Ranking the Top 100 college football players for the 2019 season, headlines by leading Heisman Trophy contenders, Tua Tagovailoa, Trevor Lawrence and Jonathan Taylor.
Despite a disappointing 2-10 record in Chad Morris’ first season as Arkansas head football coach, the Razorbacks have a talented foundation to build upon. Senior defensive lineman McTelvin Agim, who is versatile, athletic and strong enough to play inside or outside, is an All-SEC candidate and future pro. Agim made 45 total tackles in 2018, as well as 10.0 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles. He was also credited with 11 quarterback hurries.
Linebacker is the biggest question mark on the Florida defense, but the Gators know the middle is in good hands with veteran David Reese II. Reese has already made 25 starts, and the 77 tackles he made in 2018 (which ranked second on the squad) are the most among returnees.
Minnesota could make a run at the Big Ten West championship in 2019, and if it does, highly-rated defensive players like linebacker Thomas Barber are likely to lead the way. Barber, who is one of three 100-rated players on the Golden Gophers defense, made 81 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks as a junior – a slight dip from his breakout sophomore performance.
Michigan State underperformed expectations in 2018, but the defense certainly wasn’t to blame. Defensive lineman Raequan Williams, who is one of three 100-rated players on the Spartans defense this season, contributed 53 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and five pass breakups to the unit.
Opinions vary on how good Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson truly is, but he put up seven 300-yard passing performances in just 10 games at Ole Miss before transferring. With new coordinator Josh Gattis expected to let Patterson air it out more in 2019, the former five-star recruit could put up similar numbers, and potentially make a run at the Heisman Trophy if the Wolverines click in the new system.
And speaking of new offensive systems, though USC threw the football a lot in 2018, the Trojans should be more dangerous this season after hiring Air Rad offensive coordinator Graham Harrell from North Texas. Top-rated Trojans receiver Michael Pittman, who averaged 18.5 yards per catch and led the team with 758 yards last season, could put up huge numbers alongside future 100-rated players like QB J.T. Daniels (92.27) and Amon-Ra St. Brown (98.25).
This time last year, we would have expected Florida State running back Cam Akers to land in the top 10 on this list. After all, he ran for 1,025 yards and seven touchdowns while splitting carries as a true freshman in 2017. Though he has Heisman potential, Akers’ injury-plagued 2018 knocked him down a few dozen spots. But he can climb quickly.
The best player in the Sun Belt plays for Texas State? While South Alabama defensive back Jalen Thompson is also a 100-rated player, and Georgia Southern DBs Monquavion Brinson (99.71) and Kindle Vildor (99.13) will get there soon, Bobcats senior linebacker Bryan London II has the edge for now thanks in large part to 341 career tackles, 17 of which occurred behind the line of scrimmage.
Average college football fans may finally learn about Ty Tyler, the Marshall transfer who piled up 11 Production Points for the Thundering Herd in 2018, now that he’s set to play in the ACC. Tyler tied for fourth in Conference USA with nine sacks last season, while also recording 10.0 tackles for loss and 15 run stuffs. Recently committed to new Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield, Tyler’s pass-rushing ability (he has been credited with 50 career quarterback hurries) should help the Cardinals be much more competitive in 2019.
Phil Steele ranked the Cal secondary No. 2 in the nation and first in the Pac-12 in the Top Individual Units of his 2019 preseason magazine. The Bears also come in first in the conference according to CFB Winning Edge’s Position & Unit Rankings, ninth in the country. Safety Jaylinn Hawkins, who led the squad with six interceptions in 2018, is a big reason why.