The 5 names you need to know in college football for 2018

Jon Chuckery
August 06, 2018 - 3:14 pm
Clemson Tigers running back Travis Etienne

© Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

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So as the most important time of the year for this sports fan approaches, I give you my annual list of the names you need to know in college football for 2018. 

As always, remember this is not a “best player,” or All-American, or “most well-known” player list but rather a list of the players who could have big impacts on the direction of the college football landscape who you might not know as well.

5. Jeffery Simmons – DL, Mississippi State:  A preseason First-Team All-SEC pick, Simmons looks to build off a breakout 2017 that saw 12 tackles for loss, five sacks, three blocked kicks, and two touchdowns scored.  Impressive numbers that if improved upon, could make Simmons (now a junior) in this year of elite defensive lineman a top-tier NFL Prospect.  Mississippi State could be the surprise in the SEC this year and a lot relies on how good Simmons and the Bulldogs defense can be.

4. Justin Herbert – QB, Oregon:  How big of a difference does Herbert make for the Duck offense?  When he played in 2017 Oregon was 6-2 averaging 49.1 points per game. The Ducks were 1-4 averaging 15 points per game without him.  The showdown is Oct. 13 in Autzen Stadium when the Washington Huskies (the preseason Pac-12 favorite) come calling in what could be a battle of two of the best quarterbacks in the conference.

3. David Long Jr. – LB, West Virginia:  Most everybody knows Will Grier and David Sills as two of the elite offensive players in college football.  However, if WVU is going to be a potential playoff team, its defense has to improve (31.5 points per game given up last year). And it starts with the unquestioned leader in Long.  Even in missing four games last year, this preseason All Big-12 Conference pick was ninth in tackles and fourth in tackles for loss in the conference.

2. Travis Etienne – RB, Clemson:  Coming off a season where he led the ACC in yards per carry (7.2) as a freshman, the Tigers have high hopes for this explosive and powerful runner.  How explosive and powerful is he?  Last year 512 of his 766 rushing yards came AFTER first contact.  He's still raw in some areas, including pass protection, but expect him to improve even more this year with a heavier load of the rushing attack.

1. Dwayne Haskins – QB, Ohio State:  You may remember it was Haskins who led OSU to a victory last year over Michigan after J.T. Barrett was injured. Now he takes over as the full-time starter for an Ohio State offense that according to head coach Urban Meyer “will change the way we attack defenses.”  He’s got lots of weapons. Don’t be surprised if he ends up being the Big 10 Offensive Player of the Year.