College football’s top 100 players for 2022


After an offseason spent constantly ranking and reranking college football players on NIL deals and transfer portal moves, the impending kickoff of actual football games means that the time has come to rank players on their actual football abilities. Not by unit, conference or where they might or might not be selected in future NFL drafts, but rather a good, old-fashioned 1-to-100 stacking of who is the best at playing football, regardless of position.

Does having a Heisman Trophy at the house mean Bryce Young should automatically stiff-arm the competition? What about all those dudes trying to tackle the Bama QB this fall? Read ahead and prepare to be impressed. Or, if you’re a ball carrier being chased by Will Anderson, distressed.

Methodology: Voters were presented with a series of one-on-one votes. For example, “Who will be better in 2022: Jaxon Smith-Njigba or Caleb Williams?” Think of it as an Oklahoma Drill of statistical reasoning. More than 11,000 votes later, these were the results.

— Ryan McGee

Jump to: 1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50
51-60 | 61-70 | 71-80 | 81-90 | 91-100


OLB, Alabama, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 101 tackles (57 solo), 17.5 sacks
Last year’s ranking: 10

Last season’s Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner could be next year’s No. 1 overall draft pick. The former Freshman of the Year emerged as one of the best players in college football as a sophomore, leading the country in sacks (17.5) and tackles for loss (34.5).


QB, Alabama, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 4,872 yards, 47 TDs
Last year’s ranking: 21

The Southern California native and former five-star prospect more than lived up to the hype stepping in for Mac Jones in his first season as a starter last season. Not only did he win the Heisman Trophy thanks to a school-record 47 total touchdowns, he also set an Alabama single-season mark for passing yards with 4,872.


QB, Ohio State, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 4,435 yards, 44 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Stroud is the leader of what should be a high-powered offense at Ohio State. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist last season and coach Ryan Day says he has seen growth and maturity from his quarterback. If all goes as planned, Stroud very well could be back on the Heisman list once this season is over.


WR, Ohio State, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 1,606 yards, 9 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Smith-Njigba broke out last season, even with Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave on the roster. Smith-Njigba led the team with 1,606 receiving yards and had nine receiving touchdowns. Quarterback C.J. Stroud is returning and Smith-Njigba is going to be one of his main targets.


RB, Texas, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 1,127 yards, 11 TDs
Last year’s ranking: 14

Robinson has Heisman potential, running for 1,127 yards and averaging 5.8 yards per carry last season despite Texas’ offensive line issues and missing the final two games of last season after suffering an elbow injury. In what could be his final season in Austin, Robinson is primed for a huge year.


DT, Georgia, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 37 tackles (17 solo), 3 sacks
Last year’s ranking: NR

Georgia had three defensive linemen selected in the first round of the NFL draft, including No. 1 pick Travon Walker. Carter, a 310-pounder from Apopka, Florida, might end up being better than all of them. He averaged a tackle on 11.7% of snaps and led the team with 8.5 tackles for loss last season. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has him ranked as the fourth-best prospect for 2023.


RB, Ohio State, Sophomore
Notable 2021 stats:1,248 yards, 15 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

As a true freshman, Henderson ran for 1,272 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. He was sixth in yards per rush among all FBS running backs and was No. 12 in yards after first contact. With a year of experience, Henderson should be even better this season.


TE, Georgia, Sophomore
Notable 2021 stats: 882 yards, 13 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Bowers was arguably the best tight end in the country last season, as a true freshman. It’s hard to imagine what he might do in his second season with the Bulldogs if he stays healthy. He had 56 catches for 882 yards with a school-record 13 touchdown receptions in 2022. He figures to once again be quarterback Stetson Bennett’s favorite target.


WR, USC, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 1,593 yards, 17 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Addison was the addition who seemed to swing USC from being dangerous this coming season to potentially being a problem for teams beyond the Pac-12. Can a wide receiver add that much value? It’s hard to argue that he can’t given he was the best wideout in the country and is about to play in a better offense and with a better quarterback. One thing USC hasn’t lacked even during its down years is elite wide receiver talent — JuJu Smith-Schuster, Michael Pittman, Drake London. None of them, however, won a Biletnikoff like Addison just did.


QB, USC, Sophomore
Notable 2021 stats: 1,912 yards, 21 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

What Williams can do on the field is evident. But perhaps his biggest strength is the fact that the heightened hype around him doesn’t seem to make him uncomfortable. USC has been missing a player with — and this is meant as a compliment — this kind of irrational confidence. If his game matches it this season, he can single-handedly will this team to not just relevance, but success.


WR, LSU, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 509 yards, 9 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

A season-ending injury against Kentucky last October cut short a nine-game run dating to Boutte’s freshman season in which he scored in every game and racked up 13 touchdowns. While there was concern early on that he wouldn’t mesh with new coach Brian Kelly, the decision to award Boutte the ceremonial No. 7 jersey in July signifies what’s expected of arguably the most talented player on the roster.


RB, Kansas State, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 1,404 yards, 18 TDs
Last year’s ranking: 44

Vaughn is one of the most exciting backs in the country. In his sophomore season in 2021, he ran for just over 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns, adding 468 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He’s the most important player on Kansas State’s roster both from a talent perspective, and a lack of depth behind him.


DT, Clemson, Sophomore
Notable 2021 stats: 13 tackles (6 solo) 1.5 sacks in 4 games
Last year’s ranking: 11

We got a glimpse of what Bresee could do as ACC Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2020, when he had 33 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He was on his way to another big year as a sophomore, but he tore his ACL in the fourth game of the season and was out for the year. Still, he earned third-team All-ACC honors in a nod to his dominance over such a short stretch. He is back and healthy and figures to have his best year yet.


CB, Georgia, Sophomore
Notable 2021 stats: 34 tackles (26 solo), 2 INT
Last year’s ranking: NR

Ringo will forever be remembered by Bulldogs fans for his game-clinching pick-6 that put a bow on Georgia’s first national championship in 41 years. At 6-foot-2, Ringo is a tall cornerback with exceptionally long arms and good ball skills and speed. He had 34 tackles with eight pass breakups and two interceptions in 2021. If Ringo is more consistent this season, he might be one of the first cornerbacks off the board in the 2023 NFL draft.


RB, Syracuse, Sophomore
Notable 2021 stats: 1,496 yards, 12 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

At a school known for its running back tradition, Tucker broke the single-season school rushing record in 2021 with 1,496 yards — so that gives you all the context you need about why he absolutely had to be included on this list. Syracuse has also launched a Heisman campaign for Tucker called “PL34SED,” a nod to his jersey number and what he says after every game — that he is pleased with his performance.


TE, Notre Dame, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 840 yards, 7 TDs
Last year’s ranking: 47

Along with Georgia’s Brock Bowers, Mayer is a prime Mackey Award candidate in what should be his final college season. He has been dominant from the start, recording 113 receptions for 1,290 yards and nine touchdowns in his first two seasons. His presence will be huge for Notre Dame’s new starting quarterback, Tyler Buchner.


LB, Oregon, Sophomore
Notable 2021 stats: 114 tackles (53 solo), 4 sacks, 2 FF, 1 INT
Last year’s ranking: NR

After a season of 114 tackles, four sacks two forced fumbles and a whole lot of changes at Oregon, Sewell is the mainstay the Ducks badly need. With Dan Lanning — a defensive-minded head coach — stepping into the fold, Sewell is bound to build on last season’s success. Questions abound on the offensive side of the ball, so Oregon is going to need an encore from Sewell as the leader of the Ducks’ defense to make some noise this season. The good news? He’s plenty capable.


DE, Clemson, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 37 tackles (21 solo), 7 sacks
Last year’s ranking: 25

It’s possible the biggest obstacle to Murphy’s dominance at defensive end is that he has to share the wealth with so many other talented linemen at Clemson. Still, Murphy is the best of the bunch, finishing last season with seven sacks, 14 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and 12 runs stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage. Murphy is a future first-round pick anchoring a line that might have two or three of them.


QB, NC State, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 3,433 yards, 35 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Coach Dave Doeren describes Leary as the best quarterback in the country based on everything he has seen out of his quarterbacks over his NC State career. Last season, Leary threw for 3,433 yards and 35 touchdowns — setting a single-season school touchdown record. His .657 completion percentage ranks No. 3 in school history. Leary was selected as the media choice for preseason ACC Player of the Year.


RB, Alabama, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 746 yards, 4 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

There was a ton of buzz surrounding the former All-ACC running back and return specialist when he left Georgia Tech and entered the transfer portal in late November. Then he landed with Alabama, stepping in for third-round pick Brian Robinson Jr. He raised eyebrows right away in the spring game with a 73-yard touchdown run and won MVP.


QB, Wake Forest, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 4,228 yards, 39 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Hartman will miss the early part of the season while rehabbing from a non-football issue that required surgery in August. His absence will be felt by Wake Forest, as Hartman delivered arguably the best season in school history in 2021, accounting for 4,591 yards of total offense and 50 combined touchdowns. He’s just the 16th Power 5 QB in history to record 50 TDs in a season, a group that includes 11 first-round draft picks and eight Heisman Trophy winners.


C, Notre Dame, Senior
Notable career stat: Has never allowed a sack
Last year’s ranking: NR

The three-year starter and 2021 captain has not been responsible for a sack in his college career, a big reason why he ranks No. 2 on Mel Kiper Jr.’s list of draft-eligible centers for 2023. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Patterson will anchor one of the nation’s best lines, and should push to become Notre Dame’s first Rimington Trophy winner.


S, Alabama, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 86 tackles (50 solo), 3 INT
Last year’s ranking: NR

Star pass-rusher Will Anderson Jr. is the face of Alabama’s defense, but don’t sleep on Battle and the Crimson Tide’s loaded secondary. Mel Kiper Jr.’s third-ranked safety ahead of next year’s draft, Battle racked up 86 tackles and three interceptions as a junior last season.

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Jordan Battle gets up for the interception and returns it 40 yards for a pick-six.


OLB, Alabama, Sophomore
Notable 2021 stat: 30 tackles (14 solo), 8.5 sacks
Last year’s ranking: NR

The Freshman All-American appeared in all 15 games last season, but he came on like a freight train late, racking up 8.5 sacks over Alabama’s final seven games. Not only a gifted pass-rusher in his own right, Turner benefits the defense by keeping Will Anderson Jr. from facing double- and triple-team blockers every down.


QB, Miami, Sophomore
Notable 2021 stats: 2,931 yards, 25 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Van Dyke started last season as a backup quarterback as all eyes focused on D’Eriq King. But after King got hurt early in the season, Van Dyke stepped in and started the final nine games — earning ACC Rookie of the Year honors after throwing for 2,931 yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions. He ended 2021 with six straight 300-yard passing games and at least three touchdown passes, the first Power 5 quarterback to do so in a single season since LSU’s Joe Burrow in 2019.


WR, North Carolina, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 101 rec, 1,335 yards
Last year’s ranking: NR

For the bulk of the 2021 season, every defense the Tar Heels played knew where the ball was going. Downs was not just the No. 1 target, but often the only reliable pass catcher. And even with all that attention from defenders, he still caught 101 balls for 1,335 yards. While UNC will have a new QB for 2022, it also expects to have a better supporting cast for its star receiver, which could make Downs an even bigger weapon this year.


QB, Mississippi State, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 4,739 yards, 36 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

It’s hard to find a more underrated quarterback than Rogers. Maybe it’s because he plays at Mississippi State and is overshadowed by SEC powers Alabama and Georgia. Maybe it’s because he plays in Mike Leach’s unique Air Raid offense. But the numbers Rogers posted last season are undeniable, leading the conference in passing yards per game (364.5).


RB, Minnesota, Senior
Notable 2020 stats:1,078 yards, 15 TDs
Last year’s ranking: 55

Minnesota lost running backs Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving this offseason, so Ibrahim is going to be counted on even more than he already was. His season was cut short in 2021 when he injured his achilles in the season opener. Ibrahim is motivated to come back this season and once again lead the team in rush yards the way he did in 2020.


WR, Wake Forest, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 71 rec, 1,293 yards, 15 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Perry is one of just nine Power 5 WRs to post 70 catches, 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns in a season in the playoff era. The rest of the list includes six Biletnikoff winners, including Jordan Addison, and six first-round draft picks. Perry is in rarified air, but he also steps into a murkier situation in 2022, with QB Sam Hartman expected to miss a portion of the season.


LB, Army, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 44 tackles (34 solo), 15.5 sack, 4 FF
Last year’s ranking: NR

He was 6-6, 220 pounds as an unrated recruit from Missouri City, Texas. Three years later, he’s 6-7 and 260 and coming off of one of the most incredible breakout seasons you’ll ever see. Only Will Anderson Jr. topped his 15.5 sacks in 2021. What might he do as a senior?


DE, Notre Dame, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 52 tackles (38 solo), 11 sacks, 6 FF
Last year’s ranking: NR

Pass rush should be a strength for Notre Dame’s defense, and Foskey will lead the effort after recording team-highs in sacks (11) and tackles for loss (12.5) in 2021. Foskey was among the nation’s most disruptive defenders, tying for the FBS lead in forced fumbles (6) and tying for 11th in sacks per game (.85).


QB, Arkansas, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 2,676 yards, 31 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

One of the breakout stars a year ago in the SEC, Jefferson played the quarterback position with the mentality of a linebacker. He’s down from 250 to 240 pounds this season and should be even better in his second season as the starter. He was one of five FBS quarterbacks a year ago to total at least 20 touchdown passes with four or fewer interceptions and revels in running over defenders down on the goal line.

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Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson tells SEC Now’s Peter Burns that he’s mixed some of the playing style of Cam Newton into his game.


QB, Kentucky, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 2,826 yards, 24 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

After being used primarily as a runner at Penn State, Levis enters his second season at Kentucky projected to be one of the top quarterbacks taken in the 2023 NFL draft. He’s still a major threat to run the ball with his 6-3, 232-pound frame, but showed last season with his 2,827 passing yards and 24 touchdowns that he’s equally effective at beating teams with his strong right arm.


RB, Wisconsin, Sophomore
Notable 2021 stats: 1,268 yards, 12 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Allen didn’t break out for the Badgers until the fourth game of the season against Illinois. But once he caught fire, Allen became a serious threat for Wisconsin, finishing the season with 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman. Allen now has experience and is in position to improve on his numbers from last season.


QB, Coastal Carolina, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 2,873 yards, 27 TDs
Last year’s ranking: 31

In two seasons as the pilot of the Chanticleers, McCall has completed 71% of his passes for 5,361 yards, 53 touchdowns and only six interceptions. And he has rushed for 859 yards and 11 scores, too. He might be the most uniquely efficient college QB we’ve ever seen.


OT, Ohio State, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 4 pressures allowed in 440 pass-block snaps, 1 sack
Last year’s ranking: NR

Johnson played all 13 games last season at right guard, but with left tackle Thayer Munford gone, Johnson is going to be the new starting tackle for the Buckeyes. He had a good season at a new position in 2021, and moving over to his natural position should pan out to another excellent season.


S, Notre Dame, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 79 tackles (54 solo), 3 INT
Last year’s ranking: 62

A 2020 All-America selection at Northwestern, Joseph could be one of the most important transfers on defense in the past cycle. After six interceptions two seasons ago, his playmaking production dipped last fall, but he brings experience and talent to a Notre Dame secondary that will be tested right away against Ohio State.


LB, Clemson, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 65 tackles (41 solo), 6 sacks
Last year’s ranking: NR

Simpson emerged last season as the next premier linebacker at Clemson, finishing third on the team with 78 tackles, while ranking second on the team in tackles for loss (12) and sacks (six). A projected first-round pick in the 2023 NFL draft, coach Dabo Swinney described the 6-3, 240-pound Simpson this way as fall camp began: “He’s a freak, man,” Swinney said. “He is big, strong, fast and lean, and smart.”


LB, Arkansas, Senior
Notable 2021 stat: 125 tackles (45 solo)
Last year’s ranking: NR

The name is one of the best in college football, but Pool’s game is equally stellar. The 6-2, 232-pound linebacker is back for a fifth season and is a tackling machine for the Hogs. He has racked up 100 or more total tackles each of his past two seasons and has 349 for his career. A second-team All-SEC selection a year ago, Pool is the centerpiece of Barry Odom’s defense.


OLB, Georgia, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 55 tackles (31 solo), 3.5 sack, 3 FF
Last year’s ranking: NR

One of the few holdovers from last season’s record-setting defense, Smith has been largely overshadowed by former defensive line stars Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt and Walker. The No. 2 recruit in the 2019 class, according to ESPN Recruiting, Smith should have more of a spotlight this season. He had nine tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 56 tackles and three forced fumbles in 2021.


RB, Kentucky, Senior
Notable 2021 stats:1,379 yards, 9 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

The only question with Rodriguez is his status and whether or not he will miss any games after pleading guilty in July to a DUI charge. He has been one of the SEC’s most productive running backs each of the past two seasons and needs 1,134 yards to break Benny Snell’s school record of 3,873 career rushing yards. The 5-11, 224-pound Rodriguez has 26 career rushing touchdowns.


RB, Auburn, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 1,099 yards, 10 TDs
Last year’s ranking: 27

The list of great running backs at Auburn over the years seemingly goes on forever. Bigsby is looking to put together a third straight big season for the Tigers. He has speed and power and is coming off a 1,099-yard season as a sophomore. That’s after rushing for 834 yards as a true freshman (against an All-SEC schedule), the second most rushing yards for any FBS freshman in 2020.


OLB, LSU, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 54 tackles (31 solo), 7 sacks
Last year’s ranking: NR

The fact that Ojulari was selected to wear the coveted No. 18 jersey this season tells you what he means to the LSU team. It’s a tradition that has awarded the player who best exemplifies LSU football. The 6-3, 250-pound defensive end is one of the more explosive pass-rushers in the SEC. He finished with 11.5 tackles for loss, including seven sacks, last season.


QB, Georgia, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 2,862 yards, 29 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

For much of the past two seasons, some Georgia fans looked for every reason to bench the former walk-on. In the end, he silenced his critics by leading the Bulldogs to a national title. Bennett was offensive MVP in the CFP National Championship Game, completing 17 of 26 passes for 224 yards with two scores. With a full offseason as the starter under his belt, and a healthier and deeper receiver corps coming back, he might be better in 2022.


CB, Alabama, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 11 tackles (9 solo), 1 INT in 6 games
Last year’s ranking: 35

Alabama has had success with transfers in recent years, and Ricks comes over from LSU and should make an instant impact in the secondary for the Crimson Tide. The 6-2, 190-pound junior has great size and length of a cornerback. His sophomore season was cut short by an injury, but he had four interceptions as a freshman, including two he returned for touchdowns.


OT, Northwestern, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 11 pressures allowed in 410 pass-block snaps, 2 sacks
Last year’s ranking: NR

Skoronski started all 12 games as a sophomore last season for Northwestern and was an all-conference selection by the coaches and media. He is already being projected as a first-round pick in the next NFL draft and has proven he is one of the top offensive lineman in the country.


QB, Louisville, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 2,941 yards, 19 TDs
Last year’s ranking: 65

Who topped the Total QBR rankings in the ACC last season? It wasn’t Kenny Pickett, or Sam Hartman, or Devin Leary, or Tyler Van Dyke: It was the kinetic Cunningham, who threw for 2,941 yards, rushed for 1,031 and produced 39 combined scores. You can’t take your eyes off of him.


QB, Utah, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 2,492 yards, 20 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Relative to the chatter about incoming quarterbacks like USC’s Caleb Williams and Wazzu’s Cameron Ward, Rising is cruising a bit under the radar. Yet after a season with nearly 2,500 passing yards and a 20-5 touchdown-interception ratio, he’s exactly the kind of steady quarterback with continuity on his side that Utah needs to win the conference again.


QB, Tennessee, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 2,945 yards, 31 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

The Virginia Tech transfer blossomed last season under first-year Tennessee coach Josh Heupel. Although not the starter to open the season, Hooker started the final 11 games and emerged as one of the country’s most efficient quarterbacks with 3,561 yards of total offense and just three interceptions. The 24-year-old redshirt senior returns as one of the most experienced quarterbacks in college football.


DL, Iowa State, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 36 solo tackles (24 solo) 11.5 sacks, 5 FF
Last year’s ranking: 84

McDonald is a player who every quarterback in the Big 12 knows. After having 10.5 sacks in 2020, he had 11.5 in 2021, setting an Iowa State single-season record. The Cyclones’ career sack leader enters 2022 looking to expand on his record, and is leading one of the team’s strongest units.


WR Texas, Sophomore
Notable 2021 stats: 981 yards, 12 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Worthy broke out against Oklahoma last year with nine catches for 261 yards and two touchdowns en route to a freshman All-America season. The Longhorns have big hopes for an encore for Worthy, who finished with 62 catches for 981 yards and 12 TDs despite catching two or fewer passes in four games.


CB, Iowa, Senior
Notable 2021 stat: 39 tackles (34 solo), 4 INT
Last year’s ranking: NR

Moss was tied for second on the team with four interceptions last season. He had 39 total tackles and five pass breakups for the Hawkeyes. He’s a senior this season and is positioned to be one of Iowa’s best defenders again in 2022.


DE, Clemson, Senior
Notable 2021 stat: 21 tackles (12 solo), 3.5 sacks
Last year’s ranking: 58

A former five-star recruit, Thomas announced his arrival with style, delivering a highlight reel hit on Syracuse QB Eric Dungey to secure a Clemson win in 2018. Stardom appeared imminent, but COVID-19 and other injuries kept Thomas in check for much of the next two years. In 2021, however, he finally delivered on that promise, racking up 14 QB hurries, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He also led the ACC with a 14.1% pressure rate.


LB, Alabama, Senior
Notable 2021 stat: 111 tackles (52 solo), 4 sacks
Last year’s ranking: 48

Will Anderson Jr. is Alabama’s defensive headliner, but To’oTo’o is the glue after a prolific first season with the Tide. He led Alabama with 113 tackles, including 8.5 for loss and four sacks, and he earned second-team All-SEC honors. The 6-2, 228-pound To’oTo’o also led Tennessee in tackles in 2020, and made 23 starts.


RB, Clemson, Sophomore
Notable 2021 stats: 739 yards, 11 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

As a true freshman last season, Shipley came in with advance hype as the No. 2 high school running back in the country. Despite missing two games in the middle of the season with a leg injury, Shipley showed his potential — rushing for 738 yards and 11 touchdowns — the second most by a Clemson true freshman behind Travis Etienne’s 13 in 2017. His presence in the backfield in 2022 will be a huge key to Clemson’s chances to turning around its fortunes on offense.

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Will Shipley scores 29-yard rushing touchdown


RB, USC, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 1,271 yards, 16 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Through injuries and inconsistent quarterback play, Dye was Oregon’s metronome last season. Now at USC this year, Dye will be an ideal No. 1 back as a runner and a pass-catcher. And though he’s a classic example of substance over flash, it feels like there’s a more explosive version of him that could be unlocked by playing in a Lincoln Riley offense next to Caleb Williams.


DE, Oklahoma State, Sophomore
Notable 2021 stats: 29 tackles (20 solo), 11. 5 sacks
Last year’s ranking: NR

As a freshman, Oliver had 29 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. The Cowboys lost defensive coordinator Jim Knowles to Ohio State and return just four starters, but Oliver is undoubtedly the guy you want back after a freshman season like that.


RB, Texas A&M, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 910 yards, 9 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

One of the SEC’s most electric offensive performers should take on a bigger role in Texas A&M’s offense this fall. Achane led the SEC in yards per rush (7) last season, and had 910 yards and nine touchdowns on only 130 carries. He can also help in the pass game after a 24-catch season in 2021.


CB, South Carolina, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 41 tackles (31 solo), 3 INT
Last year’s ranking: NR

He has emerged as a shutdown cornerback for South Carolina and a fascinating prospect for the 2023 NFL draft. Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Smith as the No. 2 draft-eligible cornerback and No. 20 overall prospect. Smith earned second-team All-SEC honors last season, when he started seven games and allowed multiple catches just twice in 11 contests.


WR, Tennessee, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 1,081 yards, 12 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

No Tennessee player benefited more from the coaching/scheme change to Josh Heupel than Tillman, who became Tennessee’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Justin Hunter in 2012. Tillman, who caught 72 passes for 1,205 yards and 14 touchdowns, is the SEC’s top returning receiver and a national awards candidate alongside quarterback Hendon Hooker.

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Cedric Tillman puts on a show as he maneuvers past the Commodores’ defense for his second touchdown of the game.


WR, Michigan State, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 1,026 yards, 10 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Reed was a third team All-Big Ten honoree at wide receiver. He led the Spartans in receptions (59), receiving yards (1,026) and touchdown receptions (10). Reed showed his versatility in several ways during Michigan State’s 11-2 season in 2021 — averaging 128.8 all-purpose yards a game.


S, Georgia, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 44 tackles (23 solo), 3 INT
Last year’s ranking: NR

Smith is certainly not the most heralded player on Georgia’s defense, but he is one of its most experienced and productive. Last season, he started 11 games and had 35 tackles, four pass breakups, three interceptions and two quarterback hurries. He was at his best in the Bulldogs’ biggest game, totaling seven tackles, two pass breakups and an interception in a 33-18 victory over Alabama in the CFP National Championship.


DT, Clemson, Senior
Notable 2021 stat: 23 tackles (8 solo), 2.5 sacks
Last year’s ranking 57

It’s been a slog for Davis the past two years. He burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2019, racking up 6.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss from the interior and looking like a future first-round pick. But he has been limited to just 16 games over the past two seasons, battling injuries routinely, and he managed just 4.5 sacks in the process. He’s finally healthy to kick off 2022, and he’ll have a chance to finally build off the stellar start to his career.


WR, Oklahoma, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 705 yards, 5 TDs
Last year’s ranking: 8

Despite catching just 32 passes last year, Mims averaged 22.0 yards per reception (first in Big 12, fourth nationally), finishing with 705 yards and five touchdowns, down from 9 TD catches as a freshman. He has led Oklahoma in receiving yards both seasons he has been in Norman and could benefit from Jeff Lebby’s spin on the new OU offense.


S, Texas A&M, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 79 tackles (53 solo), 1 INT
Last year’s ranking: NR

Johnson started all 13 games for Texas A&M in 2021 as a sophomore. He was second on the Aggies’ defense with 79 tackles. He earned AP All-SEC second team recognition. Johnson is on the preseason watch list for the Thorpe Award.


S, Arkansas, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 46 tackles (22 solo), 2 INT
Last year’s ranking: NR

A preseason AP All-America selection in 2021, Catalon missed the final seven games with a shoulder injury but still finished eighth on the team in tackles (46). In 2020, he became the first Arkansas defensive back to earn first-team All-SEC honors from the league’s coaches since 2007. He had 99 tackles and three interceptions that fall.


RB, UCLA, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 1,137 yards, 13 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

The former Michigan running back has carved out a nice role at UCLA, where he finished last season as the second-leading rusher in the Pac-12 (in conference play) and finished the season with 1,137 yards rushing. He was a second-team all-Pac-12 selection and could be among the national rushing leaders this season.


WR, Maryland, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 829 yards, 5 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Jarrett led Maryland in receiving yards with 829 yards and also tied for most touchdowns on the team with five. He averaged 13.37 yards per reception. Now with quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa returning, Jarrett should have another productive season.


QB, Michigan State, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 3,240 yards, 27 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Thorne set Michigan State’s single-season touchdown record (27) in his first full season as the Spartans’ quarterback. Thorne threw for 3,233 yards to help lead Michigan State to a 11-2 record. He has been named to the preseason watch lists for the Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year.


QB, Oklahoma, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 814 yards, 9 TD in 3 games
Last year’s ranking: 33

After starting 25 of 26 games in his career at UCF, where he threw for 8,037 yards, 70 TDs to 14 INTs, Gabriel transferred to Oklahoma and will rejoin Jeff Lebby, his old offensive coordinator. Gabriel went down with an injury after just three games last year, but ranked second nationally in total offense (373.9 ypg) in 2020.


LB, Iowa, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 140 tackles (57 solo), 2 INT
Last year’s ranking: NR

In 2021, Campbell ranked second in the Big Ten with 140 tackles, which were the fifth-most in Iowa history. Five times last season, he had at least 10 tackles. Campbell has been named preseason first-team All-American by Phil Steele and is also on the LOTT Impact watch list coming into the 2022 season.


CB, North Carolina, Junior
Notable 2021 stat: 47 tackles (36 solo)
Last year’s ranking: 80

Grimes was supposed to still be in high school when he first stepped onto the field for North Carolina in 2020. After reclassifying during the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down high school football in his home state of Virginia, Grimes quickly developed into one of the ACC’s most gifted corners as a true freshman. The 2021 season saw some regression — no TDs allowed in 2020, four in 2021 — but he still held opposing QBs to less than 50% completions while breaking up nine passes.


C, Minnesota, Senior
Notable 2021 stat: 1 pressure allowed in 289 pass-block snaps
Last year’s ranking: NR

Schmitz started all 13 games at center for Minnesota last season. Schmitz and the rest of the Golden Gophers’ offensive line helped allow the team to average 25.5 points per game. Schmitz is on both the preseason watch lists for the Lombardi Award and Rimington Award.


QB, Fresno State, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 4,096 yards, 33 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

He torched UCLA for 455 passing yards in a September upset last year, and he finished the year with 4,096 yards and 33 touchdowns. He gets his top two receivers back this year, too. It’s going to be another big year for the Washington transfer in the San Joaquin Valley.


CB, Penn State, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 51 tackles (40 solo), 1 INT
Last year’s ranking: NR

Porter recorded 51 tackles (40 solo) with one forced fumble and one interception on his way to earning third team All-Big Ten recognition honors for Penn State. He started 13 games for the Nittany Lions as a sophomore. His career high of nine tackles came during a nine-overtime loss to Illinois.

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Joey Porter Jr. dives for INT vs. Indiana


OG, Texas A&M, Junior
Notable 2021 stat: 4 pressures allowed in 311 pass-block snaps
Last year’s ranking: NR

He earned second-team All-SEC honors last season and will lead an experienced group of interior linemen for the Aggies. Mel Kiper Jr. rates Robinson as the top draft-eligible guard for 2023. The 6-4, 330-pound junior started all 10 games he played last fall. He’s an elite run blocker who could help the Aggie offense take the next step.


WR, Iowa State, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 987 yards, 5 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Losing Brock Purdy isn’t nothing, but Xavier Hutchinson will make the next quarterback’s job easier. Hutchinson had 987 yards and five touchdowns in 2021 on 83 receptions (of which are an Iowa State single-season record). With tight ends Charlie Kolar and Chase Allen gone, Hutchinson might have a chance to break his own record with more targets possibly coming his way.


QB, South Carolina, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 1,493 yards, 11 TD in 9 games
Last year’s ranking: 1

He may have gone from Heisman favorite to second-stringer at Oklahoma last year, but his numbers are still top-notch: a 70% career completion rate, 4,595 career passing yards and 40 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions. His ceiling remains immense as he enters the second act of his college football career.


RB, Michigan, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 952 yards, 11 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

As a sophomore last season, Corum ran for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns on 143 carries as the Wolverines won the school’s first Big Ten title since 2004 on the way to the College Football Playoff. With Hassan Haskins gone, Corum is Michigan’s undisputed top back.


OLB, Florida, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 41 tackles (26 solo), 8.5 sacks
Last year’s ranking: 59

Change is everywhere you look in Gainesville, but Cox is a constant. He combined 8.5 sacks with 10 run stops at or behind the line in 2021, and he broke up four passes in coverage, too. With Ventrell Miller returning from injury, Cox could helm a dynamite LB corps.


G, USC, Senior
Notable 2021 stat: 5 pressures allowed in 499 pass-block snaps
Last year’s rankings: NR

An Associated Press third-team All-American last season, this is the sixth straight season Vorhees has entered with a role for the Trojans (he received a medical redshirt for the 2019 season). With 44 appearances, he’s one of the most experienced players in college football and will play a key role on the offensive line for USC.


LB, NC State, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 99 tackles (48 solo), 6 sacks
Last year’s ranking: NR

Thomas has been a stalwart on the Wolfpack linebacker unit — one that players believe is the best in the country. Headed into his third year as a starter, Thomas led the Wolfpack in tackles last season with 100 (ranking No. 4 in the ACC) and was an All-ACC first-team choice. He’s a big reason why NC State is expected to be one of the best defenses in the league in 2022.


DE, Pitt, Senior
Notable 2021 stat: 41 tackles (25 solo), 9 sacks
Last year’s ranking: NR

Coach Pat Narduzzi has recruited and developed strong defensive linemen at Pitt — Baldonado is no exception. Last season, Baldonado had 42 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks (that ranked No. 3 in the ACC). Now consider that Baldonado only played one year of high school football in the United States, moving to Florida in 2017 after playing three years in his native Italy. That makes his rapid development more impressive.


RB, Utah, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 1,108 yards, 21 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

A first-team all-Pac-12 selection last year after rushing for 1,108 yards with 21 touchdowns, Thomas figures to see an even bigger role after backfield mate T.J. Pledger left for the NFL. No Power 5 running back had more rushing touchdowns than the 6-2, 238-pound Thomas.


HB/TE, Georgia, Sophomore
Notable 2020 stats: 35 receptions, 368 yards
Last year’s ranking: NR

As dangerous as Brock Bowers is for opposing defenses, Gilbert might be just as good. In high school, Gilbert became the first tight end to win the Gatorade National Player of the Year. As a freshman at LSU in 2020, he caught 35 passes for 368 yards with two touchdowns. He missed last season because of personal reasons.


CB, Michigan, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 33 tackles (26 solo), 2 INT
Last year’s ranking: NR

Turner appeared in all 14 of Michigan’s games in 2021 — starting eight. He had 33 tackles to go with nine pass breakups and a pair of interceptions during his junior year. Turner, an All-Big Ten honorable mention selection, recorded a career-high nine tackles in the Wolverines’ 42-27 victory over Ohio State.


RB, Ole Miss, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 648 yards, 5 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

The blue-chipper from Houston managed just 146 rushes and 18 receptions in two years at TCU before transferring, but he gained 1,269 yards with 10 touchdowns in those 164 touches. If he can stay on the field in Oxford, he could dominate in Lane Kiffin’s up-tempo offense.


DE, Ohio State, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 33 tackles (22 solo), 3 sacks
Last year’s ranking: NR

Harrison had 33 tackles (22 solo) with eight TFLs and three sacks for Ohio State during his junior year. With 33 games played and 14 starts, he’s the most experienced player on the defensive line for the Buckeyes. Harrison earned All-Big Ten second-team recognition last season.


QB, Purdue, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 3,712 yards, 28 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

O’Connell started nine games at quarterback for Purdue in 2021. He guided Jeff Brohm’s team to top-five upsets of both Iowa and Michigan State. O’Connell was named All-Big Ten second team after throwing for 3,712 yards and 28 touchdowns as a fifth-year senior. He threw for at least 300 yards six times last season.

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Aidan O’Connell airs it out to Milton Wright for a 53-yard Boilermaker touchdown.



OLB, Auburn, Senior
Notable 2021 stat: 54 tackles (33 solo), 9 sacks
Last year’s ranking: NR

Hall recorded 54 tackles (33 solo) for Auburn as a junior in 2021. He started 13 games and had 12.5 tackles-for-loss and nine sacks, leading the Tigers in both categories. Hall was named All-SEC second team by the coaches.


QB, Oklahoma State, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 2,839 yards, 20 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

As Sanders goes, so go the Cowboys. He lit up Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, throwing for 371 yards and four TDs to finish off a 37-35 comeback win after a Big 12 title game struggle where he threw four interceptions in a 21-16 loss (seven of his 12 INTs last year were vs. Baylor). Entering his fourth year as the starter, Sanders needs nine wins to catch Mason Rudolph as the Cowboys’ all-time winningest QB.


LB, Wisconsin, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 61 tackles (40 solo), 9 sacks
Last year’s ranking: NR

Herbig accumulated 57 tackles (36 solo) with 14.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore. Herbig led Wisconsin with nine sacks, which ranked fourth in the Big Ten. He started all 13 games for the Badgers in 2021. He has been named a preseason first-team All-American by Phil Steele.


QB, Florida, Sophomore
Notable 2021 stats: 529 yards, 6 TDs in 7 games
Last year’s ranking: NR

He’s huge (6-4, 252 pounds). He’s got a big arm (among his 38 completions last year were six over 30 yards), and he’s ridiculously fast (rushes of 80 and 73 yards). He’s got all the tools. Now we get to see if he can put them all together.


LB, Cincinnati, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 95 tackles (45 solo), 4 INT
Last year’s ranking: NR

At 6-2, 215 pounds, the junior combines all the best aspects of both a nickel back and outside linebacker. He made 14 run stops at or behind the line, and when he dropped into coverage, he picked off four passes and allowed just six completions for 45 yards.


WR, Virginia, Junior
Notable 2021 stats: 1,203 yards, 9 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Wicks was a big-play machine last season, catching 57 balls for 1,203 yards — an average of 21.1 yards per catch, good for fifth nationally. He was the first player since 2019 to catch 50 passes and average at least 20 yards per reception, and Wicks finished the year with 27 catches of 20 yards or more — trailing only Jordan Addison and Jaxon Smith-Njigba among Power 5 receivers.

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Dontayvion Wicks somehow comes up with this catch after briefly catching the football between his legs.


OL, Alabama, Senior
Notable 2021 stat: 7 pressures allowed in 593 pass-block snaps
Last year’s ranking: NR

The senior from Indianapolis has allowed only three sacks in two seasons as the Crimson Tide’s starting right guard. He also dominated every defense but Georgia’s in run blocking last year. Now he’s leading the charge to get revenge on the Dawgs in the national title race.


OL, Florida, Junior
Notable 2021 stat: 3 pressures allowed in 378 pass-block snaps
Last year’s ranking: 100

An under-the-radar recruit, Torrence (listed at 6-5 and 347 pounds) was an immediate star for head coach Billy Napier at Louisiana. Now the former Freshman All-American and All-Sun Belt star will play his trade with Napier in Gainesville. He immediately becomes Florida’s most proven and high-upside lineman.


WR, Boston College, Senior
Notable 2021 stats: 746 yards, 5 TDs
Last year’s ranking: 83

Flowers made headlines in the offseason when he turned down lucrative NIL offers from intermediaries to enter the NCAA transfer portal, staying at Boston College for his senior season. With a healthy Phil Jurkovec back at quarterback and a new offensive coordinator, the belief is the Eagles will utilize Flowers more across the board and put him in position to make plays from multiple spots.


S, Clemson, Sophomore
Notable 2021 stat: 48 tackles (30 solo)
Last year’s ranking: NR

When Lannden Zanders went down in Clemson’s opener against Georgia last year, Mukuba — a true freshman — was thrust into a starting job. He didn’t miss a beat. For the season, Mukuba held opposing QBs to less than 50% completions, had seven pass breakups, allowed just three completions of 20 yards or more and surrendered less than half a yard per coverage snap. Meanwhile, he finished fourth on the team with 48 tackles. His role in 2022 gets even bigger, however, as he’s the only established starter in Clemson’s new-look secondary.


WR, USC, Sophomore
Notable 2021 stats: 380 yards, 4 TDs
Last year’s ranking: NR

Part of the Oklahoma-to-USC convoy, Williams was named to ESPN.com’s true freshman All-American team last season after catching 35 passes for 380 yards with four touchdowns for the Sooners. His knowledge of the offense and relationship with QB Caleb Williams should result in a big season in the Pac-12.

Writeups by Andrea Adelson, Kyle Bonagura, Bill Connelly, Chris Low, Harry Lyles Jr., Alex Scarborough, Mark Schlabach, Tom VanHaaren, Paolo Uggetti and Dave Wilson.



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