football Edit

Midseason Farrell 50: Nos. 1-5

Mark Pszonak contributed to this report…

With the college football season just beyond the halfway point, it’s time for another installment of the Farrell 50, the top 50 college football players in the country. However, as usual here at, 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 look at the top five led by the best player in the land.

FARRELL 50: Nos. 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25 | 26-30 | 31-35 | 36-40 | 41-45 | 46-50


The skinny: Wilkins took official visits to Clemson, Stanford, Penn State, Ohio State and Boston College before committing to the Tigers at the Under Armour All-American Game. In Death Valley, he showed a great deal of potential during his true freshman season before truly bursting onto the scene last fall with 44 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. This season, as part of a dominant defensive line, Wilkins has totaled 28 tackles, four tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks despite consistent double teams.

Farrell’s take: I remember the first time I saw Wilkins on film. It was after his freshman season and his athletic ability was off the charts. As a Connecticut prospect, he didn’t get the national attention of many until later in his career, but I knew how good he was from day one. Wilkins has already turned into one of the elite defensive tackles in the country and could emerge as one of the top five picks in the NFL Draft. His dominance doesn’t show in the stat sheet as much as expected, but he’s one of the top two or three defenders in the country.

The skinny: Fitzpatrick committed to Alabama over Florida State. While he did take an official visit to Tallahassee after making his commitment, he ultimately signed with the Crimson Tide. Fitzpatrick contributed immediately for the Crimson Tide and has raised his level of play every season after. Now one of the unquestioned leaders of the Alabama defense, Fitzpatrick has 35 tackles, five tackles for a loss, one sack, one interception and one forced fumble through eight games as he looks to lead the Tide towards another run at the National Championship.

Farrell’s take: I've watched Fitzpatrick since he was a freshman in high school. He has always been a five-star talent, but scouting him so much might have led to expectations that were too high. It's why we moved him from cornerback to safety in the end because he struggled in solo coverage against elite wide receivers. So much for that, huh? Fitzpatrick's instant impact as a freshman on the Alabama defense was amazing and he took it to the next level last season. He's living up to that five-star status but also sticking it in our face a bit about that move to safety.

The skinny: Love took a fall official visit to Virginia and then January visits to Stanford and North Carolina before committing to the Cardinal a few days before National Signing Day. Expectations were high for Love this fall, after he patiently waited for Christian McCaffrey to move onto the NFL, but not many expected the offensive explosion we have witnessed so far in 2017. Rushing for nation’s leading 1,387 yards, along with 11 touchdowns and an amazing 10.3 yard per carry average, Love has definitely made it easier for Stanford fans to move on from McCaffrey.

Farrell’s take: Love showed serious flashes of talent last season filling in for McCaffrey at times but he has taken it to the next level this year. Love was a four-star out of high school known for his ability in space as well as his receiving ability, so he fits in greatly as a replacement for McCaffrey. He won’t match the overall numbers, no one will, but he could rush for more yards and that’s impressive.

The skinny: Mayfield actually walked on at Texas Tech despite earning offers from Washington State, Rice and Florida Atlantic. Surprisingly, he immediately became the starter for the Red Raiders as a walk-on and earned Big 12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year honors. However, after the season he decided to transfer to Oklahoma. After sitting out the 2014 season, Mayfield was a Heisman finalist in both 2015 and 2016, and is likely heading back to New York in 2017. Currently with 2,347 yards and 19 touchdowns through the air, while throwing only two interceptions, plus 170 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, Mayfield is hoping to lead Oklahoma to a playoff run in the second half of the season.

Farrell’s take: With a gunslinger’s mentality, Mayfield had a great high school career, but many felt he was a system kid and he didn’t get a ton of offers. That looks crazy now. He’s an early candidate for the Heisman again this season. I’m happy with his three-star ranking since we saw something none of the local schools did at least (he was a walk-on after all), but he has clearly outplayed his ranking and his leadership skills are off the charts.

The skinny: Barkley was originally committed to Rutgers, but re-opened his recruitment as additional offers began to pile up. Penn State almost immediately became the favorite as the Nittany Lions made Barkley a recruiting priority, which eventually led to his commitment. He did not waste any time showcasing his immense talents as a true freshman and then stepped his game up even further last fall with 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground. With Heisman buzz surrounding him leading up to the 2017 season, Barkley has once again responded by leading Penn State to an undefeated start to the season. With 757 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, plus 448 yards and three touchdowns through the air, Barkley has been the most dynamic player in the nation during the first half of the season.

Farrell’s take: Barkley was an upright slasher who showed good receiving skills out of high school, so it's not a huge surprise he's made a big impact early his first two years. But to this level? That’s a bit of a surprise as he’s become a dominant Big Ten back and has jumped all the way to my No. 1 spot. His lower body strength and power to run through some arm tackles has improved greatly. A very athletic kid, Barkley was a guy who pushed for Rivals100 status but is showing us he should have been ranked higher, much higher.