- Just because they didn't crack our list of 2019's top 100 players doesn't mean these seven names aren't in for big years.
With more than 10,000 scholarship roster spots available at the FBS level, it’s difficult to narrow the talent pool down to the top 500 college football players, much less the top 100. That’s our threshold each summer as SI highlights the coming season's top 100 players, but the rollout of the 2019 list this week comes with a reminder that it’s impossible to include every player who looks poised to make waves come fall.
With that in mind, here’s a look at seven players not included in SI.com’s top 100 who should have big-time impacts in 2019. (Check back on Tuesday for the start of our official countdown.)
Stanford QB K.J. Costello
After two seasons in which he was upstaged by running back Bryce Love and wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Costello is positioned to rise to national prominence if he turns out to be the second-best quarterback in the Pac-12 as a redshirt junior. In 2018, he threw for 3,540 yards and 29 touchdowns—almost half of which went to Arcega-Whiteside, whom the Eagles made the No. 57 pick in April’s NFL draft—and completed 65.1% of his passes. Costello improved in nearly every offensive category from his first season as a starter and excelled under pressure.
Recent Stanford offenses have relied heavily on strong lines and the run game, but with very few returning starters on that side of the ball, the Cardinal may lean more on Costello’s arm this year.
Utah State QB Jordan Love
Love is another quarterback who has lost a ton of talent around him, leading some to wonder if he can replicate his bonkers 2018 numbers. A year ago, Love was a breakout star, throwing for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns while tossing just six interceptions as Utah State finished the year 11–2 and proceeded to lose most of its staff when Texas Tech hired head coach Matt Wells. At 6'4" and 225 pounds, Love looks the part of a quarterback who can thrive at the next level, and his arm strength and accuracy improved signifcantly from 2017 to ’18. He has also displayed great timing, maximizing his receivers’ chances for after-the-catch yardage, and it’ll be interesting to follow how he lifts the new faces around him on offense.
Texas A&M DL Justin Madubuike
In a conference stacked with elite defenders, Madubuike should be one of the SEC’s best trench warriors this fall after a strong sophomore season in 2018. Madubuike recorded 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss last year, and after losing much of its defensive line, Texas A&M will rely on him to fill a veteran vacuum.
Madubuike can hold his own at any spot on the line, but he’ll likely spend most of his time as an interior pass rusher in Mike Elko’s scheme. If he can build on the standard he set a year ago, when he led all returning SEC D-linemen with 44 pressures, that’ll go a long way in easing the load for Texas A&M’s new faces in the front seven.
Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez
As a freshman starter on a team very much in transition, Martinez completed 64.6% of his passes and threw 17 touchdown passes and eight interceptions while averaging 4.5 yards per carry as the Huskers finished second in the Big Ten and 25th in the FBS in total offense.
Consider, too, what Martinez did in the second half of the season, completing 66.3% of his passes and averaging 7.5 yards per attempt as Nebraska closed on a 4–2 run after a historic 0–6 start. In Scott Frost’s second season as head coach, Martinez should have the supporting talent and the experience to bring the Cornhuskers back into the Big Ten West conversation.
Georgia Edge Nolan Smith
Smith is the first of two freshmen included on this list, and as the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2019 according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, the expectations are already high. Smith enrolled early and participated in Georgia’s full spring slate. If Smith plays up to the hype, his presence should go a long way in addressing one of the Bulldogs’ weaknesses from 2018: creating pressure and havoc at the line of scrimmage.
LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr.
Like Smith, Stingley enrolled a semester early to participate in spring practice, and the five-star Baton Rouge native was available to practice with the Tigers for most of their Fiesta Bowl prep as well. Stingley has garned some early buzz as the freshman best positioned to play an early starring role this fall, with an inside track on starting cornerback as well as punt return duties for the Tigers.
Oregon OL Calvin Throckmorton
Throckmorton and sophomore Penei Sewell should be the best tackle duo in the Pac-12 this fall if all goes right in Eugene. In 2018, Throckmorton started games at four different spots along the Ducks offensive line—the only player in the FBS to do so, according to the school—logging most of his time at the tackle spots but also spending 111 snaps at right guard and another 38 at center. As the Ducks sort out their depth chart this summer, that versatility will give them more options; Throckmorton is expected to spend most of his time at right tackle, protecing Justin Herbert from the Pac-12’s best edge rushers. If Oregon starts to build a College Football Playoff case, expect to hear Throckmorton’s name plenty.