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College Football Week One: NFL Draft Preview

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It's here! After a long, tiresome wait, the first slate of college football games is finally here. While the first weekend is a bit condensed and only two ranked teams are playing; college football is college football. This week does not feature a lot of top level NFL Draft talent, but in the five games happening tomorrow; here is a prospect on each team to keep an eye on.

Oregon State Beavers at Colorado State Rams: 2:30 PM ET on CBSSN

  • Oregon State - Ryan Nall, Running Back: The Beavers are a bit far off from being a powerhouse in the Pac-12 but that does not stop them from having some intrigue on the offensive side of the ball. Ryan Nall looks more like a linebacker than a running back, standing tall at 6'2" and weighing nearly 240 pounds. As a sophomore, he powered his way to 951 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns despite only playing in 10 games. He is a powerful and athletic runner who should be seeing the football a lot more in 2017, starting against CSU.
  • Colorado State - Michael Gallup, Wide Receiver: After spending two years in junior college, Michael Gallup erupted in his first season at the FBS level for nearly 1,300 yards receiver and 14 touchdowns at an explosive 16.7 yards per catch. The 6'1", 200 pound receiver has solid size, playmaking athletic ability and is a savvy technician. With a settled quarterback situation, Gallup is poised for a big senior season.
Portland State Vikings at BYU Cougars: 3:00 PM ET on ESPN
  • BYU - Francis Bernard, Linebacker: After switching from running back in spring of 2016, Francis Bernard had a breakout season on the BYU defense. The 6'1", 240 pound sophomore was a tackling machine and was also responsible for picking off three passes and forcing a fumble. Bernard is an excellent athlete and his ability made explosive plays at the linebacker position possible. Another offseason under his belt playing the position should mean he is ready to take off in his junior year.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at UMass Minutemen: 6 PM ET on Local Television
  • Hawaii - Jahlani Tavai, Linebacker: After a promising freshman season at outside linebacker in 2015, Hawaii moved Jalani Tavai to inside linebacker for his second year with the team. Tavai rewarded the Rainbow Warriors by picking up 19.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, two forced rumbles and an interception. Tavai was an absolute playmaker for the Hawaii defense. He has a tall, lean frame at 6'4" and 230 pounds but he is incredibly  explosive. Tavai is the leader on the Hawaii defense and it will be exciting to see him grow into his position.
  • UMass - Adam Breneman, Tight End: It is hard to pay attention to Mass football for a lot of people, but it may be worth tuning in this year for their star tight end. Breneman started his career at Penn State but it was derailed after multiple injuries and he transferred after Penn State reloaded at tight end. The 6'4", 250 pound pass catcher took off in his first season at UMass; catching 70 passes (most in the country for a tight end) for over 800 yards and eight touchdowns (figures that both ranked second among tight ends). He is a reliable and athletic target and simply overmatches most of his competition at a lower level conference. He probably decided to stay in school last year due to a stacked tight end class, but the Mackey Award Semifinalist has a chance to be one of the best tight ends in the nation this year.
South Florida Bulls at San Jose State Spartans: 7:30 PM ET on CBSSN
  • South Florida - Deatrick Nichols, Cornerback: South Florida was known for its offense last season but Deatrick Nichols ball hawked on the other side of the ball and helped the Bulls win football games. The scrappy, 5'10" cornerback may not look like an NFL prototype but he has the playmaking ability and mentality of one. He has picked off eight passes in the last two years due to his ball skills and his savvy on the field. He is a feisty player who will be physical through the whole route and with the ball in the air. His size may scare NFL teams, but he scares wide receivers a lot more.
  • San Jose State - Tre Hartley, Wide Receiver: It has been a while since San Jose State has had players talked about and while Tre Hartley's 572 receiving yards aren't much to discuss in itself from 2016, he could be in for a breakout season. The six foot receiver averaged over 17 yards a catch last season due to his speed and led his team in touchdowns (four) despite missing the final three games of the season with an ankle injury. Assuming he is all healthy, Hartley should be targeted early and often for big plays.
Stanford Cardinal at Rice Owls: 10:00 PM ET on ESPN
  • Rice - Destri White, Safety: The Owls don't have a ton of talent on either side of the ball but there is some intrigue in their six foot, 215 pound safety. Destri White was all over the field for the Owls last season, picking up 59 tackles, four for a loss, two forced fumbles and a pick six. It's always notable when only one player on a unit is making the plays and Destri White is definitely that player. It will be hard for him to get spotlight if Rice is flying under the radar, but it will be interesting this weekend to see him in a big game against Stanford and their running game. He absolutely has a chance to make a strong first impression.
  • Stanford - Bryce Love, Running Back: It was hard for Bryce Love to get any hype last season when he played behind some guy named Christian McCaffrey. Now that McCaffrey is ready to tear things up in the NFL, Love is ready to take over as Stanford's bell cow back. In limited time last season, Love was incredibly productive; rushing for 783 yards on only 111 attempts (7.1 YPC) and scored three touchdowns. Love is a smaller back, listed at under 190 pounds, but he has awesome movement skills that make him a threat every time he touches the ball. Knowing how Stanford likes to use their lead backs, this weekend will be a peak at how Love will explode onto the college football scene this season.