Forde-Yard Dash: What happened to these touted college football stars?

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (Turnover Chain to be pawned later in Miami, where the Hurricanes have zero takeaways in two ACC games):

[More Dash: Gauging undefeated teams | Week 7 predictions | Defense is in]

THIRD QUARTER

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MISSING PERSONS ALERT

The following players were expected to do big things this season, but have instead gone missing:

Tate Martell (21), Miami. Touted Ohio State quarterback recruit became a touted (and instantly eligible) Miami transfer who was widely expected to lock down the starting job in fall camp. Instead he wound up third string and was used as either a backup wide receiver or wildcat QB in the season opener against Florida. Since then he’s basically disappeared. When starter Jarren Williams was throwing four first-half interceptions against Virginia Tech on Saturday, coach Manny Diaz turned to N’Kosi Perry to replace him — not Martell. His total stats for the season: two rushes for two yards. Martell hasn’t touched the ball since Sept. 14 against Bethune-Cookman.

Hunter Johnson (22), Northwestern. Another five-star recruit who became a much-hyped transfer, but has yet to make an impact on the field. Johnson started his career at Clemson but left early in the 2017 season, transferring to Northwestern. He sat out last year and was expected to provide no drop-off from four-year starter Clayton Thorson at quarterback — perhaps even an upgrade. Instead, Johnson — and every other Northwestern QB this season — has been completely ineffective. The Wildcats have the worst passing offense in America, and of the three quarterbacks it has played, Johnson has the lowest efficiency rating. He’s completed 48 percent of his passes with one touchdown and four interceptions. Johnson did not play against Nebraska on Saturday after hurting a knee against Wisconsin the previous game. Former third-stringer Aidan Smith may be Northwestern's best QB option going forward.

Laviska Shenault (23), Colorado. Shenault was injured Sept. 21 against Arizona State and, even after an open date, did not play in a loss to Arizona on Saturday. But even when he was playing, Shenault was way below his 2018 productivity levels. Through Colorado’s first three games, Shenault had 16 catches for 203 yards after amassing 26 catches for 455 yards in the first three games last season. That’s with the same pitch-and-catch partner in QB Steven Montez. Perhaps the transition to new coach Mel Tucker and offensive coordinator Jay Johnson hasn’t been easy. Whatever the reason, the national leader in receptions per game last year is third on his team in total catches this year.

Laviska Shenault Jr. of the Colorado Buffaloes watches from the sidelines against the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday. (Getty)
Laviska Shenault Jr. of the Colorado Buffaloes watches from the sidelines against the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday. (Getty)

Tommy Stevens/Keytaon Thompson (24), Mississippi State. The fall camp competition to start at QB for the Bulldogs centered on these two players — one a transfer from Penn State, the other the backup to departed Nick Fitzgerald. Stevens won the job. Thompson said he was going to transfer, then reconsidered and stayed. And as of right now, the Bulldogs’ most reliable quarterback has been freshman Garrett Shrader. Thompson hasn’t taken a snap all year, and Stevens has been derailed by both minor injuries and major errors. Stevens was not good in a home loss to Kansas State, did not play in State’s win over Kentucky, and then presided over the disastrous start against Auburn before exiting.

Donovan Peoples-Jones (25), Michigan. He started the season hurt, missing the first two games. Since returning to action, DPJ’s production has been modest within an offense searching for a spark. After leading the Wolverines with 47 receptions last year and producing some big plays as a punt returner, Peoples-Jones has nine catches for 93 yards and one punt return of note, a 36-yarder against Iowa.

Brandon Wimbush (26), Central Florida. The Notre Dame transfer who was beaten out by Ian Book got a fresh start in Orlando, and was the Knights’ fresh starter in the season opener against Florida A&M. As was the case at Notre Dame, Wimbush was not terribly accurate throwing the ball — he completed 12 of 23 passes for 168 yards. Wimbush sat out the second game, against Florida Atlantic, for what was described as an undisclosed injury, and has barely played since. He’s completed one pass and run the ball twice in three games, with all three plays producing negative yardage. Freshman Dillon Gabriel has been UCF’s starting QB the past five games — he’s thrown 12 touchdowns and no interceptions in Knights victories, and three touchdowns and five interceptions in Knights losses.

Isaiah Williams (27), Illinois. He was the highest-rated quarterback signee for the Illini in more than a decade, enough of a prize that Lovie Smith hired his high school coach the previous year to be the Illini tight ends coach. Plenty of people expected Williams to push for the starting job right away, but to date his collegiate stat line reads as two carries for minus-three yards. Michigan transfer Brandon Peters has been the starter, with decreasing returns as the season has progressed. Backup Matt Robinson wasn’t much better at Minnesota on Saturday. Williams didn’t even make the trip, due to an unspecified injury.

Jarrett Guarantano (28), Tennessee. Volunteers fans hoping for a breakthrough season hitched some of that optimism to Guarantano, who was coming off a pretty good sophomore season. But not much good has carried over from 2018 for Guarantano, who was benched against Florida and remained the backup Saturday against Georgia. Freshman Brian Maurer made his first start against the Bulldogs and performed well, which means it is likely he will be the Vols’ guy for the rest of this season if healthy.

Maurice Washington (29), Nebraska. He’s literally been missing for the first half of two Cornhuskers games this season, suspended for the opening two quarters against South Alabama and again Saturday against Northwestern. The suspension against the Jaguars was due to Washington facing a felony pornography charge dating to his time in high school in California, when Washington allegedly possessed and distributed a video of an underage girl engaged in what she described as a non-consensual sex act with two males — neither of whom was Washington. (He has entered a not guilty plea.) The second suspension was for what coach Scott Frost said was a violation of team rules. He did not disclose the violation. Half-game suspensions are the most half-baked of half measures available to coaches.

D’Eriq King (30), Houston. The most important Cougar quite literally benched himself after four games, announcing that he was redshirting the season.

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