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Sportskeeda College Football Top 50: Who are the best college football players heading into the 2021-22 season?

North Carolina Tar Heels QB Sam Howell
North Carolina Tar Heels QB Sam Howell
Walter Sharp
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Sportskeeda's top 50 college football players heading into the 2021-22 season

College football will take a page out of the NFL's book and allow 100% capacity for fans to attend games in 2021. College fans play a significant role in the game. There's nothing like watching a Penn State game on a Saturday and seeing a whiteout.

Looking at the talent on the field for the 2021-22 college football season, it's easy to see why college fans are pumped up to witness college football in person.


2021-2022 College Football preview

A number of teams in college football are entering a new era at multiple positions. Clemson will start their season with a new quarterback under center. The same goes for the Ohio State Buckeyes, Alabama Crimson Tide and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

While college teams lost a lot of talent this year, there's still a ton of potential returning for the 2021-22 season. North Carolina will return its star quarterback Sam Howell, and Oklahoma will bring back its exciting quarterback Spencer Rattler. Howell and Rattler are both projected to be in the race for the Heisman Trophy at the end of the year.

The Ohio State Buckeyes will field one of the best wide receiver groups in the country. Following the trend of recent years, Alabama will reload on both offense and defense through their stellar recruiting.

There are many talented defensive players in this year's draft class.

LSU will have the number one corner in the country in Derek Stingley Jr. The Oregon Ducks have the best defensive lineman in Kayvon Thibodeaux, while Tyler Linderbaum is arguably the best offensive lineman in the country.


2021-2022 College Football teams preview

The Alabama Crimson Tide are set to be the favorites to make another appearance in the College Football Playoffs, especially with Nick Saban and co bringing back a talented defense.

Ohio State is projected to win its fifth-straight Big Ten championship. USC is the team to beat in the Pac-12, but Oregon isn't far behind. Dabo Swinney has the Clemson Tigers gearing up to make another run at the ACC Championship and the College Football Playoffs.

The Oklahoma Sooners are favored to win the Big XII conference in 2021. There's always that one team that surprises college football fans and makes a run when it's least expected. 2021-22's surprise team will be the Iowa State Cyclones.

Iowa State is returning a lot of talent on offense. If that talent can click at the right time, they have the potential to dethrone Oklahoma at the top of the Big XII conference.

Sportskeeda's College Football top 50 players: 1-10

Oklahoma Sooners QB Spencer Rattler
Oklahoma Sooners QB Spencer Rattler

#1 Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma Sooners

College football's top quarterback resides in Oklahoma. Spencer Rattler is projected to be the best quarterback heading into the 2021-22 season. Rattler is coming off his best season, a year in which he completed 67.5% of his passes for 3,031 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions.


#2 Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU Tigers

Derek Stingley Jr. was part of the 2019 LSU Tigers defense that won the national championship. As a freshman, Stingley recorded 31 solo tackles and six interceptions. The junior cornerback will look to replicate his freshman season in 2021.


#3 Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina Tar Heels

Statistically, Sam Howell is the best quarterback in college football today. The Tar Heels junior quarterback has thrown for 7,227 passing yards, 68 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in two seasons. Howell's junior year will be a pivotal one even for NFL scouts, considering North Carolina lost both its top running backs to the draft.


#4 Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa Hawkeyes

Tyler Linderbaum is the most impressive offensive lineman in the top 50. Linderbaum made the transition from defensive tackle to offensive center two years ago. Since making the move, he has developed into the best offensive lineman in college football.

Oregon Ducks edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux
Oregon Ducks edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux

#5 Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon Ducks

Kayvon Thibodeaux has been the backbone of the Oregon Ducks defensive line for the last two seasons. The junior pass rusher has tallied 49 solo tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks for the Ducks defense. Thibodeaux's biggest strength is his ability to keep his motor running the entire game.


#6 Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Kyle Hamilton is the most complete safety in college football heading into the 2021-22 season. Hamilton may even be one of the best safeties in recent years in college football. The 6-foot-4, 221-pound safety possesses a 42-inch vertical leap, and Hamilton can defend both rushing and passing exceptionally well for his position.


#7 Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State Buckeyes

Chris Olave was a top-five wide receiver after the 2020-2021 college football season. When he announced that he was returning for his senior season at Ohio State, Olave quickly became a top wide receiver prospect. The young wideout will have a new quarterback in 2021, which will allow him to prove why he's the best wide receiver in 2021.


#8 Evan Neal, OT, Alabama Crimson Tide

The 2021-22 NFL Draft class is one of the weaker offensive tackle drafts in recent years. Evan Neal, though, is a massive human being standing 6-foot-7, 360 pounds, and has all the tools to be a successful offensive tackle in the NFL. He is entering the 2021-22 college football season as the best offensive tackle.


#9 Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida Gators

Kaiir Elam registered 28 solo tackles and two interceptions in 2020. His most prolific stat is the 11 pass deflections he racked up last year. Elam enters his junior season at Florida, coming off an outstanding 2020 season.

College Football QB Malik Willis
College Football QB Malik Willis

#10 Malik Willis, QB, Liberty Flames

Willis has a lot of Lamar Jackson in him. Scouts are overlooking the Liberty quarterback just as they did Jackson. Malik Willis flashed a lot of potential in his first year at Liberty, throwing for 2,250 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also added 944 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on 141 rushes.

Sportskeeda's College Football Top 50: 11-20

Texas A&M DL DeMarvin Leal
Texas A&M DL DeMarvin Leal

#11 DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M Aggies

DeMarvin Leal had his best college football season in 2020. He recorded 18 solo tackles, seven tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and one interception last year. The junior defensive lineman uses all of his 6-foot-4, 290-pound frame to his advantage when rushing the passer.


#12 Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M Aggies

It's not uncommon for tight ends to come close to cracking the top ten of the college football player rankings. Jalen Wydermyer is currently the best tight end heading into the 2021-22 college football season. Wydermyer has caught 78 passes for 953 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in the past two seasons.


#13 Drake Jackson, Edge, USC Trojans

The Pac-12 has the top two defensive pass rushers heading into the 2021-22 season. Drake Jackson had a down year in 2020, but his freshman year separated him from everyone else. Jackson registered 26 solo tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks during the 2020 season.


#14 Christian Harris, LB, Alabama Crimson Tide

Christian Harris has put together two great seasons at Alabama. Harris has registered 79 solo tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and one interception from his linebacker position. The junior linebacker will lead a talented Alabama defense as they chase a second straight national championship.

Iowa State RB Breece Hall
Iowa State RB Breece Hall

#15 Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State Cyclones

Breece Hall is the first running back to check into the top 50 college football players list. Hall is the only returning college football player who had Heisman Trophy votes in 2020. The third-year running back enters the 2021-22 college football season with 2,469 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns on 465 attempts.


#16 Thayer Munford, OT, Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State may have many questions surrounding their quarterback position entering the 2021-22 college football season, but its offensive line will be a massive strength. Thayer Munford will lead the way for the Buckeyes on offense. He will check in as the second-best offensive tackle in college football.


#17 Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson Tigers

Justyn Ross is coming off a scary spinal injury that many believed would end his college football career. Before suffering the injury, Ross was one of the top wide receivers for the Tigers.

In his freshman and sophomore seasons, Ross caught 112 passes for 1,865 yards and 17 touchdowns for Clemson. When he's healthy, he's one of the best receivers in the country.


#18 Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama Crimson Tide

Jobe is another athlete who has stayed at Alabama for more than three seasons. The senior cornerback has improved in every season that he's played under Nick Saban. Jobe has registered 67 solo tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and one interception for the Crimson Tides defense.


#19 Brandon Joseph, S, Northwestern

If one player made a massive leap from his freshman to sophomore season, it's Brandon Joseph. The Northwestern safety went from four solo tackles in 2019 to 26 solo tackles in 2020. His most significant improvement was his six interceptions during the 2020 season, after not recording a single interception in 2019.

Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson
Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson

#20 Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State Buckeyes

Garrett Wilson is the second-best wide receiver on the Ohio State Buckeyes roster heading into the 2021-22 college football season. Wilson has had a lot of success since joining the Buckeyes in 2019. The junior wide receiver has caught 73 passes for 1,155 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.

Sportskeeda's College Football Top 50: 21-30

Alabama WR John Metchie III
Alabama WR John Metchie III

#21 John Metchie III, WR, Alabama

Metchie will finally get a chance to prove he's one of the best wide receivers in college football. The junior wide receiver will be the number one option on the Alabama offense after biding his time. With Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith heading to the NFL, Metchie is now in the right position to showcase his talents.


#22 Bubba Bolden, S, Miami Hurricanes

Bubba Bolden is coming off a successful 2020-2021 college football season with the Hurricanes. He registered 50 solo tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one interception from his safety position last season. The senior safety led all defensive players in the ACC with four forced fumbles in 2020.


#23 Kedon Slovis, QB, USC Trojans

The USC Trojans are the favorites to win the Pac-12 entering the 2021-2022 college football season. Kedon Slovis has a lot to do with that preseason prediction. The junior quarterback enters the 2021 season with 5,423 passing yards, 47 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. USC will go as far as Slovis can take them this season.


#24 Zach Harrison, Edge, Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State has supplied a number of talented defensive linemen to the NFL. Zach Harrison has all the potential and momentum to join that list heading into the 2021-2022 college football season. Harrison registered 20 solo tackles, ten tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in his two years with the Buckeyes.

Arkansas WR Treylon Burks
Arkansas WR Treylon Burks

#25 Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas Razorbacks

Burks will enter the 2021-2022 college football season as the Razorbacks' top wide receiver. The junior wideout caught 51 passes for 820 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 2020. Treylon Burks has the potential to become the top wide receiver in the SEC in 2021.


#26 Nik Bonitto, LB, Oklahoma Sooners

The Big XII conference is not known for its talented defensive players. Nik Bonitto, though, may be an exception. He's coming off a 2020 college football season where he registered 19 solo tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks for the Sooners' defense. Over the last three years, Bonitto has proven to be one of the best in the conference as a linebacker.


#27 Tyler Davis, DL, Clemson Tigers

Tyler Davis has disrupted college football offenses since stepping foot on campus at Clemson. Davis has posted 30 solo tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks for the Tigers' interior defensive line. The junior defensive lineman will look to lead the Clemson Tigers defensive front to success in 2021.


#28 Cade Mays, OG, Tennessee Volunteers

Cade Mays has proven time and time again that he's one of the best interior offensive linemen in college football. Mays brings a different feel to the Volunteers offensive line. He can play both offensive guard and tackle.


#29 Zion Nelson, OT, Miami Hurricanes

Zion Nelson made seven starts for the Miami Hurricanes offense in the 2020 college football season. Nelson has since emerged as one of the best offensive linemen in college football. His best game at Miami came against Florida State, where he gained 517 total offensive yards.

Texas A&M RB Isaiah Spiller
Texas A&M RB Isaiah Spiller

#30 Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M Aggies

The Texas A&M Aggies will lean heavily on their athletes heading into the 2021 college football season. Isaiah Spiller has proven to be one of the best offensive weapons for the Aggies over the last two years. Spiller is coming off a 2020 season where he rushed for 1,036 yards and nine touchdowns on 188 attempts.

Sportskeeda's College Football Top 50 players: 31-40

Miami (FLA) QB D'Eriq King
Miami (FLA) QB D'Eriq King

#31 D'Eriq King, QB, Miami Hurricanes

D'Eriq King could get lost in the shuffle of talented college football quarterbacks. The Hurricanes QB will look to build off his 2,686 passing yards and 23 touchdown season from 2020. King will have to work harder to stand out, with Spencer Rattler, Sam Howell, Malik Willis, and Kedon Slovis overshadowing him.


#32 Jordan Battle, S, Alabama Crimson Tide

Jordan Battle enters the 2021-2022 college football season as the third-best safety behind Kyle Hamilton and Bubba Bolden. Battle will enter his third season at Alabama with 59 solo tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack and two interceptions. The junior safety has also recorded a defensive touchdown over the past two seasons.


#33 George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue Boilermakers

George Karlaftis is a key player and can be the best defensive player on the Purdue depth chart. The third-year edge rusher enters the 2021-2022 college football season as a top NFL draft prospect. Karlaftis had a successful freshman season where he posted 30 solo tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks.


#34 Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati Bearcats

Statistically, Ahmad Gardner ranks among the best cornerbacks in college football. The junior cornerback enters the 2021-2022 college football season with 40 solo tackles, six interceptions and two touchdowns. Gardner has posted three interceptions in each of the last two seasons.

Michigan Edge Aidan Hutchinson
Michigan Edge Aidan Hutchinson

#35 Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan Wolverines

Like other Michigan defensive athletes, Aidan Hutchinson will want to erase the 2020 college football season from memory. Hutchinson enters the 2021 season as one of the top defensive linemen in the country. The senior edge rusher heads into the season with 49 solo tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.


#36 Brenton Cox, LB, Florida Gators

Brenton Cox is coming off a successful 2020 college football season in which he registered 21 solo tackles, ten tackles for los, and 3.5 sacks from his linebacker position in 2020. The junior linebacker will look to lead the Florida Gators' defense again in 2021.


#37 Jarrett Patterson, OL, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Jarrett Patterson joins a group of successful offensive linemen from Notre Dame. Patterson was on the Outland Trophy watch list in 2020 and was one of Phil Steele's Honorable Mention All-Americans. The senior offensive lineman will be a crucial piece of the Fighting Irish's offensive line in 2021.


#38 Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State Buckeyes

Sevyn Banks is one of the players on the top 50 list who could improve his ranking dramatically in 2021. Banks has a lot to prove in the 2021-2022 college football season.


#39 George Pickens, WR, Georgia Bulldogs

George Pickens suffered a severe ACL injury during the Bulldogs' spring practices. Pickens was one of the top wide receiver prospects in the country, but it will be a challenging climb for him after missing the majority of the upcoming season. The junior wide receiver can only hope that scouts look at his previous two seasons, where he caught 85 passes for 1,240 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Iowa State QB Brock Purdy
Iowa State QB Brock Purdy

#40 Brock Purdy, QB, Iowa State Cyclones

Brock Purdy may be the most interesting college football quarterback heading into the 2021 season. Purdy is a timing QB and has a lot of the same qualities as Kirk Cousins. The senior quarterback will get a lot of help from his running back, Breece Hall, but if the Cyclones want him to succeed in 2021, they have to remain on schedule.

Sportskeeda's College Football Top 50: 41-50

Oklahoma RB Kennedy Brooks
Oklahoma RB Kennedy Brooks

#41 Kennedy Brooks, RB, Oklahoma Sooners

Kennedy Brooks was coming off a missed college football season in 2020. Before sitting out the 2020 season, Brooks posted back-to-back 1,000-rushing-yard seasons. Brooks is entering the 2021-2022 season with 2,067 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on 274 attempts.


#42 Haskell Garrett, DT, Ohio State Buckeyes

Haskell Garrett decided to come back to Ohio State for another season. Garrett will be an anchor of the Buckeyes' interior defensive line heading into the 2021 college football season. The senior defensive tackle has 23 solo tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception and a defensive touchdown heading into this season.


#43 Eli Ricks, CB, LSU Tigers

Eli Ricks enters his second season with the LSU Tigers. Ricks put together a tremendous 2020-2021 college football season where he posted 11 solo tackles, four interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. LSU will have one of the best secondaries in college football with Stingley Jr. and Ricks.


#44 Darian Kinnard, OT, Kentucky Wildcats

Darian Kinnard is a big piece of the success of the Kentucky Wildcats' rushing attack. The 6-foot-5, 345-pound offensive tackle uses all of his frame to free up rushing lanes for the Kentucky ball carriers. Kinnard is a good but not excellent pass blocker, but luckily for him, the Wildcats run more than pass.

Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder
Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder

#45 Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati Bearcats

The senior quarterback will lead the Cincinnati Bearcats into the 2021-2022 college football season. Desmond Ridder has completed 61% of his passes for 6,905 passing yards, 57 passing touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Ridder also brings a rushing threat with his 1,825 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns on 391 attempts.


#46 Tykee Smith, CB, Georgia Bulldogs

The former three-star recruit heads to Georgia after playing two seasons with the West Virginia Mountaineers. Tykee Smith was the best slot cornerback on the Mountaineers roster. Smith will now take his 69 solo tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and four interceptions to the SEC to play for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2021.


#47 Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State Cyclones

Charlie Kolar is another weapon on the Iowa State offense heading into the 2021 college football season. Kolar has racked up 106 catches for 1,425 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns heading into his senior season. Iowa State has a tight end that can run routes and block, which is rare in today's football.


#48 J.T. Daniels, QB, Georgia Bulldogs

J.T. Daniels began his college football career with the USC Trojans before transferring to Georgia. Daniels played exceptionally well in his first year, completing 67.2% of his passes for 1,231 yards, ten touchdowns and just two interceptions. The Bulldogs quarterback lost a crucial piece in George Pickens, but he will need to prove that he can overcome obstacles in 2021.


#49 Reed Blankenship, S, Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders

Reed Blankenship has quietly built a monumental college football career at Middle Tennessee State. Blankenship has 190 solo tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, eight interceptions and one defensive touchdown for the Blue Raiders. The senior safety will prove that he belongs in the discussion as one of the top safeties in the country in 2021.

Florida LB Ventrell Miller
Florida LB Ventrell Miller

#50 Ventrell Miller, LB, Florida Gators

The Florida Gators will have two linebackers in the top 50 heading into the 2021-2022 college football season. Ventrell Miller has put together three successful defensive seasons for the Gators. He has recorded 87 solo tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, one interception and a defensive touchdown heading into 2021.

Edited by Colin D'Cunha
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