Farrell 50: Nos. 1-10
Mike Farrell's annual countdown of the top 50 players from the 2021 college football season concludes today with Nos. 1 through 10.
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
RIVALS CAMP SERIES: Info/coverage on 2021 camp series
10. QB CJ Stroud, Ohio State
The skinny: Stroud committed to Ohio State over Georgia, Michigan, Oregon, USC and others on the early National Signing Day, even though the Buckeyes didn’t offer until late in the process. In his first season as a starter, Stroud experienced some struggles at the early part of the season, but he quickly rebounded to become one of the top quarterbacks in the country with 3,862 yards, 38 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
Farrell’s take: Stroud blew up late in his recruiting process and started slowly this season as he got comfortable with all his weapons. His mechanics were tweaked and he ended up as a Heisman finalist.
9. C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
The skinny: Linderbaum only had three offers at the time of his summer decision, but two were in-state programs Iowa and Iowa State. His familiarity with the Hawkeyes helped them pull off the recruiting victory. At Iowa, Linderbaum became one of the top interior offensive linemen in the country over the last two seasons, which continued this season with an All-American performance.
Farrell’s take: A local defensive tackle recruit, Linderbaum brings that defensive mentality to the offensive line. He is the best center in the country.
8. WR Jordan Addison, Pitt
The skinny: Addison had already taken two unofficial visits to Pittsburgh before taking an official one during the spring. At the conclusion of his visit he committed to the Panthers. Coming off an impressive true freshman season, Addison established himself as one of the top overall offensive players in the country with 93 receptions for 1,479 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Farrell’s take: A slick receiver out of Maryland, he has been better than expected from day one and he is easily one of the best and most explosive route-runners in the country.
7. OT Evan Neal, Alabama
The skinny: Neal was a very early commit to Alabama, but he then re-opened his recruitment and took official visits to Georgia, Miami and Oklahoma during his senior season. He eventually recommitted to the Tide during the Early Signing Period. A unanimous preseason All-American this year, Neal performed at that level since the opener. Showing a unique combination of size, strength and athleticism he is also an offensive leader for the Tide.
Farrell’s take: Neal is an athletic freak of nature who simply shuts down his opponents and keeps the blindside clear. He could be the top overall pick in the NFL Draft.
6. QB Kenny Pickett, Pitt
The skinny: Pickett initially committed to Temple, but after picking up a few additional offers he re-opened his process. One of these new offers came from Pittsburgh, which resulted in two visits and then his commitment a month later. In his fifth season with the Panthers - and his fourth as a starter - Pickett emerged as one of the top players in the country with 4,319 yards, 42 interceptions and only seven interceptions.
Farrell’s take: Did we see this coming? Pickett has come so far from the Pickett we saw a couple of years ago it’s astonishing. He made all the right decisions and few mistakes and is a likely first-rounder.
5.DE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
The skinny: Hutchinson piled up offers from several elite programs through the winter, but since his father, Chris Hutchinson, played at Michigan the Wolverines were always seen as the clear favorite. He didn’t pull any surprises and committed to Michigan. After playing in only two games last season due to a fractured leg, a healthy Hutchinson returned this fall and dominated with 58 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Farrell’s take: I love the motor in Hutchinson’s game and he’s stayed healthy this season and put himself in the No. 1 overall pick discussion. He wins battles with speed, power and tenacity.
4. LB William Anderson, Alabama
The skinny: Anderson committed to Alabama during the summer leading up to his senior season. He had taken several unofficial visits to Tuscaloosa as well as trips to Georgia Tech, Florida and Auburn before making his decision. Coming off his freshman All-American season, Anderson became one of the top overall defensive players in the country this fall with 91 tackles, 29 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks.
Farrell’s take: Anderson was a five-star pass rusher out of high school for a reason, and his speed off the edge is unmatched in college football. As he continues to fill out we could be looking at the top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
3. RB Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
The skinny: Walker committed to Wake Forest at the conclusion of his December official visit to Winston-Salem. Wake Forest was his only Power Five offer. After two productive seasons with the Demon Deacons, Walker transferred to Michigan State, where he quickly emerged as the top running back in the country. Finishing with 1,646 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground, he recently declared for the NFL Draft.
Farrell’s take: The Wake Forest transfer was amazing for the Spartans, running with speed, power and vision. But it’s his balance that impresses me, as he’s hard to knock down and he can bounce off tackles.
2. QB Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
The skinny: Zappe never saw his high school recruiting take off and eventually committed to Houston Baptist, which was his only offer. After a couple of extremely productive seasons with the Huskies, he transferred to Western Kentucky where he burst onto the scene nationally in his one season at the FBS level. Passing for 5,968 yards and 62 touchdowns - which were both NCAA single-season records - he helped lead the Hilltoppers to a 9-5 season.
Farrell’s take: Zappe was not an FBS prospect out of Texas in high school, but he has developed from the FCS to FBS level as good as anyone could.
1. QB Bryce Young, Alabama
The skinny: Young initially committed to USC during the summer leading up to his junior season, but he then flipped to Alabama in the early stages of his senior season. He took a visit to Tuscaloosa during the weekend that he made his flip official. During his first season as a starter he played like a veteran, winning the Heisman Trophy while passing for 4,478 yards, 44 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
Farrell’s take: Young has lived up to the hype as a five-star and his maturity has been remarkable. He seems to be able to slow down the field somehow with his amazing patience and vision.