The college football season is fewer than 100 days away and all the preseason preview magazines are on the news stands now. My daughters gave me one such magazine this past weekend as a part of my Father’s Day gifts. It is the new Athlon Sports SEC Preview. If they had not bought it for me, I would have bought it for myself – along with Street and Smiths and Lindy’s. But, I would have chosen an alternative cover – one with Najee Harris on the front instead of Bo Nix. The reason is obvious. I need not write further on the subject.
No, I do not hate Bo Nix. In fact, he is a good player and his father is now the coach of the Central High Red Devils football team.
Anyway, let’s move on.
In the various preview magazines each year, a list of the best college football players is usually listed. The players are ranked 1-50 in most cases. That is how Athlon Sports did inside its magazine. I thought I would share the Top 10 players this magazine feels are the top players – the Top 10 in all of college football as the season nears.
Remember this list was done earlier in the spring or right after the 2019 season ended.
Topping the list of Athlon’s Top 10 is Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. No surprise here. Lawrence has been pegged for this position since he first stepped on the field for the Tigers two seasons ago and went on to lead his team in winning the National Championship. He is 25-1 as the starter for Clemson and has tossed the football for 6,945 yards and accounted for 76 scores in two seasons. He threw for 3,665 yards with 47 scores last season as Clemson reached the National Championship Game only to fall short against LSU.
No. 2 on the list is Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Fields took the Buckeyes to the playoffs last season in his first year with the team. He transferred from Georgia where he played briefly against Alabama in a losing cause for the National title. He did not reach the National title game this past season, but went 13-1 overall. He threw for 3,272 yards with 41 touchdowns and had only three interceptions. He also ran for 484 yards with 10 touchdowns.
Penei Sewell of Oregon, an offensive tackle, comes in at No. 3 for Athlon. He has allowed only one sack of his team’s quarterback while playing on the left side of the Ducks’ offensive line in 1,376 snaps. Not too shabby.
LSU’s Derek Stingley, a cornerback for the Tigers, was expected to be a top defender when he was recruited as a 5-star prep prospect. He started all 15 games last season, had six interceptions, made 38 tackles and defended 21 passes for the 2019 National Champions.
Stingley teammate Ja’Marr Chase, a wide receiver, made 84 catches for 1,780 yards with 20 touchdowns and was the winner of the Biletnikoff Award in 2019. He had the most catches of any player in the FBS last season. He is the No. 5 player on Athlon’s list.
Coming in at No. 6 is Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons. Parsons made 109 tackles, forced four fumbles, had 14 tackles for losses and sacked opposing quarterbacks five times as a sophomore in 2019.
The first running back on the Athlon list is Clemson’s Travis Etienne as the No. 7 player. Etienne made the decision to return in 2020 for his senior season which is a big reason the Tigers are entrenched at No. 1 in just about every preseason poll. As a junior, Etienne ran for 1,614 yards with 23 touchdowns.
At No. 8 is Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard. Hubbard led the nation with 2,094 yards rushing with 21 touchdowns. He also led all players with seven runs of 50-plus yards in 2019.
The No. 9 player is Sam Howell, quarterback at North Carolina. In 13 games, Howell threw for 3,641 yards and, as a true freshman, tossed 38 touchdown passes which is an FBS record.
The tenth player on the Athlon list is Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger. He is the active leader in career yardage with 10,400 yards entering 2020.
Alabama’s Najee Harris, a running back who is expected to vie for the Heisman Trophy is the No. 12 player on the list. He ran for 1,224 yards with 13 touchdowns last season.
At No. 42 is Phenix City’s and Clemson’s Justyn Ross, a wide receiver who will miss the 2020 season after undergoing surgery this month. Ross was expected to be Lawrence’s primary target this season. If he gets well by January, Ross could join Lawrence in declaring for the NFL’s Draft. So, there is still a chance he could be Lawrence’s primary target next season in the professional ranks. He was the seventh receiver on Athlon’s list of the Top 50 players.
Mark Clark is a local sports writer for The Citizen of East Alabama.