Rolling into “Week 0” with the Navy-Notre Dame matchup and Ohio U.-San Diego St. whetting my appetite.
Here are my five–no make that six— players to watch this college football season, chosen very arbitrarily and with heavy personal bias…
- Xavier Worthy, WR Texas: Look, I know the Quinn Ewers-being-pushed-by-Arch Manning is the headline, but the WR room looks intriguing, and key to the ‘Horns winning their last season in the Big 12. I love the way this kid runs, and how hard he is to tackle. How great would it be if the QB competition isn’t even the biggest angle? Hoping for a breakout year for Worthy and Texas.
- TreVeyon Henderson, RB Ohio State: The reality is that whoever takes the most snaps this year won’t be as good as C.J. Stroud, so this guy, finally healthy, will be key to their offense. Remember, OSU is the only team to almost beat the best, Georgia, last year. I get it with the WR tandem of Harrison and Egbuka, but everyone’s already showing them love. This man racked up 571 yards and 6TDs while playing on a foot he couldn’t cut and plant with, and reinjured on every play after week 3. He looks great, says he’s never felt better, and should be special.
- Jayden de Laura, QB Arizona: I know not much is expected of Arizona this year, but de Laura quietly had the third best year for a quarterback in school history, his first year at Tucson. He came out of Washington State, one of my favorite programs, which is also a QB producer. He’s elusive in the pocket, a fast scrambler and has bulked up this year. The Wildcats don’t have the defense to contend, but Jayden will make noise.
- Jordan Travis, QB Florida State: Unlike Arizona, very big things are expected from Mike Norvell’s Seminoles this year, not limited to winning the ACC over strong rivals like UNC. For that to happen, this cool senior will need to at least replicate his breakthrough year of last season. He’s surrounded by veteran talent and Norvell’s instilled an NFL-level approach to discipline and motivation. It’s the perfect place for a QB to thrive, and my expectations of Jordan are high.
- Sam Hartman, QB Notre Dame: The Wake Forest transfer is one of the most intriguing storylines of 2023, and I for one, am buying into the hype. The Irish are without the great Michael Mayer, and yes, it would’ve benefitted Hartman to work under the departed-for-Bama Tommy Rees, BUT Hartman is near-NFL skill-level, comparable to a Quinn or Clausen. This will be a different Notre Dame, and expect Sam to air it out against Navy.
- Cam Rising, QB Utah: OK, I had to go with six instead of five, and why Cam Rising? I know, he’s questionable for week 1. He’s one of those quarterbacks whose health almost solely determines how high his team can go. This guy plays his butt off, as does this whole team. Honestly, they don’t get the credit they deserve—great tight ends (he’s getting Kuithe back from injury), tremendous D, some of that “mission maturity”, probably one of the greatest coaches in the game, and Cam Rising. If they had a different logo on their helmets, or played in the Eastern time zone, they’d be everyone’s darlings for the CFP.
Part 3 will be my “sneaky” teams for 2023.