It’s officially #DepthChartSZN — that time of the football calendar when your Twitter timeline is flooded with pictures of depth charts that college football programs have released to the media ahead of their Week 1 games.
However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many schools that release a traditional two-deep, where each position has a clearly labeled starter and backup. You’ll find coaches are often coy about who’s starting at key positions like quarterback, running back and defensive end, as if the opponent can’t guess who’s starting or study film to prepare for multiple players.
Or, if your favorite team hasn’t released its two-deep, then there’s likely an ongoing debate in your favorite team’s online community about how much value there is or isn’t in transparency to the media and the potential impact such gamesmanship can have on a football game.
So in the spirit of Depth Chart Week, we made a depth chart of FBS depth charts.
In other words, these depth charts feature our favorite formatting oddities — which were orchestrated by college football coaches and their sports information directors prior to their teams playing their first game of the season.
Just in case you’re new to #DepthChartSZN, there’s no better example that will get you up to speed with coaches treating depth charts like state secrets than Georgia Tech’s “depth chart” under new Head Coach Geoff Collins.
The Yellow Jackets’ Week 1 game notes include the phrase “Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins has insisted that he doesn’t believe in [depth charts].” Instead, Atlanta’s newest resident has crafted the clever ATL acronym that stands for “Above The Line,” which means that players who are listed “above the line” are ready to see game action.
Jim Harbaugh would approve of Georgia Tech’s opening depth chart pic.twitter.com/zVDUj2hKb6
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) August 26, 2019
So Georgia Tech has three game-ready quarterbacks, eight game-ready wide receivers and 10 game-ready offensive linemen. Who will start and who will play in a reserve capacity?
Collins doesn’t feel like telling you.
Here’s your reminder that the Jackets open the 2019 season at defending national champion Clemson and none of this
paranoia gamesmanship will make a difference on the field.
If you need another example of an all-time Depth Chart Week moment, here’s Colorado’s fake depth chart from 2016, when Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh refused to release one in advance of their game.
Michigan doesn’t do a depth chart, so Colorado made a fake one for the week. Nice work by SID Dave Plati! pic.twitter.com/EQr0LloHrB
— Kevin Kugler (@kevinkugler) September 13, 2016
Without further ado, here’s our depth chart of Week 1 depth charts.
- Texas A&M: The Aggies listed four potential starting quarterbacks for Week 1, including last year’s starter Kellen Mond, who threw for 430 yards and three touchdowns against Clemson, as well as true freshman Zach Calzada and redshirt freshman James Foster. We don’t buy for a second that someone besides Mond is starting against Texas State in Week 1 and there’s no way that Texas State does either, but we respect the Aggies’ long-shot attempt at deception, as if they don’t have one of the 20 preseason favorites for the Heisman Trophy on their roster.
- Charlotte: When the 49ers released their Week 1 depth chart on Twitter, they noted that they only had one “OR” on their two-deep. That one “OR” was at quarterback, but Charlotte’s Twitter account noted that both quarterbacks — Chris Reynolds and Brett Kean — will play against Gardner-Webb. Honestly, more schools that haven’t completely settled on a starting quarterback should do this. Gardner-Webb will have to prepare for both quarterbacks and the Bulldogs still don’t know which one is starting or how much either one will play.
- Auburn: The Tigers listed six (!) players as their potential starter at running back — Jatarvious Whitlow, Kam Martin, Malik Miller, Shaun Shivers, D.J. Williams or Harold Joiner. The SEC’s tag line is “It just means more,” and apparently that also applies to depth chart gamesmanship.
- Texas A&M: The Aggies listed five players as the potential starter in the backfield, each separated by an “OR.” But Texas A&M does have to replace Trayveon Williams, who had 271 carries for 1,760 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, so it’s understandable if Jimbo Fisher gives multiple running backs the chance to be the team’s primary option out of the backfield.
- Appalachian State: In the offseason, we found that teams are shifting towards a running back-by-committee approach, so we’re not dismissing the value of a rotational running back who might get spot carries. The Mountaineers made it apparent that Darrynton Evans is their starter and Camerun Peoples is his backup, but they hedged by listing the team’s third-string running back as Marcus Williams Jr. OR Daetrich Harrington.
- Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have been synonymous with passing offense given some of the coaches, coordinators, quarterbacks and receivers that have been through Lubbock in the last decade-plus. This year, Texas Tech lists three potential players as the starting Y receiver, two potential players as the starting Z receiver and two potential players as the backup X receiver. So which players and which combinations of receivers will be catching passes for the Red Raiders in Week 1? We’ll all find out together after kickoff.
- Cincinnati: The Bearcats listed three potential players as their third-string tight end — Josh Whyle, Wilson Huber and Leonard Taylor. Sure, there might be “strong” formations featuring two tight ends, but to see five total tight ends listed on Cincinnati’s depth chart is, uh, different.
- Tennessee: The Vols have named Dominick Wood-Anderson their starting tight end, but they also listed their second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-string tight ends on their depth chart, which seems like overkill. At least we know where things stand.
- Tennessee: The Volunteers listed two potential starters at all five offensive line positions, so either they have the best offensive line depth in the country or no one has separated themselves at any of the positions. (Or the more likely third option, the Vols are using it as an internal motivation tactic for their players, as well as to keep Week 1 opponent Georgia State on its toes.)
- Nick Coe, Auburn: The 6-5, 291-pound junior is listed as Auburn’s starter at outside linebacker, but he’s also listed as the Tigers’ backup at both defensive tackle positions and defensive end, so if you’re keeping score at home, that’s one player who’s listed as a starter or backup at four different positions.
- Andre Mintze, Vanderbilt: Vandy is a great academic institution and in case you forgot, the Commodores listed their players’ majors alongside their position on the team’s depth chart. In all seriousness, shoutout to Mintze for double-majoring in cinema and media arts, and medicine, health and society. That’s a mouthful and should give Vandy’s defensive end an incredibly impressive resume in the near future.
- Central Michigan: The Chippewas have three players listed as their potential starting kicker. It’s a real shame Central Michigan doesn’t have a Tuesday night game on its schedule this season because that would be some peak #MACtion for CMU to sneak into the game a backup kicker who has a cannon arm or runs a 4.3 40 and let him run a fake kick.
- Colorado State: The Rams also listed three kickers as the potential starter. As the old saying goes, if you have three kickers, you don’t have one.
- Arkansas State: The Red Wolves listed “OR” for only two starting positions on their depth chart and both were on special teams, including who would be taking kickoffs for Arkansas State — Damon Foncham or Tristan Mattson. Surely this is because Coach Blake Anderson doesn’t know who has the more reliable foot on kickoffs and not because he’s trying to have SMU game plan for two different kickers on kick returns, but it’s fun to imagine otherwise.
- Utah: The word “or” is all the rage during #DepthChartSZN, but Utah went against the grain by also making use of the word “and” in regards to its starting kick returners. To avoid any confusion, the Utes want you to know that Britain Covey AND Josh Nurse will be returning kicks in Week 1.
- Following in line with upcoming opponent USC’s policy of not releasing a depth chart until Friday, neither did Fresno State, which left the entire page devoted to its Week 1 depth chart blank.
- Apparently UC Davis’ depth chart prior to facing Cal is just a list of every player in alphabetical order.