Every Friday, the Friday Five will rank something in the world of college football -- anything and everything from the logical to the illogical. This week we rank the most explosive players in the country entering 2017.
It's Fourth of July weekend. With Independence Day falling on a Tuesday this year, people around the country get to kick off the nation's birthday party a little early this year. That means that no matter where you live in America, there's a good chance you're going to see, or at least hear, some fireworks over the next 72 hours.
My sincerest apologies to your dog.
With there being so many fireworks on the way, it only made sense that for this week's Friday Five, I rank the most explosive players in college football. Not literally, of course. I mean the players capable of blowing a game open anytime they touch the ball.
The guys who can take a simple play and turn it into something spectacular.
Now, there are a lot of options out there to choose from, but I'm not going to include quarterbacks on the list.
Hell, even limiting the list to running backs, receivers and returners still left me with a lot of options to choose from, but these are the five guys who stuck out the most in my mind.
Given that he plays in the MAC and not for Western Michigan, there's a good chance you aren't familiar with Cody Thompson, which is fine. Maybe you should be, though. Toledo has one of the most prolific offenses in the conference and is a favorite to win it this year, and Thompson would play a fundamental role in it happening.
He finished last season with 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns receiving, but while those numbers are nice, it's the fact he averaged 19.8 yards per reception that stands out. He's a big-play threat, which is reflected not only in his yards per catch, but in his 10 receptions for 40 yards or more.
Barkley is one of my personal favorites, and there's simply no way I was leaving him off the list. Whether he's in the weight room or on a football field, he has you shaking your head in disbelief at the things he does.
He's capable of breaking a big play in the run game, return game or as a receiver, and barring any injuries, he's a name that will be in the Heisman discussion all season long.
What makes Barkley even scarier is that, as explosive as he's been in his first two seasons, he was playing behind an offensive line that wasn't great. While I don't know how good the Penn State line is going to be in 2017, it should be the best one Barkley's worked behind in his college career, which might mean he's about to take things to another level.
You would think that losing Leonard Fournette would be a much bigger deal for LSU than it is, but LSU has Derrius Guice, so it won't be. As we saw from Guice last season when he was filling in for Fournette, while he may not have the raw power and destructive nature Fournette carried with him on runs, Guice can change a game just as quickly.
Guice rushed for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, averaging 7.58 yards per carry. Now, lest you think that average was just a byproduct of a few games against lesser opponents, let me clear the air for you.
In eight games against SEC opponents, Guice averaged 7.74 yards per carry and scored 11 of his touchdowns.
Also, there's no running back in the country coming back this season that had more 30+ yard carries than Guice's 11 last season (Louisville's Lamar Jackson had 13).
LSU's run game will be just fine.
One of my favorite players to watch, Quadree Henderson, gets things done in a variety of ways. He's not large -- he's listed at 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds on Pitt's website, and even that might be generous -- but he comes up huge on the field.
Henderson is just one of those players that is a threat to score any time the ball ends up in his hands. He averaged 10.52 yards per rush last season, carrying the ball 60 times and scoring five touchdowns. In the passing game, he caught 26 passes and averaged 11 yards per reception.
Then there's his work on special teams. As a punt returner, Henderson averaged 15.75 yards per return. The only two players in the country to average more yards per return were Syracuse' Brisly Estime and Akron's JoJo Natson (USC's Adoree Jackson tied Henderson).
As a kick returner, Henderson averaged 30.47 yards per return and scored three touchdowns. That average wasn't the result of just a few returns, either, as Henderson's 30 kick returns ranked 19th in the country last season. No player with more returns than Henderson had a better return average than he did, with only Memphis' Tony Pollard (38 returns, 28.11 yards per) even coming close.
Henderson is just a game-breaker, and it's fun just seeing all the ways Pitt figures out how to use him.
I can't help but feel like James Washington gets overlooked a bit too easily in the college football world. The kid has played three whole seasons now, and he's put up some rather ridiculous numbers while doing so.
As a freshman, we saw glimpses of Washington's game. He only caught 28 passes, but he averaged 16.29 yards per reception and scored six touchdowns. The signs were certainly there, and he's delivered on the promise the last two seasons.
Since the start of the 2015 season, Washington has caught 124 passes for 2,467 yards. Quick, do that math in your head. That's 19.90 yards per reception. Washington is getting nearly 20 yards every single time he catches a pass. He also has 20 receiving touchdowns over the last two years, meaning he scores 16.1 percent of the time that he catches a pass. For a guy that's not just a red zone target, that's an impressive rate.
Now, while it's not exactly something you can predict going forward, Washington also had three receptions of over 80 yards last season, further showing just how explosive he can be when he has the ball.
I have a feeling he could blow up on the scene this year and be 2017's Dede Westbrook; a big play machine that works his way to New York as a Heisman finalist.