This year could still be great. Who knows? Not me! I'd like it to be, but if I'm a betting man - I think we hit 7-8 wins.
I want to take a quick, speculative look at next year and who may return.
I'll quickly list the starters who have eligibility or could potentially due to prior seasons played, starting with Defense.
CJ Clark (1 game played in 2019, plus a Covid year means he could return)
Hibbler, Price, Cleveland, and the rest of the DL behind the starters have eligibility besides Noah Potter - he's the only guaranteed departure.
Savion Jackson** - he played in the first 6 games of 2022 before departing with an injury. He could potentially apply for a medical waiver of eligibility, but I don't know if he would want to. That said - there is a minute possibility he could return.
Scott - redshirted in 2019, one year remaining
Robert Kennedy - has one year remaining if he wants it
Battle - redshirted in 19, has one year remaining if he wants it
Jakeen Harris - injured this year - he could return
Boykin - one year remaining (maybe more - not sure how much he played in 2021 and 2022)
White - Has 2 years technically if he wants them. Depends on what his draft grade and NIL look like.
From the main rotation of players - there are 2 guys who definitely can't come back - Wilson and Potter. Teshaun Smith also can't return, but he's played very sparingly.
Dylan McMahon can't return, nor can Derrick Eason. The rest can all return if they want, as well as Dawson Jaramillo. With Cooper, Carter, Belton, McKay, and Peak that's 6 guys. Get 2 in the portal and you've got a decent 8 man rotation on the OL.
Pennix and Toudle are gone - that's a decent sized loss, but we haven't seen much from them because of health issues. To that end - I wouldn't be surprised if either one of them is able to come back - just don't feel like researching it.
KC - pay him all the money. Get John Kane on board and give him some more. Doeren should write him a personal check out of his own salary. He can come back.
Lesane's gone, Rozner's gone. The remaining receivers who've contributed can all return. I'd honestly prefer if fewer of them return. Keep KC and Vereen for sure. Not sure how many of Rooks, Gray, Smith, and Collins we want to guarantee spots to, but we'll see.
Morris can obviously return.
All the remaining RBs can return.
Not gonna lie - the cupboard is not bare. We could return MOST of our defense outside of a few star players. Inject more plays from the likes of Sean Brown, get Zack Myers and Fagan involved as well as more development from Cisse and we could continue to be pretty dang legit on defense. On offense, we can only improve from here! I imagine with some transfer OL, maybe find a true #1 receiver, add in a backup QB and a solid RB to the mix (plus probably 1 more receiver to mitigate any departures to the portal), and on defense add maybe a DL, maybe a DB, maybe an LB and that's probably all we need unless we lose more guys from the backend. Maybe 6-7 portal/JUCO targets overall and we're in good shape.
We add in Jonathan Paylor, Christian Zachary, and Jimmar Boston. Jonathan Paylor plus KC will be a matchup nightmare - I imagine Paylor starts from day 1 and the two of them rotate between slot, outside, and RB. If we have a true outside receiver threat, that's a good combo, especially if our OL improves.
Next year could be fun too.