With summer practices wrapped up and just over a week until the season starts, it’s time to start looking towards the college football season. Many stars from last season such as Derrick Henry, Corey Coleman, Ezekiel Elliott, Laquon Treadwell, and Jared Goff have all graduated or left school, leading to much intrigue and excitement for this season. In this series I will go through my personal top 100 teams entering this college football season, and highlight one player to watch from each team. For some teams, they may not be the most well know players (such as Christian McCaffrey on Stanford or Leonard Fournette on LSU), but rather players who could be potential stars this year or later in their career.
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54. Arizona – Nick Wilson, RB, Junior
Wilson had a sensational freshman season, rushing for over 1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns. However, he got hurt after just five games last year and never was able to fully return to form. While he was out, Orlando Bradford took over as the Wildcats starting running back, and he is expected to split time with Wilson this season. I’m concerned about Wilson’s durability and his ability to handle a heavy workload, and it’s concerning if he already has to split time in college. After such an outstanding freshman campaign, it’s disappointing to see that Wilson looks like he could be losing his starting spot. I did think after his freshman season that he had a chance to make it in the NFL as a committee back who could play on first and second down, but I’m not sure if he’ll ever make it in the league after last season and this off-season.
53. Middle Tennessee State – Richie James, WR, Sophomore
Richie James had one of the best freshman seasons ever for a wide receiver, yet he has received almost no attention at all. Here is a list of players since 2000 with at least 100 receptions, 1,300 receiving yards, eight receiving touchdowns, and 100 rushing yards:
James is the only player on this list to put up these stats as a freshman, and Burleson and Cooks have had success in the NFL, while Lee was a second round pick. So what’s keeping James out of the spotlight? First, he plays in Conference USA so his level of competition isn’t exactly the nation’s best. Another issue is his size. At just 5’9”, 180 pounds, James is an extremely small receiver. Lastly, even though he put up gaudy stats, his market share numbers suggest that he could just be a product of the Raiders pass heavy offense. With a dominator rating of .29, James had a solid control of the team’s offense, but indicates that he wasn’t as good as his raw stats would lead one to believe. Regardless, James could explode this year, as MTSU returns only one other player with more than 600 receiving yards.
52. Minnesota – Shannon Brooks, RB, Sophomore
It’s a shame Brooks broke his foot and could miss the start of the season, as he had a superb true freshman season. He put up just over 700 yards while averaging six yards per carry. Brooks is a physical runner with good balance and fluid hips. His physical style can be seen through his stiff arm, which is his go to move to break tackles. Check out this one against Purdue:
— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) June 19, 2016
At 6’, 210 pounds, he certainly has the size you’d like to see in a starting running back. I expect him to carry the ball upwards of 200 times this season, considering how effective he was last season on just 119 carries. He also had a reception in each of his last six games, and had three or more receptions in the last four. It’s good to see a young player get work in passing downs, as it indicates that the coaching staff trusts not only their receiving ability but their pass blocking ability as well. In a class where Saquon Barkley and Derrius Guice get all the attention, Brooks is an under the radar name to remember.
51. Arkansas – Rawleigh Williams, RB, Sophomore
With Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams both gone and presumed starter Kody Walker recovering from a broken foot, Williams is in line to open the season as the Razorbacks starting running back. He did a good job as the team’s third back last season, putting up 4.5 yards per carry and one touchdown on 56 rushing attempts. At 5’10”, 223 pounds, Williams has a thick build that allows him to plow through defenders. He’s a physical runner with amazing balance for his size, and I think he will be very productive this year because of this. It’s worth noting that Williams suffered a severe neck injury in late October last year and was out for the rest of the year. He has been and will continue to wear a non-contact jersey in practice, and was forced to wear a neck brace for six weeks following the injury. He could start the season slow, but I think he will be the team’s starter by season’s end.
50. Cal – Davis Webb, QB, Senior
Cal actually kicked off the college football season in Australia on Friday against Hawaii, and grad transfer quarterback Davis Webb looked like a solid replacement for number one pick Jared Goff. Webb spent the past three seasons at Texas Tech, but was beaten out by Pat Mahomes last season for the starting job. He chose to transfer to Cal after initially choosing Colorado, but had second thoughts and realized he was a better fit with the Golden Bears. At 6’5”, 230 pounds, Webb definitely looks the part of a starting quarterback when it comes to size. Mel Kiper named him his top senior quarterback for next year’s draft, and even went as far to say that he has first round potential. If his first game against Hawaii is any indication, Webb will have an outstanding season. He completed over 70% of his passes, which is even more impressive when you consider that he attempted 54. He also threw for 441 yards and four touchdowns, and had a nice touchdown run as well. This Cal team has many other players with NFL potential, including Vic Enwere, Khalifi Muhammad, Chad Hansen, Melquise Stovall and Demetrius Robertson, and should have a very solid offense this season.
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