1) Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida: Hargreaves was one of the most highly touted prospects coming out of High School in 2013. He wasted little time as a freshman and cracked the Gators secondary rotation.Hargreaves went head to head with some of the best wide receivers in the SEC and played very well. He earned 1st team All-SEC Honors. He finished his 2013 campaign with 38 tackles, 3 interceptions and 11 passes broken up. Heading into his Sophomore year, look for Hargreaves to be more of a vocal leader and tone setter for one of the best defenses in College Football.
2) Su’a Cravens, S, USC: There is no shortage of talent in the USC defensive backfield but Sophomore, Su’a Cravens might be the best of all of them. Cravens came in last year and let the Pac-12 know who exactly who he is. He can cover well in space and be an effective blitzer that can get to the quarterback. As a Freshman he started all 13 games, registered 54 tackles, 4 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery. Cravens is a playmaker that is consistently around the ball and we’ll wreck havoc against defenses in the Pac-12 this Fall.
3) Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss: Nkemdiche was the 2013 top recruit in all of College Football. He choose Ole Miss over Alabama and a plethora of schools that wanted his services. He struggled a bit to find nitche but towards the end of season he started to flash that potential that made him a top recruit. Nkemdiche will be moved to defensive tackle this season where he’s more comfortable. He’s got the strength to make plays in the running game and the quickness to beat guards on a pass rush. Nkemdiche finished his freshman campaign 34 tackles, 2 sacks and one force fumble. Look for all of those numbers this year to double for Nkemdiche as he becomes one of the best defensive players in all the country.
4) Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are no strangers to having great linebackers come through their program and leaving great legacies. Sophomore Jaylon Smith just might be the next exceptional linebacker to put on blue and gold. When you watched the Irish last year, Smith jumped out on the screen as a freshman. He started all 13 games at linebacker for Notre Dame and set a new single season record for tackles by a freshman with 67. Smith enters 2014 on all sorts on Award Watch Lists and if he plays up to his potential he could be taking home quite a few this season.
5) Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State: Shilique Calhoun is one of the most explosive pass rushers in all of College Football. He’ll be asked to take on more of a leadership role for a defense that lost a number of players to the NFL Draft. That defense stifled people and made life miserable for opposing running and quarterbacks. Calhoun is athletic enough to play both the run and pass effectively. He earned 2nd team All-American Honors and 1st team All-Big Ten Honors. He finished his Sophomore season with 36 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Look for 2014 to be the season where Calhoun strikes fear in his opponents every Saturday.