Mike Farrell‘s annual countdown of the top 50 players from the 2021 college football season continues today with Nos. 11-20.
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
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DE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State
The skinny: One of the top JUCO recruits in the country during the 2018 cycle, Johnson trimmed his list of top schools to Georgia, Miami, Colorado, UCLA, USC, Oregon and Texas before committing to the Bulldogs in early August. After two rather disappointing seasons in Athens, Johnson transferred to Florida State and flourished with 70 tackles, 17.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks and two forced fumbles this fall.
Farrell’s take: Johnson was an amazing transfer for Florida State not only for his pass rushing ability but also for his leadership as the roster was revamped and needed players who could lead on and off the field.
CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
The skinny: Gardner took an unofficial spring visit to Cincinnati which eventually led to his summer commitment to the Bearcats. He also had offers from Kentucky, Iowa State, Indiana and several MAC programs. Firmly entrenched as one of the top cover cornerbacks in the country, Gardner further proved his status this fall with 35 tackles, four tackles for a loss, three tackles, three interceptions and four pass break-ups.
Farrell’s take: A long, skinny corner out of Michigan, not many wanted Gardner out of high school. But he blossomed into an elite college cornerback and potential first-rounder. His ability to play the ball is elite.
WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
The skinny: Burks committed to Arkansas during the summer leading up to his senior season over offers from LSU, Auburn and Ole Miss. Coming off a breakout 2020 season, Burks continued to raise his level of play in 2021 with 67 receptions for 1,123 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also added a rushing touchdown this season.
Farrell’s take: Burks is a big, physical and imposing receiver who can beat you on 50-50 balls or get behind you. Once he got healthy after some injuries early he was almost unstoppable.
RB Sean Tucker, Syracuse
The skinny: Tucker committed to Syracuse during the spring after his junior season, over offers from Rutgers, Air Force and Kent State. He was also recruited as a defensive back by several schools. Playing a bit under-the-radar due to the team’s lack of overall success, Tucker still excelled this fall with 1,496 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. He also added 20 receptions for 255 yards and two touchdowns in the passing game.
Farrell’s take: Tucker doesn’t get the attention he deserves at Syracuse but he’s one of the best running backs in the country. He was a pure athlete coming out of high school who could have played receiver or defensive back.
16. DT Jordan Davis, Georgia
The skinny: Davis trimmed his list of top schools to Georgia, North Carolina, NC State and Florida State before committing to the Bulldogs during his senior season. Anchoring a dominant Bulldogs’ defensive line, Davis totaled 28 tackles, three tackles for a loss and two sacks this fall.
Farrell’s take: He’s like a wall. He stuffs the run, pushes the pocket and he can chase players down – even at 350 pounds. Davis is simply a freak.
WR David Bell, Purdue
The skinny: Bell trimmed his list of top schools to Purdue, Indiana and Penn State before committing to the Boilermakers during the All-American Bowl in early January. After injuries slowed his level of production in 2020, Bell returned to his 2019 form this fall with 93 receptions for 1,286 yards and six touchdowns for the Boilermakers.
Farrell’s take: Bell is a smooth receiver who runs excellent routes and uses his length to make plays. He’s especially dangerous in the red zone as he’s become a touchdown maker from Day 1 for Purdue.
CB Roger McCreary, Auburn
The skinny: McCreary initially committed to South Alabama at the beginning of his senior season, but then re-opened his recruitment when Auburn offered in early December. After taking an official visit in January, he committed to the Tigers soon after. Already considered one of the top defensive backs in the SEC, McCreary turned heads nationally this fall with 49 tackles, two tackles for a loss, two interceptions and an SEC-leading 14 pass break-ups.
Farrell’s take: A raw, three-star athlete out of high school McCreary has refined his skills to become one of the best lockdown corners in college football.
13. OT Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
The skinny: Ekwonu committed to NC State during the summer leading up to his senior season. He held upward of 15 offers, including from North Carolina, Maryland, Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia. One of the more dominant offensive linemen in the country over the last two seasons, Ekwonwu continued his All-American level of play this fall while also establishing himself as one of the top players at his positions leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft.
Farrell’s take: Arguably the most efficient tackle in college football today, he was the key to the NC State offense with his ability to open holes and pass protect, and the NFL is noticing.
WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
The skinny: Williams trimmed his list of top schools to Ohio State, Alabama, Nebraska, Oregon and UCLA before committing to the Buckeyes during his senior season. After struggling to find his place in Columbus, Williams transferred to Alabama earlier this year. In his first season with the Tide, he became one of the more dominant wide receivers in the country, totaling 68 receptions for 1,445 yards and 15 touchdowns, while averaging 21.3 yards per grab.
Farrell’s take: An argument can be made for Williams to be higher on this list. He always had that speed out of high school but he’s taken it to a new level in the SEC and is the No. 1 weapon on the Alabama offense.
LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
The skinny: Lloyd initially committed to UNLV, but after re-opening his recruitment and taking a January official visit to Utah he flipped to the Utes soon after. Over the last three seasons Lloyd established himself as one of the more productive and consistent linebackers in the country. He enjoyed his best statistical season this fall with 107 tackles, 22 tackles for a loss, seven sacks and four interceptions.
Farrell’s take: Lloyd was an oversized safety prospect out of high school who flew under the radar, but Utah saw something in him. He developed into one of the top pure tacklers in the country and could be the first linebacker off the board in April.