College Football Players To Watch in 2019 - Part II
Following on from our piece earlier in the week, here is our second installment of 25 players to watch during the 2019 college football season. In lieu of the preseason AP Poll not being released until Monday we are using the final Top 25 from last year. Without further ado, let’s get the ball rolling.
16. Texas A&M - Kellen Mond (Quarterback)
A ten year, $75 million contract brings its own set of expectations. That’s what Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher has to deal with going into his second year in College Station. The Aggies went all out to get Fisher and in return they expect to become a contender once more. Kevin Sumlin’s tenure had run stale since it’s peak when Johnny ‘Football’ Manziel had led them to a top 5 ranking in 2014. The aim is a return to those heady days, Fisher being paid almost as much as the guy College Football constantly chases, Alabama’s Nick Saban.
Fisher will get time, an allowance to get his recruits into the system. For now though he must depend on junior QB Kellen Mond to help them build on a solid start last year. James Foster, a four star recruit in 2018 will be keen to push Mond by next year making 2019 a vital one for the current incumbent.
Mond has the frame and athleticism that NFL teams will love but he must improve his consistency. He has ample arm talent to make all the throws along with the vision and smarts to escape the pocket for a gain. However, his completion percentage in two seasons has not been above 60%, highlighting his struggles. Fisher has worked wonders with QBs in the past, a good season in the right system could right that and propel Mond into the draft conversation come the fall.
15. Syracuse - Alton Robinson (Defensive End)
Syracuse can likely relate to the woes of the New England Patriots’ AFC East foes. Like the Dolphins, Bills and Jets, the Orange can count themselves unlucky to be in the same division as Clemson. Dabo Swinney is rapidly creating a dynasty and in turn it’s unlikely Syracuse will see a Conference Championship for the foreseeable. Despite that, they were only 41 seconds from overturning the eventual National Champions in September last year.
Despite Eric Dungey and the offense getting most of the plaudits, Syracuse had two edge rushers both achieving double digit sacks. Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson combined for 20 sacks but it is Robinson’s 3 forced fumbles and 2 recoveries that give him the edge.
Robinson is a true edge rusher. He uses his speed, dip and ability to stay low to get to the QB. He can often be seen navigating around the outside shoulder of the tackle but his acceleration and long arms make it difficult for opposition quarterbacks to escape. NFL teams will want to see him mix in some wins through power but Syracuse’s bookend rushers will go some way to negating their offseason losses.
14. Michigan - Khaleke Hudson (Linebacker)
Despite a seemingly endless production line of NFL talent Michigan continually come up short. Jim Harbaugh was seen as the man to finally end the reign of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big 10 but it hasn’t been the case. Even with Ole Miss transfer QB Shea Patterson, Michigan remain on the outside looking in.
One area the Wolverines have not been short in was defensive playmakers. The 2019 NFL Draft robbed them of plenty of starters. Defensive ends Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary departed along with do-it-all LB Devin Bush. It means that the defense faces a rebuild and a big part of that will be senior linebacker Khaleke Hudson.
Hudson arrived at Ann Arbor as a safety. After a limited role as a freshman he burst onto the scene in year 2, recording 7.5 sacks and two interceptions. His role in Michigan’s defense now is simply described as the ‘Viper’. A do-it-all swiss army knife role that forces offenses to account for his ability to rush the passer as much as his coverage. After a down year in 2018, Hudson will look to recreate the play of Michigan alum Jabrill Peppers who, in a similar role, managed to convince the NFL he was worth a 1st round selection.
13. Washington - Trey Adams (Offensive Tackle)
In the end there was a feeling that Jake Browning might have been holding back the Washington Huskies. With plenty of talent in his supporting cast Browning could never quite shake the tag of game manager. His limitations meaning the offense could never fully explode. The hope is Georgia transfer Jacob Eason could change that.
One thing Eason will need if he is to fulfil his 5 star promise is plenty of protection. On paper, Trey Adams seems like the ideal left tackle for the job. At 6’8 and 314lbs Adams has been at the top of pre-season draft boards ever since he was draft eligible but heading into his fifth and final year, the buzz is waning.
It feels like last chance saloon for Adams in 2019. His final shot to show the NFL he can avoid injury and live up to his undoubted ability. An ACL tear in 2017 and back problems in 2018 have robbed him of almost two full seasons. If Adams remains unscathed then expect him to display his dominance. However, the injury doubts may prevent him from being a high pick come draft day.
12. Kentucky - Terry Wilson (Quarterback)
Kentucky epitomised old school SEC values in 2018. A dominant power run game headlined by Benny Snell and an aggressive ball-hawking defense. Snell as well as the entire Wildcats secondary have since departed leaving plenty of question marks in Lexington. One returning player that will hope to spearhead the program will be QB Terry Wilson.
Called into action as a sophomore Wilson was as much a threat with his feet as he was with his passing. Despite a completion percentage over 60, question marks remain over Wilson’s ability to control the offense without the help of Snell. One thing Wilson is not short of is entertainment value. Turn on the tape and you see a big arm, fantastic movement skills and speed to make breakaways into TDs.
Head coach Mark Stoops believes Wilson can step up and will look to put more on the juniors plate this time around. A full offseason as the guaranteed starter should help his development. Add to that the need to find a replacement for Benny Snell’s rushing production could see Wilson post breakout numbers.
11. Central Florida - Richie Grant (Safety)
Head Coach Josh Heupel had little problem following on in Scott Frost’s footsteps at Central Florida. Once again the Knights went unbeaten through the regular season and had the devastating injury to QB Makenzie Milton not taken the wind out of their sails a bowl victory may have followed.
While Milton led the offense it was safety Ritchie Grant taking the plaudits on defense. Grant led the side with 108 total tackles and 6 interceptions, showing how much of a threat he could be as a roaming safety.
Isaiah Simmons and Grant Delpit will be at the head of the queue come draft day at a competitive position. Grant doesn’t compare to those two as an athlete and therefore faces a battle to be a high draft pick. However, if he continues to force turnovers and highlight his playmaking ability he will surely stick somewhere at the next level.
10. Washington State - Dezmon Patmon (Wide Receiver)
Mike Leach is one of the most fun and interesting coaches in college football. There’s always plenty of laughs and jokes around the Cougars program under his stewardship. Last year though, things got serious. In a weak Pac-12 a single loss to USC meant that they suddenly became underdogs to make the playoffs. Only a tough loss to Washington put a stop to the entertainment that QB Gardner Minshew and Leach had given the nation.
Minshew moves on and in comes Eastern Washington transfer Gage Gubrud. In the air raid offense there will be no easing in for Gubrud. In fact, it will be a baptism of fire and he will depend upon his receivers to help continue the offense’s success.
Leading receiver in 2018 was Dezmon Patmon with 816 yards and 5 TDs. Patmon has prototypical size measuring in at 6’4, 208lbs. He is a physical deep threat who will benefit from Gubrud’s ability to push the ball down the field. Despite a bevvy of options at receiver if the pair hit a groove then Patmon will certainly turn some heads.
9. Texas - Caden Sterns (Safety)
Texas are back. Sort of. Well, for once there is certainly a glimmer that the 2005 National Championship could be repeated. The main reason for that is Tom Herman. Herman took the reigns ahead of the 2017 season and his first recruiting class is starting to blossom.
Heading into year 3, these are Herman’s recruits, his vision of Longhorn football. The jewel in his crown? Well that’s Caden Sterns. Sterns came to Texas as a five star recruit, an in-state capture from Steele High School, he was the number one safety in the cycle.
Sterns did not disappoint in his freshman year. He contributed 62 tackles, 1 sack, 4 interceptions and a blocked kick. An elite athlete he buzzes around the field, roaming the secondary with the ability to pick off signal callers at will. At 6’1 he also has the size to be a force coming downhill, he can often be found marauding in the backfield. If Sterns turns in another stellar year Texas could be a serious contender and the second year safety could enter the 2021 draft cycle as a top 10 prospect.
formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at stripehype.c