The Rising Stars of College Football You Need to Know About
One of the great things about college sports is that there are always players that come out of nowhere. These can be players that just came out of high school and are contributing on the football field early, players that have just now been given an opportunity to succeed or players that are just in the right system at the right moment.
Regardless, there are many players that will end up having remarkable seasons that you have probably never heard of or didn't know much about before the season began. And with the first month of the college football season in the books, there have been many players that you should be aware of by now.
We know all about Matt Barkley, De'Anthony Thomas and Jarvis Jones, but there are other players that deserve some shine as well.
Here are 10 rising stars that will soon take over college football or are quickly turning heads of NFL scouts.
Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers
Don't look now, but Rutgers are a ranked team after starting the season 4-0, including upsetting Arkansas last week in Fayetteville. The defense has played a huge part in the team’s success, as the unit is allowing less than two touchdowns a game on average.
One of the key players is cornerback Logan Ryan. He is currently third on the team with 37 tackles, has broken up five passes and had a crucial interception in last week’s game against Arkansas. Ryan does a great job of covering the opponents best wide receiver week in and week out and has the size to become a solid pick in a future NFL draft.
This is somebody who will continue to improve his draft stock, especially with the Scarlet Knights now in the BCS spotlight after such a great start to the year.
Marcus Murphy, RB, Missouri
Missouri has playmakers on offense, but none may be as explosive as backup running back Marcus Murphy. He is only 5'9", 185 pounds, but is averaging over five yards a carry, and averages 19 yards on punt returns, which includes two attempts taken back for touchdowns. The little speedster is quickly reminding many of former All-American Jeremy Maclin.
The sophomore running back has not seen much action on the offensive side of the ball, but is effective with the few touches he does receive. With a couple more seasons of eligibility left on the table, Murphy will become a household name sooner than later for the Tigers.
Jeff Driskel, QB, Florida
Florida has the second worst passing offense in the SEC, but that does not mean there isn't potential at the quarterback position for the Gators. Jeff Driskel only has four starts under his belt, and he seems to be doing a terrific job of managing the game for his team. Only throwing the ball 79 times, the sophomore is completing 69 percent of his passes.
The first-year starter has generated 16 plays of over 15 yards and is 10 of 12 when throwing the football in the fourth quarter. Driskel has an extremely strong arm and is also capable of killing you with his legs. With his confidence growing with each game under his belt, Florida may have actually found the quarterback they have been looking for since Tim Tebow finished school.
Yawin Smallwood, LB, UConn
Connecticut has been somewhat of a surprising team this season, earning a victory over Maryland and competing with a solid North Carolina State team. A lot of the success has to do with the linebacker corps, and there may not be a better defensive player in the conference than linebacker Yawin Smallwood.
In just four games, the sophomore has racked up 42 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and has 3.5 sacks. He has quickly become a favorite for Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors and should be gaining attention from NFL scouts. At 6'3", 235 pounds, Smallwood is all over the field, doing a great job of stuffing the run, getting into the backfield and can drop back nicely into pass coverage.
Smallwood is a player you will eventually see on Sundays.
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
If I told you that UCLA would be 3-1 after the first four weeks of the season, would you have believed me? The answer is probably no, as the Bruins had a new head coach and a first-year starter at quarterback. But while Brett Hundley is still a rookie, he has shown that he has the goods to lead this program down the path to success.
He is completing a solid 66 percent of his passes, thrown for over 1,100 yards and has produced 13 plays of over 25 yards. Hundley has great size at 6'3", 223 pounds and is capable of hurting you with his strong arm or his legs, as he also has 151 rushing yards through the first four games.
It is clear that this UCLA program is on the rise and a big part of this team moving forward starts with its freshman quarterback.
Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame
There hasn't been more of a surprise team than the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, as the team has already knocked off Michigan State and Michigan. The main reason for the team’s success has been the improved defense that is allowing less than 10 points per game. And while there are many great players to choose from, few have made as big of an impact as Stephon Tuitt.
The sophomore currently leads the team with five sacks, has forced a fumble, picked up four quarterback hurries and returned a fumble 77 yards for a touchdown. His combination of size, speed and athleticism is off the charts, as he is one of those players that jump off the film when watching him play.
Everybody was wondering who would replace Aaron Lynch when he transferred, I think we have received that answer in the first few games.
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
There aren't many that are wondering what is going on with former running back Isaiah Crowell these days. That is because freshman running back Todd Gurley has taken over for the Bulldogs running game and has not looked back.
Despite being a lower recruited player than Keith Marshall (Who also signed with Georgia), it is Gurley who is making all of the noise early on. In the first four games, he has rushed for over 400 yards and scored seven total touchdowns. He is averaging over nine yards a carry and has produced those numbers without touching the ball once on third down.
Gurley has big play ability and will only improve as he gains more experience throughout the season.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Louisville Cardinals have the best chance of any other team in the country to run the table. And while the defense has done a solid job, many would consider the Cardinals to be the best team in the Big East because of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
If you aren't familiar with the sophomore quarterback, you are certainly missing out. He is completing over 73 percent of his passes, has thrown for over 1,000 yards and is automatic in the red zone, throwing for six touchdowns on 15 pass attempts inside the 20-yard line.
Bridgewater not only has a chance to lead his team to a BCS bowl for the first time since 2006, but a future Heisman Trophy should not be out of reach either.
Duke Johnson, RB, Miami
Is it possible for a freshman to win the Heisman Trophy? If so, Miami Hurricanes running back Duke Johnson needs to be given a serious look.
Johnson is averaging eight yards a carry and has broken off four runs of over 20 yards. He has already scored four touchdowns rushing, one receiving, and also took a kickoff back for a touchdown. The rookie running back does a little bit of everything for this Miami team and seems to be off to an extremely successful career down in Miami Gardens.
Now, if only the Hurricanes can discover a few more players as productive as Johnson at other positions such as quarterback.
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Remember wide receiver Robert Woods? Yeah, well, he is still productive and will be a player selected early in the NFL draft. But Marqise Lee is a different breed and will become a star at the next level once he likely leaves USC after his junior season in 2013.
The sophomore receiver already has 40 receptions, 457 receiving yards and has scored seven total touchdowns. In the first four games, Lee has picked up 18 first downs, has three plays that have went over 25 yards and has quickly become the go-to target in the red zone for Matt Barkley, as he has five touchdowns inside the 20-yard line.
With the size of Lee, his sure hands, athleticism and ability to run after the catch, Lee will be a first-round pick in the NFL draft and should become a star in no time. Oh, and while he is still in college, go ahead and give him the Fred Biletnikoff Award while you are at it.
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