College football is well and truly here, so if you need some players to focus on this year, look no further than the list we're compiling here at GGN. This is the 4th installment of this series, and we'll keep it going as much as possible throughout the course of the season.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon Ducks
Mariota is one of the finest athletes in college football and for many he was the Heisman front-runner last season before suffering an injury towards the end of the year. It's not surprising to read he is a Heisman favorite this year. Over the course of the first two years he accounted for 7811 yards and 78 touchdowns. He started the 2014 season on fire connecting for 267 yards and three touchdowns. Oregon run a version of the run and shoot offense meaning the QB has to have elusive ability, quick decision making ability, reading defenses on the fly as the receivers alter their routes to create mismatches. I have little doubt that Mariota is going to be successful over the course of his Oregon career and then within the NFL. If you read about him, you will get the sense that this man is committed to his craft, he is desperate to succeed and his main priority is football. He is the exact kind of player a franchise will want to build around. It could have different for Mariota, as he could have been sitting behind a first round NFL QB. If you don't follow college football you probably won't know that Johnny Manziel accepted a scholarship to Oregon the same year as Mariota. However he reneged on that schoalrship and elected to sign for Texas A&M, I would say that worked well for everyone involved.
Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
If you're hoping to catch a glimpse of Randy Gregory this weekend, you're going to be disappointed. He has experienced some knee problems this summer and the highly rated defensive end will start the season on the bench, and if you saw the shell of Gregory playing last Saturday, you probably agree that the decision to not play, is a good one. Last season he recorded 9.5 sacks (10.5 if you include the Bowl game) and 16 tackles for a loss, constantly beating his man to make plays in the backfield. He has bulked up from 240lb's to 248lb's this season to try and improve his game against the rush and expand his pass rushing repertoire to more than just speed moves. However he needs to strike that balance between adding bulk and maintaining his speed, one of the best aspects of Gregory's game is his ability to get off the snap quickly and get up-field in a hurry, if he loses that his stock will drop. Lets hope the injury issues to start the season are just a minor hurdle.
Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
With Marqise Lee leaving for the NFL, 2014 represents the perfect opportunity for Agholor to take his budding career to the next level. He is a fantastic athlete who just last year recorded 56 catches for 918 yards and 6 touchdowns. Now he will be targeted more often and with Cody Kessler developing as a passer, I fully expect him to go over 1,000 yards this season. Against Fresno State in the season opening, Agholor caught 5 passes for 57 yards and 2 touchdowns, not a bad start at all. He has excellent hands, good route running ability and is a danger when he gets the ball in his hands, he also has promising kick return potential. If he keeps developing his ability to run the full route tree and get open, a lot of west coast offense teams will be clamoring to draft him when he elects to leave for draft day.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
Diggs is one of the most dynamic, electric receivers in all of college football. If you get the ball in his hands he is a player who can take it to the house every single time. Diggs was restricted to just 7 games last season due to a serious leg injury and we're still unsure whether he will be as explosive as he once was. At his best he is extremely difficult to tackle in the open field and can juke the best defensive backs in the game. He shows good hands, catching the ball away from his body and he's a little bit of a third down machine. Although the stats from the opening game last weekend don't stand out, two of Diggs catches converted third downs for the Maryland offense. It's going to be interesting to see if Diggs can avoid injury this season and really push on, however with such a dynamic talent, I'll certainly be keeping a keen interest in his progression.