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2023 NFL Draft: Top 20 college football players who rejected the pros to return for another season

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The deadline for the underclassmen to announce for the 2023 NFL Draft also comes and goes, and many stars have chosen to move on rather than go back to school. Ohio State Quarterback CJ Stroud Texas Running back Bijan Robinson W.J Georgia Jalen Carter is just a few of the notable players who will play on Sunday next year.

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However, there are quite a few who have chosen to pass on this NFL salary. Unlike in previous years, the advent of NIL pools incentivized draft-eligible players to stay in the league. In addition, the free year of eligibility awarded to players during the 2020 season also gave players the option to increase their inventory by playing in another season.

Who are the best college football players who made the decision to come back? Let’s break them.

1. Michael Bennix Jr., QB; Washington: The nation’s leading passing player in yards per game would enter the 2023 season near top Heisman Trophy prospect after throwing for 4,641 yards and 31 touchdowns for a Huskies team that had an 11-2 record. Not only will he enter the season with a lot of hype, but he will play for a team that will be in the midst of the College Football Playoff.

2. Blake Corum, RB, Michigan: A consensus All-American he missed the last two games of the season but still racked up 1,463 yards and 18 touchdowns. He should be the focus of the two-time Big Ten champion offense as long as he recovers from a meniscus injury.

3. Bo Nix, QB, Oregon: The Knicks were in the running for the Heisman Trophy before suffering an ankle injury that hampered him down the stretch. Despite this, he still threw for 3,593 yards, rushed for 510 yards and totaled 44 touchdowns. The Pac-12 will be loaded with star quarterbacks, and the Nix will be near the top of every list.

4. Jordan Travis, Qatar, Florida: Travis was the biggest reason the Seminoles came out strong late in the season. He threw for 3,214 yards, rushed for 417 yards and totaled 32 touchdowns. He’s one of many experienced Seminoles to come back, which is a great reason to be considered a CFP contender in 2023.

5. Tommy Eichenberg, LB, Ohio State: Eichenberg finished the season with 120 tackles and was a big part of the Buckeyes defense’s turnaround in their CFP career. First-team All-Big Ten semifinalist Chuck Bednarik Award was the captain of the linebacker who should be one of the best Big Ten teams in 2023.

6. Jared Fierce, DL, Florida State: The Albany transfer turned himself into a first-round talent after tallying 16.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks in 12 games with the Seminoles. He was shown as the 11th player overall in the CBS Sports NFL Draft Lead Ratings before announcing his decision to return to Tallahassee.

7. Praline Trace, DL, Washington: The Husky’s defensive front will be stacked in 2023, and Trice’s presence would be a huge reason for that. He had 13 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 13 games, which earned him All-Pac-12 honors. His on-edge speed and ability to win one-on-one battles versus offensive tackles should make him a potential first-round pick in 2024.

8. Fashanu, A. Pennsylvania state: Fashanu could have been a first-round pick had he decided to go for the draft, but he opted to return to a Penn State team that would be loaded with experience on both sides of the ball. He’ll be responsible for protecting the blindside of quarterback Drew Allar and opening holes for the Nittany Lions’ talented group of daring tacklers.

9. Sam Hartman, QB, Our Lady: Hartmann had options to get back to Wake Forest, headed to the NFL or transferred to college football in 2023, and found a great home in Notre Dame. The centerpiece of the slack net offense with the Demon Deacons threw for 12,967 yards and 110 touchdowns during his five-year college career and is no doubt considered a Heisman contender heading into the 2023 season.

10. Jerzan Newton, DL; Illinois: Newton was one of the main reasons Illinois got back on top during the 2022 season. He had 60 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hurries last season. The 6-foot-2, 295-pounder was a second team All-American from multiple outlets, Including CBS Sports.

11. Tyler Davis, DL, Clemson: Davis is one of the most experienced defensemen in the country, and he opted to return to the Tigers for his “Super Senior” season. He has 26.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks during his tenure with Clemson despite fighting through multiple injuries. Sersi is a seasoned defensive line who should be one of the best in the country.

12. Cameron Rising, Qatar, Utah: Rising surprised a lot of people when he chose to restart it after back-to-back Pac-12 Championships. He threw for 3,034 yards, rushed for 465 yards and accounted for 32 touchdowns last season. He suffered a lower body injury in the Rose Bowl, which could have played a role in his decision to return to Salt Lake City.

13. Dillon Gabriel, QB, Oklahoma: Gabriel was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year after throwing for 3,168 yards, rushing for 315 yards and catching 31 touchdowns in 2022. He returned them to Big 12 competition.

14. Keith Randolph Jr., DL, Illinois: The other half of the “Law Firm” defensive line (along with Newton), Randolph returns after notching 53 tackles last season – 13 of them for losses. The 6-foot-5, 305-pounder was an All-Big Ten performer from Pro Football Focus and should keep the Fighting Illini in the division title hunt in 2023.

15. Spencer Rattler, QB, South Carolina: Rattler’s 2022 stats show a lot of inconsistency, which was the case when he was at Oklahoma. However, he threw 10 touchdowns over his last three games, which included a 63-38 victory over the A’s Tennessee The team that was in competition to create the CFP. He has developed a strong relationship with Antwane Wells Jr. over the course of the season, and he can sneak back into Heisman contention if he leads the Gamecocks into SEC East contention.

16. Johnny Wilson, WR, Florida State: Wilson capped off a stellar season with an amazing eight catch, 202-yard performance in the Cheez-It Bowl victory over Oklahoma. The 6-foot-7 star led the Seminoles with 897 yards and five touchdowns which is a nightmare of a game for every defenseman in the country.

17. KJ Jefferson, QB Arkansas: Speaking of game nightmares, there is no quarterback in the country quite like Jefferson. He passed for 2,648 yards and 24 touchdowns last year and added 640 yards on the ground. The 6-foot-3, 242-pound game is a powerhouse running between tackle points, making the Razorbacks’ rushing attack with Raheim Sanders even more dangerous. If you’re looking for a dark-horse Heisman candidate, the Jeffersons could be a good fit.

18. Trey Benson, RB, Florida State: Benson rushed for 990 yards and nine touchdowns last year, and he’ll be the other half of the dangerous punch on the ground with Travis. At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Benson has just the right size to take punishment between tackles and the pace to be a home run threat.

19. Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU: The dual threat driver of the SEC West champions has been plagued by injuries down the stretch, but has developed into a star nonetheless. He had 2,913 yards passing, 885 yards rushing and totaled 29 touchdowns after moving from Arizona. He’ll have another year in the system with a lot of technical chops around him in 2023.

20. Rome Odunze, WR, Washington: Odunze is one of two 1,000-yard receivers who have selected running back to the Huskies, along with Jalen McMillan, and should rise to national prominence along with Penix. The All-Pac-12 player had 75 catches for 1,145 yards and seven touchdowns last year as one of the top deep threats in the country. It’s a big reason the Huskies’ crime is so serious.

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