These are my picks for best 14 College football players of 2014. If you disagree, please let me know. I will gladly travel to your area and thrash you.
1. Melvin Gordon – Wisconsin: Gordon had an incredible junior season other than the Big 10 Championship game and being held to 38 yards rushing by the mighty Western Illinois defense. Against Auburn in the bowl game Gordon just ran wild for 251 yards and 3 touchdowns and he had 140 yards against LSU in the game opener plus another Touchdown.
So, Gordon proved he could do it against the best defenses. Finishing with 2,587 yards rushing with 29 Touchdowns. Melvin Gordon moved ahead of Kevin Smith of the University of Central Florida for 2nd all time in single season NCAA rushing only behind the legendary Barry Sanders who had 2,628 yards rushing in the 1988 season.
Gordon finishes his career at Wisconsin with just a shade under 5,000 yards rushing and 45 Touchdowns.
2. Amari Cooper – Alabama: My favorite thing about Amari Cooper is that he doesn’t talk trash. The trash talk in sports has gotten way out of control.
Besides that, he’s one of the top players in the country in 2014. Cooper had a fantastic junior season which might as well have been his senior year because he is definitely leaving Alabama after this season.
Cooper caught 124 passes in 2014 which added up to an amazing 1,727 yards and 16 Touchdowns. Against Florida, he caught 10 passes for 201 yards and 3 Touchdowns. Against Tennessee, Cooper caught 9 passes for 224 yards and 2 Touchdowns. The Auburn defense could do little better with Cooper catching 13 passes for another 224 yards and 3 Touchdowns.
2014 wasn’t just a cakewalk for Cooper. Arkansas held him to 2 receptions on the evening, but that was not the norm for Cooper and many felt he was the very best player in the entire country and I would not argue that.
3. Marcus Mariota – Oregon: The 2014 Heisman winner should be at least one of the top players, but that’s not always the case. But, there’s no way Oregon would have made the first ever playoff series without Mariota. The strong armed Mariota threw for 4,121 yards and a very impressive Interception number with only 3. When you throw 408 passes and only give up 3 interceptions that’s probably good enough to win a Heisman.
Mariota also has excellent speed and ran for 731 yards and 15 Touchdowns. In 3 seasons, Mariota passed for 10,463 yards and 103 Touchdowns. Plus, he ran for 2,198 and 29 Touchdowns.
Mariota will be missed at Oregon next season.
Marcus Mariota is a project for an NFL team and his draft status surely will come after at least Winston this year, but he is definitely worthy of the Heisman Trophy.
4. Jameis Winston – Florida State: Everybody hates 2013’s Heisman winner, but that has nothing to do with anything. Florida State still made it through the 2014 regular season undefeated and so much of that is on Jameis Winston. Now, he has declared for the NFL Draft and the NFL scouts are interested and even through all of the scandals he may be the first Quarterback picked. Winston is a team leader and has a really strong arm allowing him to make all of the throws. He is mobile enough to escape the pass rush, but he will never be mistaken for Marcus Mariota or Cam Newton.
Winston had problems with turnovers some this season but how much of that had to do with a struggling Offensive Line, losing his outstanding Running Back and 2 out of 3 of his top Wide Receivers.
Winston still threw for 3,907 yards and 25 Touchdowns. Those numbers are way down from the 4,057 yards and 40 Touchdowns which partly explains why they aren’t playing Ohio State for the title.
5. Trevone Boykin – TCU: Boykin was incredible in 2014 and led the Horn Frogs to a shocking beating of the Ole Miss Rebels. I doubt even Nostradamus could have seen this happening. TCU was 4-8 last season and they finished 12-1 this season and a lot of that was the play of Boykin.
Boykin threw for 3,901 and 33 Touchdowns this season in leading the Frogs to a 42-3 beat down of the Ole Miss Rebels.
Boykin also ran for 707 yards and 8 Touchdowns. Boykin is a junior and should be back next season and leading the Frogs to another outstanding season. The 6-2, 205 Boykin also caught 2 passes for 53 yards and 1 Touchdowns.
6. Scooby Wright – Arizona: Wright won so many awards this season that he had to be included on this list. Scooby Wright led the entire nation in tackles with 163. He was 3rd in the Nation in sacks only behind other Pac 12 players Hau’oli Kikaha and Nate Orchard. Wright also led the nation in
tackles for losses with 29 total. The amazing Scooby Wright also led the nation in fumbles forced with 6. Wright was a 6-1, 245 sophomore that should be back at Arizona for the 2015 college football season.
7. Leonard Williams – USC: Williams has declared for the NFL draft and is thought to be a top 5 pick, but those predictions are usually off. Leonard Williams has been a beast for the Trojans for the past 3 seasons and really doesn’t have much more to prove on the college level.
Williams also had 9.5 tackles for loss and 7 Quarterback sacks. He managed an Interception which he returned 10 yards, had 2 Quarterback hurries, forced 3 fumbles and broke up 3 passes.
Leonard Williams is a 6-5, 300 Defensive Tackle or End from Daytona Beach, Florida. It will be interesting to see how Williams tests at the combine.
8. Brandon Scherff – Iowa: Top Offensive Lineman in the country and it would be a shock if he is not the first tackle picked. Scherff is a massive 6-5, 320 and moves extremely well for his size and is a dominating run blocker and more than adequate pass blocker.
Like Leonard Williams, it will be fascinating to see how Scherff measure up at the combine. After seeing him run, I assume he will do well on the physically testing. He appears to be very flexible as well. Iowa was not a great team this season, but they still had an outstanding Offensive Line led by Brandon Scherff.
Look for Scherff to be the first Offensive Tackle taken in the next NFL draft. He was expected to be the first or second Tackle taken in the last draft if he had decided to come out early.
9. Tevin Coleman – Indiana: What Coleman did at Indiana in 2014 with absolutely no passing threat was beyond amazing. Behind Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon, Coleman was considered the third best back at the beginning of the season but he may have played his way up.
Coleman ran for 2,036 yards and 15 Touchdowns averaging 7.54 yards per carry. The 6-1, 210 Tevin Coleman from Tinley Park, Illinois also caught 25 passes for 141 yards but part way through the season the Hoosiers lost their starting Quarterback and after that Coleman was pretty much on his own as far as the offense went. Passing the 2000 yard barrier in his circumstances is pretty impressive.
10. Cam Erving – Florida State: Yes, I will catch heat for this pick and I am fine with that. Erving was playing Defensive Tackle three years ago and converted to offensive Tackle. When he moved inside to Center near the end of the season for the Seminoles then their Offensive Line got much better. Some people do the right thing by leaving early, but Erving did the right thing by coming back and he should have improved his standing with the NFL scouts. He also proved his versatility. I
would take Scherff and Peat above Erving at Tackle but again his moving to Center more than proved his worth.
11. Blake Sims – Alabama: In spite of a less than stellar performance in the Sugar Bowl, you cannot deny that Blake Sims was sensational at Quarterback for the Crimson Tide during his one season as the starter. Sims was thought of as more of a running threat coming into this season, but he surprised everyone by throwing for 3,487 yards and 28 Touchdowns while holding off Florida State transfer Jake Coker. Sims threw 10 Interceptions but the majority of those were against Auburn and Ohio
State. Sims lit up the Florida Gators defense with 445 yards and 4 Touchdowns, which was his best game of the season. Sims is listed at 6-0, 210 which might be a bit of a stretch, so there may not be any interest from the NFL. But, Blake Sims year in the limelight was pretty awesome.
12. JT Barrett – Ohio State: Buckeye Quarterback Braxton Miller went down before the season started and Barrett stepped up and took over.
After a slow start, Barrett came on strong and led the Buckeyes to the Eastern Division Championship in the Big 10. Unfortunately, he was injured before he could play in the Big 10 Championship and his backup Cardale Jones looked like Joe Montana.
When the Buckeyes line up against the Oregon Ducks for the national championship, Barrett will still be out due to injury.
But, before going down, Barrett had an incredible freshman season with 2,834 passing yards and 34 Touchdowns. Barrett also had 938 yards and scored 11 Touchdowns. If not for injury, Barrett would have passed for over 3000 yards and rushed for 1000 yards and not many Quarterbacks are capable of those numbers.
13. Hau’oli Kikaha – Washington: Kikaha led the nation with 19 sacks this past season and he was unblockable at times. Not only did Kikaha have 19 sacks, he also had 25 tackles for losses. In continuing with the domination mode, Kikaha also had 3 fumbles forced and 72 tackles. Plus, he broke up 2 passes.
Kikaha has excellent speed and is very aggressive. This is another college player that will be fun to watch in the NFL Combine. Kikaha is a bit undersized for an NFL Defensive End at 6-3, 245, but he should make a good Outside Linebacker. But, he will need to test well.
He had 32 sacks over his junior and senior seasons.
14. Todd Gurley- Georgia: Tough season for Gurley but he’s still one of the top players around. Gurley only played 6 games all season, but he was a beast when he was out there. Gurley ran for nearly 200 yards in his first game of 2014 against the defense that would end up number 1 in the country, the Clemson Tigers. In that game, Gurley also had a 100 yard Kickoff return.
Gurley was among the nation’s top rushers before being suspended before game 6. He was out for 4 games and returned for the Auburn game. Gurley rushed for 138 yards against the Auburn Tigers before injuring his knee and missing the rest of the season.
He finished with 911 yards rushing. Luckily for the Bulldogs, they had super true freshman Nick Chubb on board to replace Gurley.
Compared to some other players, Gurley had a bad season and should not be on this list. But, if not for the suspension and injury, Gurley is probably number 1 on this list.
Other players that could have easily made this list:
Samaje Perine – Oklahoma
Cody Kessler – USC
Vince Mayle – Washington State
Eric Kendricks – UCLA
Nate Orchard – Utah.
Joey Bosa – Ohio State