We have 8 seniors on this team with ~5 starters, and 16 juniors with ~7 starters. I’m going to list them below in order of detrimental impact when they leave.
#1 – Hurst
He’s a dominant interior DL. With the move to more 3-man front this year, I did not expect him to have the impact he’s having, but he’s playing like a first round pick right now.
#2 – Cole
Solid lineman, on a sorry line.
#3 – Winovich
I was not expecting as much out of Winovich as he’s shown this year. Thought he was great last year, but I did think motor would be an issue with starter-quantity snaps. He has blown my expectations out of the water. I’d put him above Cole but OL depth is a bigger concern.
#4 – Kinnel
Secondary doesn’t have tremendous depth, over the next two years I expect that to change, but Kinnel has been good back there.
#5 – McCray
Team captain. Solid linebacker.
#6 – Perry
He has been the bright spot at receiver this year. I’m hopeful with the last class we brought in with some time they can develop and learn to gel with whoever our starting QB may be.
#7 – Speight
Speight is not Baker Mayfield, but I think he could have won the MSU game for us. That’s not praising Speight as much as it’s speaking out about O’Korn’s atrocious 3 interception game. What the hell was Purdue?!
#8 – Hill/Poggi
Great fullback play from these two. I think we’ll be ok with Mason, and I’m unsure where this position is going, but they’ve been great.
#9 – Higdon
Outstanding game vs. Indiana, but hasn’t warranted a higher spot. This may even be reaching.
#10 – Kugler
He is having an average year at a position of great need, but his loss will not be mourned for long.
#11 – Furbush
He’s looked pretty darn good this year.. but a lot of Don Brown’s linebackers have looked pretty darn good. I think we’ll be able to replace him when his time comes.
#12 – Bunting
Heard a lot of hype about Bunting in this off season, but haven’t seen much happening on the field.
**** #1 TIE – Gary. He’s not a junior or senior this year, but I do think he’ll leave early for the draft. Wanted to keep him separate from the list above as he’s only a sophomore.
Honorable mention – Mone – I think he’s a BEAST, but his motor is questionable, and it doesn’t seem like the coaches want to throw him into too many snaps so far this season.
Depending on if you want to call a few of them starters… that’s ~13 starters lost over the next 2 years. Last year we had 11 players lost to the draft, with a handful of free agents picked up as well. That’s a lot of talent to lose, and we don’t have a ton of upper-classmen ready to replace that talent.
Our team has 18 sophomores, with 40 freshmen/RS freshmen. That’s a very young team, but we finally have bodies in all the right places.
Roster has enough spots at OL. There will be 3 RS senior tackles, two true senior guards, and barring any attrition, 11 other linemen on the team.
Roster has enough spots on DL. Without any attrition, there will be 10 bodies that are 3rd or 4th year players on the line.
There has been a QB taken every year.
There has been a RB taken every year.
We have a very talented younger WR class.
We have the necessary bodies AND talent at DB.
If Bush doesn’t leave, our LBs will be absolutely dominant next year AND the year after.
There will be plenty of talent and bodies available to replace the very few upperclassmen that will leave us between now and 2019.
We’ve been through the Rich Rod years. We’ve been through the Hoke years. I truly believe we’re on the right course, and even though this is not the year, 2018 is looking like we could be competitive. And unless anything crazy happens, 2019 is the year we play in the college football playoff.