If Ryan Perrilloux is back next year and is our starting QB, I think we're a top 5 preseason team (yes, I know my stance on preseason rankings). I think our offense will be extremely strong, returning 4 offensive linemen, all those explosive running backs, and all those receivers except Doucet. The receivers will have another year of development, which I think will help Toliver and Lafell especially. I do expect Lafell to end up as a very good receiver, possibly by the end of this year. He just has to get his head around the drops issue.
Our defense should be strong as well, with the defensive line again leading the way. Sure, we lose Dorsey, but we get back Jean-Francois, and we may return Kirston Pittman as well. Charles Alexander will be back from injury, and Marlon Favorite, Drake Nevis (watch this kid!), and Al Woods will be there as well. Beckwith will be a rock at linebacker again, and I have a lot of faith in the backup linebackers to step up strong next year. I have no doubt that Chad Jones will replace Craig Steltz and that there will be no drop-off (and eventually, he'll be an upgrade). Stefoin Francois, serving out a redshirt year now, will also start producing for us, and he looks like he's going to be a great one eventually.
The only real question is at corner, where we will be very inexperienced. We have a lot of athleticism there, and there are rumors of us being very close to a 5-star commitment at that position (maybe two). Plus, I am not going to judge Jai Eugene by his tough game against Kentucky. He has admitted he was unprepared for that game, and has learned his lesson. With him and Chris Hawkins (who has looked nothing but good when he's gotten into the game) there, and with newcomers John Williams and Ron Brooks also competing for spots, I am confident we'll find people who can play, though I acknowledge that we probably will have to protect the corners a little more than we do this year.
Of course, this is all dependent on not losing a lot of juniors. I pretty much expect Tyson Jackson to go, despite his somewhat quieter than expected year. Others could go, however. Believe it or not, Ciron Black is eligible to declare if he wants, even though he is only a sophomore, because he redshirted his first year. Brett Helms could leave. Darry Beckwith, Marlon Favorite, and Curtis Taylor could leave. I think Keiland Williams can leave, but I'm not sure about that.*
Of course, I'm doubtful that Curtis Taylor or Keiland Williams would go pro at this point, but I'm giving the worst-case scenario.
The real question mark will be special teams again. That phase is easily the weakest part of the team this year. Here are our problems:
- No returns for touchdowns all year
- No kickoffs into the end zone all year
- Unreliable field goal kicking all year
- Inconsistent punt and kick coverage
- No blocks, either in punts or field goals
- A blocked field goal against us
Without Perrilloux, I think we go from top 5 to the back half of the top 10, but we'll still likely be odds-on favorites in the West.
*I don't really want to argue whether or not Keiland is eligible to go pro. It's been argued to death, and it's never argued productively because no one really knows the answer. It all depends on how the NFL interprets the rule about being eligible "three years after your high school class graduates) and how Keiland's high school timeline is interpreted. Let's just say he spent more than 4 years in high school. I think it's a moot point given Keiland's modest productivity this year, and there's really no point in really getting into it unless he actually makes noise about trying to declare.