There are many great, underrated players heading into the 2016 college football season, here are the five that stand out the most.
Underrated players always seem to make a name for themselves by the end of a given season. They are the players that few is expected from and yet they become the biggest contributors to their teams, much like Chad Kelly for Ole Miss in 2015. Kelly was seen as talented but no one could have predicted that he would take the SEC by storm and become one of, if not the best player in the conference in just one season and has established himself as the best quarterback in the SEC and one of the top five in the entire country.
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Kelly was seen as talented but no one could have predicted that he would take the SEC by storm and become one of, if not the best player in the conference in just one season and has established himself as the best quarterback in the SEC and one of the top five in the entire country.
Then there are the players that achieved stardom and yet they are still relatively overlooked in favor of other players in the college football world.
These players come from all sorts of teams whether they be perennial underdogs, conference contending teams or even national championship contending teams. There is always a player that flys below the radar only to make waves and absolutely blow up on a national scale.
So who will be the next Chad Kelly? Who will make waves in college football and be the leader that leads their respective team to a bowl or even to a championship run in 2016? This list is comprised of the top 5 players that we believe are the most underrated, but will also be known commodities to everyone within the realm of college football by the end of the 2016 season.
Nov 29, 2014; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs wide receiver Fred Ross (8) carries the ball as Mississippi Rebels defensive end Marquis Haynes (27) defends during the game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Rebels won 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports
DE, Ole Miss
Haynes has been known commodity for Ole Miss for the past 2 years. Haynes has a chance to make name for himself on the national stage in the opener against Florida State on Labor Day.
Haynes is a speed edge rusher for the Rebel defense and has made a living in the opponents backfield ever since his freshman year. He has a total of 17.5 sacks in his career, including a team-high 10 sacks in 2015.
He displayed his speed most prominently in Ole Miss’ game against LSU in 2015, as Haynes was effective in sealing the edge against LSU running back Leonard Fournette. Haynes will be called upon to do just that again against Florida State’s Dalvin Cook.
Haynes could go from underrated player to college football star in a matter of 60 minutes. If Haynes can help the Rebels stop Dalvin Cook and sack Deondre Francois, Haynes will become a known name to everyone in college football. Look out for the Rebel defensive lineman as he could be poised for an exceptional junior season in 2016.
Sep 19, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores running back Ralph Webb (7) rushes for a touchdown against the Austin Peay Governors during the first half at Vanderbilt Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
If you follow the SEC, then you know about Vanderbilt running back, Ralph Webb. If you don’t follow the SEC, then Webb is the exact definition of underrated player and allow me to introduce him to you.
Webb was the heart, soul, body, etc, of the Vanderbilt offense in 2015. He rushed for 1,152 yards and five touchdowns in the 2015 season where he was just about all there was for the Vanderbilt offense and yet teams still could not stop him.
He is poised to have a breakout junior year and will be the main catalyst for the Vanderbilt offense once again as the Commodores attempt to make it to their first bowl game since 2013. Webb will have a little more help in the form of a stable quarterback in Kyle Shurmur and Vanderbilt has a strong defense.
Without Webb, Vanderbilt most likely wouldn’t be projected to be as good a team as they are in 2016. Webb Provides the offense with a change of pace player that can handle 20+ carries a game and still run by defenders. Webb is also sneaky in catching passes out of the backfield.
If Vanderbilt pulls of an upset over one of their fellow SEC teams in 2016, you can bet that the main reason for the upset will be Ralph Webb.
Nov 28, 2015; Laramie, WY, USA; Wyoming Cowboys running back Brian Hill (8) runs against the UNLV Rebels during the fourth quarter at War Memorial Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Rebels 35-28. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports
Much like Ralph Webb, Wyoming’s Brian Hill is one of the best running backs you probably have never heard of.
On a team lacking much in the way of explosive talent, Hill leads the way for the Cowboy offense and is one of the best running backs in the Mountain West. Hill rushed for 1,631 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2015. Hill’s longest rush of the year was a 72 yard gain against UNLV, in which he also broke the Wyoming single-season rushing record.
Hill is a powerful back, capable of running over defenders and then able to burst away from other defenders for extra yardage. Brian Hill is also only a junior and will have one more season to display his athletic abilities if he chooses, if not he’ll be in the NFL.
While Wyoming is not a football powerhouse and they certainly aren’t a conference contender, with Hill they have a playmaker who instantly makes their team better and provides the Cowboys with a legitimate threat on the offense who can carry the team to victory by himself.
If Wyoming does have a good season and makes it to a bowl game it will be on the legs of Brian Hill.
Nov 27, 2015; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Royce Freeman (21) runs the ball into the red zone in the first quarter against the Oregon State Beavers at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
Just like his own team, Royce Freeman finds himself very underrated for the upcoming season.
Freeman is every bit as good as Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, and Christian McCaffrey. Freeman only rushed for 1,738 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2015 and led his team to within one game of a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
So why is there not more talk surrounding the season that Freeman is going to put up in 2016? Mostly because of the lack of faith that people seem to have in Oregon as a team, in particular their defense.
Freeman can do it all at running back and if Oregon does fix their problems, you can bet that Freeman will be in contention for the Heisman at season’s end.
Royce Freeman not only plays on a team that will compete for its conference but he also faces teams that will improve his resume in Stanford, Washington and USC. Beating those teams and having solid performances in those games will give Freeman the hype he needs for a Heisman campaign.
Expect Freeman to be the leader of the offense, especially with transfer quarterback Dakota Prukop easing into the riggers of FBS football. With Freeman’s talent, barring injury, Oregon will have a chance to win the Pac-12 and get back to the top five in the polls.
Oct 31, 2015; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) throws a pass against the Stanford Cardinal during the first half at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
QB, Washington State
Luke Falk is not only the most underrated quarterback in the Pac-12 or even in the nation. He is the most underrated overall player in the entire country.
Falk has put up incredible numbers in his time as the starter at Washington State. Sure, being in Mike Leach’s system doesn’t hurt, but Falk has the best mechanics and intangibles that Leach has ever had in a quarterback in his career. Falk is even seen as a legitimate NFL prospect, which you never hear of for a Mike Leach quarterback.
He has a cannon for an arm and does not make bad decisions, he has 51 career touchdown passes compared to only 15 career interceptions. At WSU, Falk is surrounded by talented players, but not near the same amount of talent as other Pac-12 teams such as Oregon, Stanford or USC.
Improvement has been the consistent theme in Falk’s career from his freshman and sophomore seasons. His junior year should be no different and Falk has a chance to compete for All-American status with a great year in 2016.
Falk has the talent to be one of the better players in the entire country and will gain attention from the NFL. That is why he finds himself at the top of our list of most underrated players.