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College Football players to watch in 2023: Part five

In this new weekly series, I will highlight some of the top players to watch ahead of the 2023 College Football season, which is set to begin on August 26. We will go from the SEC to the MAC and everywhere in between. Part five features USC quarterback Caleb Williams, Buffalo linebacker Shaun Dolac, Alabama safety Caleb Downs, Appalachian State running back Nate Noel, UCF offensive tackle Amari Kight and Auburn defensive tackle Justin Rogers.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams

Last season's Heisman Trophy Winner will be among the contenders once again to win the prestigious award. Williams is arguably the most exciting player in the country with his elite athleticism and his precise throws. A good year in 2023 will likely see Williams as the top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Photo by Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In 2022, Williams threw for 4,537 yards, 42 touchdowns and only five interceptions. On top of that, he ran for 382 yards and 10 touchdowns. With another great season, Williams and head coach Lincoln Riley could lead the USC Trojans to its first ever College Football Playoff appearance.

Buffalo linebacker Shaun Dolac

Dolac was a tackling machine last season for Buffalo. He made 147 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2022. Dolac can also drop back in coverage. He totaled seven passes defended last season.

Photo by Paul Hokanson/

He will fly all over the field for head coach Maurice Linguist this season. Dolac’s partner-in-crime at the linebacker position last season, James Patterson, is now pursuing pro ball, so more of the work is going to fall on Dolac’s shoulders this year. Look for Bryant transfer Joe Andreessen to step up alongside Dolac this season for Buffalo at linebacker.

Alabama safety Caleb Downs

Five-star safety Caleb Downs arrives in Tuscaloosa as one of the most talented players on Alabama. Downs is a versatile player who can play closer to the line of scrimmage and can play more of a center field role for head coach Nick Saban.

Photo courtesy of Alabama Athletics

Downs will be one of the top true freshmen in College Football this season. He will play in the secondary alongside future NFL Draft picks Kool-Aid McKinstry and Malachi Moore. Downs most certainly will be a minimum three-year contributor, barring injury, at Alabama.

Appalachian State running back Nate Noel

Noel was the leading rusher for Appalachian State last season, while only playing in nine games due to injury. He averaged 6.9 yards per carry in 2022. With fellow running back Camerun Peoples now gone, Noel will be the most experienced and best back in the room for the Mountaineers.

Photo courtesy of App State Athletics

In terms of skill set, Noel has really good vision behind the offensive line. He won’t kill defenders with speed, but Noel is shifty at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds. Expect to see Noel be the leading rusher once again for Appalachian State.

UCF offensive tackle Amari Kight

Kight is a transfer from Alabama after spending four seasons with Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. He was never a starter in Tuscaloosa, but he saw action in 12 games last season. Kight should be able to carve a role for himself in the starting rotation this season for UCF.

Photo by Willie J. Allen Jr. / Orlando Sentinel

He comes to Orlando standing at 6-foot-7 and weighing 318 pounds. Kight has two years of eligibility remaining and is a versatile tackle who can play on both the right side and left side of the offensive line.

Auburn defensive tackle Justin Rogers

Rogers transferred to Auburn from Kentucky this offseason. He is a handful to deal with in the trenches as he is listed at 6-foot-4 and over 325 pounds. He spent three seasons playing for the Wildcats. The Michigan native totaled 61 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks as a Wildcat. 35 of those tackles were in 2022.

Photo by Matt Rudolph/Auburn Live

Head coach Hugh Freeze is hoping that Rogers can draw a double team on the interior of the defensive line. If Rogers can do that, it should open up the pass rushing lanes for Auburn’s edge rushers.

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