The chaos doesn't stop.
It's almost Valentine's Day and the coaching carousel keeps turning Chip Kelly sending UCLA for the offensive coordinator job at Ohio State on Friday. Both signing days are on the books, but various 30-day portal windows remain open and closed, creating additional transfer player movements.
Kelly's departure from Westwood marks the FBS head coach's ninth opening since the national championship game. Nick Saban's retirement created a wave of movement, and the cycle has continued to stop and start ever since.
So after the flurry of coaching changes and roster turnover, On3's Way-Too-Early-Top 25 for 2024 is already in need of an update less than six weeks into the year.
Georgia remains steady at No. 1, but there's plenty of shakeup in the rest of the Top 10. Meanwhile, programs like Washington (which lost its head coach and saw its roster decimated by departures and transfers from the NFL) and Iowa are no longer ranked the ranking. all as other schools (see: NC State, Texas A&M) have had more impressive offseasons.
On3s Pre-Spring Way Too Early Top 25 Rankings for 2024
While there was major upheaval in the rest of the sport, the most consistent program in college football simply kept getting better.
The Bulldogs already return Heisman Trophy contender Carson Beck at quarterback and the nation's best coach in Kirby Smart. Since then, they've added the nation's top-ranked recruiting class, a slew of impact transfers (Trevor Etienne, London Humphreys, Colbie Young and Benjamin Yurosek) and plucked co-defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson from Alabama.
The Buckeyes have had a fascinating offseason, with Ryan Day putting his chip in the pot for the 2024 season. No program has been more aggressive in retaining their own roster (TreVeyon Henderson, Denzel Burke, JT Tuimoloau, Emeka EgbukaJack Sawyer and Tyleik Williams) talent and bringing in top players from the transfer portal (Caleb DownsQuinshon Judkins, Will Howard).
Day was then replaced over the weekend Bill O'Brien, who was OC for less than a month, with UCLA head coach Chip Kelly. It's a stunning move for an incumbent Big Ten coach to take an OC job with a conference foe, but it's an upgrade for Ohio State as Kelly could do wonders with the two-man tandem of Henderson and Judkins in traffic jam.
Dan Lanning was considered the target to replace Nick Saban, but Oregon's third-year head coach opted to keep his roots in Eugene with a loaded roster entering the Big Ten in 2024.
Dan Lanning named Dillon Gabriel his next quarterback and also secured insurance with former five-star Dante Moore. Oregon also added former 5-star wideout Evan Stewart and Washington's top corner in Jabaar Muhammad. Like Ohio State, the Ducks got a boost with the return of several veterans, including DL Jordan Burch, LB Jeffery Bassa, OT Ajani Cornelius and WR Ted Johnson.
The Longhorns will make the move to the SEC in 2024, and despite falling just short of the national title game this fall, Steve Sarkisians' team should be a top contender again next season. Quarterback Quinn Ewers is back, and if the junior falters at all, five-star sophomore Arch Manning will be waiting in the wings. The Longhorns lost a ton of talent to the NFL Draft (defensive linemen TVondre Sweat and Byron Murphy, playmakers JT Saunders, Xavier Worthy and AD Mitchell), but Sarkisian went shopping in the transfer portal, landing tight end Alabama. Amari NiblackAlabama wide Isaiah Bond and Oregon State receiver/returner Silas Bolden.
Texas also bolstered its defense with the additions of UTSA pass rusher Trey Moore (14.0 sacks, No. 3 nationally), Clemson safety Andreas Mukuba and defensive lineman from Arizona Tiaoalii Savea.
Since losing to Michigan in overtime of the College Football Playoff semifinal, the Crimson Tide saw their Hall of Fame coach Nick Saban retire and be hired Kalen DeBoer as the heir to the throne saw their squad raided by the transfer portal and just saw OC Ryan Grubb for the same job as the Seattle Seahawks.
Still, the Tide returns to the Top 3 nationally, has dual-threat quarterback Jalen Milroe and a pair of former blue-chip tailbacks Justice Haynes and Jamarion Miller. Alabama's defense should also be a salty unit once again.
Like Ohio State, the Rebels are going all-in for 2024. Ole Miss signed for one of the top transfer portals in the country, as Avenue Kiffin cleaned up again and almost recruited a brand new, surprising 11 on defense, headlined by Texas A&M 5-star transfer Walter Nolan and Florida pass rusher Princely Umanmielen.
The Portal King also shot two of Washington's best offensive linemen, and the Rebels could have the top triumvirate nationally in Tre Harris, Jordan Watkins and South Carolina's Juice Wells.
Marcus Freeman has the Irish ready to make a jump in year three and compete for a spot in the playoffs next fall. Notre Dame has closed roster holes using the portal, adding Duke quarterback Riley Leonard and Clemson wideout, among others Beau Collins and impact defensive players like Arizona's safety Jordan Clark and Northwest corner Rod heard.
Freeman also swept Mike Denbrock away from LSU as his new OC upgrades from Gerald Parker in 2023.
The 2023 national champions have made a lot of turnover since winning and losing the title Jim Harbaugh and nearly half of the rest of the staff to the NFL, plus more than a dozen departing NFL players, including quarterback JJ McCarthy. Sherron Moore was promoted to head coach and recently hired Dink Martindale as his defensive coordinator.
The Wolverines have survived a mass exodus of transfers, but they are still a squad that ranks 128th nationally in returning production. Quarterback remains a big question mark heading into the spring.
The expanded playoff lineup is aimed at programs like Penn State, which has struggled to break through the crowded top tier of the now-defunct Big Ten East. The Nittany Lions have brought in a few new coordinators Andy Kotelnicki of Kansas State and former head coach of Indiana Tom Allen, replacement for Duke head coach Manny Diaz.
Drew Allar returns for his second season as a starter, and while PSU's defense sends several standouts to the NFL, Abdul Carter is back to likely lead another Top 10 unit next fall.
Eli Drinkwitz's program enters the offseason with optimism and momentum.
After an 11-2 season, the Tigers are set to bring back quarterback Brady Cook and electric wideouts Luther Burden III and Theo Wease, while Drinkwitz has quietly cleared out the transfer portal by exchanging former blue-chip OG Cayden Green and 1,000 -yard landing tailback Marcus Carroll from Georgia State. The Tigers must replace defensive coordinator Blake Baker, who took the same position at LSU last week, but they also added a host of potential defensive starters.
The rest of the Way Too Early Top 25 for 2024:
14. State of Kansas
16. State of Florida
19. State of Oklahoma
22. NC State
23. Texas A&M
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