As the college football world turns toward Week Eight, there’s little doubt that several players have stuck out thus far. However, among those players, five have stood out enough to successfully change the perception of them heading into the year.
Over the next month, they’ll be tested as each of their respective schools makes their late-season dash before bowl season begins, which makes it the perfect time to compare the players who’ve improved the most over the last seven weeks.
While names such as Bryce Young, Will Anderson Jr, and C.J. Stroud have drawn bigger headlines across college football this year, the five names in this article have arguably shown the most improvement. So, let’s take a closer look at how they each stack up.
Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
The first name on the list is a no-brainer; Hendon Hooker has almost single-handily led the Tennessee Volunteers back into college football legitimacy this year. The six-foot-four redshirt senior from Greensboro, North Carolina, has made the strongest push of all QBs this year and now finds himself in the top-five conversation at his position.
Hooker has thrown 170 passes, completing 119 (70%) for 1817 yards and 15 touchdowns. He’s also scored three times rushing the ball on six carries and only has one interception.
For Hooker, it’s another step in a long process that started at Virginia Tech as a Sophomore starter in a struggling offense. Time certainly has worked wonders for this 24-year-old, who tossed 30 touchdowns and three picks last year as a junior, numbers that went unnoticed because the team lost six games.
After the Volunteers knocked off unbeaten Alabama last week, his play won’t go unnoticed in college football circles any longer. Hooker now finds himself in this year’s Heisman discussion.
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Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
Will Levis’ is a name that’s been tossed around for months, but the attention has centered on a bit more over the last few weeks. Despite having ball-control issues, Levis finds himself in the top five overall pick conversations among the national press. The 6’3″ Redshirt senior is a former transfer from Penn State with a powerful arm.
In six games this year, Levis has completed 114 passes on 164 attempts (69.5%) and has 1635 yards passing, with 13 touchdown passes and five interceptions.
Levis showed some good old fashion grit in Kentucky’s victory last Saturday night over Mississippi State. After having a defender land on his throwing shoulder and spending time in the locker room, he returned and led the Wildcats to 24 second-half points and, more importantly, the win.
Drew Sanders, LB Arkansas
Former Alabama linebacker Drew Sanders has transitioned from the top program in all college sports to Arkansas in perfect fashion. The 6’5″ LB has been tearing it up this season with 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and 68 tackles in only seven games.
Sanders has the versatility that teams in the National Football League covet every year in the NFL Draft and has a good chance of being one of the first 15-20 college players selected this year.
Mike Morris, DE, Michigan
When you play college football at the University of Michigan and are tasked with replacing Aidan Hutchinson, you might find those are impossible shoes to fill. However, Mike Morris is proving that thought pattern wrong. In seven games off the edge this year, he has 14 pressures and five sacks, with eight tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
Morris has the power and length to keep him in the conversation; at 6’6″ and 292 pounds, he’s one of the most formidable edge rushers in college football and possesses a sneaky burst off the line. He’ll be looking to improve his current second-round draft stock down the stretch this season.
Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State
Iowa State receiver Xavier Hutchinson enters Week Eight leading the country in receptions with 67 for 758 yards and five touchdowns. While his Cyclones have struggled, losing their last four straight games, Hutchinson continues to improve each week. He recorded ten catches and 154 yards last week in a 24-21 loss to Texas.
Hutchinson could find himself as a player selected in the top three rounds by the time the NFL Draft gets here in April. While he won’t win any speed competitions, he has powerful hands and unbelievable body control for a long-strider at 6’3″.
College Football’s Top Five Risers Of 2022
These five guys might not be the player’s everyone expected to be the top five risers of the 2022 college football season, but they’ve certainly made their cases. One thing’s for certain; you should pay attention to these five risers, who could easily be names to keep an eye on for years to come.