College Fantasy Football: Super Sophomores to Watch

Todd at CollegeFootballGeek.comCorrespondent IFebruary 17, 2011

Zach Mettenberger transfers to LSU
Zach Mettenberger transfers to LSUKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

I am already sick of hearing about freshmen.  These kids haven’t even practiced with their college teams yet and people are already hyping them up.  For everyone who gets lucky and grabs a stud like Michael Dyer or Marcus Lattimore, there are five people stuck with some over hyped freshmen who does nothing such as Patrick Patterson, Justin McKay, Kyle Prater, Malcolm Jones or even Darrell Scott. 

It should be noted that there were a few freshmen who burst onto the scene last year, and they will not be mentioned in this article, as they fall into the “obvious” category.  These include Tyler Bray, Darron Thomas, Dyer, Lattimore, James White, Robert Woods and Kenny Stills.


Zach Mettenberger, LSU
: The redshirt sophomore is back with his second SEC team in three years.  The former uber recruit who got thrown out of Georgia will now look to beat out incumbent QBs Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee.  I don’t know how many LSU games you guys watched, but I can promise you one thing: you didn’t miss much. Terrible is an understatement to describe how they played.

The Jefferson/Lee combo combined to throw nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions.  Lucky for LSU, they have one of the nation’s most underrated coaches in Les Miles and an amazing defense because given their QB situation, they should have won about three games all year.

Miles allegedly promised Mettenberger that the QB job would be open for grabs, which clearly is not a shocker to anyone in Baton Rouge. If he wins the job, watch out.  He has more toys to play with then a toddler at FAO Schwartz.  Talented wideouts Rueben Randall and Russell Sheppard are back and they have serious speed.  They also have a veteran offensive line and a bevy of young, talented running backs.  Given Uncle Les’s panache for running up the score, a 25-30 TD season for Zach is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Nick Montana, Washington
: Jake Locker may have been proclaimed “The Golden Boy” by the Husky faithful, but he certainly never took them to the heights that they dreamed of. After a less than stellar senior season where he saw his draft stock plummet, enter Nick Montana, son of the legendary Joe Montana. The kid’s got the name, but does he have the pedigree?

What I can tell you is that he comes out of a virtual football factory of a high school in Southern California known as Oaks Christian. For those of you who know high school football, this school was practically developed almost a decade ago for the purpose of breeding such athletes.

Luckily for Montana, he won’t have to do it alone. He’ll have stud receiver Jermaine Kearse and strong running back Chris Polk returning for their senior seasons to help him along the way. We think this kid is going be an up-and-comer in the soon to be Pac-12. He won’t have a stellar year next year, but he’s going to be good and will only get better with time.

James Franklin, Missouri
The keys to the Fantasy Porsche that is the Mizzou quarterback spot has been given to James Franklin.  Just look at his predecessors: Blaine Gabbert, Chase Daniels and Brad Smith, three QBs who put up great numbers in Gary Pinkell’s offense. 

A top 150 recruit according to both Rivals and ESPN, Franklin’s got the kind of game that can beat you with his arm or his legs, attributes that are especially desirable given that he will be playing in the Mizzou spread against Big 12 teams that are not exactly known for defense.   Missouri struggled at times this year offensively and yet still averaged over 30 points per game while throwing close to 40 times per contest. 

Add to this that a pair of 90-reception studs are coming back in T.J. Moe and Mike Egnew, and you can see the upside that James Franklin brings to the table.   Watch the spring battle closely, even though Franklin will be given every chance to win the job, Blaine Gabbert’s younger brother Tyler will also be fighting for the job.   

Phillip Sims / AJ McCarron, Alabama
To me, the Alabama starting quarterback has always been about two things: consistency and great hair.  From Hoover’s own John Parker Wilson to the Texan Greg McElroy, Bama signal callers have always put up better than average numbers but have looked really good doing it. 

While neither AJ McCarron or Phillip Sims have the southern swoop hair cut going on (McCarron sadly shaved his head and Sims has dreads), both are far superior QBs than the caretakers they follow.  McCarron was the nation's fifth best QB two years ago, and last year, Sims shocked the world when instead of going to VT (he is from Chesapeke, VA, which has a pipeline to the school), he chose to Roll Tide. 

With the seemingly endless supply of four and five star wideouts, running backs and offensive linemen in Tuscaloosa, whoever wins the Bama starting job could be primed to put up nice numbers.  Neither will be a top five fantasy QB, because they play at Bama and that’s just not what Bama does, but both could easily outperform expectations, making them a great back up possibility on your team in case you need to start someone in a pinch.  Watch the battle closely, and then consider the winner as a late round steal in BCS-only league formats.  

Bryn Renner, UNC
: With the UNC scandal finally being put in their rearview mirror, the Heels can turn a new page in their football chapter, and with this fresh start will come a fresh quarterback. T.J. Yates was truly one of the best quarterbacks in recent UNC memory.  Now, one of their most highly touted QB recruits ever is ready to take over the helm.

This red shirt sophomore was ranked as the No. 5 overall QB recruit in the country in 2009, and it’s time for him to live up to the hype. He’s got a very talented offense playing in a very weak ACC. The way we see it, the kid should be able to light up the scoreboard with targets like Dwight Jones and Jheranie Boyd on opposite sides of the field.

We’re not saying that UNC is going to win the ACC (or even their division); that would be ludicrous. But they’re sure as hell going to come out firing on all cylinders every game with Renner leading the way.

Running Backs

Dillon Baxter, USC :  Wow. That’s all you could really say when you watched Dillon Baxter highlights from the spring game last year.  This kid seemed ready to light the world on fire, amping Trojan fans up everywhere to believe that he was the next Reggie Bush.  Sadly for Baxter, the only way he followed in Reggie’s footsteps was by getting in trouble with “agents”, as he got suspended for riding with one in a golf cart. 

The top ranked RB in the class struggled to get carries in a crowded backfield last year, but gone are CJ Gable, Stanley Havili and Allen Bradford, meaning Baxter should see an increase in carries.   While Marc Tyer should remain the USC starter, look for the Trojans to use Baxter as a change of pace back, and given that Baxter is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, this is a good thing.  Remember that not since 2000 has one USC RB had 50 percent of the teams carries, yet they still have had some players put up pretty good seasons.  You can’t coach talent, and Baxter has more of it than anyone else on this roster. 

Jakhari Gore, LSU
: No Steven Ridley, no problem. Gore, the cousin of NFL Pro Bowler Frank Gore, is itching to take over an LSU backfield that relies on its running backs, as they simply do not have a successful passing attack under the inadequate Jordan Jefferson. Gore has taken his hard-nosed speedy attack from Miami to the Bayou Bengals, and they’ll be chanting his name down there for years to come.

Mack Brown, Florida
:  In a world where Charlie Weis is offensive coordinator and Will Muschamp is head coach, it’s safe to assume running back touches at Florida will increase while quarterback totes decrease.  This means more touches for Gator backs next year. 

Even though leading rusher Jeffery Demps returns, he is more of a speed guy who fit perfectly into the Urban Meyer offense. But those talents probably are not suited for the west coast offense favored by Charlie Weis. 

Mack Brown, a stud recruit from last year, is a straight workhorse.  He can carry the ball 20 times a game and is the kind of back who you want running on fourth and goal.  Look for Demps and Brown to split carries this year, but for Brown to get the goal line touches and thus the touchdowns.

Lamar Miller (RS) / Storm Johnson, the “U”
: Damien Berry…gone. Graig Cooper…gone.  It seems the only ones with experience left at the U are the gorgeous sorority girls.  The question down in Coral Gables becomes who will take over this backfield that has continuously placed players in the NFL?

Lamar Miller, the redshirt sophomore, is the obvious choice. He shared carries last year with Berry and put up over 646 yards on 108 carries, averaging six yards per carry. Not bad at all for a redshirt freshman.

But then there’s Storm Johnson, the man with the name who practically destined him to be a Cane. Coaches were simply drooling over his potential last year before the 2010 season started. But with a crowded backfield, he didn’t see a ton of action. Why Miami actually decided to use him for all of nine carries last year, wasting a year of eligibility, blows my mind.

The kid is scary dangerous on the field and will be a hell of a contributor if he gets enough carries. Let it be known, Miami…a storm is coming.

Silas Redd, Penn State
:  Fact: since the Lincoln administration, PSU coach Joe Paterno has emphasized running the ball.  Fact: Silas Redd will start for Penn State at running back in 2011.  Given these two facts, it would seem that Redd is a must-have on any college fantasy football roster.  Now to be honest, he probably won’t put up LaMicheal James numbers, but he should be a borderline-workhorse kind of back. 

Last year, the true frosh managed to run for over 400 yards on 77 carries, good for an average of over of 5.7 yards per game.  The country’s No. 4 rated high school running back (in 2009) managed to do this despite serious problems with the team’s offensive line and a yo-yo like QB competition.  Given a more mature line and a lack of Evan Royster, look for Redd to put up big numbers in the 2011 campaign.

Giovanni Bernard, UNC
: A torn ACL dashed Bernard’s hopes of seeing the field last year, but no matter. At 5’10” and 200 pounds, Bernard is not nearly as big as fellow teammates Ryan Houston or A.J. Blue, which allows him to bring something a bit different to the table. If he can get himself 100 percent healthy and back to his former playing status, he could be the home run threat the Tar Heels need. We all saw what his brother, Yvenson Bernard, was able to do for Oregon State. Nothing leads us to believe that Giovanni won’t be laying down the same kind of punishment in Chapel Hill.

Wide Receivers

Paul Richardson, Colorado
: Let’s be honest. Colorado football hasn’t been relevant since they torched Eric Crouch in the Big 12 championship almost a decade ago (why Nebraska was still allowed in the National Championship after that game is a mystery to me, but that is neither here nor there, and a discussion to be had at another time).

That being said, Paul Richardson was one of the lone bright spots for the Buffs last season. This rising sophomore walked into Boulder and ran all over everyone the first chance he got. He went off for 514 yards receiving and six TDs, averaging over 15 yards a catch. With Scotty McKnight and Travon Patterson graduating, someone’s going to have to shoulder the load, and it may as well be the Cali native. 

Let's face it. Colorado is bad and the Pac-12 loves to score.  Given these facts, it’s not hard to imagine the team being forced to throw at the end of most games.  Richardson may be the guy coming down with the ball in garbage time.

Ivan McCartney, West Virginia
The man known as “Sticks” shocked the Florida football world by signing a letter of intent to play at WVU last year, rejecting offers from Miami, Florida, Florida State and even USF.  Part of the motivation was reuniting with his former high school QB and best friend, Geno Smith. 

While last year was disappointing, the future is looking bright.  In comes new offensive coordinator and essentially de facto head coach Dana Holgorsen and his version of the air raid offense.  When you look at the numbers, his wide receivers put up last year at Oklahoma State, each WVU WR this fall becomes an instant fantasy consideration.  With leading receiver Tavon Austin possibly returning to running back, Sticks has a chance to become one of the go-to guys in the ‘Neer offense.

Michaelee Harris, Louisville
: If there’s one smart thing that Louisville as done in the history of its football program, hiring Charlie Strong might be it. The former defensive coordinator for the Gators has absolutely raided South Florida, snatching up recruits left and right, pissing off Miami, UF, and FSU fans alike.

One such recruit is former Miami Northwestern standout Michaelee Harris. He didn’t make an impact on the Cardinals last year, but we believe that once he reconnects with former Miami Northwestern QB teammate Teddy Bridgewater, he will make a huge splash. It may not happen right away next season, but keep an eye on him, as these two are bringing the Miami heat to Kentucky.

Da’Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter, Tennessee : Tyler Bray is a star in the making.  He is a legit quarterback and would have been in this article if it wasn’t so obvious.  He will be an early pick next year in most BCS league fantasy drafts.  Less obvious is this duo of pass-catching sophomores. 

Hunter, a top 100 high school recruit, is a tall guy with great hands and a real nose for the endzone.  In his freshmen campaign, he caught seven touchdowns.  Da’Rick, who ran into a little trouble with the law, is a playmaker who’s a real star in the making.  Anyone who saw his TD catch in the bowl game knows what I am talking about.  He has Crabtree like skills: the speed, size and the hands.  These two will combine for monster stats for years to come.

Mike Davis, Texas
: I don’t think anyone in the country could have predicted how utterly awful Texas would wind up being last season. Let that be a testament either to all the haters on Colt “The Real Deal” McCoy or just how awful Garret Gilbert is, or how awful offensive coordinator Greg Davis was.  

That being said, I don’t think the Texas QB situation will have a repeat performance. Either Gilbert gets his act together or Connor Wood takes over, because Texas simply will not stand for back to back losing seasons. Once the QB situation is settled, someone will have to be catching their passes, and that someone is Mike Davis.

The teams leading receiver, James Kirkendoll, is graduating. Mike Davis was the team's next leading receiver in receptions and yards, though the inept offense only allowed him to haul in two TDs. Look for Mike Davis to double his output from last year, giving him around 800 yards plus on the season.

Tony E. & Greg B. are contributors to, the nation's premier resource for all things college fantasy football!


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