As we get closer to the start of college football season, it's time to impress your friends with your vast knowledge of some of the nation's best players.
|Middle Tennessee's Clint Marks completed 70.4 percent of his pass attempts last year. (Provided to SportsLine)|
I'm talking about the lesser knowns. The guys who are stars, but most people couldn't even name what team they play for.
There are plenty of good players out there and not all of them play for Top 25 teams. In fact, the list has strict guidelines:
- All players must be from non-BCS conferences.
- Nobody on the list played in a bowl game last season (Sorry, no players from Northern Illinois, although I'm sure half of you don't know who Garrett Wolfe is).
- Not one player made the AP All-America first, second or third teams
Here they are, one for each position.
QB -- Clint Marks, Middle Tennessee: The quarterback guided the Blue Raiders to the 15th-rated passing attack in the nation last season and first in the Sun Belt. He enters this season as a junior, but has already set a few school records. He threw for 2,749 yards and a whopping 70.4 completion percentage in 2004. Only two players had a higher percentage -- Louisville's Stefan Lefors and Toledo's Bruce Gradkowski.
RB -- Carlton Jones, Army: Believe it or not, but Jones ranked 13th in the nation in yards per game last season and he didn't do it against a bunch of cupcakes either. He had 93 yards against Louisville and 108 against TCU. His best game was against South Florida where he ran for 225 yards and scored five touchdowns. This season his stats might drop a bit with only one offensive lineman returning, but he is still the heart and soul of the Army offense.
WR -- Eric Deslauriers, Eastern Michigan: If you don't know who he is, it's time to start learning quick before he is in the NFL. At 6-foot-4, 207 pounds, he is a huge target for quarterback Matt Bohnet and will have another impressive season this year. He had 84 receptions for 1,257 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, in which he dominated MAC conference opponents.
TE -- Garrett Mills, Tulsa: With one quick glance, Mills doesn't look like your average tight end, especially since he wears No. 20. But at 6-2, 232, Mills is one of the best in the nation. He recorded a team-leading 51 receptions last season, while pulling in 53 receptions in 2003. Expect to hear his name as one of the three finalists for the John Mackey Award, given to the best tight end.
OL -- Adam Keifer, Nevada: At 6-4, 300, he anchors the Nevada offensive line and this season should have a breakout year. The coaching staff is expecting big things from him.
DL -- Brandon Guillory, Louisiana-Monroe: You might not know him, but I'll bet all the Sun Belt teams do. He is the leader of the Indians defense and had 47 tackles last season -- 18 of them for a loss (5.5 sacks).
LB -- Jimmy Cottrell, New Mexico State: The senior will attempt to lead the team in tackles for the fourth consecutive season and you better believe he'll do it. He had 99 tackles last season, even missing a game. Against Utah State, the linebacker had 19 tackles, 13 of them solo.
CB -- Willie Hughley, Florida Atlantic: With FAU joining Division I-A this season, Hughley is ready to reign terror on the Sun Belt Conference. The cornerback led the Owls with six picks and 11 broken passes. He has 14 career interceptions and this year will get a chance to play against some high-profile teams (Oklahoma State, Minnesota and Louisville).
S -- Josh Powell, San Jose State: Even though the Spartans only won two games last season and most likely won't win much more this year, they still possess one of the most dangerous safeties in the nation. He is a force on the defensive side of the ball, especially against the run, leading the team with 101 tackles in 2004.
P/K -- Sergio Aguayo, UNLV: He is only a sophomore, but has already shown he can be one of the best kickers around. He hit 11 field goals, missing only four and was 9-of-11 from inside 40 yards. He should get lots of attempts this season as the UNLV offense is expected to struggle to score touchdowns.
Returner -- Ashlan Davis, Tulsa: Davis returned five kickoffs for touchdowns last season, including one in four consecutive games, scoring on returns of 100, 94, 83, 96 and 74 yards. He had a higher return average than Miami's Devin Hester, USC's Reggie Bush and Michigan's Steve Breaston, all considered the best kickoff returners in the nation.