College football is creeping closer. But you could smell that in the air. The crisp fall Saturdays are coming, friends. I have crunched the numbers and collected 50 of the finest talents in one place.
And sure, every outlet has its own preseason watch lists and impossible-to-be-truly-accurate rankings. As always, remember that mine — and mine alone — serve as the answer key.
1. Ed Oliver, Houston defensive end
A 6-foot-3, 290 pound playmaker who has already announced his intentions to wreck the NFL next year, Oliver is averaging 1.6 tackles for loss/game during his career. He notched 5.5 sacks last season despite being the focal point for opposing offensive lines content to let anyone else beat them. Oliver may follow the Charles Woodson route to Heisman Trophy glory by also playing offense. That’s going to be fun for everyone except the team lining up on the other side of the field.
2. Bryce Love, Stanford running back
Love gained 8.1 yards/carry in 2017 and flirted with many Pac-12 records. The crazy thing is that he could do better this fall, and potentially win college football’s prize, even if he skipped media days. When a hole presents itself, he capitalizes without hesitation thanks to elite vision. Look for him to become more of a factor in the passing game, making him an even more unstoppable force.
3. Nick Bosa, Ohio State defensive end
Every bit as good as his brother, the younger Bosa racked up 16 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks in 2017. He loves to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback with a terrific blend of burst and power. Put one guy on him, two guys on him, three guys on him, it doesn’t matter. He’ll get where he needs to go. Calling a shot here: he’ll be the first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
4. Christian Wilkins, Clemson defensive tackle
When he’s not doing the splits or performing stripteases, the 6-foot-4, 310 pound wrecking ball bulldozes his way through offensive lineman and disrupts the best-laid plans of opposing offenses. He does a bit of everything — deflect passes, drop back into coverage, get involved in fake punts. You can’t box this guy in. You can only hope to contain him.
5. Rashan Gary, Michigan defensive tackle
He’s 6-foot-5, 280 pounds. He’s agile and mobile and nubile. The Wolverines’ athletic freak. When he’s done starring in Ann Arbor this year, he’ll absolutely dominate the NFL Combine, especially in the drills measuring quickness and speed. Jim Harbaugh wouldn’t mind if Gary helped him win a few big games before that, though.