Top Group of Five Performers from Week 2

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Week 2 of the College Football season is behind us, but before looking ahead, this week’s action lets take a look back at some of the marquee players from this past week. This column though features the top group of the five players, as though teams feature plenty of talent, but do not get the same recognition of the Power Five schools.

Below I will feature several players that stood out in Week 2 that you may not have heard a ton about before today.

Quarterbacks: 

Collin Hill, Colorado State: Despite suffering two ACL injuries during his time here, Hill persevered and was named the starting QB for 2019. Through two games Hill is showing no signs of that injury as he is hitting 70.5% of his passes and is 5th in the FBS with 738 passing yards. Last week against Western Illinois, Hill would hit 77% for 364 yards and four touchdowns. This week Hill leads the Rams into SEC country to take on Arkansas, and with an explosive offense (535 yards per game) Colorado State could keep this game closer than the experts think.

Drew Plitt: As a sophomore last season, Plitt started Ball State’s final three games and came into this season with a better grasp of the offense and the ability to make all the necessary throws. Through his first two starts in 2019, Plitt is living up to his coach’s offseason praise as he is hitting 71.6% of his throws and has an 8-2 TD-INT ratio. After throwing for 298 against Indiana in Week 1, Plitt torched the Fordham secondary and was 32-40 (80 percent!) for 439 yards and six touchdowns. This week he is up against an FAU pass defense that is rated No. 110 through two weeks.

Cole McDonald, Hawai’i: McDonald took the college football world by storm last season and thrived in the Run ‘n’ Shoot offense. In their opening game against Arizona, McDonald tossed four TD passes (378 yards) but also threw four interceptions and was pulled. Last week against another Pac-12 foe, McDonald’s completion percentage went down (58%) but threw for 421 yards and four TDs again, but this time just a single interception. In this pass-happy offense, McDonald will surely put big numbers (as you can see from the PFF tweet below) and could have Hawai’i in another bowl game.

Running Backs: 

Tra Minter, South Alabama: Last season Minter led the Jaguars offense with 801 yards (4.4 yards per carry, 6 TD). This season the offensive coordinator made it known that he wants Minter to touch the ball at least 20 times per game this season. After being held to just 37 yards against Nebraska, Minter ran wild against Jackson State, totaling 189 rushing yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. Minter is a reliable option catching the ball out of the backfield too and will be someone the Jaguars rely on heavily throughout the season.

Matt LaRoche, Georgia Southern: In an effective option offense, the ball is spread around, and several players can have a breakout game. Last week the Eagles were missing their top four rushing options from the previous season (graduation, injury, suspension) but LaRoche rose the occasion. In a tight game against FCS Maine, LaRoche touched the ball just nine times, but averaged 17.1 yards per carry and gained 154 yards and scored once. With the emergence of LaRoche, this gives the Eagles one more solid option to turn to on offense.

Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State: Evans began the 2018 season in a backup role and totaled just 127 yards through the first four games. But an injury would thrust him into the No. 1 RB role midseason, and by season’s end, Evans led the Sun Belt in rushing (1,187 yards). After totaling 99 yards in Week 1, Evans literally carried his team to a win last week over Charlotte, running for 234 yards (12.1 yards per carry) and three scores. Courtesy of the FOX College Football account, you can see where Evans stacks up nationally in terms of rushing yards.

Wide Receivers: 

Dustin Burkhart, Akron: While the Zips ultimately came up short against UAB last week, a big key why they were in the game was due to the play of Burkhart. The junior receiver, who racked up just two catches in the past two seasons came up with eight catches for 217 yards. The Zips do not have the most reliable passing attack, but clearly, they found something that works here with Burkhart, who could be in for a big season.

Jojo Ward, Hawai’i: Tag, you’re it! In Hawai’i’s first game it was Cedric Byrd who caught 14 passes for 224 yards and four scores. This week it was Ward’s turn as he torched the Oregon State secondary for 189 yards and four scores as Hawai’i took down their second Pac-12 team of the season. The Run ‘n’ Shoot offense the Rainbow Warriors run can turn several receivers into stars, and that appears to be the case once again this season.

Jamarcus Bradley, Louisiana: The Ragin’ Cajuns bread and butter on offense coming into this season was their rushing attack. However, Louisiana does not want to be a one-dimensional offense, and they have a pair of dynamic receivers that QB Levi Lewis will often target this season. Bradley, who will be one of the receivers relied upon heavily this season in Cajuns offense, caught six passes this past week against Liberty for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Defense: 

Ethan Aguayo, San Jose State: While the Spartans defensive unit has been underwhelming the past few seasons, Aguayo has been a consistent presence out on the field. The senior linebacker racked up 104 tackles in 2018 and through two weeks this season looks to be on pace to break that mark. After racking up 20 tackles in Week 1, Aguayo totaled 14 tackles in the Spartans lost last week against Tulsa.

Brandon Stephens, SMU: Stephens came over to SMU from UCLA this offseason, but made the switch to defense after being a running back with the Bruins. So far this looks like a genius move for Sonny Dykes, as Stephens is tied for the FBS lead in pass breakups with five. Stephens has just six total tackles season, suggesting that teams may be shying away from targeting him on the field.

Ellison Hubbard, Colorado State: Last season the Rams defense took a step back and allowed 452 yards per game, along with 37 points per game. The defense also recorded just 15 sacks, and that is a number that head coach Bobo wanted to see improve this season. Hubbard is doing is part of making sure that happens this season, as last week Hubbard got to the QB for 3.5 sacks.

Be sure to check back next week to find out who else from the group of five stepped up and showed out on the football field!