Farrell 50: The nation's top players - Nos. 31-35
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 continue today with Nos. 31-35.
The skinny: Shenault took unofficial visits to Colorado, Alabama, Oklahoma State, LSU and Baylor during the spring after his junior season, which led to his commitment to the Buffaloes soon after. Despite missing several games due to an injury, Shenault still flourished in 2018 with 86 receptions for 1,011 yards and six touchdowns. He also added five touchdowns on the ground. With defenses primed to try and stop him this season, Shenault has totaled 17 receptions for 226 yards and two touchdowns, plus one rushing touchdown. He also missed the most recent game against Arizona with a toe injury.
Farrell’s take: Shenault was a mid-range three-star with good size, but we questioned his top-end speed and football quickness. Clearly that was incorrect, as he’s emerged as one of the best playmakers in the country. He has the size we liked, but has added shiftiness and explosion and is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Defenses are all over him now but he’s still producing.
The skinny: Davis committed to Alabama prior to his junior season, but then took an official visit to Mississippi State a couple of weeks before National Signing Day. Rumors of a flip followed, which were blamed on his Twitter account being hacked. At the end he stayed firm with the Tide. After what many considered a disappointing season in 2018, 55 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks, Davis has responded nicely this fall with 25 tackles and one tackle for a loss so far for the Tide.
Farrell’s take: Davis was a monster defensive tackle and the rare 6-foot-7 defensive interior lineman who could consistently play low and be effective out of high school. He had an amazing frame to build on and played with power and surprising athleticism. He didn’t have a huge year last season, but he’s bouncing back this season for sure.
The skinny: Higgins initially committed to Tennessee, but then de-committed after taking an unofficial visit to Clemson after his junior season. The Tigers quickly made him a priority, which led to his commitment in July. Part of a loaded wide receiving corps, Higgins flourished in 2018 with 59 receptions for 936 yards and an ACC-leading 12 touchdowns. Despite what many consider a slow start for quarterback Trevor Lawrence this fall, Higgins has continued to produce with 22 receptions, 505 yards and three touchdowns.
Farrell’s take: Higgins was a five-star freak coming out of high school, a tall and big receiver who had great body control and reminded me of AJ Green the same way his teammate Justyn Ross did. He’s taking the next step this season despite some offensive struggles at Clemson and the NFL will fall in love with him. He has a chance to be an NFL superstar and his ability to adjust to the ball as a big receiver is rare.
The skinny: Fulton took January official visits to LSU, Florida and Arkansas before committing to the Tigers on National Signing Day. LSU has firmly established itself as a program that annually churns out NFL-caliber defensive backs. One of the best for the Tigers right now is Fulton, who is coming off a season that saw him finish with 25 tackles, one interception and nine pass breakups. With plenty of buzz surrounding him this fall, and NFL scouts watching his every move, Fulton has totaled 13 tackles and five pass breakups in 2019.
Farrell’s take: Fulton was a Rivals100 prospect for good reason as he was a very athletic defensive back with good length and a frame to fill out. He wasn’t the biggest corner but he played with a physical edge and he was always good in run support. Now at LSU he’s taken the next step and is playing like a five-star. He could be the first cornerback taken in the draft next year.
The skinny: The son of former Iowa lineman Eppy Epenesa, he committed to the Hawkeyes in January of his junior year. He never wavered off his Iowa pledge despite accumulating upwards of 25 offers. Epenesa arrived at Iowa with serious expectations, so after flashing his potential as a true freshman in 2017, excelling in 2018 with 37 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, all eyes have been on him this fall. While his statistical numbers have been down this fall, the consistent double and even triple teams have more than verified his current talent and future potential.
Farrell’s take: Epenesa was a five-star coming out of high school as a huge defensive end with the ability to push the pocket, beat opponents with quickness and technique and an excellent ability to play the run. So far he’s shown many flashes of that ability and has become one of the best ends in the Big Ten. He’s received extra attention from blockers this year freeing up his teammates and the NFL loves this kid.