An early look at the Hot 100

Originally Published: March 22, 2004
By Bruce Feldman | ESPN The Magazine

Since spring football is in full swing, time to jump ahead and look at the Hot 100 list for the upcoming season. As always, the list only includes I-A players, and there are no kickers or punters. In addition, we're not projecting incoming freshmen, so we'll hold off on Adrian Peterson and Ted Ginn for just a bit longer.

Brad Smith
Brad Smith and Missouri have been disappointing this year.
1. Brad Smith, Missouri, QB: A phenomenal runner, he is vastly underrated as a passer, completing over 60 percent.

2. Derrick Johnson, Texas, LB: New DC Greg Robinson raves about DJ's ability to cover anyone -- even wideouts -- and also may use him as an edge rusher. Had 19.5 TFLs in '03.

3. Matt Leinart, USC, QB: Great head for the game. Very accurate. Had 38 TDs and just 9 INTs. Lost most of his O-line and top two receivers, but still has plenty of weapons.

4. Antrel Rolle, Miami, CB/PR: The Thorpe frontrunner in '04 is both extremely physical and fast. Also super competitive. Did the unthinkable -- neutralized Pitt's Larry Fitzgerald -- and then held P.K. Sam to one catch (a little hitch) in the Orange Bowl last season.

5. Darren Sproles, Kansas State, RB: Dynamic short back, got bottled up by the Buckeyes, but still had 1,986 rush yards on the season

Carnell Williams
Auburn's Cadillac Williams is a tough load to bring down.
6. Cadillac Williams, Auburn, RB: Probably would've been a first-rounder if he came out early. Has great feet and vision and even in a crowded backfield, he still found time to rush for 17 TDs.

7. Mike Patterson, USC, DT: Best combination of hands and feet of any D-linemen in America. He's a relentless, every-snap presence and constantly causing havoc in the middle. Had 7 sacks last year.

8. David Pollack, Georgia, DE: Great "motor" guy has added strength and should continue to give linemen fits.

9. Marion Barber III, Minnesota, RB: One half (the stronger half) of a devastating RB tandem. Barber has excellent vision, patience, runs real low to the ground and uses his powerful legs to hammer Big Ten defenses.

10. Mark Clayton, Oklahoma, WR: A whiz at reading defenses. Not big (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) or blessed with blazing speed, but is fearless and has lethal quickness. Clayton's great at getting in and out of cuts and is very dangerous after the catch with a eye-popping 521 of his 1,393 yards following the reception.

11. Corey Webster, LSU, CB: Physical corner broke up 27 passes and picked off 7 others.

12. Will Derting, Washington State, LB: Navigates through traffic as well as any one. Also has a sudden first step and top instincts. Took over in the Holiday Bowl.

13. Cedric Benson, Texas, TB: Has continued to add strength and refine his receiving and blocking skills this offseason. Will become a Heisman favorite if UT finally beats OU.

14. Kyle Orton, Purdue, QB: Strong arm, nice feet. One Big Ten DC said he was the best QB in the league last year.

15. Eric Winston, Miami, OT: UM coaches think he's got more potential than Bryant McKinnie because he can be a dominator in the run game. Converted TE made huge strides in '03 and shut down three stud rushers (Bobby McCray, Mathias Kiwanuka and Eric Moore.) A more impressive athlete than even Iowa's Robert Gallery -- last year's Outland Trophy winner and a top-5 NFL pick this April -- this third-year junior is 310 and still can run a 4.80 forty.

16. Leroy Hill, Clemson, LB: Great nose for the ball. Had 27 TFLs, and was named the Defensive Player of the Game in the 2004 Peach Bowl when he had 12 tackles, including a pair of sacks.

17. Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin, DB/KR: Much more athletic than given credit for. This is a guy who just keeps making plays. Had 7 INTs in '03.

18. Shaun Cody, USC, DT: Finally back at 100 percent, he'll team with Mike Patterson to form the best tackle tandem in America.

19. Aaron Rodgers, Cal, QB: Good arm, outstanding accuracy and underrated feet. He'll be Tedford's next first-round QB.

20. Ahmad Brooks, Virginia, ILB: Prototype inside backer fits coach Al Groh's scheme well, but is so fast and strong, he'd fit any system. Only one LB (Derrick Johnson) has as much potential as this 250-pounder.

21. Alex Barron, FSU, OT: Huge, athletic pass protector. A prototypical tackle who should be a 10-year left tackle in the NFL.

22. Kirk Morrison, San Diego State, LB: The headliner of the nation's No. 8 D, he proved to be a complete linebacker in '03.

23. Marlin Jackson, Michigan, DB: Great talent. He struggled early in '03 as a tackler, but should still merit all-American status.

24. Dusty Dvorcek, Oklahoma, NT: One Big 12 O-coordinator says Dvorcek caused more problems for them than Tommie Harris.

25. T.A. McLendon, NC State, RB: Hard-running back with soft hands. Should be a workhorse now that QB Philip Rivers is gone.

26. Jason White, Oklahoma, QB: Don't hammer him for not being perfect (playing hurt had something to do with that -- as did the LSU D.) Still had a sick 5-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio.

Reggie Bush
Getty ImagesThe scary part about USC's Reggie Bush? He's getting better.
27. Reggie Bush, USC, RB: Blinding speed and jaw-dropping cutting ability, he could also catch 40 passes this season. Bush is already a better back than anything new Trojan RB coach Todd McNair had last year with the Cleveland Browns.

28. Jammal Brimmer, UNLV, S: Smooth. Has great instincts and vision. Plays much faster than his 4.6 forty time. Added 10 pounds to become even more of a force in the run game.

29. Charlie Whitehurst, Clemson, QB: Will emerge as a Heisman candidate. Great arm with quick feet, he made huge strides in '03, throwing for almost 3,600 yards and had a 2-to-1 TD-to-INT rate.

30. Justin Vincent, LSU, RB: Might become Tigers' first Heisman hopeful since Dalton Hilliard almost two decades ago. Winning Sugar Bowl MVP honors and lighting up the SEC title game showed he's a big-game back.

31. Lance Mitchell, Oklahoma, LB: Healed from the season-ending knee injury, he has a good chance to give OU another Butkus winner.

32. Orien Harris, Miami, DT: Great agility and moves (and counter moves) for a 300-pounder. Some teammates thought he was better than Vince Wilfork in '03.

33. Mario Williams, NC State, DE: Think Julius Peppers, but with more speed. If his intensity level ever matches his talent, he'll be the first-pick overall in the NFL draft.

34. Josh Bullocks, Nebraska, S: A whiz at baiting QBs, his 10 picks were no fluke.

35. Greg Eslinger, Minnesota, C: A fluid technician, he is the focal point of the Big Ten's best ground attack (289 ypg). Minnesota loves to pull and this fleet-footed junior is a perfect fit for its offense.

36. Geoff McArthur, Cal, WR: Crafty wideout who has very good hands. Ultra tough guy who attacks the ball. Had the quietest 1,500-yard season ever.

37. Anthony Davis, Wisconsin, TB: Shifty speedster has 2,000-yard talent. If he stayed healthy in '03, he would've merited an invite to NYC for the Heisman.

38. Matt Roth, Iowa, DE: Former prep wrestling star continued to blossom into a dominant pass rusher. Had 11.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles.

39. Kevin Burnett, Tennessee, LB: Great closing speed, he's been close to putting it all together and dominating.

40. Rod Wright, Texas, DT: An agile 308-pounder, his numbers may not be as good as they were in '03, but will be counted on to keep linemen off LB Derrick Johnson and keep heat off some good pass-rushing ends.

41. Justin Tuck, Notre Dame DE: The nation's top returning sackman (averaging 1.13 sacks per game) is part of a gifted ND D-line that will make lots of noise this fall.

42. Chris Henry, West Virginia, WR: No WR in college is a bigger home-run threat. Averaged 25 yards per on 41 catches and was still learning.

43. Marcus Spears, LSU, DE: Athleticism to be a top-10 pick. Only needs more consistency. Played as well as any DE late in the season.

44. A.J. Hawk, Ohio State, OLB: OSU's top tackler (104 tackles, 4 sacks), can also cover. He should be a Butkus frontrunner in '04. Headlines -- along with Bobby Carpenter -- what figures to be one of the top-three linebacking groups.

45. Darnell Bing, USC, S: Awesome specimen (weighs 225 with 4 percent bodyfat). Only needs more seasoning reading the passing game.

46. Richie Incognito, Nebraska, OL: Moves inside to center and should thrive in the congestion. Nastier than anything Vince McMahon could dream up. Is a true throwback. Makes Jake Grove seem like a ballerina.

47. Channing Crowder, Florida, LB: Future Butkus winner. Led SEC in tackles per game.

48. Fred Gibson, Georgia, WR: Should put up the numbers Chris Henry had, but tends to drift. If he wants to be a top-15 NFL pick, it's there for him.

49. Eric Moore, FSU, DE: Despite playing hurt down the stretch still made plays for the 'Noles.

Chris Leak
Florida QB Chris Leak seemingly never gets rattled.
50. Chris Leak, Florida, QB: Great talent. Great focus. Will be much more consistent in Year Two. Only needs the young UF receivers to blossom. Should be able to shoulder tons of pressure since many think it's up to him to save Ron Zook's job.

51. Anttaj Hawthorne, Wisconsin, DT: A powerhouse, he'll anchor one of the nation's top D-lines. Had 20 TFLs, 75 tackles in '03.

52. Dan Cody, Oklahoma, DE: More than just a top pass rusher. Made a great return from battling through clinical depression last season and will get even more attention now that Tommie Harris has moved on.

53. Craig Bragg, UCLA, WR: Super smooth wideout who doesn't get the pub he deserves because of the Trojan Machine and the Bruins' tumultuous '03 season.

54. Abdul Hodge, Iowa, MLB: Rugged mike man, who teammates say is absolutely reckless with his body. Had 141 tackles for the nation's No. 8 rush D.

55. Donte Nicholson, Oklahoma, S: Big hitter, part of the country's top safety tandem.

56. David Greene, Georgia, QB: Would be much higher if his TD-to-INT ratio (13-to-11) was better. But should build off a strong finish after winning MVP honors in Dawgs' bowl win over Purdue.

57. Walter Reyes, Syracuse, RB: Lobbying for the honor to wear the prized No. 44 for the Orange, and after rushing for 1,347 yards and 20 TDs, he's earned it. Also showed marked improvement as a receiver too.

58. Cro Thorpe, FSU, WR: A true big-play guy who's great after the catch. If he's 100 percent, he's a legit Biletnikoff guy.

59. Darrent Williams, Oklahoma State, CB: Shifty playmaker runs in the 4.3 range and has the savvy to lock up any wideout.

60. C.J. Brooks, Maryland, OG: Tall (6-6) for a guard, this former prep wrestler is a smooth technician, who only committed one penalty and allowed just one sack in 740 offensive plays last season.

61. Jimmy Williams, Virginia Tech, S: A poor man's Sean Taylor, he is a future NFL first-rounder.

Braylon Edwards
Braylon Edwards would have a lot more to celebrate if he could cut down on his drops.
62. Braylon Edwards, Michigan, WR: Made loads of improvement last year, but still drops way too many passes.

63. Eric Henderson, Georgia Tech, DE: Led the ACC with 11 sacks and was second with 24 tackles for loss, a Tech single-season record.

64. Dan Orlovsky, Connecticut, QB: Strong-armed passer threw for 33 TDs and almost 3,500 yards last season. Reminds some of a Kerry Collins in terms of size (6-5, 230), mechanics (yes, not the quickest release), arm strength and presence, Orlovsky figures to play his way into the first round next April.

65. Heath Miller, Virginia, TE: Former prep QB led the nation's tight ends last season with 70 receptions and 835 yards and should be the Mackey Award favorite in '04.

66. Kevin Simon, Tennessee, LB: The Vols' leading tackler (112), he has bulked up 12 pounds (to 242) to ease his transition to the middle.

67. Laurence Maroney, Minnesota, RB: The faster guy of the Gopher 1-2 wallop is a pure slasher, who should be a Heisman frontrunner in '05.

68. Bill Swancutt, Oregon State, DE: Big-play man had 22.5 sacks the past two years. Will miss star DT Dwan Edwards, but don't bet against him notching another 11-sack season.

69. Andrew Whitworth, LSU, OT: All the tools to be a NFL first-round pick and showed them in the Sugar Bowl.

70. Brodney Pool, Oklahoma, S: Can run, can hit. Picked off 7 passes. Only flaw was some shaky tackling that was exposed in the Sugar Bowl.

71. Andrew Walter, Arizona State, QB: After a huge '02, he struggled last year for the 5-7 Sun Devils. Walter, who throws as pretty a deep ball as anyone, has added 15 pounds of bulk and vowed to leave ASU on a high note.

72. David Baas, Michigan, OG: A real scrapper. Plays with a mean streak. The typical Wolverine O-lineman with loads of grit.

73. Michael Boley, Southern Miss, OLB: Every bit the player that USM star Rod Davis was in '03, Boley had 154 tackles, 11 sacks and 22.5 TFLs. Toyed with coming out early, but made the smart move to stay because with his added strength, should go from a sixth-rounder to a first-day pick next year.

74. Antonio Perkins, Oklahoma, CB/KR: A better punt returner than coverman, he's still a bit raw, but should be better in the Sooners' zone-coverage schemes.

75. Matt Grootegoed, USC, OLB: Great instincts, he should pile up the tackles now that he's healthy.

76. Mathias Kiwanuka, Boston College, DE: Budding 6-8, 255-pound star exploded onto the scene with 11.5 sacks. Plays with great leverage and agility and also is fueled by a great work ethic.

77. Bruce Gradkowski, Toledo, QB: As accurate, tough and heady as any QB playing in any conference.

78. Chris Canty, Virginia, DE: Overshadowed by the talented young linebackers, this future pro, an athletic 6-7, 280-pounder, still piled up 110 tackles (tops among all ACC D-linemen.)

79. DeAngelo Williams, Memphis, RB: Super-productive back could lead the Tigers into the Top 25.

80. Charlie Frye, Akron, QB: Sometimes adapting to a West Coast system can be rough for college QBs, but Frye, a heady mobile senior, should be up to it.

81. Ryan Moore, Miami, WR: Rangy, fluid wideout with legit 4.4 speed, he'll be the Canes' next standout receiver. Only needs more game experience and route refinement.

Chris Rix keeps getting knocked down, but he has the talent to be one of the best in the nation.
82. Chris Rix, FSU, QB: Has all the physical tools, but has always been plagued by decision-making goofs. Still has one more chance to shut up all his critics.

83. Vincent Burns, Kentucky, DE: Utilizes a great first step to cause havoc in SEC backfields. Could be a 15-sack guy this fall.

84. DonTrell Moore, New Mexico, RB: Pounded his way for 1,450 yards and 19 rushing TDs.

85. Justin Miller, Clemson, CB: Cocky playmaker probably had a better freshman year when expectations weren't as high as '03, but still a force.

86. Rian Wallace, Temple, LB: Great player on a not-so-great team, "Goo" might be the best defensive player in the Big East. Had 148 tackles and 19.5 TFLs.

87. Baraka Atkins, Miami, DL: A future star with the body type to possibly make the move inside and the athleticism to stay outside, he should be a double-digit sack guy as a sophomore.

88. Wesley Britt, Alabama, OT: Towering linemen with surprisingly nimble feet. Made the coaches all-SEC team for his work as a technician.

89. Brian Leonard, Rutgers, RB: Do-it-all guy emerged late in the season as the lifeblood of a much-improved Knights offense.

90. Kevin Kolb, Houston, QB: All he did was throw 25 TDs and just 6 INTs. Some rookie year, eh?

91. Kay-Jay Harris, West Virginia, RB: Former minor leaguer had great speed at 240, now he's 20 pounds lighter. Look out.

92. Adell Duckett, Texas Tech, DE: One-time prep basketball star has really blossomed into a much-needed big-play man on D for the Red Raiders. Had 24.5 TFLs in '03.

93. J.R. Russell, Louisville, WR: The 6-3, 200-pounder fancied himself as more of a basketball talent -- until last season when he exploded for over 1,200 yards.

94. Loren Howard, Northwestern, DL: Weight-room junkie has the power and the athleticism to be an ideal 3-4 DE. Had 8 sacks, 16 TFLs last season as a sophomore.

95. Chris Myers, Miami, OL: Very smart and feisty. Moves well. In the mold of those "undersized" Denver Bronco linemen, although he isn't that undersized any more.

96. Dustin Fox, Ohio State, DB: Few corners get tested more, and in all fairness, few are better tacklers. Will set a good example for Ted Ginn, OSU's marvelous incoming CB recruit.

97. Steve Breaston, Michigan, WR/KR: Lethal return guy with eye-popping quickness and better hands than he's given credit for. Only needs more maturity physically and some added polish.

98. Zac Woodfin, UAB, LB: Sideline-to-sideline guy is the nation's No. 2 returning tackler (behind ECU's Chris Moore).

99. P.J. Daniels, Georgia Tech, RB: Former walk-on battled his way to 1,447 rushing yards, including an NCAA bowl-game record 307 yards versus Tulsa in the Humanitarian Bowl.

100. Rasheed Marshall, West Virginia, QB: Dangerous scrambler had a good 2-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio, but needs to improve on his 51 percent completion clip.

Bruce Feldman is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His first book "Cane Mutiny: How the Miami Hurricanes Overturned the Football Establishment" comes out in the fall of 2004. He can be reached at bruce.feldman@espn3.com.