Taken by surprise: Biggest summer breakout players

Micah Abernathy is in line for a starting spot at Tennessee. Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire

During the college football offseason, we have ranked everything from the weakest position groups to the players who are worth the price of admission. This week, using the ESPN College Football Power Rankings as our guide, we answer this question: Who's the player on each top-25 team who has been a surprise this summer and moved up the depth chart?

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Anthony Averett

Averett was a name not many expected to discuss much during fall camp, yet he keeps coming. While Nick Saban has said that he has played "really, really well," what's driving Averett's rise more is the fact that the Tide have lost so much depth at cornerback because of the departures of Maurice Smith and Kendall Sheffield, not to mention Tony Brown's impending suspension. -- Alex Scarborough

2. Clemson Tigers

Dexter Lawrence

It's not that Dabo Swinney didn't have high hopes for Lawrence, his five-star recruit, before fall camp began. But just how fast the freshman defensive tackle has picked up the routine has been impressive even by five-star standards. Lawrence was a showstopper throughout camp, and with the defensive line thin to open the year thanks to Austin Bryant's injury, Lawrence could get a lot of playing time right away as sophomore Christian Wilkins moves out to the edge. -- David M. Hale

3. Oklahoma Sooners

Abdul Adams

With Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, the Sooners' backfield is already loaded. But Adams, just a three-star signee out of Durham, North Carolina, has been turning heads since arriving on campus. The 6-foot, 200-pound true freshman is on the verge of earning carries, especially with projected third-string back Rodney Anderson recently suffering a season-ending knee injury. -- Jake Trotter

4. Florida State Seminoles

Derwin James

The sophomore could probably be an All-American at safety, linebacker and even defensive end. Florida State will move its gifted defensive back all over the field to take advantage of his unique athleticism and strength. -- Jared Shanker

5. LSU Tigers

Donavaughn Campbell

Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes has led an open competition at numerous positions and it still seems uncertain how many contenders will get a chance to play in the opener against Wisconsin. Elbowing his way into the competition during camp was Campbell, a true freshman. Maybe he plays a role in 2016, maybe he won't, but Campbell wouldn't have had a chance without his impressive showing in camp. -- David Ching

6. Ohio State Buckeyes

Michael Jordan

Jordan's name has attracted plenty of interest, but it's his performance on the field that has really stood out. He is a 6-foot-7 force of nature who is on track to become the first true freshman to start on Ohio State's offensive line since Pro Football Hall of Famer Orlando Pace in 1994. -- Jesse Temple

7. Stanford Cardinal

Dylan Jackson

A few months ago, the Cardinal's defensive line was a cause of great concern. But redshirt freshman Jackson has added more than 40 pounds of strength since his arrival on campus, so Stanford is breathing easier with yet another body to complement Solomon Thomas and Harrison Phillips up front. The Cardinal are optimistic about similar progress from fellow linemen Jordan Watkins and Luke Kaumatule. -- David Lombardi

8. Michigan Wolverines

Michael Onwenu

Usually when a true freshman arrives on campus pushing 400 pounds, he has some major work to do before he's ready for the field. Onwenu, Michigan's mountainous freshman, though, has been consistently raved about by coaches and teammates for his strength and agility at that size. He might play on both sides of the ball this season. -- Dan Murphy

9. Tennessee Volunteers

Micah Abernathy

The sophomore safety took full advantage of his time during fall camp. With the safety spot next to Todd Kelly Jr. up for grabs, Abernathy has stepped up to be one of the Vols' most reliable and consistent players. He's in line to start alongside Kelly when the season opens. -- Edward Aschoff

10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Nic Weishar

Someone had to step up when tight end Alize Jones was ruled academically ineligible before camp, and the redshirt sophomore Weishar appears to have done that, regularly getting open and looking like a guy the Irish's quarterbacks will be able to trust, which could prove to be quite big for a very young offense. -- Matt Fortuna

11. Ole Miss Rebels

Victor Evans

The Rebels are very deep along the defensive line, but Evans really came on strong during fall camp. He's No. 2 behind Marquis Haynes but proved over the last few weeks that he can be a solid playmaker for the Rebels when Haynes needs a breather. -- Aschoff

12. Houston Cougars

Mac Long

Patience paid off for the fifth-year senior offensive lineman, who had a strong training camp and won a starting spot right guard with his August performance. Long played only 14 total games in the last three seasons and hasn't started one but that'll change when Houston meets Oklahoma on Saturday. -- Sam Khan Jr.

13. Michigan State Spartans

Monty Madaris

Madaris made only two catches during the 2015 season but is taking advantage of a wide-open wide receiver room. The Spartans' staff has been impressed with the redshirt junior in camp and expects him to be one of the team's top pass-catchers when games begin. -- Murphy

14. Washington Huskies

Aaron Fuller

If there's one spot where the Huskies are potentially deficient on paper, it's wide receiver. The team returns only two players who caught more than 20 passes last season, so the emergence of Fuller during camp is a promising sign. Coach Chris Petersen has gone out of his way to praise the freshman as a reliable pass-catching machine. He can potentially complement the speed threat that John Ross III (back from injury) will give the receiving corps. -- Lombardi

15. TCU Horned Frogs

Cole Hunt

The Frogs brought in several other transfers who got more hype this offseason, but watch out for Hunt at tight end. The younger brother of former All-Big 12 center Joey Hunt came in as a graduate transfer from Rice and earned a starting job. Hunt definitely has size (6-foot-7, 250 pounds) as well as an opportunity to be the kind of pass-catching threat TCU hasn't had from a tight end in a while. -- Max Olson

16. USC Trojans

Connor Murphy

Based on his recruiting profile, Murphy didn't seem like a strong candidate to play as a true freshman, but he consistently stood out during training camp. One USC coach says he thinks he has the potential to be better than his brother, Trent Murphy, who was a second-round pick after a dominant career at Stanford. -- Kyle Bonagura

17. UCLA Bruins

Ishmael Adams

Adams' conversion from cornerback to receiver has gone better than originally hoped. He showed some good signs in the spring, but now appears as if he's ready to make a real impact in the UCLA offense. -- Bonagura

18. Georgia Bulldogs

Elijah Holyfield

With star running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel both dealing with injury issues, Georgia needed to find another SEC-caliber backfield option this preseason. Enter Holyfield. The true freshman has been impressive in August, to the point that he'll almost certainly have a role in the running game even after Chubb and Michel are back at full strength. -- Ching

19. Louisville Cardinals

Dee Smith

Smith is vying for a much bigger role in the secondary and has impressed coaches so far during fall camp with his aggressiveness and sure-handed tackling. The sophomore mostly played special teams a year ago, then hurt his shoulder. But healthy now, watch for Smith to contribute heavily at safety. -- Andrea Adelson

20. Oregon Ducks

Taj Griffin

We knew Griffin was a talented running back, but his emergence as an option in the slot makes him an even more dangerous all-around player. He is simply too good to keep on the sideline, and with a workhorse like Royce Freeman, his opportunities figured to be limited running the ball. -- Bonagura

21. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Justice Hill

The true freshman running back generated moderate recruiting buzz out of Tulsa, but not nearly enough to anticipate that he might earn significant playing time among a crowded Cowboys' backfield. Oklahoma State ranked second-to-last in the Big 12 in rushing last season. It needs a spark. Transfer Barry J. Sanders got all the offseason attention. Hill might just make a bigger splash. -- Mitch Sherman

22. Baylor Bears

Davion Hall

Do not be surprised if the converted wide receiver becomes one of Baylor's best players on defense this year. The former top-50 recruit caught 20 passes over his first two seasons with the Bears, but he also made 18 tackles on special teams. Hall finally made the switch to defense this offseason and should show a ton of potential at safety. -- Olson

23. Iowa Hawkeyes

Nathan Stanley

The Hawkeyes would prefer if Stanley never plays a down this season and takes a redshirt year, while C.J. Beathard remains among the Big Ten's best signal-callers. But Stanley has made a strong case to become Iowa's first backup as a true freshman since Drew Tate in 2003. Expect to hear his name plenty in the coming years. -- Temple

24. North Carolina Tar Heels

Jalen Dalton

Last year, Dalton worked as a reserve defensive end, but his frame made it clear he could do much more. So this offseason, he went about adding some weight in a transition to tackle. It worked. Dalton bulked up from about 250 pounds to north of 290, and he has been a force up the middle during North Carolina's practices. Given the struggles the Tar Heels had stuffing the run last season, his development could be a big boost for 2016. -- Hale

25. San Diego State Aztecs

Nick Bawden

You won't see Bawden's name on the stat sheet all that often ... if at all. He appeared in eight of SDSU's final 10 games and didn't record a single stat. But the guy he blocks for, record-setting running back Donnel Pumphrey, sure did. Bawden, a converted quarterback, really blossomed this offseason into the powerful fullback the Aztecs need him to be, paving the way for Pumphrey. Head coach Rocky Long called Bawden the team's most improved offensive player of the spring. -- Kevin Gemmell