The college football season is only two days away and excitement is at a fever pitch as fan bases all across the South are full of optimism for their teams. Teams that haven’t won conference titles in decades have fans falling asleep at night to visions of championships dancing in their heads. As everyone settles into their recliners, tailgates and seats in the stands, here is a guide to a few players to keep an eye on in some of the big games this Labor Day weekend:
Leonard Fournette – RB – LSU
The new Tiger runningback is one of the best recruits at his position in well over a decade and will be running behind an offensive line that is loaded with experienced seniors and an inexperienced quarterback. I mean look at it this way, when you’re the best runningback on the roster at ANY school the day you set foot on campus, when there are two backs on the team already who had 7+ touchdowns last season, you’re pretty good. Fournette is doing this at LSU. Oh yeah, and Wisconsin only returns 3 starting defenders from last season.
JT Barrett – QB – Ohio State
When Buckeye quarterback and Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller injured his shoulder earlier this month, that injury thrust JT Barrett into the spotlight only a few weeks from the season opener. Barrett is a redshirt freshman who has been in the program for a little over a year and doesn’t possess blazing speed or a rocket arm, but then again neither did Miller. Buckeye Head Coach Urban Meyer will have his young quarterback ready for Navy in Week 1 and beyond.
A’Shawn Robinson – DE – Alabama
When you lead the Alabama Crimson Tide in sacks, it’s a big deal. When you lead the Alabama Crimson Tide in sacks as a true freshman, it’s a really big deal. The 6-foot-4, 320 pound sophomore had 38 tackles in his freshman season as well as 5.5 sacks and is way ahead of the pace to be the next great Alabama defensive lineman. I would probably guess that West Virginia’s two senior guards have spent a few hours watching film on how to slow down Robinson on Saturday night.
Mario Edwards Jr – DE – Florida State
Mario Edwards Sr was on the 1999 Florida State National Championship team and Edwards Jr was a key component in last year’s Seminole team that won the final BCS title game. The younger and much larger (6’3″ 299 lb) came on in the second half of last season to be ferocious defensive lineman in the country and is primed to have a breakout season in 2014 beginning an hour away from his hometown of Denton, Texas.
LaQuan Treadwell – WR – Ole Miss
Ole Miss is a lot of people’s dark horse pick to win the SEC West and true sophomore LaQuan Treadwell (2013 SEC Freshman Player of the Year) will be a big part of the offense if that in fact happens. Treadwell is a big target at 6’2″, 225 lbs and led the Rebels in receptions a season ago with 72 but only gained 608 receiving yards. He will move from the slot to the outside in 2014 which will give him even more targets from senior quarterback Bo Wallace and more opportunities to make big plays.
Deshaun Watson – QB – Clemson
The true super freshman quarterback from Gainesville, Georgia, has been locked in a quarterback battle with senior quarterback Cole Stoudt all summer and fall camp but Tiger Head Coach Dabo Swinney has never swayed from his remarks that Watson would play in the opener in Athens. The defense is good and the offense is young just like Watson, so I expect the 6’3″ 200 pound freshman to get plenty of playing time ‘Between the Hedges’ which is just 39 miles from where he grew up.
Make sure you tune in this Saturday morning from 10am-Noon to the Southern Football Report as we recap all of the high school games from Friday night, the college games from Thursday night and get ready for the first Saturday of the college football season.