Spring ball has wrapped up and soon enough Summer practices will begin at campuses across America. College football often offers us plenty of surprises, whether it be an unexpected upset, a team that comes out of nowhere to have rousing success, or a player who suddenly breaks out and turns into one of the best in the nation.
Using the preliminary S&P+ rankings from SB Nation’s Bill Connelly as a guide, I’ll be going through each FBS team and highlighting some players to watch for during the upcoming season. Some are draft eligible, while others are names for devy owners to remember.
In this edition, I’ll look at players from the 99-90 team portion of the rankings.
99. Florida Atlantic
D’Andre Johnson, QB Redshirt Sophomore
You might’ve heard Johnson’s name before, but it’s not for a good reason. He started his career at Florida State before he was kicked out of school for punching a woman in the face, then spent a year at East Mississippi Community College. Coming out of high school he was a three star quarterback and the number 11 dual threat quarterback in his class. He’s a strong armed player who is an excellent scrambler and should fit Head Coach Lane Kiffin and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles uptempo spread offense perfectly. While he displayed good accuracy in his highlight tapes, he had a poor performance in the team’s spring game, which leads me to question this accuracy. He also needs to work on his footwork. Johnson should be able to beat out Jason Driskel for the starting job and we’ll finally be able to see if he lived up to the hype he had during his short time at Florida State.
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DeAndre McNeal, WR Redshirt Sophomore
McNeal is one of three high profile junior college transfers who Kiffin helped FAU land. He was originally a four star athlete who signed with Texas coming out of high school. He was subsequently kicked off the team and enrolled at Fullerton College. At 6’1”, 236 pounds, he possesses good speed and solid lateral movement in the open field. In high school he lined up all over the field, including quarterback, running back, wide receiver, H-Back and linebacker. He may need to refine his route running skills because of how many positions he played, but he has shown the ability to high point the ball well and has tremendous athletic ability. He should eventually develop into one of the Owls’ top offensive weapons.
D’Anfernee McGriff, Athlete Redshirt Sophomore
The last of the three community college transfers, McGriff was one of my favorite players in his class coming out of high school. He initially committed to Auburn before flipping to Florida. However, he was unable to qualify academically and went to a prep school for a year. He then ended up at Iowa Western Community College and signed with FAU in February. Kiffin said they haven’t decided on a position for their athletes yet, but I would expect him to end up at running back. He’s listed at 6’1”, 215 pounds and supposedly ran a 4.34 forty in high school. McGriff is similar to McNeal in that they both lined up almost everywhere on offense for their team. McGriff was primarily a quarterback who ran a power spread attack but he also lined up out wide as a receiver at some points. He’s very strong as a runner, is a very fast player and has solid balance. He’s also more than capable as a receiver. If he can get the playbook down and stay academically eligible, then I expect McGriff to be involved for the Owls in some way this year, as he’s simply too talented to keep off the field.
98. Georgia Southern
Players to Watch: Alfred Ramsby (Running Back), Wesley Fields (Running Back), D’Ondre Glenn (Wide Receiver)
97. Central Michigan
Players to Watch: Corey Willis (Wide Receiver), Devon Spalding (Running Back)
96. Eastern Michigan
Brogan Roback, QB Redshirt Senior
Roback had a solid year last year, passing for nearly 270 yards per game and posting just over a 2.5 to one touchdown to interception ratio. He has solid size at 6’3”, but could look to add some weight since he’s listed at 208 pounds. On film, he shows flashes of being an NFL caliber quarterback as he has a strong arm and can fit balls into tight windows. However, his accuracy is inconsistent and he is horrendous under pressure. His normally sound mechanics break down, forcing him to make poor throws which are sometimes compounded by poor decisions. He is capable as a runner and does a decent job throwing on the move. He’s likely one of the top quarterbacks in the MAC, and after leading Eastern Michigan to its first bowl game since the 90’s, Roback will look to bring them back this year. However, the team lost four starting offensive lineman, meaning he’ll likely be under more heat than ever this season. Roback will need to greatly improve his ability under pressure and work out his inconsistencies if he wants to take his team to a bowl game and have any chance of sticking on and NFL roster.
95. Bowling Green
Terren Encalade, WR Redshirt Junior
If you were to simply go on ESPN and look at Encalade’s profile, you would be very underwhelmed. A 6’, 195 pound receiver with only 500 receiving yards doesn’t seem to be a player who’s a legit prospect, but that’s exactly what he is. While he only had 500 receiving yards, this was 37% of the Green Wave’s receiving yards and when you factor in that he also accounted for 60% of their receiving touchdowns, you have a dominant receiver. While he may appear to be a smaller receiver, Encalade plays bigger than his size, regularly going up to get balls and high pointing them. He also looks to have tremendous speed, but the corners he regularly burns play for the likes of UMass and SMU. Lastly, he runs great routes as his breaks are always very crisp. Tulane is a bad team, in a bad conference, that ran the ball 333 times more than it threw it last year. It’s unlikely he’ll have much hype at all but I think he could emerge as one of the better receivers in next year’s class.
93. Old Dominion
Raw Lawry, RB Senior
Lawry has quietly been one of the most productive backs in the nation over his first three seasons. His freshman season he averaged over seven yards per carry and scored 16 touchdowns and the past two years he’s rushed for over 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns in both seasons. Lawry also has 49 receptions, good for over a reception a game. On film, Lawry displays above average speed and his combination of excellent lateral ability, coupled with great strength and physicality, makes him very difficult to bring down in the open field. At 5’10”, 204 pounds, he’s a little bit smaller than most feature backs but because of how physically he plays, you would never be able to tell. Lawry is one of the top senior backs in the country. He’s really underrated at this point and I expect him to gather more hype as the season goes along. I would compare Lawry to Ameer Abdullah, who hasn’t lived up to expectations with the Lions but was considered a top prospect coming out.
Jonathan Duhart, WR Senior
A big bodied receiver who has been overshadowed by Zach Pascal for the past two seasons, Duhart should finally take on the role of top receiver for the Monarchs. At 6’3”, 221 pounds, he has tremendous size that helps him out a lot in the red zone and when he needs to go up and high point a ball. He’s not a burner by any means but he has enough speed to occasionally get behind a defense for a big play. Duhart is a physical receiver who is tough to take down in the open field. His route running isn’t special, specifically his releases, but he does have great hands which help to make up for his average route running. Duhart is a wide receiver with a lot of potential who I expect to have a big year for the Monarchs.
Jonathan Lewis, QB Freshman
Lewis is an incoming freshman and was the number two quarterback in New Jersey for this cycle. At 6’3”, 225 pounds, he comes in ready to play immediately. At this point, he’s more of a runner than a thrower but with a big arm and solid ball placement, he has shown flashes of being an above average quarterback. His high school scheme asked him to run more than throw, which obviously contributed to it, but I have no doubt that he’ll develop his passing skills in college. Lewis is a very physical runner, but also possesses speed to outrun defenders in the open field. He’s fearless, not only when running but also when throwing downfield, which is something that I like to see in young quarterbacks. I like Lewis enough that I expect him to play sooner rather than later and if he doesn’t I would be concerned about his development as a passer. He clearly possesses the most natural ability of any quarterback on Rutgers roster, but if he isn’t the starter within two or two and a half season I would be worried.
Players to Watch: Dalton Strum, Quaterback
90. Ball State
Players to Watch: James Gilbert
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