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The replacements

From JaMarcus Russell to Ramzee Robinson, some of the biggest college stars have graduated to the NFL. But what about the holes they left behind? The winners of the Heisman, Maxwell, Butkus, Outland, Bednarik, Biletnikoff and Thorpe awards, among others, are gone. So who's next? And who's going to try and fill their shoes?

Here's a look at 10 of the biggest voids left behind and the player (or players) vying to fill those roles, minus some of the more obvious replacements -- i.e. Dan Connor slipping into Paul Posluszny's linebacking spot at Penn State, Tim Tebow succeeding Chris Leak as Florida's quarterback or Vidal Hazelton and Patrick Turner taking over at wide receiver at USC for Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith.

Who's Gone? Gaines Adams, DE Arguably the nation's best defensive player last season, Adams was a unanimous first-team Associated Press All-America after registering 12½ sacks in '06 and was picked fourth overall in the draft by the Buccaneers.

Who's Next? Sophomore Ricky Sapp and senior Kwam Williams are being penciled in as co-starters, but this job will likely end up being Sapp's alone. He played in all 13 games last season, totaling 20 tackles and tying William "The Refrigerator" Perry for the most sacks by a Clemson true freshman with four. Williams recorded 10 tackles and no sacks in eight games.

The Verdict Adams was a force of nature, but Sapp was highly effective in a limited role last season. The return of linebacker Tramaine Billie from injury should help ease the pressure on Sapp and allow him to use his speed and wealth of moves to cause havoc in the backfield. The big question: Can the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Sapp be as effective playing 60-plus snaps a game?

Who's Gone? Reggie Nelson, S The Gators lost nine starters on defense, but we're keying in on Nelson, who was a first-team All-America and was selected 21st in the draft by the Jaguars.

Who's Next? Kyle Jackson or Dorian Munroe will probably start. Jackson was largely missing from last year's secondary but has 11 career starts under his belt, while Munroe played in every game last year and played almost the entire SEC championship game after Tony Joiner was injured. That being said, don't sleep on youngsters Jerimy Finch and Major Wright -- Rivals.com's two top-ranked safeties -- and redshirt freshman Bryan Thomas.

The Verdict Nelson helped mask the corners' mistakes a year ago, something you can't expect from this unproven group. Still, there's an ultra-talented stable of safeties to choose from. Don't be surprised if Finch or Wright steal the starting job before season's end.

Who's Gone? JaMarcus Russell, QB The Tigers had their share of losses, with four players (including Russell) going in the first round. But who follows Russell, the top pick in the draft, is sure to be high drama in Baton Rouge.

Who's Next? Is it Matt Flynn or Ryan Perrilloux? Flynn famously started a quasi-quarterback controversy heading into '06 after earning MVP honors in the '05 Peach Bowl win over Miami. The senior has the experience -- appearing in seven games last season -- and should get the early nod over Perrilloux. Perrilloux, a redshirt sophomore has attempted just four passes in his career, but he is a former blue-chip recruit. Once rumored to be transferring to Grambling, Perrilloux has waited two years for his chance.

The Verdict Flynn is the guy, but expect to see Perrilloux on the field. This could be a Cajun version of Florida's Leak/Tebow partnership last year -- and we saw how well that worked for the Gators.

Who's Gone? Leon Hall, CB After losing eight defensive starters, it's basically take your pick when it comes to holes to fill in Ann Arbor. But this position may have the most slack to pick up after the loss of Hall, a first-team All-America and first-round pick of the Bengals.

Who's Next? Right now the No. 1 spot belongs to redshirt junior Morgan Trent with redshirt sophomore Johnny Sears manning the other side. Sophomore Carlos Brown, who came to Michigan as a tailback, was in the running but moved back to the offensive backfield after RB Kevin Grady tore his anterior cruciate ligament. Things may heat up when heralded recruit Donovan Warren gets on campus.

The Verdict The thought of Trent anchoring the defensive backfield may have Wolverines fans cringing; Michigan fans remember his shoddy defense against Ohio State and USC. The star of the secondary could easily end up being Warren, who should play himself into a starting role.

Who's Gone? Brady Quinn, QB The face of Irish football is gone. The four-year starter won both the Maxwell and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm awards last season and was picked 22nd overall by the Browns.

Who's Next? The contenders are junior Evan Sharpley, sophomores Zach Frazer and Demetrius Jones and the most hyped recruit to enroll in South Bend since Ron Powlus, Jimmy Clausen. Sharpley, who has two career pass attempts, is the only one to have thrown a ball in a college game.

The Verdict Coach Charlie Weis is staying mum on the subject and nobody did anything in the spring game to make much of a statement. Weis is expected to announce after Memorial Day the two frontrunners for the job but the most likely scenario has Sharpley getting the early start with Clausen taking over before season's end.

Who's Gone? Troy Smith, QB The Heisman winner went 25-2 as a starter and led the Buckeyes to the national championship game last season. He was snatched up by the Ravens with the last pick in the fifth round.

Who's Next? Junior Todd Boeckman, who took his last meaningful snap in high school in '03, is No. 1 after the spring with sophomore Rob Schoenhoft No. 2 and redshirt freshman Antonio Henton, whose playing style is most similar to Smith's, waiting in the wings.

The Verdict Boeckman's is the safe bet, but whether it's Boeckman or Schoenhoft taking the bulk of the snaps, it won't really change things. They're a reasonable facsimile of each other and with coach Jim Tressel going back to the conservative offense that he used to win the '02 national title, either QB would have to be more caretaker than playmaker. That change of pace could leave Henton out of the mix or have him relegated to a situational sub.

Who's Gone? Adrian Peterson, RB After 4,045 yards and 41 touchdowns in three seasons, "All Day" left Norman. Peterson was picked seventh overall in the draft by the Vikings.

Who's Next? As we saw when Peterson was injured last year the cupboard isn't exactly bare. The trio of Allen Patrick, Chris Brown and Jacob Gutierrez combined for 1,323 yards and 10 touchdowns in Peterson's absence. Redshirt freshman DeMarco Murray stole the spotlight in the spring game, running for 103 yards on four carries.

The Verdict Patrick, who had four 100-yard games last season appears to have the No. 1 spot locked up for the season opener and that's no knock on Murray. Coach Bob Stoops isn't one to throw freshmen into the fire right away -- Peterson didn't start until the fourth game of his first year -- but Murray should get his share of opportunities.

Who's Gone? Robert Meachem, WR The third-team All-America was fourth in the nation in receiving yards per game and was the catalyst in the rebirth of the Volunteers' passing game. He was picked 27th overall by the Saints.

Who's Next? The current crop of receivers includes just four players who caught a pass in 2006, combining for 26 receptions, 252 yards and no touchdowns. Right now Lucas Taylor and Austin Rogers are penciled in as the starters, and Quintin Hancock has shown promise. Help will come in the fall in the form of freshmen Brent Vinson, Gerald Jones and Ahmad Paige and JUCO transfer Kenny O'Neal.

The Verdict The Vols return one of the nation's top passers in Erik Ainge but no proven threats to catch the ball and that's big trouble. The performance in Tennessee's spring game had offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe so upset that he declined to talk to the media afterward. Right now, the smart money is on the newcomers making an immediate impact.

Who's Gone? Aaron Ross, CB Not only did the Longhorns lose Ross, the Thorpe award winner who was picked 20th overall by the Giants, but backfieldmate Tarell Brown is also gone (he was a fifth-round selection by the 49ers).

Who's Next? There's talk Texas could go two-deep at corner with veteran backups Brandon Foster (senior) and Ryan Palmer (junior) in one group and Deon Beasley (sophomore) and Chykie Brown (redshirt freshman) in the other. Early enrollees Curtis Brown and Ben Wells add depth.

The Verdict Foster and Palmer may have experience on their sides, but it's likely that they'll take a back seat to the more talented wunderkinds down the line. Beasley should take one of the starting spots and Chykie Brown could man the other side of the field. I'll be surprised if Wells, who made some noise in spring practice, doesn't also see the field quite a bit.

Who's Gone? Joe Thomas, OT The Outland Trophy winner may have left the biggest void on this list. He anchored the Badgers offensive line for three years at left tackle before being picked third overall by the Browns.

Who's Next? Either true sophomore Jake Bscherer (6-7, 297 pounds) or redshirt sophomore Gabe Carimi (6-8, 292 pounds) will take over. They split reps with the first-team offense throughout the spring. Coach Bret Bielema has said the decision won't be made until the end of preseason camp this summer.

The Verdict Carimi may be the more fluid of the two, but Bscherer's experience will likely be the deciding factor. He played in 11 games last season as a reserve and an extra tight end.

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