Happy Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you), everyone.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) May 4, 2016
While the Force is strong with many college football players, so are the fours. And in 2016, many of college football’s best are wearing No. 4 jerseys.
So, in a shoutout to the galaxy far, far away, may these fours be with us all season long.
Deshaun Watson: Return of the Jedi
The 2016 season will feature so many returning stars, and none might be bigger than Clemson’s junior quarterback. Watson was a first-team All-American and Heisman finalist leading the Tigers to their first national championship game since 1981. Even better, this No. 4 is back to try to do it all over again. Watson, a master in Clemson’s offense, will enter the season with a shot at another ACC title, another playoff run, a Heisman and maybe even the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick.
Eddie Jackson: The Empire Strikes Back (again)
Alabama, on its way to the national championship, ranked third in total defense and in the top 10 of passing defense. Jackson, who led the Tide in interceptions in 2015, was a big reason for that. Alabama will be seeking a second straight title for the second time in the past four years. With several members of the Tide’s defense, including defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, now gone, Jackson could be called upon to play a bigger role.
Dalvin Cook: Revenge of the …
As a sophomore, Cook broke nearly every Florida State rushing record on his way to a 1,691-yard, 19-touchdown season. The Seminoles, however, also saw their streak of ACC championships come to an end. Clemson took the ACC’s top spot in 2015, and both teams will be looking for a spot in the playoff in 2016. As the Seminoles continue to look for a quarterback, FSU’s No. 4 will be front and center.
Breiden Fehoko/Malik McDowell: Attack of the Clones
The two massive defensive tackles don’t have identical looks, so we’ll call them fraternal clones. While they don’t look alike, they share a lot of other qualities. Both Fehoko, a Texas Tech sophomore, and McDowell, a Michigan State junior, were ESPN 300 recruits. Both became elite difference-makers on defenses that didn’t always draw highly ranked prospects. Once arriving on campus, Fehoko started every game as a true freshman while McDowell played in every game his freshman season and started every game last season in Michigan State’s playoff run.
Max Browne: A New Hope
Southern California won the Pac-12 South a year ago but finished 8-6 and saw coach Steve Sarkisian fired in October. The Trojans have gone through coaching changes, NCAA sanctions and mounting losses since they last won the Pac-12 or competed for a national title. USC’s fortunes could now be in the hands of Browne, a highly touted quarterback recruit from the Class of 2013. Browne was the No. 20 overall recruit in that class but has only thrown for 143 yards in his USC career. Browne has loads of talent around him on offense but will have to hold off freshman Sam Darnold for the QB job.
Jamir Tillman: A Force Awakens?
Playing wide receiver in Navy’s triple option doesn’t always bring headlines. Tillman, however, was the Midshipmen’s leading receiver last season with nearly 600 yards and five touchdowns. With record-setting quarterback Keenan Reynolds having graduated, Tillman will have to be a bigger factor in Navy’s offense. Beyond that, at 6-foot-4, 206 pounds, Tillman could have an NFL future.
Luke Falk: The Phantom Menace
With Falk at Washington State, sometimes it’s easy to forget him among college football’s best QBs. The Cougars’ No. 4 was No. 5 in passing yards last season with 4,561 yards and 38 touchdowns. Wazzu had a breakthrough year under Mike Leach last season. With Oregon, Cal, UCLA, Arizona and Washington at home, the Cougars could make some noise in the Pac-12. For Falk, the 6-4, 205-pound junior could follow in another Pac-12 spread QB, Jared Goff, and be a high pick in next year’s draft.
Like a Force ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the presence of Jim Harbaugh is all over football and has been since he took the Michigan job. The Wolverines lost to their rival Ohio State Buckeyes last season, but blasted the SEC East champ Florida Gators in the bowl game. In 2016, expectations will be higher, especially after Harbaugh sparked the satellite camp debate, signed the No. 1 overall recruit and found such quick success in his first season. Is it any wonder that Harbaugh was also a No. 4?