Farrell 50: College football's finest
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
With the college football season nearly upon us, it’s time for another installment of the Farrell 50, the top 50 college football players in the country. We take a quick look at how each ranked out of high school and if they are exceeding or simply living up to expectations. Today we move on to No. 16-20 led by three elite quarterbacks.
The skinny: UCLA, along with Stanford, was always considered one of the front-runners for Rosen. So when the Cardinal decided not to offer and after taking a few visits, including one to Michigan just days before his announcement, Rosen decided to stay local and committed to the Bruins. As a true freshman, Rosen performed like a veteran, completing 60 percent of his passes for 3,669 yards and 23 touchdowns. After watching his sophomore season derail due to injuries, Rosen is once again healthy and eager to prove that he is one of the elite quarterbacks in the country.
Farrell’s take: In all my years of scouting, Rosen was the best high school quarterback I’ve seen on film or in person. There’s something about his attitude and cockiness that leads you to believe the game will never be too big for him and he will excel regardless of the circumstances. Yes, there have been some bumps along the way, but he’s shown all the skills we saw in high school. I’m kicking myself that he wasn’t No. 1 in the 2015 Rivals100. That’s on me.
The skinny: McFadden only took one official visit to Florida State, so while Georgia and LSU were also in his top three, it was the Seminoles who pulled in his commitment in late October. After receiving minimal playing time as a freshman in 2015, McFadden really stepped his game up last fall with 19 tackles, three tackles for a loss and a NCAA-leading eight interceptions. Can he duplicate or even improve on his performance in 2017?
Farrell’s take: A controversial five-star on Rivals as many questioned our ranking. McFadden was a tall kid who could have projected at safety as well. While he did get beat at times deep, he had the length, speed and hips to be special. After a slow start to last season, he came on and started to be more consistent in coverage. Almost everyone had him as a five-star at the end of the 2015 recruiting cycle, but we had him ranked higher at cornerback than anyone else and he’s proving us right.
The skinny: Rudolph chose Oklahoma State over a group of finalists that included Virginia Tech and LSU. In Stillwater, he has become one of the most productive quarterbacks in the country over the last two seasons. After passing for 3,770 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2015, he raised his game to another level last fall with 4,091 yards, 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
Farrell’s take: Rudolph, a four-star coming out of high school, was a huge kid with a live arm who showed excellent accuracy for a signal-caller who could be tempted to just fire the ball on every throw. He chose the right offense because he’s a quick decision-maker who is made for a spread, throwing offense where he can put up huge numbers. He’s rising on this list as well and I could see him pushing toward the top by the end of this season. I also think he leads his team to the playoffs.
The skinny: Browning took a very active approach with his process after his junior season, taking several visits before making his decision in late March. After weighing all of his options, Browning committed to Washington over Alabama, Oklahoma State, Utah, Boise State, California and Colorado. High expectations followed Browning last season and he responded with 3,280 yards and 42 touchdowns, which helped lead the Huskies to the College Football Playoff. Expectations will be for more of the same in Seattle. Will Browning be able to deliver?
Farrell’s take: Browning was a four-star in the Rivals100 with great poise in the pocket, the ability to slide or step up exactly when needed and an amazing knack for making red zone throws. He was mature beyond his years and broke the national record for touchdowns in a career, which included 91 as a senior. That’s not a misprint. Tell me again how USC and UCLA passed on him? Okay, UCLA landed Rosen, so I get that, but Ricky Town, USC? Really? This kid is special but I’m being cautious with his rating as he was injured and struggled down the stretch.
The skinny: Key was committed to South Carolina at a few different points in his recruitment, but ended up taking official visits to South Carolina, LSU, Miami and Texas Tech before committing to the Tigers on National Signing Day. After playing in the shadows of some other elite SEC defensive ends over the last couple of years, Key showcased his talents last fall with 49 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss and nine sacks. Now how will he respond with the national spotlight on him and pushing through injury?
Farrell’s take: Key was a tall, skinny edge rusher who was a four-star just inside the Rivals250. His frame concerned us a bit as did as his strength in the run game, but there was never a question about his pass-rushing ability. However, I will admit that he’s been better at the other aspects of the game than I expected. He has developed into one of the elite pass rushers in college football. LSU fans will feel this ranking is low and it could be.