With the NCAAF season wrapped up, there are some clear cut first-round pick candidates for the 2023 NFL draft. Ohio State and Alabama Quarterbacks CJ Stroud and Bryce Young are potentially the pick of the bunch and may well go as picks one and two. The quality between them is very tight and the argument for who is QB1 is not an easy one.
Michigan and Ohio State have been in tantalizing form this season, both with unbeaten records as of writing. It is perhaps fitting then that the two will square off in the final regular season game of the year with those records on the line in a game that will have the feel of the Rose Bowl before we are even there.
Although there have been plenty of high-profile standouts, there have also been some surprise performers this year. Here are some of the most surprising college football players of the 2022-23 season.
Bo Nix – QB Oregon
Nix’ career at Auburn was one of ups and downs. His talent was obvious, but it only showed up in spurts of brilliance and with his consistency being bought into question, not a whole lot was expected of him. However, since transferring to Georgia he has redefined his career. He has been given more freedom as a playcalling QB in Oregon and he and his team have reaped the rewards for it. His 73.0 percent pass completion is second in the nation, though he has nearly 100 more passing attempts than Jake Haener in first. He has also established himself as a feared dual-threat QB, rushing for 516 yards with 14 touchdowns to boot. Nix is now a legitimate prospect for the 2023 Draft and may even be a first-round pick. At +20000, the college football odds were steep for Oregon to become the 2022-23 NCAAF champions, but he still performed impressively.
Ridge Texada – CB North Texas
Although modest in the frame even for cornerback standards, Texada’s size has not gotten in the way of his ability. The 5-foot-8 181-pound Sophomore transferred from McNeese State in 2021 but started just three games last season. However, he has now become a mainstay in the Mean Green secondary notching up 31 tackles and 3 interceptions, including a 56-yard pick-six in the win over Florida. Texada may not be a draft prospect just yet, but should he build on his impressive first starting year we could well see him go early in the class of 2024.
Ja’Tavion Sanders – TE Texas
Despite being the Longhorn’s highest-rated recruit by many media outlets in 2021, Sanders did not record a single catch as a freshman and spent most of his time as a special teams player. However, he soon became one of new recruit Quinn Ewers’ favorite targets this season. He had six receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown in the first game of the season and that chemistry with Ewers has remained intact throughout the year. He has also however kept that form with Hudson Card at QB and Sanders has made 3 or more receptions in all but one game this year for a total of 511 yards with 5 touchdowns. After a damp squib first season, Sanders’ productivity in 2022 is like night and day when compared.
John Torchio – S Wisconsin
With three-time All-American defensive back Jim Leonhard at the helm it is not often a surprise to see top secondary players come out of Wisconsin. However, they have been ravaged by injuries this season and there was a worry that they would lose that high-level defense amongst adversity. Torchio however has proved any doubters wrong and is currently tied second in the nation for interceptions with 5 and 149 interception yards along with 2 pick sixes. He has become one of the best playmaking defenders in the country this year and will have no doubt attracted interest from scouts in the league ahead of the draft.
Michael Penix Jr. – QB Washington
A couple of years ago it would have been no surprise to see Penix Jr. perform as well as he has been. However, after a season-ending ACL injury in 2020, he returned in 2021 and did not look like the player he once was. He threw 7 interceptions and just 4 touchdowns that year with a 53.7 percent completion rate, a career low for him. In 2022 however, the story could not be more different. He has passed for a league-leading 3640 yards with 24 touchdowns and a 67.1 completion percentage. His arm strength and quick release are exceptional and it seems the worst is now behind Penix.
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