football Edit

Ten college football players that could emerge as stars in 2016

FARRELL50: 1-5 | 6-10 | 11-15 | 16-20 | 21-25 | 26-30 | 31-35 | 36-40 | 41-45 | 46-50

The preseason Farrell50 has been fully released but, as always, the mid-season list will have plenty of players entering while others exit. Here are 10 players who could have breakout seasons and possibly crack the list in the coming months.

Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.


The skinny: Trubisky committed to the Tar Heels over offers from Tennessee, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Minnesota and Northwestern. At UNC, Trubisky has been biding his time and now, with Marquise Williams graduated, this should be his time to shine. He is prepared to run Larry Fedora’s open offense, has several talented wide receivers to throw to and an elite running back, Elijah Hood, to rely on.

Farrell’s take: Trubisky’s high school career was epic as he was Mr. Football for Ohio and passed for more than 9,000 career yards. As a mid-range three-star quarterback, we took a lot of abuse from North Carolina fans who felt his high school numbers should have translated to a higher ranking. As a big dual-threat he could also move around, extend the play and gain yardage when he tucked and ran. He could be set for a breakout year in Fedora’s offense and could make our ranking look a bit off.

The skinny: Surprisingly, at the time of his commitment to the Huskies, Gaskin only held three offers, with Washington State and Arizona State being the other two. Gaskin had one of the more quietly impressive seasons in the country last year as a true freshman, rushing for 1,302 yards and 14 touchdowns. Now he returns to a Washington team facing some big preseason expectations, and that should put him in the spotlight.

Farrell’s take: Gaskin was a high three-star recruit but he didn’t get a ton of evaluation out of the state of Washington and slid under the radar a bit. He's playing like a high four or even five-star prospect already. We liked Gaskin's film a lot coming out of high school. He was a prolific stat stuffer with excellent lateral quickness. It's possible that we would have had him ranked higher had we saw more of him in person. Clearly, that’s our loss.

The skinny: Scott represented a huge recruiting victory for the Spartans, as they were able to pull the four-star back out of Ohio and away from the in-state Buckeyes. Scott’s commitment to the Spartans may have surprised some people, but Michigan State’s staff did a tremendous job developing a strong relationship with both Scott and his family. Scott had an impressive true freshman season last fall while sharing carries with Madre London and Gerald Holmes. While he will still need to share carries this season, Scott is the most likely of the three to take control of the position. With veteran quarterback Connor Cook gone, look for the Spartans to lean even more on the running game, which should give Scott the opportunity to shine.

Farrell’s take: I loved Scott's ability to run with power coming out of high school. When I saw him out at the Semper Fi All-American Bowl, I had a feeling he could be that next big back for the Spartans. His performance on the final drive in the Big Ten Championship Game belies his age. He could be the best back in East Lansing since LeVeon Bell. I think this kid will be a big-time NFL player as well if he adds additional speed.

The skinny: While the pull was there for him to stay in-state and play for Texas, in the end Jamabo committed to UCLA on National Signing Day. Jamabo impressed in limited action as a true freshman, averaging 6.1 yards per carry, but had stay patient as Paul Perkins was the team's main back. Now, with Perkins in the NFL, Jamabo has the potential to form a lethal combination with quarterback Josh Rosen, also a true sophomore, in what could be an interesting season for the Bruins.

Farrell’s take: Jamabo was a five-star prospect and a top 25 national player in the class of 2015. His combination of size, athleticism, willingness to deliver punishment and ability to juke defenders impressed me. He was a high-stepping, tall and upright runner who could also catch the ball. I think he can be an absolute star at UCLA.

The skinny: Whitehead took official visits during his senior season to Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Penn State and Ohio State before committing to the Panthers in October. However, with Pittsburgh’s coaching change, Whitehead almost re-opened his process until new coach, Pat Narduzzi, was able to alleviate any concerns. Whitehead had one of the more impressive all-around true freshman seasons in the country last fall, totaling 110 tackles while also getting some playing time on offense. He has the potential to become a dual-threat weapon for the Panthers this fall on both sides of the ball.

Farrell’s take: Whitehead was well-regarded coming out of high school as a two-way guy who projected as a cornerback, but his ability to play offensively in college is a bit unexpected. Credit the Pittsburgh staff for putting the most athletic players on the field. Whitehead's two-way ability in college makes him one of the most dangerous players in the ACC.

The skinny: Hubbard accumulated an impressive number of offers during the winter and spring of his junior year, before committing to the Buckeyes in early April. He never wavered on his word and signed with Ohio State on National Signing Day. With the Buckeyes, Hubbard has had to play in the shadow of Joey Bosa since his arrival. Now, with Bosa moving on to the NFL, Hubbard will have to pick up where Bosa left off.

Farrell’s take: Hubbard was an interesting prospect out of high school, a massive kid who went from playing safety to linebacker and projected to defensive end. His athleticism in space was impressive as was his ability to drop in coverage, but there were too many variables to have him ranked any higher than a high three-star. He was also a national top 30 lacrosse prospect who at one point committed to Notre Dame, so it was hard to determine what his future would be. Now his future appears to be as the heir apparent to the No. 3 pick in the NFL Draft.

The skinny: Kirkland took official visits during his senior season to Tennessee, Oklahoma, Ole Miss and Texas before committing to the Vols in mid-December. On a defense with Derek Barnett, Cam Sutton and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, it is easy to understand why Kirkland may have been overshadowed last fall as a true freshman. However, after totaling 66 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss and an interception in 2015, Kirkland is prepared to make a name for himself this fall. Despite the Vols' woeful offensive performance Thursday night against Appalachian State, the defense played well. Kirkland started the season off with nine tackles, tied for the lead on the team.

Farrell’s take: As a four-star and a top 10 player at his position, Kirkland was a guy we were certainly high on and he’s already living up to that hype. Will he be Derek Barnett, a guy ranked outside the top 150 who plays like a five star? Time will tell, but he was always a downhill, physical plugger who could take on blockers and shed to make the tackle. He’s showing that at the highest level now.

The skinny: Key’s recruitment was an interesting one, as he was committed to South Carolina at two different points in the process. He ended up taking official visits to LSU, Miami, South Carolina and Texas Tech before committing to the Tigers on National Signing Day. Key showed flashes of brilliance during his true freshman season last fall, totaling 38 tackles and four sacks. If he can improve on his consistency this season, there is no reason to believe that Key can’t become one of the biggest defensive playmakers in the country by December.

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 at this early stage. He could become one of the SEC’s best pass rushers this season.

The skinny: Unlike many top recruits, Morgan was relatively quiet about his recruiting process. Notre Dame, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss were thought to be leading the pack, and he eventually committed to the Fighting Irish at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Morgan was forced into playing time as a true freshman and excelled, earning several Freshman All-American honors. However, his level of production slipped as a sophomore. Returning this fall as the team's starting middle linebacker, and with Jaylon Smith moving to the NFL, the time is now for Morgan to show everyone that he has what it takes to be the next great Notre Dame linebacker.

Farrell’s take: A high four-star prospect and top 75 player in the country, Morgan was a very active linebacker who was a sure tackler and arrived with a thump. He was also solid in getting the proper depth in his drops and moved well for a 220-pounder. Morgan's instincts were solid as well. If there was one knock it was his ability in coverage and quick twitch explosion from sideline to sideline but he has certainly shown flashes of that in college.

The skinny: While Schultz continued to name Stanford as his leader, he took his time with his process. Following official visits to Palo Alto, Notre Dame and Utah, he finally committed to the Cardinal in mid-January. Stanford has become a tight end factory, sending several to the NFL in the last decade. So can Schultz be next on this list? While he only had 10 receptions for 121 yards and one touchdown last fall, the job is now all his after Austin Hooper made the move to the NFL. The Cardinal utilize the tight end as much as any program in the country, so look for Schultz to shine this season.

Farrell’s take: Shultz was a top 125 prospect and four-star out of high school with great size. He wasn’t the quickest tight end but he ran precise routes and was very good at boxing out defenders. With a new quarterback under center, you can bet the 6-foot-6 Schultz will be utilized as a check-down option and he should be an effective blocker for Christian McCaffrey.