Fourth of July celebration: Four college football players set to create fireworks in 2018
Light fuse, get away and enjoy the show
As you enjoy burgers, brats, dogs and celebrate Independence Day, know that those fireworks you see in the sky don't just celebrate America's birthday, they represent all that makes college football great.
Big plays, game-changing performances and wild twists and turns happen every week in college football, and there are plenty of explosive players ready to light the fuse in 2018.
Who are the top four explosive players in college football heading into 2018?
1. Arizona QB Khalil Tate: Tate exploded on the college football scene in 2017 midway through the season, rushing for an FBS single-game quarterback record of 327 yards on just 14 carries after replacing injured starter Brandon Dawkins on Oct. 7. He went on to finish seventh in the nation in rushing yards per game with 128.27 yards per game. He isn't just a runner, though. He completed 62 percent of his passes, threw 14 touchdowns and averaged 8.9 yards per attempt. That was all in a pinch and on the fly with former coach Rich Rodriguez making sure that his new superstar was comfortable with the evolving offense. During Arizona's bowl game, Tate looked like a complete quarterback, throwing for 302 yards and five touchdowns against Purdue. Under new coach Kevin Sumlin, Tate should be even more dangerous in 2018. Sumlin has had success with dual-threat quarterbacks in the past (see: Johnny Manziel), knows what Tate has already excelled at and will build a Wildcat offense that accentuates Tate's explosiveness.
2. Houston DL Ed Oliver: When you think of explosive football players, typically they play on the offensive side of the ball. They could be receivers who double as kick returners, running backs who hit home runs in space or dual-threat quarterbacks who could become Heisman Trophy contenders at any moment. Oliver bucks the trend. The stud Cougar defensive tackle had 16.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one blocked kick and scored one rushing touchdown as a sophomore in 2017. But one look at a Houston game and you'll know that, not only is he explosive in the middle of the defensive line, he's a player who every offensive coordinator only schemes against and fears. That's the definition of an explosive player -- a player who not only jumps out while watching film, but is a threat to flip a game upside down at any given time. He's this year's version of former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Ask former Michigan running back Vincent Smith how explosive he was. Yes, it's unorthodox to call a defensive tackle explosive, but Oliver is an unorthodox talent.
3. Stanford RB Bryce Love: OK, it's a cop out to include Love in this. After all, the running back for the Cardinal went to New York last December as a finalist for the Heisman and picked up right where former Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey left off. He will enter the 2018 season as one of the top contenders to take home the hardware from the Big Apple this December. We all know how great he was last year. After all, the 2,118 rushing yards and 19 rushing touchdowns are well-documented. But the 5-foot-10, 196-pounder led the nation in plays from scrimmage that went for 30 or more yards with 24 -- with an injured ankle during the latter half of the season, no less. It won't matter that defensive coordinators scheme against Love this year. They did that last year, and he provided a holiday's worth of fireworks in his first year as the unquestioned starter.
4. Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown: Lost in the smoke of the Rebels' lost season in 2017 was the work of A.J. Brown. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound junior caught 75 passes for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore, and he did it through the unexpected injury to former Rebel Shea Patterson and transition to Jordan Ta'amu. With Ta'amu entrenched as the starter heading into the season, and the adjustments made by offensive coordinator Phil Longo, Brown should be one of the favorites for the Biletnikoff Award. If you add in the fact that the Rebels aren't eligible for a bowl, and have an offense capable of scoring points at will, Brown will be one of those players who pops off the screen every Saturday.
Honorable mentions: Penn State QB Trace McSorley, Washington RB Myles Gaskin, FAU RB Devin Singletary, Oklahoma State RB Justice Hill, West Virginia WR David Sills V, South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel, Clemson DL Christian Wilkins, Ohio State DL Nick Bosa, LSU LB Devin White.
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