Here is the sixth grouping in Yahoo! Sports' top 100 player countdown. We're unveiling the top players in groups of 10 each Sunday for 10 weeks.
'Top' doesn't necessarily mean the most pro potential or even the most talent. It's what the player has accomplished and how we think the player will do this season. Production does trump potential.
It remains a long way until the first game on Aug. 30. We're trying to make the long wait bearable.
50. CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
Particulars: 6-0/181, Jr.; Baltimore St. Joseph
Buzz: He is one of the most physical cornerbacks in the country. He started all 14 games for the Hokies last season, and half those starts came at a hybrid nickelback/linebacker spot. But Fuller is at his best at cornerback. He made 65 tackles last season, including 4.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. He also had two interceptions, seven pass breakups and a forced fumble. The Hokies always seem to have a stud cornerback who contends for All-America honors. This season, that is Fuller.
49. OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Particulars: 6-5/305, Jr.; Missouri City (Texas) Elkins
Buzz: Matthews, who didn't redshirt, is heading into his third season as a starter. His proficiency shouldn't be a surprise, as his dad, Bruce, is an NFL Hall of Famer who had a 19-year career as an offensive lineman; he also is the cousin of NFL LBs Clay and Casey Matthews. Luke Matthews has excellent footwork and is equally at home blocking for the run and for the pass. He and Luke Joeckel form the best tackle duo in the nation.
48. FS T.J. McDonald, USC
Particulars: 6-3/205, Sr.; Fresno (Calif.) Edison
Buzz: McDonald is another college star whose dad was a longtime NFL standout; in this case, Tim McDonald played safety for 13 seasons in the NFL. T.J. – for “Tim Jr.” – McDonald is headed into his third season as a starter. He has made 156 tackles in the past two seasons and also has six interceptions, six pass breakups and two blocked kicks in his career. He is both big and fast, and covers a ton of ground for what should be one of the best secondaries in the nation this fall.
47. G Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
Particulars: 6-4/328, Jr.; Walworth (Wis.) Big Foot
Buzz: Frederick is the latest star off the Badgers' offensive lineman assembly line. And, yes, that really is the name of his high school. Frederick started as a true freshman in 2009 before an injury sidelined him after five games. He sat out the 2010 season, then returned last fall. He was a second-team All-Big Ten pick last season but should vie for first-team All-America honors this fall. Frederick, who has played some center, too, is a big road-grading mauler in the middle of the line. He's also a computer engineering major.
46. LB Gerald Hodges, Penn State
Particulars: 6-2/223, Sr.; Paulsboro (N.J.) High
Buzz: Hodges made a huge jump from backup in 2010 to star linebacker in 2011. He earned All-Big Ten notice last season after finishing with a team-leading 106 tackles. He also had 4.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, an interception, four pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He had four games with double-figure tackles, including a masterful 19-tackle performance in a 10-7 win over Illinois. He was a three-year starter at quarterback in high school, and also played linebacker as a senior.
45. DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
Particulars: 6-3/317, Jr.; Detroit Southeastern
Buzz: Hankins is a physical and active force in the middle of the Buckeyes' defensive line. After making 16 tackles as a true freshman reserve in 2010, Hankins became a star last season, finishing with 67 tackles, including 14 tackles for loss. He has a quick first step for a burly guy and used it to finish fourth on the team in tackles. He has four sacks in his two seasons.
44. DE Alex Okafor, Texas
Particulars: 6-4/260, sr.; Pflugerville (Texas) High
Buzz: Okafor will be a three-year starter for the Longhorns, including eight starts at defensive tackle as a sophomore in 2010. Okafor's speed off the edge makes him much better-suited for a spot at end, and he had seven sacks, 14 tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hurries last season. He also had three pass breakups and two forced fumbles last season. He was a first-team All-Big 12 selection and will team with Jackson Jeffcoat to give Texas one of the nation's top defensive end duos.
43. G Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Particulars: 6-3/310, Sr.; Wilmington (N.C.) Hoggard
Buzz: Cooper is going to be a four-year starter and heads a good Tar Heels line. He was a freshman All-American in 2009 and has been a second-team All-ACC pick in each of the past two seasons. Cooper is athletic and a run-blocking force; he is able to pull and get to linebackers and defensive backs. He toyed with the idea of turning pro but decided to stay in school for his senior season. He is considered a potential first-round pick; if he goes that early, he would become the first UNC offensive lineman to go in the first round since T Harris Barton in 1987.
42. DT Kawann Short, Purdue
Particulars: 6-3/310, Sr.; East Chicago (Ind.) Central
Buzz: Purdue had an All-America defensive lineman in 2010 (E Ryan Kerrigan) and could have another this season. Short is coming off a big season in which he had 54 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, two blocked kicks, a forced fumble and two pass breakups. He will be a four-year starter for the Boilermakers, and has 12.5 sacks, 33.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and four blocked kicks in his career. He played basketball in high school with former Purdue standout E'Twaun Moore.
41. C Khaled Holmes, USC
Particulars: 6-4/305, Sr.; Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
Buzz: Holmes redshirted in 2008, then barely played in 2009. But he started at guard in 2010 and center last fall, and heads into this season as perhaps the nation's best center. Holmes is used to playing with Trojans QB Matt Barkley: They attended the same high school. Holmes is both physical and agile, and is considered above-average in pass protection. He graduated with a degree in communications in the spring of 2011 and is working on a master's degree in communication management. Holmes' brother-in-law is Troy Polamalu.
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