Written by: John Stocco
We’re five weeks through the college football season, and I thought I would do something a little different this week. Instead of talking about the college football playoff race, and instead of talking about the best games of the upcoming week, I wanted to put an emphasis on some of the best players this season in college football, and these players are the main reason why their teams have been on an absolute tear in 2019.
1, Tua Tagovaiola:
Stat line: 23 TD’s, 0 INT, 1,718 yards, 76%, 96.2 QBR.
You want to know why NFL teams are tanking for Tua? Just watch any Alabama game. Even if you forget about the numbers for a split second, the guy is just a natural in the pocket. Tua’s arm strength is second to none, and the way he releases the football is something that isn’t seen every year when we talk about a new crop of quarterbacks every time the draft comes around. He’s aggressive, but he doesn’t force any passes. He has incredible vision and reads defenses extremely well. He leads his receivers wide open on deep throws, and while he’s in the pocket he’s poised and he’s not erratic when he faces pressure. He stays strong in the pocket, he has calm feet, and when he has to make a decision to roll out of his pocket he can pick up a few yards with his feet. The one thing about Tua that some people don’t notice, Tua has this little hitch in his shoulder when he throws. It’s a little pump fake and that little pump fake can really screw up the timing of the secondary. It’s a pump fake and quick release of the football. Next time you watch an Alabama keep an eye on Tua’s shoulders. This guy is a terrific quarterback, and he has the numbers to back it up.
2, Justin Fields:
State line: 23 Total TD’s, 0 INT, 1,314 Total Yards, 69%, 95.4 QBR.
You hear about the plethora of quarterbacks that are coming out in the 2020 draft. How about 2021 or 2022, when the two headliners are two absolute studs, in Justin Fields and Trevor Lawerence? Justin Fields is a special football player. I honestly can’t believe Georgia let him walk, and I’m a big Jake Fromm fan. Watching Justin Fields reminds of watching Cam Newton. Not this version of Cam Newton, but the version we saw at Auburn, and his first few seasons in Carolina. When it comes to being pro ready, Fields is not there yet like Tua because he’s taken too many shots from the defense, but he’s big and strong, and has a similar build like Cam. He has a powerful arm with pinpoint accuracy, and Fields can deceive defenses in the RPO system by taking it out and finding holes in the defenses and taking off for multiple yards. He has a lot of traits that made Cam Newton great, and Justin Fields is a quarterback who’s going to be in multiple Heisman trophy ceremonies, and he’s good enough to carry Ohio State to the National Championship.
3, Jonathan Taylor:
Stat line: 8 TD’s, 559 YDS, 84 ATT, 6.7 AVG.
Is Jonathan Taylor real, or is he just another product in the Wisconsin system? I think it’s real, and it’s real enough that Taylor could not only walk out on stage as a first round draft pick, but he could walk out on stage as raise the Heisman trophy. Wisconsin has put themselves in a great position to be in the Big Ten Championship game, and it’s all on the legs of Jonathan Taylor and their defense. In every game this year Taylor has rushed for over 100 yards. Against USF and Central Michigan, Wisconsin didn’t push the limits with Taylor, but once conference games started this is where you saw Taylor play his best and Wisconsin depended on him heavily. Against Michigan, Taylor put an absolute beatdown on a Wolverines defense that’s pretty good. 23 attempts, 203 yards, and 2 TD’s. Same story against Northwestern where it was a tougher game than most expected, not for Taylor, he ran for 119 yards, on 26 attempts, and entered the endzone once. Taylor has been so great this year that rushing for 119 yards feels like a disappointment when you write it out. This Wisconsin team is real, and Jonathan Taylor is the main reason why. If there is any chance that the Badgers have at beating Ohio State and playing in the college football playoff, Jonathan Taylor will need to be the best player in the country.
4, Jalen Hurts:
Stat line: 12 TD’s, 1 INT, 1,295 yards, 77.6%, 97.5 QBR.
Does it help that Jalen Hurts has the best playmakers and the best play caller in college football? Yes, but I don’t want to undercut Jalen Hurts’ success even though it kinda feels like I’m doing that. Hurts has been great this year, and he looks like a completely different quarterback at Oklahoma. Jalen Hurts is playing with a huge chip on his shoulder. He’s playing to win at Oklahoma, he’s playing for his future in the NFL, and he’s playing to kinda shove it to Alabama. The college career of Jalen Hurts has been nothing but a rollercoaster, and now as a senior, his season doesn’t have any roadblocks in his way. Hurts is playing like a Heisman, and he’s put himself in the category of being one of the quarterbacks taken in the first couple of rounds in the draft. Jalen Hurts throws a clean ball, and he doesn’t put the ball into heavy traffic. He gives his receivers clean looks at making the catch. Hurts isn’t going to shock you with incredible arm talent. Hurts is going to impress you by setting up his receivers, giving them space to make big plays, and keeping the ball moving down the field. Hurts should be at the top of the Heisman board, and he should be rising on draft boards.
5, Joe Burrow:
Stat line: 17 TD’s, 2 INT’s, 1,520 yards, 80.6%, 93.4 QBR.
LSU has a quarterback. It’s insane that I’m writing this in 2019, but it’s true. When you think of LSU you think of an elite defense, a great wide receiver, or one of the best offensive lines in college football. You never think of the quarterback, and Joe Burrow is changing the narrative. The improvement that Burrow has made in a year is nothing short of incredible, and in large part it’s due to his progress. Going from 57% to 80% completion rating. Throwing for 2,894 passing yards all season, and now hitting 1,520 yards through four games. 16 touchdowns last year, to now 17 touchdowns this season. The improvement is amazing, but in another part, it’s because of Joe Brady who’s the passing coordinator at LSU, and a rising star in the coaching world, who brought the RPO scheme to LSU. The RPO has made it easier for Burrow to identify his target, and it has given him time to read defenses. Just like Hurts, Joe Burrow has climbed up the draft board, and put his team in a position to be selected into the college football playoff. The play of Joe Burrow, and with their loaded defense, I’m giving LSU a serious chance to beat Alabama, and win the SEC.