Three-Point Stance: Rankings, top returning QBs
Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell’s Three-Point Stance is here with more takes on the 2020 rankings, some prospects outside the top 50 who could have a bigger impact and starts a series on the top returning players in college football.
FACT OR FICTION: No one is recruiting better than Clemson
1. RANDOM RANKINGS THOUGHTS AS NSD NEARS
Here are some random thoughts on the 2020 rankings as we head to Signing Day.
... The 2020 Rivals250 has been updated for the last time and there are still plenty of thoughts on my mind. Let’s start with the player who isn’t in the Rivals250 who has the biggest ceiling and that’s Florida commitment Leonard Manuel. Who know whether Manuel will end up in this Florida class or go JUCO or end up somewhere else, but we do know he has elite talent. At 6-foot-5 and 200-plus pounds, Manuel is huge with long-striding speed and he can either box you out or sneak by you with his deceptive speed. But when it comes to off field question marks, he makes Zachary Evans look like a definitive decision-maker. I won’t get into all the question marks we have about Manuel but I can tell you this – there is no player in this class who has a bigger boom-or-bust factor. He’s the kind of player I could see having a very limited college career and still ending up in the NFL down the line as a free agent.
... Texas A&M signee Donell Harris would have been battling for the No. 1 overall ranking in the 2021 class if he didn’t re-qualify and that says volumes about his upside. Physically he needs to add weight and get much stronger, but in a couple of years he could be that elite hybrid edge rusher that the SEC covets. He’s an outstanding pass rusher and reminds me a bit of Kayvon Thibodeaux.
... I still love Tank Bigsby as a prospect and if he can stay healthy and learn to go north-south more often, he could be the next great back in the SEC. However, at this point prospects such as Kendall Milton and Marshawn Lloyd are more sure things at the SEC level. But if Bigsby ends up being the best of the group (including Evans, who will also likely end up in the SEC), I won’t be surprised.
... Clemson signee Trenton Simpson is going to be the best linebacker in this class, just wait. His closing speed is off the charts. I like Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell a lot but they are closer to their ceiling. Watch Simpson develop.
... The riskiest of the five-stars aside from Evans? Harrison Bailey who signed with the Vols. Not only is the quarterback position inherently risky when it comes to five-star development, but Bailey has been on the radar since middle school and might be close to his ceiling. As we know with a lot of college quarterbacks, a lot will depend on how much help he gets around him, so the Vols skill position recruiting will be key. He should have a very good offensive line to work with moving forward however. Tight end Darnell Washington is up there as well.
... Alabama is oddly being overlooked on the defensive side of the ball for what the Crimson Tide have landed in 2020. There are some potential freaks, and I mean freaks, on that side of the ball for Nick Saban. We all know how much I love defensive tackle Timothy Smith, but linebacker Drew Sanders was also very close to five-star status as well. Pair Sanders with Chris Braswell, Demouy Kennedy and William Anderson as the hybrid guy and you have a wrecking crew up front for ‘Bama.
2. PROSPECTS THAT COULD MAKE US LOOK BAD
Here are a few prospects outside of our top 50 that could end up making us look bad.
QB CJ Stroud – Let’s start at No. 51 right? The Ohio State signee has a chance to be the next great one in Columbus and, of all the quarterbacks in this class, he’s probably improved the most over the last two years. Jack Miller is excellent competition in the same class and we know one will end up in the transfer portal, but I like Stroud as the guy to perhaps play like a five-star.
WR Joshua Downs – He won’t get as much attention at North Carolina, but with Sam Howell throwing him passes for the next two years at least, he will put up some monster numbers if he stays healthy. He can’t be covered out of the slot and has great hands. I expect him to be a stat-stuffer in the ACC.
RB Jase McClellan – I like McClellan a lot and it didn’t matter whether he went to Oklahoma or Alabama, he was destined to be an elite player in my book. He has OK size but what makes him special is his ability to work off contact in traffic and also make people miss in space. He should have a very good career at Alabama, even if he has to wait his turn.
DE Desmond Evans – Evans is skinny and doesn’t have a huge frame to fill out, but he will get bigger and stronger and he’s an elite and explosive athlete. He’s the kind of kid I see having great success in college and then being drafted as a big linebacker in the NFL. He’s just so athletic. That’s two North Carolina signees on here by the way. Keep that in mind.
RB Jalen Berger – There is a caveat to this. He has to sign with Wisconsin. Why? How dumb would I be to bet against a talented New Jersey running back having success as a Badger after Ron Dayne, Anthony Davis, Corey Clement and now Jonathan Taylor? Let’s just keep an eye on this one.
3. TOP RETURNING QUARTERBACKS
Today I’m starting a series that looks at the top returning college football players at each position. Here’s my top 10 at quarterback.
1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson – The best player in college football next season? Yep. The Heisman winner? Probably. Lawrence, despite a poor game against LSU in the national title game, should have a monster season next year.
2. Justin Fields, Ohio State – Fields is a very close second here and if Lawrence doesn’t win the Heisman then Fields should. He had an amazing first year at Ohio State and there’s no reason to think he won’t be as good or better next season.
3. Sam Howell, North Carolina – Howell put up amazing numbers as a freshman last season and started to get the notice he deserves near the end of the year. He looks like a special player and could take the Tar Heels to the division title next season with some added weapons.
4. Sam Ehlinger, Texas – Is this a little high for the returning Texas starter? Some might think so after he disappointed down the stretch, but I expect a really good year from him next year as the Longhorns continue to add pieces around him.
5. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota – You may not think of Morgan as elite, but you should start paying more attention. He had a monster season last year and made a huge jump with accuracy and downfield touch.
6. Jamie Newman, Georgia – How can I put Newman ahead of some of the players below after watching Jake Fromm regress in the Georgia offense? Few have heard about this kid, but he’s an elite dual threat who can extend the play unlike Fromm and he will have weapons at his disposal. And you know Georgia will be opening up the offense a bit.
7. Brock Purdy, Iowa State – Purdy is behind Ehlinger as the best returning starter in the Big 12, but you could make a case for him to be top five here. He’s been solid since his freshman year despite a few ups and downs and he’s very reliable.
8. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M – Mond is beyond polarizing. He can look good against Alabama and Clemson one year and not so good the next and he puts up most of his stats against inferior opponents. However, you can’t argue with the numbers as he accounted for 20 touchdowns in the air and eight more on the ground.
9. D’Eriq King, Miami – Two years ago King was one of the best quarterbacks in the country and killing Group of Five competition with his arm and his legs. The ACC isn’t that much of a step up in competition these days and he’ll put up big numbers. Of course, I thought the same thing about Tate Martell.
10. Kyle Trask, Florida – Trask had a very solid year for Florida, especially without a running game and an argument could be made he should be ahead of Mond and King. He’s efficient and doesn’t turn the ball over, but he’s not as athletic as Mond or King.