Best Athletes That Just Missed 2024 Top 100 College Football Network Players

    Last week, we unveiled our 2024 Top 100 College Football Players. Several notable names missed the cut, but we make the case for them here.

    Our 2024 Top 100 College Football Players was just that — our subjective list of the top 100 players returning to college football in 2024. Of course, some big names just missed the mark, so let’s make the case for them.

    2024 Top 100 College Football Players: The Cases for Those Who Didn’t Make It

    Danny Stutsman, LB, and Billy Bowman Jr., S, Oklahoma Sooners

    If you watch all six of Billy Bowman Jr.’s interceptions last season, you’ll notice that only one was a great play on the ball. Two were tips (one by multiple WRs), one was an underthrow rolling out, one was a poor lob to the end zone, and the last was an egregious overthrow.

    Now, being in the position to nab all six is a skill in and of itself. Hell, he even returned three for touchdowns, highlighting his athletic ability. But outside of that, he is a poor tackler and not an impact player against the run, which are both huge for safeties.

    Danny Stutsman, meanwhile, is a throwback physical linebacker in the box who isn’t much of a playmaker in coverage. He is reliable in all facets and racks up tackles, but he was on the outside looking in at the top 100.

    Also, a shoutout to Oklahoma’s WR room (namely Nic Anderson, Jayden Gibson, Deion Burks, and Andrel Anthony) which is absolutely loaded with talent — so much so that it’s difficult to place any on the list as they’ll eat into each other’s production. Plus, they have an inexperienced QB under center with questions along the offensive line.

    Xavier Restrepo, WR, Miami Hurricanes

    Xavier Restrepo is a sure-handed WR who knows how to create separation. The only issue is that he’s a slot-only pass catcher with little in the way of after-the-catch production. Still, with Cam Ward coming to town, he’ll put up another 1,000-yard season with likely more than the six TDs he hauled in last year.

    Mykel Williams, EDGE, and Earnest Greene III, OT, Georgia Bulldogs

    When you have seven EDGEs in a heavy rotation, it’s difficult for any of them to make the top 100, even one as impressive as Mykel Williams. Still, his ability as a run defender and pass rusher is worthy of praise, and he’ll be a better pro than a college athlete.

    The same goes for Earnest Greene III, who could be one of the top OTs selected next cycle but is still maturing and wasn’t a mauler in the run game in 2023 despite his physical gifts.

    Jeremiah Cooper, S, Iowa State Cyclones

    Jeremiah Cooper is a name to know entering his true junior season. He snatched five interceptions last season, with the ones against Cincinnati and Northern Iowa showcasing his ball skills and reactiveness.

    His versatility is also a plus, as he can line up at deep safety, in the box, or in the slot. However, Cooper has to come to balance as a tackler, and his light frame (6’0″, 185 pounds) makes it difficult for him to impact the ground game.

    Graham Mertz, QB, Florida Gators

    Much has been made of Graham Mertz’s 72.9% completion rate, which led the conference last season. However, his average depth of target was the lowest in the SEC — you’d better complete passes that close to the line of scrimmage.

    I’m not buying Mertz as an elite QB, but he does keep the football out of harm’s way, as highlighted by his 20:3 TD-to-INT ratio in 2023. Head coach Billy Napier’s seat is warming up, and the Gators may suffer another disappointing season with the hardest schedule in the nation.

    Emery Jones Jr., OT, LSU Tigers

    Will Campbell is the top OT in the nation, but his teammate across the line isn’t too far behind. Emery Jones has started since his true freshman season in 2022 and showed immense growth last year.

    With Garrett Nussmeier taking over for Jayden Daniels under center, Jones’ job could be easier, as Daniels scrambled away from clean pockets and turned pressures into sacks at a high rate.

    Kyle Monangai, RB, Rutgers Scarlet Knights

    Even with defenses keying on Kyle Monangai and the Rutgers’ rushing attack, he still ran for 1,262 yards and eight TDs last season. He didn’t let the ball hit the turf a single time and stood his ground as a pass protector, which you can’t say about most collegiate running backs.

    Luke Lachey, TE, Iowa Hawkeyes

    The next TE off the Iowa-to-NFL conveyor belt, Luke Lachey has the size (6’6″, 253) and instincts to earn early-round capital in the 2025 NFL Draft. But before that, he’ll provide the Hawkeyes with receiving talent they were in desperate need of last season. With Cade McNamara also returning from injury, Lachey could produce his best campaign.

    Jordan James, RB, Oregon Ducks

    Jordan James took the spotlight off 1,000-yard rusher Bucky Irving last season with his 7.1 yards-per-carry average. He can take any touch to the house with blazing speed, but his balance and vision between the tackles resulted in his off-the-charts efficiency.

    Bryson Nesbit, TE, North Carolina Tar Heels

    Over the last two seasons, Bryson Nesbit was one of Drake Maye’s favorite targets, accumulating 76 catches, 1,092 yards, and nine TDs. At 6’6″ and 235 pounds, he’s a smooth athlete who can stretch defenses vertically up the seams.

    Nesbit is more WR than TE – he has spent most of his time out of the slot – but he is a serviceable run blocker when he gets his hands on defenders.

    James Ferguson-Reynolds, P, Boise State Broncos

    A native Australian, James Ferguson-Reynolds has punt return units saying, “Crikey!” every time he boots the ball. He was the first-team All-MWC punter in 2023, and he’s the favorite to be so again in 2024. There’s no questioning his leg, as he led the conference with a 49.5-yard average, 43.0-yard net, 26 punts downed inside the 20, and 29 punts of 50+ yards.

    DJ Uiagalelei, QB, Florida State Seminoles

    Graduation and the NFL Draft decimated Florida State’s roster, but Mike Norvell and Co. have done their best in the transfer portal to limit the damage. While they likely won’t be “unconquered” next season, former Clemson and Oregon State QB DJ Uiagalelei will keep the chains moving.

    With three seasons of starting tape available, we know who DJU is: a low-ceiling, high-floor passer with the legs to escape the pocket and pick up yards when needed. He could improve statistically with Norvell and OC Alex Atkins, but there is little “potential” left to unlock.

    Tellek Lockette, G, Texas State Bobcats

    Tellek Lockette transferred to Texas State after two years as a starter at ULM. He earned a 2023 CFN All-Sun Belt Second Team nod for his efforts last season, using all 6’3″ and 335 pounds of his frame to pave lanes and keep his QB clean.

    Cameron Rising, QB, and Brant Kuithe, TE, Utah Utes

    Cameron Rising and Brant Kuithe return for what feels like their 10th collegiate seasons. Injuries have plagued their careers, but the veterans have the talent and experience to bounce back in a big way in the Utes’ first season in the Big 12.

    Rising takes care of the football and rarely allows pressure to turn into drive-killing sacks. Additionally, his athletic build allows him to extend plays within the pocket and occasionally on the move. He can improve his pre-snap recognition, mental processing, and decision-making, but he possesses the arm talent and moxie to deliver strikes all over the field.

    At 6’2″ and 230 pounds, Brant Kuithe has played the “move” or “F” TE role in Utah’s offense. Whether catching passes from the slot, blocking in-line, or taking carries in the backfield, Kuithe can do it all.

    Andrew Mukuba, DB, Texas Longhorns

    Consistency was Andrew Mukuba’s biggest issue at Clemson, but his explosiveness and raw athleticism allow him to be a playmaker from two-high, single-high, and slot alignments. Now, at Texas and in the SEC, Mukuba will have the chance to showcase his man-coverage ability and impact as a deep safety against the stiffest competition yet.

    Darius Taylor, RB, Minnesota Golden Gophers

    A healthy Darius Taylor creates 99 problems for opposing teams. He was Minnesota’s entire offense when on the field, leading the program with 891 all-purpose yards (799 rushing and 92 receiving).

    His patience and lateral agility at the line of scrimmage allow him to bounce to the open hole, and his speed and balance generate broken tackles and yards after contact with ease.

    Juice Wells, WR, Ole Miss Rebels

    An injury robbed us of another Antwane Wells Jr. masterclass, but he could rival his 2021 campaign (83-1,250-15 receiving line) with Jaxson Dart throwing the ball and Lane Kiffin calling the plays. He’s a menace after the catch and simply knows how to get open.

    Oronde Gadsden II, WR, Syracuse Orange

    A Lisfranc injury knocked Oronde Gadsden II out of most of the 2023 season, but the 6’5″, 220-pound WR displayed his potential with a 61-969-6 sophomore campaign. With Kyle McCord now throwing him the ball, Gadsden could outproduce the 2022 season that put his name on the map.

    Keon Sabb, S, Alabama Crimson Tide

    Checking “win a national championship” off his goals at Michigan in 2023, Keon Sabb decided to transfer to Alabama. Rod Moore and Makari Paige led the Wolverines’ safety unit, but Sabb still snatched two INTs and was suffocating in coverage. As the full-time starter in DC Kane Wommack’s system, the sky is the limit for Sabb in Tuscaloosa.

    Brady Cook, QB, Missouri Tigers

    The Tigers defeated four top-25 teams on their way to their best record in nearly a decade (11-2). Brady Cook was a large reason for their success, finding a rhythm in the passing game and throwing darts downfield.

    Losing 1,600-yard rusher Cody Schrader will put more pressure on the passing attack, but with top WRs Luther Burden III, Theo Wease Jr., Marquis Johnson, and Mookie Cooper returning, Cook should continue to cook in 2024.

    Texas A&M’s Conner Weigman deserves recognition as well – when he was healthy last season, he was one of the top QBs in the conference. Can he return to form under Mike Elko and Collin Klein in 2024?

    College Football Network has you covered with the latest news and analysis, rankings, transfer portal information, top 10 returning players, the 2024 college football season schedule, and much more!

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