football Edit

Week 3: College football's breakout stars

Mark Pszonak contributed to this report

Week three of the college football season is in the books and with it came many standout performances. Here are three guys who had what could be breakout weeks for them as they take the next step in their development.

MORE BREAKOUT STARS: Week 1 | Week 2

Kelly Bryant
Kelly Bryant (AP Images)

The skinny: Bryant named a top five of Clemson, Florida, NC State, Virginia and Virginia Tech in early April before committing to the Tigers a couple of weeks later. After losing Deshaun Watson to the NFL, Tigers’ fans and coaches were all unsure about the quarterback position in Death Valley this fall. Bryant has quickly eased everyone’s concern after winning the starting job during camp. Bryant had his best game of the early season against Lamar Jackson and Louisville on Saturday night, passing for 316 yards and scoring three total touchdowns. The former four-star prospect has the Tigers positioned for another national championship run in 2017.

Farrell’s take: Bryant was raw as a quarterback in high school but there was no question about his athleticism. In fact, many coaches and one former recruiting analyst (you know who you are) all felt Bryant would be better off as a tight end in the long run. Now it appears his raw ability has been developed nicely, something that is becoming common at Clemson. He had a great week at the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, only to throw two picks out of three passes in the game. That’s kind of how it went with Bryant’s evals, very up and down. But that didn’t stop us from keeping him as a four-star. He just had too much versatility to rank lower.

Riley Ferguson
Riley Ferguson (AP Images)

The skinny: Ferguson initially committed and signed with Tennessee in 2013 before deciding to leave the program in 2014. He played one season at Coffeyville Junior College in Kansas before committing to Memphis over offers from Iowa State, Temple and Arkansas State. Ferguson enjoyed a big 2016 season with 3,698 yards and 32 touchdowns. Despite his impressive season last fall, his performance slid under many people’s radars. That is unlikely to happen this season after his performance against UCLA where he passed for 398 yards and six touchdowns and led the Tigers to a huge victory.

Farrell’s take: It seems like 100 years ago when I began scouting Ferguson, who ended up as a high three-star after much debate. He flashed four-star talent at times and always showed toughness, but he also made too many mistakes to push much higher in the rankings. I remember seeing him as a sophomore and coming away impressed with his arm strength and leadership and shaking my head at some of his accuracy issues. He was also a three-star out of JUCO after he transferred but now, all these years after his initial evaluation, he’s putting it all together.

Aeris Williams
Aeris Williams (AP Images)

The skinny: Williams committed to Mississippi State over Ole Miss, Florida State and Wisconsin in late July. After redshirting in 2014, Williams earned increased playing time during the last two seasons. He finished 2016 strong by rushing for 255 yards and two touchdowns during the last two games of the season, including 191 yards and two touchdowns against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. He has continued his high level of play in the early stages of this season, including 146 yards on 23 carries during the Bulldogs' surprisingly dominant 37-7 victory over LSU. Most impressive for Williams is that he is averaging 7.0 yards per carry through three games.

Farrell’s take: Williams was a high three-star prospect who had very good size, ran with leverage and was a capable and willing blocker, but just never had that wow factor to push him any higher. He was considered better than solid but less than spectacular. As our No. 33 running back in the country and a top 10 player in the state of Mississippi in 2014, we expected him to be a high-level contributor before too long and this timetable is about right for him.