PRESEASON Breakout Hits and Misses

Who did Mello hit on his preseason breakout players list?

This past summer I took a look at over 30 players I felt were on the verge of a breakout season. Ranging from veterans looking for tier time in the spotlight to true freshman ready to burst on the scene. This week I’ll go back to that list and highlight some of the guys I hit on and some that I missed on too. But I have to start with my biggest hit!

Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State

What I said this summer: “expect the canadian born running back to be a 1,200+ yard back now that he won’t be sharing the load with Justice Hill.” 

Through nine games, the redshirt sophomore, has rushed for over 1600 yards and out rushed everyone in the nation by over 300 yards. To say that he has had a breakout season is an understatement and even I didn’t expect this kind of season. Hubbard is the favorite to win the Doak Walker award for the nations best running back and has turned himself into quite draft prospect as well. With four games left on the schedule, make sure you get a look at Chuba Hubbard before draft season. 

Spencer Sanders, QB, Oklahoma State

What I said this summer: “Sanders brings a level of athleticism that the Cowboys haven’t seen since…well maybe ever, and an arm to match.”

Spencer Sanders is having a good year but I wouldn’t label it a breakout. The freshman has been able to showcase is athleticism and big arm but has struggled with turnovers and consistency. Two key stats to use as evidence are his 588 rushing yards and his 11 interceptions. The potential is there, but Cowboys fans have had to live through the growing pains this season. I believe Sanders will have a bright future and benefit greatly from a full season and offseason taking number one reps. 

Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State

What I said this summer: “Hall has the same frame and power that Montgomery had and will fit in nicely with the Iowa State offense.”

Breece Hall struggled to see the field in the first five games of the season but got things rolling against West Virginia to the tune of 132 yards and three touchdowns. Hall followed up with a strong performance the next week with 183 yards and two touchdowns against Texas Tech. While I haven’t seen enough, yet, to declare Hall a breakout performer, the Cyclones do have huge games against Oklahoma and Texas next and the freshman running back will need to play a huge role for Iowa State to be successful. 

Ricky Slade, RB, Penn State

What I said this summer: “Saquon Barkley, Miles Sanders and Ricky Slade. It’s the next man up in the Penn State backfield”

Oof. I missed big here. I also should not have put Saquon’s name in Slade’s write up. Those expectations were too high. But after averaging 5.7 yards per carry and six touchdowns as a freshman, I thought we would see Slade featured in the Penn State offense. Coach Franklin has decided to go with a running back by committee approach that has left Slade with only 35 carries and EIGHT as a game high. It is difficult to get into the flow of a game with limited touches, but Penn State is undefeated so I cannot argue with Coach Franklin’s scheme. 

Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami

What I said this summer: “He makes my list because I expect the sophomore to go off in 2019. His 32 catches and four touchdowns in 2018 were just a glimpse of what he is capable of.”

Jordan played in only nine games in 2018 resulting in the above stats. Through nine games this season Jordan has 35 catches and two touchdowns. Not exactly a breakout year. Much of that falls on the poor quarterback and offensive line play at Miami. I wanted “The U” to be back this season and for Jordan to lead the charge, but it hasn’t happened and might take longer than the fanbase expected. I do not expect Jordan to be part of this rebuild and to test the waters of the NFL draft. His physical traits are just too good and this isn’t exactly a great year for tight ends. Jordan won’t get his breakout year in college but he is a name to remember. 

Demetris Robertson, WR, Georgia

What I said this summer: “I’m predicting a big bounce-back year for Robertson as he has had time to learn the Georgia offense and work with quarterback Jake Fromm”

In 2018 Robertson failed to record a catch for Georgia and through eight games in 2019 has just 20 catches. I missed on Robertson this year but he did take a redshirt year making him eligible for a potential 2020 breakout player. The potential is there, as seen his freshman year at Cal, but he has failed to produce in the run heavy Georgia offense. One thing I know I won’t miss on is that Georgia isn’t changing their offense, but maybe they bring back Robertson and Fromm next year and the tandem can find more success. 

CJ Verdell, RB, Oregon

What I said this summer: “The big guys upfront will do a damn good job of clearing lanes for Verdell again in 2019, much like they did in 2018.”

Yep, I nailed this one. Although, I didn’t give Verdell enough credit as I was blinded by Penei Sewell (look him up) and the rest of the Oregon line. Verdell is owed some credit for his exceptional vision and contact balance, making his offensive line look even better than they are. Verdell has rushed for 765 yards and five touchdowns, while averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Although, 257 of those yards and three touchdowns came in one game against Washington State. I still think Verdell has time to create some national buzz and may get the chance to in a PAC-12 championship game. 

Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota

What I said this summer: “The veteran runner [Rodney Smith] will have a tough time taking the starting job from Ibrahim now that he has the role, and Ibrahim will make a name for himself in 2019.”

Eh, yes and no here. Ibrahim has been bit by the injury bug after beginning the year as the starting running back and Rodney Smith has been getting most of the carries. Ibrahim is working back into the rotation at running back, but the Gophers will probably finish the season relying on Rodney Smith to take most of the carries. I like the patient approach to the injury and hope that coach PJ Fleck and Ibrahim return to Minnesota in 2020 for a Big Ten championship run. 

Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon

What I said this summer: “Thibodeaux, has the size and speed to get on the field early and get after the quarterback.”

Thibodaeux hasn’t hit his stride quite yet but the flashes are there for the freshman. Last week, Thibodeaux more than held his own against USC left tackle Austin Jackson recording one sack and generating a ton of pressure on quarterback Kedon Slovis. As Thibodeaux grows and his body develops, he’s already 6’5” 242 pounds and just 18 years old, he will no doubt become a force as a pass rusher than can fit any technique across the defensive line.  

Jadon Haselwood, WR, Oklahoma

What I said this summer: “CeeDee Lamb can guide the young receiver before his eventual takeover as the Sooners number one target.” 

I was a year too early on Haselwood. I love the potential but I should have known that CeeDee Lamb and Charleston Rambo were going to see too many targets for Haselwood to be a breakout performer. As well as, breaking in run first quarterback Jalen Hurts. In 2020 OU will most likely, baring transfer, be quarterbacked by Tanner Mordechai or Spencer Rattler and either one of the young quarterbacks will be looking Haselwood’s way a lot.  

Players that ARE having a breakout year, you just didn’t know it:

Jamie Newman, QB Wake Forest

Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest

Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina

Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

Kenny Gainwell, RB, Memphis

Nov 23, 2019; Morgantown, WV, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys running back Chuba Hubbard (30) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

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