Mike FarrellThe annual countdown of the top 50 players of the 2021 college football season continues today with the numbers 11-20.
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
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20. DE Jermaine Johnson, State of Florida
The skinny: One of the best JUCO recruits in the country during the 2018 cycle, Johnson cut his list of top schools in Georgia, Miami, Colorado, UCLA, USC, Oregon, and Texas before committing to Bulldogs in early August. After two rather disappointing seasons in Athens, Johnson moved to the state of Florida and thrived with 70 tackles, 17.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks and two forced fumbles this fall.
Farrell’s opinion: Johnson was an extraordinary transfer for the state of Florida not only for his ability to pass quickly but also for his leadership as the roster was revamped and he needed players who could lead on and off the pitch.
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19. CB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
The skinny: Gardner made an unofficial spring visit to Cincinnati which ultimately led to his summer engagement with the Bearcats. It also had offers from Kentucky, Iowa State, Indiana, and several MAC programs. Firmly entrenched as one of the best covering cornerbacks in the country, Gardner further proved his status this fall with 35 tackles, four tackles for one defeat, three tackles, three interceptions and four break-up passes.
Farrell’s opinion: A long, thin corner of Michigan, not many wanted Gardner out of high school. But it blossomed into an elite college cornerback and potential first round. His ability to play the ball is elite.
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18. WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
The skinny: Burks engaged with Arkansas during the summer leading up to his senior season on deals from LSU, Auburn, and Ole Miss. After a 2020 breakout 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 running touchdown this season.
Farrell’s opinion: Burks is a big, physical and imposing receiver who can beat you on 50-50 balls or get behind you. Once he healed after a few early injuries, he was almost unstoppable.
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17. RB Sean Tucker, Syracuse
The skinny: Tucker committed to Syracuse during the spring following his junior season, on offers from Rutgers, Air Force and Kent State. He was also recruited as a defender from several schools. Playing a little under the radar due to the team’s lack of overall success, Tucker still excelled this fall with 1,496 yards and 12 ground touchdowns. He also added 20 receptions for 255 yards and two touchdowns in the passing game.
Farrell’s opinion: 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 high school athlete who could have played catcher or defender.
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16. DT Jordan Davis, Georgia
The skinny: Davis cut his list of top schools in Georgia, North Carolina, NC State, and Florida State before committing to the Bulldogs during his senior season. Anchoring the defensive line of a dominant Bulldogs, Davis had 28 tackles, three tackles for one loss and two sacks this fall.
Farrell’s opinion: It’s like a wall. He fills the rush, pushes his pocket and can chase players – even at 350 pounds. Davis is simply a monster.
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15. WR David Bell, Purdue
The skinny: Bell cut his list of top schools in Purdue, Indiana, and Penn State before engaging with the Boilermakers during the All-American Bowl in early January. After injuries slowed his production level in 2020, Bell returned to 2019 form this fall with 93 receptions for 1,286 yards and six touchdowns for the Boilermakers.
Farrell’s opinion: Bell is a fluid receiver that runs excellent courses and uses its length to make plays. He is especially dangerous in the red zone as he became a Day 1 touchdown creator for Purdue.
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14. CB Roger McCreary, Auburn
The skinny: McCreary initially committed to South Alabama early in his senior season, but then re-opened his recruiting when Auburn offered up in early December. After making an official visit in January, he engaged with the Tigers shortly thereafter. Already regarded as one of the SEC’s best defensive backs, McCreary turned heads nationwide this fall with 49 tackles, two tackles for one defeat, two interceptions and 14 break-up passes leading the SEC.
Farrell’s opinion: McCreary, a rough three-star high school jock, honed his skills to become one of the best corners of isolation in college football.
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13. OT Ikem Ekwonu, State of North Carolina
The skinny: Ekwonu engaged with NC State during the summer leading up to his senior season. He has held up to 15 offers, including from North Carolina, Maryland, Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Virginia. One of the most dominant offensive linemen in the country for the past two seasons, Ekwonwu continued his All-American level of play this fall, also establishing himself as one of the best players in his positions until the 2022 NFL Draft.
Farrell’s opinion: Arguably the most efficient tackle in college football today, it was the key to the NC state’s offense with its ability to punch holes and pass protection, and the NFL is noticing that.
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12. WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
The skinny: Williams cut his list of top schools in Ohio State, Alabama, Nebraska, Oregon, and UCLA before engaging with the Buckeyes during his senior season. After struggling to find his place in Columbus, Williams moved to Alabama earlier this year. In his first season with the Tides, he became one of the most dominant wide receivers in the country, scoring 68 receptions for 1,445 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 21.3 yards per grab.
Farrell’s opinion: It can be argued that Williams is higher on this list. It always had that speed outside of high school, but it took it to a new level in the SEC and is the # 1 weapon in the Alabama offense.
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11. LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
The skinny: Lloyd initially made a commitment to the UNLV, but after reopening his recruiting and making an official visit to Utah in January, he switched to the Ute shortly thereafter. Over the past three seasons Lloyd has established himself as one of the most productive and consistent linebackers in the country. He enjoyed his best season this fall with 107 tackles, 22 tackles per loss, seven sacks and four interceptions.
Farrell’s opinion: Lloyd was a huge security prospect out of high school who flew under the radar, but Utah saw something in him. He has become one of the best pure tacklers in the country and could be the first linebacker off the board in April.
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