Ranking top 100 players in college football for 2016 season: Nos. 60–51
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 with Nos. 100–91 on Monday, Nos. 90–81 on Tuesday, Nos. 80–71 on Wednesday and Nos. 70–61 on Thursday. Here are our 60th through 51st 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. 60: Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
The latest in a string of elite defensive linemen produced in Columbia, Mo., Harris recorded 18.5 tackles for loss, 56 total tackles, seven sacks and 10 quarterback hurries in 2015 while earning second-team All-SEC honors. Longtime defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski left after last season to take a job under new Miami coach Mark Richt, but that shouldn’t hinder Harris’s development into one of the top defensive ends in the country. He might be the SEC’s best pass rusher not named Myles Garrett. — Chris Johnson
No. 59: Cameron Smith, LB, USC
Smith quickly emerged in his freshman year as the Trojans’ leader in tackles and interceptions before a torn ACL ended his season in November. In 10 games, the linebacker made 78 tackles and picked off three passes. All three interceptions came in USC’s upset of Utah, which Smith directly contributed to with 54-yard return for a score just before halftime. USC is expecting big things from Smith this fall as he is the Trojans’ only returning starter in their front seven. — Colin Becht
No. 58: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
A leader in LSU’s secondary, Adams was a Freshman All-America in 2014 before earning second-team All-SEC honors last season. Adams snagged four interceptions in 2015—third-most among SEC defenders—and could be in for bigger things under first-year defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. — Zac Ellis
No. 57: Gabe Marks, WR, Washington State
Marks put up impressive numbers (104 catches, 1,192 yards, 15 touchdowns and a team-leading 69.8% catch rate on a team-leading 149 targets, according to Football Study Hall) as the featured target on a surprisingly formidable Washington State team last season. Everything is in place for him to replicate, if not exceed, those statistics this season: head coach Mike Leach and his high-octane, pass-heavy scheme; talented quarterback Luke Falk; and eight returning starters on offense. And if this catch is any indication, opponents will have a hard time keeping Marks out of the end zone. — CJ
No. 56: Deatrich Wise Jr., DE, Arkansas
The best player on the Arkansas defense, Wise finished 2015 with eight sacks and is expected to up that total in his senior season. Even more encouraging, Wise logged 19 of his 31 tackles over the final five games of the season and forced two of his three fumbles in the final two games. He became one of the most unblockable players in the second half of last season and is now being considered a potential first-round pick. — Gabriel Baumgaertner
No. 55: Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee
While quarterback Joshua Dobbs may draw more of the attention, as much more his brains as his play on the field, Hurd is the quieter engineer of the Volunteers offense. The big back—he’s 6’4” and weighs 240 pounds—still shows plenty of ability to make defenders miss while also being tough to bring down. The result? 2,187 yards and 17 scores in his first two seasons. With the bulk of Tennessee’s offensive line back after a strong 2015, Hurd has a chance to produce his best season yet this fall. — CB
No. 54: Travis Rudolph, WR, Florida State
Florida State has a long legacy of star receivers (Peter Warrick, Kelvin Benjamin, Rashad Greene, Anquan Boldin, Fred Blitenikoff), and Rudolph appears prepared to join that group. The prospective junior finished the 2015 season with team highs of 59 catches, 916 yards and seven touchdowns despite inconsistent quarterback play that hampered the Seminoles all season. A lanky presence who thrives on the deep ball, Rudolph will be in contention for an All-America mention come the end of 2016. — GB
No. 53: Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A&M
Hall is a brick wall at 6’6” and 260 pounds and serves as a bookend alongside Myles Garrett on Texas A&M’s defensive line. Hall finished second on the team in tackles for loss (14.5) and sacks (7.0) last season and enters the fall as one of the more menacing ends in the SEC. — ZE
No. 52: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
Former Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen (who has since transferred to Houston) probably hopes he never has to face Fitzpatrick again after the then-true freshman returned two of Allen’s interceptions for touchdowns in the Aggies’ blowout loss to the Crimson Tide last season. Yet while Fitzpatrick's performance in that win put him on the map, he was superb throughout 2015, notching 45 total tackles, three tackles for loss and 11 pass breakups. He should have even more responsibility in an Alabama secondary this season that brings back standouts Marlon Humphrey and Eddie Jackson. — CJ
No. 51: Marcus Maye, S, Florida
Maye surprised many with his decision to return for his redshirt junior season. By joining other budding stars (Jalen Tabor, Caleb Brantley), Maye will be a key component on one of the nation’s finest defenses. An All-America honoree last season, Maye finished with 82 tackles and five forced fumbles, good for second in the nation. A punishing safety, Maye enters 2016 as one of the top defensive backs in the nation. — GB