Twenty buzz-worthy players college coaches are talking about

North Carolina sophomore running back T.J. Logan may be on the verge of a breakout year.   (USATSI)
Is UNC sophomore back T.J. Logan on the verge of a breakout year? (USATSI)

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When talking to coaches about general impressions of other teams in their league, I’m always intrigued by which players they bring up first.

Often, they don’t mention the most recognizable stars. The nuances of the game point them to different players -- players you need to know about.

Conversations with nearly 20 head or assistant FBS coaches resulted in this list of college football’s 20 sleepers, the 20 players being talked about by those who know the game best.

These players varied from underrated players, unheralded veterans, potential breakout stars, surefire breakout stars or simply young players who have created a buzz.

No Jameis Winstons on this list. All-conference second team is the threshold. Can’t be a first-teamer. For example, one Big Ten head coach couldn’t stop talking about Iowa Hawkeyes left tackle Brandon Scherff. Well, Scherff is a potential All-American tackle and first-round pick. Too easy.

Incoming freshmen also don’t count. No frame of reference for their performance.

Many from this list are notable to the ardent college football fans but haven't done enough to reach cornerstone status. These players stuck out to coaches on tape or in live action.


T.J. Logan, North Carolina Tar Heels running back

Year: Sophomore

Ht/Wt: 5-10, 180

Stats: 533 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 93 attempts

Coach’s take: “I think they have a potential great one in T.J. Logan, the running back. He didn’t get a lot of touches last year but you can tell the talent’s there.”


Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker

Year: Sophomore

Ht/Wt: 6-2 ½, 230

Stats: 66 tackles (6.5 for loss), one interception

Coach’s take: “He’ll be a really good player. He’s one of the top ones coming back for them. Instincts and athleticism are there.”

Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith.   (USATSI)
Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith. (USATSI)


Montravius Adams, Auburn Tigers defensive tackle

Year: Sophomore

Ht/Wt: 6-4, 305

Stats: Twenty tackles, one sack

Coach’s take: “He’s gonna be the next Glenn Dorsey.”


Tony Conner, Ole Miss Rebels safety

Year: Sophomore

Ht/Wt: 6-0, 217

Stats: 66 tackles (5 for loss), one sack, one interception, seven passes defended

Coach’s take: “Tony Carter is great. He’s an absolute stud. He can run up front, on the defensive back end. Great instincts, physical player, everything you’d want, he’s got it.”

Mississippi's Tony Connner.  (USATSI)
Mississippi's Tony Conner. (USATSI)


Henry Coley, Virginia Cavaliers linebacker

Year: Senior

Ht/Wt: 6-2, 230

Stats: 91 tackles (8.5 for loss), one sack

Coach’s take: “We thought he was the best linebacker in the entire league. Tough, solid, physical player.”


Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma Sooners cornerback

Year: Sophomore

Ht/Wt: 5-11, 164

Stats: 46 tackles, two interceptions, 13 pass breakups

Coach’s take: “The Zack Sanchez kid probably played as good as any freshman could have played last year in that position. He’ll be a little better…Every time he made a mistake, he always came back and made a big play.”


Kendall Sanders, Texas Longhorns wide receiver

Year: Junior

Ht/Wt: 6-0, 187

Stats: 37 catches, 361 yards, one touchdown

Coach’s take: “They have a young receiver, #2, that I think has a chance to be really good. He should give them a boost this year. He’s athletic and looks smooth out there.”

Texas WR Kendall Sanders.  (USATSI)
Texas WR Kendall Sanders. (USATSI)


Darious Cummings, Florida Gators defensive tackle

Year: Senior

Ht/Wt: 6-1, 305

Stats: 15 tackles (three for loss), one sack, one interception

Coach’s take: “#55, an inside guy, he’s a pretty powerful guy in there. Tough to handle. They’ve done a good job recruiting defensive linemen.”


Nick O’Leary, FSU tight end

Year: Senior

Ht/Wt: 6-3, 250

Stats: 33 catches, 557 yards, seven touchdowns

Coach’s take: “O’Leary is a really good player. Good ball skills, runs really good routes, tries to block -- not a great blocker but tries hard, gives good effort.”

Florida State tight end Nick O'Leary.   (USATSI)
Florida State tight end Nick O'Leary. (USATSI)


Joey Bosa, Ohio State Buckeyes State" data-canon="Ohio Bobcats" data-type="SPORTS_OBJECT_TEAM" id="shortcode0"> defensive end

Year: Sophomore

Ht/Wt: 6-5, 270

Stats: 44 tackles, 7.5 sacks

Coach’s take: “Defensively, I loved the freshman defensive end. I love the way he played, pad level, intensity. Really everything.”


Corey Clement, Wisconsin Badgers running back

Year: Sophomore

Ht/Wt: 5-11, 210

Stats: 547 yards and seven touchdowns on 67 carries

Coach’s take: “They recruited a really good player from New Jersey, running back Corey Clement -- he’s got a chance to be really good but he was playing behind Melvin Gordon, who’s also great. He’s ready to make an impact now.”


Marcus Rush, Michigan State Spartans defensive end

Year: Senior

Ht/Wt: 6-2, 245

Stats: 30 tackles, five sacks

Coach’s take: “He’ll be an impact guy for them coming back. He’s just really solid. He’s a Michigan State Spartans -type defender.”


Leonte Carroo, Rutgers Scarlet Knights wide receiver

Year: Sophomore

Ht/Wt: 6-1, 200

Stats: 28 catches for 478 yards and nine touchdowns

Coach’s take: “Carroo will be their best player by far. But it’s hard to say how good he can be since their quarterback play has been so bad.”


Thomas Tyner, Oregon Ducks running back

Year: Sophomore

Ht/Wt: 5-11, 201

Stats: 711 yards and nine touchdowns on 115 carries

Coach’s take: “He’s a lot faster than you think. I didn’t realize how fast he was until he’s on the field. He’s a powerful back. He’s really good. I don’t know if people realize how good he really is yet.”


Marcus Peters, Washington Huskies cornerback

Year: Redshirt junior

Ht/Wt: 6-0, 198

Stats: 54 tackles, five interceptions, one sack, eight pass breakups

Coach’s take: He’s one of the top corners around, certainly in the Pac-12. I think you can isolate him in man. He is long, athletic, seems to have good ball skills.”


Travis Wilson, Utah Utes quarterback

Year: Junior

Ht/Wt: 6-6, 240

Stats: 133-of-237 passing for 1,827 yards, 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions; 386 rushing yards and five touchdowns

Coach’s take: “When Wilson was the quarterback, they were able to do some things in those games because of the throws he could make. He’s athletic and throws better than average but maybe they didn’t use him to their advantage as a dual-threat quarterback – they tried to make him a playaction guy and he’s just OK at that.”


William Stanback, UCF Knights running back

Year: Sophomore

Ht/Wt: 5-11, 221

Stats: 443 yards and six touchdowns on 105 attempts

Coach’s take: “I think he’s better than Storm Johnson pound for pound – not as dynamic a playmaker, but he’s just a solid all-around player.”


Terrance Broadway, Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback

Year: Senior

Ht/Wt: 6-2, 211

Stats: 166-of-266 passing for 2,419 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions; 442 rushing yards for eight touchdowns

Coach’s take: “He could be one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country this year.”


Dadi Nicolas, Virginia Tech Hokies defensive end

Year: Junior

Ht/Wt: 6-3, 218

Stats: 32 tackles (7 for loss), four sacks and 13 hurries

Coach’s take: “He’s a playmaker. He’s a handful to handle. He didn’t start but played a lot. Really talented.”

Davis Webb, Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback

Year: Sophomore

Ht/Wt: 6-4, 195

Stats: 226-of-361 passing for 2,718 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions

Coach’s take: “I think he’s really good. He’s got good savvy. Kliff does a good job teaching confidence. He runs better than you’d think.”



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