Most Exciting and Intriguing Players of 2016

Obviously, the title of this blog is College Football Crazy and I try to remain as unbiased as possible. Unlike most fans, I just enjoy college football and I try to keep up with everyone. I watch as many games as I can weekly and I am not without my favorite teams and players.

This list is comprised of most of the players I wanted to watch every week and to follow very closely.

* Lamar Jackson – Louisville: Jackson is a sprinter playing football and is a threat to take it the distance on any given play. When he takes off with the ball, he literally takes your breath away. He is also blessed with a howitzer connected to his shoulder and can make any of the required passes. Both he and the Louisville Cardinals fell apart late in the season and I do wonder about Jackson’s leadership abilities. But, as far as pure athletic talent and abilities, there aren’t a lot of guys around like Lamar Jackson. He is an incredible athlete and pure joy to watch. FSU   Lamar

Jackson may have the best chance of anyone lately of winning a second Heisman Trophy.

* Jabrill Peppers – Michigan: I’ve heard all of the negative comments about Jabrill Peppers and how he didn’t deserve Heisman mention, or a trip to New York City. Why? Because he didn’t play Running Back, or Quarterback full time and rush for 2,000 yards? The Heisman is about the best

player in college football, why does it have to be an Offensive skill position player that wins a Heisman? Why not an Offensive Lineman, or a Defensive Tackle? Why not a guy that plays Outside Linebacker, returns punts and kicks, plays some Running Back, Quarterback and Wide Receiver? How many guys can play that many positions and do them very, very well? Well, Peppers can.

When you say that Peppers was all over the field, he really was all over the field. He was second on the Wolverines roster in total tackles. He ran for 167 yards, returned punts for just under 15 yards per attempt and scored a Touchdown. He caught 2 passes and averaged 26 yards per kickoff returns. He picked off 1 pass, 15 tackles for loss and 3 and a 1/2 Quarterback sacks. His coaches say he’s super smart and remembers everything and he’s a high character young guy. Superman  Iron man

* Deshaun Watson – Clemson: I’m always coming across people that say recruiting doesn’t matter and neither do the number of stars a recruit gets from recruiting services. Sometimes that is true, and sometimes it’s not. I’ve been a big fan of Watson’s since he was the top Dual Threat Quarterback recruit in the country from Gainesville, Georgia. He started some as a true freshman and fought through some injuries. Last season, he became the first college Quarterback to throw for over 4,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 while leading his Clemson Tigers to the national title game.

In 2016, Watson has not had the same kind of success, but the Tigers are still in the playoffs with a shot at the national title. He’s had a problem with turnovers this season, but Watson is a cool customer, is a winner and a fun player to watch. He’s fun to watch unless you are a South Carolina Gamecock fan. Star

* Ryan Switzer – North Carolina: One of the most exciting players in the country over the past 4 seasons. As a freshman, Switzer had 5 punt returns for Touchdowns as well as 32 receptions. During his sophomore season in 2014, Switzer had no punt return Touchdowns. But, he did have 61 receptions. Back for his junior year, Switzer had 2 more Touchdowns on punt returns. Plus he had 55 receptions for 6 Touchdowns. Long time starter at Quarterback Marquis Williams graduated, and new Quarterback Mitch Turbisky hooked up with Switzer early and often. While Switzer did not score again on a punt return, he did catch an amazing 91 passes for 1,027 yards and 6 Touchdowns. Listed as 5-10, 185 he looks way smaller than that and he’s a very shifty and speedy athlete and a danger for opponents any time he gets his hands on the ball. For the past 4 seasons, Switzer has been one of America’s most exciting players.

* Dexter Lawrence – Clemson: A 5 star Defensive Tackle in high school, the Clemson Tigers signed him in their outstanding 2016 recruiting class. Lawrence is a mountain of a man at about 6-5, 340 and he has super strength and quickness. Supposedly, he can run the 40 in less than 5 seconds, but we may have to wait until the NFL Combine to see if that is truth, or myth. Lawrence is so good that last year’s super freshman Defensive Tackle Christian Wilkins was able to move out to Defensive End. At Defensive Tackle Lawrence finished 4th on the team in total tackles. He has the quickness to make plays in the opponents backfield and he finished the regular season with 9 tackles for loss and 6 and 1/2 Quarterback sacks. I have little doubt that Dexter Lawrence won’t be a 1st round pick after his junior season. Incredible Freshman

* Dalvin Cook – Florida State: I’ve heard that Jamaal Charles is Dalvin Cook’s favorite player and who he wants to be like and incidentally, that’s who he kind of reminds me of. He’s got that same burst and explosion. Cook is one of the more exciting players in college football if not the very most Cook

exciting. The speedy Cook is another talent from the city of Miami and he ran for just over 1,000 yards as a true freshman. Last year, he ran 1,691 yards and 19 Touchdowns while struggling with injuries and missing one game. For the 2016 season, Cook muscled up and gained about 12-15 pounds and he’s rushed for 1,620 yards and 18 Touchdowns with only his bowl game left to be played. He’s also a great receiver out of the backfield. He’s just an exciting and fun guy to watch.

* Christian McCaffrey – Stanford: Right now, McCaffrey is the center of controversy due to his sitting out of his team’s bowl game to protect himself from injury before the NFL Draft. McCaffrey was a fairly high rated recruit, but it was not known where he would play at the college level. As a true freshman in 2014, McCaffrey only ran for 300 yards, but he proved to be a good receiver out of the backfield and then a good return man. In 2015, McCaffrey had a season for the ages when he broke Barry Sanders total all purpose yardage record from his Heisman winning season in 1988. McCaffrey ran for 2,019 yards and he caught 45 passes for 645 yards. He had over a 1,000 yards in kickoff return yardage and he had Touchdowns returning kicks and punts. The 2016 season was somewhat disappointing for Stanford and McCaffrey because of losing so many starters from 2015 and especially Quarterback Kevin Hogan and Offensive Linemen. But, even in a disappointing season, he ran for 1,603 yards. McCaffrey

* Saquon Barkley – Penn State: The 2014 Running Back class was more than phenomenal, but Barkley slipped through the cracks and was a member of the 2015 class. Barkley is something of a freak athlete. He is about 5-11, 225 and has amazing strength and quickness. He is supposedly under 4.4 in the 40 yard dash. He loves to show that speed in running off from defenders, but he also loves jumping over them. Behind a very questionable Offensive Line and fighting injury all season long an he still ran for 1,076 yards as a true freshman. This past season, the best Running Back in the Big 10 ran for 1,302 yards and 16 Touchdowns. With an improved Offensive Line and Trace McSorley returning in 2017 watch out again for the Nittany Lions, James Franklin and Saquon Barkley. Barkley

* Malik Hooker – Ohio State: Maybe the best Safety in the country and especially when Florida State’s Derwin James went down for the season with an injury.The thinking is that he declares for the NFL after the Buckeye’s season is over and he will only be a starter for one season. It’s not just that he’s a good player, it’s the way he goes about it. On the season, he picked off 6 passes, one of them was a high flying one handed grab, while 3 others he returned for Touchdown. He changed the momentum of games and even the outcome of games. He was also all over the field making tackles and finished third on the team in total tackles. He also had 5 tackles for loss. Every Quarterback should be aware of Hooker’s location on every play. He is dangerous. Hooker

* Ryan Nall – Oregon State: The reason that Oregon State does not give Ryan Nall the ball more is probably the reason why they are not very good. Nall was recruited as a Tight End, but this guy is too impressive with the ball in his hands and the Beavers tried him as a short yardage back in the 2015 season. He had a couple of breakout games especially the Oregon game. His shining moment came

when he broke through the line against the Ducks and out ran their secondary on a long Touchdown. In 2016, those long runs happened more frequently. He did run for 951 yards and averaged 6.47 yards per carry. In all fairness to the coaching staff, he did have a few injuries during the season. But, when healthy, he had a 90 yard Touchdown run where he showed outstanding speed for a big guy that was once a Tight End. He not only has some surprising speed, but he has moves and instincts with the ball. Oregon State acts like they keep trying to replace him and I don’t get that at all. Oregon State is a threat when he is in the game, and not as much when he’s on the sidelines. The Wrecking Nall as he has become known as is a talent and he’s fun to watch.

 

* Adoree Jackson – USC: Staying out West, Jackson is definitely one of the most exciting and thrilling players to watch in the entire country. The 2016 season was the least action on Offense that Jackson has seen since arriving at USC. As a sophomore in 2015, Jackson caught 27 passes and this past season, he only caught 1 pass. But, that one pass was a 52 yard Touchdown reception. He carried the ball 5 times in 2016 for 49 yards. After struggling some early, Jackson got back to what he does best and that’s play Cornerback. He totaled 51 tackles, while intercepting 4  passes and breaking up 11 more. Where Jackson really excels about as well as anyone out there is in the return game. In 2016, he returned 2 punts and 2 kickoffs for Touchdowns. Over his 3 year career at USC, he returned 4 punts and 4 kickoffs for Touchdowns. Jackson is just an explosive player on both sides of the ball. He turns on the jets on his returns and he has outstanding recovery speed at Cornerback. Adoree

* Jake Butt – Michigan: I think Butt is the best overall Tight End in the NFL. At 6-6, 250, Butt is a good blocker, but he seemingly has had to work harder on his blocking than his receiving skills. Butt, caught 135 passes during his Michigan playing days with a bowl game remaining. Some of those catches were of the spectacular and one handed variety. He does not have outstanding speed, but it’s

more than good enough. The Wolverines probably have at least 5 Tight Ends that could start at a lot of schools and Jake Butt is their best one.

* Eddie Jackson – Alabama: Jackson is just a ball hawk and has a knack for the big play. Jackson has the tendency to make an interception and often return the ball all the way or a Touchdown. The Crimson Tide always seem to have a great punt returner. Last season, Cyrus Jones returned 4 punts for scores. In 2016, Jackson had 2 punt returns for scores before being lost for the season. Jackson was a senior at Alabama this season and is finished. He was a fun player to watch and a really hard hitter.

* Tremaine Edmunds – Virginia Tech: Super speedy Outside Linebacker that is always around the ball. The impressive characteristic of Edmunds is his size, at 6-5, 235, his speed, and his athletic ability. One of three brothers that either played for Virginia Tech, or is currently playing for the Hokes. Edmunds finished the regular season and the Conference Championship game with 99 tackles and the team’s second leading tackler. Edmunds had 17 tackles for loss and 4 1/2 Quarterback sacks and another 9 Quarterback hurries. What makes Edmunds so impressive to watch is not only his size and speed combination. There are a lot of guy with good size and speed and never do much. Edmunds is an impressive physical specimen and he makes plays. He’s all over the field and practically lives in the opponents backfield.  Brothers

* Jimmie Gilbert – Colorado: Gilbert is from College Station, Texas and was very lightly recruited. He is 6-5, 230 and plays Outside Linebacker for the Buffaloes. Gilbert is muscular and strong, but he looks skinny. He’s a fun player to watch coming off the edge and is a top pass rusher, with his great quickness. He also has a knack for forcing fumble. ESPN had him as their 98th rated Outside Linebacker and the 149th rated player in the state of Texas. He had scholarship offers from schools like Boston College, Iowa State, Purdue and New Mexico besides Colorado. Gilbert forced 6 fumbles this past season and he had 12 1/2 tackles for loss with 9 and 1/2 Quarterback sacks. He totaled 57 tackles and had another 6 Quarterback hurries.

* Mitch Trubisky – North Carolina: As a back up Quarterback in 2015, Trubisky showed immense potential. He connected on 40 passes out of 47 attempts and 6 Touchdowns without a single Interception. Losing long time starter Marquis Williams was stressful, but Trubisky helped ease the pressure and he came through big for the Tar Heels. The former Mr Football in Ohio in his first year as a starter was a more than capable replacement throwing for 3,468 yards and 28 Touchdowns with Trubisky

only 4 Interceptions. Williams ran for nearly 1,000 yards as a senior in 2015. Trubisky is more thn just a passer, but he didn’t run nearly as much as Williams. He still ran for 270 yards. Trubisky is 6-3, 220 and after proving himself in his first year as a starter, he has not announced his intentions for next season. It’s not a great year for Quarterbacks so my thinking is he leaves for the NFL. In his brief time in college football, Trubisky was more than fun to watch.

* John Ross- Washington: The speedster missed all of the 2015 season and came back in 2016 with a vengeance. He caught 76 passes for 1,122 yards and 17 Touchdowns. Ross is a blue burner and extremely exciting with the ball in his hands. Over his 3 seasons, he has 4 kickoff returns for Touchdowns. Washington fans want to see the ball in his hands and opponents probably hold their breath until he is tackled. Ross

* Marcus Davenport – UTSA: The Roadrunners from the University of Texas at San Antonio are a still really new program and making a bowl game this season was an accomplishment. Davenport is one of their best players at Defensive End. He is 6-7, 235 and this past season he had 6.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. He will be intriguing to follow over the next year. He’s too light to play Defensive End in the NFL. But, does he have the speed and athletic ability to play Outside Linebacker at the next level?

* Trent Taylor – Louisiana Tech: A little guy with excellent quickness and who doesn’t pull for the little man in a big man’s game? Taylor is a Wes Welker kind of guy at a very generous listing of 5-8, 178. Taylor won’t win in 100 meter races, but he is super quick for a short burst and is one of those pllayers that runs great routes and he is hard to cover. He has great hands and is a very productive player with 136 catches for 1,803 yards and 12 Touchdowns. With his quickness, Taylor is a great punt returner as well as a receiver. Taylor is a senior and hopefully, this small player with excitement all over him will get his shot at the NFL.

* Carlos Henderson – Louisiana Tech: The teammate of Trent Taylor, this receiver isn’t big either at 5-11, 195, but the junior is explosive. Lots of teams throw the ball all over the place, but not a lot of teams have receivers like Henderson and Taylor. Henderson caught 82 passes in 2016 for an amazing 1,535 yards and 19 Touchdowns. He also ran for 133 yards and 2 Touchdowns and he is superb as a kick returner with over 32 yards per return and 2 Touchdowns. Henderson played Running Back in high school and has that running ability with the ball in his hands. Speaking of hands, he also has great hands and he just has another gear that most players don’t have. He is  burner and a lot of fun to watch like all the guys on this list. There’s no way this guy returns for his senior year, if he does, I

will be shocked.

* Trace McSorley – Penn State: Simply put, the kid’s a winner. He was a winner in high school and is again at the college level. McSorley started 4 years in high school and led his team to a 55-5 record and 3 state championships. He may not have the size and the arm strength of other Quarterbacks like Christian Hackenberg, but he just makes plays. Penn State is a second half come back team this season and a lot of that is on McSorley and his heart and leadership skills. As the 2016 season progressed, McSorley got better and better. It’s exciting to think about how good McSorley will be with 2 years remaining in college football. McSorley

*Leonard Fournette – LSU: In the magnificent 2014 recruiting class, Fournette was the top guy in that class and proved right away that he deserved that ranking. Unfortunately, his junior and last season in Baton Rouge was devastated by injuries. His sophomore season was his best with just under 2,000 yards rushing even after the Tigers missed a game due to weather. This past season, he only rushed for 843 yards and 8 Touchdowns. Fournette is still 6-1, 235 and an extremely talented power back with great speed. Fournette, like Christian McCaffrey, has decided to skip his team’s bowl game to get ready for the NFL Combine and Draft.    Fournette

* Derrius Guice – LSU: Luckily for LSU, the Tigers are always loaded at Running Back. Guice, even though he was technically a back up, is one of the top Running Backs in the nation. Not a lot of guys run with such ferocity as Derrius Guice. He just hits the hole with an attitude and will run over a defender and demoralize them. Guice is 5-11, 215 with good speed and power. This past season, Guice ran for 1,249 yards while filling in for Fournette. Guice is the kind of back that I love to watch. I love a guy that loves to punish defenders. He torched Arkansas with 252 yards rushing and the Aggies with 285 yards. Guice will be back for his junior season with no Fournette blocking his path. LSU Backs

* Reuben Foster – Alabama: Incredible inside Linebacker for the Crimson Tide. What really sold

me on Foster was in the recent SEC Championship game when a Florida receiver thought he put a move on Foster, but Foster adjusted and made a text book tackle. Not a lot of Linebackers are athletic enough to make a play like he did in that game. Foster has always been an enforcer type of player that brings the wood on any play. Foster was Alabama’s leading tackler and defensive leader.

* Jonathan Allen – Alabama: Allen returned for his senior season in something of a surprise and he was just as dominating this year, if not even more. The most impressive play we saw made by a Defensive Lineman was probably made by Allen when he dove over the Offensive Guard in front of him and sacked the Quarterback. He’s a great pass rusher as well as a run stopper and leads the Bama Defensive Line. If he is not sacking the opposing Quarterbacks he is getting close and hurrying the throws.

* Baker Mayfield – Oklahoma: Heisman finalist, Mayfield has been one of the more impressive Walk-on players in quite some time. He led the Sooners to the college football playoffs last season and then to a Big 12 championship this season. With a bowl game remaining, Mayfield has 3,669 yards passing and 38 Touchdowns. Mayfield is not going to remind anyone of Lamar Jackson as a runner, but he can run and is a great scrambler and can make throws on the run and buying time. Mayfield is a junior, but he does not have ideal NFL size. Walk-on

Mike Williams – Clemson: Speaking of NFL size, Williams is one of those highly coveted big receivers at about 6-3, 225 with good speed and play making abilities. Williams missed all of the 2015 season because he ran into a goalpost, but in 2014 he was also Clemson’s big play guy. In 2016, Williams led the Tigers in receiving with 84 catches for 1,171 yards and 10 Touchdowns. Williams very well could be the top Wide Receiver in the country. Clemson

Dede Westbrook – Oklahoma: Mayfield’s top receiver in 2016 and Westbrook made his Quarterback look really good at times. Westbrook caught 74 passes for an impressive 1,465 yards and 16 Touchdowns. Dede Westbook is not a big target at only 6-0, 175, but he is dangerous with the ball in his hands. He proved that by only returning 4 punts, but he took one back for a Touchdown. Westbrook was impressive enough to finish 5th in the Heisman race.

Deon Cain – Clemson: Cain would be considered a back up for the Tigers, but when in the game, Cain is a big play guy. He came on strong in 2015 late in the year as a true freshman and then he was sent home when the playoffs began because of breaking team rules. Cain is 6-1, 210 with excellent

speed and hands. He just has a knack for making the big plays. This past season, the very physical Cain caught 32 passes for over 600 yards and average nearly 20 yards per reception. His receptions were good for 9 Touchdowns. This is a very impressive young player for the Tigers.

Ben Boulware – Clemson: Maybe the fiercest Linebacker in the land. Some may think he’s dirty and he very well may be. But, you can dispute that he is intense. He’s also all over the field making plays. For his senior year, Boulware led the team in tackles and big plays. He’s definitely not one of Lamar Jackson’s favorite players after he got Jackson in a choke hold in a pile up. Say whatever you like about Boulware, but one of your words won’t be slacker. The guy is 100% hustle on each and every play and the type of guy that the average fan enjoys watching. Boulware

Marcelino Ball – Indiana: The Hoosiers defense improved greatly this past season, but they still only finished 6-6. They did qualify for a bowl game for the second year in a row, but there are a lot of bowl games. Ball is just a 17 year old kid, but finished 3rd on the team in tackles and gives the Hoosiers hope for the future on the defensive side of the football. Ball had 2 Interceptions and broke up 7 more passes. The 6-0, 210 Ball is a guy with a bright future. 17 year old

Nick Bosa – Ohio State: He’s almost a spitting image of his older brother and really good just like his older brother. The former 5 star recruit from Ft Lauderdale St Thomas Aquinas didn’t start immediately like Joey Bosa, but he played a lot and was a key contributor on the Buckeye Defensive Line. If he stays healthy, he should be a future 1st round draft pick. Bosa   Mob

Corey Davis – Western Michigan: One of the premier Wide Receivers in the land and he played at a MAC school. Lots of good NFL players also played at MAC schools. Davis is a big, strong, fast big time player with great hands. Davis almost has ideal size at 6-2, 215 and he caught 91 passes this year for the Broncos for 1,427 yards and 18 Touchdowns. Look for Davis in the NFL next year and be the first in your fantasy league to draft him. Western Mich

JuJu Smith-Schuster – USC: Smith-Schuster is a lot like Clemson’s Mike Williams and actually

Corey Davis, too. He’s a big guy with explosive speed and just an all around play maker. He is 6-2, 220 and grabbed 63 passes for 781 yards and 8 Touchdowns in something of a down year for him. In the 2015 season, he had 89 receptions for 1,454 yards and 10 Touchdowns, but that was when senior Cody Kessler was staring for the Trojans. Smith-Schuster is a junior that just clicked with new USC Quarterback Sam Darnold.

Nick Fitzgerald – Mississippi State: He’s not there yet, but this kid is an athlete. At 6-5, 230 if he breaks through the line of scrimmage, not aa lot of 180 pound Defensive Backs can run him down. Fitzgerald was a sophomore replacement for NFL star Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs were not very good this season, but Fitzgerald showed thing that even Prescott could not do. He threw for 2,413 yards and 21 Touchdowns and he ran for 1,385 yards and 16 Touchdown. Something is just really fun about watching a big, tall guy outrunning a bunch of smaller guys. He ran for an amazing 258 yards against rival Ole Miss.

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