Future Power Rankings: College football’s best teams over the next three years

The 2022 season is within sight, which means it’s time to put a bow on the annual crystal-balling exercise known as Future Power Rankings. The team list is here.

If you’ve already digested top-25 rankings for quarterbacks, offenses and defenses, you have a decent idea of what will follow. The team rankings are a bit different, though, and examine the programs on a macro level for the 2022, 2023 and 2024 seasons. Factors such as coaching changes and stability, and recent on-field/recruiting trajectory, hold more value in this list. The increased importance of the transfer portal and even name, image and likeness can’t be discounted when doing a projection such as this one.

At its core, FPR remains personnel-based, and assesses how current and future players will impact performance for their teams. Recruiting in the past few seasons or projected success in 2023 carries some weight. But some programs consistently outperform their recruiting rankings and deserve to be recognized appropriately in the team list.

Here’s a look at last year’s team rankings, which kicked off with Alabama but had eventual national champion Georgia at No. 5. While I was bullish on Cincinnati (No. 13), the first Group of 5 team to make the College Football Playoff, I also omitted Michigan entirely, and the Wolverines ended up winning the Big Ten and reaching their first CFP. Jim Harbaugh’s team will appear below, but how much fluctuation will occur with programs such as Clemson (last year’s No. 2), Oklahoma (No. 4), Miami (No. 19) and Utah (No. 25)?

The time has come to examine college football’s top 25 teams over the next three seasons.

2022 Future QB ranking: 3
2022 Future offense ranking: 2
2022 Future defense ranking: 4
2021 Future team ranking: 1

Scouting the Tide: The only hesitation about keeping the Tide at the top is the future of coach Nick Saban. At 70, he’s the second-oldest coach in the FBS, although he looks and acts like a man who can keep performing at an elite level through 2024. But Saban’s frustrations about how the sport has changed in the NIL era suggest he might think about stepping away sooner, especially if he wins one more national title. After falling short against Georgia in January, the Tide are set up to challenge for their seventh national championship under Saban. They return a Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Bryce Young and the nation’s most dominant defender in outside linebacker Will Anderson, whose numbers in 2021 are still bewildering (17.5 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss). Although both will depart after this season, Alabama is well-stocked at both positions and throughout its team. The recent addition of quarterback recruit Eli Holstein, ESPN’s No. 59 overall prospect for 2023, adds to the long-term depth. Alabama is loaded at running back with Georgia Tech transfer Jahmyr Gibbs and others. There are some questions at receiver, and the development of younger players such as Ja’Corey Brooks and Agiye Hall will be key. But the track record under Saban is extremely strong. Offensive line play is an area to watch, but Alabama boasts an excellent interior and plenty of options on the edges.

Alabama’s defense projects very well for 2022 with Anderson, linebacker Henry To’o To’o, lineman DJ Dale, safety Jordan Battle and others. A moderate improvement could be enough to bring home a national championship. Alabama’s recruiting also jumps out on defense, as the team added five-star end Jeremiah Alexander, top inside linebacker Shawn Murphy and others in the 2022 class, and has commitments from top 2023 prospects Jahlil Hurley and Elliot Washington. Saban clearly was irked by Texas A&M’s run on top defensive recruits for 2022, and Alabama’s response should be fascinating. Alabama also needs to bolster its secondary, especially for 2023 and 2024, and will focus on developing non-seniors such as Kool-Aid McKinstry and Brian Branch.

2022 Future QB ranking: 5
2022 Future offense ranking: 5
2022 Future defense ranking: 2
2021 Future team ranking: 5

Scouting the Bulldogs: The debate for the second spot came down to Georgia and Ohio State, which projects better than the Bulldogs do on offense. But Georgia ending its national championship drought while continuing to excel in recruiting and other areas gives coach Kirby Smart’s team the edge. Georgia could soon occupy the top spot in these rankings, but the program will need to continue making strides on offense. Smart should always produce top-3 defenses, but units like last year’s, which went on to produce a record five NFL first-round draft picks, don’t come around every season. The Bulldogs ultimately will need to win more because of their offense and passing game, and they’ve recruited well behind Stetson Bennett IV with higher-rated prospects such as Brock Vandagriff, Carson Beck and incoming freshman Gunner Stockton. Georgia also is very much in the mix for Arch Manning, a transcendent prospect. The offense traditionally has excelled at running back, line and tight end, where Brock Bowers returns for at least two more seasons alongside junior Darnell Washington. Wide receiver remains an area to watch, especially in 2022, as sophomore Adonai Mitchell, senior Kearis Jackson and others lead the group. The line returns veterans such as Warren McClendon and Warren Ericson, and multiyear options like sophomore center Sedrick Van Pran.

Although Georgia’s defense likely will take a step backward in 2022, the talent pool remains extremely strong. Coaches singled out tackle Jalen Carter on last year’s unit, and he returns for at least another year alongside cornerback Kelee Ringo, linebacker Nolan Smith, safety Christopher Smith and others. The immediate outlook hinges on Georgia’s ability to reload its defensive front seven with Robert Beal Jr., Nazir Stackhouse, Zion Logue and others. The team’s top three recruits for 2022 play defense, headlined by Malaki Starks, ESPN’s No. 12 overall prospect in the class. Georgia addressed all three areas of its defense with eight ESPN top-100 recruits. The team already has 2023 commitments from top-100 cornerback recruits Justyn Rhett and Marcus Washington, as well as end Gabriel Harris.

2022 Future QB ranking: 1
2022 Future offense ranking: 1
2022 Future defense ranking: 11
2021 Future team ranking: 3

Scouting the Buckeyes: Ohio State is one of the most consistently elite teams in all of American sports, and coach Ryan Day’s effect on the quarterback position and overall passing game has the program positioned for continued success. But I’ll repeat my primary criticism of Ohio State: Not enough national championships. The Buckeyes should claim more than two in the CFP/BCS era, given their dominance of the Big Ten. After missing the CFP and losing to rival Michigan last season, Ohio State and Day face added pressure entering the 2022 season, when the team projects as a legitimate national title contender. Quarterback C.J. Stroud surged down the stretch last season and could give Ohio State its first Heisman Trophy winner since Troy Smith in 2006, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba leads a receiving corps that remains loaded despite losing first-round NFL draft picks Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. Former Buckeyes wideout Brian Hartline has made his alma mater a destination for top receivers, and the pipeline should continue through 2024. Top running backs TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams both have multiple years of eligibility left, and the line projects well under new assistant Justin Frye. Ohio State could have the nation’s best tackle pairing in Dawand Jones and Paris Johnson Jr., and center Luke Wypler and guard Donovan Jackson are among those who will lead the group beyond 2022.

The defense likely will determine whether Ohio State’s national title ends before 2025. The unit has been mediocre to poor in three of the past four seasons — Ohio State featured two top-3 NFL draft picks (Chase Young and Jeff Okudah) in 2019 — and finished 59th nationally in yards allowed last fall. Day made a smart coordinator hire in Jim Knowles, who reshaped Oklahoma State’s path to success in recent years. Knowles has done more with less throughout his career, but now inherits a talented group that needs a jolt. The line has a nice mix of youth (J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer) and experience (Zach Harrison, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, Taron Vincent, Jerron Cage). Knowles often features five defensive backs, and Oklahoma State transfer Tanner McCalister joins a group that returns depth at safety with Ronnie Hickman and Josh Proctor. Ohio State rotated plenty of players in 2021 and should have options at corner. The Buckeyes also need more consistency at linebacker. But Knowles’ hiring and a strong 2022 recruiting push on defense, headlined by No. 15 overall prospect Sonny Styles, suggests a turnaround is coming soon.

2022 Future QB ranking: 4
2022 Future offense ranking: 4
2022 Future defense ranking: 3
2021 Future team ranking: 6

Scouting the Aggies: In last year’s team rankings, I wrote of Georgia: “If the Bulldogs’ four-decade national-title drought doesn’t end in the next three years, their fans should be massively disappointed.” The same applies for Texas A&M and its fans, although the Aggies’ championship suffering stretches all the way back to 1939. History isn’t on Texas A&M’s side, but the program is positioned to take the leap. Coach Jimbo Fisher has a roster that should compete in the SEC West this fall, especially if quarterback becomes a strength with LSU transfer Max Johnson, a healthy Haynes King or freshman Conner Weigman. The Aggies also bring in ESPN’s top-ranked 2022 recruiting class, headlined by one of the greatest defensive line collections ever. Texas A&M signed ESPN’s top two defensive tackles (Walter Nolen and Gabe Brownlow-Dindy) and ESPN’s top two ends (Lebbeus Overton and Shemar Stewart), alongside three other top-50 national recruits (cornerback Denver Harris, end Enai White and safety Bryce Anderson). Even if some blue-chippers don’t pan out, Texas A&M is positioned to have an excellent defense through 2024. There’s a good core of veterans for 2022, including safeties Demani Richardson and Antonio Johnson, linebacker Andre White Jr., lineman McKinnley Jackson and others.

Texas A&M ultimately will need its quarterback to become a difference-maker under Fisher, who has mentored several elite QBs in his career. His management of a room that includes Johnson, King and Weigman, ESPN’s No. 27 overall player in the 2022 class, will be fascinating. Junior running back Devon Achane, a big-play machine while being used somewhat sparingly his first two seasons, should get a featured role in Fisher’s offense this fall. Texas A&M’s 2022 recruiting haul also helped the offense with top 25 overall prospects Evan Stewart and Chris Marshall at wide receiver, as well as top-50 overall prospect Le’veon Moss at running back. The overall development at receiver is worth watching as sophomores Moose Muhammad III and Yulkeith Brown return. The offensive line will look to build around young standouts such as tackle Reuben Fatheree II and center Bryce Foster. Texas A&M also added tackle P.J. Williams, ESPN’s No. 50 overall recruit for 2022, and top-100 prospect Kam Dewberry. Tight end also continues to be a strength in recruiting for Fisher.

2022 Future QB ranking: 17
2022 Future offense ranking: 13
2022 Future defense ranking: 1
2021 Future team ranking: 2

Scouting the Tigers: I struggled where to slot Clemson after a disappointing 2021 season and heavy transition on coach Dabo Swinney’s staff. The Tigers won 10 games last fall but struggled mightily on offense, finishing 82nd nationally in scoring (26.3 ppg). Longtime playcaller Tony Elliott departed to lead Virginia, and Swinney promoted longtime quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter as his replacement. If Streeter generates improvement with quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei — or true freshman Cade Klubnik, ESPN’s top-ranked dual-threat quarterback and No. 28 overall recruit for 2022 — and gets the offense back on track, Clemson should return to the annual CFP mix. Uiagalelei threw more interceptions than touchdown passes in 2021, and Clemson’s normally elite wide receiving corps looked rather ordinary. A boost at receiver will be critical beginning this year, as Clemson returns some veterans (Beaux Collins, Joseph Ngata) and adds top-100 recruits Adam Randall and Antonio Williams. Running back projects well with non-seniors Will Shipley and Kobe Pace. The offensive line, long labeled a weakness by opposing coaches, starts fresh under Thomas Austin, and returns a nice centerpiece in All-ACC tackle Jordan McFadden. Creating long-term depth remains a priority up front.

Clemson doesn’t necessarily need to be a top-5 offense to challenge for championships again. The outlook on defense is simply that good, even though longtime coordinator Brent Venables will be missed. The Tigers have maintained their stockpile along the defensive line, and could feature the nation’s best front in 2022 as All-America candidates Bryan Bresee, Tyler Davis and Myles Murphy return, alongside veterans Xavier Thomas, K.J. Henry and Justin Mascoll, and others. A drop-off in 2023 is possible, but Clemson’s track record suggests otherwise. New coordinator Wes Goodwin inherits a talented linebacker group of mostly non-seniors, which features Trenton Simpson, Barrett Carter and Jeremiah Trotter Jr., and others. Safety Andrew Mukuba, the 2021 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year, could lead the secondary for a few seasons, although Clemson needs depth. Senior safety Jalyn Phillips‘ return will help, and Clemson adds freshman cornerback Jeadyn Lukus, ESPN’s No. 35 recruit for 2022.

2022 Future QB ranking: 20
2022 Future offense ranking: 15
2022 Future defense ranking: 6
2021 Future team ranking: 9

Scouting the Irish: Notre Dame’s projection hinges on new coach Marcus Freeman. He has been on campus only 18 months after spending 2021 as the team’s defensive coordinator. Freeman is 24 years younger than predecessor Brian Kelly, who oversaw the team’s most stable stretch of success since 1988 to 1993, when Notre Dame won a national title and five AP top-6 finishes under Lou Holtz. There will be a learning curve, and if this were a one-year projection, Notre Dame would be quite a bit lower. But Freeman has energized areas of the program, especially recruiting, where Kelly’s involvement/influence seemed lukewarm at times. Notre Dame leads ESPN’s recruiting class rankings for 2023, as the team already has nine ESPN 300 commits, seven on defense. Keon Keeley, ESPN’s top defensive end and No. 23 overall prospect for 2023, leads off the class. Notre Dame’s defense has been the more elite unit in recent years and should continue to thrive, even this fall, as standouts such as sacks leader Isaiah Foskey, linebackers JD Bertrand and Jack Kiser, and defensive backs DJ Brown and Cam Hart all return. Notre Dame also added safety Brandon Joseph, a 2020 All-America selection at Northwestern, and defensive tackle Chris Smith, an All-Ivy League selection at Harvard. Secondary depth beyond 2023 should be a mini concern for Freeman.

Despite two CFP appearances and three AP top-8 finishes since 2018, Notre Dame’s quest to end its national title drought likely comes down to quarterback play and upgrading its overall passing game. The team will turn to a new starter in 2022, but many around the program think Tyler Buchner will become the next-level QB the Irish have been seeking. Buchner, ESPN’s No. 41 overall recruit in 2021, still must beat out sophomore Drew Pyne but brings strong dual-threat skills to the offense. Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, who should have more autonomy with Kelly gone, likely will try to stretch the field more with a receiving corps that hasn’t taken off in recent seasons. The development of young, dynamic wideouts such as Lorenzo Styles Jr. and Deion Colzie is critical. Notre Dame’s anchor positions on offense — line, tight end, running back — project well through 2024. Junior Michael Mayer (71 receptions in 2021) is a leading Mackey Award candidate, and a line featuring center Jarrett Patterson, and tackles Blake Fisher and Joe Alt, could compare to the best groups in the latter part of Kelly’s tenure.

2022 Future QB ranking: 7
2022 Future offense ranking: 6
2022 Future defense ranking: 24
2021 Future team ranking: 4

Scouting the Sooners: The program endured a turbulent 2021 season. OU’s run of six consecutive conference championships ended, and coach Lincoln Riley shockingly left for USC, eventually taking standout quarterback Caleb Williams and others with him. Riley’s departure left bitterness, but Venables’ arrival after a decade at Clemson quickly changed the mood. There’s a chance Oklahoma will be better off long term with Venables, who understands elite defense and what it will take for the Sooners to elevate there. As shown by the defense ranking, I don’t love the Sooners’ personnel as much as those who will be coaching them. There are some building blocks such as lineman Jalen Redmond, linebackers DaShaun White and Danny Stutsman, and defensive backs Justin Broiles and Key Lawrence. OU also added several intriguing transfers, including nose tackle Jeffery Johnson (Tulane) and defensive back Trey Morrison (North Carolina). Perhaps the most encouraging sign during the coaching transition was Venables keeping cornerback Gentry Williams, SPN’s top-rated in-state prospect and No. 53 overall recruit for 2022, in the class. Venables is an elite recruiter and should upgrade OU’s overall talent on defense as the program prepares to enter the SEC.

Riley upheld an incredible standard of offensive production during his tenure, and produced elite quarterbacks almost every season. The unit could take a step backward, but Venables made a strong coordinator hire in Jeff Lebby, an OU alum who has developed his scheme under several successful offensive-minded coaches. Lebby reunited with transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel, whom he worked with at UCF in 2019 and produced the nation’s No. 2 offense. Gabriel could lead OU’s offense through 2023, and the team also added ESPN 300 quarterback recruit Nick Evers. The Sooners look to build at receiver around junior Marvin Mims (705 receiving yards in 2021) and a healthy Theo Wease, although younger players such as sophomore Jalil Farooq will get a look. How Lebby uses OU’s tight ends — a position of strength under Riley — will be interesting. Venables retained longtime Sooners’ offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, whose group returns a nice interior core led by second-team All-Big 12 center Andrew Raym. The running back outlook is solid, especially for 2023 and 2024 as ESPN 300 recruits Gavin Sawchuk and Jovantae Barnes arrive.

2022 Future QB ranking: 10
2022 Future offense ranking: 8
2022 Future defense ranking: 10
2021 Future team ranking: Not ranked

Scouting the Wolverines: As expected, Michigan makes the biggest move in the team rankings after recording its first AP top-three finish since its last national championship season of 1997. The Wolverines might not be an annual CFP contender, but they seemingly have turned a corner under coach Jim Harbaugh, who recommitted to the program after flirting with the Minnesota Vikings‘ job in February. The offense made major strides in 2021 and likely will remain on track despite coordinator Josh Gattis’ departure to Miami. Michigan returns starting quarterback Cade McNamara as well as dynamic sophomore J.J. McCarthy, who could be the unit’s long-term answer. Although Michigan relied on the run game and controlling the line of scrimmage in 2021, its strength this coming season could be at wide receiver. Ronnie Bell returns from an ACL injury to join fellow senior Cornelius Johnson, junior Roman Wilson and sophomore Andrel Anthony. The Wolverines also regain All-Big Ten candidate Erick All at tight end. While Hassan Haskins will be missed at running back, Michigan’s 1-2 punch of junior Blake Corum and sophomore Donovan Edwards should propel the position through at least 2023. A veteran line returning Zak Zinter, Trevor Keegan and Ryan Hayes added center Olusegun Oluwatimi, a Virginia transfer and Rimington Trophy finalist in 2021.

The biggest short-term questions come on defense, as Michigan loses arguably the nation’s best tandem of ends in Aidan Hutchinson (No. 2 overall NFL draft pick) and David Ojabo, who would have been a first-round pick if not for a pre-draft injury. Also departing are safety Dax Hill, an NFL first-round pick, and coordinator Mike Macdonald. Linebacker looks like the unit’s immediate strength as Junior Colson and Nikhai Hill-Green both return, alongside Michael Barrett and intriguing young players such as Raylen Wilson, ESPN’s No. 56 overall recruit in the 2022 class. Cornerbacks D.J. Turner and Gemon Green bring experience to the back end, alongside junior safety R.J. Moten. Michigan’s recent recruiting run, which includes top-100 national prospects William Johnson and Keon Sabb, should help for 2023 and 2024. The interior line sets up well with Mazi Smith and Kris Jenkins, but Michigan needs more pass-rushing threats to emerge. Will Braiden McGregor, Michigan’s top 2020 recruit, blossom this fall? The Wolverines also added end Derrick Moore, ESPN’s No. 20 overall 2022 recruit.

2022 Future QB ranking: 2
2022 Future offense ranking: 3
2022 Future defense ranking: Not ranked
2021 Future team ranking: 16

Scouting the Trojans: I’m not among those ready to hand USC the next 20 Pac-12 titles, even though the program finally acted like it should and hired an A-list coach in Riley. But Riley’s presence and USC’s appeal to both transfers and high school players has the program set up to contend for CFP berths likely by 2023. There’s little doubt USC offenses will start to meet the standard Riley set at Oklahoma, perhaps as soon as this coming season. In Williams, the Trojans get a top-shelf quarterback for two more seasons, and should be well-stocked behind him, either with Miller Moss or 2023 commit Malachi Nelson. Riley also addressed wide receiver and running back in the transfer portal with Jordan Addison (Pitt), the 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner, as well as Mario Williams (Oklahoma), Travis Dye (Oregon) and Austin Jones (Stanford). While Addison, Dye and others will depart after 2022, the overall depth looks solid with younger players such as junior wide receivers Gary Bryant Jr. and Tahj Washington, and incoming freshman running back Raleek Brown, ESPN’s No. 64 player in the 2022 class. USC also has 2023 commitments from wideouts Zachariah Branch and Makai Lemon, both ESPN top-20 national recruits. Offensive line depth after 2022 is an area to watch, along with tight end development. Seniors Andrew Vorhees and Brett Neilon provide leadership this fall, while tackle Courtland Ford has sophomore eligibility.

USC’s defense will be the key area under Riley, just as it would have if he remained at Oklahoma. The unit was largely noncompetitive last season, ranking 103rd nationally in points allowed and 89th nationally in yards allowed. Coordinator Alex Grinch, whom Riley brought with him from OU, is well-regarded but faces some challenges, at least in the short term. He inherits some interesting pieces, especially up front, where junior Tuli Tuipulotu, senior Brandon Pili and sophomore Korey Foreman — ESPN’s No. 2 overall player in the 2021 class — return. The addition of several transfers, including linebackers Shane Lee (Alabama) and Romello Height (Auburn), and defensive back Mekhi Blackmon, should help stabilize the unit. But USC ultimately needs quite a bit of help in the secondary, which returns junior Max Williams and other holdovers but may soon rely on younger players such as freshman cornerback Domani Jackson, ESPN’s No. 9 overall recruit in 2022, and freshman safety Zion Branch (ESPN’s No. 76 overall prospect).

2022 Future QB ranking: 16
2022 Future offense ranking: 16
2022 Future defense ranking: 9
2021 Future team ranking: 10

Scouting the Tigers: The correlation between talent and performance doesn’t always sync up at LSU, which is 11-12 since its 15-0 national championship season of 2019. Still, keeping LSU in the top-10 makes sense, given its sizable talent base and an excellent coach (Brian Kelly) determined to add a national title to his profile. Kelly might not be the most natural fit in Baton Rouge, but he knows how to produce a steady winner, and he’s at a program that largely recruits itself. Kelly is also the first LSU boss in recent memory with a direct background in coaching quarterbacks, a position of intrigue and frequent frustration on the Bayou. LSU’s quarterback room will be fascinating as Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels, a three-year starter, joined veteran Myles Brennan, emerging redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmeier and incoming freshman Walker Howard, ESPN’s No. 41 overall player in the 2022 class. The group surely will get smaller, but LSU should have options through 2024. The Tigers bring back an elite receiver in Kayshon Boutte for one more year, and also regain sophomore Jack Bech (team-high 43 receptions in 2021). But Kelly and his staff must build long-term depth at both receiver and tight end. The offensive line returns key non-seniors such as Garrett Dellinger and Anthony Bradford, and will supplement from the portal as well as a recruiting class headlined by Will Campbell, ESPN’s No. 14 overall prospect for 2022. LSU will lean on a running back group featuring senior John Emery Jr., Penn State transfer Noah Cain and others. Tight end also projects well with some depth.

LSU’s defense has been through plenty of changes since 2019, and more transition is coming with new coordinator Matt House and a transfer group that includes lineman Mekhi Wingo (Missouri), linebacker West Weeks (Virginia), and defensive backs Jarrick Bernard-Converse (Oklahoma State), Mekhi Garner (Louisiana) and Greg Brooks Jr. (Arkansas), who have combined for 97 career starts. The 2022 forecast up front looks very good as sacks leader BJ Ojulari returns alongside solid seniors Ali Gaye and Soni Fonua, and promising sophomore Maason Smith. Other notable returnees include senior linebacker Micah Baskerville (83 tackles, nine for loss in 2021) and sophomore linebacker Greg Penn III. LSU’s long-term optimism on defense stems from recruiting. The team signed linebacker Harold Perkins, ESPN’s No. 4 overall player in the 2022 class, and top-100 national prospect Laterrance Welch at cornerback.

2022 Future QB ranking: 6
2022 Future offense ranking: 7
2022 Future defense ranking: Not ranked
2021 Future team ranking: 19

Scouting the Canes: There’s genuine excitement at the U after coach Mario Cristobal’s return and a newfound willingness to make the necessary investments to compete for championships. But this placement comes with a warning: Another seemingly on-the-rise ACC program, North Carolina, occupied the No. 11 spot in last year’s rankings, only to backslide. Miami projects as a more legitimate contender, especially because of Cristobal’s recruiting, the staff he hired and the university’s buy-in. Cristobal inherits some good pieces, namely sophomore quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who earned ACC Rookie of the Year honors after passing for 2,931 yards and 25 touchdowns despite not starting all of 2021. There’s depth behind Van Dyke, at least for now, with Jake Garcia, a top 25 national recruit in 2021. Miami also added Jacurri Brown, ESPN’s No. 6 dual-threat quarterback in the 2022 class. New coordinator Gattis has coached wide receivers throughout his career and inherits a group with both experience (Key’Shawn Smith, Frank Ladson Jr.) and young players such as sophomore Jacolby George, who averaged 26.1 yards per catch last fall. Tight end projects well with senior Will Mallory (30 receptions in 2021) and Jaleel Skinner, ESPN’s No. 115 recruit for 2022. Miami has interesting non-senior options at running back, including sophomore Jaylan Knighton and Ole Miss transfer Henry Parrish Jr. The Canes will benefit from Cristobal’s expertise in offensive line play, given their recent issues. Although initial growing pains are likely, Miami gets All-ACC tackle DJ Scaife Jr. back for one more year. Offensive line recruiting and transfers will be interesting to watch for 2023 and 2024.

Miami has a steeper climb to field a championship-level defense, although new coordinators Kevin Steele (primary) and Charlie Strong should help. The Hurricanes finished 75th nationally in yards allowed last season. There are some notable returnees, including linebackers Waynmon Steed and Gilbert Frierson, cornerbacks Tyrique Stevenson and DJ Ivey, safeties James Williams and Avantae Williams, and linemen Leonard Taylor, Jahfari Harvey and Chantz Williams. Steed and Ivey are the only seniors in the group. Miami also will rely on transfers for 2022, including linemen Mitchell Agude (UCLA), Akheem Mesidor (West Virginia) and Antonio Moultrie (UAB), and cornerback Daryl Porter Jr. (West Virginia). How the group meshes in Year 1 will be interesting, but Miami should keep upgrading its talent through recruiting and the portal. Top-100 prospects Khamauri Rogers (cornerback) and Cyrus Moss (linebacker) headlined Miami’s 2022 class.

2022 Future QB ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future offense ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future defense ranking: 8
2021 Future team ranking: 13

Scouting the Bearcats: Cincinnati made history in 2021 as the first Group of 5 program to reach the CFP. Coach Luke Fickell’s team is a bit tricky to project after producing a team-record nine players selected in the NFL draft, including All-American cornerbacks Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant, and quarterback Desmond Ridder, the first signal-caller selected this year. Cincinnati also will transition to the Big 12 during the FPR evaluation period. But Fickell has displayed the ability to recruit and develop, especially on defense, and has Cincinnati positioned for more success. While a small drop-off on defense in 2022 wouldn’t be surprising, Cincinnati could also hold steady. The front seven projects well, as veterans Malik Vann and Jabari Taylor return for a final season, and Jowon Briggs has multiple seasons of eligibility after recording 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in his first season after transferring from Virginia. Cincinnati also signed ESPN 300 end Mario Eugenio in the 2022 class. There’s good depth at linebacker with junior Deshawn Pace (94 tackles, team-high four interceptions in 2021), seniors Ty Van Fossen and Wilson Huber, sophomore Jaheim Thomas and others. Cincinnati’s secondary loses star power but regains key veterans such as cornerback Arquon Bush and safety Ja’Von Hicks. Sophomore cornerback Todd Bumphis stood out in spring practice, and Fickell has recruited well with four-star cornerback Oliver Bridges and others.

The offense didn’t crack the FPR rankings and remains a small concern, especially after Ridder’s departure. But Cincinnati has groomed Evan Prater, an ESPN 300 recruit in 2020, for this moment, and he has only sophomore eligibility. Ben Bryant, who began his career at Cincinnati before transferring to Eastern Michigan, is back to push for the QB1 job. Former Bearcats quarterback Gino Guidugli takes over as coordinator after handling much of the passing game in 2021. He will try to spark a passing game that loses top receiver Alec Pierce but returns junior Tyler Scott and senior Tre Tucker, who combined for 946 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season. Junior Jadon Thompson is another multiyear option, and Cincinnati added Hawai’i transfer Nick Mardner, who had 913 receiving yards last season. Tight end will be a short-term strength with seniors Josh Whyle and Leonard Taylor. Cincinnati returns all its end-of-year starters on the line, including first-team All-AAC selections Jake Renfro, Lorenz Metz and Dylan O’Quinn. There will be significant turnover in 2023, which Cincinnati must address. The team filled a need at running back with LSU transfer Corey Kiner, an ESPN 300 recruit in 2021 who grew up in the city. Senior backs Ryan Montgomery and Charles McClelland provide some depth.

2022 Future QB ranking: 19
2022 Future offense ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future defense ranking: 14
2021 Future team ranking: 7

Scouting the Ducks: The Dan Lanning era is underway in Eugene with clear priorities: Maintain the recruiting trajectory Cristobal established, produce a more dynamic offense and spoil USC’s plan of regaining Pac-12 dominance while getting back to the CFP. Although Lanning hasn’t been a head coach, his history as both a recruiter and a tactician indicates Oregon’s defense will improve throughout the next three seasons. The Ducks lose top-five NFL draft pick Kayvon Thibodeaux at defensive end, along with All-American safety Verone McKinley III and other standouts. But they also bring back a nice core, led by star linebacker Noah Sewell (114 tackles, four sacks in 2021). Linebacker could emerge as a multiyear strength for Oregon, especially if non-seniors such as junior Mase Funa, redshirt freshman Justin Flowe and sophomores Treven Ma’ae and Keith Brown begin to break out. The Ducks return some line experience with senior Popo Aumavae and junior Brandon Dorlus, but both are coming off offseason surgeries. Washington transfer Sam Taimani is a key addition at tackle, and senior D.J. Johnson could help as an edge rusher. The secondary will look different under Lanning but brings back decent starting experience with Steve Stephens IV, Jamal Hill and Bennett Williams. Oregon added Colorado transfer Christian Gonzalez, who started the past two seasons, and signed ESPN 300 defensive backs Jahlil Florence and Trejon Williams.

I have more short-term questions about Oregon’s offense, but also wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a more productive unit under the new staff, even this season. Quarterback Bo Nix, the Auburn transfer, has the type of skill set to galvanize a team under the right conditions. He reunited with coordinator Kenny Dillingham, who worked with him at Auburn in 2019. Oregon also has options at quarterback with redshirt freshmen Ty Thompson and Jay Butterfield. Cristobal built a foundation along the line, and Oregon returns four starters, including All-Pac-12 performers T.J. Bass at guard and Alex Forsyth at center. Steven Jones, a fifth-year junior who can play both tackle and guard, adds value to the group, and Oregon signed Josh Conerly Jr., ESPN’s No. 3 tackle and No. 31 overall recruit for 2022. Dillingham ultimately must get more explosiveness from wide receiver and turns to a sophomore contingent of Troy Franklin, Dont’e Thornton and Seven McGee. Tight ends Spencer Webb, Terrance Ferguson and Moliki Matavao also have multiple years of eligibility left. Dye’s transfer to USC leaves a hole at running back, but sophomore Byron Cardwell averaged 6.8 yards per carry in limited work last fall. The team already has 2023 commitments from three ESPN 300 receivers and one running back.

2022 Future QB ranking: 14
2022 Future offense ranking: 23
2022 Future defense ranking: 12
2021 Future team ranking: 25

Scouting the Utes: I surely will take some heat for slotting Utah behind an Oregon team it spanked twice last season to win the Pac-12. The Utes surely would rank ahead of the Ducks (and USC) in a one-year projection. The key for coach Kyle Whittingham’s program is to keep building on offense, a unit that surged late last season. Quarterback Cam Rising and running back Tavion Thomas both return with junior eligibility. Utah’s post-Rising outlook is promising after signing top-100 national prospect Nate Johnson in the 2022 class. The team also has some insurance behind Thomas in sophomore Micah Bernard, who averaged 6 yards per carry in limited action last fall. Utah’s line must overcome some attrition but projects fairly well, as All-Pac-12 performers Braeden Daniels and Sataoa Laumea return at tackle and guard, respectively. Jim Harding is one of the nation’s best line coaches and should produce a solid group in 2023 and 2024. Utah gets star tight end Brant Kuithe and fellow senior Dalton Kincaid for one more year, but must find more at wide receiver. Sophomore Devaughn Vele, who averaged 16.9 yards per catch in 2021, is a building block, but the Utes need others.

Utah’s defense is consistently solid and occasionally elite, and should maintain its trajectory through 2024. The unit loses All-American linebacker Devin Lloyd, top pass-rusher Mika Tafua and solid contributors such as linebacker Nephi Sewell, but also returns plenty of notables. Cornerback Clark Phillips III could contend for national honors this fall and has three years of eligibility remaining. Phillips and safety Cole Bishop, who had nine tackles for loss and five pass breakups in 2021, will lead a secondary also featuring junior cornerback JaTravis Broughton, who returns from injury, and sophomore cornerback Faybian Marks. Utah will need transfers Mohamoud Diabate (Florida) and Gabe Reid (Stanford), as well as returnees such as Karene Reid, to stabilize a linebacker position that loses a lot from last year’s team. Defensive line should remain a strength, as Van Fillinger and Junior Tafuna are set to lead the next few seasons. Other players such as sophomore tackle Aliki Vimahi are also on the rise. Utah’s recruiting is on the uptick with prospects such as ESPN 300 linebacker Lander Barton.

2022 Future QB ranking: 11
2022 Future offense ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future defense ranking: 17
2021 Future team ranking: 12

Scouting the Nittany Lions: FPR is about looking ahead, but Penn State’s past two seasons (11-11 record) and some changes in the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State on the rise) raise doubt about where things are headed in Happy Valley. Coach James Franklin isn’t leaving town after receiving a new long-term contract late in 2021. PSU continues to recruit well, adding potential difference-makers on offense such as quarterback Drew Allar, running back Nick Singleton and wide receiver Kaden Saunders in a 2022 class that ESPN ranked No. 6 nationally. But a step forward is needed, likely this fall, to strengthen faith about the team’s trajectory. Quarterback Sean Clifford (7,839 career pass yards, 62 touchdowns, 33 starts) returns for a final season before Allar, ESPN’s No. 50 recruit for 2022, likely takes over the offense. Penn State loses standout receiver Jahan Dotson but returns solid options in Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith, and will expand the group with players such as Saunders, ESPN’s No. 5 receiver in the 2022 class. Tight end should remain a strength as Brenton Strange and Theo Johnson both still can play multiple seasons. The offense’s top priority is improving its line play and overall run game. Expect competition and new faces up front in 2022, as Olu Fashanu takes over at left tackle and Sal Wormley returns from injury to factor at guard. Center Juice Scruggs should lead the group this fall. O-line recruiting is on the uptick with 2022 tackle Drew Shelton (ESPN’s No. 77 overall prospect), and 2023 commitments from two of ESPN’s top three guards in J’ven Williams and Alex Birchmeier.

The defense enters a fascinating phase with former Miami coach Manny Diaz taking over as coordinator. While Diaz should be a head coach again before 2024, his expertise will help in the short term, as Penn State loses two second-round NFL draft picks (end Arnold Ebiketie, safety Jaquan Brisker) and three productive linebackers ( Ellis Brooks, Brandon Smith, Jesse Luketa). Third-year sophomore linebacker Curtis Jacobs will be essential this fall, as seniors Jonathan Sutherland and Charlie Katshir, and others fill in around him. As PSU reloads in the front seven, the secondary should stand out this fall with senior safety Ji’Ayir Brown (six interceptions in 2021), cornerbacks Joey Porter Jr. and Kalen King, and a promising group of younger players, including incoming ESPN 300 recruits Mehki Flowers and Cristian Driver. Defensive tackle P.J. Mustipher‘s return will be huge for the line, which has some options at end (Nick Tarburton, Adisa Isaac, Maryland transfer Chop Robinson) and adds end Dani Dennis-Sutton, ESPN’s No. 80 overall recruit for 2022.

2022 Future QB ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future offense ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future defense ranking: 13
2021 Future team ranking: Not ranked

Scouting the Bears: Baylor’s last five seasons have produced a 1-win team, a 2-win team, a Big 12 runner-up and, last year, a Big 12 champion. The team’s stunning run to the league title and a No. 5 finish under second-year coach Dave Aranda changes its outlook. Aranda looks like a long-term answer in Waco, and Baylor could become the Big 12’s premier program once Oklahoma departs for the SEC. Offense is Baylor’s immediate area of focus, even though the Big 12 is trending more toward defense. Unlike many teams, Baylor settled on its starting quarterback this spring, picking sophomore Blake Shapen over incumbent Gerry Bohanon. Shapen, who completed 72.1% of his passes last season, could guide the offense through 2024. Still, Baylor will need to build depth as Bohanon transferred to South Florida. The Bears also must replace many of their top skill players from 2021, including two running backs and two wide receivers drafted by NFL teams. Wide receiver is a major question mark in 2022, and young players such as incoming freshman Armani Winfield, an ESPN 300 recruit, should get long looks. Tight end will be a strength with Ben Sims (361 receiving yards, six touchdowns in 2021), Drake Dabney and others. Junior Taye McWilliams likely will get the first shot at running back, another position of uncertainty. The line must carry the offense in 2022, as four starters return, including All-Big 12 selections Connor Galvin and Jacob Gall.

Defense always will propel Baylor under Aranda, but the unit loses some excellent players, namely safety Jalen Pitre and linebacker Terrel Bernard. The good news is Baylor’s line could be among the nation’s best in 2022, especially inside with juniors Siaki Ika and Gabe Hall, and the addition of Tulsa transfer Jaxon Player, a two-time all-AAC selection. Baylor also regains two solid linebackers in senior Dillon Doyle and junior Matt Jones, the latter of whom could guide the unit in 2023 with Garmon Randolph and Will Williams. Pitre’s departure creates some short-term uncertainty at safety, as Baylor will need to build around senior Christian Morgan and find some answers for 2023 and 2024. Cornerback projects better as seniors Al Walcott and Mark Milton are back. Baylor should continue to become a destination for strong defenders, as the team has a 2023 commitment from ESPN 300 linebacker Christian Brathwaite. Baylor could dip in 2022, but the overall forecast under Aranda remains strong.

2022 Future QB ranking: 21
2022 Future offense ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future defense ranking: 15
2021 Future team ranking: 22

Scouting the Pokes: Like Baylor, Oklahoma State wants to stake its claim as king of the future Big 12. The team took a step forward in 2021, reaching the Big 12 championship and falling just short against Baylor, but then mounting a historic comeback against Notre Dame to win the Fiesta Bowl and finish No. 7. Oklahoma State wants to build on the success Knowles fostered with the defense while also recapturing the offensive zest that has defined most of coach Mike Gundy’s tenure. Gundy made a bold replacement for Knowles in former Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason, who served as Auburn’s defensive coordinator last year. Mason takes over a unit led by a dynamic line, which features 2021 Big 12 Freshman of the Year Collin Oliver (11.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss). Oliver, seniors Brock Martin and Tyler Lacy, and junior Trace Ford could form one of the nation’s best pass-rush groups. The short-term outlook at defensive tackle also is promising with seniors Brendon Evers and Sione Asi. Oklahoma State will miss linebackers Malcolm Rodriguez and Devin Harper, and needs junior Mason Cobb, former Texas Tech player Xavier Benson and others to emerge. Oklahoma State has good depth at cornerback through 2023 with a group of juniors led by Jabbar Muhammad and Korie Black. The transfer losses at safety create some concern, although the Pokes return veterans Thomas Harper and Jason Taylor II, and will groom redshirt freshman Kendal Daniels.

The defense is headed for some transition, which means the offense needs to build on its strong finish to 2021. Quarterback Spencer Sanders is back for a final season with 32 career starts (24 wins) and 6,911 career passing yards. After Shane Illingworth’s transfer to Nevada, Oklahoma State seemingly will turn to Garret Rangel, an ESPN 300 recruit for 2022, as Sanders’ successor in 2023. Walk-on Gunnar Gundy, Mike’s son, also is in the mix. After losing leading rusher Jaylen Warren, Oklahoma State will turn to Dominic Richardson and a group of younger backs, including Jaden Nixon and CJ Brown, to spark a run game that averaged 205.9 yards in Big 12 play last season. Junior Brennan Presley will lead the wide receivers after a 50-catch season, although Oklahoma State is looking for others to emerge, including sophomores Jaden Bray, Rashod Owens, John Paul Richardson and Bryson Green. Sophomore Blaine Greene, who ranked third on the team in receiving yards last fall, leads the Cowboys backs (tight end-fullback hybrid), along with senior Braden Cassity. The offensive line loses some key parts but returns veteran guard Hunter Woodard (22 career starts), as well as junior tackles Cole Birmingham and Preston Wilson. Several juniors with starting experience — Joe Michalski, Jake Springfield, Taylor Miterko — also return. But line development is worth monitoring for 2023.

2022 Future QB ranking: 15
2022 Future offense ranking: 18
2022 Future defense ranking: Not ranked
2021 Future team ranking: Not ranked

Scouting the Spartans: Like Baylor, Michigan State’s trajectory changed dramatically in 2021 under a promising second-year coach (Mel Tucker). The Spartans won their first eight games and finished 11-2 with a Peach Bowl championship and a No. 11 final ranking. Tucker received a 10-year, $95 million contract, a financial flex from Michigan State indicating its desire to be a frequent championship contender. After working the transfer portal better than any program in 2021, Michigan State signed the nation’s No. 16 recruiting class. The next steps are building depth and improving on defense, which seems attainable because of Tucker’s background. MSU returns several solid defenders, including safeties Xavier Henderson and Angelo Grose, and linebackers Cal Haladay and Darius Snow. But the Spartans need improved pass coverage after finishing last nationally in pass yards allowed (324.8 YPG). They return four cornerbacks with starting experience last season and add Georgia transfer Ameer Speed to the mix. Senior Ronald Williams likely will start his final season, but Tucker will push competition both at corner and safety, where younger players such as Jaden Mangham could emerge. A better pass rush will help a lot, and MSU turns to Florida transfer Khris Bogle, junior Jeff Pietrowski and others. The interior line projects well with senior Jacob Slade and sophomore Simeon Barrow.

Michigan State’s offense took a nice step in 2021 and should continue producing, especially with quarterback Payton Thorne around for at least one more season. Thorne quietly set a single-season team record with 27 touchdown passes last year. The Spartans are set up well behind him with sophomore Noah Kim, redshirt freshman Hamp Fay and incoming freshman Katin Houser, an ESPN four-star prospect. Doak Walker Award winner Kenneth Walker III will be missed at running back, and Michigan State hopes transfers Jarek Broussard (Colorado) and Jalen Berger (Wisconsin) offset the production loss, along with young players such as Davion Primm, who stood out this spring. Wide receiver will remain a strength with senior Jayden Reed and junior Tre Mosley leading the 2022 group, along with sophomore Keon Coleman and junior Montorie Foster. Illinois transfer Daniel Barker should lead the tight ends in 2022, and converted wide receiver Maliq Carr will become a bigger factor. Offensive line depth is an immediate concern, as three starters depart. But MSU returns its left side in tackle Jarrett Horst and guard J.D. Duplain. The team also has a 2023 commitment from ESPN 300 guard Johnathan Slack.

2022 Future QB ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future offense ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future defense ranking: 5
2021 Future team ranking: 14

Scouting the Badgers: Wisconsin has been a pillar of consistency for nearly 30 years, but the program enters a pivotal stretch. Until last year, the Badgers had not gone two seasons without playing for the Big Ten championship. To return to Indianapolis, Wisconsin must get the offense — and specifically the quarterback play — on track to complement one of the nation’s premier defenses. Graham Mertz, the highest-rated quarterback recruit in team history, will get another chance to break through after a mostly shaky 2021 season (59.5% completions, 10 touchdowns, 11 interceptions). A marginally improved Mertz combined with development at wide receiver could be enough for Wisconsin, which continues to project well at running back, offensive line and tight end. For all the frustration Wisconsin’s offense endured in 2021, running back Braelon Allen‘s emergence generated excitement about what’s ahead. At only 17 years old, Allen eclipsed 100 rushing yards in eight of nine games as the Badgers’ primary ball carrier. He leads a running back room that also includes seniors Chez Mellusi and Isaac Guerendo, and junior Julius Davis. Wisconsin needs veteran tight ends Jack Eschenbach and Clay Cundiff to stay healthy, or someone else to rise. Bob Bostad is once again coaching the offensive line, which returns most of its core but shifts some positions, including both starting tackles (Tyler Beach, Logan Brown) from 2021. The wide receiver situation is totally open. Junior Chimere Dike leads a group of mostly non-seniors.

The defense continues to prop up Wisconsin in these rankings. Since 2014, the Badgers rank third nationally in points allowed (17.1 PPG) and fifth in yards per play allowed (4.76 per game). Under coordinator Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin has established an even higher standard, and has overcome key losses like it will need to this year. Linebacker will be a spot to watch in the short term, as Wisconsin returns standout Nick Herbig (team-high nine sacks in 2021) on the outside, along with senior C.J. Goetz and promising non-seniors such as redshirt freshman Darryl Peterson. There are more questions at inside linebacker, although non-seniors such as Tatum Grass, Maema Njongmeta and Spencer Lytle could fill in through at least 2023. The line returns two reliable players in seniors Isaiah Mullens and Keeanu Benton. Wisconsin now must build around them, especially for 2023 and 2024, with players such as junior Rodas Johnson and sophomore Ben Barten. There are some concerns in the secondary, especially at safety, as Wisconsin must build around senior John Torchio with sophomore Hunter Wohler and others. The Badgers hit the portal for cornerbacks Jay Shaw (UCLA), Cedrick Dort Jr. (Kentucky) and Justin Clark (Toledo). Non-seniors such as Ricardo Hallman will be key for after 2022.

2022 Future QB ranking: 9
2022 Future offense ranking: 12
2022 Future defense ranking: 20
2021 Future team ranking: Not ranked

Scouting the Wolfpack: The questions with NC State aren’t necessarily about talent, but rather trustworthiness. The team often appears good enough to break through, including during coach Dave Doeren’s tenure. But for various reasons, NC State has fallen short. After a 9-3 regular season that included a win over Clemson, NC State should have a real chance to win its first ACC championship since 1979. If FPR were a one-year projection, NC State would find itself in or near the top 10. Then again, if the Wolfpack don’t deliver this fall, the 2023 and 2024 forecast could get murky. Devin Leary is primed to uphold NC State quarterback tradition after passing for 3,433 yards and 35 touchdowns last fall. If Leary exits after the 2022 season, as expected, the Wolfpack could turn to Ben Finley or several younger players, or seek a top quarterback transfer. Leary will throw to two solid wide receivers in Thayer Thomas and Devin Carter, and NC State will try to add others to the mix, including sophomore Porter Rooks. Junior Jordan Houston is set to be NC State’s featured back for at least a year after the departures of Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr. But the team has decent depth, including incoming freshman Michael Allen, an ESPN 300 recruit. Trent Pennix and Christopher Toudle fill the tight end role, and both have multiple seasons of eligibility left. The Wolfpack will miss All-American left tackle Ikem Ekwonu, but return all-ACC center Grant Gibson and several other experienced linemen, including sophomore guard Dylan McMahon.

Leary will get the attention this fall, but NC State’s defense could propel the team. The Wolfpack return three first-team All-ACC selections in junior linebacker Drake Thomas, senior safety Tanner Ingle and senior tackle Cory Durden. Linebacker Payton Wilson, who generated national buzz in 2021 before an early-season injury, also returns with junior eligibility. Linebacker depth jumps out with Thomas, Wilson, sophomore Devon Betty, junior Jaylon Scott and Isaiah Wilson, an honorable mention All-ACC selection the past two seasons. The short-term outlook in the secondary looks great with Ingle and seniors Derrek Pitts Jr. and Tyler Baker-Williams. NC State will need sophomore cornerback Shyheim Battle and others to emerge for 2023 and beyond. Durden departs after 2022, but NC State should get end Savion Jackson and tackles Davin Vann and C.J. Clark for several more seasons. The development of 2021 recruits such as linebacker Jordan Poole, an ESPN 300 selection, and end Travali Price will be key.

2022 Future QB ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future offense ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future defense ranking: 7
2021 Future team ranking: 23

Scouting the Hawkeyes: Iowa fans will be disappointed not to see their team higher after its first Big Ten championship game appearance since 2015. In the past five seasons, Iowa is tied for 13th nationally in win percentage (.705), and this fall could again challenge for the Big Ten West Division title. But three factors give me pause about Iowa’s trajectory: coach Kirk Ferentz’s longevity at 66, the Big Ten likely scrapping divisions soon, and a quarterback situation that doesn’t seem to be getting better. The last item is of chief concern to Iowa fans, especially after Ferentz’s decision to appoint his son, Brian, as the team’s quarterbacks coach. Brian Ferentz, who has overseen three other positions during his tenure as offensive coordinator, must find ways to get more out of the passing game. If not, Iowa’s win total eventually will drop. Senior Spencer Petras ranked 90th in QBR last season and will try to display greater efficiency. Junior Alex Padilla could challenge him, and Joe Labas looks like an option for 2023 and 2024. Iowa has similar short-term concerns at wide receiver, especially after Tyrone Tracy Jr. and return specialist Charlie Jones transferred to Purdue. Sophomores Arland Bruce IV and Keagan Johnson could form a solid long-term tandem, and Nico Ragaini is back for a final season, along with standout tight end Sam LaPorta (team-high 53 receptions in 2021). Iowa also needs more from its run game, which will turn to sophomores Gavin Williams and Leshon Williams, but has room for others, such as incoming freshmen Kaleb Johnson and Jaziun Patterson.

The defense is outstanding under Phil Parker, the nation’s most underrated defensive playcaller and a DB guru. Iowa has produced the Big Ten’s Defensive Back of the Year four times since 2015, and returns its most recent winner in senior Riley Moss. Both Moss and junior cornerback Jermari Harris had four interceptions last fall. Iowa also returns senior safety Kaevon Merriweather and senior cornerback Terry Roberts, but will need others, such as Quinn Schulte and Cooper DeJean, to emerge for 2023. Safety Xavier Nwankpa, ESPN’s No. 155 prospect in the 2022 recruiting class, enters the mix this season. Iowa’s linebacker group should be among the nation’s best this fall, as productive seniors Jack Cambell and Seth Benson return alongside junior Jestin Jacobs. The key will be building for 2023 and 2024, especially if Jacobs departs for the NFL after this season. Juniors Jay Higgins and Kyler Fisher could be the next men up. Iowa’s line should be solid at worst and should get multiple seasons out of tackle Logan Lee, end Lukas Van Ness, end Deontae Craig and others. Seniors John Waggoner, Noah Shannon and Joe Evans provide leadership and production up front.

2022 Future QB ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future offense ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future defense ranking: 21
2021 Future team ranking: 8

Scouting the Gators: Florida is the type of program that could surge in these rankings as soon as 2023. There’s always talent in Gainesville, and coach Billy Napier looks like a smart hire for a program that hasn’t made the CFP and last won the SEC in 2008, the Gators’ most recent national championship. But an unexpected transition — no one pegged Dan Mullen to be fired at this time last year — could lead to a down year or two, especially in the improving SEC East Division. The biggest immediate question is the offense and whether dual-threat quarterback Anthony Richardson will provide a consistent spark. Richardson must show greater accuracy and fewer mistakes in the pass game, but he has sophomore eligibility and room to grow under Napier. Florida also received some QB insurance in Ohio State transfer Jack Miller. Running back could become a multiyear strength. Montrell Johnson followed Napier from Louisiana to Florida after a 12-touchdown season as a freshman in 2021. Johnson leads a sophomore group that includes Nay’Quan Wright and Demarkcus Bowman. Florida also added ESPN 300 recruit Trevor Etienne. Junior Justin Shorter leads a young wide receiver group with opportunities to shine. The Gators need sophomores Trent Whittemore and Xzavier Henderson to stay healthy, or someone else to emerge. They return two veteran tight ends in Keon Zipperer and Dante Zanders but need options for 2023 and 2024. Offensive line has some concerns, especially depth at tackle, but returns junior center Kingsley Eguakun and some other interior pieces. Florida has a 2023 commitment from Knijeah Harris, ESPN’s top-rated center in the class.

The defense has fewer immediate questions. Florida returns proven players such as safety Trey Dean III, end Brenton Cox Jr. and tackle Gervon Dexter. Both Cox and Dexter could play multiple seasons and lead a line that needs others to emerge this fall, including sophomore end Princely Umanmielen. Florida could become a back-to-front defense in Napier’s first few seasons, as the secondary returns Dean and sophomores Rashad Torrence II and Tre’Vez Johnson at safety, and talented young cornerbacks such as Jason Marshall Jr., an ESPN top-50 recruit who appeared in every game as a true freshman. Kamari Wilson, ESPN’s top-rated safety and No. 18 overall recruit, headlined Napier’s first class. Seniors Ventrell Miller and Amari Burney lead a linebacker group that will look to build long-term depth this season. Derek Wingo has sophomore eligibility, and Florida added ESPN 300 linebacker Shemar James in the 2022 recruiting class.

2022 Future QB ranking: 25
2022 Future offense ranking: 14
2022 Future defense ranking: Not ranked
2021 Future team ranking: Not ranked

Scouting the Cougars: BYU is 21-4 the past two seasons with two AP top-20 finishes, and is a team poised to match or exceed those marks in 2022. The offense projects very well, and the defense nearly snuck into the FPR rundown. The tricky part is accounting for how the Big 12 move in 2023 impacts BYU’s trajectory. Although the Cougars play a Power 5-heavy schedule and mostly recruit Power 5-type players — they are an older, more mature team because many players take LDS missions — history shows that most teams moving up to new conferences go through some turbulence. The offense is set up well for the Big 12 transition, as Jaren Hall could play multiple seasons and has a chance to break out this fall. BYU has good insurance with former ESPN 300 recruit Jacob Conover. Wide receiver projects as a strength with veterans Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney and dynamic younger players such as Keanu Hill. BYU’s top two 2022 recruits are wideouts, including ESPN 300 selection Cody Hagen. BYU’s offensive line will be one of its stronger units, as Oregon transfer Kingsley Suamataia, a top-100 national recruit in 2021, joins a group that includes returning tackle Blake Freeland and guards Clark Barrington and Joe Tukuafu. The Cougars have some short-term options at running back, including Cal transfer Christopher Brooks, but need to build for 2023 and 2024. Isaac Rex and Dallin Holker give BYU two strong options at tight end for multiple seasons.

The defense struggled for stretches last season but returns almost all of its top contributors, including several coming off injuries and offseason surgeries. BYU’s linebacking corps projects very well for 2022 and likely beyond. Sophomore Ben Bywater led BYU in both total tackles (102) and tackles for loss (8.5) in 2021, and will join Max Tooley, Payton Wilgar and Keenan Pili. Seniors Chaz Ah You and Pepe Tanuvasa, a Navy transfer, provide some insurance. BYU’s line has a mix of veterans (Caden Haws, Earl Tuioti-Mariner) and younger players such as end Tyler Batty, who has sophomore eligibility after recording a team-high 3.5 sacks in 2021. Sophomore end John Nelson could be a key player for 2023 and 2024. Like linebacker, cornerback projects as a short-term strength with seniors D’Angelo Mandell and Kaleb Hayes, and Vanderbilt transfer Gabe Jeudy-Lally. At safety, BYU needs to build around senior Malik Moore (team-high three interceptions in 2021) and ultimately find more options for 2023 and 2024. Sophomore Ammon Hannemann should be a bigger factor going forward.

2022 Future QB ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future offense ranking: 19
2022 Future defense ranking: Not ranked
2021 Future team ranking: Not ranked

Scouting the Cougars: There’s never a bad time for a 12-win season, but Houston really needed to take a big step last fall. The team had regressed since a top-10 finish in 2015, and, with a Big 12 invitation finally in hand, Houston needed to reclaim its place as an ascending program under coach Dana Holgorsen. Houston nearly made FPR for both quarterbacks and defense, a unit that fueled last year’s surge under coordinator Doug Belk. The Third Ward defense lost several stars to the NFL, including end Logan Hall and cornerbacks Marcus Jones and Damarion Williams. But the core of the line that helped Houston rank sixth nationally in sacks (43) is back. Houston returns senior ends D’Anthony Jones and Derek Parish, who combined for 12.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss in 2021. The two-deep is senior-laden with ends Atlias Bell and Latrell Bankston, and tackle Jamykal Neal, so Houston will need to find post-2022 options alongside sophomore nose tackle Chidozie Nwankwo and junior end Nadame Tucker, a junior college transfer. Senior Donavan Mutin will lead the linebackers after earning All-AAC honors. Malik Robinson, another senior, brings experience to the group, and the development of sophomore Mannie Nunnery, sophomore transfer Jamal Morris and others will be important. The secondary must replace Jones and Williams at cornerback, and will lean on junior Alex Hogan, senior Art Green, senior nickel Jayce Rogers, junior college standout Moses Alexander and others. The safety spot projects well with senior Gervarrius Owens and junior Hasaan Hypolite both returning. Transfers such as Thabo Mwaniki (Oklahoma State) and Antonio Brooks (Kilgore College) will provide depth.

The offense could be very good in 2022, as quarterback Clayton Tune returns for his final season after passing for 3,544 yards and 30 touchdowns. A big question is what happens at QB in 2023 and 2024. Arkansas transfer Lucas Coley will be among those vying to start. Houston will rely on Tune and Biletnikoff Award candidate Nathaniel Dell (1,329 receiving yards in 2021) to spark the offense after losing top running back Alton McCaskill to a torn ACL this spring. Dell and senior KeSean Carter form a strong wideout tandem, and Houston is adding several transfers (USC’s Joseph Manjack IV, West Virginia’s Sam Brown) and ESPN 300 recruit Matthew Golden. Productive tight end Christian Trahan (81 receptions since 2019) is back for his final season. Senior Ta’Zhawn Henry (524 rush yards in 2021) likely will be Houston’s featured back during McCaskill’s absence, and the team added USC transfer Brandon Campbell. Houston needs to upgrade its offensive line play and will return foundational pieces in sophomore tackle Patrick Paul and junior guard Tank Jenkins. Sophomore guard Cam’Ron Johnson is another good multiyear player, and Houston brought in Demetrius Hunter, ESPN’s No. 2 center in the 2022 recruiting class.

2022 Future QB ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future offense ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future defense ranking: 18
2021 Future team ranking: Not ranked

Scouting the Wildcats: The final spot always sparks tough decisions. I could have recognized Group of 5 standouts such as San Diego State or UCF, or a team such as Texas, which has enough talent to quickly rise up these rankings. But coach Mark Stoops and his staff have put together a solid program that is set up for future success. The Wildcats have won 10 games in two of the past four seasons and have one only nonwinning season since 2015. They have made significant gains in recruiting — the 2022 class featured six ESPN 300 players — and in the portal, adding wide receiver Wan’dale Robinson and quarterback Will Levis, who returns this fall as a legitimate NFL draft prospect. Levis and All-SEC running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. form an excellent backfield, although both will need to be replaced in 2023. Redshirt sophomore Beau Allen, an ESPN four-star recruit in 2020, is set to step in for Levis, and junior JuTahn McClain could be the 2023 answer at running back, although sophomore La’Vell Wright could be a factor, too. Kentucky loses most of its receiving production with Robinson and Josh Ali, and will need a new group to emerge this fall. Virginia Tech transfer Tayvion Robinson could be a focal point, but freshmen such as ESPN 300 recruits Dane Key and Barion Brown should be factors. Senior tight end Keaton Upshaw returns from injury and joins junior Izayah Cummings, a solid option through 2023. Offensive line should continue to be a strength for Kentucky despite some key losses. A veteran interior of center Eli Cox and guards Kenneth Horsey and Tashawn Manning, the Auburn transfer, should lead the group this fall. Kentucky loses two standout tackles and needs multiyear options to step up, including Deondre Buford, Jeremy Flax and top-50 national recruit Kiyaunta Goodwin.

Defense should continue to be Kentucky’s signature unit, as Stoops and coordinator Brad White will continue to guide the group. The front seven projects very well with senior inside linebackers DeAndre Square and Jacquez Jones, junior pass-rusher J.J. Weaver, senior edge Jordan Wright, sophomore lineman Tre’vonn Rybka and solid interior linemen such as juniors Justin Rogers and Josaih Hayes, and sophomore Octavious Oxendine. Linebacker depth is essential for 2023 and sophomore Trevin Wallace and others will become bigger factors. Kentucky added some help in the 2022 recruiting class with ESPN 300 edge rushers Tyreese Fearbry and Keaten Wade. The secondary is an area to watch for 2022, as Kentucky must build more depth at cornerback and replace safety Yusuf Corker. Tyrell Ajian fills a safety spot for one more year, and junior Jalen Geiger is set to step in. Junior cornerback Carrington Valentine‘s continued development is important for a group that lacks experience. Sophomore Andru Phillips is another multiyear option, but several freshmen should get opportunities in the secondary.

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