Joe Dineen, LB, Kansas
There might not be many opportunities to spotlight the Jayhawks this season, but Dineen is worthy of attention – especially after Kansas snapped a 46-game road losing streak last weekend.
Dineen was one of the Big 12’s best linebackers and most productive in the country last year, averaging 11.4 tackles per game with 93 solo stops. Through two games, the senior is averaging 15 tackles with 20 total solo stops. The Jayhawks held Central Michigan to 280 total yards on Saturday, including only 103 on the ground. Dineen was excellent in all phases , grabbing his first career interception.
What they are saying: “Seeing Joe get his first career interception, after all he’s done here, that was actually pretty athletic looking. He’s going to start telling me he’s a real athlete. But he did a nice job adjusting on the ball.” – Kansas coach David Beaty, joking about his thumping linebacker.
Outlook: Players on losing teams rarely gather much support for All-America, but maybe Kansas has turned a corner toward being respectable? Rutgers comes to Lawrence on Saturday and then Big 12 play starts. Expect Dineen to be excellent no matter how his team fares.
Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
Shenault is a former three-star recruit from Texas who caught seven passes for 168 yards last season as a freshman. At 24 yards per catch, he showed big-play potential. Well, that potential is being realized now in a big way. Shenault has caught 21 passes for 388 yards to lead the nation in both categories. Against Nebraska last week, he caught the game-winning touchdown pass and ran for a score out of the wildcat. At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, the Buffaloes might have one of the best players in college football.
Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona
Tate was a revelation last season. He was a backup for weeks, and then became one of the best players in the country. He put up silly stats running the ball, averaging nine yards per carry. His passing was nothing special, but as a ball carrier in coach Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense Tate was dynamic.
Rodriguez was fired after the season and replaced by Kevin Sumlin. Through two games, Tate has been unrecognizable as a player. He has run 15 times for 22 yards and two touchdowns, while passing 79 times (completing 52 percent) for 538 with one touchdown pass and two interceptions. Arizona is 0-2.
On the line
Former Auburn offensive lineman and ESPN analyst Cole Cubelic identifies an o-lineman worth watching.
Jedrick Wills, Jr., OT, Alabama
The Crimson Tide’s left tackle, Jonah Williams, is a preseason All-American and potential top NFL draft pick. Wills is a sophomore manning the right side and playing at a high level, too.
“Wills has been dominant in the run game. Technique there is flawless,” Cubelic said. “Very physical in pass protection. Has been a pleasant surprise in both games getting movement at the point of attack. Comes off with a flat back and hands inside. Fun to watch.”
Group of five star
Sutton Smith, DE, Northern Illinois
The running back-turned-defensive end is at it again for the Huskies. Smith was a second-team All-American who led the nation in tackles for loss last season with 29.5. After two games against Iowa and Utah, Smith has 5 1/2 TFLs, one off the national lead. At 6-foot-1 and 237 pounds, Smith’s NFL potential is probably tied to a transition to linebacker, but he is a terror coming off the edge in the Mid-American Conference.
Diontae Johnson, WR, Toledo vs. Michael Jackson, CB, Miami
The 21st-ranked Hurricanes are at the Rockets, a potentially tricky road test for Miami. Toledo has three excellent receivers in Diontae Johnson, Jon’Vea Johnson and Cody Thompson to challenge Jackson, one of the best cover corners in the country. Johnson had 74 catches for 1,278 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.