10 must-watch CFB players this season (including several SEC stars)
Some of these players have been household names for years, others were just noticed in the past year and some are not even known to some mainstream fans yet.
Make no mistake, NFL scouts have already identified them and several will be mentioned as Heisman Trophy contenders all season. Because they’re from all over America, finding these players on various television networks and in multiple time zones could be a task. But they’ve each developed at least somewhat name recognition and should make Saturday night and Sunday morning highlight reels.
Several of these players were mentioned regularly alongside the 2016 greats like Deshaun Watson and Leonard Fournette. But this list is a combination of established stars and new breakout players.
Here are the 10 must-watch players in college football in 2017:
Sam Darnold, Southern Cal
The preseason Heisman Trophy favorite, Darnold as a freshman in 2016 threw for 3,086 yards, 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions with a 67 percent completion percentage. He’s also the No. 1 player on ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s “Big Board.”
Derrius Guice, LSU
A big-play threat at all times, Guice has seven of his 18 rushing TDs from at least 40 yards out. One of those, a 96-yard TD in last year’s Arkansas win, set the LSU record for longest rush in school history. Guice led the SEC in rushing in 2016 with 1,387 yards, and was second with 15 rushing touchdowns. His 7.6 yards per carry was No. 1 in the SEC and No. 5 nationally.
Harold Landry, Boston College
Landry led the country in sacks last season with 16.5, and he’s expected to be a top pass rushing — if not overall — prospect in the upcoming NFL Draft class. The 16.5 sacks are a BC single-season record, and it was somewhat of a surprise that he came back to campus.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Some have circled the Sept. 9 game at Ohio State as a potential defining moment for the quarterback’s Heisman Trophy candidacy. Last year, he was one of five Heisman finalists and finished third in voting. Mayfield last season threw for an average of 305 yards per game and had 40 touchdown passes with just eight interceptions.
Josh Allen, Wyoming
One of the more previously obscure names who is gaining buzz going into the season, Allen is a junior college transfer who didn’t have a Division I offer out of high school. Now he’s a hot name on NFL Draft boards leading into the 2018 draft class. As a sophomore in 2016, Allen was tops in the Mountain West and sixth nationally in passing yards per completion (15.33 yards). Allen turned heads last season with 3,203 passing yards and 28 touchdowns.
Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State
McFadden had the most interceptions last season of any returning player at eight. But the cornerback told the Associated Press that he still has something to prove. “When people say you’re the top dog, teams want to see if you’re the top dog. We’re going to see,” McFadden said. What’s more, McFadden played last season with a torn labrum and missed spring practice after he had left shoulder surgery.
Ed Oliver, Houston
One of the best freshmen in America last season, especially among defensive linemen. Oliver was third in the nation with 23 tackles for a loss, and he led all defensive linemen nationally with nine pass breakups.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner will be under a microscope to see how he’s expected to perform in the NFL. He rushed for school records in yards (1,571) and touchdowns (21), and this season will try to become the second player ever to win the Heisman twice. It could be difficult to top his passing numbers of 3,543 yards and 30 touchdowns from 2016.
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Barrett is in a class by himself in several categories in program history. Among them, he will be the first three-time captain in school history. He is third in Buckeye history with 6,381 passing yards, and first with 69 passing touchdowns. He is within six touchdowns of Drew Brees’ Big Ten record of 106 TDs responsible for.
Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
In 2016, he averaged 7.9 yards per carry in the three most important games of the season: SEC Championship, College Football Playoff semifinal and national championship. Expected to be the starter for the deep and talented Alabama backfield, Scarbrough was named offensive MVP with 180 yards in the semifinal game against Washington where he might be most remembered for a 68-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.