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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- San Diego State – Donnel Pumphrey, RB, Senior
At 5’9”, 180 pounds, Pumphrey is a small player that packs a punch and can carry a heavy workload. With over 4,000 career rushing yards and 45 touchdowns, he’s easily one of the most productive running backs in the nation. He has had over 20 receptions in all three of his seasons, and can clearly carve out a role in the NFL through passing downs work. He has held his own against better competition, as he totaled over 100 total yards in games against Penn State, Cal, and Cincinnati last season, and North Carolina, Boise State, and Navy the year before. After this season, Pumphrey will likely have carried the ball 1,000 times over the course of his college career. He’s clearly capable of handling a heavy workload, which gives me hope that he will be able to stick around on an NFL roster for a long time.
- Northern Illinois – Kenny Golladay, WR, Senior
Golladay has had a very similar career path to Josh Doctson at this point in their careers. Both are tall, lanky receivers (Golladay comes in at 6’4”, 200 pounds, while Doctson is 6’4”, 190 pounds), who transferred to bigger schools after their sophomore year (North Dakota to Northern Illinois for Golladay, and Wyoming to TCU for Doctson) and were extremely productive there. In fact, Golladay posted the third highest dominator rating of returning draft eligible wide receivers, accounting for over 38% of his teams receiving production. I’d like to Golladay have better production against NIU’s toughest opponents, and expect him to also have a slightly more productive season than last year. If he can do this and test well at the combine, we might be looking at the small school version of Doctson.
- Toledo – Kareem Hunt, RB, Senior
Hunt has received double digit carries in 25 career games, and has produced over 100 yards in 21 of these games. When he’s healthy and on the field, he’s truly a dominating force for the Rockets. At 6’1”, 225 pounds, Hunt has the kind of size that makes scouts salivate. While he was hampered by a hamstring injury last year and only played in nine games, he averaged 163 (!!!) yards per game during his age 19 sophomore season. Jon Moore also pointed out that he is one of only 15 running backs since 2000 to rush for over 3,000 yards before his 21st birthday. All of these running backs were drafted, and nearly all of them were fantasy relevant at one point or another. Even in a loaded running back class, there’s a good chance that Hunt gets drafted and is one of the better producers in the class.
- Georgia Southern – Matt Breida, RB, Senior
I’ve seen many people on Twitter say that Breida might be the most explosive player in the country, and I can’t really argue that. With amazing breakaway speed, above average athleticism, and an extremely tough runner, he could be one of the most underrated backs in the nation. After 374 career carries, he’s averaging an astonishing 8.27 yards per carry. Breida has some impressive accomplishments and traits that most running backs wished they had, so why isn’t he getting more attention? He also has some flaws working against him as well. First, he plays in the Sun Belt, so many don’t watch him and ding him for his level of competition. On top of that, Georgia Southern is a triple option team that ran the ball 84% of the time last season, so he could easily be labelled as a system player. Since the team rarely passes, we haven’t been able to see how he is as a receiver out of the backfield. That’s not to say he can’t do it, but he hasn’t demonstrated those skills yet. And at 5’11”, 190 pounds, he likely will need to add weight to carry a heavy workload at the next level, and this will likely come at the expense of his speed. While he looks to be an outstanding college back, I’m not sure if Breida has what it take to play a role for an NFL team.
- North Carolina State – Jaylen Samuels, H-Back, Junior
Samuels is one of the most versatile players in the nation. With close to 600 receiving yards, and 368 rushing yards, Samuels may not sound like the most productive player in the world, but then factor in that he had seven receiving touchdowns and nine rushing touchdowns. His nine scores came on only 56 rushing attempts, proving what an effective runner he is. He was named to the All-ACC team as a tight end last year, but somehow was left off the preseason team this year. At 5’11”, 225 pounds, I don’t think Samuels will be able to cut it in the NFL as a tight end, but he could definitely make a team in an H-Back role and be used in certain sub packages with great efficiency. Expect to see him drafted sometime within the next two seasons.
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