Many prominent underclassmen heeded the seductive call of the shield’s sirens. A select few strapped themselves to the mast, opting to stay in college for a fourth (or fifth) year. Here are ten whose return could alter the fortunes of their teams in 2014. In case you weren’t aware, it is an outstanding time to be Jimbo Fisher.
Marcus Mariota [Oregon] A healthy Mariota masked a lot of flaws for Oregon. When he suffered a leg injury, those flaws became readily apparent. His return means the Ducks will be national title contenders, instead of wondering where this is all heading under Mark Helfrich.
Brett Hundley [UCLA] Hundley is a tremendous talent, who caught the eye of Jay-Z among others. A redshirt junior, he still hasn’t reached his potential in college. The Bruin QB will be starting for a third year, in the same system, behind presumably a more functional offensive line. His projected progression makes the Bruins a veritable Pac 12 contender.
Vic Beasley [Clemson] Beasley was arguably the nation’s most destructive defensive end last year, ranking third nationally in sacks and second in tackles for loss. Clemson’s defense already looked poised for Top 20 range next season. Bringing back their best defensive player is one hell of a cherry.
Melvin Gordon [Wisconsin] Running backs with finite lifespans normally leave. Gordon didn’t, after gaining 1,600 yards while averaging 7.81 per carry. He will be on pretty much every All America list. Sophomore Corey Clement, who ran for more than 500 yards and seven touchdowns on just 67 carries, should be able to slot in as his dance partner.
Rashad Greene [Florida State] Greene was Jameis Winston’s favorite target last season, catching 76 passes for 1,128 yards and nine touchdowns. His best games were against Clemson (8 catches, 146 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Auburn (9 catches, 147 yards). His return makes what was an uncertainty a position of strength.
Cameron Erving [Florida State] Erving is a left tackle the NFL Draft Advisory Committee presumed would be playing on Sunday. He was a potential first round pick. Instead, he’s a fifth-year senior for an already loaded Florida State.
Tre’ Jackson [Florida State] Jackson would have been among the top guards in the draft. Instead, he’s a third-year starter on the interior line for FSU. Jimbo Fisher’s 2014 depth chart is just decadent at this point.
Ameer Abdullah [Nebraska] Abudllah was one of the few highlights from an underwhelming Nebraska season, rushing for 1,690 yards and nine touchdowns at 6.01 yards/carry. Major coup for Bo Pelini to bring him back for 2014.
Cedric Ogbuehi [Texas A&M] Ogbuehi is an incredible athlete and could have been one of the top tackles in the draft. He slides over to the left in 2014 and diffuses some pressure for Johnny Manziel’s replacement.
La’El Collins [LSU] LSU must cobble together an offense next year, after losing its senior quarterback and three best skill players. Having a third-year, senior starter at left tackle will provide a solid foundation for Les Miles and Cam Cameron to rebuild.
[Photos via USA Today Sports]