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Ohio State springs forward as new No. 1 in 2017 top 25

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Buckeyes ramping up passing game (0:49)

Dan Murphy shares how new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson is making strides to improve Ohio State's passing game, much to the pleasure of Urban Meyer. (0:49)

Once again, Alabama was the big winner in the NFL draft.

The Crimson Tide had seven players picked in the first 55 selections and nine chosen in the first 80. Overall, 10 Alabama players were taken by NFL teams this past weekend.

Of course, that impressive haul means Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban faces another major rebuilding (reloading?) job in Tuscaloosa. With star players like Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, Marlon Humphrey and O.J. Howard moving on to the NFL, Saban will have to find reinforcements before this coming season.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer knows that situation all too well. A year ago, the Buckeyes had 12 players selected in the first four rounds of the round, the most in NFL history. This year, six Buckeyes were picked in the first three rounds, including three in the first round.

Meyer won't face quite as much turnover this offseason, and with quarterback J.T. Barrett and 14 others starters expected back, Ohio State has supplanted Alabama as the No. 1 team in the third edition of the 2017 Way-Too-Early Top 25. Florida State remains No. 2 and Alabama is No. 3, followed by USC, which gets the coveted fourth spot.

1. Ohio State

2016 record: 11-2, 8-1 Big Ten
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 4
Returning starters: 8 offense, 7 defense, 0 special teams

Key losses: C Pat Elflein, CB Gareon Conley, RB Curtis Samuel, WR Noah Brown, S Malik Hooker, LB, Raekwon McMillan, P Cameron Johnston, CB Marshon Lattimore, K Tyler Durbin

Outlook: After Clemson demolished Ohio State 31-0 in a CFP semifinal last season, Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer shook up his coaching staff. New offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson seems determined to have quarterback J.T. Barrett throwing the ball down the field more often. That will require better protection from the offensive line and more consistency from the receiver corps. On defense, the Buckeyes will have one of the best front sevens in the country, but three starters must be replaced in the secondary. Cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Damon Arnette and safety Damon Webb emerged as possible replacements this spring. The Buckeyes will get an early test with a Sept. 9 home game against Oklahoma.


2. Florida State

2016 record: 10-3, 5-3 ACC
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 2
Returning starters: 7 offense, 9 defense, 2 special teams

Key losses: RB Dalvin Cook, OT Roderick Johnson, WR Kermit Whitfield, WR Jesus Wilson, G Kareem Are, DE DeMarcus Walker, CB Marquez White

Outlook: There were two welcome sights for FSU fans in the spring game: safety Derwin James was back on the field and early enrollee Cam Akers looked like the Seminoles' next star running back. Akers, ESPN's No. 1 running back in 2017, ran for 87 yards on 10 carries in the spring game and emerged as the heir apparent to departed star Dalvin Cook. James, who played in only two games last season because of a left knee injury, looked healthy with seven tackles and two sacks. FSU's offensive line remains a work in progress, although Josh Ball might have taken the lead to replace Roderick Johnson at left tackle. The offensive line will have to gel quickly, with a Sept. 2 opener against Alabama in Atlanta looming on the schedule.


3. Alabama

2016 record: 14-1, 8-0 SEC
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 1
Returning starters: 6 offense, 5 defense, 1 special teams

Key losses: TE O.J. Howard, DE Jonathan Allen, DE Dalvin Tomlinson, LB Tim Williams, LB Ryan Anderson, LB Reuben Foster, S Eddie Jackson, CB Marlon Humphrey, OT Cam Robinson, WR ArDarius Stewart

Outlook: The Crimson Tide's focus this spring was getting quarterback Jalen Hurts more comfortable in the pocket in his second season. The early results under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll were encouraging, especially in the spring game, in which Hurts and early enrollee Tua Tagovailoa combined to pass for 614 yards with five touchdowns. Alabama coach Nick Saban wants the Tide to be more balanced on offense, after finishing 87th nationally in passing (210.3 yards per game) in 2017. Receivers Robert Foster and Jerry Jeudy emerged as potential big-play threats, which would help take some attention away from star receiver Calvin Ridley.


4. USC

2016 record: 10-3, 7-2 Pac-12
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 3
Returning starters: 6 offense, 8 defense, 2 special teams

Key losses: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR Darreus Rogers, OT Chad Wheeler, OT Zach Banner, G Damien Mama, NT Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, SS Leon McQuay III, CB Adoree' Jackson

Outlook: After quarterback Sam Darnold guided the Trojans to nine straight victories, including a memorable Rose Bowl win, they figure to be a popular CFP pick, and he'll be among the leading Heisman Trophy candidates. First, the Trojans will have to find him new receiving targets and pass-blockers. Michael Pittman Jr., Velus Jones Jr. and Tyler Vaughns look like the guys next in line behind top receiver Deontay Burnett. The offensive line lost three starters and remains in flux because of injuries, but Chuma Edoga seems pretty entrenched at left tackle.


5. Penn State

2016 record: 11-3, 8-1 Big Ten
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 5
Returning starters: 9 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams

Key losses: C Brian Gaia, WR Chris Godwin, DE Evan Schwan, LB Brandon Bell, SS Malik Golden, OT Paris Palmer, DE Garrett Sickels

Outlook: After breaking through under coach James Franklin last season, the Nittany Lions will try to stay neck-and-neck with Michigan and Ohio State in the Big Ten. Penn State went into spring practice needing to find big-play receivers and pass rushers. Juwan Johnson and DeAndre Thompkins seem capable of helping replace Chris Godwin's production on offense, and end Shareef Miller and linebacker Jarvis Miller look like guys who can get to the quarterback. As long as quarterback Trace McSorley and tailback Saquon Barkley stay healthy, the Nittany Lions should be a CFP contender for the second straight season.


6. Oklahoma State

2016 record: 10-3, 7-2 Big 12
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 10
Returning starters: 7 offense, 6 defense, 1 special teams

Key losses: DT Vincent Taylor, WR Jhajuan Seales, LT Victor Salako, DT Motekiai Maile, LB Jordan Burton, LB Devante Averette, FS Jordan Sterns

Outlook: With quarterback Mason Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington deciding to return for their senior seasons, the Cowboys already looked primed to challenge rival Oklahoma for a Big 12 title. Then the Pokes added two graduate transfers -- Clemson cornerback Adrian Baker and Cal left tackle Aaron Cochran -- who might be able to help right away. Much of the buzz this spring focused on former LSU receiver Tyron Johnson, who sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules, and now appears ready to be another weapon. Of course, if the Cowboys are going to win their first Big 12 championship since 2011, they'll probably have to beat the Sooners in the Bedlam Series, which they've done only twice since 2003.


7. Clemson

2016 record: 14-1, 7-1 ACC
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 6
Returning starters: 5 offense, 7 defense, 1 special teams

Key losses: QB Deshaun Watson, WR Mike Williams, WR Artavis Scott, C Jay Guillermo, TE Jordan Leggett, RB Wayne Gallman, DT Carlos Watkins, LB Ben Boulware, SS Jadar Johnson, CB Cordrea Tankersley

Outlook: Clemson's search for Deshaun Watson's replacement was still open at the end of spring practice, although Kelly Bryant remained in front of talented early enrollee Hunter Johnson and two other contenders heading into preseason camp. Though Clemson's defense should be stout, especially in the trenches, its offense figures to be a work in progress heading into the season. It won't have much time to figure it out, with a Sept. 9 home game against Auburn and Sept. 16 road trip to Louisville.


8. Oklahoma

2016 record: 11-2, 9-0 Big 12
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 8
Returning starters: 8 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams

Key losses: WR Dede Westbrook, RB Joe Mixon, RB Samaje Perine, DT Jordan Wade, DE Austin Roberts, LB Jordan Evans, FS Ahmad Thomas

Outlook: Quarterback Baker Mayfield might be back, but the Sooners spent the spring trying to reload at the skill positions. After star tailbacks Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine left early for the NFL draft, four players -- Abdul Adams, Rodney Anderson, early enrollee Trey Sermon and juco transfer Marcelias Sutton -- shared carries this spring. Jeffery Mead, a 6-foot-5 senior, looks to be in line to replace Dede Westbrook as OU's go-to receiver. He had a 70-yard touchdown catch in the spring game. With eight offensive linemen with starting experience returning, the Sooners should once again have one of the country's most explosive offenses.


9. Washington

2016 record: 12-2, 8-1 Pac-12
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 7
Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense, 1 special teams

Key losses: WR John Ross, G Jake Eldrenkamp, G Shane Brostek, DE Joe Mathis, LB Psalm Wooching, DT Elijah Qualls, S Budda Baker, CB Kevin King, CB Sidney Jones

Outlook: While many eyes were on Washington quarterback Jake Browning after he underwent shoulder surgery in January, the Huskies worked this spring to replace three starters in the secondary and to find a replacement for All-American receiver John Ross. Thankfully for the Huskies, Browning was able to return for spring practice and threw 10 passes in the spring game. Receiver Dante Pettis is back after averaging 15.5 yards per catch with 15 touchdowns in 2016. Brayden Lenius, who was suspended last season, and freshman Jordan Chin also had good springs. Jordan Miller and Byron Murphy were the most consistent cornerbacks, and they're in line to start in the secondary this coming season.


10. Auburn

2016 record: 8-5, 5-3 SEC
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 11
Returning starters: 9 offense, 8 defense, 1 special teams

Key losses: WR Tony Stevens, G Alex Kozan, OT Robert Leff, DT Montravius Adams, DE Carl Lawson, CB Joshua Holsey, CB Johnathan Ford

Outlook: Former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham looked better than advertised in Auburn's spring game, completing 16 of 20 passes for 267 yards with one touchdown. He seems to already have a firm grasp of new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey's system, which has to be a sigh of relief on the Plains after the Tigers struggled on offense the past two seasons. With tailbacks Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson returning, and Nate Craig-Myers emerging as a big-play receiver, the Tigers have all the pieces in place to be explosive again. Defensively, Auburn focused on rebuilding its defensive front, and Paul James III showed signs of being a capable pass rusher. Former five-star recruit Byron Cowart moved from end to tackle in hopes of reviving his career.


11. Wisconsin

2016 record: 11-3, 7-2 Big Ten
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 12
Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense, 1 special teams

Key losses: WR Robert Wheelwright, QB Bart Houston, OT Ryan Ramczyk, RB Corey Clement, LB Vince Biegel, LB T.J. Watt, FS Leo Musso, CB Sojourn Shelton, K Andrew Endicott

Outlook: The Badgers seem well positioned to repeat as Big Ten West champions, even after losing star tailback Corey Clement and linebackers T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel. Wisconsin has a lot of depth coming back on defense, in addition to Hawaii transfer Nick Nelson, who probably grabbed one of the starting cornerback jobs during the spring. The Badgers will have a new defensive coordinator for the third straight season; defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard was promoted after Justin Wilcox was named Cal's new coach. Pitt transfer Chris James, Bradrick Shaw and Taiwan Deal will probably share carries while trying to replace Clement's production. The Badgers miss Ohio State and Penn State during the regular season and play Michigan at home on Nov. 18.


12. LSU

2016 record: 8-4, 5-3 SEC
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 9
Returning starters: 7 offense, 5 defense, 1 special teams

Key losses: RB Leonard Fournette, WR Travin Dural, C Ethan Pocic, G Josh Boutte, TE Colin Jeter, DE Lewis Neal, DT Davon Godchaux, LB Tashawn Bower, LB Duke Riley, S Jamal Adams, CB Tre'Davious White, WR Malachi Dupre

Outlook: Ed Orgeron's first spring did little to alleviate LSU fans' lingering concerns about the team's offense. Returning starting quarterback Danny Etling struggled mightily during the spring game, and then he underwent minor back surgery when spring practice was over. The bad news for new offensive coordinator Matt Canada: Neither Justin McMillan nor early enrollee Lowell Narcisse seemed ready to push Etling. In fact, Orgeron wants to see incoming freshman Myles Brennan play before he names a starter. Another concern for the Tigers: Star defensive end/linebacker Arden Key hasn't participated in football activities since February for unexplained personal reasons. Orgeron has said he hopes that Key returns to the team at some point this summer.


13. Georgia

2016 record: 8-5, 4-4 SEC
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 13
Returning starters: 7 offense, 10 defense, 2 special teams

Key losses: WR/KR Isaiah McKenzie, LT Tyler Catalina, C Brandon Kublanow, OT Greg Pyke, S Maurice Smith

Outlook: Kirby Smart feels much better about his team heading into his second season as Georgia's coach, especially since sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason has a full season under his belt. With tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel returning, Georgia's running game should be potent -- as long as the offensive line improves. Receivers Terry Godwin and Javon Wims were more consistent this spring, and Tyler Simmons and Mecole Hardman also emerged as potential playmakers. Georgia brings back 10 defensive starters, but star tackle Trenton Thompson missed the spring because of an undisclosed medical condition. Smart says he hopes to have Thompson back before the start of preseason camp.


14. Michigan

2016 record: 10-3, 7-2 Big Ten
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 14
Returning starters: 4 offense, 1 defense, 0 special teams

Key losses: WR Amara Darboh, WR Jehu Chesson, OT Ben Braden, G Kyle Kalis, OT Erik Magnuson, TE Jake Butt, RB De'Veon Smith, LB/RB Jabrill Peppers, DE Chris Wormley, NT Matthew Godin, DT Ryan Glasgow, DE Taco Charlton, LB Ben Gedeon, CB Jourdan Lewis, SS Dymonte Thomas, FS Delano Hill, CB Channing Stribling

Outlook: If Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh really wanted to have some fun with his fans, he might have left his players' names off the back of their jerseys during the spring game. With 18 starters to replace, and 11 early enrollees already on hand to help in the rebuilding process, the Wolverines will be a much different team this coming season. Quarterback Wilton Speight is back, but he'll have to find new targets and three new blockers before the Sept. 2 opener against Florida in Arlington, Texas. The personnel losses are even worse on defense, where 10 starters either exhausted their eligibility or turned pro early. But linebackers Devin Bush and Mike McCray, defensive end Rashan Gary and tackle Maurice Hurst are nice building blocks to start with.


15. Miami

2016 record: 9-4, 5-3 ACC
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 16
Returning starters: 6 offense, 8 defense, 1 special teams

Key losses: QB Brad Kaaya, RB, Joseph Yearby, WR Stacy Coley, TE David Njoku, G Danny Isidora, CB Corn Elder, FS Rayshawn Jenkins, S Jamal Carter Sr.

Outlook: The Hurricanes showed some promise in Mark Richt's first season, and they'll have to find a capable replacement for departed quarterback Brad Kaaya if they're going to continue to improve in Year 2. Junior Malik Rosier, who was Kaaya's backup the previous two seasons, and sophomore Evan Shirreffs were the co-leaders at the conclusion of spring practice. Another quarterback who was competing for the job, Jack Allison, decided to transfer. Two early enrollees, offensive lineman Navaughn Donaldson and receiver DeeJay Dallas, looked as if they might be able to help right away. Much of the buzz around Miami this spring surrounded its 2018 recruiting class, which is currently ranked No. 1 by ESPN.


16. Stanford

2016 record: 10-3, 6-3 Pac-12
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 15
Returning starters: 7 offense, 9 defense, 1 special teams

Key losses: RB Christian McCaffrey, DE Solomon Thomas, WR Michael Rector, WR Francis Owusu, G Johnny Caspers, SS Dallas Lloyd, S Zach Hoffpauir, K Conrad Ukropina

Outlook: The Cardinal have lingering issues at quarterback heading into the offseason, with returning starter Keller Chryst still working his way back from a torn ACL in his right knee he suffered in the Sun Bowl. Senior Ryan Burns, who returned to school for a fifth season, completed 10 of 15 passes in the spring game. K.J. Costello, who was the No. 2 pocket passer in the 2016 class, struggled in the spring and completed 5 of 13 passes in the spring game. Tailback Bryce Love, who is in line to replace star tailback Christian McCaffrey, was limited by an undisclosed injury, allowing Cameron Scarlett and Dorian Maddox to get the bulk of work.


17. Louisville

2016 record: 9-4, 7-1 ACC
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 18
Returning starters: 5 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams

Key losses: WR Jamari Staples, WR James Quick, TE Cole Hikutini, RB Brandon Radcliff, NT DeAngelo Brown, LB Keith Kelsey, LB Devonte Fields, S Josh Harvey-Clemons

Outlook: After the Cardinals dropped their last three games in 2016, they tried to regain momentum by shoring up their offensive line and simplifying their defense during spring practice. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson was sacked 46 times last season, and former Florida assistant Mike Summers is back to help better protect him. Former tackles Lukayus McNeil and Kenny Thomas were working at guard, and juco transfer Toriano Roundtree was working at tackle. Jackson also spent the spring working under center more, and coach Bobby Petrino wants him to spend more time reading through his progressions and throwing down the field more. Cornerback Shaq Wiggins transferred to Tennessee, and backup quarterback Kyle Bolin left for Rutgers.


18. Kansas State

2016 record: 9-4, 6-3 Big 12
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 17
Returning starters: 8 offense, 6 defense, 2 special teams

Key losses: WR Deante Burton, G Terrale Johnson, RB Charles Jones, DE Jordan Willis, LB Elijah Lee, LB Will Davis, LB Charmeachealle Moore, S Donnie Starks, SS Dante Barnett

Outlook: The Wildcats received quite a scare this offseason, when 77-year-old coach Bill Snyder revealed that he'd been receiving treatments for throat cancer since December. Snyder was well enough to coach the Wildcats during the spring, but several of his team's key pieces were missing. Returning quarterback Jesse Ertz missed the spring while recovering from surgery on his right shoulder, and Kansas State was also missing its top two offensive linemen and top two receivers. With Ertz sitting out, sophomore Alex Delton and freshman Skylar Thompson shared reps. Wide receiver Carlos Strickland, a Cal transfer from Dallas, was a big bright spot in the spring.


19. USF

2016 record: 11-2, 7-1 AAC
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 20
Returning starters: 7 offense, 9 defense, 2 special teams

Key losses: RB Marlon Mack, WR Rodney Adams, OT Kofi Amichia, G Dominique Threatt, LB Nigel Harris, SS Nate Godwin, CB Johnny Ward

Outlook: Charlie Strong spent his first spring at USF trying to install a power running game to complement quarterback Quinton Flowers' playmaking abilities. USF still wants its offense to play fast under coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, and the Bulls have three good running backs -- D'Ernest Johnson, Darius Tice and Elijah Mack -- even after Marlon Mack left early for the NFL draft. Safety/linebacker Malik Dixon, a potential starter, announced after spring practice that he's transferring to a junior college, and the Bulls picked up a pair of former Duke defensive linemen, Marquies Price and Brandon Boyce, who will have to sit out this upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.


20. West Virginia

2016 record: 10-3, 7-2 Big 12
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 22
Returning starters: 4 offense, 3 defense, 2 special teams

Key losses: WR Shelton Gibson, WR Daikiel Shorts, OT Adam Pankey, G Tony Matteo, C Tyler Orlosky, QB Skyler Howard, RB Rushel Shell III, DE Noble Nwachukwu, NT Darrien Howard, LB Justin Arndt, S Jarrod Harper, CB Rasul Douglas

Outlook: There has been quite a bit of hype surrounding former Florida quarterback Will Grier, who transferred to West Virginia in April 2016. He looked as good as advertised in the Mountaineers' spring game, completing 12 of 18 passes for 202 yards, and drawing praise from coach Dana Holgorsen for his command of the offense and huddle. The Mountaineers still have some uncertainty on both lines of scrimmage. Only one returning offensive lineman -- guard Kyle Bosch -- has more than 10 career starts, and each of the three starting defensive linemen must be replaced. Adam Shuler, Xavier Pegues and Reese Donahue emerged as potential starters on the defensive line this spring.


21. Florida

2016 record: 9-4, 6-2 SEC
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: NR
Returning starters: 9 offense, 5 defense, 2 special teams

Key losses: CB Teez Tabor, CB Quincy Wilson, LB Jarrad Davis, LB Alex Anzalone, LB Daniel McMillian, NT Joey Ivie, DT Caleb Brantley, S Marcus Maye, OT David Sharpe

Outlook: Even though Florida has won back-to-back SEC East titles in Jim McElwain's first two seasons, he's catching some heat for the way his offense has performed. McElwain hopes Feleipe Franks can help the Gators dramatically improve the passing game this coming season. Franks, a 6-foot-6 freshman, completed 8 of 14 passes for 119 yards with one touchdown in the spring game, and he takes a big lead over freshman Kyle Trask heading into the summer. Luke Del Rio, who started six games at quarterback last season, had surgery on his left shoulder in January and then minor surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder in March.


22. Virginia Tech

2016 record: 10-4, 6-2 ACC
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 25
Returning starters: 5 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams

Key losses: QB Jerod Evans, WR Isaiah Ford, WR Bucky Hodges, G Augie Conte, OT Jonathan McLaughlin, DE Ken Ekanem, DT Woody Baron, DT Nigel Williams, FS Chuck Clark

Outlook: After guiding the Hokies to 10 wins in his first season, Justin Fuente faces a pretty big rebuilding job in Year 2. He hasn't settled on a starting quarterback, and three players -- redshirt freshman Josh Jackson, early enrollee Hendon Hooker and juco transfer A.J. Bush -- remain in contention heading into the offseason. Two other early enrollees, Caleb Farley and Dalton Keene, were impressive this spring and might be able to help. Farley opened spring at cornerback but moved to receiver and produced immediately. The Hokies also have lingering questions at tailback and the right side of the offensive line.


23. Texas

2016 record: 5-7, 3-6 Big 12
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 23
Returning starters: 8 offense, 10 defense, 1 special teams

Key losses: RB D'Onta Foreman, WR Jacorey Warrick, G Kent Perkins, TE Caleb Bluiett, SS Dylan Haines

Outlook: New Texas coach Tom Herman spent the spring tearing down -- literally and figuratively -- what has been an underachieving program the past few seasons. From the locker room to recruiting, Herman hasn't been shy about putting his stamp on the program in a big way. On the field, Herman declined to name a starting quarterback, but Shane Buechele appears to be the clear leader, after throwing for 369 yards with three touchdowns in the spring game. Injuries hampered the Longhorns' search for D'Onta Foreman's replacement this spring, and tight end Andrew Beck broke his foot during offseason workouts.


24. Boise State

2016 record: 10-3, 6-2 Mountain West
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 24
Returning starters: 5 offense, 6 defense, 0 special teams

Key losses: RB Jeremy McNichols, OT Mario Yakoo, G Steven Baggett, G Travis Averill, WR Thomas Sperbeck, LB Ben Weaver, FS Chanceller James, LB Darren Lee, DE Sam McCaskill

Outlook: The Broncos figure to be the best team from a Group of Five conference, especially with quarterback Brett Rypien entering his third season as a starter. Boise State has to replace star tailback Jeremy McNichols, who ran for 1,709 yards with 23 touchdowns last season, and his expected replacement, Alexander Mattison, missed the spring after undergoing shoulder surgery. The Broncos were looking for two new starting linebackers, and then senior Joe Martarano, the expected starter in the middle, left the team to pursue baseball. Junior college transfer Michael Young emerged as a potential starter at one of the cornerback spots.


25. Washington State

2016 record: 8-5, 7-2 Pac-12
Last Way-Too-Early ranking: 21
Returning starters: 7 offense, 9 defense, 2 special teams

Key losses: WR Gabe Marks, WR John Thompson, C Riley Sorenson, G Eduardo Middleton, FS Shalom Luani, WR River Cracraft

Outlook: With quarterback Luke Falk coming back, the Cougars should have one of the most prolific passing offenses in the FBS. But Falk has to find some new primary targets and receivers Isaiah Johnson-Mack and Dezmon Patmon showed they're ready to help Tavares Martin Jr. this coming season. The Cougars also figure to continue to get their running backs involved in the passing game, as James Williams and Keith Harrington combined for 19 catches in the spring game. Running backs Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow were both limited in the spring with injuries.

Dropped out: Colorado