These are a few of the players that I suspect will have a great season in 2016.
*Marcus Baugh – Ohio State TE: In 2014, Ohio State had 2 good Tight Ends in Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett. Freshman Marcus Baugh was 3rd team and supposedly wanting to transfer and maybe return to Southern California. Heuerman was a senior and, in 2015, Vannett was the main man at the position. He, too, was a senior in 2015 and he has departed.
Marcus Baugh decided to stick around and coming into his junior year he only has 3 receptions. But, Baugh has the potential to be as good, or better, than both Heuerman and Vannett and he played well in the Spring Game. 2016 will be Marcus Baugh’s time to shine.
*Mike Gesicki – Penn State TE: Gesicki is an incredible athlete and at 6-6, 255 he could be the next big thing at Tight End. The only problem is, last season he seems to have developed hands of stone.
he did manage to hold on to 13 passes from Christian Hackenberg, but he dropped quite a few passes. He looked like a different player in the Spring Game. Maybe he has regained his confidence. If you don’t believe that Gesicki is an outstanding athlete, you need to find his basketball videos on Youtube and watch him dunk the basketball. He can move, and he can leap, if he can just catch the football he can be one of the best Tight Ends in the country.
*Rick Leonard – Florida State OT: There was a time when some NFL coaches drafted Defensive Linemen and made Offensive Linemen out of them. Tom Landry and Gil Brandt of the Dallas Cowboys were famous for that in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Defensive Linemen tend to be a slightly better athlete and when converted they often can make an outstanding Offensive lineman. It’s somewhat similar to the old spin down theory by Defensive coaches when they recruited a big Safety and converted him into a Linebacker. Or a fast Linebacker and made him a Defensive End. Or a Defensive End moved inside to Tackle. You are getting a faster athlete on the field and improves the team, hopefully. Rick Leonard was buried on the depth chart at Defensive End in Tallahassee. The coaches apparently wanted to improve his chances to get on the field and they moved him to Offensive Tackle.
He looked really good and smooth and natural there in the Spring. The Seminoles return every starter from their Offensive Line from last season, but Leonard could push for playing time at Right Tackle when camp starts up in August. Leonard is about 6-7, 295. He seems to have a feel for what the defensive linemen are trying to do because of his previous experience there and he looked
*Lawrence Cager – Miami WR: Every Quarterback likes a big receiver. Head coaches and Coordinators like a big receiver. Lawrence Cager is a big receiver at 6-5, 220. Cager came to Miami last year from Towson, Maryland as a 4 star recruit. He played a little and had 8 receptions for only 70 yards and a Touchdown. But, Miami’s coach was fired and they brought in Mark Richt. It looks like Cager is going to benefit from the coaching change because he was a star for the Hurricanes in the Spring. I would expect Miami Quarterback Brad Kaaya to feed the ball steadily to his big target Cager. The Hurricanes will also have almost twin Tight Ends, David Njoku and Christopher Herndon IV. Hurricane haters need to beware this season, because they may cause some heads to turn.
*Demetrius Jackson – Miami DE: Jackson was a freshman last season and played a limited role in the Hurricane defense. He had 11 total tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. But, Jackson improved by leaps and bounds in the Spring. Miami, under new head coach Mark Richt could be a force to be reckoned with this season. Jackson is 6-5, 250 and possesses excellent quickness and he could help provide a consistent pass rush off the edge for the Canes in 2016.
*Tyler O’Connor – Michigan State QB: Everybody has been bragging on Connor Cook for the past couple of seasons and now Cook is gone. Tyler O’Connor has not wrapped up the starters job yet for
the Spartans, but he is the leader in the Quarterback race.
When Cook was injured before the Ohio State game, O’Connor was the replacement over the other Spartan Quarterback, Damion Terry. O’Connor hit 7 out of 12 passes for 89 yards in his only start, but he threw for a Touchdown and didn’t turn the ball over as the Michigan State coaching staff went ultra conservative for this game. O’Connor has played for 3 seasons and has only thrown for 374 yards in his career. O’Connor is 6-3, 225 and probably a little better athlete than Connor Cook. He has to beat Damian Terry and redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke from Phoenix, Arizona. Word is that Lewerke reminds of Kirk Cousins and he did look good in the Spring Game.
*Porter Gustin – USC LB: Gustin is just a phenomenal athlete from Elk Ridge, Utah. His father was a college Quarterback and his mother played basketball at a major college. The 6-5, 250 Outside Linebacker was recruited by the world, but he chose to play for the Trojans. As a true freshman, Gustin totaled 25 tackles with 6.5 of those being for loss. He also totaled 5.5 Quarterback sacks. The Trojans apparently plan to use Gustin in the same position as senior Scott Felix, a rush end and Outside Linebacker.
*Iman Marshall – USC CB: Marshall was a 5 star recruit and the top rated Cornerback in the country. He started as a true freshman and was 4th on the team in total tackles while picking off 3 passes. Marshall had a good freshman season, but he got beat a lot as well. With a year of experience under his belt, Marshall should eliminate some of the mistakes and become the complete package at
Cornerback. Marshall is big for a Corner at 6-2, 200 and he plays the run very well compared to a lot of Cornerbacks.
*Mitch Trubisky – North Carolina QB: The North Carolina Tar Heels were one of the surprise teams of 2015 with long time starter Marquise Williams at Quarterback and a much improved defense. Unfortunately, Marquise Williams was a senior and cannot return. His back up last season was sophomore Mitch Trubisky from Mentor, Ohio. Williams was the clear leader and the starter for the Tar Heels, but Trubisky might make Heel fans forget him fairly quickly. As a back up last season, Trubisky hit an astonishing 40 out of 47 passes. Most young Quarterbacks can’t complete that many playing catch with their little brother in the back yard. Trubisky also has fair mobility and can run a little bit. But, he is definitely a passer with a talented Wide Receiver crew to throw to next season.
From what I have seen of Trubisky, the 6-3, 220 junior is a talent and could be a star as the starter next season.
*Jake Fruhmorgen – Clemson OT: Jake is the son of John Fruhmorgen who played high school football in Tampa, Florida and then college ball for Alabama and then for the Miami Dolphins. The younger Fruhmorgen came to Clemson with the class that included amazing Left Tackle Mitch Hyatt. Fruhmorgen played at Right Tackle and even started a game there as a true freshman. Mitch Hyatt is the top Offensive Tackle in his class, but Jake Fruhmorgen is right there, talent wise. Look for Jake Fruhmorgen to have a breakout season in 2016 as Clemson works to return to the national title game.
*Clelin Ferrell – Clemson DE: The Clemson Tigers lost a lot of their defensive front 4 after the 2014 season with guys like Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley moving on to the NFL. People said their defense would not be able to recover and they would not be very good in 2015. Those people were wrong as the Clemson Tigers once again found the talent and players like Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd stepped up big time and helped the Tigers almost win a national championship. Now, Lawson and
Introducing Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant who could be the next big deal at Defensive End for the Tigers. Bryant played last season, but Ferrell is a redshirt freshman from Richmond, Virginia. Ferrell is an impressive looking 6-5, 255 End that not only looks good but plays pretty well, also. He was all over the field in the Clemson Tiger Spring Game and he looks like a new star for them.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has quietly collected a lot of talent during the past few years.
*Austin Bryant – Clemson DE: Going up against Clemson Left Tackle Mitch Hyatt in practice every day can’t be easy, but it will help Bryant and make him a better Defensive End. Bryant totaled 23 tackles as a freshman and he should have the position to himself in 2016. Bryant is about 6-4, 265 and he is an excellent pass rusher off the edge.
Ferrell was the 16th rated Defensive End in the 2015 recruiting class out of Richmond, Virginia. Bryant was the 15th rated Defensive End in the same class from right out of SEC country in Thomasville, Georgia. Both of them are in perfect shape to have breakout seasons in 2016 in helping the Clemson Tigers make it back to the playoffs.
*Charles Omenihu – Texas DE: Not quite as well as Dabo Swinney at Clemson, but Charlie Strong has also quietly gathered some really good talent at Texas. They are all still young, but some of them will be making an entrance in the next season or two. Omenihu was not that highly rated coming out of high school, but one only has to look at Strong’s past to figure out that he knows talent and especially defensive talent. Omenihu was about 6-5, 230 coming out of high school, but he has muscled up to close to 250 now and he should start at Defensive End in 2016. As a true freshman, Omenihu had 17 total tackles and a tackle for loss. Omenihu was another youngster that looked really good in the Spring and he showed signs of coming around and being a difference maker in the Texas Defensive Line.
*Torrance Gibson – Ohio State WR: Gibson was a 5 star recruit out of Florida that was projected as a college Quarterback, or Wide Receiver. He redshirted as a true freshman because of the returning
talent across the board that the Buckeyes have accumulated. But, they lost a lot of talent from seniors, and players declaring for the NFL Draft. Gibson is a supreme athlete that should be a difference maker at Wide Receiver this season. Personally, I am disappointed that Gibson didn’t play Quarterback, but I have not seen him throw the ball other than highlight videos.
*Soso Jamabo – UCLA RB: Out of Plano, Texas Jamabo was one of the highest rated Running Backs in the 2015 recruiting class. The Bruins have had Paul Perkins the past few seasons as their rushing leader, and now Jamabo and Nate Starks will battle to replace Perkins. My money is on Jamabo winning the battle, but Starks is talented as well and he should play a lot. Jamabo ran for 403 yards as a true freshman and Starks ran for 320 yards as a sophomore. Perkins ran for 1,343 yards last season and look for the duo of Jamabo and Starks to gain a lot more yardage in 2016 as Perkins moved on to the NFL.
*Hjalte Froholdt – Arkansas OG: Frankly, I was disappointed to find out that Hjalte Froholdt had switched to the Offensive Line. But, then I was able to see him play and he looked really good at Guard, like a natural. He should start at Left Guard for the Razorbacks next season and be one of their better Offensive Linemen. The 6-4, 300 Froholdt is a sophomore from Denmark who played some at Defensive Tackle in 2015 as a true freshman. Froholdt played high school football in Ohio and at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. You can read his story here: hjalte froholdt
*Rex Manu – Oregon DT: This is another guy that impressed in the Spring Game. The Oregon Ducks have used the 3-4 defense for a while, but they switched in the Spring to the 4-3 which means they will need an extra Defensive lineman over what they have been using. To make matters worse, the Ducks lost all 3 of their defensive linemen from last season. They will need 4 new Defensive Linemen in 2016. Luckily for them, Rex Manu looked really good in the Spring after coming in a playing sparingly as a true freshman. He only totaled 6 tackles last year, but Manu will be a beast this season as a Defensive Tackle.
*Ryan Izzo – Florida State TE: Yet another guy that is coming off a strong showing in the Spring. Izzo is a big Tight End at about 6-6, 250 with great hands and he is a good blocker. Izzo and fellow freshman Mavin Saunders had the task of replacing Nick O’Leary in 2015 and they combined for
only 20 catches while O’Leary had 48 receptions in his senior season. Supposedly, Izzo created some separation between himself and the other Tight Ends in the Spring and developed some connection with the Quarterbacks. There’s not much better for a Quarterback than having a great Tight End to throw the ball to in tight situations. He has emerged as the next big thing at Tight End for the Seminoles in 2016.
*Auden Tate – Florida State WR: The Seminoles have missed Kelvin Benjamin since he took his talents to the NFL and they have longed for that big, physical Wide Receiver. Tate may not fit into the breakout category because he is a redshirt freshman but he is 6-5, 220 and showed excellent hands in the Spring. He should be a nice complement to the other Seminole Wide Receivers. Whoever wins the Quarterback battle should throw to Tate in 3rd down situations or in the red zone. He can catch the low balls as well as the high ones and he has surprising moves for a big guy.
Tate and Quarterback Francois have a connection from working together on the scout team. If Francois wins the Quarterback job which would not be surprising, then look for Tate to have a spectacular season in 2016.
*Trent Irwin – Stanford WR: Irwin and Arizona State’s Brady White formed a deadly duo in high school and it was thought at one time that they might go to the same college. But, Irwin chose Stanford. While White redshirted, Irwin played at Stanford and showed tremendous promise. In the Spring, Irwin may have been Stanford’s top receiver and he is poised for a breakout season. Irwin is not the fastest, or the biggest, but he has super hands and runs great routes and just has a knack for getting open.