The College Football Playoff begins today.
So let’s play the “What if?” game.
What if these players had picked football? Would they be playing on ESPN today? The following is a list of college basketball players who could be -- should be? -- playing football. They chose basketball, but it doesn’t take a genius to recognize that they have the athleticism and makeup to transition to the gridiron.
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1. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Hey, Nick Saban. Any interest in a 7-foot wide receiver who caught 57 passes for 1,140 yards as a senior in high school? Oh, Cauley-Stein also scored 14 touchdowns (in the first nine games) of his 2011 campaign at Northwest High School in Olathe, Kansas. Would you like a guy like that at Bama, Coach?
2. Ryan Spangler, Oklahoma
He’s a key piece for an Oklahoma team that could win the Big 12. But the 6-foot-8, 231-pound forward used to be a stud quarterback in Oklahoma, where prep stats don’t come easy. He led Bridge Creek High School (Bridge Creek, Oklahoma) to the playoffs and threw for nearly 7,000 yards and 71 touchdowns over three seasons.
3. Shaq Goodwin, Memphis
Goodwin thought about playing two sports in college. The 6-foot-9, 228-pound former wide receiver drew interest from powerhouse programs, such as Florida and Georgia, that were willing to let him play football and basketball. Goodwin, who reportedly ran a 4.6 40-yard dash in high school, might one day star in his other sport.
4. JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova
Multiple college basketball players have made the transition to professional football. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound Pinkston is built for that switch, if he wants to pursue it. He’s a rugged athlete with the strength and agility to excel on the football field.
5. Marvin Singleton, Northern Iowa
Throughout a stellar prep career in Minnesota, folks asked Singleton one question: Why are you here and not over there on the football field? But Singleton remained loyal to the hardwood. Today, the 6-foot-6, 237-pound senior is a solid forward on a ranked Northern Iowa team ... instead of a tight end with the Chicago Bears.
6. Cliff Alexander, Kansas
Alexander grew up in Chicago. Someone in that city allowed Alexander, now 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, to play football with the other kids. He didn’t play organized basketball until eighth grade. What did he do before that? Hurt anyone and everyone who tried to stop him on the football field, I’m sure. You know what you do if a kid like Alexander shows up to your Pee Wee League? You pull your kid off the team. That’s what you do. Ain’t worth it.
7. Mo Alie-Cox, VCU
Alie-Cox chose basketball. It was a good choice. He’s a critical piece in Shaka Smart’s rotation. But imagine if the 6-foot-6, 250-pound forward had picked football. Where would he be today? He’s a force in the paint. He’s tough to defend because he’s so strong. And he looks like a guy who could do damage for the Rams. In St. Louis.
8. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin
Last season, Hayes’ father was asked about his son’s football future. He joked about the idea. But not with a “no way, never” tone. It was more like “you have no idea.” Hayes’ brother, Kenny, was the No. 9 prospect in the state of Ohio (2011) per RecruitingNation, and he signed with Ohio State. So it wouldn’t be crazy for new Badgers football coach Paul Chryst to approach his buddy, Bo Ryan, and ask to borrow Wisconsin’s 6-foot-7, 250-pound forward next fall. “Just for a few months, Bo. ... I mean, where’s your school pride?”
9. Stanley Johnson, Arizona
Johnson played football, but he grew tired of the sport as a freshman in high school. But football never left him.
“When I was younger, it was weird because I’d play football games,” Johnson told ESPN.com, “and then go play basketball and run everybody over.” Oh.
10. Joshua Smith, Georgetown
His brother played for Washington. And he’s 6-foot-10, 350 pounds. What else do you need to know?