One player. What if you could select anyone in college football for your team? Where would you turn? Who gets the call?
This is far different from picking an All-American Team or a small group of favorites for the Heisman Trophy.
This is a personal preference, a feel thing, for players with magnificent statistics, of course, but also great intangibles and the simple security of having them in your huddle.
I think if you ask 100 observers, you might get 100 collections of different answers.
Here’s my top 10:
1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB: To me, there’s no other first choice. Whether you’re an NFL, college, high school or flag football team, if you have an opportunity to select the top leader and gunslinger, you don’t hesitate. You take him — immediately.
His presence was obvious when he played in 2014. Not that it matters, but he was my Heisman first-place vote last season, when he took Clemson all the way to the national title game (losing 45-40 against Alabama, when he was the best player on the field).
Last season, he became the first player in Football Bowl Subdivision history to pass for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in the same season.
Nobody’s going to stop this guy.
2. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford RB: You have to search long and hard to find anyone with this kind of offensive versatility.
He was the only FBS player to lead his team in rushing (2,019 yards) and receiving (645). He returned kickoffs and punts, scoring on each specialty. He had 461 all-purpose yards in the Pac-12 Championship Game (when he threw an 11-yard touchdown pass) and a Rose Bowl-record 368 all-purpose yards against Iowa.
Overall, he had 3,864 all-purpose yards, which was 1,680 more than any other Pac-12 back.
3. Leonard Fournette, LSU RB: I don’t need to regurgitate his stats. If I was a defensive player, I would … not … want … to … tackle … him.
He’s 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, fast, quick, relentless.
OK, the stats: He rushed for a school-record 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns, while carrying 300 times. Incredibly, he was the first SEC back to lead the nation in average rushing yards per game (162.8) since 1949 (you remember John Dottley of Ole Miss, right?).
4. Josh Rosen, UCLA QB: He’s in the next wave of preseason Heisman favorites, but this kid is the real deal. He’s listed second after Watson — that’s high praise in itself.
Last season, he was the first true freshman to start a season opener for UCLA — and he did not disappoint. He passed for 3,668 yards — with six 300-yard games — and 23 touchdowns.
Rosen has a very high ceiling.
Love the talent. Also love the swagger. He says what’s on his mind — unfiltered — and he brings moxie to the Bruins.
5. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan LB: He’s arguably the best athlete in college football, offering even more versatility than McCaffrey (if that’s possible).
He’s a linebacker. He’s a safety. He’s a cornerback. He’s a running back. He’s a receiver. He’s a Wildcat quarterback. He’s a kickoff and punt returner.
He’s also a sophomore, and it will be utterly fascinating to watch his impact on the Wolverines.
6. Greg Ward Jr., Houston QB: Once, the Cougars used him as a wide receiver, but once they moved him to quarterback, Houston football returned to national prominence.
He’s smallish (5-11, 185), but he’s ultra-elusive, rushing for 1,108 yards. However, this is not a running back behind center. He also passed for 2,828 yards and 17 touchdowns with a 67.2 completion rate.
7. Dalvin Cook, Florida State RB: He’s in line to become the leading career rusher in FSU history after last season’s output of 1,691 yards and 19 touchdowns.
8. Derwin James, Florida State DB:
Deion Sanders, LeRoy Butler, Terrell Buckley, Lamarcus Joyner and … Derwin James? Believe it. James, a sophomore, proved he was a game-changing defensive player who belongs in the group of elite FSU defensive backs. He will stare down Watson later this season.
9. Royce Freeman, Oregon RB: Fournette and Cook get most of the running-back attention, but don’t be surprised if Freeman, who rushed for 1,836 yards last season, surpasses them both.
10. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB: He’s one of the nation’s foremost slingers, passing for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns last season. Watson and Clemson smoked him in the Orange Bowl, but that should motivate him to maintain focus. His numbers could approach video-game proportions this season.