley
Substitution – Damarius McGhee: Although Stingley’s 2021 campaign has been put on hold due to injury, his stellar strength and professional outlook remain noteworthy, especially given the extensive staff needs of Brian Kelly’s 2022 roster in Baton Rouge. McGee was a four-star in the 2021 enlistment class and got his start as a quarterback at the Texas Bowl against Kansas State, but he’s also one of the few fellow scholarship defenders left after some impressive roster changes in the wake of the coaching change. . There was some good news in the numbers boosting with LSU relegated to a commitment from former Arkansas defensive linebacker Greg Brooks Jr. Brooks is more of a nickel safety option, but he’s a starting player for three years in the SEC and at least another body to get a high school LSU that needs numbers.
Alabama WRS John Mitchell III, Jameson Williams
Replacement – Jacquery Brooks: Although Brooks has been a contributor to specials all season (and was a solid player at that, with a banned kick in his name), it was a late-season breakthrough in the receiver that paved the way for his appearance in the Crimson Tide pass-attack. Brooks totaled 15 catches for 192 yards and two touchdowns during his real new season in 2021, all of that production coming in the last six games of the year. The game-related relegation against Auburn in Iron Bowl hinted at what will happen in the big games in 2022, where he will be joined by several other lower-level players in a bid to keep the pass attack fruitful in the absence of the two thousand. Courtyard receivers.
Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III
Replacement – Galen BergerInjecting talent and experience from the outside to help spark the 2021 Spartans race, Mel Tucker is back in the transfer window once again to replace the team’s most important offensive player. Berger was a potential four-star and 15th in the 2020 class, but he fell out of favor with Wisconsin coach Paul Crest and was fired from the team on October 10. A fresh start might be just what Berger needs to get into this excellent drop from high school, and Michigan State has proven to be a great landing spot for transfers that see breakout seasons.
Arkansas WR Trilon Pyrex
The Substitution – Jadon Haslewood: Birx has meant a lot to the Arkansas offense, and the passing game in particular, but Sam Bateman has a great option to replace his productions with Haselwood, a former five-star prospect who has been ranked as the #1 receiver broadly and the fourth overall prospect in the Employment Class 2019. After limited action in 2019, a knee injury in April 2020 affected his contributions to the program, although he worked his way back to full health and scored 39 receptions for 399 yards and six touchdowns in 2021., And Haselwood has the ceiling to turn the same workload into a choppy year and fulfill those five-star expectations.
Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson
Substitution – Jackson Smith Njigba: Rose Bowl’s record-breaking performance removes any worry about life after Garrett Wilson and Chris Olaf in the Ohio State crime. But Smith-Njigba’s 15-yard, 347-yard performance against Utah wasn’t even necessary to finish the season as Ohio State’s leading receiver, an honor he was locking up pre-season. So while the 2022 NFL draft may feature two first-round wide receivers from Ohio State, replacing them isn’t a primary concern as he isn’t the team’s main receiver in 2021.
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