Cory Mccartney
Thursday August 21st, 2008

The top 10 picks in April's NFL draft included a two-time Heisman runner-up, a defensive end who had his jersey retired while he was still wearing it, another end who was the first player to sweep the Bronko Nagurski, Outland and Lott trophies and Lombardi Award in the same year and a quarterback so cool they call him "Ice."

How do you replace that? Well, such is the nature of college football, where players come and go but the laundry remains the same. Here are the players who will try to step into the shoes left behind by those top-10 picks.

Who's Gone? Jake Long, OT (No. 1 pick)

Who's Next? Mark Ortmann

The heir apparent to the top-overall pick in the draft is a career backup who has made just two starts at left tackle -- and that actually makes him the most experienced of the four new starters on coach Rich Rodriguez's line.

The 6-foot-7, 294-pound junior isn't the quick, lean lineman RichRod typically uses in his spread, but the former high school tight end should have the feet and lateral movement necessary to block in the scheme.

And how's this for immediate pressure? He'll also be counted on to guard the blind side of would-be starters at quarterback, redshirt freshman Steven Threet and sophomore Nick Sheridan, both of whom are righties.

Who's Gone? Chris Long, DE (No. 2 pick)

Who's Next? Alex Field

Al Groh isn't likely to find anyone to replace the rare mix of size and speed that Howie Long's kid brought to the table. But the Rams' draft pick won't be the only missing piece at end when the Cavaliers open the season.

Junior end Jeffrey Fitzgerald, who would have been the guy to step into Long's role, didn't make grades and is no longer on the roster, which will put even more pressure on Field to get to the quarterback.

The 6-foot-7, 270-pound junior has appeared in 25 games but hasn't been dominant, recording just 2½ sacks.

Who's Gone? Matt Ryan, QB (No. 3 pick)

Who's Next? Chris Crane

Crane waited, and waited, and waited behind Ryan for three years. But the fifth-year senior's wait is finally over and it's time to see what he learned as Ryan's understudy.

He has just one career start, coming in 2006 against Buffalo, and has made 21 other appearances, including two last season in which he attempted four passes. In a recent intrasquad scrimmage, Crane threw four interceptions in 25 attempts.

Crane's size (6-foot-4, 236 pounds) and arm strength will have many thinking Ryan's still behind center but he has more mobility than his predecessor and with an improved running game, it's unlikely BC fans will see Crane throwing 46.7 times a game like Ryan did in '07.

Who's Gone? Darren McFadden, RB (No. 4 pick)

Who's Next? Michael Smith

Smith not only has to fill in for the two-time Heisman runner-up in McFadden, but also gone are 1,000-yard rusher Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis. Is Smith ready for the spotlight?

The junior has been impressive in a limited role, totaling 550 yards the past two years. But at 5-foot-7, 175 pounds, can he take the beating necessary to be an every-down back? He does have big-play ability, a la the 81-yard touchdown run against Florida International last season.

In new coach Bobby Petrino's power spread, the Razorbacks won't be riding the run as much as they did in the WildHog days, and Smith's touches will likely be more quality than quantity with Brandon Barnett and converted linebacker Chip Gregory also getting carries.

Who's Gone? Glenn Dorsey, DT (No. 5 pick)

Who's Next? Ricky Jean-Francois

Could LSU simply transition from one All-America defensive tackle to another?

Dorsey exited Baton Rouge as the program's most decorated defensive player but anybody who watched RJF's exploits in the national championship game knows there won't be much of a drop-off at the position in '08.

Jean-Francois missed 12 games last season because of grades but returned for the last two games and had six tackles and blocked a field goal against Ohio State to earn defensive MVP honors. "The Freak" as he's nicknamed, is exactly that. He's 6-foot-3, 281 pounds and has a combination of power and speed. As the new anchor of the Tigers defense, he could have LSU fans asking "Glenn who?"

Who's Gone? Vernon Gholston, DE (No. 6 pick)

Who's Next? Lawrence Wilson

Wilson was expected to partner with Gholston last season, giving the Buckeyes a formidable tandem on the ends -- and he did, for exactly 17 plays. Wilson broke his leg in the season opener last year, but not before he registered a sack and a tackle in the backfield against Youngstown State.

It may end up being a lucky break for Ohio State, which will have another force at end -- one who coaches say is more physical than Gholston. It will be hard to duplicate Gholston's school-record 14 sacks from last season, but Wilson has put in the work. He played at 275 pounds last season but has trimmed his 6-foot-4 frame to between 261-267 pounds thanks to a new diet, which should make him quicker. Will he be the pass-rusher this team is missing? Someone has to step up since the eight players on the line's two-deep had a combined 7 ½ sacks last season.

Who's Gone? Sedrick Ellis, DT (No. 7 pick); Keith Rivers, LB (No. 9 pick)

Who's Next? Averell Spicer and Christian Tupou; Kaluka Maiava

Nose tackle has become almost a glory position in the Land of Troy. The last two players to man the spot (Ellis and Mike Patterson) were both All-Americas. It's unlikely Pete Carroll will get that kind of production out of the duo that's expected to man the spot this fall, Spicer and Tupou.

Spicer, a 6-foot-2, 295-pound junior, played in 12 games last season and totaled nine tackles, including a sack and two tackles for loss. He sat out spring practice and the summer sessions after knee surgery, which allowed Tupou to make a move.

The sophomore appeared in four games last season and didn't make a tackle, but the 6-foot-2, 280-pounder impressed coaches in the spring and earned reps along with Spicer.

While Ellis' void makes for the biggest question mark on the Trojans' roster, there's little question about the guy who steps in for Rivers.

Maiava (6-foot, 230 pounds) isn't as big as fellow linebackers Brian Cushing (6-foot-4) and Ray Maualuga (6-foot-2), but he will bring a ball-hawking mentality to the weakside linebacker spot -- and plenty of experience.

Maiava has made just two career starts but he has appeared in 38 games. Last season he had 45 stops, including 10 against Arizona State, and forced a fumble against Illinois in the Rose Bowl.

Who's Gone? Derrick Harvey, DE (No. 8 pick)

Who's Next? Carlos Dunlap

The Gators' defensive line returns just one starter in junior end Jermaine Cunningham. While he's the only proven commodity, Dunlap is all but a sure thing to join him by the end of the season.

Expectations are brimming for the 6-foot-6, 290-pound former five-star prospect. He saw the field in all 13 games as a true freshman and had seven tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and a blocked kick. In the spring he simply wreaked havoc, busting loose for four sacks in the spring game.

As key as the pass rush has been to the Gators' defensive scheme, it's imperative that Dunlap's monster spring translates into a similarly enormous fall.

Who's Gone? Jerod Mayo, LB (No. 10 pick)

Who's Next? Ellix Wilson

The new man in the middle for the Volunteers doesn't exactly fit the part of a prototypical linebacker. At 5-foot-10, 225 pounds, Wilson is built more like a defensive back -- which is exactly what he was in high school. But don't let this senior's size fool you: Wilson has proven more than capable of filling Mayo's role.

If you need further proof, look back at the Outback Bowl, where Wilson did exactly that.

When Mayo moved to the outside to fill in for Rico McCoy, Wilson notched his first career start and has six tackles. In all, he had 30 tackles, five for loss, and three sacks in playing in all 13 games in '07.

The Volunteers aren't exactly deep in the front seven after losing both starting ends and two linebackers, meaning Wilson is going to have to play big, no matter how tall he is.

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