20 for 2020 key offseason topics: No. 11 The college football players who are already terrific, but are about to go to a whole other level.
They were among the best players in college football in 2019, but they either flew a bit under the radar or they didn’t become household names. That’s about to change.
The perfect player who fits the description was on last year’s list. Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard is back, but he’s an established superstar. These five are on the verge of being there.
5. QB Sam Howell, Soph. North Carolina
He’s not all that big, and he’s not all that mobile, and he doesn’t have the biggest arm, but as a true freshman, he showed it.
Originally a key part of Willie Taggart’s 2019 Florida State recruiting class, Mack Brown and company swooped in and flipped Howell to be the main man to run the North Carolina offense. In a rebuilding job, the hope was for the true freshman to be ready right away, and then let him work through his mistakes as the team matured and the talent started to come in.
Instead, Howell came out rocking, bombing away for 245 yards and two touchdowns in the season-opening win over South Carolina, and hitting Miami for 274 yards and two scores with no picks in either one.
The Tar Heels won both games, and the season was off and running.
There were a string of losses the middle of the season, but Howell handled himself like a seasoned pro in close game after close game.
There were a few multi-interception games – the two in the loss to Appalachian State were a problem – but he only threw seven picks on the season and had two or more touchdown passes in every game.
He needs to be more consistent, he took a few too many chances, and there were too many misfires in key moments, but for a true freshman to hit 61% of his passes for 3,641 yards and 38 touchdowns with just seven interceptions in his first year, he wasn’t bad.