They are the moves that will help to shape the 2012 college football season. From the transfers of key players to a true freshman being named starting QB for a top 25 team, these are some of the gutsiest preseason decisions. The ACC Rookie of the Year for Maryland in 2010 when he threw for 2,438 yards and 22 TDs, Danny O'Brien struggled last season under first-year coach Randy Edsall, tossing 10 interceptions to seven touchdowns in nine games. Because he graduated from Maryland in three years, he still had two years of eligibility remaining, and after visits to Ole Miss, Penn State, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin, on March 28 chose the Badgers, where he'll team with Heisman finalist RB Montee Ball.
2 of 10Ric Tapia/Icon SMI
After two years away from coaching following his firing from Texas Tech, Mike Leach was hired in December to take over at Washington State after the Cougars went 9-40 in four seasons under Paul Wulff. Leach led the Red Raiders to 10 bowl games in 10 seasons and his offenses left their marks on the NCAA record books. The first order of business is selecting a QB for his Air Raid offense and Leach has yet to reveal if it will be senior Jeff Tuel or sophomore Connor Halliday.
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No true freshman has started at quarterback for Oklahoma State since Tone Jones in 1993, but that will all end as coach Mike Gundy named Lunt, the Cowboys starter for the Sept. 1 opener vs. Savannah State. Lunt, a 6-foot-4, 214-pounder, enrolled early out of Rochester (Ill.), where he threw for 3,650 yards, 31 touchdowns and four interceptions last season.
4 of 10Gene J. Puskar/AP; Matthew O'Haren/Icon SMI; Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
In the wake of the heavy sanctions placed on Penn State on July 23 following the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the Nittany Lions were free to transfer to another school without having to sit out a year. Nine players left Happy Valley in RB Silas Redd (USC), WR Justin Brown (Oklahoma), kicker/punter Anthony Fera (Texas), QB Rob Bolden (LSU), TE Kevin Haplea (Florida State), LB Khairi Fortt (Cal), OL Ryan Nowicki (Illinois), DT Jamil Pollard (Rutgers) and S Tim Buckley (NC State). With the departures of Bolden, Brown, Fera, Haplea and Redd, Penn State loses 124 of its 251 points from last season. Pictured from left: Silas Redd, Justin Brown and Anthony Fera
5 of 10William Purnell, Robert Alam/Icon SMI
Crist headed to Notre Dame in 2008 as one of the nation's top quarterback recruits to play for Charlie Weis. But Weis was out a year later and Crist had two season-ending knee injuries and then lost the starting job halfway through the opener. Now the two are reunited in Lawrence as Crist transferred to Kansas, where he'll be counted on to raise an offense that ranked 106th in FBS in '11.
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After Bobby Petrino was fired in April for hiring his mistress for a coveted position and lying about it, the Razorbacks turned to Smith, a former Michigan State head coach who had been an assistant at Arkansas. Smith's experience as a head coach and familiarity with the program made him a solid fit on short notice. But the Razorbacks also turned over a national title contender -- the team is No. 10 in the USA TODAY preseason poll -- to a coach who went 22-26 with the Spartans. His 10-month contract also means recruiting could take a hit.
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The Longhorns stumbled to a 4-5 record in the Big 12 last year, at least partly because of the team's quarterback play. Texas has been unable to replace Colt McCoy's success at the position, and it looks like the squad will again have Case McCoy (Colt's younger brother) and David Ash split time at the position. McCoy was the better passer last season -- throwing more TDs and fewer interceptions -- but Ash is a dual threat. The Longhorns' success will depend on whether the two can both operate efficiently in the system.
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Harris amassed 3,735 yards at Boston College, more than any other active player. But he'll end his career in Philadelphia. He was kicked off the Eagles' roster in May for repeated rules violations and opted to enroll at Temple in July. Since Harris graduated from Boston College, he is eligible to play this season as a grad student as the Owls return to the Big East.
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San Diego State may not punt this season. Some statistical analyses argue that not punting except for in extreme situations would be ideal. A high school coach in Arkansas doesn't punt and uses only onside kicks, all to maximize scoring chances. While coach Rocky Long hasn't gone that far, he's considering the idea of never punting. "It makes sense," Long told U-T San Diego. "Additional plays would allow you to score a lot more points. It also puts a whole lot of pressure on the defense."
10 of 10June Frantz-Hunt/Icon SMI
An assistant on Bob Stoops' staff in Oklahoma since 1999, including the last eight years as defensive coordinator, Venables was hired by Dabo Swinney to breathe new life into Clemson's D. The Tigers ended last season ranked 71st or worse in six major defensive statistical categories, including 81st in scoring D. Venables has coached 11 different defenses that ranked in the top 20 nationally.
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