SI.com ranks the top 100 players in college football for the 2016, moving to Nos. 70–61.
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, Nos. 90–81 on Tuesday and Nos. 80–71 on Wednesday. Here are our 70th through 61st 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?
The latest in the Bullough family to develop into a star for the Spartans, Riley earned second-team All-Big Ten honors last season with a team-high 106 tackles, along with 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. With quarterback Connor Cook and wide receiver Aaron Burbridge gone on offense, Michigan State will likely lean more heavily on its defense as it seeks to defend its Big Ten title. Having a playmaking linebacker like Bullough is a critical boost. — Colin Becht
A starter in 23 games over the past two seasons, Pyke has cemented himself as a constant figure at offensive guard. He’ll kick off his fifth season as one of the most reliable offensive linemen in the SEC under first-year coach Kirby Smart. — Zac Ellis
A First-Team All-SEC honoree as a redshirt sophomore in 2015, Cunningham established himself as Vanderbilt’s top defender, leading the team in tackles (103), tackles for loss (16.5) and sacks (4.5). His 16.5 tackles for loss were the most by a Commodore defender since 1999. — ZE
Jackson made a smooth transition from cornerback to safety last season and should be even more effective at the position in 2016. He was named first-team All-SEC after tying for first in the conference with six interceptions and also recorded 46 tackles, three tackles for loss, eight passes defended and a forced fumble. Instead of declaring for the draft after his junior season, Jackson elected to return to strengthen a secondary that also brings back studs Minkah Fitzpatrick and Marlon Humphrey. — Chris Johnson
It’s nearly impossible to condense Barkley’s 2015 season down to a highlight reel simply because he did something spectacular on just about every carry. Barkley forced 60 missed tackles last season, according to Pro Football Focus, a number made even more ridiculous when considering he only carried the ball 182 times. The 5’11”, 219-pounder made the most of those 182 attempts, gaining 1,076 yards with seven scores. Oh, and did I mention that was just his freshman year? — CB
Kelly enters 2016 as the top returning quarterback in the SEC after leading the league in passing touchdowns (31) and finishing second in yards-per-attempt (8.8) last season. A Second-Team All-SEC pick in 2015, he became the first Ole Miss player to win Sugar Bowl MVP since the legendary Archie Manning in 1970. — ZE
Never underestimate the power of a good kicker. With the departure of Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo, Phillips becomes the most established kicker in the nation. A two-time All-Pac-12 selection, Phillips holds a career kicking percentage of 84% (63 of 75) and 76% from 40 yards or more. To boot, he’s successfully converted all three of his career onside kick attempts. — Gabriel Baumgaertner
Butt has evolved from Twitter jokester to disabled list member to arguably the best tight end in the country. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has shown he can deploy players at Butt’s position effectively as pass catchers and blockers (just go back and look at the tight ends he coached at Stanford), and Butt shined under Harbaugh in his first season in charge of the Wolverines. The 6’6”, 250-pound senior will have a chance to finish his career as one of the leading receivers on one of the nation’s best teams while serving an important role as a blocker in Michigan's pro-style sets. — CJ
The younger brother of Utah legend and current Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, Lowell (he is one of eight siblings) enters 2016 as an All-America candidate after a breakout 2015 that saw him finish with 26 tackles, five tackles for loss and one sack. The brawny interior lineman has started 18 games since his freshman year and provides an anchor to Utah’s stingy collective. — GB
You can be excused for not having paid close attention to Indiana football in recent years, but you’ve missed some potent running games. Jordan Howard and Devine Redding both topped 1,000 yards last season while Tevin Coleman rushed for 2,036 yards in 2014. Last year, the Hoosiers allowed a Big Ten-low 13 sacks. Feeney is a huge (he’s 6’4” and 310 pounds) reason behind that success. He earned All-America honors last season but passed on the NFL draft to return for a fourth season starting for the Hoosiers. According to Indiana, in Feeney’s 2,719 career snaps he has allowed just one sack. — CB