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Friday, August 23, 2019

Each top 25 college football team’s most important player

Tua Tagovailoa

The college football season is upon us, which should have fans pumped across the country. Though it will take a while to get a sense for the best 25 teams in the country, we do have our preseason top 25 entering the first full slate of games. Those teams will be relying on some key players all season. Here is a look at the most important player for each of the preseason’s top 25 teams.

1) Alabama — Tua Tagovailoa, QB

After taking over the second half of the national championship game, Tagovailoa showed what he can do. He is mobile, fearless, and has a big arm. He can give Alabama the kind of big-play ability at quarterback they haven’t seen for a while — possibly ever. He has no shortage of talent around him, much of it NFL-level, and he has already demonstrated skill and poise in the most pressure-filled situation. Expect him to have a solid year at minimum.

2) Clemson — Clelin Ferrell, DE

You could pick any number of guys on the Clemson defensive front, but Ferrell, who probably could’ve gone pro, is a clear standout. He’s poised to improve on a season that saw him collect 9.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. A redshirt junior, Ferrell figures to terrorize ACC offenses all season long along with his talented teammates. The team’s defensive front will be a major force.

3) Ohio State — Dwayne Haskins, QB

The Buckeyes have more talented players, but their championship aspirations will largely come down to whether Haskins is ready to take the wheel. He certainly showed he was when he stepped in for an injured J.T. Barrett against Michigan last season to lead the squad to comeback win. Even though he’s only a sophomore, he looks like he could ultimately become an elite quarterback before leaving Columbus.

4) Georgia — Jake Fromm, QB

Fromm led Georgia to the national title game as a freshman last season, but with talented newcomer Justin Fields breathing down his neck, he cannot afford to ease off even a little bit. He is entering the year as the starter. If he keeps the job, 3,000 yards is well within the realm of possibilities. The fact that he’ll have to be sharp in order to hold off Fields should only work in Georgia’s favor.

5) Oklahoma — Rodney Anderson, RB

Kyler Murray will take over as the starting quarterback for the Sooners, and he has a ready-made weapon in Anderson to make his task easier. Once the Sooners fully embraced Anderson as lead back last year, he erupted, going for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns in his last eight games, including a 201-yard performance in the playoff against Georgia. There will be no questions about Anderson’s role this season — he’s the man in the backfield.

6) Washington — Jake Browning, QB

The steady hand behind so much of Washington’s success last season, Browning’s touchdowns took a big hit in 2017. There’s so much talent around him, however, that he should see his numbers climb back up. We know Browning has the potential to be a 3,000 yard, 30-touchdown quarterback. A season like that would do a lot to get the Huskies into the playoff conversation.

7) Wisconsin — Jonathan Taylor, RB

Taylor came in as a freshman and promptly put up 2,072 yards from scrimmage. Amazingly, he still has room to improve. Taylor could be regarded as more of a steady rusher than a big-play guy, though he does have it in him. He’s a huge weapon for Wisconsin, complemented with a good passing game, too. If he builds upon his excellent freshman season, Ron Dayne’s career records may be on notice.

8) Miami — Ahmmon Richards, WR

Malik Rosier may be the Hurricanes’ starting quarterback entering the season, but he can be somewhat shaky The good news is he’ll have a great weapon to throw to in Richards. Richards was a star freshman in 2016, posting 934 receiving yards and three touchdowns. A knee injury limited his effectiveness in last season’s 10-3 campaign as he only played in seven games. Now healthy, he has a chance to star and give Rosier a great target.

9) Penn State — Trace McSorley, QB

The Nittany Lions are expecting a big year out of McSorley, and they definitely need one with running back Saquon Barkley now in the NFL. Fortunately, he looks up to the task. He has two straight 3,000-yard seasons and has fallen just short of 30 touchdowns in both of them. With the offense firmly on his shoulders now, he might get there this year.

10) Auburn — Kam Martin, RB

Jarrett Stidham and the receivers should produce plenty this season, so the onus will fall on Martin to offer another dimension in the ground game. Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway both departed to open the door to Martin, who averaged 6.1 yards per carry last season in limited duty. He’ll be expected to carry the load this year. If he produces, Auburn will boast one of the most high-powered offenses in the nation.

11) Notre Dame — Brandon Wimbush, QB

For the Fighting Irish to fulfill the playoff ambitions they doubtlessly have, Wimbush must become a better, more consistent passer with some big play ability. He was good for only 1,870 yards last season. And while 16 touchdowns and six interceptions wasn’t bad, there’s a need for more there. If Wimbush improves, the Irish are playoff contenders. Keep in mind, the junior is still a threat on the ground.

12) Michigan State — Brian Lewerke, QB

The Spartans’ very quick turnaround and return to relevance had a lot to do with Lewerke, who threw for 2,793 yards and 20 touchdowns. He took care of the ball and made big plays when the offense needed him to. With Michigan State’s run game looking rather toothless, the offense depends on Lewerke to move them, but he has been up to the challenge.

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