Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa
The 6-foot-1 junior has that NFL length and he gets his hands on a lot of passes. In his first season as a starter, Jackson leads the nation in passes defended, averaging 2.13 per game. That includes two interceptions and 15 passes broken up. He is coming off one of his best games of the season, according to Pro Football Focus . Minnesota targeted Jackson seven times last week and it resulted in one completion for 9 yards.
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Rosen is being asked to carry a mediocre UCLA team and it seems to be taking a toll. The junior has three touchdown passes and three interceptions in his last three games and has not cracked 60 percent in completions in any of those games. In a 44-23 loss to Washington, Rosen was 12 for 21 for a season-low 93 yards before being pulled because of what appeared to be a finger injury that was not serious. Rosen is still likely to be a first-round draft pick in April if he comes out early, but this looks like another season where his talents won't be optimized.
ON THE LINE
(Former Auburn offensive lineman and SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic identifies an o-lineman worth watching)
Trey Smith, OG, Tennessee.
The freshman has been impressive even on a failing offense, demonstrating superb power and an ability to finish that you would normally see in a three- or four-year veteran.
GROUP OF 5 STAR
Adam Breneman, TE, Massachusetts
The former Penn State five-star recruit is reaching his potential as one of the best tight ends in the country with independent UMass. Injuries at Penn State pushed Breneman to give up football and leave the Nittany Lions. He had a change of heart last summer and transferred to UMass, where he was productive even though he wasn't in the best shape. This season, he leads all tight ends nationally with 47 receptions and 605 yards. And the Minutemen have won two straight after an 0-6 start. It's tough for players on losing teams to earn All-America recognition and even more difficult when they play on losing teams, but Breneman can make a case as the best tight end in the country.
Will Richardson, OT, North Carolina State vs. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
The 322-pound Richardson is the left tackle on one of the best offensive lines in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley has been sacked just eight times in eight games, and four of them came in the opener. Richardson, according to N.C. State, has yet to allow a sack or a QB pressure in 415 snaps. Ferrell is part of the best defensive line in college football and usually rushes from a right-handed quarterback's blindside. The defensive MVP of last season's national title game, Ferrell has 5.5 sacks this season and the Tigers lead the nation with 4.0 sacks per game.