These guys decided to come back for their senior or junior year to give college football fans some more action. Besides Jameis Winston, below are the top college football players and future NFL prospects that people should pay close attention to. They just might see a star in the making. These are the top five college football players to watch out for in 2014:
1. Marcus Mariota The upcoming senior Oregon quarterback shocked a lot of people when he said he wouldn’t go up for the NFL draft. He probably wanted a better finish to his collegiate career than spraining his knee in a loss to Stanford. He is a dual-threat quarterback that led the nation in QBR with 89.5 in 2013. The Hawaiian product threw for over 3,600 yards and 31 TDs with only 4 picks last year. He will be battling Winston for the Heisman trophy next year.
2. Todd Gurley This bruiser at running back will have to carry Georgia’s offense this year without the help of quarterback Aaron Murray. We saw great flashes of brilliance from Gurley before a knee injury slowed him down midway through the season. When healthy, he was very tough to bring down, averaging six yards per carry with 10 touchdowns. The Tarboro, N.C. product is entering his junior season at Georgia with very high hopes for the Bulldogs. He will make an excellent running back in the NFL with his punishing style of play.
3. Eric Striker With a name like that, why wouldn’t you watch him play linebacker? As a sophomore at Oklahoma last year, he led the team in sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (10.5). He is destined to make big plays on defense and will have a lot of success under Bob Stoops. Striker ended his sophomore season with a breakout performance in the Sugar Bowl, recording three sacks and a forced fumble that sealed the win. He boasts superb speed and instincts and will trigger a Sooners defense that has a lot of returning starters in 2014.
4. Randy Gregory As a college transfer student, Gregory had 10.5 sacks in his first year at Nebraska, which led the Big Ten conference. Considering that was just his first season with the team, look out for him being one of the top pass rushers in the country. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and should be in the mix for national awards in 2014.
5. T.J. Yeldon People forgot about this guy last year because Alabama didn’t win a championship. It’s hard to forget 1,235 yards and 14 TDs. This junior running back will help guide the Crimson Tide to another successful season and will have to carry the load with the absence of quarterback A.J. McCarron. Yeldon is looking to break out next year into one of the next great Alabama running backs, joining the likes of Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacey.
There are a lot more college football players to watch out for next year, but these guys will deliver the goods. Quarterbacks such as Brett Hundley from UCLA and Braxton Miller from Ohio State should provide next year’s NFL draft class with some excellent choices. The number one high school recruit from 2013, Robert Nkemdiche, showed flashes as a freshman for the Rebels, recording two sacks and eight tackles for loss. He will definitely develop entering his sophomore season. Then there were guys who popped out of nowhere like North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer. As a true freshman, he led the nation in punt return average (20.9 YPR) and punt return touchdowns (5), which is three more than any FBS player. He also became the first North Carolina true freshman since 1977 to earn first-team All-ACC honors. So you never know who will step up in the world of college football. August here we come!