The Farrell 50: Countdown of CFB's best players continues
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report…
With the college football season nearly upon us, it’s time for another installment of the Farrell 50, the top 50 college football players in the country. However, as usual here at Rivals.com, 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 move on to Nos. 36-40 led by standouts from Auburn and Alabama.
The skinny: Lewis trimmed his list down to Ohio State, LSU and North Carolina before committing to the Buckeyes in early September. Two summer visits to Columbus helped put the Buckeyes over the top. Statistically, Lewis actually had a better overall performance in 2015 than 2016, but he still managed to lead the Buckeyes in sacks in each of the two seasons. While he is part of a loaded defensive line in Columbus, Lewis has the ability to have an All-American season this fall.
Farrell’s take: Lewis was highly regarded as a four-star but he didn’t make our Rivals250 mainly because he lacked great length and size out of high school. Many of us, myself included, were worried he’d have trouble adding the proper weight and strength to be dominant in college, but we were impressed enough with his violent hands and first step to tag him as a four-star. We saw him play linebacker at the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and he showed off some hybrid ability, but his success as a pure pass rusher has been impressive.
The skinny: With no offers coming his way out of his high school, Allen decided to take the junior college route to help his game mature. This plan worked as he managed to pull in offers from Wyoming and Eastern Michigan before committing to the Cowboys in late December after an official visit. Coming off his first season as the starter in Laramie, in which he passed for 3,203 yards and rushed for 523 yards, all eyes will be on Allen this fall as he is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Farrell’s take: This year’s Carson Wentz? He could be. Out of high school there was nothing remarkable about Allen aside from his height. He attended a high school of around 600 students and never really got any looks despite putting up solid numbers as there were questions about his arm strength and ability to handle the rush at the next level. His JUCO year did him wonders but still most ignored him, including Rivals.com as we had him as a two-star. Now he’s taken that dual-threat ability he showed in high school and JUCO to the D-I college level and NFL scouts love him.
The skinny: Washington’s recruitment never took off, so when he received his offer from Oklahoma State during a summer visit he quickly committed to the Cowboys. In Stillwater, Washington has seen his productivity increase each season. He grabbed 28 receptions in 2014 and then 53 in 2015. Washington became one of the more productive receivers in the country last fall with 71 receptions for 1,380 yards and 10 touchdowns. Teaming up with quarterback Mason Rudolph, more of the same is expected this fall.
Farrell’s take: Washington was a very fast, straight-line receiver from a small school who can be billed as a “diamond in the rough” recruiting find for Oklahoma State. We liked his speed enough to make him a low three-star, but he has turned into something fun to watch at the next level. Not only is he fast but he’s elusive and sneaky strong. He could have an eye-popping season this year as he’s not only fast but excellent after the catch.
The skinny: Stidham initially committed to Texas Tech, before re-opening his process in December and then committing to Baylor a few days later. After passing for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2015 due to a season-ending injury to Seth Russell, Stidham decided to transfer in the off-season due to the growing sex abuse scandal in Waco. After spending a year at a junior college, where he didn’t play football, Stidham officially transferred to Auburn. He was recently named the starter for the 2017 season.
Farrell’s take: We liked Stidham out of high school quite a bit, especially his mobility along with his pocket presence. His efficiency his senior year was off the charts and he’s always been good at taking care of the football. He was a Rivals100 prospect but never pushed that hard for a fifth star because he was always a bit inconsistent with his decision making, mechanics and feel for the game during in-person evaluations. Were we putting too much emphasis on camps and not enough on game action? Perhaps, time will tell as he enters a huge year at Auburn.
The skinny: Scarbrough committed to Alabama at the beginning of his junior season, but then took official visits to Notre Dame, UCLA and Ole Miss during his senior season. Both Ole Miss and Florida State became serious threats at one point, but at the end Scarbrough stuck with his word and signed with the Tide. After a relatively slow start to his sophomore season, Scarbrough became one of the top backs in the country over the last two months of the 2016 season with 354 yards and six touchdowns against Auburn, Florida, Washington and Clemson. A breakout season is expected.
Farrell’s take: Scarbrough was a beast out of high school, one of the most physically dominant players I’ve seen, and a guy who could have been a tight end or even a big wideout as well as a running back. Alternatively, put him on defense and he would have impressed. It’s no surprise he’s had to wait his turn at Alabama, but this could be a huge year for him. I remember seeing him at our first Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge as a young sophomore and was amazed at his size and versatility as he was playing wide receiver.