Farrell 25: College football's top players, Nos. 11-15
Every year in August I roll out the Farrell 50, a ranking of the top 50 players in college football. But this year is different, as it’s almost mid-September and only three Power Five conferences are getting ready for football this fall. So this year, I am doing a Farrell 25, continuing today with Nos. 11-15.
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
15. OL Trey Smith, Tennessee
The skinny: Smith took official visits to Ohio State and Tennessee during his senior season. His in-state visit was more than enough for him to decide to stay closer to home and commit to the Vols. In Knoxville, Smith has started 31 games and did not allow a sack in 13 starts in 2019. The preseason All-American is considered one of the top interior offensive linemen heading into next spring’s NFL Draft.
Farrell’s take: Smith was an interesting prospect out of high school. He was No. 1 on one site and a five-star everywhere but Rivals.com, where we had him highly ranked, but not as highly as the rest. He’s played close to that five-star ranking since he was a freshman and will be a high NFL Draft pick, but it will be interesting to see if his draft status lives up to where he was ranked elsewhere. He’s one of the top interior linemen in the country and is expected to be a first-rounder.
14. WR Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
The skinny: While Wallace was considered a package deal with his brother, Tracin, he was the one who became the recruit who reeled in the bigger offers. In Stillwater they found the family atmosphere the brothers were looking for, so a commitment came during the spring after their junior season.
Coming off a huge 2018 season, Wallace was once again performing at the highest level in 2019 when a knee injury cut him down to eight games. However, with 139 receptions for 2,394 yards and 20 touchdowns in his last 22 games, he remains one of the top offensive threats in the country.
Farrell’s take: Wallace was ranked as a Rivals250 prospect who had average size. He wasn’t a kid with a big frame, but he was dynamic with the ball in his hands and he caught everything thrown his way. The Big 12 is a great fit for him and he’s become one of the elite receivers in the conference and in the country. He missed a lot of last season due to injury, but he should be back better than ever.
13. S JaCoby Stevens, LSU
The skinny: Stevens initially committed to LSU, then re-opened his recruitment to take a closer look at a few other programs. While Georgia and Alabama were also considered, he found his way back to Baton Rouge and re-committed to the Tigers. Stevens took his game to the next level in 2019, finishing with 92 tackles, nine tackles for loss, five sacks, three interceptions and six pass breakups as one of the unquestioned leaders of the team.
Farrell’s take: Stevens was a five-star athlete coming out of high school who could have played wide receiver or safety with ease. You could make the argument that he's the best pure athlete at LSU. After being overshadowed initially by Grant Delpit and then freshman Derek Stingley Jr., Stevens is now garnering all the attention he deserves. The big question: What position does he play at the next level? That's a good problem for NFL teams to figure out.
12. WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
The skinny: On signing day, Waddle committed to Alabama over Texas A&M. It was believed the Aggies held an edge because of Waddle’s relationship with new A&M coach Jimbo Fisher from his time at Florida State, but that didn’t happen.
Having totaled 78 receptions for 1,408 yards and 13 touchdowns during his two seasons in Tuscaloosa, many expect him to have an All-American caliber performance in 2020. He is also a consistent threat on special teams.
Farrell’s take: Waddle was a five-star out of high school for good reason, and he’s shown why. He’s a dynamic route-runner with good hands and excellent speed. But what stood out the most out of high school was his strength as a smaller wideout. He’s hard to handle for a lot of reasons. He’s also amazing in the return game, and this should be a huge season for him with Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs gone.
11. OT Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
The skinny: Leatherwood committed to Alabama during the summer before his junior season. However, Florida State, Michigan and others continued to push for a flip. In the end, he stuck with the Crimson Tide.
Becoming a starter in 2019, Leatherwood played all 15 games and earned second-team All-SEC honors. Now an All-American candidate, he is also projected as one of the top all-around prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Farrell’s take: Leatherwood was the No. 4 player in the class of 2017 and a massive tackle with franchise potential, and he’s certainly living up to that. He’s arguably the best offensive lineman in the country with Penei Sewell not playing.