As with many sports, football is a team game. You can have the best player in the division, but if the team around them is lacking, it’s hard for a single young player to carry a whole team on their shoulders. That said, it doesn’t mean we can’t sit back and enjoy watching some of those top talents before they likely get picked up in the next NFL Draft.
But who are the key players to be keeping an eye on this year? Who is going to step into the big shoes that need to be filled after many players left their college teams following the 2021 NFL Draft? Let’s just take a quick look at some of the top talents who could have huge impacts on their teams that you don’t want to miss in the 2021 NCAA College Football Season.
The number 24 for the LSU Tigers is Derek Stingley Jr. who is now entering his junior year. He tore it up in his initial season at LSU as a freshman, with the cornerback recording 38 tackles, 15 pass breakups, and 6 interceptions. Impressive stuff for any player, never mind someone who is in their first season in the team.
However, his form did dip in 2020 but not without reason. He started the season with illness, forcing him to be unable to start. Then the season was disrupted by COVID-19, so didn’t get a chance to get a full season under his belt and reclaim the form he had the previous year.
But in 2021, we’re expecting big things from him, if he can rediscover that form from 2019 anyway. After all, you don’t get ranked as the No.1 cornerback and No.3 overall player in the recruiting class of 2019 without having some serious talent. Make sure to keep your eye on this one.
One of the most outstanding players in the NCAA this past couple years, Kyle Hamilton has recorded 104 tackles, has 5.5 tackles for loss, 12 pass breakups, five interceptions and even bagged himself a touchdown. All of that in just 24 games. Insane numbers for an insanely talented individual.
Whilst he may not be as highly thought of in the recruiting class rankings as Derek Stingley Jr. he at least didn’t see a dip in his form last year following his initial campaign with the Fighting Irish in 2019. If anything, he only got better, ending up as a first team All-ACC performer in 2020.
And if he keeps following the trajectory he is on, he will likely get some NFL Draft attention in his third year at Notre Dame. And who knows, maybe he could have enough of an impact to assist the Fighting Irish in climbing up the NCAA Football Standings.
Playing for the number one prospects for the NCAA 2021 Season, the Alabama Crimson Tide, Neal is a player who has had an incredible few years, and has so much potential to get even better. He’s an absolute unit at 6 ft 7”, weighing 360 lbs, so it’s no wonder that he was ranked No.1 offensive tackle in the recruiting class of 2019.
The only thing that goes against him at the moment, is that despite playing regularly, he doesn’t have a set position, the coach moves him from right to left and all over. Whilst not having a regular starting position, this shows the adaptability and flexibility of Neal, and that nothing is a real challenge for him. Because he dominates no matter where he is on the field.
The last player to make our list of those you don’t want to miss this season is the Boilermakers defensive end, George Karlaftis. During his freshman season, he managed to record 54 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups and even forced a fumble. However, despite his impressive form, he never carried that through to the 2020 season.
But here’s why he still makes our list of players to watch. His season last year was ruined with injury and the impact of COVID-19, limiting him to just two games all season. But even in that short time, he managed to make 4 tackles (3 solo, 1 assist) and 2 sacks. Showing that he was capable when fit of continuing his form from the previous season.
If he stays fit this year, and with a full regular season schedule, he should carry on where he left off. No doubt drawing a lot of attention to himself for the next NFL Draft.