There’s a chill in the air. The smell of pine and hot cocoa fill our homes as we prepare for one of our favorite times of the year:
The COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF.
The pandemic-filled year of 2020 is ready to be left in the rear-view mirror, which means we have just about a full season’s worth of college ball to stew over. Some players were able to boost their devy stock, while others weren’t able to capitlaize on the opportunity in front of them. Here, I take a look at a few names who have either helped or hurt themselves heading into 2021.
Terrace Marshall (Louisiana State)
Often the forgotten man at LSU pre-2020, Terrace Marshall became a household name in 2020.
After years of inconsistency, the former 5-star recruit finally broke through in his junior year with the departure of Justin Jefferson and opt-out Ja’Marr Chase. He leads LSU in receiving with 731 yards and 10 TDs.
Marshall is an athletic freak, standing at 6-3, 200 and reportedly runs a 4.4 40-yard dash. Devy owners have been salivating at the upside of Marshall for years, and he finally seems to be hitting the lofty expectations set for him as a freshman. I expect to hear Marshall’s name come off the board no later than Day 2 of the NFL Draft.
Zach Wilson (Brigham Young)
The relatively quiet BYU product burst onto the scene in 2020 after a mediocre sophomore campaign that only saw him throw for 2382 yards with an 11:9 TD-to-INT ratio. This year, he has already thrown for almost 3000 yards and 27 score to only 3 interceptions.
Wilson displays a lively arm, a commanding pocket presence, and the ability to create on the fly, even drawing generous comparisons to Patrick Mahomes. He has Pro Football Focus’ fewest turnover-worthy plays, highest grade on deep passes, and second-highest grade for quarterbacks overall.
The biggest question remains the strength of competition, but there is no doubt that Wilson is lighting-up the box score and continues to be in the conversation as, at worst, the third overall QB selected in the 2021 Draft.
Kyren Williams (Notre Dame)
Every year, we have a running back seemingly come out of nowhere, and this year is no different with Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams.
The Notre Dame coaching staff raved about the 5-9, 195-pound runner this offseason, and he’s rewarded them with almost 1,300 total yards and 13 touchdowns on the year. The explosive running back put his name on the map with a 140-yard, 3 score performance against Clemson and has helped lead Notre Dame to a no. 2 overall ranking.
With his eyes set on the college football playoffs, Williams should continue to gain national attention and climb devy rankings heading into next year.
Kadarius Toney (Florida)
After being an afterthought during his first three years in college, Florida wideout Kadarius Toney is bursting on to the scene as a versatile and explosive weapon.
Toney has already exceeded his production in the past three years combined. He’s managed to find the end zone through the air, on the ground, and in the return game. We know DYNAMIC ability matters. His 739 scrimmage yards leads the team, while his 10 touchdowns are second only behind all-world tight end Kyle Pitts (11).
The process has been simple: Just get the ball in Toney’s hands. He’s electric in space and impossible to tackle. The senior may be entering the NFL off of (only) one year of solid production, but I have no doubt that he’ll find a role at the next level.
RB DeaMonte Trayanum (Arizona State): The true freshman has taken over the starting role for the Sun Devils, averaging 7.1 YPC through their first two games
WR Amari Rodgers (Clemson): Rodgers has firmly placed himself back on the devy radar, returning from and injury plagued ’19 to lead the Tigers in all major receiving categories.
WR Treylon Burks (Arkansas): After highlighting Burks as a potential breakout this offseason, the dynamic sophomore lived up to expectations, leading Arkansas in scrimmage yards in 2020
Trey Sermon (Ohio State)
Sermon’s transfer to Columbus this offseason didn’t necessarily work out as planned. After leaving Oklahoma over frustration with playing time, Sermon must have thought he was in line for a lead role with the Buckeyes.
What he didn’t anticipate (as well as many others) was current Ohio State back Master Teague miraculously recovering from an offseason Achilles injury that led many to believe he wouldn’t see the field in 2020.
Instead, Teague leads the team in rushing with 426 yards to Sermon’s 324, including 6 touchdowns to Sermon’s 1. It’s not that Sermon has necessarily looked bad (6.3 YPC), but he hasn’t done anything to separate himself from the pack. Such has been the story of Sermon’s career, who now finishes his senior season with the same questions he had going into it.
Joseph Ngata (Clemson)
With fellow wide receiver Justyn Ross’s neck injury leaving his football future in doubt and Tee Higgins off to the NFL, Joseph Ngata was one of the hottest names in the offseason.
Settling in as a second-round devy start-up pick, the common belief was that one of the Tigers flashiest freshman during the 2019 season would be the likely beneficiary. Unfortunately, Ngata has spent most of the season on the sidelines battling mysterious injuries. He’s made a few appearances, but has only been able to produce 7 catches for 83 yards.
News: Joseph Ngata is out. Had surgery this morning. Dabo Swinney is hopeful he'll be 100 percent and full go for postseason. "That's our goal for him."
— Grace Raynor (@gmraynor) November 25, 2020
The bad news: Ngata underwent surgery for an undisclosed injury and will miss the remainder of the season. The good news: Ngata is still hopeful for the post-season, and still has time to bounce-back (2022 eligible). Given the hype surrounding him this offseason, 2020 has largely been a disappointment.
Keaontay Ingram (Texas)
As a staunch Keaontay Ingram-supporter through the years, this one pains me to write. Although Ingram shows the skill-set of a true, three-down back, he has been unable to take the reigns of the Texas backfield, even with ample opportunities.
Health has contributed to his downfall, appearing in only six games this year while battling nagging injuries throughout his career. Adding fumbles to his résumé didn’t help (2 in 2020, after 0 in first 2 seasons) and neither does being outplayed by a freshman (albeit, a world class one in Bijan Robinson).
Rumors are that Ingram is looking to play elsewhere in 2021, making him a senior transfer at a tough position to succeed. I still think Ingram has all the talent in the world, but the cards are stacked against him.
Seth Williams (Auburn)
2020 was supposed to be Williams’ bid to be one of the top wideouts in the ’21 draft after an impressive sophomore season. Instead, Williams has struggled to make a big impact on the field.
Although quarterback play is a big reason for William’s downfall (Auburn receiver lead the SEC in inaccurate passes; thanks for nothing, Bo Nix), his drops are the thing that stand out the most. According to SEC StatCat, Williams is up to 10 drops on the year through 9 games (most in the SEC), totaling 21 drops through his college career.
It’s fair to wonder if Williams will now enter a loaded 2021 (wide reciever) draft class. After a strange and pandemic inflicted 2020, a return for his senior season could be in his best interests.
WR Tamorrion Terry (Florida State): A messy situation at Florida State led Terry to leave the team after a hype-filled offseason, raising questions about his football future.
QB Brock Purdy (Iowa State): An impressive 2019 led many to wonder if Purdy could push for a top QB spot, but he’s been no better than average, failing to top 300 yards in all but two games, while being lucky to have only thrown 6 interceptions.
RB Max Borghi (Washington State): This one is pretty simple: You have to play. Borghi hasn’t had the opportunity to answer questions regarding his rushing ability. As someone who was already down on the player compared to consensus, I’ll be surprised to see him enter the 2021 draft.