Ranking the Top 100 College Football Players for the 2018 Season

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    College football is loaded with outstanding defenders for the 2018 season. In fact, 11 of Bleacher Report’s top 15 players operate on the point-stopping side of the ball, and seven are linemen.

    One major challenge when deciding the top 100 is determining where to rank inexperienced players. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Georgia’s D’Andre Swift and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa are primed for substantial role increases, but they weren’t starters in 2017. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence has immense ability and hype—but zero career snaps.

    As a result, while previous production is a significant factor, individual skill and 2018 expectations also affected the order. Although that introduces a subjective element, basic statistics are imperfect in measuring the “best” players, too.

    Disagreements will be had. That’s the nature of rankings. But if you’re unfamiliar with a player, consider seeking out his team and watching for him during a slow weekend.

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    100. Benny Snell Jr., RB, Kentucky

    After running for 1,091 yards and 13 touchdowns while sharing carries as a freshman, Snell collected 1,333 yards and 19 scores to earn second-team All-SEC last year.

          

    99. Azeez Al-Shaair, LB, Florida Atlantic

    Head coach Lane Kiffin and Florida Atlantic’s offense attracts most of the attention, but Al-Shaair ranked third nationally with 147 tackles in 2017. He tallied 10.5 stops for loss with 2.5 sacks.

          

    98. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

    There’s no doubt Lawrence, the No. 1 overall prospect of the 2018 recruiting cycle, will play as a true freshman. If he performs well enough, Lawrence could unseat starter Kelly Bryant.

         

    97. Tyler Vaughns, WR, USC

    True freshman JT Daniels won the quarterback competition, and he has a rising star at receiver. Vaughns is USC’s leading returning wideout in catches (57), yards (809) and touchdowns (five).

         

    96. Trey Smith, LT, Tennessee

    In 2017, Smith started all 12 games, played every position up front except center and was a Freshman All-American. He’s pegged as the starting left tackle for his sophomore year.

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    95. Shaq Quarterman, LB, Miami

    As an All-ACC linebacker, Quarterman has gathered 167 tackles with 17 for loss since 2016. Last season, he also broke up five passes and notched four hurries.

         

    94. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

    The Ole Miss receiving corps is stacked. Metcalf reeled in 39 passes for 646 yards and seven touchdowns as a redshirt freshman, and he’s likely headed for more production after Van Jefferson’s departure.

         

    93. Khalil Hodge, LB, Buffalo

    Hodge doesn’t let many ball-carriers past him. In 2017, he racked up 154 tacklessecond most in the country.

         

    92. Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

    Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis are off to the NFL, giving Young a chance to start. In limited snaps last season, he collected six tackles for loss and 3.5 sacksincluding one against USC.

         

    91. Clifton Duck, CB, Appalachian State

    This guy is an award-hoarder. Duck won 2016 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and has secured a first-team all-conference slot in both seasons at Appalachian State. He also has 11 career interceptions.

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    90. Lavert Hill, CB, Michigan

    When the campaign ends, this ranking could be woefully low. Hill ceded only seven completions for 142 yards and didn’t allow a single touchdown on 26 targets last year, according to CFB Film Room.

         

    89. Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

    Brown notched 56 tackles with nine takedowns for loss and 3.5 sacks as a sophomore. He forced a pair of fumbles, too.

         

    88. Kelly Bryant, QB, Clemson

    No matter what happens with Lawrence in 2018, Bryant deserves his share of praise. The dual-threat quarterback threw for 2,802 yards, ran for 665 and accounted for 24 touchdowns while guiding Clemson to an ACC championship in 2017.

         

    87. Joe Jackson, DE, Miami

    Through two years at The U, Jackson has 23 tackles for loss and 15 sacks. If his role increases as expected after the departures of Chad Thomas and Trent Harris, Jackson could hit double-digit sacks this season.

         

    86. Cameron Smith, LB, USC

    Had an injury not limited Smith to 10 games as a freshman, he would be USC’s three-time leading tackler. The linebacker has taken down 273 ball-carriers and made 19 stops for a loss.

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    85. Ricky Walker, DT, Virginia Tech

    Virginia Tech will have a revamped defense, but it can build around Walker. As a junior, the honorable mention All-ACC tackle had 41 tackles with 12.5 for loss and 4.5 sacks.

         

    84. Shea Patterson, QB, Michigan

    The Ole Miss transfer had a 46.2 completion percentage, zero touchdowns and five interceptions against Alabama and LSU combined in 2017. Patterson is an enormous upgrade and likely star at Michigan, but he’s not as proven as the hype would suggest.

         

    83. Michael Deiter, LG, Wisconsin

    Where do you need Deiter? He can play there. In three seasons at Wisconsin, the versatile lineman has started 16 games at center, 14 at left tackle and 11 at left guardhis position in 2018.

         

    82. Ryan Finley, QB, North Carolina State

    Finley threw for 3,055 yards in 2016 and improved that output to 3,518 last season. His 16-10 record is the best two-year stretch for an NC State quarterback since Philip Rivers from 2002 to 2003.

         

    81. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

    The Oakland A’s are eagerly awaiting Murray’s arrival after the season, but he’s hoping to keep Oklahoma’s three-year Big 12 championship streak alive before then. Murray completed 85.7 percent of his passes and totaled 501 offensive yards as a backup in 2017.

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    80. Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State

    Over the last two seasons, Jones has tallied 72 tackles with nine stops in the backfield. He landed on the All-Big Ten third team in 2017.

         

    79. Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma

    “Hollywood” might still be giving Oklahoma State nightmares. Brown shredded OU’s rival for 265 yards and two touchdowns last year, and he ended the season with 57 catches, 1,095 yards and seven scores.

         

    78. Ahmmon Richards, WR, Miami

    Richards battled a hamstring injury throughout 2017, and the issue limited him to eight games. Still, in 21 career appearances, the wideout has snared 73 passes for 1,373 yards and six touchdowns.

         

    77. Brian Peavy, CB, Iowa State

    Not only is Peavy a lockdown corner with five career interceptions and 30 pass breakups, but he’s also a willing tackler. Peavy has 232 stops, including 11 behind the line of scrimmage.

         

    76. Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State

    A member of Michigan State’s 2014 recruiting class, Sweat had a winding journey to Mississippi State. He collected 15.5 takedowns for loss and 10.5 sacks in 2017, both of which tied for No. 1 in the SEC.

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    75. Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin

    After taking a redshirt in 2016, Biadasz asserted himself as a terrific run-blocker. In addition to Freshman All-American honors, the 6’3″, 318-pounder grabbed third-team All-Big Ten recognition.

         

    74. Jordan Miller, CB, Washington

    A leg injury limited Miller to seven appearances in 2017, but he allowed only 79 yards on eight catches and 17 targets against Pac-12 opponents, according to Pro Football Focus.

         

    73. Mitch Hyatt, LT, Clemson

    Clemson has reached the College Football Playoff in three straight years, and Mitch Hyatt has started at left tackle every season. He was a second-team AP All-American in 2017.

         

    72. Dakota Allen, LB, Texas Tech

    Allen is terrific in coverage, but he’s also a run-stopping machine. He piled up a team-high 102 tackles with six for loss last season, adding two sacks and two interceptions.

         

    71. Damien Harris, RB, Alabama

    The Tide boast a pair of outstanding runners in Najee Harris and Damien Harris (unrelated), and the latter has a pair of 1,000-yard seasons. He’s accounted for 15 touchdowns over the last two years.

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    70. Anthony Nelson, DE, Iowa

    Iowa is an under-the-radar Big Ten contender in 2018, and Nelson will highlight the defense. As a sophomore, he amassed 41 tackles, including 9.5 in the backfield, and 7.5 sacks.

         

    69. Malcolm Perry, QB, Navy

    Four games as Navy’s triple-option leader to end 2017 showed Perry’s potential. He racked up 728 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground in just those four contests, and he will be the full-time quarterback this season.

          

    68. Levonta Taylor, CB, Florida State

    Though listed at 5’10” and 181 pounds, that small stature hasn’t stopped Taylor from thriving. The 37.1 catch rate he allowed in 2017 ranks fifth among returning corners, per Pro Football Focus.

         

    67. Greg Little, LT, Ole Miss

    Little’s pass protection needs to improve, but he’s a dominant run-blocker. Conference coaches voted Little, a highly regarded NFL prospect, a second-team All-SEC lineman.

          

    66. Jaylen Smith, WR, Louisville

    On talent alone, he could be much higher. Smith reeled in 60 passes for 980 yards and seven touchdowns last season despite missing three games. His connection with Jawon Pass, the successor to Lamar Jackson, will shape the ceiling of Louisville’s offense.

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    65. Joe Dineen Jr., LB, Kansas

    One bright spot in a disheartening program, Dineen’s 137 tackles tied for the seventh most nationally in 2017. Additionally, the converted running back made 25 stops in the backfield.

         

    64. Andrew Wingard, S, Wyoming

    Wingard is a potential All-American safety. In each of his three campaigns with Wyoming, he’s recorded at least 114 tackles. Wingard also has snatched eight career interceptions.

         

    63. Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama

    He might not start for the Tide, but more than 100 FBS programs would love Hurts. The mobile quarterback led Alabama to the national championship game two years in a row and accounted for 2,936 yards and 25 touchdowns with only one interception last season.

         

    62. Ben Banogu, DE, TCU

    Losing Mat Boesen to the NFL and Ross Blacklock to injury will hurt, yet Banogu makes the TCU defensive line a threat. In 2017, he collected 55 tackles with 16.5 for loss and 8.5 sacks.

         

    61. David Sills V, WR, West Virginia

    Sills finished third on the Mountaineers with 60 catches, but he did enormous damage in those receptions. The former quarterback phenom grabbed 18 touchdowns, tied for most in the country. Sills totaled 980 yards on the season.

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    60. Khaleke Hudson, DB/LB, Michigan

    Minnesota probably wants to forget about Hudson, who shredded the Gophers with eight tackles for loss. In total last season, the linebacker/safety hybrid had 18 takedowns behind the line with eight sacks, and he also recorded nine pass breakups.

         

    59. David Edwards, RT, Wisconsin

    Edwards was an option quarterback in high school. Now, he’s protecting the signal-callerand he’s really good at it. The right tackle was a third-team AP All-American in 2017.

         

    58. Jalen Jelks, DE, Oregon

    Troy Dye is likely a more familiar name, and he’s a terrific player. Jelks, though, excelled as a run-stopper up front and registered 15 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and seven pass breakups last year.

         

    57. Joe Bachie, LB, Michigan State

    Bachie controlled the middle of the field for the Spartans in 2017. He gathered 100 total tackles, making 8.5 in the backfield, and notched 3.5 sacks. He also intercepted three passes and forced two fumbles.

         

    56. Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

    In addition to throwing for 3,964 yards, Lock set a conference record and led the country with 44 touchdown passes. The strong-armed quarterback landed on the All-SEC first team for his efforts.

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    55. Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina

    Samuel paced the Gamecocks with 59 catches and 783 yards two years ago. In three games last season, he accounted for six touchdownsthree at receiver, two on kickoffs, one as a runnerbefore a leg injury unceremoniously ended his campaign.

         

    54. Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma

    During OU’s first five contests of 2017, Anderson logged just 12 carries. He ended the campaign with 1,161 yards and 13 rushing scores, sneaking a second-team All-Big 12 spot following that invisible beginning.

         

    53. Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State

    Though suspended for the season opener, Fitzgerald brings a load of experience to a new offense. Since the beginning of 2016, he’s accounted for 6,564 yards and 66 touchdowns.

         

    52. Anthony Johnson, WR, Buffalo

    Johnson is the nation’s leading returning receiver. As a junior, he picked up 1,356 yards and 14 touchdowns on 76 catches. He also put together six games with at least 140 yards.

         

    51. Taylor Rapp, S, Washington

    The Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 and a first-team All-Pac-12 safety last season, Rapp has totaled 111 tackles and five interceptions so far in his already-stellar college career.

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    50. Raekwon Davis, DE, Alabama

    Best remembered for his interception against Georgia in the national championship, that takeaway was the exclamation point on Davis’ brilliant season. He totaled 69 tackles and 8.5 sacks in 2017.

         

    49. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

    The hero of Alabama’s latest title, Tagovailoa thrived in limited action before spearheading the second-half comeback against Georgia. The southpaw accounted for 769 offensive yards and 13 total touchdowns, and he threw only two interceptions in 77 attempts.

         

    48. Michael Jackson, CB, Miami

    Miami busted out the Turnover Chain 31 times last season, and Jackson earned it five timesfour of which were interceptions. The outstanding corner secured a second-team All-ACC selection.

         

    47. Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama

    This section is loaded with clutch Alabama players, huh? Wilson’s pick-six sealed the Tide’s victory over Clemson in the CFP semifinals. Overall, the sophomore had 40 tackles and four interceptions.

         

    46. Chase Winovich, DE, Michigan

    Although he’s behind Rashan Gary in terms of name recognition, Winovich is equally disruptive. The rising senior has notched 113 tackles with 27.5 for loss and 13.5 sacks over the last two years.

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    45. D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

    Depending on how often the Bulldogs wreck their opponents, Swift should be a Heisman contender. The speedy back ranked 10th nationally with 7.6 yards per carry last season, posting 618 yards on only 81 carries as the third-string runner.

         

    44. Max Scharping, LT, Northern Illinois

    Northern Illinois boasts an elite lineman on both sides of the ball. Sutton Smith is one, and Scharping is the other. The two-time first-team All-MAC tackle surrendered only six pressures on 458 pass-block snaps in 2017, per Pro Football Focus.

         

    43. Maxx Crosby, DE, Eastern Michigan

    Crosby finished 2017 as one of only seven defenders to record at least 11 sacks. The edge-rusher had three multi-sack games, including back-to-back three-sack showings in November. Crosby also forced four fumbles and returned one for a touchdown.

         

    42. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

    Expectations are enormous for Haskins, who sparked Ohio State’s comeback victory on the road against rival Michigan last year. He completed 40 of 57 passes for 565 yards and four touchdowns to only one interception as a backup.

         

    41. Dalton Risner, RT, Kansas State

    Entering his fourth season as a starter and third at right tackle, Risner is the most accomplished lineman in the Big 12. He’s twice earned first-team All-Big 12 honors, as voted by conference coaches.

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    40. Brian Lewerke, QB, Michigan State

    Michigan State went 3-9 in 2016. Not only did Lewerke lift the Spartans out of the cellar, but he also made them competitive. The dual-threat QB accounted for 3,357 offensive yards and 25 touchdowns and led his squad to upsets of two No. 7 teams: Michigan and Penn State.

         

    39. Paddy Fisher, LB, Northwestern

    Fisher isn’t a well-known player. But at 6’4″ and 245 pounds, it’s difficult to miss him. That also applies in a physical sense, since he tallied 113 takedowns, made nine tackles for loss and forced four fumbles as a redshirt freshman.

         

    38. Jake Browning, QB, Washington

    This is an important year for Browning, who finished sixth in 2016 Heisman Trophy voting but struggled last season. Still, in three seasons as Washington’s starter, he’s thrown for 9,104 yards and totaled 78 passing touchdowns to only 24 interceptions.

         

    37. AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College

    Your favorite play of 2017 should be Dillon using a stiff arm to obliterate a Louisville defender. As a true freshman, he ranked seventh nationally with 1,589 rushing yards. He also scored 14 times.

         

    36. Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn

    Stidham was just about everything Auburn hoped he’d be in 2017. While leading the Tigers to a 10-4 record with two victories over No. 1 teams, Stidham became only the second player in program history to crack 3,000 yards through the air in a single season.

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    35. David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State

    Some players flat-out refuse to get tackled, and Montgomery is the embodiment of that mindset. While gaining 1,442 yards from scrimmage and scoring 11 touchdowns last year, he forced 109 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.

         

    34. Devin Bush Jr., LB, Michigan

    This guy is a roaming missile. A third-team AP All-American in 2017, Bush amassed 102 tackles, 9.5 takedowns in the backfield, five sacks and eight pass breakups.

         

    33. Cam Akers, RB, Florida State

    During a disappointing season for the ‘Noles, Cam Akers’ exceptional skills stood out. Even behind a mediocre offensive line, the true freshman crested the 1,000-yard mark and scored seven touchdowns.

         

    32. Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic

    Singletary carried a heavy loadhis 301 attempts tied for No. 1 nationallyas a sophomore, but he excelled in the role. He scampered for 1,920 yards and paced the nation with 32 touchdowns, the third-highest single-season total in FBS history.

         

    31. Joe Giles-Harris, LB, Duke

    Duke has a pair of tremendous defenders in cornerback Mark Gilbert and Giles-Harris. In both 2016 and 2017, Giles-Harris has topped the 100-tackle mark. During those two seasons combined, he’s registered 25.5 stops for loss and 8.5 sacks.

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    30. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

    Dobbins offered a rare blend of production and efficiency in 2017. Among all players with at least 10 rushing attempts per game, his 7.2-yard average ranked seventh. Dobbins wrapped up his freshman campaign with 1,403 yards and seven scores.

                 

    29. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

    Throwing at Murphy is typically an unwise decision. Even though a broken foot limited him to six appearances last year, Murphy snared three interceptions and broke up seven passes.

                

    28. Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona

    Tate was a breakout sensation in 2017, accumulating 3,002 yards of total offense and 26 touchdowns despite spending September as the backup. Is he improved as a passer? Though nine interceptions are a real concern, his mobility alone justifies this ranking.

                 

    27. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

    Based on production alone, Taylor is a top-10 player. As a true freshman, he recorded 1,977 yards and 13 touchdowns en route to second-team AP All-America honors. Taylor’s lack of versatility is a knock compared to other runners, but No. 27 is elite.

               

    26. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia

    If you’re a suffering NFL fan desperately waiting for a franchise quarterback, Fromm might be the answerafter 2019. He posted a 62.2 completion percentage with 2,615 yards and 24 scores with seven picks, guiding Georgia to an SEC title as a true freshman.

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    25. A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss

    Brown is a nightmare to defend out of the slot. The 6’1″, 230-pound target caught 75 passes for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, leading Ole Miss in every category and earning third-team AP All-America honors.

                   

    24. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

    Williams, who finished with the same AP recognition as Brown, picked off six passes in 2017. According to CFB Film Room, he allowed only 20 completions for 299 yards and one touchdown in 58 targets.

                

    23. Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson

    Clemson’s fourth-highest-ranked defensive lineman is a top-25 player in the country. Must be nice! In his first season as a starter, he gathered 50 tackles, 15.5 stops for loss and 8.5 sacks.

              

    22. McKenzie Milton, QB, Central Florida

    UCF celebrated a 13-0 season thanks to Milton’s steady performance. The dual-threat QB ranked in the top 10 nationally in completion percentage (67.1), yards per attempt (10.2), total yards (4,037) and touchdown passes (37). He also ran for 613 yards and eight scores.

                 

    21. Will Grier, QB, West Virginia

    Though a broken finger effectively ended Grier’s season after 10 games, he shredded opponents for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns through the air. Grier posted a 7-3 record while healthy.

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    20. N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State

    As a freshman, the 6’4″ wideout had 58 catches for 659 yards and five touchdowns. Harry improved that output to 82 receptions, 1,142 yards and eight scores last season, and another prolific year could set him up as a first-round NFL draft choice.

                      

    19. Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State

    McSorley helped the Nittany Lions win the Big Ten in 2016 and oversaw an 11-win campaign a year ago. During that span, he’s accounted for more than 8,000 yards of total offense and 77 touchdowns.

                  

    18. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

    Oregon sorely missed Herbert when he missed five games due to a broken collarbone. The Ducks averaged 49.1 points with him healthy but only 15.0 without. Herbert accounted for 2,166 offensive yards and 20 touchdowns in his eight appearances.

                 

    17. Lukas Denis, S, Boston College

    The rising senior is a weapon all over the field. Denis totaled 83 tackles, seven interceptions, 10 pass breakups and two forced fumbles last year. Additionally, per Pro Football Focus, he allowed a meager 35.4 passer rating when targeted in the slot.

                  

    16. Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

    Simmons was an instant-impact freshman in 2016 and first-team All-SEC performer last year. The interior lineman’s next tackle will be the 100th of his college career. So far, he’s provided 14.5 takedowns for loss with five sacks.

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    By the numbers: Justice Hill has twice cracked the 1,000-yard barrier. He scampered for 1,142 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman in 2016, then picked up 1,467 yards and 15 scores last season.

    Best skill: The rising junior has a tremendous ability to change direction, especially with nasty jump-cuts. Hill uses that stop-start prowess to plant a foot, cut upfield and quickly get to top speed.

    2018 outlook: Following the departures of quarterback Mason Rudolph and receivers James Washington and Marcell Ateman, Hill is OSU’s undisputed star. The O-line is breaking in three new starters, but Hill has the talent to create yards with only decent blocking.

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    By the numbers: Last season, Deandre Baker collected 44 tackles and intercepted three passes. According to CFB Film Room, he ceded just nine completions and one touchdown on 34 targets.

    Best skill: Cornerbacks don’t always love the physical aspect of football. Baker, however, doesn’t shy away from contact, and that’s evident in both tight coverage and run support.

    2018 outlook: Georgia lost several key defenders, but Baker and safety J.R. Reed give the secondary a tremendous duo around which to build. Baker should help the Bulldogs, who finished No. 8 in pass defense last season, showcase another top-15 unit.

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    By the numbers: In two seasons with Alabama, Jonah Williams has started 29 games at left tackle. The rising junior recorded a 95.5 pass-block efficiency in 2017, per CFB Film Room.

    Best skill: NFL scouts love Williams. “I don’t know what the question marks are,” one told Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller in June. Williams has a terrific understanding of how to gain and keep leverage.

    2018 outlook: Four starters return from the 2017 linethough Matt Womack has a broken footand former 5-star recruit Alex Leatherwood is joining the unit. Williams will be an essential piece if Alabama is to control the ground game, as usual.

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    By the numbers: Myles Gaskin has consistently improved his efficiency as both a runner and receiver. He’s notched 1,300-plus rushing yards in three straight seasons and caught 44 passes during that span. Entering 2018, he has 49 career touchdowns.

    Best skill: While he doesn’t show breakaway speed, Gaskin has exceptional balance. That allows him to add a little wiggle to his running style, cruise past arm tackles and stay upright on contact.

    2018 outlook: Washington returns five linemen who started at least five games in 2017. Expectations are rightfully high for a back as consistent as Gaskin. If he’s a little more explosive than previous seasons, he’ll be a Heisman contender.

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    By the numbers: After playing defensive end and tackle in 2016, Christian Wilkins slid inside on a full-time basis last season. The 6’4″, 315-pounder had 60 takedowns with 8.5 for loss and 4.5 sacks.

    Best skill: Wilkins is uncharacteristically explosive for an interior lineman. That’s also why Clemson could feel comfortable playing him at D-end when depth was lacking two years ago.

    2018 outlook: The senior probably won’t match the flashy numbers Austin Bryant or Clelin Ferrell will put up. However, that should not devalue Wilkins’ impact. He’ll likely be most productive in run support.

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    By the numbers: A three-year contributor for Miami, Jaquan Johnson is coming off his best individual season. In addition to registering a team-best 96 tackles, he snatched four interceptions and forced three fumbles.

    Best skill: Johnson is plenty physical, but he’s elite between the ears. The senior can swiftly diagnose a run or pass and is constantly in the right position to make a tackleand he rarely misses.

    2018 outlook: Miami has an exciting secondary, and the linebacker corps is full of experience. However, a real concern is a retooled D-lineparticularly at tackleso Johnson’s run support may be vital to the Hurricanes’ effort to remain a top-tier defense.

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    By the numbers: A first-team All-SEC linebacker in 2017, Devin White led LSU with 133 takedowns67 more than the No. 2 tackler. He made 14 stops in the backfield with 4.5 sacks and provided 23 combined quarterback hits and hurries, per CFB Film Room.

    Best skill: White has a level of athleticism that simply cannot be taught. Combine that with his 6’1″, 240-pound frame and knowledge of the game, and his sideline-to-sideline speed is devastating.

    2018 outlook: LSU’s offense is full of question marks. Consequently, the defense will be under immense pressure to keep games low-scoring. But with White roaming the middle, the Tigers have a chance to accomplish that consistently.

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    By the numbers: Rashan Gary moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore and matched all expectations. Among his 66 total tackles, the former No. 1 overall prospect had 12 takedowns for loss and six sacks.

    Best skill: Linemen rarely move like Gary can. He’s strong enough to play defensive tackle and explosive enough to rush off the edge. The NFL covets that special type of athleticism.

    2018 outlook: On talent alone, he’s a top-three player. That may be reflected in the 2019 NFL draft, assuming Gary skips his senior season. And there’s little reason to expect he wouldn’t be in position to leave Michigan, given his impact on what should be a top-five defense.

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    By the numbers: For three straight years, T.J. Edwards has logged 80-plus tackles. Plus, over the last two seasons, he’s gathered a combined 19.5 for loss. Edwards added tremendous coverage to his resume in 2017, intercepting four passes and breaking up seven.

    Best skill: Similar to Johnson at Miami, the most impressive part of Edwards’ game is his awareness. Whether reading the quarterback’s eyes while in coverage or recognizing and attacking a run, he’s rarely wrong and seldom out of position.

    2018 outlook: Wisconsin needs to replace a couple of starters up front and in the secondary, but Edwards and his fellow linebackers will be a steadying force. Expect the Badgers to field a top-10 defense for the sixth straight season.

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    By the numbers: Sutton Smith paced the FBS in tackles for loss (29.5) and tied Central Michigan’s Joe Ostman for the most sacks (14). According to Pro Football Focus, Smithwho forced three fumbles and returned two for touchdownsracked up an FBS-high 92 total pressures.

    Best skill: Linemen must be sick of trying to prepare for (or react to) Smith’s quickness. Even if he’s not the fastest off the ball on a given snap, Smith can set up slow-footed linemen and fly by either shoulder.

    2018 outlook: How much will NIU’s key departures affect Smith? Jawuan Johnson and Bobby Jones IV combined for 30.5 tackles for loss but transferred and used up eligibility, respectively. Though that’s potentially significant, it would be stunning if Smith’s production took a nosedive.

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    By the numbers: Following a freshman campaign with 62 tackles and 6.5 sacks, Dexter Lawrence posted 34 and 2.5, respectively, in 2017. He earned All-ACC honors in both seasons.

    Best skill: Listed at 6’4″ and 350 pounds, Lawrence displays the physical superiority you’d expect from a player his size. He often wins reps simply by overpowering his blocker.

    2018 outlook: Lawrence is unfinished as a pass-rusher, but his run-stuffing prowess is what’s most important anyway. Clemson has sack artists in Austin Bryant and Ferrell. Albert Huggins will rotate into Lawrence’s spot to keep him rested.

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    Mike Comer/Getty Images

    By the numbers: Few linemen have been more productive than Clelin Ferrell since the beginning of 2016. During that stretch, he’s accumulated 110 tackles, 30.5 stops for loss and 15.5 sacks.

    Best skill: Given his past production, it shouldn’t be surprising the junior has elite explosiveness. Paired with his top-notch snap awareness, Ferrell is regularly a step ahead of blockers.

    2018 outlook: The “Power Rangers” head into the campaign with enormous pressure. But, barring injury, Ferrell could reach 15 tackles for loss and eight sacks. No pass rush in the country will be more feared than Clemson’s.

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    By the numbers: This section could go on forever. Bryce Love broke a Stanford record with 2,118 rushing yards last year, and his 13 runs of 50-plus yards were the most in single-season FBS history. The speedster topped out at 301 yards in a game and scored 19 touchdowns.

    Best skill: While his breakaway speed is a major asset, the senior is able to display it often because he’s so decisive. When Love sees a hole, he wastes little movement and attacks it.

    2018 outlook: Lovewho needs 1,175 yards to set Stanford’s all-time rushing recordhas the luxury of running behind a deep, experienced offensive line. Last season’s Heisman runner-up should be near the top of the conversation once again.

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    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    By the numbers: A second-team AP All-America choice in 2017, Nick Bosa tallied career-high marks across the board. He logged 34 tackles, 16 takedowns for loss and 8.5 sacks, also ranking second nationally with 62 total pressures, per Pro Football Focus.

    Best skill: Bosa isn’t simply a “whip you with athleticism” rusher, though he’s capable of that. The junior has an advanced set of block-beating moves to complement top-tier strength and quickness.

    2018 outlook: Ohio State has a retooled defensive line, but Chase Young and Bosa should be a dynamic pass-rushing pair. After this season, Bosa will likely head to the NFL as an early-first-round pick.

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    By the numbers: Ed Oliver scored a rushing touchdown in 2017, and that’s why he’s the nation’s No. 1 player. Oh, he’s also totaled 139 tackles from his interior spot over two seasons at Houston, gathering 39 stops in the backfield and 10.5 sacks.

    Best skill: The junior showcases a burst at the line of scrimmage akin to that of an elite defensive end. Combined with his adept feel for gaining leverage, it’s what makes Oliver such a nightmare to block.

    2018 outlook: In March, he declared for the 2019 NFL draft. Why waste time delaying the obvious, right? In the meantimewith or without much assistance from teammatesOliver will continue wrecking the American Athletic Conference.

                

    All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from NCAA.comcfbstats.com or B/R research. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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