With the college football season set to kick off on Friday, and a full slate of games on the schedule next week, we asked our experts to make fearless 2016 predictions for top prospects. Here are their responses.
- Daniel Jeremiah NFL.com
Notre Dame QB Kizer will win Heisman
DeShone Kizer hasn't even won the full-time starting QB gig for the Irish but that won't stop me from making this bold prediction -- Kizer will win the Heisman Trophy this season. He will eventually take over as the full-time player at the position and he will post monster numbers for the Irish. The opener against Texas on a Sunday night is the perfect location to launch his campaign. It's going to happen. Get ready.
Tennessee's Jalen Hurd will rush for more yards than LSU star Leonard Fournette. Hurd, a big, physical back, rushed for 1,288 yards last season, when UT had three returning starting offensive linemen. This year, the Vols have four returning O-line starters, and on top of that, he'll have a left tackle who redshirted last year blocking for him in Drew Richmond, who has the potential to be a very good player.
- Chad Reuter NFL.com
Four RBs will hit 2,000-yards mark
These four running backs will be the first quartet in NCAA history to eclipse the 2,000-rushing-yards mark in the same season: Dalvin Cook (Florida State), Leonard Fournette (LSU), Royce Freeman (Oregon), and Christian McCaffrey (Stanford). Three backs achieved the feat in 1996 (Troy Davis, Ron Dayne, Byron Hanspard) and 2007 (Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Kevin Smith).
Leonard Fournette will rush for 150-plus yards in every game this season. Despite facing a formidable schedule against a few top-notch defenses, the rugged runner will find success against eight- and nine-man fronts. If Fournette can stay healthy and avoid a serious injury as a workhorse, he could top the 2,000-yard mark this season.
- Chase Goodbread College Football 24/7
Fournette won't make Heisman-finalist list
For the second year in a row, Leonard Fournette's Heisman Trophy campaign will fall short of a trip to New York for the ceremony. While I fully expect another big season from the star junior, he'll again be facing stacked SEC defenses that will respect Brandon Harris' passing ability only to the extent that Harris forces them to. And he'll do it with new faces at both offensive tackle positions. Given that, plus the way quarterbacks have a way of crowding the Heisman field, Fournette will have to settle for the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back.
- Lance Zierlein NFL.com
LSU sophomore will lead SEC in sacks
LSU's Arden Key will lead the SEC in sacks. Really? He'll have more than Myles Garrett, Tim Williams and Jonathan Allen? I'm predicting he'll do it. As a freshman, Key flashed the physical traits and tools to become a dominant pass rusher even though he finished the season with just five. Key will continue to grow into his gangly frame and with LSU moving Key to a stand-up rush spot, it is entirely possible that we see a huge spike in sack production from him.
- Charles Davis NFL.com
Ohio State center will be in first-round mix
By the time we roll around to the winter, Ohio State senior Pat Elflein will be discussed as the top center in the 2017 NFL Draft, and a potential first-round selection. In recent years, the emphasis on centers has seemingly increased, and Alabama's Ryan Kelly in 2016 is a great example of the esteem in which the position is now held. Many scouts did not have him in their top 50 prospects when the evaluation began in earnest, but by the time it was said and done, the Colts took him with their first pick (18th overall). And don't forget about Travis Frederick, the two-time Pro Bowl center who went 31st overall to the Cowboys in 2013.