With the 2015 season quickly approach, it’s time to take a look at the college football breakout players for this year. You might already know these players, but they’re about to make a ton of national noise as the big-time stars.
Top Breakout Players Of 2015
1. QB Jeremy Johnson, Jr. Auburn
Call him Nick Newton. He’s not as quick or explosive running the ball as Nick Marshall was, and he’s not as talented as Cam Newton, but he’s a big, skilled runner with great passing upside and the ability to be a special quarterback in the Auburn system – at least that’s the hope. Marshall was an underappreciated all-around quarterback by just about everyone outside of the greater Auburn metropolitan area. An ultra-efficient passer as well as a wizard for the Gus Malzahn attack, he was a Heisman-caliber talent without the Heisman-caliber attention – even in so many high-profile games. Johnson might be bigger physically, but he has massive shoes to fill.
– 2015 Auburn Preview
2. DT Maliek Collins, Jr. Nebraska
Randy Gregory got all of the headlines, but Collins had every bit as good a season up front – he just did it in a different way. A dangerous interior pass rusher and a strong run stopper, he had his bad moments – like everyone else on the Husker D did against Wisconsin – but combining with Vincent Valentine at tackle, Collins should have another all-star season as the do-it-all producer who’ll be the new star of the line.
– 2015 Nebraska Preview
3. RB Corey Clement, Jr. Wisconsin
It really is a case of the Next Back Up being good enough to produce more big numbers. The lineage of Wisconsin running backs go on and on and on, and Clement has the talent to be yet another big producer. While he might not be Melvin Gordon, he has good size, power and toughness to do what Wisconsin running backs do.
– 2015 Wisconsin Preview
4. DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Sr. Oklahoma State
It’s not like he was a one-man gang up front for the Cowboy defensive line, but he came up with an all-star season as the star pass rusher for a line that was shaky at best overall. Very big, very active, and very tough against the run, he was explosive as well as consistent. With the OSU front for a bit more experienced and with a few emerging talents expected to shine through, the pressure should be taken off of Ogbah a bit. Expect him to blow up even bigger.
– 2015 Oklahoma State Preview
5. QB Mike Bercovici, Jr. Arizona State
A Taylor Kelly injury provided a sneak peek of Bercovici last fall. This season, the curtain gets pulled all the way back. Bercovici showed enough in three starts to believe he’d be in the lineup for more than 100 FBS programs. He possesses a rifle, which he’ll use to fit the ball into tight windows and stretch the field. And the 6-1, 200-pound Bercovici is tough, staring down pressure before unleashing a dart. He ended up completing 115-of-186 throws for 1,445 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions in his final season as a part-timer.
– 2015 Arizona State Preview
6. DT A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
It’s Alabama, so there aren’t really any wrong answers in the Best Defensive Player argument. LB Reggie Ragland, linemen Jarran Reed and Jonathan Allen, and CB Cyrus Jones should all be in the mix for all-star honors, but it’s Robinson who’ll grow into the team’s newest star and provide the anchor for the run defense. Strong and quick, he’s the prototype nose tackle, and the pro guys already know all about him.
– 2015 Alabama Preview
7. RB Tarean Folston, Notre Dame
Greg Bryant was a very good, very tough back who was going to be a huge part of the running game throughout the year before getting suspended, and now Folston is the main man with the hands to catch 18 passes and enough punch to handle the ball 20 times or more a game with 889 yards and six touchdowns on the year. At 5-10 and 214 pounds, the Florida native has good size to go along with excellent quickness and vision, finishing off runs well. He came up with four 100-yard games in a five date span, and while he’ll be a part of a rotation, he’ll be the main man for the ground game.
– 2015 Notre Dame Preview
8. TE Hunter Henry, Arkansas
As Bret Bielema was building the talent level up, he didn’t do much early on with the wide receivers. However, he landed a stud of a tight end in Henry, a 6-5, 250-pound receiver who runs great routes, has excellent hands, and can pop a bit for the ground game. He looks and plays up to the NFL part with starting next-level skills, but it would be nice if he could get the ball his way a bit more. He only caught 37 passes for 513 yards and two touchdowns, but double that – at least – in a better passing attack. He can stretch the field, can run midrange routes, and knows how to move the chains. He looks and plays the part.
– 2015 Arkansas Preview
9. QB Seth Russell, Baylor
Next. The 6-3, 215-pounder has waited his turn, and now he’ll be the one who gets to put up massive numbers after completing 57% of his throws for 804 yards and eight scores with a pick, and running for 185 yards and three touchdowns when he got his chances. He stepped in early for a dinged up Bryce Petty to hit up Northwestern State for 438 yards and five scores, but now it’s his gig. The combination of big young bombers Chris Johnson and Jarrett Stidham are going to keep pushing, but Russell has the time in the system and the skills to be fantastic. He might not be RGIII running the ball, but he has wide receiver speed and special athleticism to go along with the arm and passing ability.
– 2015 Baylor Preview
10. RB Jon Hilliman, Boston College
Steve Addazio has found the big back that his offense will be built upon. And it didn’t take very long either. Just a year after the graduation of 2,000-yard rusher Andre Williams, Hilliman stepped into the spotlight as a true freshman out of St. Peters (N.J.) Prep. He’s a 6-0, 215-pound downhill thumper, the likes of which fits the Boston College personality to a tee. Hilliman also displayed good quickness and agility in his debut, leading the BC backs with 860 yards and 13 touchdowns on 210 bone-jarring carries.
– 2015 Boston College Preview
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