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 89-84 portion of the rankings.
89. Middle Tennessee State
Brent Stockstill, QB Junior
Stockstill is the son of the Blue Raiders Head Coach, Rick Stockstill but this doesn’t mean he was just handed the starting quarterback job. During his true freshman season he threw for over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. This year he followed up by throwing for over 3,200 yards and 31 touchdowns in just ten games. While his total numbers dropped, he actually was tremendous last season. Since 2000 to 2016, these are the quarterbacks who have had a completion percentage greater than 60%, a passer rating over 150, throw for over 30 touchdowns, throw for over 300 yards per game, rushed for over 200 yards, and averaged over five yards per carry:
- Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, 2013
- Trevone Boykin, TCU, 2015
While these two posted superior rushing numbers to Stockstill, they also received far more attempts. All three also have a similar build, as Stockstill is 6’, 206 pounds, Manziel was 6’1”, 210 pounds and Boykin was 6’2”, 205 pounds. Say what you will about Manziel but he was a first round draft pick and Boykin was able to carve out a role as the Seahawks backup last year. Stockstill has some issues with his mechanics, he’s on the smaller side and his footwork can use some work, but I do think he’s being underlooked right now. He has a strong arm and solid accuracy and has been able to run his team’s offense to perfection. I think he has a shot to make it in the NFL as a backup, and if he cleans up his mechanics and footwork he could be a startable option for a team.
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Richie James, WR Junior
The man who may be responsible for much of Stockstill’s success is wide receiver Richie James. While you may not have heard of him, he’s one of the best receivers in the country – he’s posted over 100 receptions, 1,300 yards, and eight touchdowns in each of his first two seasons. Last year he had 12 touchdowns and over 1,500 yards and was particularly amazing. He contributed more to the running game this year since he was forced to play quarterback when Stockstill went down as well. Against Florida Atlantic, James had four receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown, while also carrying the ball 22 times for 207 yards and three more scores. Here’s how his season last year compared to a few recent players (shout out to Russell Clay, who posted these as part of his Player of the Day series on Twitter):
Richie James joins Brandin Cooks as the only WRs (since 00′) to have a season with 1500+ REC YDs and 200+ RUSH YDs. pic.twitter.com/0JHiT2pFUn
— Russell Clay (@RussellJClay) May 19, 2017
Their the only players with those rates above above 20 RUSH ATT. The list when you drop it to 10. So 100+ REC 10+ RUSH ATT at 7.0+ PER ATT pic.twitter.com/XZTaTxduIM
— Russell Clay (@RussellJClay) May 19, 2017
Brandin Cooks, Antonio Brown, Jeremy Maclin and Tavon Austin are all good comparisons for James. Even Lee, Wright and Collie all have had fantasy relevant seasons. James is currently my wide receiver seven for next year’s class. His game reminds me a lot of Carlos Henderson as I love his speed, explosiveness and most of all, what he can do with the ball in his hands. However, I’m concerned about his size (5’9”, 180 pounds), level of competition, and the offense he comes from. Because of this, I don’t think he’ll go super high in the draft, but I think he’ll be a steal for whatever team gets him.
88. Miami (OH)
Players to Watch: James Gardener (Wide Receiver)
Players to Watch: David Blough (Quarterback), Markell Jones (Running Back)
86. Northern Illinois
Players to Watch: Jordan Huff (Running Back)
Players to Watch: Dwayne Lawson (Quarterback), Ke’Shawn Vaughn (Running Back), Carmoni Green (Wide Receiver), Mike Dudek (Wide Receiver)
84. Southern Miss
Ito Smith, RB Senior
Smith has been extremely productive as his last two seasons as the Golden Eagles starter, rushing for over 1,100 yards and ten touchdowns both years to go along with over 40 receptions both years. His receiving potential is what particularly intrigues me as he was lined up in the slot at times and managed to post high reception numbers even when teammates like Michael Thomas and Alonzae Staggers were dominating the passing game. Smith is very difficult to bring down in the open field as he has excellent balance and runs with great pad level which allows him to frequently break tackles. He also has good agility because of his loose hips to go along with his solid speed. At 5’9”, 195 pounds, he’s on the smaller side for a running back. However, I think he has a clear role for a team as a third down back and is more than capable to split carries in a timeshare. While he won’t be one of the top backs in this years class, I expect him to get a shot somewhere.
Allenzae Staggers, WR Senior
You may have heard of Staggers before as he started his career at East Mississippi Community College, the team that was profiled on Netflix’s Last Chance U. He’s made the most of that last chance and wound up as Southern Mississippi’s top receiver last season. Staggers was a real deep threat last year, averaging 18.5 yards per reception – good for 25th best in the nation. Nowhere was his deep ball ability more on display than against Rice, when he had six receptions for a whopping 292 yards (48.7 yards per reception) and three touchdowns. Even though Rice isn’t exactly a football powerhouse, Staggers was still able to get a good five yards on his defender on his three long touchdowns. I’m excited to see if he can improve in his second year in the offense, and he’s definitely a name to remember this upcoming season.
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