College Football’s Breakout Superstars: 21 For 2021 Preview Topics

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21 for 2021 preseason topics: No. 11 The college football players who are already terrific, but are about to go to a whole other level. Here are five breakout national stars to watch for.

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You already know who most of the superstars should be going into the 2021 college football season, but which guys are about to go from very good to next-level amazing?

If you’re a die-hard fan you probably already know these five players below, and if you don’t, you’re about to.

They’re the great players about to go nuclear, and they’ll soon be a big part of your college football Saturdays – and most likely your NFL Sundays.

21 for 2021 Preview Topics (so far)
21. Thoughts, Wishes, Hopes for 2021
20. Best Teams To Not Make CFP
19: Teams That Will Rebound Big
18. Teams That Will Fall Back
17: Every Power 5 Team’s Letdown Game
16. Expectations For New Head Coaches
15. Expectations For 2nd Year Head Coaches
14. Power 5 Hot Seat Coach Rankings
13. 21 Key Transfers You Need To Know
12. Group of 5 over Power 5 Upset Alerts

CFN 2021 Preview: All 130 Team Previews

How’d we do on these calls over the past few years? We didn’t exactly go out on a huge limb, but again, the goal was/is to highlight the good players who might take their respective games up a several notches.

2019 Breakout Star Predictions

5. S Grant Delpit, LSU
Thorpe Award winner for the epic national title team.

4. RB Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
Led the nation with 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.

3. WR Laviska Shenault, Colorado
While he was okay, he didn’t blow up as expected with 56 catches for 764 yards and four scores.

2. QB Adrian Martinez, Nebraska
Martinez hit just 59% of his passes for 1,956 yards and ten touchdowns with nine picks in 2019, and he ran for 626 yards and seven touchdowns.

1. RB Najee Harris and/or Brian Robinson, Alabama
Harris turned it on to finish with 1,224 yards and 13 touchdowns, Robinson was second on the team with 441 yards and five scores. Harris also caught seven touchdown passes.

2020 Breakout Star Predictions

5. QB Sam Howell, North Carolina
He threw for close to 3,600 yards with 30 touchdowns and seven picks, and now he’s being talked about as a possible No. 1 overall draft pick.

4. LB Hamilcar Rashed, Oregon State
He couldn’t get his 2020 going – he was banged up all year and fought through injuries. A pass rushing terror in a a dominant 14-sack, 22.5-tackle for loss run in 2019, he failed to come up with a sack with 23 tackles and two tackles for loss.

3. DE Gregory Rousseau, Miami
Opted out on the season, but he was still the 30th overall pick by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

2. QB KJ Costello, Mississippi State
Yeah, this call didn’t work, but he’ll forever be remembered for the 623-yard, five-touchdown day to beat LSU to start the season.

1. RB Najee Harris, Alabama
Ww went back to the well from our 2019 No. 1 spot, thinking Harris would go up another whole level from his great 2019 season – and he did. The Doak Walker winner led the national champion Tide team with 1,466 rushing yards and 26 scores, along with 43 catches for 425 yards and four touchdowns.

Five (potential) College Football Breakout Superstars

5. DE George Karlaftis, Purdue

CFN 2021 Purdue Preview

The Big Ten is going to have to deal with him again.

Karlaftis started out his Purdue career as a dominant force with 54 tackles with 7.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss in an All-Big Ten season. He was steady, sensational, and relentless with his sack production spread out over the 2019 season and with at 1.5 tackles for loss in eight games.

All primed and ready to roll for a massive 2020, he couldn’t get going with COVID issues along with a leg injury. He only saw time in three games, but he came up with a sack against both Iowa and Illinois to start the season, and then that was about it.

Now he’s back.

The 6-4, 275-pounder is a mortal lock to earn All-Big Ten honors both on the field and in the classroom, and he’s a repeat of the 2019 season away from being a sure-thing first round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft – and possibly a top 15 selection.

He’ll get a few games to warm up before being part of the national discussion. Oregon State and UConn should be in big trouble before he’s turned loose on Notre Dame.

NEXT: Florida’s next amazing defensive back

4. CB Kaiir Elam, Jr. Florida

CFN 2021 Florida Preview

Florida has become pretty good at this whole defensive back thing.

11 Gator DBs have been selected over the last six NFL drafts, and there are more on the way to the next level in the near future, starting with Elam.

The 6-2, 195-pounder has the size and the frame to be what the next level is looking for, and he’s got the raw wheels to be just fine against any type of target. There’s one big problem, though, at least for this list …

His stats might not be splashy enough for the world to take notice, partly because no one will throw his way.

Elam broke up eight passes in the first four games and three the rest of the way. That’s not because he got worse, it’s because offensive coordinators didn’t want to deal with him.

However, game after game this year, watch and listen for how he’s being talked about – he’s a top ten overall talent who’ll be in the spotlight against everyone’s best target.

LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. has the bigger name and the buzz to be the most talented player likely to be in the 2022 NFL Draft, but don’t be fall-off-your-chair stunned if some teams like Elam more.

The nephew of former Florida star safety Matt Elam can tackle, and he proved last year to be an elite ball hawk with two picks and 11 broken up passes to go along with his 39 stops.

NEXT: One of the Big Ten’s most dangerous offensive weapons

3. RB Tyler Goodson, Iowa

CFN 2021 Iowa Preview

There were glimpses of greatness after a good freshman season.
The 5-10, 199-pounder was smaller and skinnier to start the 2019 campaign, but he still showed off his flash and wheels with 638 yards and five touchdowns to go along with 24 catches for 166 yards.

He didn’t have to be a workhorse – only carrying the ball 20 times once – but he made the most of an increased role later in the season with a touchdown run in each of the last four games.

After splitting carries with Mekhi Sargent nearly 50/50, Goodson took over with almost twice as many touches in 2020, earning All-Big Ten honors with 762 yards and seven scores. He ran for over 100 yards in four of the last six games including an 11-carry, 106-yard, one-score game in the season finale win over Wisconsin.

Sargent is done, but the Iowa passing game should be stronger – at least that’s the hope – and should carry more of the weight. Even so, Goodson should be the main man on a team good enough to push for the Big Ten West title.

CFN 2021 Preview: All 130 Team Previews

NEXT: Next superstar wide receiver up

2. WR John Metchie, Alabama

CFN 2021 Alabama Preview

If Alabama hasn’t had the greatest short stretch of wide receiver talent in the history of college football, it’s very, very close.

Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle – that’s a whole lot of wow from the last four years that have to be replaced.

It’s Alabama, so boo hoo – it’ll just go get more weapons for the attack – but it already has a superstar who’s ready to get some of that limelight to himself.

Metchie finished second on the national championship team with 55 catches for 916 yards and six touchdowns – averaging more yards per catch than DeVonta – but he was more steady than sensational.

He’s got the speed, the NFL skill, and the experience to become the new No. 1 guy, and he’s going to have to be the leader of the revamped corps, too. Nah, he’s not going to win a Heisman, and he’s probably not going to be a top 15 overall draft pick, but he’s going to be very, very productive.

CFN 2021 Preview All-America Team: Offense

NEXT: The quarterback you need to know

1. QB Carson Strong, Nevada

CFN 2021 Nevada Preview

All Strong had to do in his first college game was beat Purdue. Granted, that’s not like taking down Ohio State, but it was still a Big Ten defense for the new guy to deal with.

295 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions as he rallied the Wolf Pack to a shocking win.

Okay, so the 77-6 loss to Oregon the following week chilled things out a bit, but by the end of 2019 he found a groove, became more accurate, and finished the season with 753 passing yards in his final two games.

His 2020 started out with 420 yards and four scores against Wyoming and finished with a 22-of-28 day for 217 yards and five touchdowns as he bombed away in a bowl win over Tulane. The sophomore hit 70% of his passes on the year for close to 3,000 yards with 27 touchdowns and four picks in nine games.

Yeah, the NFL scouts are more than just a little curious.

He’s not a runner, and Fresno State’s Jake Haener will probably lead the Mountain West in passing, but he gets to start out the season with road trips to Cal and Kansas State in the first three weeks.

At the very least, Strong and the Wolf Pack will bring a whole lot of firepower.

21 for 2021 Preview Topics (so far)
21. Thoughts, Wishes, Hopes for 2021
20. Best Teams To Not Make CFP
19: Teams That Will Rebound Big
18. Teams That Will Fall Back
17: Every Power 5 Team’s Letdown Game
16. Expectations For New Head Coaches
15. Expectations For 2nd Year Head Coaches
14. Power 5 Hot Seat Coach Rankings
13. 21 Key Transfers You Need To Know
12. Group of 5 over Power 5 Upset Alerts

CFN 2021 Preview: All 130 Team Previews