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College football’s top 25 future offense power rankings

As Nick Saban told ESPN’s Chris Low last fall, “Good defense doesn’t beat good offense anymore.” College football is increasingly becoming an offense-driven sport, and few have adjusted better than Saban and Alabama.

The Crimson Tide had arguably the greatest offense in college football history in 2020, leading the nation in efficiency (96.4) en route to a national title. That also continued a trend: The past five national champions all ranked in the top four in offensive efficiency.

Our second installment of future power rankings examines the top 25 offensive units in college football. A reminder: This list covers the 2021, 2022 and 2023 seasons and considers current rosters, future recruiting, potential NFL departures, non-senior depth and unit trajectory. Much like the quarterback list, this projection weighs the NCAA’s blanket waiver for 2020 that allows players not to count the season against their eligibility.

Coaching is also an important factor in determining the Top 25. Programs such as Oklahoma, Ohio State and Florida never figure to slip far on offense because of their head coaches. While Saban’s specialty is on defense, he has been masterful in finding different coordinators to oversee Alabama’s perennially potent offense.

Let’s get to the Top 25.

2021 future QB ranking: 1
2020 future offense ranking: 3

Scouting the Sooners: OU is absolutely loaded on offense and should remain that way as long as Lincoln Riley stays in Norman. The short-term outlook is stunningly good, and it’s a big reason the Sooners might be a trendy preseason national title pick despite their past CFP struggles. Quarterback Spencer Rattler will lead the offense for at least another year (potentially two) after eclipsing 3,000 pass yards with 28 touchdowns in his first season as the starter. There’s depth behind him with Caleb Williams, ESPN’s No. 16 overall player in 2021. Top pass-catchers Marvin Mims, Theo Wease and Austin Stogner are back after combining for 1,562 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. All three have multiple years of eligibility left, and Oklahoma adds Mario Williams Jr., ESPN’s top-rated receiver and No. 17 overall player in the 2021 class.

Running back is also stacked after Oklahoma added Tennessee transfer Eric Gray (772 rush yards in 2020) alongside Kennedy Brooks, who opted out of last season, and young players like Seth McGowan and Marcus Major, who both have four years of eligibility left after combining for 93 carries in 2020. OU loses standout center Creed Humphrey but returns three offensive line starters, plus Tennessee tackle transfer Wanya Morris. Sophomore tackle Anton Harrison could be a star. The key will be whether Chris Murray, who started at guard at UCLA before transferring, can stabilize the center spot for a year or two. OU is piling up lineman transfers, but recently has added strong recruits like Andrew Raym (2020) and Savion Byrd (2021).

2021 future QB ranking: 4
2020 future offense ranking: 4

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Scouting the Crimson Tide: Alabama has pivoted to become an offense-driven program, despite changes at both playcaller and quarterback. A record-setting 2020 offense loses a ton — Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, standout quarterback Mac Jones, Doak Walker Award winner Najee Harris, speed threat Jaylen Waddle and several linemen — but any significant decline is unlikely. Quarterback Bryce Young is the unit’s future, at least through 2022, and his development under new coordinator Bill O’Brien will be fascinating. While Harris (3,843 rush yards, 46 touchdowns) will be missed, Alabama will finally be able to show its depth at running back. Veteran Brian Robinson Jr. returns alongside Trey Sanders, a top-20 recruit in 2019 who has struggled with injuries. Second-year players Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams, who both ranked among ESPN’s top 10 backs in the 2020 class, will return, and Alabama added Camar Wheaton, ESPN’s No. 3 back in the 2021 class. Emmanuel Henderson, ESPN’s top-ranked junior back and No. 12 overall player, recently committed to Alabama.

Sophomore John Metchie III (916 receiving yards in 2020) leads the next generation of Tide wide receivers, which includes seven ESPN 300 recruits from the past two classes. Junior Slade Bolden provides some experience alongside Metchie. Tight end Jahleel Billingsley (15.9 YPC in 2020) could be an emerging star. A short-term offensive line drop-off is likely, but sophomore tackle Evan Neal and senior center Chris Owens anchor a group that’s filled with young talent (Pierce Quick, Darrian Dalcourt, Tommy Brockermeyer, JC Latham, James Brockermeyer). New line coach Doug Marrone is among the best at his craft.

2021 future QB ranking: 2
2020 future offense ranking: 1

Scouting the Tigers: Clemson won only one national title during the Trevor Lawrence era, and it says farewell to record-setting running back Travis Etienne and others, but the outlook remains very promising. The Tigers once again retained primary playcaller Tony Elliott, whose loyalty to the program is remarkable. Elliott likely will move on before 2023, although he already has stayed longer than anyone expected. Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei is pegged to lead the offense for at least two more seasons after passing for 781 yards and four touchdowns in two starts last fall. Justyn Ross returns from a spinal injury, likely for just 2021, but he will lead an always-talented receiving corps that includes non-seniors like E.J. Williams, Frank Ladson Jr. and Joseph Ngata, who comes off of an injury-plagued season. Tight end also is a position of strength with senior Braden Galloway and junior Davis Allen.

Lyn-J Dixon finally gets his chance as the top running back and has two years of eligibility left and 208 career carries. Chez Mellusi and Darien Rencher provide depth, and Will Shipley, ESPN’s No. 2 back in the 2021 class, is already enrolled. Clemson’s offensive line returns four starters, including three non-seniors, but must replace Jackson Carman, who opposing coaches considered by far the team’s best lineman in 2020. The Tigers signed four ESPN 300 offensive line recruits in 2021, led by Tristan Leigh (No. 4 tackle, No. 24 overall player).

Clemson running back Lyn-J Dixon will be in the top role this season. Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY Sports

2021 future QB ranking: 5
2020 future offense ranking: 2

Scouting the Buckeyes: There are some short-term concerns as Ohio State loses quarterback Justin Fields after two record-setting seasons. But Ryan Day’s presence and vision, along with superb recruiting, indicates the Buckeyes will remain among the nation’s most dangerous offenses. Whoever emerges from the offseason QB competition — C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller, Kyle McCord — likely will be a multiyear answer with plenty around him. Chris Olave’s somewhat surprising return gives Ohio State a premier wideout to lead a group that also features juniors Garrett Wilson and Jameson Williams, sophomore Julian Fleming and adds Emeka Egbuka and Jayden Ballard, two of ESPN’s top five receiver recruits in the 2021 class. Tight end Jeremy Ruckert’s return stabilizes the position through the 2021 season.

Running back Trey Sermon will be missed, but likely not for long. Master Teague III is an experienced option (256 career carries), and Ohio State adds TreVeyon Henderson, ESPN’s top-rated running back and No. 9 overall player in the 2021 class. Miyan Williams also could be a factor for several more seasons. The offensive line should be the unit’s short-term (and potentially long-term) strength as tackle Thayer Munford leads the group along with Harry Miller, who likely shifts to center to replace Josh Myers. Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere form one of the nation’s top tackle tandems, and experienced guard Matthew Jones also returns. Paris Johnson Jr., ESPN’s No. 11 overall player in the 2020 class, is positioned to lead the line beyond the 2021 season. Ohio State adds guard Donovan Jackson, ESPN’s No. 70 overall 2021 recruit.

2021 future QB ranking: 6
2020 future offense ranking: 6

Scouting the Bulldogs: Georgia’s overall talent on offense virtually guarantees a top-10 spot in these rankings every year. But coordinator Todd Monken’s arrival has Dawg fans feeling like they will finally see elite-level offenses perform between the hedges. Georgia’s late-season surge behind quarterback JT Daniels — the Bulldogs had 2,000 yards in their final four games — has elevated expectations for 2021 and beyond. Daniels’ return and strong quarterback recruiting stabilizes the most important position. Veteran running backs Zamir White and James Cook both return for 2021, and there’s plenty of non-senior depth (Kenny McIntosh, Daijun Edwards, Kendall Milton). The unit’s biggest development is improvement in wide receiver talent and depth. Georgia suffered a big blow this week when junior George Pickens — 85 career catches for 1,240 yards and 14 touchdowns — sustained an ACL tear. Daniels now must lean on Kearis Jackson and Jermaine Burton, both of whom have multiple years of eligibility left. Monken’s long-term priority will be developing more young receivers, such as Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint and Arian Smith, for 2022 and beyond.

Tight end should remain a strength for Georgia as Darnell Washington and John FitzPatrick both return with multiple years of eligibility, and the Bulldogs add ESPN 300 recruit Brock Bowers. Offensive line coach Matt Luke has plenty of experienced options, including seniors Jamaree Salyer and Justin Shaffer. Georgia has young talent, too — tackle Warren McClendon, center Sedrick Van Pran-Granger, tackle Broderick Jones — and recruits extremely well up front. The Bulldogs just added Amarius Mims, ESPN’s No. 3 tackle and No. 20 prospect for 2021.

2021 future QB ranking: 9
2020 future offense ranking: 16

Scouting the Aggies: In hindsight, the Aggies should be a little higher in the quarterback rankings. They’re set up well through recruiting with Haynes King and others, and Jimbo Fisher’s quarterback track record is tough to beat. The overall offense projects really well, despite short-term turnover at quarterback and along the offensive line. Texas A&M must replace four line starters, but returns an anchor in Kenyon Green, the former top-3 recruit who enters 2021 as one of the nation’s top trenchmen. Tennessee transfer Jahmir Johnson started 17 games for the Vols and will help in the short term, and the line’s overall development under veteran coach Josh Henson is worth watching. The group once again will block for Isaiah Spiller, a first-team All-SEC selection in 2020 who had 1,036 rush yards and nine touchdowns last season. Devon Achane, who averaged 8.5 yards per carry with four touchdowns as a true freshman, is poised to take over in 2022.

Texas A&M’s young receiving core fuels the overall excitement about the unit. Do-it-all junior Ainias Smith and sophomore Chase Lane both could play through 2022, and junior Caleb Chapman returns from injury to provide a big downfield target. Demond Demas, ESPN’s No. 5 wideout and No. 47 overall player in the 2020 class, likely will have a much bigger role soon, along with another second-year player in Moose Muhammad III. Tight end Jalen Wydermyer led Texas A&M in receptions (46) and will enter his junior season among the favorites for the Mackey Award. The Aggies also regain Baylor Cupp, a top-65 recruit in 2020, from injury.

2021 future QB ranking: 3
2020 future offense ranking: 7

Scouting the Trojans: Every projection about USC includes the disclaimer that coach Clay Helton needs to win big to keep his job. But the outlook on offense looks strong under coordinator Graham Harrell, who has boosted USC’s passing game but needs more from the run. Quarterback depth looks very good with Kedon Slovis for possibly two more seasons, and standout 2021 recruits Jaxson Dart and Miller Moss. The wide receiver group will continue to thrive in Harrell’s Air Raid system, although there’s some short-term turnover. USC does keep sophomore Drake London (team-high 502 receiving yards in 2020) and adds Colorado transfer K.D. Nixon. There’s also an exciting group of young receivers that includes Bru McCoy, Gary Bryant Jr. and incoming freshman Kyron Ware-Hudson. USC has depth at tight end with senior Erik Krommenhoek, redshirt freshman Jude Wolfe and others.

USC’s running back tradition is virtually unmatched in college football history, but a veteran group needs to produce more. Seniors Vavae Malepeai and Stephen Carr have played a lot of ball, but Texas transfer Keaontay Ingram could emerge as RB1. Will USC find more touches for speedster Kenan Christon? Four offensive line starters return from a group that must improve and replace tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker, a projected first-round pick. Of the returnees, all but one (Liam Jimmons) could return in 2022. But new line coach Clay McGuire has some work ahead.

2021 future QB ranking: 8
2020 future offense ranking: 8

Scouting the Gators: Like Alabama, Florida loses an incredible group of stars but likely won’t be down for long on offense, if at all. Dan Mullen’s offenses just don’t slip. Quarterback Emory Jones gets his chance to lead the unit, possibly for multiple seasons, and gives defenses a different look from Kyle Trask. Leading rusher Dameon Pierce is back as a senior, but he will be pushed by senior Malik Davis, sophomore Nay’Quan Wright and Clemson transfer Demarkcus Bowman, ESPN’s No. 23 overall player in the 2020 class. Florida loses top wide receivers Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes, and will lean on Jacob Copeland and Justin Shorter in the short term as young wideouts like sophomores Xzavier Henderson develop.

Tight end Kyle Pitts (770 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns in 2020) is a massive, massive loss, which senior Kemore Gamble and junior Keon Zipperer will attempt to fill, at least in the short term. Florida also signed two ESPN 300 tight end recruits (Gage Wilcox, Nick Elksnis) in the 2021 class. But an overall drop in passing production is inevitable. Some offensive line flux is likely in 2021, as junior Richard Gouraige shifts from guard to tackle and Florida needs to sort out the right side. Guard should be a strength with veteran Stewart Reese and sophomore Josh Braun, who will lead the next wave of Gators linemen along with Ethan White and others.

Emory Jones sat behind Kyle Trask for three seasons at Florida, but will get his shot. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

2021 future QB ranking: 9
2020 future offense ranking: 12

Scouting the Longhorns: After orchestrating record-setting offenses at Alabama, Steve Sarkisian arrives to help a team that hasn’t kept pace with Oklahoma on the scoreboard or with Big 12 championships. Sarkisian inherits a group with potential to make a jump in 2021, if a young quarterback emerges, and projects well through 2023. Texas has amassed enough talent at quarterback — Casey Thompson (fourth year, sophomore eligibility) and Hudson Card (second year, freshman eligibility), plus decorated 2022 recruit Maalik Murphy — to reach another level. Texas’ first quarterback competition under Sarkisian has major implications, but many fans are most excited about sophomore running back Bijan Robinson, who averaged 8.2 yards per carry in 2020 and should see his attempts soar with the new staff. Roschon Johnson, who has 203 rushes in his first two seasons, provides some insurance there.

Leading receiver Joshua Moore is back alongside Jake Smith and Jordan Whittington — all three have multiple years of eligibility left. Texas also has a commitment from ESPN 300 junior receiver Armani Whitfield. Kyle Flood takes over an offensive line that loses star left tackle Samuel Cosmi but boasts experience, especially at guard with Denzel Okafor and Junior Angilau, as well as versatile senior Derek Kerstetter. Flood’s development of young linemen like center Jake Majors and left tackle Andrej Karic will shape the long-term outlook.

2021 future QB ranking: 7
2020 future offense ranking: 15

Scouting the Tar Heels: Even though quarterback Sam Howell likely has only one year left in Chapel Hill, UNC’s offense sets up well through the 2023 season. Coordinator Phil Longo’s system is very appealing to skill players, and the Tar Heels continue to make recruiting strides under Mack Brown. UNC signed ESPN 300 quarterbacks in each of Brown’s first three classes (Howell, Jacolby Criswell, Drake Maye). There are short-term concerns around Howell after the departures of running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, and receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome. Howell will regain wideout Beau Corrales, who had 40 receptions in 2019 before being limited to five games last fall because of injury. Speedy second-year player Khafre Brown, who averaged a team-best 22.5 yards per catch in 2020, also returns alongside veteran tight end Garrett Walston and talented second-year wideout Josh Downs.

Along with Howell, UNC’s immediate strength is an offensive line led by All-ACC selections Joshua Ezeudu, Brian Anderson and Marcus McKethan. All five starters are back. Running back is the biggest short-term question mark, although Tennessee graduate transfer Ty Chandler (2,046 career rush yards on 421 carries) should help there.

2021 future QB ranking: 15
2020 future offense ranking: 5

Scouting the Tigers: Two years ago, a transcendent LSU offense propelled the team to its first national title in 12 seasons. LSU’s offense could get the Tigers back in championship contention, as the unit returns depth at quarterback and other spots. Veteran quarterback Myles Brennan returns from injury and will compete with second-year players Max Johnson and TJ Finley this offseason. Johnson, who had eight touchdown passes and only one interception in relief of Brennan last season, looks like LSU’s future at QB. The Tigers have options at running back with John Emery Jr., Tyrion Davis-Price and Tre Bradford — all of whom retain multiple years of eligibility. They also add two of ESPN’s top 10 backs for the 2021 class in Armoni Goodwin and Corey Kiner.

LSU will miss productive wideout Terrace Marshall Jr. and tight end Arik Gilbert, who transferred after catching 35 passes as a freshman. But new coordinators Jake Peetz and DJ Mangas should find ways to feature wideout Kayshon Boutte, who ended his freshman season playing extremely well. Jaray Jenkins and Koy Moore combined for 45 receptions in 2020 and can play multiple seasons, and veteran Jontre Kirklin caught three touchdown passes last fall. All five offensive line starters return, including the left side of the line in tackle Dare Rosenthal and guard Ed Ingram. Super seniors Austin Deculus and Liam Shanahan will help lead the group, and LSU adds Garrett Dellinger, ESPN’s No. 33 overall recruit in the 2021 class, as well as coveted 2022 tackle Will Campbell.

2021 future QB ranking: 14
2020 future offense ranking: 11

Scouting the Cowboys: The unit went through injuries and inconsistent play in 2020, but has a chance to build on a strong finish. Oklahoma State projects well at quarterback with junior Spencer Sanders and Shane Illingworth, who received valuable playing time when Sanders was injured last fall. Running back Chuba Hubbard’s departure doesn’t sting as much as many expected. Dezmon Jackson, LD Brown and Dominic Richardson combined for 1,207 rush yards and nine touchdowns last fall. Jackson, Brown and Utah State transfer Jaylen Warren are all seniors, so Richardson’s development for 2022 and 2023 will be key.

Even after losing Tylan Wallace and Dillon Stoner, wide receiver remains a position of strength for coach Mike Gundy and coordinator Kasey Dunn. Senior Braydon Johnson will lead the unit, which adds Washington State graduate transfer Tay Martin, but there are also intriguing underclassmen like Brennan Presley (three touchdowns in bowl win). Oklahoma State’s lone ESPN 300 commit in the 2021 class is wide receiver Bryson Green. Injuries plagued the Pokes’ offensive line last fall, but many returning players gained experience. All-Big 12 guard Josh Sills leads the group, which adds Miami (Ohio) transfer Danny Godlevske and features an incumbent left tackle in redshirt sophomore Jake Springfield.

2021 future QB ranking: 21
2020 future offense ranking: 13

Scouting the Ducks: There’s some short-term suspense at quarterback after Tyler Shough’s transfer, but between veteran Anthony Brown and decorated incoming freshman Ty Thompson — not to mention Jay Butterfield — the Ducks should be fine through 2023. Oregon’s overall recruiting and hyperfocus on the offensive line, coach Mario Cristobal’s specialty, suggests more success is coming for the unit. There’s a lot of experience at running back with top backs Travis Dye and CJ Verdell, who both have two years of eligibility left, alongside promising redshirt freshman Sean Dollars. Oregon also signed two ESPN 300 running back recruits in Seven McGee and Byron Caldwell. The wide receivers might have the best overall outlook. Seniors Johnny Johnson III and Jaylon Redd — who have combined for 2,855 career yards and 28 touchdowns on 232 receptions — will lead the group in 2021. Sophomore Mycah Pittman should see a jump in production, and Oregon has an intriguing group of young wideouts (Devon Williams, Kris Hutson), plus three of ESPN’s top 15 recruits in the 2021 class.

Oregon’s top linemen gained key experience in 2020, and the Ducks should produce several All-Pac-12 performers, with center Alex Forsyth leading the way. Only left tackle George Moore has senior eligibility in 2021, and Oregon brings in top-100 national prospect Kingsley Suamataia at tackle and three other ESPN 300 lineman recruits. Junior tight end DJ Johnson (three touchdown receptions in 2020) is back.

2021 future QB ranking: 16
2020 future offense ranking: 9

Scouting the Fighting Irish: Notre Dame’s two CFP losses (17 points combined) showed that the program clearly needs more explosiveness on offense to win titles. The Irish must continue to build on their strengths — offensive line, tight end, running back — and get more from the perimeter game and ultimately quarterback. Wisconsin quarterback transfer Jack Coan is a solid option for 2021, but Notre Dame needs incoming recruit Tyler Buchner to be as advertised to help elevate the unit for the future. Coach Lance Taylor’s running back room projects very well with Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree, who combined for 1,621 rush yards and 17 touchdowns in 2020. Both have multiple years of eligibility left. Tight end Michael Mayer, just a sophomore, comes off of a 42-catch season and will be a Mackey Award candidate this fall. Notre Dame is well-stocked behind Mayer with George Takacs, Kevin Bauman and incoming freshman Cane Berrong, ESPN’s top-rated tight end and No. 51 overall player in the 2021 class.

The line returns versatile veterans such as Jarrett Patterson and Josh Lugg, who could occupy the tackle spots for their final seasons. Zeke Correll, who could play center for potentially the next three seasons, looks like the group’s anchor for 2022. Notre Dame also signed Rocco Spindler, ESPN’s top guard and No. 66 player in the 2021 class. That brings us to wide receiver, where veterans Avery Davis, Kevin Austin Jr. and Braden Lenzy must step up this fall. Austin has explosive ability but struggles to stay healthy. The key is whether any younger wideouts — second-year player Jordan Johnson, incoming freshman Deion Colzie — provide the big-play spark Notre Dame desperately needs.

Jack Coan transferred to Notre Dame from Wisconsin. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

2021 future QB ranking: 18
2020 future offense ranking: 10

Scouting the Nittany Lions: Penn State hired coordinator Mike Yurcich (Texas, Ohio State, Oklahoma State) to spark a unit that never really took off under Kirk Ciarrocca. Yurcich’s top job is getting quarterback Sean Clifford back on track after a shaky 2020 season. Clifford, who has 33 touchdowns in two years as the starter, must show greater accuracy and the ability to stretch the field (8.2 YPC for his career). PSU could add a transfer in the next year or so to stabilize the position for the long term. The backfield questions continue at running back, as sophomore Noah Cain returns from injury and Baylor transfer John Lovett (1,803 career rush yards, 17 touchdowns) join leading rusher Keyvone Lee and others. Wide receiver depth is key, but Penn State returns a bona fide star in Jahan Dotson, who returns for most likely his final season after averaging 17 yards per catch with eight touchdowns in 2020. Parker Washington likely will lead the group in 2022 and beyond after a 36-catch first season. Another second-year wideout in KeAndre Lambert-Smith should see a bigger role, but PSU is looking for more contributors.

PSU’s line finished 2020 better than it started, and it returns a centerpiece in left tackle Rasheed Walker (22 career starts), as well as guard Juice Scruggs and promising third-year tackle Caedan Wallace. The center spot must be sorted out and the Lions add Harvard transfer Eric Wilson, a 2020 preseason FCS All-America selection. Penn State’s overall recruiting dipped in 2021 but its top-rated player is tackle Landon Tengwall, ESPN’s No. 90 overall prospect. The tight end group looks solid with Brenton Strange and Theo Johnson, who both have freshman eligibility after playing significantly in 2020.

2021 future QB ranking: 10
2020 future offense ranking: Not ranked

Scouting the Cyclones: ISU certainly would rank higher in a one-year projection, as it enters the fall as a legitimate CFP contender. Quarterback Brock Purdy, left tackle Sean Foster, tight ends Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen, and other key players return for their final seasons in Ames. But there’s reason for optimism beyond 2021, too. Running back Breece Hall, who last fall led the nation with 1,572 rush yards and earned first-team All-America honors, has three years of eligibility left and will play at least one more. The key will be developing other backs to succeed Hall. Iowa State has recruited well behind Purdy, adding ESPN 300 recruits Hunter Dekkers and Aidan Bouman in the 2020 class. Leading wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson could play two more years, as could Sean Shaw Jr., who started eight games last season. Second-year wideout Daniel Jackson could be a key player to watch beyond 2021.

The Cyclones return seven linemen with starting experience and will lean on veterans like Foster, center Colin Newell, guard Derek Schweiger and guard Trevor Downing, who could play two more seasons. Jake Remsburg, who started seven games at tackle as a redshirt freshman, is a building block for 2022 and beyond. Coach Matt Campbell won’t let the unit slip as long as he’s in town, but the priority will be getting players ready for the personnel turnover in 2022.

Iowa State running back Breece Hall led the nation with 1,572 rush yards and earned first-team All-America honors last season. Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

2021 future QB ranking: 11
2020 future offense ranking: 14

Scouting the Knights: Gus Malzahn’s attempt to recapture his mojo on offense will be a fascinating storyline during the next few years. The new UCF coach inherits an offense that since 2017 trails only Oklahoma and Alabama in scoring (44.4 ppg), and trails only Oklahoma in yards (538.7 YPG). Quarterback Dillon Gabriel led the FBS in passing (357 YPG) last season, boasts 7,223 career pass yards and 61 touchdowns, and can play multiple seasons for Malzahn. UCF must reload around him this fall, especially while installing a new scheme, after losing its top two rushers and top receiver. Junior running back Bentavious Thompson (382 yards, five touchdowns) could be the first option in 2021, and UCF added transfer Mark Antony-Richards, who spent two seasons under Malzahn at Auburn.

The Knights try to reload at wide receiver, bringing back sophomore Jaylon Robinson, the team’s No. 2 receiver last season (55 receptions, 979 yards, six touchdowns). Ryan O’Keefe, also a sophomore, averaged 19.5 yards per catch in 2020 and also handles kickoff returns. UCF is adding another former Auburn player in wideout Nate Craig-Myers, who averaged 17.9 yards per catch in limited action under Malzahn. Tight end Jake Hescock, a super senior, had three touchdown receptions in 2020. Veteran line coach Herb Hand inherits a promising group of non-seniors with starting experience, which features first-team All-AAC selections at center (redshirt freshman Matthew Lee) and guard (junior Cole Schneider). Sophomore left tackle Edward Collins has started 12 games the past two seasons.

2021 future QB ranking: 13
2020 future offense ranking: Not ranked

Scouting the Hurricanes: The arrivals of quarterback D’Eriq King and coordinator Rhett Lashlee helped Miami’s underachieving offense change its trajectory in 2020. The key will be maintaining the positive track, especially when King departs after the 2021 season. Miami has recruited well at quarterback, signing Tyler Van Dyke (ESPN’s No. 3 pocket passer) last year and adding top 25 national recruit Jake Garcia in December. The running back spot projects well as Miami returns leading rusher Cam’ron Harris (643 yards, 10 touchdowns), a junior this fall, as well as Donald Chaney Jr., who retains four years of eligibility after logging 68 carries and three touchdowns in 2020. Miami has signed three ESPN 300 running backs in its past two classes. Tight end Brevin Jordan (38 receptions, 576 yards, seven touchdowns) will be missed, but Will Mallory had 22 receptions and four touchdowns and is only a junior.

Miami gets leading receiver Mike Harley (57 catches, 799 receiving yards, seven touchdowns) for another season, and adds Oklahoma transfer Charleston Rambo, who has 68 receptions the past two years. The key will be 2022 and beyond. Juniors Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins could be featured, or younger players like Jeremiah Payton, the team’s top 2019 recruit. Miami’s line still must improve but is no longer a major liability. Left tackle Zion Nelson will be a third-year starter with three years of eligibility left. Junior center Corey Gaynor also started the past two seasons. Eight returning linemen have started, and Miami just signed two ESPN 300 O-line recruits.

2021 future QB ranking: 19
2020 future offense ranking: Not ranked

Scouting the Rebels: The Lane Train offense produced 39.2 points and 555.5 yards per game in 2020, and it doesn’t figure to slow down as long as Kiffin is coaching in Oxford. Junior quarterback Matt Corral (384.3 average yards of total offense) will lead the unit at least through 2021 and possibly beyond. Ole Miss returns its top three running backs, none of whom are seniors, and will likely turn to Jerrion Ealy (745 rush yards, nine touchdowns in 2020) as its top option again. Ealy and fellow junior Snoop Conner combined for 15 rushing touchdowns last season. The Rebels will miss star receiver Elijah Moore and tight end Kenny Yeboah, but they return big-play threats in seniors wideouts Dontario Drummond and Braylon Sanders, and junior Jonathan Mingo. Kiffin also signed two ESPN 300 receivers in the 2021 class.

Sophomore tight end Casey Kelly is set to step in for Yeboah after averaging 14.4 yards per reception as a redshirt freshman. Four starting linemen are back, only one of whom (veteran center Ben Brown) has senior eligibility this fall. Guard Jeremy James, who made several freshman All-America teams last season, is among those who will solidify the line beyond 2021. Nick Broeker will enter his third year as Ole Miss’ starting left tackle. Reserve quarterback John Rhys Plumlee boasts one of the more interesting skill sets in the SEC, and Kiffin signed ESPN 300 quarterback recruit Luke Altmyer in the 2021 class.

Quarterback Matt Corral averaged 384.3 yards of total offense. Ole Miss Athletics

2021 future QB ranking: Not ranked
2020 future offense ranking: Not ranked

Scouting the Bearcats: Cincinnati fans felt snubbed when the Bearcats didn’t appear in the quarterback rankings. While senior Desmond Ridder is excellent and second-year QB Evan Prater could continue the success after 2021, the overall offensive unit projects better. The run game propels the offense and sets up well the next few seasons. Redshirt sophomore running back Jerome Ford, an Alabama transfer, steps into a lead role this fall alongside Ridder, after averaging 6.6 yards per rush with eight touchdowns last season. Junior Charles McClelland provides some depth along with sophomore Ethan Wright. Cincinnati’s receiver room is getting better and deeper, as Ridder spread the ball around well in 2020 — nine players had 10 catches or more — and likely will do so again this fall. Mainstay Alec Pierce is back, along with fellow senior Michael Young. Tre Tucker has two more years of eligibility left.

The tight end group looks strong with junior Josh Whyle, who led Cincinnati in both receiving yards (353) and touchdowns (6) in 2020. Cincinnati also gets Leonard Taylor back for one more year. The interior offensive line returns with young players like sophomore center Jake Renfro and junior guard Dylan O’Quinn. Tackle is the short-term concern, but true sophomore John Williams projects as a multiyear answer at one spot.

2021 future QB ranking: Not ranked
2020 future offense ranking: Not ranked

Scouting the Sun Devils: Arizona State nearly made the quarterback list, but concerns at the position beyond Jayden Daniels — a likely 2022 NFL draft pick — ultimately kept the Sun Devils out of the top 25. But there’s a lot to like about the unit’s direction under coordinator Zak Hill. The running game projects extremely well with junior Rachaad White, who averaged 10 yards per carry in his first FBS season after transferring in from junior college. ASU also has Chip Trayanum, who averaged 5.9 yards yards per carry on a team-high 49 attempts in 2020 and retains freshman eligibility. Daniyel Ngata, another freshman, helps solidify the long-term outlook. Creating offensive line depth has been a gradual process, but no longer should raise red flags for coach Herm Edwards. There’s a nice mix of veterans (tackle Kellen Diesch, Henry Hattis) and younger players like guard Dohnovan West, who earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2020 and retains three years of eligibility, and tackle Ben Scott (redshirt freshman eligibility). ASU also adds versatile North Carolina transfer Triston Miller.

A talented but unproven receiving corps must step up, as ASU had only one player reach double figures in receptions in 2020. LV Bunkley-Shelton (11 receptions) is among a group — Johnny Wilson, Geordon Porter, Ricky Pearsall, Andre Johnson — who retain three or four years of eligibility. The Sun Devils also add ESPN 300 recruit Lonyatta Alexander. Veteran tight end Curtis Hodges returns, and ASU adds Oklahoma transfer Jalin Conyers, a redshirt freshman.

2021 future QB ranking: Not ranked
2020 future offense ranking: Not ranked

Scouting the Mustangs: Two factors really drove SMU’s inclusion: coach Sonny Dykes’ track record on offense and the combination of recruiting success and transfer appeal that he has created for the program. Perhaps no Group of 5 team has benefited more from the transfer portal than the Mustangs, who add Oklahoma quarterback transfer Tanner Mordecai and others for 2021. Mordecai, who has three years of eligibility left, will compete with incoming freshman Preston Stone, ESPN’s highest-rated Group of 5 quarterback signee in the 2021 class. The running back room is loaded with underclassmen such as Ulysses Bentley IV, who led the AAC with 913 rushing yards and set an SMU single-season freshman record with 11 rushing touchdowns. Sophomores Tyler Lavine and TJ McDaniel, who combined for 607 rushing yards and six touchdowns, also return.

SMU’s offensive line should be very solid in 2020 as All-AAC players Hayden Howerton and Jaylon Thomas return, alongside veteran tackle Beau Morris, Cobe Bryant and others. The Mustangs will miss wideout Reggie Roberson Jr. but return sophomore Rashee Rice, who led the team with 683 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Danny Gray, ESPN’s top junior college receiver in 2020, is back after recording 448 yards and four touchdowns in 2020. Receivers are never in short supply under Sonny Dykes. Former Oklahoma tight end Grant Calcaterra, who had 637 receiving yards and nine touchdowns before medically retiring, also joins the Mustangs this fall.

2021 future QB ranking: Not ranked
2020 future offense ranking: Not ranked

Scouting the Cougars: Despite an unusual 2020 season, BYU fans saw the familiar sights of elite quarterback play and prolific offense in Provo (43.5 PPG, nation-best 7.84 yards per play). The Cougars lose quarterback Zach Wilson, All-America tackle Brady Christensen, wideout Dax Milne and coordinator Jeff Grimes, but should continue on a positive trajectory under playcaller Aaron Roderick. There are options at quarterback, including 2020 backup Baylor Romney and Jacob Conover, ESPN’s No. 5 pocket passer in the 2019 class, who returns from a mission trip and has freshman eligibility. The running back group is loaded as junior Tyler Allgeier, BYU’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2016, is back alongside senior Lopini Katoa (444 rush yards, five touchdowns) and several younger backs like Jackson McChesney. Tight end Isaac Rex had an exceptional redshirt freshman season (429 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns), and Dallin Holker, back from a mission, had 19 catches in 2018.

Milne will be missed but BYU keeps Neil Pau’u and Gunner Romney, who combined for 84 catches and 1,370 receiving yards in 2020. The receiver room got a big boost when brothers Puka Nacua and Samson Nacua transferred in from Washington and Utah, respectively. Puka Nacua was an ESPN 300 prospect in 2019. BYU’s offensive line has short-term concerns after losing Christensen and three other starters. Center James Empey and guard Clark Barrington return, but BYU will need tackles Blake Freeland and Harris LaChance to emerge.

2021 future QB ranking: Not ranked
2020 future offense ranking: 22

Scouting the Badgers: Wisconsin’s offense didn’t look worthy of inclusion in 2020. The Badgers scored a total of 20 points during a three-game losing streak before ending the season with two wins. But Wisconsin doesn’t stay down for long. Since the Big Ten launched a championship game in 2011, Wisconsin hasn’t gone more than a year without making it to Indy. I expect the offense to bounce back in 2021 and remain productive. Quarterback Graham Mertz, who experienced just about everything last fall, should improve in his second full playing season and retains four years of eligibility. Sophomore Chase Wolf provides some insurance behind Mertz. Tight end Jake Ferguson has two years of eligibility left and 99 career receptions for 1,168 yards and 10 scores. Wisconsin must develop more depth behind the Mackey Award candidate. After an injury-plagued season, the receiving corps regains experienced players in Kendric Pryor, Danny Davis III and Jack Dunn, along with Chimere Dike, who played extensively as a freshman.

The Badgers’ run game predictably dropped off after Jonathan Taylor. Sophomore Jalen Berger averaged five yards per rush on 60 carries and could have a more featured role. Isaac Guerendo, another sophomore, should see increased opportunities, but there’s uncertainty here despite great tradition at the position. Despite tackle Cole Van Lanen’s departure, Wisconsin’s offensive line isn’t short on starting experience. Guards Logan Bruss and Josh Seltzner are solid pieces, along with junior right tackle Tyler Beach. The key will be maximizing recent recruiting success, as Logan Brown (ESPN’s No. 15 player in the 2019 class) steps in at left tackle. Wisconsin has signed five ESPN 300 tackles in the past two classes, including Nolan Rucci, ESPN’s No. 36 overall prospect for 2021.

2021 future QB ranking: Not ranked
2020 future offense ranking: Not ranked

Scouting the Cajuns: Since 2018, Louisiana’s offense ranks sixth nationally in ESPN’s expected points added metric, 17th in scoring and 19th in total yards. If this were a one-year projection, Billy Napier’s Ragin’ Cajuns would be near the top 10. My main concern is what happens after 2021, as a large group of key contributors departs. More importantly, how much longer will Napier keep turning down Power 5 jobs? The short-term outlook is excellent as quarterback Levi Lewis (6,286 career pass yards, 54 touchdowns) will lead the offense as a third-year starter. Louisiana must figure out Life after Levi, but should once again be favored to reach the Sun Belt championship. The passing game should thrive in 2021 and likely beyond, as Louisiana returns all of its key wide receivers, and only Jalen Williams has senior eligibility this fall. Kyren Lacy, Peter LeBlanc, Dontae Fleming and others all should contribute in 2022 and likely beyond.

The offensive line also projects well, especially in the short term as all five starters return from 2020, including second-team All-Sun Belt performers guard O’Cyrus Torrence and tackle Max Mitchell, who both retain multiple years of eligibility. Guard Ken Marks and center Shane Vallot, who were third-team all-league honorees, are back and only Marks is a senior. Junior Carlos Rubio, who started games at both tackle spots in 2020, also returns, along with junior tight end Johnny Lumpkin.

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