Sometimes in the game of college football, a Joe Burrow-type figure emerges from the shadows and turns himself into the number one overall draft pick. Of course, it doesn't always happen on that scale, but it's certainly interesting to watch as the college football season unfolds. Who's next?
Eli Ricks transferred to Alabama this off-season, entering his junior year of college. The former LSU cornerback was ranked the number one corner in the state of Florida during his recruitment year and stepped in at LSU as a freshman.
Ricks had four interceptions (including two pick-sixes) and four pass breakups in 10 games as a freshman and was touted as one of the biggest defensive names to watch as he entered 2021. He was awarded Freshman All-SEC honors after the 2020 season but had his sophomore campaign cut short due to a shoulder injury.
Ricks had surgery in October '21 and later decided to enter the transfer portal. Despite a strong push from Ohio State, he chose to transfer to LSU's main rival, the Crimson Tide. At six-foot-two and 190 pounds, he has all the makings of a tall, long, physical corner who could play at the next level.
Nick Saban explained that Ricks needs to learn and understand the system at Alabama, but the sky is the limit for his potential. The junior cornerback needs to regain his freshman season form. If he can do just that, with two years of eligibility remaining, Ricks could easily follow the likes of Patrick Surtain from Alabama into the NFL.
WR Isaiah Neyor, Texas
Isaiah Neyor transferred this off-season after a very impressive breakout year at Wyoming. The former two-star recruit had only eight receptions in 2020 but averaged 31 yards a carry. At six-foot-three, he was able to stretch the field and offer the Cowboys a deep option.
Fast forward to 2021, and Neyor took off. In his third year of eligibility, but only the second in which he'd played, Neyor had 39 catches for 791 yards and 11 touchdowns. His long arms and big body make him a strong, deep threat, and he has shown that he can regularly get behind the defense.
The question now, with competition getting stronger as a member of the Texas Longhorns, is whether Neyor can continue to elevate his game to match.
The former Wyoming talent took no time to make his mark with the Longhorns, becoming one of the stand-out players in spring practice and the team's yearly orange and white game. Neyor adds some much-needed explosiveness to the Texas offensive group, and the offense will be fun to watch this year.
The Florida Gators enter the season under new management and with a new starting quarterback. Richardson and Emory Jones rotated in and out of games last year in a rather unusual way of utilizing both quarterbacks.
Jones then transferred to the Arizona State Sun Devils in the off-season, marking what will be Richardsons' first year of opportunity as an out-and-out starter. The six-foot-four, 230-pound quarterback has a similar playing style to Cam Newton. He's a big body who loves to run, is tough to bring down, and has a cannon for an arm.
In 2021, the dual-threat talent looked electric, throwing bomb touchdowns one minute and running through an entire defense the next. The problem was just consistency and control amidst some injury issues.
All Richardson needs to do is harness his talent and limit turnovers. If he can do that, the Florida Gators and Richardson himself could very quickly turn into a popular topic among college football analysts and fans.
The Clemson Tigers are retooling this off-season to get themselves back to playoff contention. DJ Uiagalelei had a shaky season in the shoes of former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and the passing game didn't quite come together.
If they get it right this year, Ngata should be one of the main beneficiaries. No receiver on the roster caught more than three touchdowns in 2021, and if Clemson wants to get themselves back into the College Football Playoff, that needs to change. Ngata had just one touchdown and 438 receiving yards but missed some time mid-season while battling a foot injury.
2022 will be Ngata's senior year for the Tigers, and many are expecting him to emerge as a leader. Dabo Swinney has shown much support for Ngata, both in his leadership and his ability on the field. Swinney said this week, 'If he's on the field, it's going to happen.
Ngata needs to stay healthy, and he could turn into one of the ACC's top performers this football season.
Bell was tackled awkwardly from behind in the Wolverines' season opener in 2021. He was set to have a big year with Cade McNamara at QB and a window of opportunity opening up. Bell sustained a torn ACL and would miss the remainder of the 2021 season.
Fast forward to 2022, and the Wolverines are set for a big year on offense. The running back group is every bit as strong as last year, and the expectation is that McNamara and the receivers continue to build on a promising 2021 campaign.
Bell is back in action, and the Wolverines fans are excited about it. The graduate wide receiver has patiently waited his turn at the front of the queue and finally gets his chance. Bell has 1,316 yards and five receiving touchdowns in four years at Michigan, including a career year of 694 yards in 2019. The expectation is for him to break that this year, and the wideout has been touted as a dark horse to become the best wide receiver in the BIG 10.