Breakout players from the top 25 teams to enjoy in

Mar 13, 2024, 07:00 AM ET Last week we took a look at season-defining matchups from the Way-Too-Early Top 25 teams ahead of the 2024 season.This week, our writers selected potential breakout stars from each of those leading 25 groups to look for this upcoming season.

With former beginning inside linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson transferring to Kentucky, the Bulldogs are searching for someone to begin beside Smael Mondon Jr. in the middle of their defense. After a knee injury that he suffered in preseason camp in 2023, sophomore Raylen Wilson showed flashes of why he was one of the most sought after linebacker potential customers in the nation as a senior at Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Florida. Wilson was called to the SEC All-Freshman team after amounting to 15 deals with and a half-sack in 12 games. He was among the fastest runners in the state in the 100-meter dash and was when clocked at 24 mph on GPS.– Mark Schlabach

First-class wide receiver Jeremiah Smith (No. 4 in 2024 ESPN 300) was the crown jewel of a recruiting class for Ohio State that ended up third in ESPN’s rankings. With Marvin Harrison Jr. prepping for the NFL draft as a possible top-five choice, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Smith will likely be offered every opportunity to help fill that space. Smith, who played for Florida powerhouse Chaminade-Madonna Preparation, had 90 receptions for 1,389 backyards and 19 touchdowns as a senior. His arrival will provide Ryan Day, brand-new OC Chip Kelly and transfer QB Will Howard an amazing addition to play around with.– Blake Baumgartner

As the Ducks transition from Bo Nix to transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel, it would not surprise me to see the running game become an even larger part of the Oregon offense in 2024. With standout Bucky Irving headed to the draft, the stage is set for running back Jordan James to take on a larger role in the backfield. The rising junior from Tennessee is coming off an exceptionally effective season in his 2nd year with the Ducks, balancing over 7 backyards per carry on 107 attempts in addition to 11 rushing goals. James might have already broken out in 2023, but a second leap this season could develop him as one of the more efficient backs in the nation as part of an offense that will score and score frequently.– Paolo Uggetti

Last year, five-star hire Anthony Hill Jr. played a significant function at linebacker as a real freshman. This year’s variation could be Colin Simmons, a desired edge rush who was No. 12 general possibility in the final ESPN 300. The Longhorns boasted one of the best protective lines in the country in 2015, but T’Vondre Sweat and Byron Murphy II supplied the majority of the rise the middle and are gone to the draft. Adding an elite pass-rusher at end to pair with UTSA transfer Trey Moore, who had 14 sacks in 2015, gives the Longhorns a whole new element on defense.– Dave Wilson

Notre Dame must have among the very best tight end tandems in the nation with Mitchell Evans and Eli Raridon. Both are big targets in the death game and must supply nice safety valves and imposing red zone targets for transfer QB Riley Leonard, however both have a lot of room for growth after solid provings last season. Their success is critical for Notre Dame, too, as the Irish might be something of an operate in development at wideout.– David Hale

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The Rebels won’t be doing not have for talent in their wide receiver room this season. Tre Harris is back therefore is Jordan Watkins, in addition to South Carolina transfer Antwane “Juice” Wells Jr. But the player poised to make the greatest jump is sophomore Cayden Lee, who made his very first career start last season in the 38-25 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl win over Penn State. Lee revealed flashes of what he can with three catches for 29 lawns versus the Nittany Lions. The 5-11, 175-pound Lee has elite speed and is electrical after the catch.– Chris Low

Luther Concern III will not be the only receiver Brady Cook will be throwing touchdown passes to in 2024. Marquis Johnson had his minutes as a freshman a year ago. He’ll have even more minutes as a sophomore, producing what should be an explosive tandem for the Tigers at wideout. The 5-11, 180-pound Johnson caught 13 passes for 383 backyards and three goals last season, including a 76-yard touchdown versus Memphis. In addition to excellent speed, Johnson also plays a lot taller than he is. He once high leapt 6-4 when he remained in high school.– Low

Quinton Martin (No. 91 in the 2024 ESPN 300) was absolutely nothing short of dynamic for Belle Vernon High School in Pennsylvania. The No. 1 player in Pennsylvania chose to stay home. He will add to the outstanding stable of running backs the program has produced just recently, with Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton spearheading the current lineup. How the Nittany Lions pick to utilize the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Martin, who had 1,945 overall yards and 27 total goals as a senior in 2015, to supplant Allen and Singleton will be interesting to watch.– Baumgartner

Sophomore RB Justice Haynes need to play a big part in Alabama’s offense Image by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire Alabama fans were shouting to see more of freshman running back Justice Haynes last season, however he played primarily on special groups. He got his most work at running back in the Rose Bowl loss to Michigan and must be a huge part of the Crimson Tide’s offense in Year 1 under Kalen DeBoer. The 5-11, 205-pound sophomore was ranked by ESPN as the country’s No. 2 running back prospect coming out of high school and had 3 touchdowns in Alabama’s spring game a year earlier. He has the household background (his daddy, Verron Haynes, played at Georgia and in the NFL) and the strength, power and speed to emerge as among the SEC’s most explosive running backs in 2024.– Low

The Utes lost 2 key protective backs in NFL-bound safeties Sione Vaki and Cole Bishop, turning the position from a location of strength into a question mark. Nevertheless, the variety of choices the Utes have at the position has revealed pledge, consisting of Tao Johnson– who began 12 games at nickelback in 2023– and has the capability to move over to security, as he did during a couple of protections last season. Johnson got here in Utah as a wide receiver, a position where he got restricted time as a freshman in 2022, before making the transition to defense. In 2015, Johnson finished with 33 overall tackles and five pass deflections and revealed the capability to become one of the Utes’ essential players on defense in 2024.– Uggetti

Deep space left behind at slot receiver after Jacob Cowing’s departure is not to be disregarded. Cowing captured 90 passes for 848 backyards and 13 goals in his last season at Arizona. Both wide receivers Malachi Riley and Kevin Green Jr., present two prospects for the Wildcats at the position after their freshman years. Riley captured four balls for 90 lawns last year and Green Jr. had eight catches for 97 yards. Both should have increased roles as star quarterback Noah Fifita aims to continue the Wildcats’ offensive breakout from last season.– Uggetti

Tigers running back Kaleb Jackson currently had a viral minute early in his freshman season when he stiff-armed a prospective tackler to the ground and after that bulldozed defensive back Isaac Smith on a run in a 41-14 victory at Mississippi State. Previous LSU receiver Malik Nabers compared Jackson’s powerful running design to previous Tigers star Leonard Fournette. ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer compared his enormous legs to Eagles star Saquon Barkley’s. Jackson, who played high school football about 3 miles from Tiger Stadium, ran for 165 lawns with 4 goals as a freshman. With Heisman Prize winner Jayden Daniels, Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. leaving for the NFL, Jackson must have a much larger function in 2024.– Schlabach

Jadyn Davis (No. 166 in the 2024 ESPN 300) is the first ESPN 300 quarterback to sign with Michigan since J.J. McCarthy in 2021. And Davis may effectively change McCarthy as the pilot of an offense that averaged 382.7 yards last season en route to winning the championship game. The 6-1, 200-pound Davis completed 71% of his passes for 3,370 backyards with 43 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 games for Providence Day School (North Carolina), and Wolverines fans will be anxiously awaiting what Davis will have the ability to do.– Baumgartner

A year earlier, safety Peyton Bowen got here as a luxury hire, ranked No. 14 nationally, hoping he might assist be the future of OU’s defense after a frustrating 2022 season. He was able to take a role, playing in all 13 games with 2 starts, 36 takes on (including a season-high 5 versus Texas), a sack, 5 passes broken up and a forced fumble. He likewise flaunted his game-breaking ability with two obstructed punts, many in the Huge 12. He is poised to play an aggressive design under new protective planner Zac Allen, who worked as an assistant under Sooners coach Brent Venables at Clemson when he was the Tigers’ protective planner. In 2015, Allen’s defense at Jacksonville State enabled just 2.8 yards per bring (4th nationally), and was in the top 10 in turnovers (25) and interceptions (16 ).– Wilson

When DT Darrell Jackson Jr. moved to Florida State last year from Miami, he was enthusiastic the NCAA would give him a waiver to play because he had made the decision to move better to his ailing mom. However the NCAA decided to crack down on issuing waivers to two-time transfers, and Jackson eventually needed to sit out. Now, we will get our very first extended look at the 6-foot-5, 334-pound redshirt junior since he began 12 games for the Hurricanes in 2022. Coaches have actually raved about his size, power and athleticism, making him a player to view this year.– Andrea Adelson

Easy call here. It’s Nico Iamaleava’s program at quarterback for the Vols. He accounted for 4 touchdowns in his first start as a freshman last season in the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl triumph over Iowa and made MVP honors. Iamaleava worked as Joe Milton III’s backup throughout the 2023 season, and it was only a matter of time before his strong arm, quick release and presence in the pocket pushed him to QB1 for Tennessee. There’s been a ton of hype surrounding Iamaleava since he stepped foot on campus. He gets his possibility in 2024 to show that he’s as promoted.– Low

It has to be QB Alan Bowman. If Oklahoma State is going to reach its complete capacity this season, it has to be Bowman. He’s entering his seventh season of college football after spending the very first 3 with Texas Tech, 2 at Michigan and this past season as Oklahoma State’s starter. He finished simply under 61% of his passes for 3,460 yards, 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He’ll be 24 years of ages by the time the season rolls around; you simply need to hope there’s a leap in his game.– Harry Lyles Jr.NC State has constantly done a nice task utilizing hybrid players in unique roles, from Jaylen Samuels to Kevin Concepcion. That makes UConn move Justin Joly an especially appealing addition. He’s a 6-3, 230 pounder who led the Huskies in receiving last year with 56 catches for 578 yards, working seemingly as a tight end. He’s undersized for that function, however at NC State, he might be a good option as an in-line blocker, working from the slot or lined up outdoors. He’ll develop inequalities, which plays right into OC Robert Anae’s playbook.– David Hale Receiver has been a location for enhancement for Clemson the previous a number of years. In

2021, Beaux Collins was the breakout star as a true freshman, however injuries and regression led to his transfer after last season. In 2022, Antonio Williams was the group’s leading receiver as a true freshman, however he spent most of 2023 battling injuries. As an outcome, in 2015, the Tigers again counted on a real freshman to bring the system, as Tyler Brown caught 52 catches. Still, Clemson hasn’t had a receiver with 700 lawns considering that 2020. Williams should be healthy in 2024, Brown has a year of experience under his belt, and Dabo Swinney is really high up on sophomore WR Cole Turner. But the greatest names to enjoy may be a pair of real freshmen. Bryant Wesco is an early enrollee with big upside, while TJ Moore is a five-star hire who figures to make an instant effect, maybe ending up being the fourth-straight true freshman to anchor the Tigers ‘receiving corps.– Hale Can Johnson continue his success at quarterback after a Pop Tarts Bowl victory? Imageby David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire This one is an easy choice, and it’s quarterback Avery Johnson. Replacing Will Howard, who moved to Ohio State throughout the offseason, is a big job, particularly given how successful this team has been over the previous couple of seasons. You saw flashes of Johnson’s potential in the Pop Tarts Bowl against NC State, where he threw for two goals, and ran for another(consisting of an effective 7 brings for 71 backyards ). He’s a true dual-threat quarterback who will be leading the Wildcats into the future.– Lyles Difficult choice here, as there are a number of players who remain in line to have a huge year, especially amongst the transfer class. But I will opt for transfer WR Caullin Lacy, who was extremely productive throughout his time at South Alabama. Last season, Lacy ranked 5th in the nation in both receptions(91 )and getting backyards (1,316 )and had eight 100-yard getting games. Louisville did not have a 1,000-yard receiver a year earlier and loses leading pass-catcher Jamari Thrash. There’s a chance for someone to step up amongst the group of receivers, and Lacy will have every opportunity to help the Cards created an even more consistent performance from this position group.– Adelson Perhaps this doesn’t constitute the whole spirit of a”breakout”player, but I’m going to opt for wide receiver Lawrence Arnold. This is a Kansas offense that’s returning Devin Neal at running back, who certainly could have gone to the NFL, and a healthy Jalon Daniels, who we know to be one of the very best quarterbacks in the nation. Arnold has struck over 700 yards getting the previous 2 seasons. My hope here is Daniels remains healthy, and Arnold has fun with one quarterback all season and breaks through to the 1,000-yard mark for this Kansas offense.– Lyles Before transfer quarterback Brock Vandagriff signed to dip into Georgia in 2021, then-Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley had actually handpicked him to run his high-octane offense. The former luxury hire was considered one of the leading dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. In 3 seasons at Georgia, Vandagriff couldn’t unseat starters Stetson Bennett and

Carson Beck. Vandagriff attempted 21 passes at Georgia, and Wildcats coach Mark Stoops is counting on him to lead his offense. Stoops likes Vandagriff’s experience and the truth he’ll bring a winning attitude to the locker space. He’ll get a chance to play his former group when the Bulldogs dip into Kentucky on Sept. 14.– Schlabach We have not seen TE Elijah Arroyo at his complete potential since of a knee injury in 2022 that has actually limited his playing time with the Canes. But now healthy and participating in spring practice, Arroyo might have the kind of season that includes his name to all the others who have actually come through Tight End U. Coaches think he has had as excellent or better an offseason as anybody in the program. At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Arroyo

has the type of size to be a matchup advantage for the Canes, who have made it a concern, with Arroyo healthy, to make sure the tight end is included even more into the death game.– Adelson Rueben Owens, who’s a 6-2, 200-pound running back, was among the most desired recruits in the nation in the 2023 class, and he was a late recruiting win for Jimbo Fisher before the December finalizing day. Owens revealed what he can do as a freshman, running for 385 backyards and three goals. New offending organizer Collin Klein’s arrival from Kansas State must be a substantial increase for Owens and the Aggie running game in general

, which ranked 90th last season. In both of Klein’s 2 seasons as OC in Manhattan, K-State ranked in the top 15 nationally in rushing offense, consisting of 11th in 2015(averaging 204.1 yards per game and 4.98 lawns per reach A&M’s 136.2 and 3.88 ypc ). Owens stands to benefit from the brand-new age in Aggieland.– Wilson

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