By: Chase Lee , Staff Writer
With the Big Ten announcing its return to football and with other conferences starting up in the next couple weeks, we want to provide Morning Blitz readers with some insight. Here is a preview of players that you will want to tune in to watch this year – but are not necessarily getting the hype they deserve. This list will exclude players like Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields or your leaders in sacks and tackling. Here is the Morning Blitz 10 Most Underrated Players in College Football:
10. DE Aidan Hutchinson – Michigan
Aidan Hutchinson burst onto the scene his sophomore season at Michigan, becoming an edge-rushing threat. Hutchinson notched 34 solo tackles and 34 assisted tackles for a total of 68 tackles with 4.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. This was all done while sharing time with Mike Danna, who was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs. Hutchinson is a nightmare for offensive tackles as his speed and strength combine for a multitude of potential moves in his arsenal that all lead to the quarterback or running back going down.
9. WR Chris Olave – Ohio State
Chris Olave had a superb season as a sophomore in 2019. Ohio State’s top receiver this past season had 48 receptions for 840 yards and 12 touchdowns. He had a reception in all but one game. What makes Chris Olave so dangerous is the versatility of his quarterback, Justin Fields. Olave is fast and a deep ball threat which pairs perfectly with Justin Fields’ mobility. As Fields scrambles or flexes with his ability to run the ball, all eyes will be on him, allowing Olave favorable matchups and the ability to sneak behind defenses. With the loss of Running Back JK Dobbins and Wide Receiver KJ Hill to the draft, Fields will rely even more on his top target from last year to help operate the offense.
8. RB Kylin Hill – Mississippi State
Kylin Hill is a shifty-yet-powerful running back at Mississippi State. Hill was one of few bright spots on a Mississippi State team that went 6-7 and saw its coach fired following the 2019 season. The in-state had 242 rushes for 1350 yards for an average of 5.6 yards a carry, 103.8 yards per game, and 10 touchdowns. This led Hill to First Team All-SEC honors in a conference that is stacked full of running backs and in a division that had undefeated LSU, Alabama, and Auburn (all of which had first-round picks on defense). With new coach Mike Leach bringing in the air-raid offense, Hill will have the ability to rush against defenses expecting the pass and get the chance to set up their passing offense with the run.
7. DL Kwity Paye – Michigan
Kwity Paye plays a multitude of positions on the defensive line at Michigan- but his favorite place to be is the opponent’s backfield- and he specializes in finding his way there. Paye’s ability to penetrate from both the inside and the edge in 2019 awarded him a total of 6.5 sacks and an impressive 50 total tackles. Paye was a low 3-star recruit from Rhode Island that has risen up Don Brown’s depth chart and become a cornerstone of Michigan’s defense . Look for Kwity Paye to continue his dominance in 2020, increasing his sack and tackle total in Big Ten play this season.
6. S Trevon Moehrig – TCU
Trevon Moehrig is one of the most athletic players in college football. The rangy safety can keep up with any receiver and lay the lumber. Moehrig was First Team All-Big 12 last season and was named the nation’s top safety by Pro Football Focus (PFF). The generational talent was even billed the 3rd best safety in the PFF College Era. He had 62 total tackles (43 solo), 2 forced fumbles, 4 interceptions, and 15 pass break-ups. There is no avoiding Trevon Moehrig. Expect him to increase his interception total and have plenty of highlight reel plays in 2020.
5. RB Javian Hawkins – Louisville
Javian Hawkins burst on to the scene in 2019 after only having two total carries in 2018. In 2019 Hawkins had 264 rushes for 1525 yards and 9 TDs. This monster statline gave him an average of 5.8 yards a carry and 117.3 yards per game. In what many considered a rebuilding year under first-year coach Scott Satterfield, Hawkins was named to Second Team All-ACC, broke school records in rushing yards, and was 7th in the nation in rushing yards. Hawkins’ experience will hopefully produce increased efficiency. Look for him to break out and potentially make an All American team.
4. CB Asante Samuel Jr. – Florida State
Samuel is the son of former All Pro NFL Corner Asante Samuel, however, he’s here to make his own name. Samuel is a full blown athlete, his skill set includes relentless speed and agility to keep up with any receiver. He is on the smaller side however he makes up for it with his athleticism as he has had 18 pass break ups in 2 seasons and a completion rate of 48%. Samuel already has 2 interceptions this season, look for him to fly around the field causing havoc for opposing QBs.
3. QB Sam Howell – North Carolina
As a freshman, Sam Howell led UNC to a 7-6 record under first year Head Coach Mac Brown, including a one point loss to Clemson. This record may not be overly impressive-but for a first year coach and freshman QB at a non-blue blood school like North Carolina- it’s worth noting. The QB makes up for NC’s overall record on his stat sheet: Howell went 259/422 passing- a 61.4% completion rate. The North Carolina native also threw for 38 touchdowns while only throwing 7 interceptions. Howell caused a Tarheels team that was 78th in total offense in 2018 to jump to 31st by the end of 2019. Howell looks to exploit weak ACC pass defenses this season and compete against Clemson for a shot at the conference championship.
2. WR George Pickens – Georgia
George Pickens is a 6’3” sophomore at Georgia with an unmatched vertical jump and ability to catch every ball headed his way. Pickens totaled 49 receptions for 727 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2019. This included a bowl game against Baylor where he had 12 receptions for 175 yards and a touchdown. Pickens’ long build and ability to go up and get the ball will be huge for the Georgia offense this year and whoever wins the starting QB job. Look out for Pickens to dominate the SEC East against some of the toughest defenses in the country.
1. CB Paris Ford – Pitt
Paris Ford is known as one of the hardest-hitting defensive backs in college football and he makes no shortage of jaw-dropping plays. Ford had an insane 60 solo tackles and 37 assisted tackles for a total of 97 total tackles. He had 3 forced fumbles, 14 pass break-ups and 3 interceptions-including one pick-six. Ford has been in contention for a multitude of national defensive awards and this year should prove for the Pittsburgh native to be fruitful in his hardware hull.
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