Ranking top 100 players in college football for 2016 season: Nos. 80–71
Ranking college football players is an inherently dangerous task. With the number of different ways a player can contribute—quantitative ways like sacks, yards and interceptions or qualitative ways like sound blocking and tight coverage—it’s difficult to gage who makes the most impact. On top of that, with players limited to four-year careers, there’s a significant amount of guesswork to assess how players will develop from one season to the next.
So, with those acknowledged limitations, SI.com’s college football staff presents its top 100 players for the 2016 season. We are revealing 10 players per day and began Nos. 100–91 on Monday and Nos. 90–81 on Tuesday. Here are our 80th through 71st ranked players.
These rankings are not just an assessment of what the players have done so far but how they’ll perform this fall. And rather than simply rank players by their expected production, we attempt to discern who is the most valuable. Essentially, if you were starting a team from scratch, whom would you want the most?
No. 80: Quin Blanding, S, Virginia
A five-star prospect in the class of 2014, Blanding has more than lived up to his recruiting hype through two seasons in Charlottesville, recording 238 total tackles and four interceptions. He’ll further his case as one of the ACC’s top defensive backs and tacklers this season, but he’ll have to adjust to defensive coordinator/secondary coach Nick Howell, part of new coach Bronco Mendenhall’s staff. Blanding will get a chance to showcase his talent against an explosive offense early in the season, as the Cavaliers travel to Oregon on Sept. 10. — Chris Johnson
No. 79: Salamo Fiso, LB, Arizona State
Like the star linebacker at rival Arizona last season (Scooby Wright), Fiso is one of the conference’s best players on an otherwise bad defense. Fiso finished eighth in the nation 1.5 tackles for loss per game last year and enters 2016 as the Sun Devils’ most experienced defensive player. If Arizona State manages to improve on a defense that allowed 11 plays of 60 or more yards, Fiso will be the anchor behind that effort. — Gabriel Baumgaertner
No. 78: Dan Voltz, C/G, Wisconsin
This pick reflects our confidence that Voltz will regain his form after suffering a knee injury that forced him to miss the final five games of last season. Reports suggest Voltz could move to guard this season to make room at center for redshirt sophomore Michael Deiter. Whichever position he ultimately lines up at, Voltz will play an important role in paving the way for a talented group of running backs led by seniors Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale. — CJ
No. 77: Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
Entering his senior season, the 6’3” Engram is already Ole Miss’s all-time leader in receptions (97) and receiving yards (1,394) by a tight end. He earned second-team All-SEC honors in 2015 after finishing second on the Rebels with 38 catches, along with 464 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions. — Zac Ellis
No. 76: Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa
Jewell is coming off a breakout 2015 season in which the former two-star recruit developed into an All-Big Ten honoree. He was a consistent playmaker for a Hawkeyes defense that ranked 19th in scoring defense, contributing 126 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions and a forced fumble. As one of eight starters back on defense, Jewell should help anchor a unit aiming to return to the Big Ten title game. — Colin Becht
No. 75: Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA
Vanderdoes returns to UCLA’s starting lineup after missing almost the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL. A run-stuffing interior lineman, Vanderdoes is a brute force inside who thrives at getting into the backfield (he had eight tackles and two tackles for loss in last year’s opening game before injuring his knee). — GB
No. 74: KD Cannon, WR, Baylor
Corey Coleman was so productive last season that, despite the improbability of a player at his position winning the Heisman Trophy (no wide receiver has won since Desmond Howard in 1991), he drew serious consideration for the award into November. With the Biletnikoff Award winner moving on to the NFL, Cannon is poised to become Baylor’s top receiving target, and he’ll benefit from having quarterback Seth Russell—who suffered a season-ending neck injury last October—healthy to start the season as well as a strong running game led by Shock Linwood and Johnny Jefferson. — CJ
No. 73: DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
Had things gone according to plan last season, Kizer would likely still be the relatively unknown backup at Notre Dame rather than regarded as one of the top returning quarterbacks in the country. But when Malik Zaire fractured his ankle in Week 2 at Virginia, the Cavaliers—and the rest of the country—quickly saw the previously untapped potential in Kizer. The sophomore went on to pass for 2,884 yards with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and lead the Fighting Irish to the Fiesta Bowl. He’ll need to hold off Zaire to keep his job this off-season, but if last season’s performance was any indication, Kizer is more than up to the task. — CB
No. 72: Tony Conner: S, Ole Miss
Conner surprised many by returning to school for his senior year, but may be looking to improve his draft stock after a meniscus tear cost him six games of his junior season. The former five-star recruit enters his fourth year starting in the Ole Miss secondary and is regarded as one of the better tackling safeties in the nation, effective both in coverage and as a blitzer. — GB
No. 71: Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Tennessee
Reeves-Maybin is a key cog in Tennessee’s linebacker corps who led the Volunteers with 14.0 TFLs and finished second sacks with 5.0 last season. The senior will be a leader in first-year coordinator Bob Shoop’s defense, which returns eight other starters. — ZE