With the first month of the college football season now officially in the books, it’s time to take a look back at which players performed at the highest level throughout the first five weeks.
Here’s a look at college football’s biggest September stars.
QB: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Teddy Bridgewater entered the 2013 season as the consensus top-rated quarterback prospect for the 2014 NFL draft. Thus far, he’s done everything necessary to hold onto that title.
Bridgewater has managed to build on the momentum and buzz he created with a huge upset victory over Florida in the Sugar Bowl back in January, as he’s continued to display tremendous playmaking ability in the passing game. The talented junior quarterback has completed 72 percent of his passes, averaged 11 yards per throw, tossed 14 touchdowns compared to just one interception, and he currently ranks third in the nation with a 204 passer rating.
Though some will knock Bridgewater due to the rather weak competition he’ll face this season, it’s clear that he’s got all the skills that scouts look for in a franchise quarterback prospect. He’s also got what it takes to contend for a Heisman Trophy in 2013.
RB: Bishop Sankey, Washington
Following three straight 7-6 seasons, it finally looks like Washington is ready to take the next step and become a legitimate contender in the Pac-12 this season. The Huskies have sprinted out to a 4-0 record, which includes wins over Boise State, Illinois and Arizona. The key player in the team’s early-season rise to prominence has been RB Bishop Sankey.
Though more high-profile players like De’Anthony Thomas and Ka’Deem Carey received most of the attention during the offseason, Sankey is the one who’s looked like the Pac-12’s true top running back so far this season. The 5’10’’, 203-pound junior has once again proven that he can be a durable bell-cow back, as he’s rushed 104 times for 607 yards and scored six touchdowns.
Sankey’s established himself as a workhorse featured back, who can carry a heavy load. Pac-12 defenses better beware, because if his 289 total carries in 2012 are any indication, Sankey won’t slow down anytime soon.
RB: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
Wisconsin may have lost RB Montee Ball, one of the most productive rushers in the history of college football. However, the Badgers still have one of college football’s top rushing duos, comprised of Melvin Gordon and James White. Both Gordon and White have stepped up and they’ve managed to make up for Ball’s absence. Still, it’s been Gordon, who has been the most impressive of the two so far.
The explosive 6’1’’, 207-pound redshirt sophomore has averaged over 10 yards per carry on 68 total touches, and he’s scored seven touchdowns. He’s also tied for first nationally with eight runs of over 20 yards.
The Badgers have been known for producing plenty of great running backs in recent years. Now it looks like Gordon is ready to step into the spotlight and fulfill the role as Wisconsin’s next star rusher.
WR: Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Texas A&M may have come up short against Alabama. However, WR Mike Evans did everything he could to lead the Aggies to a victory over the Tide, as he hauled in seven catches for a whopping 279 yards in a statement performance in front of a national audience.
Though that may have been his trademark game of the 2013 season, Evans has been a constant factor in the Aggies’ explosive passing attack, totaling 28 catches for 691 yards and five touchdowns in his first five games.
The incredibly athletic 6’5’’, 225-pound former high school basketball standout from Galveston, Texas has managed to make the most of his potential and raw natural ability. Evans has now developed into an elite receiver, who strikes fear in the heart of opposing secondaries.
WR: Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Oregon State has managed to replace one speedy, field-stretching pass-catcher, Markus Wheaton, with another one, Brandin Cooks.
With Wheaton now in the NFL, Cooks has now taken on the responsibility of being the Beavers’ new No. 1 receiving threat. So far, he’s flourished in the more prominent role. The 5’10’’, 186-pound junior currently leads the nation with 52 catches for 807 yards and nine receiving touchdowns.
The standout sprinter has used his track speed to create plenty of big game-changing plays in the passing game. Cooks leads the nation with 16 catches of over 20 yards and six catches of over 40 yards.
TE: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
Kliff Kingsbury is slowly transforming Texas Tech’s offense into a high-octane passing attack. So far, Kingsbury has found plenty of ways to utilize uniquely skilled TE Jace Amaro.
Amaro has presented plenty of matchup problems for opposing defenses, as the athletic 6’5’’, 260-pound junior has managed to use his size-speed combination to create chaos in coverage. He currently leads all tight ends in college football with 29 catches for 327 yards, even though he’s had to deal with having an inexperienced freshman quarterback running the offense.
It’s clear that Amaro has quickly gained the trust of both his new quarterback and his new head coach, which means he should continue put up some monster numbers throughout the rest of the 2013 season.
OL: Hroniss Grasu, Oregon
Oregon’s rushing attack hasn’t missed a beat without Chip Kelly at the helm. The Ducks currently lead the nation with 332 rushing yards per game, and they also lead the country with 19 rushing plays of over 20 yards.
The team has benefited from outstanding play in the trenches, especially in the middle. That’s where center Hroniss Grasu has flourished and solidified his status as the leader and linchpin of the Oregon’s outstanding o-line.
The 6’3’’, 297-pound junior is a tough, intelligent and agile center who has a skill-set that is perfectly suited for the Ducks’ zone-blocking scheme.
OL: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
This offseason, Texas A&M had a huge hole to fill at left tackle after Outland Trophy-winner Luke Joeckel moved on to the NFL. Luckily, the Aggies had another standout veteran lineman, Jake Matthews, who could replace the No. 2 overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft.
So far, Matthews has done an excellent job handling the left tackle position after spending his first three years on the right side. The son of NFL legend Bruce Matthews has taken over as the leader of an offensive line that has allowed just five sacks in the team’s first five games.
Matthews looks like he’s destined to be a top-20 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, but before that, he’ll be trying to keep the Outland Trophy in College Station.
OL: Cyril Richardson, Baylor
Baylor may be best known for its potent passing attack, which currently ranks first in the nation, averaging 443 yards through the air per game. However, the Bears have also done plenty of damage on the ground as well, as they are averaging over 300 rushing yards per game.
The team has received a big blocking boost from its top lineman, OG Cyril Richardson. The mammoth and powerful 6’5”, 340-pound senior has opened up some huge holes for RB Lache Seastrunk, and he’s given new starting quarterback Bryce Petty the proper protection he needs.
Richardson is an All-American candidate, who has a great chance to be third Baylor offensive linemen in the last five years to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft.
OL: David Yankey, Stanford
Stanford’s power-based pro-style offensive attack is so refreshing to see in an era that’s seemingly dominated by spread systems. The Cardinal put an intense focus on finding upper-echelon level offensive line prospects during recruiting, and their strength in the trenches is now paying dividends.
The leader of one of the best front-fives in the country is OG David Yankey. After proving himself at guard in 2012, Yankey has now evolved into the best guard in the sport.
The junior is a joy to watch, and scouts have to love what they’ve seen from the technically sound and ultra-reliable interior wrecking ball.
OL: James Hurst, North Carolina
Those that were highly critical of Jadeveon Clowney’s first performance of the season against North Carolina fail to see that Clowney’s opposition that night, OT James Hurst, is the type of player that can make even the best pass-rusher in the country look out-of-sync.
Though North Carolina’s offense, especially QB Bryn Renner, has been highly erratic so far this season, Hurst has managed to remain a stabilizing force for the struggling unit.
If the 6’7”, 305-pound senior can go toe-to-toe with Clowney, he can eventually go toe-to-toe with some of the NFL’s finest edge-rushers. Hurst is an elite blindside pass-blocker who will likely eventually be a top-20 pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
DT: Dominique Easley, Florida
Florida currently has the top-ranked run defense in the country. The Gators are allowing just 53 yards on the ground per game, and they’ve given up just nine runs of over 10 yards.
The key to the team’s dominant play against the run is DT Dominique Easley, who finally started to live up to the blue-star billing he received coming out of Staten Island’s Curtis High School.
Easley totaled four quarterback hurries, two tackles for loss and four solo stops before unfortunately going down for the season with a torn ACL. The injury will obviously diminish Easley’s soaring draft stock, but if the senior can make a full recovery and keep his quickness, he can still be an impact player in the pros.
DT: Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh’s defense didn’t look so hot against Florida State and Duke, allowing 96 combined points to both teams. But one Panther defender who has been on a hot streak since the first whistle of the season is DT Aaron Donald.
In four games, Donald has totaled six sacks, nine tackles for loss, 12 solo tackles and five quarterback hurries.
You can call the 6’0’’, 285-pound senior “undersized” but his play so far this season has been more impactful than all of his bigger peers at the position.
DE: Chris Smith, Arkansas
Coming into the season, Chris Smith knew it would be a challenge to top his breakout junior campaign, in which he totaled 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. However, Smith has stepped up his game and looked even better so far during his senior year, as he’s totaled six sacks, seven tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries.
The 6’3”, 268-pound senior is a physical edge-rusher, who has a motor that never stops.
Smith and fellow defensive end Trey Flowers form one of the most feared defensive end duos in college football. Considering the lack of true bona fide stars in the senior defensive end class, Smith is a player who’s ascend up draft boards throughout the season if he keeps playing at his early pace.
DE: Vic Beasley, Clemson
Since 2007, Clemson has had seven defensive ends selected in the NFL draft, including notable names such as Da’Quan Bowers, Gaines Adams and Andre Branch. The latest terrorizing Tiger edge-rusher who has scouts buzzing is Vic Beasley.
Just a junior, Beasley will likely have to add some more muscle to his noticeably thin 6’2”, 235-pound frame before he makes the transition to the pro level. Still, it’s clear that the slim end has the skills to be a star NFL prospect.
Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins may be the two Clemson players that everyone mostly talks about. But soon enough, Beasley, who totaled six sacks, six tackles for loss and two forced fumbles in the team’s first four games, will be generating plenty of buzz as well.
LB: Khalil Mack, Buffalo
If you’re Looking for this year’s breakout star pass-rusher, then look no further than Buffalo’s Khalil Mack.
Though Mack had already made a name for himself in the MAC with a sensational season last year, he’s really starting to make a name for himself on the national scene in 2013. Though the Bulls haven’t gotten beaten up by bigger BCS bullies such as Ohio State and Baylor, Mack has shined against the better competition. Through four games, he’s totaled 3.5 sacks, six tackles for loss, 31 total tackles and an interception which he returned for a touchdown.
The senior outside linebacker is a relentless edge-rusher who plays the game with great effort and attitude. Mack has the potential to solidify his status as a top-15 draft pick if he keeps playing so well for the rest of the season.
LB: Chris Borland, Wisconsin
Although Wisconsin came up short in its bid to upset Ohio State, you still had to be very impressed by the way Badgers linebacker Chris Borland played against the Buckeyes. Borland was constantly around the football, racking up 16 total tackles, including 10 solo stops, and he he played with the type of physicality and nastiness that you would expect to see from a premier Big Ten inside linebacker.
With last year’s leading tackler Mike Taylor now gone, Borland has been asked to become the true centerpiece and leader of Wisconsin’s defense in 2013.
So far, he’s stepped up to the challenge and thrived in his new role. After totaling over 100 tackles in each of the past two seasons, it looks like Borland is on pace to make his senior campaign the best season of his extremely impressive collegiate career.
LB: Shaquil Barrett, Colorado State
Shaquil Barrett totaled a combined five sacks in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. In the first five games of his senior year, he’s managed to best that total with 6.5 sacks, while also totaling 12.5 tackles for loss, the most in the country, and forcing two fumbles.
The 6’2”, 250-pound senior is the leader of a Colorado State team that is four wins away from its first bowl appearance since 2008.
Barrett seems like he’s ready to do everything he possibly can to get the Rams to the postseason. He’s playing with the type of fearless and determined attitude that you love to see from a tremendously skilled young edge-rusher.
CB: Bradley Roby, Ohio State
Bradley Roby had his fair share of struggles in coverage during Ohio State’s victory over Wisconsin last Saturday. But overall, his play has been excellent as expected.
The latest in a long line of stellar Ohio State defensive backs has totaled 21 tackles, including 16 solo stops, picked off two passes and broken up six other throws.
Roby may ultimately take a backseat to teammate, LB Ryan Shazier, in the voting for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Still, he clearly possesses the talent to be a top-20 draft pick in 2014 if he chooses to declare.
CB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
Florida’s defense features three of the most talented defensive backs in college football: Marcus Roberson, Loucheiz Purifoy and Jaylen Watkins. So far this season, though, it’s been freshman sensation Vernon Hargreaves III who has been the most impressive member of the Gators’ secondary.
Hargreaves is currently tied for first in the SEC with three interceptions, and he’s also broken up four passes. He’s been the most consistent member of a Florida secondary that ranks sixth in the nation in pass defense, allowing just 149 yards through the air per game.
The former blue-chip recruit from Tampa, Florida is destined for Freshman All-American honors in 2013. Still, it’s even more exciting to think about just how good he good become over the next two years. Hargreaves has the potential to be the SEC’s next star shutdown corner.
S: Sam Carter, TCU
TCU currently ranks sixth nationally with nine interceptions. The outstanding play of Sam Carter is one of the main reasons why the Horned Frogs have been able to pick off so many passes this season.
Whether Carter has been locked down on his receiver, forcing quarterbacks to throw the ball into tight windows, or whether Carter has picked off the throws himself (he’s already got three interceptions), he’s always making an impact in coverage.
The 6’1”, 215-pound senior has finally managed to step out of the shadow of his more high-profile teammate, CB Jason Verrett. With Verrett guarding the outside and Carter keeping the middle blanketed, opposing offenses simply aren’t going to find many holes in the Horned Frogs’ secondary in 2013.
S: Deone Bucannon, Washington State
Washington State’s defense seems to be playing with a new edge and attitude this season. The Cougars have gone from allowing 33 points and 425 yards in 2012 to allowing just 20 points and 323 yards this year.
The key to the defense’s success has been the play of senior defensive leader, safety Deone Bucannon.
Bucannon ranks first in the Pac-12 with 44 total tackles, including 26 solo stops, picked off three passes, forced two fumbles. He’s played with the type of relentless ferocity and physicality you love to see from a safety with his type of skills.
Specialist: Cody Parkey, Auburn
Auburn’s revitalized offense has given the Tigers more scoring opportunities deep in opponent’s territory this season. When the offense isn’t able to punch into the end zone, kicker Cody Parkey has still made sure the team gets points up on the board.
Parkey has nailed seven of his eight field-goal attempts, including two field goals from over 40 yards.
After an impressive junior campaign, in which he hit 11 of his 14 field-goal tries, the senior kicker now looks like he’s even more accurate and consistent in his final season.
Returner: Christion Jones, Alabama
Alabama’s offense hasn’t exactly looked as good as advertised so far this season. Luckily for the Tide, though, the team has benefited from some big plays in the return game, which has helped give Nick Saban’s squad a big boost.
Christion Jones, who has returned both kicks and punts for Alabama, is the players who’s provided the majority of those explosive plays in the return game.
Jones has averaged 11.2 yards on punt returns and 29.7 yards on kickoff returns, and he’s also scored a touchdown on each. The junior speedster could ultimately be one of the key difference-makers in the Tide’s quest for a third-straight national championship.
Honorable Mention: Quarterbacks
Aaron Murray, Georgia
AJ McCarron, Alabama
Bryce Petty, Baylor
Brett Smith, Wyoming
Chuckie Keeton, Utah State
Derek Carr, Fresno State
Jameis Winston, Florida State
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Sean Mannion, Oregon State
Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Zach Mettenberger, LSU
Honorable Mention: Running Backs
Alex Collins, Arkansas
Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky
David Fluellen, Toledo
Marion Grice, Arizona State
Mike Davis, South Carolina
Jeremy Hill, LSU
Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona
Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
Paul James, Rutgers
T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
Todd Gurley, Georgia
Honorable Mention: Wide Receivers
Antwan Goodley, Baylor
Davante Adams, Fresno State
Deontay Greenberry, Houston
Jamison Crowder, Duke
Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
Jarvis Landry, LSU
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
Josh Harper, Fresno State
Odell Beckham Jr, LSU
Paul Richardson, Colorado
Willie Snead, Ball State
Honorable Mention: Tight Ends
Arthur Lynch, Georgia
Chris Coyle, Arizona State
Connor Hamlett, Oregon State
Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Evan Engram, Ole Miss
Gator Hoskins, Marshall
Gerald Christian, Louisville
Hunter Henry, Arkansas
Jaydon Mickens, Washington
Ted Bolser, Indiana
Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
Tyreese Russell, Eastern Michigan
Honorable Mention: Offensive Linemen
Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
Austin Wentworth, Fresno State
Cameron Erving, Florida State
Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
Jake Fisher, Oregon
Ryan Groy, Wisconsin
Sean Hickey, Syracuse
Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Tyler Larsen, Utah State
Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt
Will Jackson, Georgia Tech
Honorable Mention: Defensive Tackles
Christian Covington, Rice
Danny Shelton, Washington
DaQuan Jones, Penn State
George Uko, USC
Louis Nix, Notre Dame
Jay Bromley, Syracuse
Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest
Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Roosevelt Nix, Kent State
Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
Will Sutton, Arizona State
Honorable Mention: Defensive Ends
Cassius Marsh, UCLA
Eli Harold, Virginia
IK Enemkpali, Louisiana Tech
J.R. Collins, Virginia Tech
Leonard Williams, USC
Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville
Marcus Thompson, Rutgers
Martin Ifedi, Memphis
Scott Crichton, Oregon State
Trey Flowers, Arkansas
Will Clarke, West Virginia
Honorable Mention: Linebackers
Anthony Barr, UCLA
Anthony Hitchens, Iowa
Derrick Matthews, Houston
Keith Smith, San Jose State
Jake Doughty, Utah State
Jonathan Brown, Illinois
Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Shayne Skov, Stanford
Tyler Matakevich, Temple
Xavius Boyd, Western Kentucky
Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut
Honorable Mention: Cornerbacks
Bene Benwikere, San Jose State
B.J. Lowery, Iowa
Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Jemea Thomas, Georgia Tech
Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
Lamarcus Joyner, Virginia Tech
Le’Vander Liggins, Louisiana Tech
Marcus Roberson, Florida
Osahon Irabor, Arizona State
Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska
Steven Nelson, Oregon State
Honorable Mention: Safeties
Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Christian Bryant, Ohio State
Derron Smith, Fresno State
Ed Reynolds, Stanford
Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
Jonathan Dowling, Western Kentucky
Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State
Sean Parker, Washington
Tra’Mayne Bondurant, Arizona
Triston Wade, UTSA
Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama