What makes college football so special is the fact that the turnover rate amongst the players is so frequent, that new stars emerge on a yearly basis. The faces and the numbers may change, but amazingly the top schools always seem to find that next star.
This time last year who could have known the impact Sammy Watkins would have on Clemson, or two years ago that Cam Newton would lead a barely ranked Auburn team to the national championship.
This list was both fun and aggravating at the same time. I was focused on players that had done just enough to be noticed but not enough that casual college football fans knew them by name.
To the list:
1. Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
One thing we do know is whomever Mike Leach’s quarterback is, he will throw the ball often and he will also put up mind boggling numbers. Tuel has in teammate Marquess Wilson, an elite playmaker that will help him possibly (gulp) lead the cougars back to a bowl game.
2. Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
Unlike when he took over for my Wolverines, Rich Rodriguez has an experienced mobile quarterback that can execute his fast paced offense. Maybe more so than any other coach in America, Rich Rod is dependent upon his quarterback. When he has one he is an offensive genius, when he doesn’t well, he’s fired after only 3 seasons.
Fifth-year senior Matt Scott has done well learning it, has shown promise in the spring, and is poised to have a breakout season in has last season in Tuscon.
3. Purdue defensive tackle: Kawaan Short
Short was dominant at times last year for the Boilermakers. The talent level has risen around him and I think he becomes an all league player with the potential of being drafted in the first round of next year’s NFL draft.
Last season he was First team (media) and second team (coaches) All-Big Ten and finished with a career-high 54 tackles, a team-high 17.0 for losses with 6.5 sacks, including a ferocious effort vs. the Buckeyes in compiling 3.0 sacks and six total tackles in a overtime win against Ohio State on Nov. 12
4. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
After finishing 10th in the SEC in passing yards per game last season, and watching Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee struggle at times, LSU fans are excited for Mettenberger’s potential under center. Mettenberger, who began his career at Georgia, should be an upgrade at QB over Lee and Jefferson, which isn’t saying mush considering Jefferson stomped a guys head in at a bar and Lee threw more touchdowns to the other team. With all of the talent around him on both sides of the ball, Mettenberger looks to be the playmaker that the Tigers need to win another BCS title.
5. Ace Sanders, WR, South Carolina
The old ball coach has accomplished many unprecedented feats in his short tenure at the University of South Carolina, but recruiting that elite signal caller to run his vaunted fun and gun offense has evaded him. Finding elite receiver talent has not however been an issue.
With Alshon Jeffery now playing for the Chicago Bears, Sanders will be the Gamecocks’ new go to guy. Last season he finished strong with 29 receptions for 383 yards and three touchdowns.
6. Jake Ryan Linebacker Michigan
Last season, Michigan’s defense played itself back to a respectable level that had not been seen since before Rich Rodriguez had arrived in Ann Arbor. One of the reasons was the stellar play of red shirt freshman Jake Ryan.
The stats were solid but what impressed me the most was his ability to make the big play at the most important moments of the game. Now that he has had another season to physically and mentally mature, not to mention not get a haircut, he should cause mayhem for opposing offenses on a more consistent basis. Under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, he has all the makings a star.
7. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
Think Sammy Watkins from last year. Green-Beckham may not be as polished but he is a few inches taller and presents an even larger catch radius. If Missouri ever plans on competing in the SEC it will do so with athletes like this. As long as quarterback James Franklin’s shoulder isn’t an issue, Green-Beckham should have a monster freshman campaign.
8. Mekale McKay, WR, Arkansas
Despite the fact that his head coach John L Smith looks and acts like a meth addict off of Mad Men, with arguably the best quarterback in the conference Tyler Wilson passing to him, McKay is poised to have a monster season. Last season’s leading aerial threats Jarius Wright and Joe Adams are now catching passes in the NFL, Mckay should have his opportunities to shine. Standing 6’6, he should be a lethal red zone threat and a player that even while covered can make plays for his team.
9. Kasen Williams, WR, Washington
With accurate junior quarterback Keith Price returning, Williams is poised for an all American type season. He won’t get the hype that other players in the conference get, most notably the dynamic wide receiver duo at USC, but Williams doesn’t take a back seat to any pass catcher in the conference. The Huskies are looking to make a statement in the Pac 10 (I refuse to call it Pac 12) and possibly upset the presumed conference title clash of Oregon vs. USC. If that is to happen, Williams will be a big reason why.
10. Christian Jones, LB, Florida State
Christian Jones is a supreme athlete that is playing behind arguably the most talented defensive line in the country. I am not saying he is a future college and NFL hall of Famer, but he does show flashes of Derrick Brooks in his game. This year he will simply be asked to attack, and this is a role Jones should flourish in.
11. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
If his offensive line holds up, and it should, Bridgewater is poised for a terrific sophomore campaign for Louisville. Considering that there is really no one left in the Big East at this point, and his coach Charlie Strong has surrounded him with south Florida skill talent, I think he could lead the Cardinal to the big east title and a BCS bowl game berth. Whether they deserve to be there is another story all together, but as last season went on you could see the game slowing down for Teddy.
Who did I miss?