Summer practices are starting up again at campuses across the country and everyone’s favorite time of year is right around the corner: football season. 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 teams ranked 57th, 56th, and 55th in the rankings.
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57. Iowa State
Allen Lazard, Wide Receiver, Senior
Lazard was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school who decided to stay home and play for the local Cyclones. He’s been arguably the team’s best player for the duration of his time on campus, and he’ll look to have a big senior year this season.
At 6’5”, 223 pounds, Lazard provides a massive target unlike any other in the Big 12. After posting a .31 dominator rating his sophomore year, he followed it up with a .33 last season. Ideally he’ll post over a .40 this season, but anything in the .35 range is still excellent. Coming out of high school he was a tremendous athlete for his size. While his 4.65 forty yard dash leaves a bit to be desired, I can see him running in the mid 4.5s at the combine next season. He also had a 36 inch vertical jump and a SPARQ score of 116, which is exceptional.
His athleticism is easy to see on the field, especially in jump ball situations. Lazard has strong hands and good concentration to go along with above average body control. Pairing these skills with his leaping ability make for one of the best red zone weapons in this year’s class. Another thing I like about Lazard is that he runs a variety of routes, and is very good at most of them. This is a skill that will immediately translate to the NFL level and could help him be a Day One starter for a team.
I expect Lazard to go in the third or fourth round of next year’s draft and be a solid contributor for whatever team he lands on.
56. South Florida
Quinton Flowers, Quarterback, Senior
If not for Lamar Jackson, Quinton Flowers would likely be known as the top dual threat quarterback in America. He rushed for over 1,500 yard and 18 touchdowns last season while averaging 7.7 yards per carry. Here’s the list of players to post a similar season to Flowers’ (at least 2800 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 1500 rushing yards, and 15 rushing touchdowns):
- Lamar Jackson, Louisville, 2016
- Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois, 2012 and 2013
Flowers’ had a historically great season last year, but flew under the radar because of Jackson’s success. He’s the second leading returning rusher in the country besides Jackson, and with the loss of Marlon Mack he could put up even better numbers this year. Even though head coach Willie Taggert left for Oregon, the Bulls brought in Charlie Strong and Sterling Gilbert to run a similar spread type of offense that should fit Flowers skillset quite nicely.
As a passer, Flowers is solid, but by no means an NFL caliber player. He has an average arm, and lacks consistency with his ball placement. If his first read isn’t open he will often bounce outside the pocket to either scramble or look for another option, as opposed to just staying in the pocket and waiting for his receivers to get open. Flowers could be the best dual threat quarterback in the country this season, but he’s ultimately more suited for the college game than the professional one.
Darnell Salomon, Wide Receiver, Sophomore
After his junior season, the popular recruiting website Rivals rated Salomon not only as a five star, but as the second best receiver and number 16 overall player in the country. Fast forward not even a year later and he ‘s rated a four star and the number 58 receiver by the same website.
However, Salomon was convicted of burglary charges for an incident that occurred on his trip to Georgia, which likely scared off many of the top schools that were recruiting him, and prevented him from returning to Athens ever again (unless he were to play a football game there). A suspension as a result of this conviction is feasible, but other than that there’s no realistic reason for a player this highly sought after to drop so far in the recruiting rankings.
Salomon is a very talented player who still has all the tools of the five star receiver that he once was. He already has an NFL-ready frame at 6’3”, 215 pounds. He’s also got tremendous hands, is a gifted jump ball receiver, and is a better athlete on the field than his testing numbers show. In high school he didn’t appear to run many routes besides screens, vertical routes, and fades, but in seven on seven tournaments he appeared fully capable of running a variety of routes proficiently.
With the graduation of top receiver Rodney Adams, I hope to see Salomon step in and step up to become the top receiver for what should be one of the best Group of Five schools in the nation.
Demetris Robertson, Wide Receiver, Sophomore
If you follow recruiting in the slightest, you’ve likely heard of Robertson before. A five star prospect and the top receiver in last year’s cycle, he had 29 offers from every major program in the country. He ultimately chose Cal over Georgia and Notre Dame in May of last year.
Robertson is an incredible athlete who lead his high school basketball team in scoring, was named the Georgia Track and Field athlete of the year his senior year, and also runs track for Cal. He immediately stepped in and produced for the golden Bears last season, catching 50 passes for 767 yards and seven touchdowns.
With Chad Hansen graduating, Robertson will be the top option for his squad this season, a role that he’ll likely thrive in. With tremendous speed, explosion, hands, and lateral agility, he can function as both a vertical threat and a possession receiver. However, he needs to work on his route running, as Cal runs a vertical oriented offense with a lot of screens and vertical routes. Robertson is also on the smaller side at just 6’, 175 pounds. He’s also very old, as he’s already 20 years old, meaning he’ll be nearly 22 and a half when he takes his first NFL snap. While his age isn’t as troublesome as a player like Calvin Ridley, it’s still a major concern for me.
I currently have Robertson as the WR13 in his class, and it’s no knock on him as it appears to a very deep wide receiver class. He could rise higher but I have a hard time seeing him cracking the top three and being a first round pick in 2019.
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