Winter workouts are underway, and spring ball is right around the corner. It’s that time of the football schedule when teams are figuring out how to deal with the turnover they endured with NFL draft declarations and transfer portal departures.
Turnover is the name of the game in college football. The teams that consistently win are the teams that have had the best recruiting classes, which has allowed them to withstand that turnover.
Each offseason, ESPN’s Bill Connelly takes a look at the roster overhauls to determine which teams have the greatest amount of returning production (ESPN+). Returning production has had an impact in his SP+ ratings.
On average, teams returning at least 80% of production improve by about 5.8 adjusted points per game in the following season’s SP+ ratings. That’s a pretty significant bump! For a team ranked 25th in SP+ last year, adding 5.8 points to its rating would have bumped it to 10th. And in the past two seasons that weren’t majorly impacted by a pandemic (2019 and 2022), the average improvement for teams at 80% or higher is 6.8 points. – Connelly, ESPN
Not all programs are alike, however. Alabama, which ranked 125 in returning production, will be able to withstand losses a bit easier because they’ve recruited better than other teams in the bottom 33. We’ll have to wait and see if teams like TCU and Cincinnati are able to overcome their lack of returning production. Interestingly, those two schools each appeared in the College Football Playoff in the last two seasons.
Here’s how Connelly weighs the offense:
Broken out by position/player, you’re looking at roughly 29% for the quarterback, 6% for the running back and each of four wide receivers and/or tight ends and 9% for each offensive lineman. With each year of data, offensive line snaps become a heavier piece of the equation, which I find interesting. – Connelly, ESPN
So based on his equation, the Sooners lost 27% along the offensive line with the departures of Anton Harrison, Wanya Morris, and Chris Murray. Toss in another 18% for the losses of Eric Gray, Marvin Mims, and Brayden Willis, and the Sooners have lost roughly 45% of their offensive production from a year ago.
Now the Sooners did welcome transfer additions Walter Rouse and Caleb Shaffer to replace two of their three departing offensive line starters, but given that Shaffer is coming from the Group of Five, his snaps don’t count as much as Chris Murray’s.
Conversely, here’s how he evaluates the defensive side of the ball.
Perhaps surprisingly, turnover in the back of the defense causes far more of a shift in a team’s SP+ rating from year to year than turnover up front. By position, defensive backs make up about 46% of the defensive formula, while linebackers are at 40% and the defensive line is at 14%. – Connelly, ESPN
The Sooners’ biggest departures were at the linebacker level with David Ugwoegbu (transfer portal) and DaShaun White (NFL) moving on. They also lost Jalen Redmond and Jeffery Johnson, but according to Connelly’s metrics, those snaps don’t weigh as heavily.
Oklahoma added some pieces along the defensive front to help bolster its pass rush and mitigate the losses. However, they are hoping for their young linebacker corp to take a step forward in 2023 to replace their veteran backers.
Here’s a look at how the Big 12 stacks up in terms of ESPN’s
Nov 19, 2022; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Jalon Daniels (6) drops back to pass as Texas Longhorns defensive end Ovie Oghoufo (18) defends during the first half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
National Rank: 2
Returning Production: 85%
The return of Jalon Daniels is huge for Kansas, who is looking to take another step forward in year three of Lance Leipold.
Oct 15, 2022; Austin, Texas, USA; Texas Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers (3) calls a play from the line of scrimmage during the second half against the Iowa State Cyclones at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
National Rank: 19
Returning Production: 74%
The losses of Bijan Robinson, DeMarvion Overshown, and Moro Ojomo are huge, but Texas returns Quinn Ewers, Xavier Worthy, and JT Sanders.
Nov 12, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; UCF Knights quarterback John Rhys Plumlee (10) passes the ball against the Tulane Green Wave during the fourth quarter at Yulman Stadium. Rebecca Warren-USA TODAY Sports
National Rank: 51
Returning Production: 66%
Of the entering four teams into the Big 12, UCF seems the team primed to have the best start to their Power Five tenure.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Nov 26, 2022; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders running back Tahj Brooks (28) runs the ball against Oklahoma Sooners defensive safety Billy Bowman (5) in the first half at Jones AT&T Stadium and Cody Campbell Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
National Rank: 64
Returning Production: 64%
There’s reason for excitement in Lubbock after an 8-5 season in Joey McGuire’s first year. Returning quarterback Tyler Shough needs to stay healthy, but the arrow is pointing up for the Red Raiders.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Nov 26, 2022; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers safety Marcis Floyd (24) gestures after an Oklahoma State incompletion late in the fourth quarter of a college football game between Oklahoma State and West Virginia at Boone Pickens Stadium. Bryan Terry-USA TODAY Sports
National Rank: 66
Returning Production: 64%
The offense is still a mystery, but if they’re fully in on Garrett Greene, they might be alright. There’s a bit of an x-factor element to his game. It’s the defense that’s bringing back the biggest portion of their production from a year ago.
Iowa State Cyclones
Nov 20, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell reacts during the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
National Rank: 67
Returning Production: 63%
Life without Brock Purdy, Breece Hall, and Charlie Kolar was rough. Losing Xavier Hutchinson and Will McDonald won’t help Matt Campbell and the Cyclones fair much better. Hunter Dekkers is back, but they’ve got a lot of questions to answer on offense still.
Dec 18, 2021; Shreveport, LA, USA; BYU Cougars linebacker Ben Bywater (33) and BYU Cougars defensive back Ammon Hannemann (22) react after a defensive stop during the second half against the UAB Blazers during the 2021 Independence Bowl at Independence Stadium. Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
National Rank: 70
Returning Production: 63%
The loss of Jaren Hall creates a void at quarterback the Cougars are hoping Kedon Slovis will fill. On his third team in as many seasons, the former USC and Pitt quarterback is hoping to catch lightning in a bottle in Provo.
Kansas State Wildcats
Oct 29, 2022; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Will Howard (18) makes a pass during the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
National Rank: 76
Returning Production: 63%
No more Deuce Vaughn for Big 12 teams to contend with. Thank goodness. Will Howard took over for Adrian Martinez last year and was fantastic, leading the Wildcats to the Big 12 title. The offense was humming under Howard and he returns, making the Wildcats one of the favorites for the conference title in 2023.
Sept. 24, 2022; Norman; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) warms up before the game against the Kansas State Wildcats at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
National Rank: 77
Returning Production: 62%
Turnover is the name of the game again in Norman. A year ago, it was defensive losses that hurt the Sooners. In 2023, they’ll have to replace their leading receiver and leading rusher from 2022; Marvin Mims and Eric Gray. The in-house options at running back are fantastic with Jovantae Barnes and Gavin Sawchuk. At wide receiver, look for Jalil Farooq to ascend to stardom as the do-it-all receiver in Jeff Lebby’s offense. Dillon Gabriel returning should help alleviate any concerns we might feel about the losses on offense.
Nov 6, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Houston Cougars head coach Dana Holgorsen reads a playcard during the first half against the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium. Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
National Rank: 82
Returning Production: 60%
Houston lost Clayton Tune to the NFL, but replaced him with an experienced option in Donovan Smith. Smith started a bunch of games for the Red Raiders over the last couple of seasons and will be an impact player for the Cougars due to his dual-threat ability.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Dec 27, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy against the Wisconsin Badgers in the first half of the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bowl at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
National Rank: 89
Returning Production: 57%
Spencer Sanders to Ole Miss is easily the biggest loss the Oklahoma State Cowboys experienced. Maybe not the best quarterback in the Big 12 in 2022, he was certainly the best QB that Mike Gundy’s had at the helm in some time.
Nov 25, 2022; Austin, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears quarterback Blake Shapen (12) throws a pass during the first half against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Returning Production: 55%
The Bears are losing Connor Galvin and Siaki Ika to the NFL. Back are their quarterback, leading rushers, and leading wide receivers from a year ago. Year three of Blake Shapen should see some further progression, but the Bears defense took a step back in 2022. Can they rebound in 2023 given the lack of returning production on that side of the ball?
TCU Horned Frogs
Oct 1, 2022; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; TCU Horned Frogs head coach Sonny Dykes reacts during the first half against the Oklahoma Sooners at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
National Rank: 118
Returning Production: 52%
Max Duggan, Kendre Miller, and Quentin Johnston are all off to the NFL. Johnston is a bonafide first rounder and Miller likely goes in the top 100. Duggan will get drafted as well. They have a lot returning, but a lot of what led TCU’s offense in 2022 is gone. The depth in Fort Worth will be tested.
Nov 11, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats offensive lineman James Tunstall (72) celebrates after their victory over the East Carolina Pirates at Nippert Stadium. Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
National Rank: 124
Returning Production: 46%
The Bearcats may not have a lot of returning production but on the plus side, they’re in good company with the Alabama Crimson Tide sitting right behind them. That said, the talent pools that the two schools are working with to replace the lost production are vastly different.
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