Now that we’ve established why and how much returning production matters, let’s take a look at this year’s results. First up, all the kits and the caboodles:
Overall returning production
The teams with the most overall returning production are Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, and USC. Also notable toward the top of the list are Virginia Tech, Purdue, Florida State, Texas, and North Carolina.
At the bottom of the list? Utah, which is why I’m not high on Utah despite the arrival of Jake Bentley. In all, seven Utes from last year’s team were drafted. On offense, the draft losses were limited to running back Zack Moss, although his contribution last season — 1,416 yards and 15 touchdowns — constitutes a huge hole all by itself. The bigger catastrophe is on the defensive side of the ball, where three defensive linemen and three defensive backs were all drafted and another defensive back left early but didn’t get picked. Kyle Whittingham knows what he’s doing, but that right there is a chore.
Other notables toward the bottom of the list are Miami, Baylor, LSU, Mississippi State, and Michigan.
Offensive returning production
Notable teams that return a lot on offense include Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, and USC. Teams with challenges on that side of the ball include LSU, Georgia, and Utah. More on Georgia’s offensive challenges in a minute.
Defensive returning production
Teams in particularly good shape on defense include Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, USC, Florida State, and Purdue. On the flip side, Baylor, Utah, Miami, Mississippi State, and Alabama all have major holes to fill. With the way they recruit, the Tide are going to be fine, of course, but plugging those holes is on the to-do list.
What about the SEC?
Here’s how things shape up in the SEC:
Overall, A&M leads the league in returning production, followed closely by Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Tennessee. This is just one of the many reasons we and so many others reaaaaally like the Aggies as a dark-horse pick for the West. It’s also why we Vols fans are still looking over our shoulders at Kentucky even though Tennessee is improving.
LSU brings up the rear with only 45%. The Tigers are basically starting over, and it’s not just because they lost Joe Burrow. Also gone are Clyde Edwards-Helaire, most of the offensive line, most of the linebackers, and Thorpe Award-winner Grant Delpit. And we haven’t even talked about the coordinators yet.
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When you sort that thing by offense, Ole Miss takes the top spot by a long shot, followed by A&M and Tennessee. Lane Kiffin and the Rebels could make trouble for some folks in the West this fall.
Vanderbilt earns the distinction of returning the least amount of offensive production in the SEC, largely due to having every single one of last year’s quarterbacks either graduate or jump ship. LSU has offensive roster attrition you knew was coming.
Georgia has issues as well, most notably the early departures of quarterback Jake Fromm and running back D’Andre Swift and the loss of four starters along the offensive line to the NFL and the transfer portal. The offensive returning production for the Bulldogs is just one of the factors that I believe is going to lead to Florida overtaking them this year.
Vanderbilt wins today’s Out-Of-Balance award, as the Commodores return the most amount of defensive production to offset returning the least amount on offense. Go ‘Dores.
Right behind Vanderbilt is Georgia, a frightening prospect for a defense that finished first in the nation in both rushing and scoring defense last fall. Whatever challenges they might face on offense, the defense may be able to erase. Kentucky’s right there with the Bulldogs, returning nearly as much from a defense that finished in the Top 25 last season.
Teams with more work to do than most on that side of the ball are Mississippi State, Alabama, LSU, and Auburn. Most of those are recruiting well enough to weather the storm.
Does anything in either of those lists jump out at you as being particularly important? Does anything in either of them not matter at all for other reasons? Tell us what you think.