With the rising numbers of college football players leaving their programs early for the NFL, getting a top quarterback, running back and receiver back from the previous season is increasingly rare.
That is one reason Baylor has the top trio in FBS entering the 2014 season.
In a composite of NCAA statistical leaders, the Bears have a top five quarterback in Bryce Petty, a top seven wide receiver in Antwan Goodley, and in spite of losing their No. 1 rusher, their offensive scheme still places Shock Linwood in the top 25 of returning rushers. Without Goodley, the Bears return so many quality receivers, they would still have one of the top 20 trios with their No. 2 or No. 3 receivers.
To formulate a composite ranking, each returning player was broken down into multiple categories and ranked against the other returning players at their respective positions. This creates an average national ranking for every player based on their position. For quarterbacks, there were 11 stats used, seven were used for running backs and seven were used for wide receivers/tight ends.
Like Baylor, Florida State lost its top rusher from 2013, but its returning players have enough potency to give the Seminoles the No. 2 trio. The remainder of the top five is USC and Indiana tied at No. 3 and Houston at No. 5. Arizona State, Temple, Michigan State, Northwestern and Auburn come in with the sixth- through 10th-ranked trios.
So where is Oregon, with a leading Heisman contender in quarterback Marcus Mariota and two strong backs in Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner? The Ducks would have the No. 2 trio if Bralon Addison — the No. 16 returning receiver in this composite — was not expected to miss the 2014 season with a knee injury. As it is, their top receiver is tight end Johnny Mundt, who ranks 147th among returning pass catchers.
Quarterbacks were evaluated on a composite of attempts, completions, yards per attempt, touchdowns, interceptions, efficiency rating, attempts per game, yards per game, points per pass, interceptions per pass. Running backs were evaluated on a composite of attempts, yards, yards per carry, touchdowns, carries per game, yards per game, points per rush. And wide receivers were evaluated on a composite of receptions, yards, yards per catch, touchdowns, receptions per game, yards per game, points per catch.
The top 10 trios, with individual national position rankings for QB, RB and WR:
1. Baylor (Bryce Petty 5, Shock Linwood 33, Antwan Goodley 7), 15.0 average
2. Florida State (Jameis Winston 7, Karlos Williams 44, Rashad Greene 21), 24.0
3 (tie). Indiana (Nate Sudfeld 17, Tevin Coleman 17, Shane Wynn 39), 24.3
3 (tie). USC (Cody Kessler 14, Javorius Allen 30, Nelson Agholor 29), 24.3
5. Houston (John O’Korn 20, Ryan Jackson 58, Deontay Greenberry 16), 31.3
6. Arizona State (Taylor Kelly 16, D.J. Foster 72, Jaelen Strong 25), 37.7
7. Michigan State (Connor Cook 20, Jeremy Langford 20, Tony Lippett 75), 38.3
8. Northwestern (Trevor Siemian 26, Treyvon Green 38, Christian Jones 55), 39.7
9. Auburn (Nick Marshall 26, Cameron Artis-Payne 62, Sammie Coates 32), 40
10. Utah (Travis Wilson 24, James Poole 81, Dres Anderson 20), 41.7