Farrell 50: The nation's top players - Nos. 1-5
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
It’s that time of year, the middle of the college football season and time for a look at the Farrell 50 — the top 50 players in college football and how they were as recruits. We conclude today with Nos. 1-5.
The skinny: In the summer before his senior season and shortly after attending the Buckeyes’ Friday Night Lights camp, Young committed to Ohio State. Maryland was also considered, but the Buckeyes were always thought to be the favorite.
Having finished his sophomore season with 33 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks, expectations were through the roof coming into the 2019 season. He has responded this fall with 21 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles, solidifying his place as one of the top defensive players in the country and a very early NFL Draft pick next spring.
Farrell’s take: Young was a five-star out of high school and a physical freak, and he’s taken that to the next level in college. He’s added size without losing speed and he is by far the best and most dominant pass rusher in the country this year. There was no doubt he was going to be special if he stayed healthy, and I think he’s the best NFL prospect in the country aside from Trevor Lawrence, who isn’t eligible yet.
The skinny: Fields initially committed to Penn State, but then re-opened his process and committed to Georgia. He also considered Florida, Texas A&M and Florida State before committing to the Bulldogs. Seeing minimal action in 12 games as a true freshman, and with the likelihood that he would once again backup Jake Fromm for one more season, he decided to transfer to Ohio State.
In Columbus, he has quickly become a star, passing for 1,298 yards and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 283 yards and eight touchdowns.
Farrell’s take: Fields was our No. 2 player in the country coming out, behind only Trevor Lawrence, and he was a very talented and special quarterback. He had good size, excellent mobility and a live arm, and he worked as well in the pocket as he did out of it. His first go-round with Georgia is not indicative of his talent level, and it’s clear he has found the right fit at Ohio State. If not for Lawrence, he would have been No. 1 in the country out of high school with ease.
The skinny: Hurts named a top four of Alabama, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Florida before committing to the Crimson Tide less than a week later in early June. Hurts’ accomplishments at Alabama have been well publicized at this point, as was the fact that he lost the starting job to Tua Tagovailoa. He decided to make a fresh start at Oklahoma, where he has quickly established himself as one of the elite players in the country with 1,523 yards and 14 touchdowns through the air, plus 499 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
Farrell’s take: Hurts was always known for a big arm, but his touch wasn’t consistent. However, he was the kind of kid who seemed very relaxed on and off the field and never shied away from the moment. Hurts was smart with the football and his accuracy improved greatly between his junior and senior seasons of high school. Now at Oklahoma, he has taken his game to the next level.
The skinny: Taylor initially committed to Rutgers in early May, but then flipped to Wisconsin after an official visit to Madison in October. Having totaled 4,171 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground during his first two seasons, some wondered if Taylor would be able to continue this elite level of play. The answer is yes, as he has already rushed for 745 yards and 12 touchdowns, plus added four receiving touchdowns, for the undefeated Badgers.
Farrell’s take: I liked Taylor's fit at Wisconsin because of his combination of size, power and quick feet, but I never expected him to reach this level. The Badgers have done so well with New Jersey/New York-area running backs over the years, and this kid is clearly the best. He broke former Badgers star running back Corey Clement’s South Jersey rushing record his senior season and has been compared with Clement often, although he’s a bit more physical and faster. Taylor’s balance, especially, stood out when scouting him.
The skinny: Despite claiming that USC was his “dream school,” Tagovailoa committed to Alabama after a trip that saw him also visit Auburn and Ole Miss during the spring after his junior season. Both USC and UCLA continued to pursue Tagovailoa, but neither were able to beat out the Tide.
During his first season as a starter, Tagovailoa’s performance was magical - until a loss in the National Championship game. This season has produced more magic, with 1,718 yards, 23 touchdowns and zero touchdowns for the undefeated Tide.
Farrell’s take: Tagovailoa was highly ranked, but fell short of five-star status by about 20 spots or so. Oops. We liked his arm strength and accuracy, but he didn’t have great size and struggled a few times in evaluations.
However, he had one of the best seasons in recent memory and has become a superstar. This year, he is the leader for the Heisman (as he was last year), so we’ll see if he can close out. I don’t like lefty quarterbacks, but he’s the exception.