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College Football players to watch in 2023: Part nine

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 nine features Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy, Ball State linebacker Cole Pearce, Marshall defensive end Owen Porter, Western Kentucky quarterback Austin Reed and Wyoming center Nofoafia Tulafono.

Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy

Worthy has the talent to be one of the top receivers in College Football. He stepped up last season as he totaled 60 receptions, 760 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns in the absence of another top Texas receiver Isaiah Neyor. In 2021, Worthy had 62 receptions for 981 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Photo via Texas Athletics

Worthy also is a presence in the punt return game as he had 15 returns in 2022. Expect to see Worthy being one of quarterback Quinn Ewers’ top targets this season for a Texas team that is looking for its first Big 12 Championship since 2009.

Ball State linebacker Cole Pearce

Pearce is a great example of someone who waited his turn and made the most of his opportunity when given. He redshirted in 2018 and only played in two games in 2019. In 2020, Pearce played in every game for Ball State, but mostly on special teams.

Photo by John Amis/AP Photo

He broke onto the scene as a linebacker in 2021 as he recorded 37 tackles. He had an even better season in 2022 as he totaled 85 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, five sacks and four passes defended. Look for Pearce to have another high tackle output this season from the inside linebacker position.

Marshall defensive end Owen Porter

Porter is one of the most experienced players on Marshall. In his five seasons with the Thundering Herd, he’s played in 45 games. He’s collected a total of 125 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks and two forced fumbles.

Photo by Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch

The 2022 season was Porter’s best in his college career. The 6-foot-3 hometown kid totaled 60 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in 2022. Look for No. 55 at defensive end this season. He is one of the best players in the Sun Belt at getting to the quarterback.

Western Kentucky quarterback Austin Reed

Reed is one of the top returning quarterbacks in the country. He led the nation in passing yards last season with 4,746 yards. Reed was third in the nation in passing touchdowns with 40, behind only Caleb Williams of USC and CJ Stroud of Ohio State.

Photo via WKU Athletics

There is no doubt that Reed paid his dues. He played for West Florida in Division II before transferring to Western Kentucky. In the new look C-USA, the Hilltoppers offense might be the most exciting unit to watch in the conference.

Wyoming center Nofoafia Tulafono

Tulafono is one of the top offensive lineman in the Mountain West Conference. The 6-foot-2, 323-pound junior has played both center and guard for Wyoming. In the 2022 season, he allowed zero pass pressures.

Photo via Twitter

Look for Tulafono on the Cowboys offensive line this season. Expect him to be an excellent pass protector once again.

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