The top 10 probable breakout players in College football in 2021
As nicknames go, the “Human First Down” definitely is so fond of running back, and Rachaad White, Arizona State, took all four games to acquire the label.
That’s the short narrative, anyhow. The campaign of White in 2020 lasted four games, as the Pac-12 was overwhelmed by COVID-19 failures, but he made the most of his first Temporary season by picking up 571 yards with only 50 total touches, an amazing 11.4 yards a touch, hence the nickname, and led Sun Devils to hurry and receive. He has averaged nearly 2 yards per touch more with at least 40 rush attempts than any other player in the country. Trainer defines an explosive game as a 12-meter rush or 16-meter reception. More than a quarter of White’s touches were explosive last season.
In short, White’s four-game entrance in 2020 was as powerful as anyone other.
“I’ve only been blessed to get four games,” stated White. “I just had fun training and treating it like it really was my only chance.”
Opportunities for everybody were harder by 2020, because the calendar was devastated by COVID-19, and White is one of ten players we pitch as potential breakouts in 2021 following sneak peaks last season.
However, for White, the 2020 season trials scarcely convey the whole tale. He isn’t successful overnight, and while his Pac-12 summary is just four games long, he proved to be on the road again and again.
Coming from high school in Missouri, Kansas City, White had a few conversations with FBS coaches, but never materialised. He was skinny and he had been used mostly as a recipient. He hadn’t found a niche, and nobody was prepared to risk him. He arrived at Nebraska-Kearney Division II School and in 2017 he could not get on the field, redshirting as a freshman. He still thought he had more to offer.
“I’ve got NFL ambitions and aspirations,” White stated. “I trained and I was upset I did not receive a Division I study and I began noticing improvement. I’ve seen my body shift. And I got to juco through a succession of circumstances.”
White went to Mt. San Antonio Junior College and ran for 1,264 yards during his sophomore season, and became legitime prospects. Suddenly he received school offers that had overlooked him at high school. He landed in the state of Arizona, where he was swiftly caught up with a committee waiting for a season that almost never began.
“Every representative went as a professional,” said back coach Shaun Aguano. “And we just watched his fluidity as a rider, but because he was a recipient, his road running and vision, the way he cut it down, we just knew we needed to get him the ball.”
White’s first Arizona State game came out on the road to USC. He collected 12 transportations for 76 meters and added 70 meters and a touchdown in the air. Then the long break came. Arizona State hasn’t been playing for almost a month again. White continued to practice, continued to improve. In his following game, he added 106 all-purpose yards versus UCLA. A week later, he ran for 133 against Arizona. In the conclusion of Sun Devils, White had his best match against Oregon State and was racing for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
But it was only four games, of course. It was a trailer for a blockbuster film that doesn’t truly convey the whole narrative. It was the main course for 2021.
“I’m the sort of guy that’s past, and I’m trying to beat that, whether I’ve averaged ten [yards per carry],” White said. “Every year I’m aiming to get better.”
White’s bulked up in the off-season — now he has a check-in at 210 pounds — and focused on his blocking, in which Augano claimed he already was great hoping to be an all-down actor for a complete 12-game season. He is well aware of the hurdles of fulfilling these high expectations and is doing it repeatedly over a much longer campaign.
But what inspires him is white this challenge. He had a dream two years ago of playing great college soccer, but he might have been the only person who believed that the dream could actually be accomplished. Building on this excellent beginning of four games doesn’t seem like a big mountain to climb.
“I know it’s going to be tough, but that’s the ballplayer type I’m,” said White. “I always feel it’s insufficient.”
Whereas White appears like a safe bet for a large 2021, nine other stars rise to break-out in 2021.
Georgia Tech Jhamyr Gibbs back
Statistical comparison: Every 1.8 carries Gibbs forced a failed tackle last season, leading the country, with a mean of 3.7 yards per carrier after first contact. The only other country to approach these marks was Javonte Williams of North Carolina, who went 35th in the NFL draft this year.
Why is he ready for a breakaway: As an ESPN 300 recruit, Gibbs looked fantastic in 2020, but his impact was limited by injuries and weak offensive. He missed three competitions but in seven games he finished with 763 scrimmage yards. With the ball in his hands, he was electric and averaged an explosive game (a 12-yard run, 16-yard capture) at 18 percent of his games, just Texas’ Bijan Robinson behind with 100 or more touches backwards. More strikingly, Gibbs did all of this while sharing a backfield with a real new quarterback (Jeff Sims) behind a brutally battled offensive line. Gibbs averaged only 1.5 yards before rush contact, 130th in back carriage with 75 or more carriages. But Gibbs’s health is now, Sims has a year’s experience and the yellow jackets, especially the Vanderbilt transfer Devin Cochran, have added a big deal. There may not be a dynamic rider in the country than Gibbs, and if the cast leads a step forward, it can be something remarkable for the Yellow Jackets this season.
What they say: What they say: “He’s a talented man. He didn’t play against us last year, but he arguably was the most skilled tailback we had seen when he saw the movie. I was thinking he was the elite. I’m happy that we’re not playing them .” — Coach of the NC State Dave Doeren;
Tight end of Alabama Billingsley Jahleel
Statistical comparison: Billingsley was frugal in the first six games in Alabama, but was given the same number of snaps by Texas A&M Jalen Wydermyer and Billingsley would have a rim in yards (737-506), TD (8-6) and first downs (35 to 30).
Why is he ready for a breakaway: Tight ends such as O.J. Howard and Irv Smith were a time when the Alabama offense had a dynamic focus, but it has been a few years since that position had had such an influence. In 2021, this could change because Billingsley is looking for a fantastic finish in his sophomore season. Although he did not have much play until the end of November, he finished with seven grabs of 16 yards or more, the same number as the Texas A&M star Wydermyer. Billingsley was able to line up on the field at 6-foot-4 and 230 livres – even kick returner, where he had 5 kicks last season for 89 return yards. The key is buy-in, Nick Saban stated. “It also has to be a good teammate to buy into the ideals and values of the team,” Saban remarked. It’s not fun to get to the bad side of Saban, but it also signals that the trainer will get the best from a brilliant athlete.
What they say: What they say: “Jahleel has a remarkable talent for what he can do. He has tight end size but a wide athleticism of the recipient.” Coach of Alabama Nick Saban
The Duke of Kansas State Defensive End
Statistical comparison: Oklahoma’s Isaiah Thomas is a 12th All-Big pre-saison selection, but Duke’s rush performance has been as good everywhere. Duke had a 12.8% pressure rate compared to Thomas’ 12.5%. The percentage of Duke’s initial pressure per pass was 11.1 percent, just one tick behind Thomas (11.2 percent ). Duke had pressure on 13 plays which, like Thomas, resulted in an unfulfilled pass. What is the difference? Much of Duke’s effort had been lost, as K-State only registered one bag on his snaps, while Oklahoma had 10 on Thomas.
Why is he ready for a breakaway: Surprisingly, Duke has concluded the 2020 campaign with just three loss bags. These stats just do not correspond to his underlying performance. In fact, Wyatt Hubert, his linemate, put up 13 TFL despite a much lower pressure rate of 9%. The off-season for Duke has been good, though, according to K-State coaches and the increasingly productive input will also result in a higher statistical line. It also indicates something about Duke that Oklahoma came up against his greatest game in 2020—nine tackles, two QB hurrieds and a TFL.
What they say: What they say: “He’s still polishing something, stuff that makes you a great soccer player. He’s got a lot of skill. He loves soccer, and it’s a big thing. It’s all in the details. If you become a boy, you will only have so many opportunities to play and you can’t afford to take advantage of them. But he’s incredibly gifted and physically capable of being a pretty good rusher.” Coach of the Kansas State Line Buddy Wyatt
Battle didn’t play until Ole Miss’ sixth game of the season against Auburn. His 62 covering snaps included eight targets and no completions. The rest of Ole Miss’ defensive backs allowed a 55% completion rate.
Why he’ll break out: Battle, a former top wide receiver prospect, moved to defense five games into the 2020 season. Battle stated he needs to work on his tackling technique and finer nuances of the position. In spite of his lack of size and skill, he made an immediate effect. Battle only had 62 coverage snaps but broke up four passes on eight targets. None of those eight goals were achieved. That’s a high bar to meet, but Battle appears ready. He ran with the starting defense in spring practice and bulked up to better handle the job’s physical demands. The offseason gave him a chance to learn the position. If Ole Miss wants to compete for an SEC West title, the defense, especially the secondary, must improve. Battle may be the missing component for the Rebels.
“He’s got excellent length and ability,” they remark. Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss coach
Boye Mafe, Minn.
With a 12.6 percent pressure rate and six sacks created last season, Mafe played half the snaps of Miami’s Jaelen Phillips (11.6 percent pressure rate, 11 sacks created).
Why he’ll explode: COVID-19 postponed the start of the 2020 season and disrupted the schedule even when the Gophers returned to action. As a result, we got a six-game preview of what 2021 may bring. Mafe had 18 solo tackles, 5.5 for loss, two pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and two QB hurries in his career. Only Zach Harrison, Tyreke Smith, and Micah McFadden had more pass rush pressure than him in 2020. Ranks 10th nationally in disruption rate (10.7% sacks, turnovers, incompletions, and penalties drawn per rush).
Sayings: “Last year, he had 4.5 sacks in six games, without training camp or anything else. Last year was a truncated version of his breakout year. He’ll be tested this year, I believe.” P.J. Fleck, Minnesota
Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
Stats compared: On par with Sean Clifford of Penn State, Zappe passed for 1,833 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2013. (1,883 yards, 16 TDs). Only difference is Clifford required nine games. Zappe did four.
Why he’ll explode: In the aftermath of the COVID-19 cancellations, the Huskies played a reduced schedule against three FBS opponents last season, so you’re forgiven for not knowing Zappe. With 567 passing yards versus Texas Tech, Zappe threw for 1,453 yards and 12 touchdowns. A new offensive concept led by former Houston Baptist offensive coach Zach Kittley could take over Conference USA.
Sayings: “The Air Raid tree — Mike Leach, Kliff Kingsbury, Lincoln Riley, Zach Kittley — is a unique and fruitful tree. To stay ahead of the game’s evolution, you must constantly adapt. And that’s why I wanted Zach Kittley. I think we’ve made progress. So we went and got Bailey. We’re ecstatic.” — Tyson Helton, WKU Coach
Josh Downs (NC)
In last year’s bowl game against Texas A&M, Downs caught four catches for 91 yards and two scores. Kadarius Toney (7 catches, 92 yards, 2 TDs) had a similar line versus the Aggies. Toney was drafted first overall.
Why he’ll explode: No worries for the Tar Heels’ passing game after losing two of their most reliable receivers in Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome. In the absence of QB Sam Howell, the yards will come, and Downs, a fast slot receiver, will get his fair share. Brown’s opt-out in the Orange Bowl was just the beginning. UNC’s defensive backs lauded Downs as a potential All-ACC 2021 candidate in 7-on-7 competition.
Sayings: “We understand their expectations. We push each other and talk. We discuss our plans. Just say anything, and Josh Downs will be unique.” UNC enclave Grimes, Tony
OU TEXAS Stogner, Austin
Contrast that with Braden Galloway (9), Arik Gilbert (8), and Michael Mayer (7), all of whom had more targets than Stogner did last season for the Sooners.
Why he’ll explode: An injury to his knee and a hazardous infection prompted Stogner to miss the final two regular-season games and the Big 12 championship game, but he had a fantastic start to 2020. In form again, he may be one of the country’s toughest matchup challenges. The 6-foot-6 tight end is actually one of the best blockers in the country, which is remarkable for offensive-minded tight ends.
Sayings: “For us this season, Austin has overcome a lot to get back on the field. We’re excited to put his unique set of skills to the test.” Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
Only six corners return for 2021 with less than 33% completions and 4 yards per target on 19 targets, like Boykin. Northwestern’s Greg Newsome, the 26th overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, is the only other 2020 corner with those numbers who did not return.
Why he’ll explode: Forcing him to miss the 2019 season, the former Notre Dame star recruited by UMass transferred. Due to COVID-19’s disruption of the Minutemen’s schedule, he only got to play four away games in late October and November of 2020. But that was a great peak. Their quarterbacks targeted Boykin 19 times but only one completed a 20-plus yard throw. Boykin also had three pass breakups, a forced fumble, and a sack. With a 40-point-per-game defense. With a better foundation in place in 2020, the Minutemen may not be the season’s biggest surprise, but Boykin will be a star-in-waiting.
Sayings: “In 2017, he had a light schedule and little practice, so he was ready to go. Now he’s OK.” — UMass coach Walt Bell