USC QB Matt Barkley is set to be the 2012 cover boy of college football
With seven more months remaining between now and the start of the 2012 college football season, it feels like we’re going to have to wait a while before we get another opportunity to see all of our favorite schools battle it out on the gridiron again.
Who will win the Heisman?
Who will win the national title?
Which teams are overrated?
Which teams will shock everyone?
There are plenty of important questions that are going to be asked in the months leading up to the 2012 season, and everyone’s going to have their own different opinions about what we’re in store for.
With National Signing Day coming up in just a few days, the main focus around college football is centered around which schools will be able to land the top high school football prospects of the 2012 recruiting class.
But let’s not forget about all of the great players who have already proven their worth at the collegiate level.
As is always the case in the constantly changing environment of college football, we’ve had to wave goodbye to many of the star players that made this past season so much fun.
Big-name players from 2011 like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Trent Richardson and many others have moved on and are now preparing themselves for life in the NFL. While it’s sad to see them go, their departures open up room for the next wave of star players to emerge in 2012.
That’s what makes the sport of college football so fantastic—every year, new stars are born.
With that in mind, I’ve decided to put together a very early, preliminary list, ranking the players who I think will make the biggest impact next season.
Here’s a look at the Top 200 impact players for the 2012 season.
With Andrew Luck finally heading off to the NFL, it's time for a new star to shine and become the cover boy of college football for 2012, and USC QB Matt Barkley looks like he's ready to fill the position.
Barkley sat and watched the type of fanfare that Luck received this past year after announcing that he would bypass the 2011 NFL draft and return for another season, and he obviously must have thought, wow, it must be nice to be college football's biggest star, maybe I should try that.
He also looked at the type of team that the Trojans were returning for the 2012 season, and knew that USC finally had the chance to contend for a national title after a two-year stay in NCAA purgatory.
This past season, Barkley looked like a man who wanted to prove a point, and a man who was playing with a chip on his shoulder after the NCAA dealt him and his team an unfair hand.
The 6'2'', 220-pound junior had the by far best season of his career in 2011, as he completed 69 percent of his passes for 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns, leading the Trojans to a 10-2 record.
After his performance last year, Barkley could have entered the 2012 NFL draft and been a guaranteed top-10 pick, but now that he's returning to Los Angeles, he'll get to experience what it's like to be the odds-on favorite to be the No. 1 pick of the 2013 draft.
With it comes a lot of expectations and pressure, but Barkley has all the pieces around him to lead the Trojans to Miami next season. If he plays like everyone's expecting him to in 2012, it's going to be tough for any other player in college football to catch him in either the Heisman race or the race to be the No. 1 pick in 2013.
Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o is simply "intimidation" personified.
One look across the line of scrimmage into the awaiting eyes of Te'o is enough to make even the toughest and most fearless running backs in college football shake in their cleats.
The word "beast" gets thrown around a little too much in sports these days, but it's definitely a term that applies to the scary-looking Samoan linebacker.
The 6'2'', 255-pound junior has kept the middle of the Notre Dame defense locked down since arriving in South Bend as a heralded 5-star recruit back in 2009, and he's racked up a whopping 320 total tackles during his three years in an Irish uniform.
Te'o is one of the most physical defenders in college football, and Notre Dame fans should consider themselves lucky that they'll get another opportunity to see him knock around ball-carriers for one more season.
After watching Ryan Mallett throw for over 3,800 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2010, it was fair for people to wonder if Tyler Wilson would be able to successfully replace him in 2011.
Well, Wilson certainly showed the college football world that he was a more than capable replacement for his big-armed predecessor, as he led the Razorbacks to an 11-win season and a top-5 national ranking in just his first year as a starter.
Wilson threw for over 3,600 yards and hit 24 touchdown strikes, while only tossing six interceptions.
The 6'3'', 220-pound junior proved that he was a perfect fit for Bobby Petrino's offense, and now that he has a year of experience under his belt, he should be even better in 2011.
Wilson may lose three of his top receivers—Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs—but with star running back Knile Davis back and healthy, he'll have the benefit of having one of the top tailbacks in the country lining up behind him next season.
With Wilson and Knile Davis in the same backfield and with two dangerous receiving threats in Cobi Hamilton and Chris Gragg, Arkansas will definitely have enough offensive firepower to compete with LSU and Alabama in the SEC West next season.
If Wilson can lead the Razorbacks to an SEC championship, there's no reason he shouldn't receive an invitation to New York for the Heisman ceremony.
Robert Woods appeared to be a man with a plan in 2011, and that plan seemed to involve finding the end zone at all costs, while making any defensive back that tried to stop him look foolish.
It's a plan that certainly came to fruition.
This past season, Woods tore through the Pac-12 like a violent twister, with hopeless cornerbacks joining his casualty list on a weekly basis.
The 6'1'', 180-pound sophomore finished the year with 111 catches for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns, which earned him numerous different All-American honors and accolades.
If Matt Barkley does end up being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, don't be surprised if his top target ends up coming off the board right behind him at No. 2.
Woods has everything you look for in a star receiver, and if he puts together the type of junior season that many are expecting, he'll almost be guaranteed a spot in the top five of the 2013 draft.
In 2010, Wisconsin had the country's most dangerous three-headed rushing trio, comprised of John Clay, Montee Ball and James White.
But in 2011, it was all about one back, and that was Montee Ball.
After watching what Ball was capable of in 2010—rushing for 18 touchdowns—Clay made a run for the hills, jumping early to the NFL (he went undrafted), while White simply faded into the background and watched as Ball became the focal point of the Badgers' rushing attack.
When it was all said and done, after 14 games, the 5'11'', 210-pound junior had accumulated 2,229 yards of offense and scored 39 total touchdowns—numbers which helped him earn a fourth-place finish in the Heisman voting.
It was all but a certainty that he would enter the 2012 NFL draft, as he had nothing left to prove in Madison, but Ball shocked everyone by announcing his intentions to return for his senior season.
After such a huge campaign in 2011, Ball will have a lot to live up to next season, but he's definitely capable of putting together another great run.
Tyrann Mathieu may have been the biggest celebrity on LSU's defense this past season, but if you actually watched the Tigers play in 2011, you know that the best player on their defense was DE Sam Montgomery.
Last year, Montgomery was the leader of the best defensive line in college football, as he racked up nine sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.
After beating up on his fair share of quarterbacks and running backs, the 6'4'', 245-pound redshirt sophomore could have opted to join other LSU underclassmen like Mo Claiborne, Michael Brockers and Rueben Randle in the 2012 NFL draft, as he likely could have been a late first-round pick.
But Montgomery made the decision to stay, which isn't good news for offensive tackles in the SEC.
While he may not possess overwhelming size, the talented edge-rusher does possess a motor that never stops, and he's one of the most explosive and disruptive defensive players in the country.
With Montgomery back to lead the way, the LSU defense could be the best overall unit in the country in 2012.
Playmaker, game-breaker and difference-maker are all terms that you could use to sufficiently describe Oregon’s ultra offensive weapon De’Anthony Thomas.
The fact is, though, no matter what word or term you want to use to try to sum up Thomas as a football player, it probably wouldn’t come close to really doing him and his rare talents justice.
The Black Mamba is simply the type of player that you have to see to truly believe.
You won’t find a word in the dictionary that can properly represent the type of explosiveness and game-changing ability that Thomas possesses, and sadly for Wisconsin, the Badgers defense had to find that out the hard way in the Rose Bowl.
De’Anthony Thomas only touched the ball six times on offense for Oregon during the Ducks’ 45-38 victory in Pasadena, but the young freshman sensation still managed to outproduce and outshine his much more heralded teammate, LaMichael James, who touched the ball 25 times in what turned out to be his final game in an Oregon uniform.
James averaged a more-than-respectable 6.5 yards per carry in the game. Thomas, on the other hand, averaged 77.5 yards per carry. OK, sure, he may have only carried the ball twice, but both touches resulted in highlight-reel, defense-embarrassing, dominance-imposing long touchdown runs of 91 and 64 yards.
Before this season, I didn’t think it was possible to build a more perfect weapon for the Oregon spread offense than LaMichael James, but a certain dazzling 5'9'', 160-pound freshman has forced me to rethink that opinion.
Thomas, who finished his first season with 2,235 total yards and 18 touchdowns, is a budding superstar who shined brighter than everyone else on one of the biggest stages that college football has to offer. The fact that he did so as just a true freshman should only serve to build up his Heisman hype for 2012 even more.
Oregon may be losing its two top backfield weapons—QB Darron Thomas and RB LaMichael James—a year early to the NFL, but have no fear, Chip Kelly has another star growing in his backfield and this new one may just be capable of bringing home the Heisman hardware that his predecessor never could.
So get ready, because the Black Mamba is officially on the loose.
Georgia QB Aaron Murray certainly didn’t end the season the way that he was hoping for, as the Bulldogs got routed by LSU in the SEC championship game and then fell to Michigan State in disappointing fashion in triple-overtime in the Outback Bowl.
Still, you have to give the talented redshirt sophomore a lot of credit for helping his team reel off 10 straight wins after starting off the season 0-2.
Murray, who threw for 3,149 yards and hit 35 touchdown passes in 2011, is one of the main reasons that head coach Mark Richt still has a job, and his performance gave Georgia fans plenty to look forward to next season.
The Bulldogs will go into 2012 as the favorite to win the SEC East division once again, and if Murray can take the next step and evolve into an elite quarterback, Georgia will have to make travel plans back to Atlanta, while Murray may just have to find a way to New York City.
"Exposed" may be too strong of a word to describe what happened to Tyrann Mathieu in the BCS championship game against Alabama, but the truth is, all of the Honey Badger hype that Mathieu had accumulated over the course of the 2011 season proved to be worthless against the Tide. He was a complete non-factor and actually got victimized by A.J. McCarron on a few throws.
Still, you have to appreciate all that Mathieu was able to accomplish in 2011, as his rise to prominence turned out to be one of the biggest stories of the season.
Is he a future top-10 draft pick like some were forecasting him to be back in December, when he made the trip to New York City for the Heisman ceremony?
Absolutely not. At 5'9'', 175 pounds, he's too small; that's just the reality of it.
But Mathieu is a tenacious defender and one of the top overall playmakers in college football. You can't dispute it.
With Morris Claiborne heading off to the NFL, Mathieu is going to be asked to take on an even bigger responsibility in 2012, as he's now going to be thrust into the role of being LSU's shutdown corner.
It will definitely be interesting to see how he handles the pressure of his new role, especially now that Claiborne won't be around to keep things in check on the opposite side anymore.
That's the number of ranked teams that Denard Robinson had beaten in his career before Michigan toppled Nebraska 45-17 on Nov. 19.
For all of the hype that Robinson had received throughout the summer after his breakout 2010 campaign, he still had to prove that he could beat top-notch competition.
Toppling prominent programs such as Notre Dame, Nebraska, Ohio State and Virginia Tech in the same season was certainly a nice start, but the biggest test of Robinson's career is awaiting the dual-threat quarterback in the 2012 season-opener, when the Wolverines are set to clash with defending national champion Alabama at Cowboys Stadium.
The 6'1'', 195-pound junior may have experienced some growing pains as a passer in his first season transitioning from Rich Rodriguez's spread system to Al Borges' more conventional passing attack, as he led the Big Ten with 15 interceptions.
Still, you do have to respect what Robinson was able to accomplish in 2011, as he accumulated 3,349 yards of total offense, accounted for 36 touchdowns and led the Wolverines to an 11-2 record and their first BCS bowl victory since 2000.
Robinson will now enter the 2012 season on the short list of Heisman favorites, and if he can keep improving as a passer, he should have the Wolverines right in the race to win the Big Ten Leaders division and make it back to a BCS bowl for the second year in a row.
It's never easy to replace a running back that ran for over 1,500 yards and scored 16 touchdowns on two separate occasions during his college career, but Oklahoma State didn't seem to have much trouble finding a replacement for Kendall Hunter last season.
His successor, Joseph Randle, stepped in and had no trouble picking up the slack.
Even though Oklahoma State was predominantly a passing team last year, finishing fourth in the country with 595 pass attempts, Randle still managed to run for over 1,200 yards and score 26 total touchdowns.
Now that the ultra-productive passing duo of QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon are both headed to the NFL, the 6'1'', 190-pound junior will now play an even bigger part as the featured playmaker of Oklahoma State's offense next season.
It's a role in which Randle should thrive.
Remember back to last August when people were touting Oklahoma as the No. 1 team in the country, and predicting that QB Landry Jones would be a Heisman finalist?
I know, after watching the Sooners collapse down the stretch, that seems like ages ago, but I can assure you that did happen.
Once again, Big Game Bob's squad failed to live up to its hype, as that loss to Texas Tech at home was probably the most inexcusable defeat that any team experienced during the 2011 season. And the season-ending massacre at the hands of in-state rival Oklahoma State certainly didn't help matters.
Still, now that Landry Jones is returning for his senior season, you have to expect that him and the rest of the Sooners will be playing with a chip on their shoulder in 2012, and with the type of talent this team is bringing back on both sides of the ball, that's definitely a scary thought.
Jones may not have lived up to his preseason Heisman hype this past season, but he was still pretty darn good, as he threw for over 4,400 yards and hit 29 touchdown passes.
If the 6'4'', 230-pound junior can cut down on the interceptions and play better in big spots, then Oklahoma should be right back in contention to win the Big 12 next season.
During the 2011 college football season, we saw an abundance of freshmen players step up and make a big impact for their teams when counted on.
In his first season as a Tiger, Watkins hauled in 82 passes for 1,219 yards, ran the ball 32 times for 231 yards and added a spark in the return game, averaging 25 yards per kickoff return.
By the time the season ended, the 6’1’’, 180-pound freshman had accumulated 2,297 total yards and 13 touchdowns.
No one was expecting those kind of numbers from Watkins before the season started, but his breakout freshman campaign shouldn’t be all that surprising, considering he was one of the top-rated receivers of the 2011 recruiting class.
It was obvious the former 5-star prospect was loaded with talent, but the fact that he was so good so quickly was a bit shocking.
The expectations for Watkins are now going to be sky high going into the 2012 season, and it will be interesting to see if he can match them and live up to the hype as a sophomore.
Trent Richardson soaked up most of the glory last season as the consensus top running back in college football, but Richardson owed a lot of his success to his powerful offensive line, as Alabama's front five absolutely dominated the trenches on a regular basis this past season.
The key cog up front was left tackle Barrett Jones, a natural guard who managed to make a seamless transition to the toughest offensive line position without a hitch.
Jones routinely shut down and overwhelmed any poor defensive linemen who had the misfortune of lining up in front of him in 2011. For his efforts, he ended up winning the Outland Trophy.
The 6'5'', 310-pound junior was certainly deserving of the honor, and now that Jones has decided to return for his senior season, he'll have the chance to prove once again next season that there isn't an offensive lineman in college football that can compare to him.
Let me take a quick second to thank Geno Smith for making my trip down to Florida for the Orange Bowl all the more memorable.
Sitting in the casino bar at the Seminole Hard Rock after the game, enjoying a few Blue Moons, surrounded by distraught Clemson fans and mildly attractive call girls, all while watching the highlights of the beatdown that West Virginia put on Clemson definitely cracks the list of the most enjoyable moments of my life.
70 points! That was big.
Muchas gracias, Mr. Smith, and the rest of the Mountaineers. That was a job well done.
My final year at West Virginia in 2009 was Geno's first in the program, so I've seen him from the beginning, and it's been enjoyable to watch him grow over these past few years. Now that he's got Dana Holgorsen to guide him and that cannon for an arm in the right direction, there's no telling what he's going to be capable of as a senior.
4,385 passing yards and 31 touchdown strikes is a nice audition, but the real show starts in 2012.
Regardless of whether they're playing in the Big 12 or the Big East, the Mountaineers are going to be a force to be reckoned with next season, and with Smith at the helm, there won't be many offenses that will be able to compare to West Virginia's next season.
No one should be as excited about Mike Leach's arrival in Pullman as Washington State wide receiver Marquess Wilson.
Wilson has already proven that he's one of college football's top wide receivers, especially after his monstrous campaign in 2011, one in which he racked up 82 receptions for 1,388 yards and scored 12 touchdowns.
Now, with Leach running the show, Wilson's numbers should only continue to increase in 2012.
The 6'4'', 185 pounder hasn't received a ton of national attention, as the Cougars haven't exactly been worthy of much publicity recently. However, now that he'll have a head coach who knows what he's doing and more consistent play at the quarterback position with Jeff Tuel returning from an injury, Wilson should have a great opportunity to really stamp his name on the college football map next season.
Georgia is currently on a nice little run of producing standout outside linebackers.
First it was Rennie Curran, then Justin Houston; now it's Jarvis Jones.
The scary part is, Jones could actually be the best of the bunch.
It didn't take long for the transfer from USC to make a name for himself in the SEC, as Jones flourished in his first season on the field in Athens, leading the conference with 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks in 2011.
The 6'3'', 240-pound redshirt sophomore is one of the most explosive defenders in the country, and he showed last season that he can be an absolute terror coming off the edge in Georgia's 3-4 front.
If Jones can replicate his performance from 2011 next season, the Bulldogs will likely have one of the fiercest and fastest defensive front sevens in the country.
North Carolina State's David Amerson was basically a relative unknown outside of Raleigh before the start of the 2011 season, but any time you can lead the nation in interceptions, you're probably going to garner some attention.
That's just what Amerson did this past season.
Amerson picked off a whopping 13 passes in 2011 (five more than the runner-up, Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo), and he definitely showed fans and pro scouts alike that he's got a radar for the football unlike any other defensive back in the country.
The 6'3'', 195-pound sophomore has the type of size and speed to go toe-to-toe with any receiver in the country, and after his performance last season, Amerson's now managed to establish himself as one of the top defenders in all of college football, heading into 2012.
In my opinion, the most interesting offensive play that we saw on display in the 2011 season was West Virginia's "Shovel Pass Sweep" to Tavon Austin, and we saw just how effective it could be when it burned Clemson's defense on a few different occasions in the Orange Bowl.
Austin's performance against the Tigers, which included 173 total yards of offense and four touchdowns, gave the country a glimpse of what the explosive receiver was fully capable of.
The 5'9'', 175-pound junior earned AP All-American honors for his performance in 2011, as he racked up 2,574 total yards and scored 11 touchdowns.
The trio of Austin, QB Geno Smith and fellow WR Stedman Bailey will be one of the most dangerous passing combinations in the country in 2012.
With Sam Acho gone, the Texas defensive line needed a new leader to emerge last season, and luckily for the Longhorns, Alex Okafor showed that he was willing to take on that responsibility.
After showing flashes of his potential during the 2010 season, Okafor really put it all together this past year, as he notched six sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss.
The 6'4'', 260-pound junior was a pivotal part of a defensive front seven that ranked seventh nationally against the run, and with him and fellow standout end Jackson Jeffcoat teaming up on the edges of the Longhorns defensive line, Texas should once again have a dominant defensive front.
Okafor and Jeffcoat could quite possibly be the best defensive end combination in college football, and with those two prepared to come flying into opponents' backfields on a regular basis once again, you kind of have to feel a little sorry for any offensive line that will have to try to handle the dynamic pass-rushing duo.
Tyrann Mathieu may be the most famous player in the LSU secondary, but he's not the best NFL prospect. That honor belongs to safety Eric Reid, who has all the makings of a future top-15 draft pick.
Reid is one of the most athletic safeties we've seen in the college ranks in years (that'll happen when you share the same DNA with a father who was a former All-American hurdler). And not only does he have the type of range and speed to make plays all over the field, he also has the instincts and intelligence that only truly elite safeties possess.
Reid finished tied with Mathieu for the team lead with 76 tackles in 2011, and he also picked off two passes, one of which was a crucial goal-line takeaway from Alabama TE Michael Williams in the "Game of the Century," a critical interception that might have been the single most important play of LSU's season.
The 6'2'', 205-pound junior definitely proved what type of playmaker he was in 2011, and next season he'll get the opportunity to step out of the Honey Badger's shadow and show the country that he's one of the top defensive players in all of college football.
Marcus Lattimore's knee is probably going to be the most examined body part in all of college football next season, as it's going to be very interesting to see how Lattimore will be able to bounce back after a torn ACL cut his 2011 season short.
It's a shame to see such a talented player go down with such a serious injury, but if the 6'1'', 232-pound sophomore can get fully rehabilitated and make a big comeback next season, it will undoubtedly be one of the biggest stories of 2012.
Lattimore has only played in 20 games in his college career (19 really, if you don't count the Chick-fil-A Bowl, in which he got knocked out of after one carry), but he's still been able to amass 2,609 yards of total offense and 30 touchdowns.
The former 5-star recruit is one of the most talented and physically imposing players in college football, and if he can get his knee right, he should be able to inflict plenty of punishment on SEC defenses in 2012.
Brodrick Brown may have earned the All-American honors, and Markelle Martin is sure to garner plenty of attention as one of the top safety prospects in the 2012 draft class, but if you actually watched Oklahoma State's defense play this past season, it was fairly easy to tell who the most naturally gifted player in the Cowboys secondary was.
Cornerback Justin Gilbert may have been overshadowed a bit by his fellow defensive backs, but when it comes to pure talent, he has both of them beat.
There's no shame in that, though, as Gilbert just so happens to be one of the most skilled cornerbacks in the country.
This past season, the 6'0'', 205-pound sophomore finished with five interceptions, 10 pass breakups and 59 total tackles. However, it was his MVP performance against Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl that really got people talking.
Gilbert is definitely a special talent, and if he can build on his sophomore campaign, learn from the few mistakes he made and elevate his game even higher in 2012, he could very well challenge to be the first cornerback selected in the 2013 NFL draft.
After gaining a reputation as a pass-rushing phenom following his breakout performance during the 2010 season, Florida State DE Brandon Jenkins failed to live up to his promise this past year.
Admittedly, though, just because a player isn't able to replicate a season in which he racked up 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss, that doesn't make him a bust.
In fact, Jenkins, by ordinary standards, had a very successful campaign in 2011, as he led the Seminoles with 12 tackles for loss and eight sacks.
It's understandable that Jenkins would want to return to Tallahassee for his senior season, though, as his pro stock did take a bit of hit this past year.
Still, pro scouts and college fans alike all realize what the 6'3'', 265-pound junior is capable of, and if he can once again play at the level he performed at in 2010, he should be able to regain the respect he had last summer.
The next Josh Freeman?
That's the thought that kept popping into my head every time I watched a Virginia Tech game this past season and caught a glimpse of first-year starting quarterback Logan Thomas.
Thomas is a big, mobile quarterback that can really sling it. To me, he definitely resembles Tampa Bay's young quarterback.
I had heard plenty about Thomas before the start of the 2011 season, but I was eager to see how he would handle trying to replace Virginia Tech's all-time passing leader Tyrod Taylor.
As expected, there were a few bumps in the road, but overall, the good certainly outweighed the bad in Thomas' inaugural season. He led the Hokies to 11 wins, an ACC Coastal division title and a berth in the Sugar Bowl.
The 6'6'', 255-pound redshirt sophomore threw for over 3,000 yards and accounted for 30 touchdowns in his first season as a starter, and that may have only simply been an introduction to what he's actually capable of.
The Hokies will certainly miss last year's ACC-leading rusher David Wilson in the backfield, but with Thomas in control of the offense, Virginia Tech should still be able to carve up plenty of defenses in 2012.
As the leading returning rusher in the SEC, a lot was expected of Arkansas RB Knile Davis going into 2011, but a season-ending leg injury in August cost the budding star back an opportunity to build off his tremendous breakout 2010 campaign.
After rushing for 1,322 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns as a sophomore, many thought that Davis could make a serious run at a Heisman Trophy this past season, but it just wasn't meant to be.
Now, after a year on the shelf, Davis will be looking to come back stronger than ever in 2012, and with QB Tyler Wilson forcing defenses to soften up, he should have plenty of room to do some serious damage.
The 6'0'', 220-pound junior has an ideal blend of size, strength, speed, power, vision and balance, and if he's back at 100 percent, he should be able to remind fans what they were missing in 2011.
LSU DE Barkevious Mingo doesn't just have one of the coolest names in college football, he also happens to be one of the best overall players in the country.
Mingo stepped his game up in a big way in 2011 and he emerged as one of the top pass-rushers and backfield-penetrators in the country. He used his long frame and terrific athleticism to his benefit, racking up seven sacks and 15 tackles for loss.
The 6'5", 240-pound redshirt sophomore is truly marvelous to watch, as he glides around the field with such elegance for his size before proceeding to wallop and crush whoever he sees with the ball in their hands.
Physically, Mingo looks like he could be a starting 3-4 rush linebacker in the NFL right now, and if he can produce and perform as expected next season, he should be a top-20 pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
North Carolina has produced three great linebackers over the last two years—Zach Brown, Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant. However, Kevin Reddick may actually turn out to be better than them all.
Reddick didn’t need to come back for his senior season, as he had already shown pro scouts that he had what it takes to be a difference-maker in the NFL. Now that Reddick is returning for 2012, though, he’s going to be the undisputed leader of what is shaping up to be one of college football’s most underrated defenses going into next season.
After finishing second on the team with 71 tackles in 2011, the athletic 6’3’’, 240-pound junior will now be counted on to be the top dog of what should be an intimidating defensive front seven.
Reddick has the speed to chase ball-carriers from sideline to sideline, and he’s one of the most physical linebackers in college football.
Alabama has produced some tremendous defensive backs during the Nick Saban era, with the two most recent examples being safety Mark Barron and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, two players who are both destined to be first-round picks in the 2012 NFL draft.
With Barron and Kirkpatrick gone, though, it's now time for safety Robert Lester to shine, as he takes over as the leader of Alabama's secondary.
Lester is one of the most physically gifted players to suit up for the Alabama defense in years. Given the players that have come through the system recently, that's certainly saying something.
Although he may not be the most physical safety, the 6'2'', 210-pound junior has the type of speed, range and instincts to make big plays in coverage, as he showed during his breakout 2010 campaign when he finished second in the country with eight interceptions.
With Barron, Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie all gone, Lester will now be the veteran elder statesmen of Alabama's defensive backfield. It will be interesting to see if he can step up and handle his new leadership role.
Tyler Eifert could have declared for the 2012 NFL draft and likely competed with Dwayne Allen and Orson Charles to be the first tight end selected, but instead, Eifert opted to return to South Bend and assert his dominance for another year.
With Allen and Charles both gone, Eifert will go into the 2012 season as the clear-cut top tight end in the country, and he'll once again have the chance to show off his skills as one of the main receiving targets in Notre Dame's spread offense.
This past season, the 6'6'', 250-pound redshirt sophomore hauled in 63 passes for 803 yards and scored five touchdowns. He should be able to best those numbers in 2012.
Eifert is a better all-around tight end than his predecessor, Kyle Rudolph, and if he performs up to his capabilities next season, he should solidify his status as the best tight end available for the 2013 NFL draft.
Even though he doesn't stand much of a chance of actually winning the award, don't be surprised if you hear the words "Keith Price" and "Heisman Trophy" in the same sentence at some point during the 2012 season.
The Washington quarterback gained national attention by outdueling Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III in the Alamo Bowl, throwing for 438 yards and four touchdowns as he led the Huskies to 56 points in a losing effort.
That game may have marked the pinnacle of his first season as a starter, but really, Price had been performing at a high level all year long. It didn't take long for the 6'1'', 195-pound sophomore to make Washington fans forget about Jake Locker, as he stepped right in and won five of his first six games.
Although Washington struggled down the stretch, losing five of its last seven games, Price still finished with over 3,000 yards passing and 33 touchdown passes.
Matt Barkley may be the Pac-12 quarterback who receives the most attention this offseason, but it may end up being Price who really opens the most eyes in 2012.
Jadeveon Clowney arrived at South Carolina in the summer of 2011 as possibly the most hyped football recruit in history. Clowney had already been featured on dozens of prominent magazine covers and SportsCenter specials before he even took a snap at the college level.
When people are touting you as a future Top-10 NFL draft pick before you even receive your high school diploma, you know you must be doing something right, but with all of those expectations came a lot of pressure.
While Clowney may not have been the immediate superstar that many pegged him to be, he certainly showed off his tremendous potential on more than a few occasions in 2011, as he racked up eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
With Melvin Ingram now moving on to the NFL, Clowney will now become the leader of South Carolina's talented defensive line. The 6'6'', 255-pound freshman will pair with teammate Devin Taylor to give the Gamecocks one of the best defensive end duos in the country for 2012.
College football lost most of its top underclassmen defensive tackles like LSU's Michael Brockers, Memphis' Dontari Poe, Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox and Michigan State's Jerel Worthy early to the 2012 NFL draft, but there are a few potentially dominant defensive tackles that are returning to school.
The best is Purdue's Kawann Short.
With Ryan Kerrigan having moved on to the NFL, Short was able to step out of the shadow of his former star defensive linemate and really show the Big Ten what he was made of in 2011.
The mighty 6'3'', 310-pound junior racked up 6.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss this past season, as he was a constant menace for offensive lines to have to deal with.
Short possesses the type of size, strength, power and quickness to embarrass any offensive lineman who tries to block him one-on-one, as he's the kind of interior presence who demands double-teams when he's playing at his best.
If you don't already know the name Kawann Short, don't worry, because you'll surely be hearing it quite often during the 2012 season.
I almost shed a tear after I saw one of my favorite young players in college football, Alabama LB C.J. Mosley, being carted off the field after what appeared to be a gruesome-looking leg injury in the BCS championship game.
As if we needed anymore reason to dislike Jordan Jefferson, right?
The injury was apparently just a dislocated hip, and not a broken leg as originally feared. However, it's still unclear just how long he'll be sidelined for and how long his rehabilitation will take.
If Mosley can fully recover from the injury by the time fall camp comes around, though, he should be ready to be one of the most valuable leaders for Alabama's defense next season.
The 6'2'', 235-pound sophomore only notched 36 total tackles in 2011, but with Courtney Upshaw, Dont'a Hightower and Jerrell Harris all gone, it will be his time to take center stage next season.
Mosley's got all the physical tools to develop into an All-American-caliber defender in 2012, and if he enters the season with a clean bill of health, he should be one of the most productive linebackers in college football.
No one knows what life after Andrew Luck will be like for the Stanford Cardinal, and it doesn't help that the offense is losing two of the top offensive linemen in the country—OT Jonathan Martin and OG David DeCastro—on top of losing one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all time.
Still, the Cardinal are welcoming back one critical player to the offensive huddle for the 2012 season, and that's running back Stepfan Taylor.
Because he happened to play in the same backfield as college football's most talked-about star, Taylor has been one of the most overlooked players in the country these past two years. But all you have to do is ask any Stanford fan, and they'll tell you just how important of a piece he has been to the Cardinal's success.
The 5'11'', 208-pound junior rushed for a combined 2,467 yards and scored 28 touchdowns over the past two seasons, and now he'll be asked to be an even bigger work horse, now that Luck's gone.
Taylor has shown that he has the strength and durability to handle a heavy workload, though, and he should have no problem stepping up and being the bell cow back that Stanford needs him to be in 2012.
OK, maybe it was a little too early to proclaim Xavier Rhodes the next Patrick Peterson, as he didn't exactly have the type of showcase season that I thought he would in 2011. But I still feel strongly that Rhodes is an elite cornerback and I think he's in store for big bounce-back year next season.
The 6'2'', 215-pound redshirt sophomore shares many of the same physical traits that Peterson displayed when he was coming up through the ranks at LSU, and if he puts them to good use in 2012, he's going to have a lot of NFL scouts drooling over his pro potential. Cornerbacks that are that big aren't supposed to be able to move the way Rhodes does.
Physically, he can man up against any receiver in the country.
With Rhodes and his corner counterpart Greg Reid both returning, Florida State will once again have one of the top cornerback combos in the country next season.
Besides having possibly the most perfect name you could have for a safety, Bacarri Rambo also has some serious skills, which were fully on display during his All-American campaign in 2011.
After sitting out Georgia's season-opening loss to Boise State for undisclosed reasons, Rambo came back focused and motivated, and he turned out to be an absolute ball hawk in the back end of the Bulldogs defense.
The 6'0'', 218-pound junior finished second in the country with eight interceptions and also broke up eight passes.
Rambo showed that he has a nose for finding the football, and he'll be the key figure in what should be one of the best secondaries in the country next season.
After missing his entire first season with an ACL injury in 2010, North Carolina RB Giovani Bernard came out and didn't miss a beat in 2011, as he looked exactly like the highly-rated recruit that Tar Heel fans were so excited to see before the injury.
This past year, Bernard totaled 1,615 yards of offense, scored 14 touchdowns and put constant stress on opposing defenses all season long.
The 5'10'', 205-pound freshman is the type of offensive weapon that has to be accounted for on every snap, and he will be the main key to North Carolina's offensive success next season.
If Bernard can keep developing as an all-around offensive threat, who knows, he may actually prove me right and turn out to be the next C.J. Spiller, just like I said he would back when he first signed with the Tar Heels.
Star Lotulelei definitely lived up to his name in 2011, as the Utah defensive tackle emerged as one of the breakout defensive stars in the Pac-12 this past season.
Lotulelei was an immovable object in the middle of the Utes defense, as he feasted on double-teams and ate up blocker after blocker all year long.
The massive 6'3'', 325-pound junior not only clogged up the middle, he also showed that he can penetrate and make plays in the backfield, as he finished tied for the team lead with nine tackles for loss.
Lotulelei is the type of big defensive tackle that can wear down the interior of an opposing offensive line. He'll enter the 2012 season as one of the most feared defenders in the Pac-12 conference.
Clemson fans had been waiting two long years to see if former 5-star recruit Tajh Boyd was really worth all of his high school hype, but the wait definitely turned out to be worth it. Boyd led the Tigers on an amazing run up the rankings before helping them capture an ACC championship in just his first year as a starter in 2011.
There were times last year when he reminded me a lot of a younger Donovan McNabb.
If he can improve on his accuracy over the offseason and learn how to keep his composure and step up in pressure-packed games next season, Boyd should definitely be able to build on the success he had in his first year as a starter. He should have the Tigers right back in the running to win another ACC championship in 2012.
DT Jerel Worthy hogged up most of the spotlight on Michigan State's defense in 2011, but for the most part, Worthy wasn't even the best player on Michigan State's defensive line last season.
That honor belonged to DE William Gholston.
Gholston, like his cousin Vernon, is a true physical specimen, and the type of player who simply looks scary in football pads.
From a physical maturation standpoint, the 6'7''. 280-pound sophomore looks like he belongs in the NFL already. And after the upcoming season, that's most likely where he'll end up.
Gholston, who racked up five sacks and 16 tackles for loss in 2011, has to learn how to play within himself and control his on-the-field temperament just a little bit, but if he can do that without losing his his overall tenacity, than he should develop into one of the top defensive ends in the country in 2012.
Kenny Stills may not have earned All-American or first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2011, but he definitely deserved the award for best hairstyle in college football, as there were times in 2011 when Stills looked like Rihanna's twin brother.
Don't let the wild hair fool you, though, Stills is definitely one of the most dangerous receivers in the country, whether he's sporting a wild blond Mohawk or not.
Last year, the 6'1'', 189-pound sophomore reeled in 61 passes for 849 yards and scored eight touchdowns. Now that Ryan Broyles is gone, he'll be asked to fill the Sooners' No. 1 receiver role next season.
When Stills is on his game, there aren't many receivers in the country that can compare to him, and he should be able to really separate himself from the pack in 2012 as Landry Jones' top target.
T.J. McDonald could have entered the 2012 NFL draft and likely challenged to be the second safety off the board after Alabama's Mark Barron, but McDonald instead made the decision to return for his senior season and be one of the key leaders for the Trojans' daunting defense.
Last year, McDonald led the team with three interceptions and finished with 67 tackles. He was the lynchpin player in the secondary.
The 6'3'', 205-pound junior has all the physical skills and intangibles you look for in a playmaking safety, and with McDonald patrolling the back end for another year, USC should be able to drastically improve on its 102nd-ranked pass defense from a year ago.
When QB Blaine Gabbert decided to leave Missouri a year early for the NFL, some people around Columbia wondered if his replacement, James Franklin, would be able to pick up the slack.
Franklin alleviated all concerns in his first year as a starter.
The dual-threat signal-caller totaled 3,846 yards of offense and accounted for 37 touchdowns in 2011, and he managed to do it going up against one of the toughest schedules in the country.
The 6'2'', 225-pound sophomore definitely gave plenty of glimpses of his immense potential this past season, and with him back at the helm for 2012, the Tigers have the chance to be a major factor in the SEC East next season.
Franklin is one of the top playmaking quarterbacks in the country, and now that he has his feet under him, it should be fun to see how he fares against some of the top defenses in the country next season.
Over the last six years, Wisconsin has turned into an offensive lineman factory, as the school's sent numerous linemen to the NFL recently, including Joe Thomas, Gabe Carimi, Peter Konz, John Moffitt, Kevin Zeitler, Kraig Urbik and Bill Nagy.
The next in line is big offensive tackle Ricky Wagner, who will be one of the top offensive linemen available for the 2013 NFL draft.
Wagner fits the same franchise left tackle mold as his predecessors like Thomas and Carimi, because he's 6'6", 320 pounds and he possesses superior blocking fundamentals and great agility for his size.
The talented junior has started 23 games over the last two years, and with the departure of Peter Konz, he'll now be thrust into the leadership role as the most experienced veteran on Wisconsin's offensive line.
With Quinton Coples moving back out to his more natural position of defensive end for the 2011 season, someone had to step up inside for North Carolina's defense. Sylvester Williams did just that, as he quickly developed into an impact player in the middle of the Tar Heels defense.
Williams regularly ate up blockers like they were nice juicy steaks, and he made it a habit of stopping ball-carriers dead in their tracks any time they were foolish enough to run up the middle.
The powerful 6'3'', 320-pound junior finished the season ranked fifth on the team with 54 total stops, the same number as Michael Brockers, the top defensive tackle prospect in the 2012 NFL draft.
Williams could have turned pro after this past season, but one more year of development should serve him well, as he'll now have the chance to show pro scouts that he's worthy of a first-round pick in the 2013 draft.
Johnthan Banks could have joined his teammate Fletcher Cox and declared early for the 2012 NFL draft, but instead he decided to return to Mississippi State and try to boost his pro stock.
It could be a decision that turns out to be the best of his career. This past season, Banks showed flashes of his prodigious potential on a routine basis, as he picked off five passes and broke up another nine. However, there are still some correctable flaws that he has to work on over the offseason to truly be considered an elite cornerback.
The 6'2'', 185-pound junior has all the traits you're looking for with size, speed, smarts and ball skills, and if he can put it all together next season and work out the little kinks in his game, you're going to see his name come off the board pretty early in the 2013 NFL draft.
Here's a tip for you college football fans: If you don't already know the name Dion Jordan, learn it now, because you're going to be hearing it a lot during the 2012 season.
The Oregon defensive end is an absolute physical specimen, and he enjoyed a dominating breakout season in 2011.
The imposing 6'7'', 240-pound junior racked up 7.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss last season, which helped him earn first-team All-Pac-12 honors.
There were times when the athletic former 4-star recruit simply embarrassed and overwhelmed opposing offensive tackles.
If he can add a little more weight and bulk to his frame this offseason without losing his first-step quickness and speed off the edge, Jordan should be in store for another eye-opening campaign as a senior in 2012.
Anthony Johnson earned the nickname "The Freak" during his time as a coveted high school recruit at O. Perry Walker High School in New Orleans. After getting a glimpse at the former blue-chip 5-star prospect in an LSU uniform this past season, it's easy to see why he would have nickname like that.
Johnson immediately came in and earned himself a spot in LSU's deep defensive line rotation during his first year in Baton Rouge, and when he was out on the field, he showed everyone why he was rated as the top defensive tackle prospect of the 2011 recruiting class.
The 6'3'', 310-pound sophomore possesses a rare combination of size, strength, power and quickness that you only see in truly upper-echelon defensive tackles.
With Michael Brockers moving on to the NFL, there's now room for Johnson to step in next season and really show that he's one of the SEC's most dominant defensive linemen.
You can't build a much better back for Nebraska's run-oriented offense than Rex Burkhead.
Burkhead may not be the most explosive back in the country, but he's got the power and the willingness to consistently pound it inside the tackles, which he showed in his first year as a starter in 2011.
The 5'11'', 210-pound junior bulldozed his way for 1,357 yards on the ground and scored 17 touchdowns this past season, as he proved to be a more-than-capable replacement for Roy Helu.
With Burkhead and dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez both returning to the Nebraska backfield next season, the Cornhuskers should have the type of powerful rushing attack it takes to compete for a Big Ten Legends title in 2012.
Tennessee has produced two first-round draft pick receivers since the turn of the millennium—Robert Meachem in 2007 and Donte Stallworth in 2002—and the Vols could be about to add a third first-round receiver to their credit with Da'Rick Rogers.
Well, that is if we're basing things on just pure ability alone.
Rogers' talent is simply undeniable. The former 5-star recruit is one of the most physically gifted players in college football; there's no doubt about it.
His maturity is something that has certainly been brought into question during his time in Knoxville, though.
There was the arrest for disorderly conduct before Rogers even made his debut in a Tennessee uniform, and then there was the "What's going on with him" moment that every college football fan dreads following this past season.
But now, it seems like Rogers is on the right path, and as long as he stays on it, hopefully he'll be able to make the most of his god-given skills in 2012.
This past season, Rogers led the SEC with 67 receptions, and he's the type of reliable target that Tyler Bray will look to on a regular basis in 2012.
The 6'3'', 215-pound sophomore is a true playmaker in every sense, and as long as his head's on straight, he's got what it takes to dominate every single Saturday he's out on the field.
At 23 years of age, I’m old enough to remember the recent heyday of USC’s great linebacking corps during the latter days of the Pete Carroll era. I remember when the Trojans produced linebackers like Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers.
Where did the elite linebackers go?
Well, my concern seems to be alleviated by two stellar freshman ‘backers Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey.
Yes, these two kids (no, let’s call them men, because anyone that plays the game of football like these two deserves to be called men) have restored my faith.
Pullard and Bailey, who tied for the team lead with 81 tackles apiece in 2011, are both special talents. But I’ll be honest, as much as I like Dion Bailey, I happen to think Hayes Pullard is in store for an especially huge season in 2012.
I’ve loved what Pullard’s had to offer since I first got a glimpse of him coming out of Crenshaw High School back in 2010, and I think the 6’0’’, 225-pound freshman has as bright of a future as any linebacker in America.
With Pullard and Bailey leading the way, the ultra-talented USC defense has a chance to finish as a top-10 defense next season.
Barrett Jones may have received most of the spotlight and he may have been the one that ultimately ended up with the Outland Trophy by season's end, but when it comes to NFL potential, right tackle D.J. Fluker actually has the advantage over his decorated linemate.
Fluker is the type of powerful road-grading right tackle that NFL franchises are looking for to open up big holes in the running game, which is something he's done plenty of during his time in Tuscaloosa.
The 6'6'', 335-pound redshirt sophomore created huge holes for third-place Heisman finisher Trent Richardson to run through in 2011, and he also showed that he has the footwork and agility to hold his own in pass protection, as he shut down some of the SEC's elite edge-rushers last season.
If Alabama fans want to claim that Fluker and Jones are the best pair of bookends in college football, it's certainly going to be hard to argue with them.
Oklahoma State's Brodrick Brown may not be as naturally gifted or possess the type of pro potential as his teammate and cornerback counterpart Justin Gilbert, but that didn't stop Brown from putting together an All-American campaign in 2011.
Teams weren't afraid to test Brown on a regular basis this past season, but he routinely made them pay by breaking up a total of 15 passes, which tied for the third most in the country, and picking off five passes.
The 5'8'', 185-pound junior showed terrific ball skills last year, and you can bet that after seeing what he's capable of in 2011, quarterbacks will surely be a little more hesitant to toss the ball in his direction next season.
With Brown and Gilbert both leading the way in the secondary in 2012, the Cowboys will have one of the top cornerback combos in the country next season.
After breaking his foot in the first quarter of the season-opener against Boise State, Georgia LB Alec Ogletree proceeded to miss the next five games of the season. However, when he finally did return, he showed just how valuable of a player he really is to the Georgia defense.
The converted safety looked like a natural fit at inside linebacker in the Bulldogs' 3-4 system, as he racked up 52 tackles and three sacks in 2011.
The athletic and instinctive 6'3'', 236-pound sophomore already has NFL scouts whispering about his pro potential. If he puts up a big effort as a junior, you're going to see Ogletree's name go flying up draft boards next season.
Like many of the highly-rated members of Florida's vaunted 2010 recruiting class, DT Dominique Easley has yet to live up to his enormous potential after two years in Gainesville, but he did show some big-time flashes this past season, as he stepped in and became a reliable interior playmaker for the Gators defense.
The former 5-star recruit racked up 37 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in his first year of seeing major snaps.
If Easley can rehabilitate the torn ACL he suffered against Florida State late in the year and play up to his potential in 2012, he has the chance to develop into one of the premier defensive players in the SEC next season.
I don't have a brother, and I've never played quarterback in an actual officially-sanctioned football game, but I can guarantee you if I did play quarterback and one of the receivers on my team was my my half-brother, and he happened to be as good as Keenan Allen is, I would look his direction a whole lot.
And that's just what Cal QB Zach Maynard did last year.
The Maynard-Allen passing connection was one of the most underrated in college football in 2011, as Allen hauled in 98 passes for 1,343 yards.
There aren't many receivers in the Pac-12 that belong in the same conversation as USC's Robert Woods, but Keenan Allen definitely does.
Allen is the most vital weapon on Cal's offense, and if the 6'3'', 205-pound sophomore can replicate the success he had in 2011 again, he and Maynard should start receiving the recognition they deserve next season.
Auburn's defensive line had a lot of growing up to do during the 2011 season with a host of inexperienced players all of a sudden thrust into starting roles, but one of those new faces, DE Corey Lemonier, took it upon himself to become the type of disruptive force that the Tigers were in dire need of.
After causing a few rumbles in 2010, Lemonier stepped into the starting lineup and flourished this past season. He ended up being the team leader with 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss in 2011.
The 6'4'', 240-pound sophomore is one of the best pure pass-rushers in the country and he seems bound to make a tremendous impact in the SEC in 2012.
With him and Nosa Eguae teeing off on quarterbacks, Auburn's pass rush definitely has a chance to be deadly next season.
Looking for an early dark horse 2012 Heisman contender?
Well, look no further than TCU QB Casey Pachall.
This past season, Pachall had the unenviable task of trying to replace one of the most successful and consistent quarterbacks in college football history, Andy Dalton. Even though there were a few bumps in the road early on, he quickly made Horned Frogs fans forget about Dalton.
After starting off the season 3-2 with two tough losses to Baylor and SMU, Pachall and the rest of the team really hit a groove down the home stretch of the season, racking up eight straight wins to end the year 11-2.
Pachall's best performance of the season came on the road against Boise State, when he torched the Broncos secondary, throwing for 473 yards and five touchdowns and leading the Horned Frogs to a thrilling 36-35 upset victory.
The 6'5'', 215-pound redshirt sophomore turned out to be one of the most efficient passers in the country, as he ended up completing 66 percent of his passes for 2,921 yards while only tossing seven interceptions.
Pachall will now be in charge of leading TCU into the Big 12 next season, and after displaying the type of prowess he did last season, it seems likely that he should be able to handle the step up in competition without a problem.
It didn't take long for Tony Jefferson to make a name for himself at Oklahoma.
In his first season in a Sooner uniform, Jefferson earned Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors and was honored with numerous freshman All-American honors. He carried over that success into 2011.
Jefferson was the undisputed best defensive back in Norman this past season, as he led the team with four interceptions and finished the season with 74 total tackles.
The 5'10'', 199-pound sophomore was a key presence on Oklahoma's defense in 2011, and he'll now be one of the leaders of what should be one of the best defenses in the Big 12 next season.
Jefferson loves to hit, and he's proven that he's adept at making key plays at critical junctures.
Unfortunately for the teams on Oklahoma's 2012 schedule, there will be no escaping the wrath of Tony Jefferson next season.
Tennessee has produced its fair share of outstanding linebackers in recent years, with names like Jerod Mayo, Kevin Burnett and Rico McCoy immediately coming to mind. Now, it looks like there's another big-time 'backer emerging in Knoxville, and it's freshman All-American A.J. Johnson.
In his first season in a Volunteer uniform, Johnson took the SEC by storm, racking up 80 tackles, as he became one of the most feared defenders in the conference.
It didn't take long for the 6'3'', 245-pound former 4-star recruit to catch people's attention, and now that he has it, look for Johnson to show the SEC that he's ready to be the conference's next great linebacker in 2012.
Jeff Fuller may have received all of the preseason attention, but when it came time to produce this past season, the best receiver on Texas A&M actually turned out to be the less heralded Ryan Swope.
With Fuller battling bouts of inconsistency, it didn't take long for Swope to become the favorite trusted target of QB Ryan Tannehill.
The 6'0'', 206-pound junior led the Aggies with 89 catches for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdown receptions in 2011. With Fuller now out of the picture, Swope should have no problem maintaining those numbers next season.
Sure, losing Tannehill may hurt his production a bit, but whoever ends up being A&M's quarterback next year, whether it's Jameill Showers or Matt Davis, it won't matter, because no matter who it is, you can bet that they'll be looking in Swope's direction quite often in 2012.
Warning to Big Ten receivers: Iowa CB Micah Hyde is going to be on a mission in 2012, and when it's your week to play the Hawkeyes, you better be ready for a battle.
Hyde is one of the most underrated defensive backs in the country, but that may not last for much longer, as the 6'1'', 185-pound junior looks primed for a big breakout year in 2012.
Last year, Hyde racked up 72 tackles and picked off three passes, but that performance only seemed like a teaser of what's to come.
Hyde will be one of the Big Ten's top defensive backs next season. He has the chance to ascend to All-American status in 2012.
As the son of former first-round pick Jim Jeffcoat, everyone knew that Jackson Jeffcoat had the type of bloodlines to be great, they just had to see the talented young defensive end prove it on the field.
Well, that's just what he did in 2011, as Jeffcoat led the Longhorns with eight sacks and 17 tackles for loss.
The 6'5'', 250-pound sophomore showed that he was one of the best defensive ends in college football last year. He'll team back up with fellow end Alex Okafor in 2012 to give the Longhorns one of the best pass rushes in the country next season.
Andrew Luck was never one to underestimate the value of having top-notch tight ends at his disposal, which he demonstrated this past season, as three of the Cardinal's top six receiving leaders were tight ends.
With last year's top tight end Coby Fleener now off to to join Luck in the NFL, it will be up to Zach Ertz to keep up the pace in 2012.
Ertz may have been limited by injuries last year, but it will be his time to shine next season, as he's poised to be the top receiving target of new quarterback Brett Nottingham.
The 6'6'', 249-pound sophomore is a glorified receiver in a tight end's body, and he should be a valuable red-zone weapon for Nottingham next season.
Kansas State managed to win the "Where did this team come from" award in 2011, as the Wildcats shocked the college football world by finishing with a double-digit-win season, something not even the most optimistic of folks in Manhattan could have expected before the season started.
A lot of the success can be attributed to quarterback Collin Klein, who emerged as one of the Big 12's top offensive difference-makers this past season.
The Kansas State offense wasn't exactly the most productive unit in college football in 2011, as the Wildcats finished ranked 101st in total offense, but Klein was one of the true bright spots, as he used both his arm and his legs to slice through defenses.
The 6'5'', 225-pound junior proved that he was one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country last year, as he accumulated over 3,000 yards of total offense and accounted for 40 of his team's 52 touchdowns.
Now that he's established a name for himself, it will be interesting to see what Klein can do for an encore in 2012.
A knee injury may have cost Stanford's Shayne Skov the majority of the 2011 season, but have no fear, Skov will be back and ready to knock heads in 2012, as the intimidating inside linebacker will be looking to make up for lost time and lost opportunities next season.
One look at Skov is all it takes to realize why the 6'3'', 243-pound junior is one of the scariest defenders roaming the field in college football these days.
Skov led the team with 83 tackles in 2010, and if he can get back to full health over the offseason, he and fellow linebacker Chase Thomas should be able to lead the Stanford defense to new heights in 2012.
Dejected—that's the only way I could describe feeling when I heard that Henry Josey's knee was torn to pieces against Texas back in November.
When you see a player perform the way Josey did during this past season, it almost seems unjust that an injury should come along and knock him off his path to stardom, but as we all know, that's just a part of the game.
On one fateful play against the Longhorns, the 5'10'', 196-pound sophomore seemingly tore everything ending with a CL in his knee, putting his career in jeopardy.
Since it came after he had established himself as one of the top rushers in the Big 12 only made it even tougher to take.
Averaging 116 rushing yards per game, he shoudn't have gone down that way, but these things happen.
If Josey's injury is as serious as some have speculated and he doesn't play a down in 2012, that's fine, but let's root for this kid, folks.
Henry Josey is the type of young man that deserves a cheer.
The "life's not fair" motto gets thrown around a lot in these tough times we live in, but don't expect a kid like Josey to make any excuses.
We'll see how it all plays out, and yes, it's a sad circumstance, but perseverance is made easier by support, so let's support Henry Josey.
Keep rehabbing that knee, Henry, you did good last year. We'll see you back on the field when you're ready.
Robert Woods is going to get most of the national attention and publicity this summer, and deservedly so, but Woods isn't the only USC receiver who will be causing headaches for opposing secondaries in 2011.
After earning Freshman All-American honors for his performance in 2011, Marqise Lee looks ready to take the next step and develop into a bona fide star next season.
Lee, who hauled in 73 passes for 1,143 yards and scored 11 touchdowns this past season, may have to play second fiddle to Woods once again, but he could play just as vital of a role in USC's run at a national championship as his more heralded teammate.
The 6'0'', 190-pound freshman won't be able to catch teams off-guard like he did last season, but with the talent that Lee possesses, that may not even matter.
Tavon Austin may have been the West Virginia wide receiver that garnered the most attention this past season, but it was actually Stedman Bailey who was the most explosive receiver, as he led the Mountaineers with 1,279 receiving yards and 12 touchdown catches.
I remember getting my first glimpse of Bailey during the 2010 spring game when he was just a redshirt freshman, and it was obvious that he was loaded with potential. More importantly, he and QB Geno Smith seemed to share a special type of bond.
Bailey and Smith played together at Florida's Miramar High School, and it's obvious that their comfort with each other has carried over to the college level.
Smith always appears to know where Bailey's going to be, and Bailey always seems to know just where Geno is going to put the ball.
That relationship should only continue to grow in 2012, and Bailey will remain one of Smith's most trusted targets next season.
Since there are about 300 different college football awards these days, I think we should create one more annual award that's given to the player that you would least like to meet in a back alley late at night.
If there was such an award, there's no doubt that Florida State's Bjoern Werner would be one of the front runners. As we saw last year, he's one of the most physically imposing defenders in college football.
Brandon Jenkins may have soaked up all of the preseason honors, but it was Werner who proved to be the most ruthless defensive linemen on the Florida State defense in 2011, racking up 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
The 6'4'', 273-pound German native never takes no for an answer when he's chasing down a ball-carrier. His relentless attitude and non-stop motor will be valuable components to Florida State's defensive front seven once again next season.
Nigel Malone arrived at Kansas State as an afterthought JUCO prospect with very little expectations attached to his name, but Malone quickly proved that he was the type of cornerback that shouldn't be taken lightly.
The 5'10'', 165-pound junior stepped into the starting lineup and surprised onlookers by elevating himself to All-American status in just his first year in Manhattan.
Malone proved to be one of the best defensive backs in the Big 12 last year, as he knocked away 10 passes and finished the season with seven interceptions, the most in the Big 12.
With Malone back in the fold, the Wildcats secondary should cause some major trouble for opposing pass attacks in 2012.
All-American DT Devon Still may be gone, but that doesn't mean that Penn State's defensive interior will all of a sudden grow soft for the 2012 season. Especially since another talented tackle, Jordan Hill, will be back to hold down the fort next season.
Hill may have been overshadowed by his more decorated defensive line counterpart last year, but it will be his time to shine in 2012, as he looks like he's ready to ascend to star status next season.
The 6'1'', 297-pound junior is the type of big, physical force that can change the way an offense has to game-plan, and he'll be looking to make a name for himself in 2012, which means Big Ten offensive lines better be prepared for a battle any time they have to face off against the Nittany Lions.
If there's one thing that new Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst proved during his time as Wisconsin's offense coordinator, it's that he knows how to produce top-notch rushing attacks, which is great news for Ray Graham. Last year, Graham was one of the leading rushers in college football before a knee injury robbed him of the final five games of 2011.
Even though he only carried the ball 164 times last season, Graham still managed to finish with 958 yards on the ground and nine touchdowns.
The 5'9'', 175-pound junior may not be the most intimidating back in the country, but he's certainly one of the most explosive, and he possesses deceptive strength and power for his small frame.
Judging from what Chryst was able to do with Montee Ball last season, it seems that if Graham can fully recover from his knee injury, he's definitely going to be the front runner to win the Big East rushing title in 2012.
When your school is under investigation for one of the biggest scandals in college football history, you probably shouldn't be tweeting things such as "Just left Prime 112 wit @arinicolelife never seen a chicken this big" letting the whole world know that you're hanging out at expensive steakhouses with an owner of a public relations firm.
Especially if you were suspended for the first four games of the season for your involvement with the scandal.
But I guess Ray-Ray Armstrong is just the type of college kid who has to live and learn, and hopefully after making some key mistakes during his time at Miami, he's starting to learn that just because you have a great deal of natural talent, that doesn't mean that your actions don't have consequences.
Armstrong's junior season was supposed to be his stepping stone to becoming a high NFL draft pick. Instead, it turned out to be a year mired with suspensions and inconsistent play on the field.
Now that the 6'4'', 215-pound junior is returning for his senior season, Armstrong will have one more chance to make the most out of his rare physical gifts.
The question is, will he seize the opportunity?
The loss of DT Jared Crick was a crippling blow for Nebraska, as the Cornhuskers struggled to maintain the defensive consistency that was expected from them in 2011.
It did, however, give Crick's counterpart, Baker Steinkuhler, the chance to feel what it's like to have to step up and carry the load in the defensive interior, and it's an experience that Steinkuhler should definitely benefit from.
As far as natural talent goes, Steinkuhler is right up there with any other defensive tackle in the country. He simply just has to show that he can take the next step and be a consistent force in the middle of Nebraska's defense.
The 6'6'', 290-pound junior is a strong and powerful tackle who can move well and he can stop the run and rush the passer with equal effectiveness.
Steinkuhler may not be the next Ndamukong Suh, but he does have the chance to have the type of superlative senior season that many were expecting Crick to have in 2011.
Ohio State's defense lost most of the key cogs that made the unit so dominant in 2010, and it was obvious that the Buckeyes needed a veteran player to step up and become a leader and make sure the defense stayed glued together, since there was so much inexperience in key areas.
John Simon did just that, as he emerged as one of the most dominant and disruptive defensive ends in the country in 2011, racking up seven sacks and 16 tackles for loss.
The 6'2'', 270-pound junior will once again be the most vital component of Ohio State's defensive front seven.
Simon will have one of the best teachers to give him advice and tips, now that former Buckeye great Mike Vrabel will be making the switch from linebackers coach to defensive line coach for the upcoming season.
Since he had to sit behind C.J. Spiller and Jamie Harper for the first few years of his career, it took a little while for Andre Ellington to get an opportunity to show what he's made of, but once he got that chance in 2011, he certainly made the most of it.
In his first year as the main man in Clemson's backfield, Ellington rushed for 1,178 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. He turned out to be one of the key playmakers for Clemson's high-powered offensive attack.
The 5'10'', 190-pound junior has great speed and explosion, and he's a threat to make something big happen any time he has the ball in his hands.
Ellington will team with QB Tajh Boyd and WR Sammy Watkins to once again give Clemson one of the most dynamic and dangerous offensive trios in the country in 2012.
Malcolm Mitchell probably won't ever be as good as former Georgia star receiver A.J. Green, but that certainly doesn't mean that Mitchell doesn't have the chance to be a genuinely special player for the Bulldogs.
After arriving in Athens as the top-rated high school recruit in the state of Georgia last year, it didn't take long for Mitchell to make his home state proud, as he caught a 51-yard touchdown pass in his first ever collegiate game against Boise State.
The 6'1'', 184-pound freshman finished his first season with modest, yet respectable numbers—45 catches for 665 yards and four touchdowns—but it was the flashes of greatness that he showed every now and then that should have Georgia fans excited about his potential.
Mitchell will be Aaron Murray's go-to target in 2012, and with Tavarres King complementing him, Georgia will have a deadly one-two receiving punch next season.
After starting off the 2011 season ranked as a top-five national title contender, Florida State quickly turned into one of the most disappointing teams in the country, as the Seminoles faded into irrelevancy after an early home loss to Oklahoma.
Still, even if last year's campaign wasn't what most were expecting, you still saw enough glimpses to believe that Jimbo Fisher should have the 'Noles right back in the hunt for an ACC championship next season.
It starts with a defense that should be one of the 10 best units in the country in 2012, but another important factor for the team's success will be QB E.J. Manuel, who had a bit of an up and down first season as a starter.
We saw how much Florida State struggled last year when Manuel wasn't playing well or not playing at all, when the Seminoles dropped three straight games to Oklahoma, Clemson and Wake Forest.
Still when the 6'5'', 245-pound junior was playing up to his potential, his tremendous physical skills were fully evident, as he completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,666 yards and 18 touchdowns.
If Manuel can stay consistent throughout a full season, the Seminoles won't just be competing for an ACC championship, they'll be competing for a national title as well.
Ronald Powell arrived in Gainesville with a ton of fanfare surrounding him as the No. 1 overall recruit of the 2010 class, and while he hasn’t exactly lived up to lofty expectations just yet, Powell gave enough peeks at his potential in his first two years that would lead you to believe that he’s ready for a breakout campaign in 2012.
Powell, who mans the hybrid “Buck” position for the Gators, has all the physical traits that you look for in a premier pass-rusher. He just has to put it all together.
The 6’4’’, 250-pound sophomore finished his second season with very respectable numbers—nine tackles for loss and six sacks. Now it’s time for him to step his game up and perform like the elite player that everyone was expecting him to be.
If Powell plays up to his potential and finally lives up to the hype in 2012, he'll be one of the key difference-makers on what is shaping up to be an extremely dominant defensive front seven at Florida next season.
If there was such a thing as the Pac-12's most underrated player of the year award, Utah's John White IV definitely would have deserved it for his performance in 2011.
In his first year after transferring from L.A. Harbor College, White made an instant impression in the Utes' backfield, as he finished ninth in the country with 1,520 rushing yards and scored 15 touchdowns.
The 5'8'', 186-pound junior won't overwhelm any defender with his size, but he's got the vision and burst to find the hole and explode through it.
With QB Jordan Wynn returning from injury and joining White, Utah should have one of the most dangerous backfields in the Pac-12 next season.
The big news surrounding Wisconsin's defense this past season was the return of linebacker Chris Borland, who missed most of 2010 with a shoulder injury.
Borland had an outstanding bounce-back season, racking up 143 total tackles. However, he wasn't able to outperform his partner in crime, fellow Wisconsin LB Mike Taylor, who finished third in the country with 150 tackles last year.
The 6'2'', 230-pound junior took a huge leap in 2011 and became one of the Big Ten's biggest impact defenders.
Taylor looks like he could be the next Paul Posluszny, and with him and Borland both back for 2012, the Badgers will once again have one of the best linebacker duos in the country next season.
LSU right tackle Alex Hurst may not have exactly had his greatest performance in the BCS championship game against Courtney Upshaw, but if you look back at the regular-season campaign he had, it's easy to see that Hurst is one of the most talented tackles in the country.
The 6'6'', 340-pound junior opened up plenty of holes for LSU's deep stable of running backs this past season, and there was rarely a time when an opposing pass-rusher managed to slip by him.
With All-American guard Will Blackwell gone, Hurst will now assume the leadership role of LSU's offensive line. If he can put his shaky performance against Alabama in the rear-view mirror, he should be right in contention for the prestigious Outland Trophy.
It's too early to start calling Auburn DT Jeffrey Whitaker the next Nick Fairley just yet, but it's certainly not too early for Auburn fans to get excited about what they should expect out of Whitaker during the 2012 season.
After suffering through some growing pains last year due to inexperience, Auburn's deep and talented group of defensive tackles should be ready for a big breakout season in 2012. Leading the way will be Whitaker, a former 4-star recruit who looks ready to step out onto the national stage next season.
The 6'4'', 312-pound sophomore looks like he could be the SEC's next showcase defensive tackle. If Whitaker steps his game up in 2012, Auburn's defense should take a huge step forward after a subpar season in 2011.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson has done a terrific job of adding a huge infusion of speed to TCU's roster over these past few years.
And one of the best examples of that is WR Josh Boyce.
Boyce is one of the most explosive receivers in the country, and if you want proof, just go ask any member of Boise State's secondary, a group that got absolutely annihilated by the lightning-fast receiver to the tune of five catches for 163 yards and three touchdowns.
Yes, the 6'1'', 203-pound redshirt sophomore left his tread marks all over the blue turf in TCU's 36-35 upset victory over the Broncos this past season, but that wasn't the only time he did major damage to the psyche of defensive backs.
Boyce finished the 2011 season with 61 receptions for 998 yards (16.4 yards per catch) and nine touchdowns, as he proved that speed really does kill.
With strong-armed quarterback Casey Pachall back to toss him the ball, Boyce should be able to really make a name for himself in the Big 12 next season.
In this current era when spread offenses are beginning to spread like a virus through college football, super-athletic tight ends who specialize in being weapons in the passing game are becoming increasingly valuable.
It’s a good thing for Arkansas then that Chris Gragg is one of the most athletic and physically-gifted tight ends in the country.
In 2011, Gragg demonstrated just how valuable he was in the passing game, as he matured into a viable receiving threat, hauling in 41 passes for 518 yards.
The 6’3’’, 235-pound junior will be asked to play an even bigger role in the passing game in 2012, and he'll be an all-important safety valve for QB Tyler Wilson to dump the ball of to.
It's not likely that Tennessee would have beaten teams like LSU, Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas last year even if QB Tyler Bray was in the lineup, but I can guarantee you that the Volunteers would have been much more competitive than they were without him, as they ended up losing by a combined score of 138-23 in those four games.
That just goes to show you how vital Bray has become to Tennessee's offensive success.
The 6'6'', 210-pound sophomore has done some much-needed maturing since his first campaign under center in 2010, and he now looks ready to prove that he's one of the best signal-callers in the SEC next season.
Bray is a prototypical tall pro-style pocket passer who possesses the type of arm strength to make very possible throw on the field.
With receivers Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter at his disposal, Bray should have Tennessee's passing offense really cranking in 2012.
Gary Patterson's 4-2-5 defense is going to feature some of the top defensive playmakers in the Big 12 next season, including NT Dave Johnson, DE Ross Forrest, linebackers Kenny Cain and Tanner Brock and CB Jason Verrett, but the real featured player to watch is DE Stansly Maponga.
Maponga possesses as much quickness and raw power as any other defensive end in the country, and he showed his skills off on a regular basis in 2011, racking up nine sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.
The 6'2'', 265-pound redshirt sophomore will surely be tormenting Big 12 quarterbacks on a regular basis in 2012, and if Maponga has the type of junior campaign that he's capable of, he'll likely have to think long and hard about leaving early for the NFL.
Alabama has lost two of the top linebackers in school history—Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower—to the NFL, but there are certainly reinforcements left over to help fill the two big voids they left.
Nico Johnson will now be the most experienced veteran of Alabama's linebacker corps. Although he may not be the true disruptive kind of natural playmaker that Upshaw and Hightower were, he does have a great deal of ability, and he should fit in well as one of the leaders of the linebacker unit.
The 6'3'', 245-pound junior only racked up 46 tackles in 2011, but if Johnson plays up to his potential next season, it wouldn't be shocking to see him finish as the team leader in take downs, since he's got a terrific natural radar for finding the football.
Baylor WR Terrance Williams was responsible for one of the most notable highlights of the 2011 season, as he was on the receiving end of quarterback Robert Griffin III's 34-yard game-winning touchdown pass against Oklahoma, a play that likely earned RG3 the Heisman Trophy.
Now Williams will have to figure out how to succeed without Griffin gunning him deep balls on a regular basis, but with his type of size and speed, he should have no trouble emerging as a viable replacement for Kendall Wright as the team's No. 1 receiving threat.
This past season, the 6'3'', 190-pound junior hauled in 59 passes for 957 yards and scored 11 touchdowns.
It won't be easy to replicate those numbers without Griffin behind center, but if Williams can get consistent enough play at the quarterback position, he should be one of the Big 12's most productive receivers in 2012.
Defensive ends Quinton Coples and Donte Paige-Moss were supposed to be the two big stars of North Carolina's defensive line in 2011, but it was Kareem Martin who actually ended up stealing away some of their thunder as he snatched away Paige-Moss' starting job and made the most of his opportunity.
Martin finished the year with 40 tackles, seven tackles for loss and four sacks.
The 6'6'', 260-pound sophomore is one of the most athletic defensive ends in the country, and he's got the type of edge speed that you're looking for in an elite pass-rusher.
If Martin can add some more pass-rushing moves to his arsenal, he has the chance to be a true force on the end of North Carolina's defensive line next season.
He may soon have Tar Heels fans asking the question, "Quinton who?"
Any running back that still wears the old school-looking Riddell neck pad earns major respect points in my book, and Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy definitely runs with the type of hard-nosed style that you would expect from a back who wears such a device.
With starting running back Warren Norman out for the year with a leg injury, Stacy stepped up in a big way in 2011 and he turned out to be one of the biggest surprises in college football. He rushed for 1,193 yards and scored 14 touchdowns.
The 5'9'', 205-pound junior is a compact and muscular back who certainly doesn't fear contact, and now that he's had the chance to prove himself, hopefully Stacy receives the preseason recognition he deserves as one of the SEC's most talented backs.
After earning freshman All-American honors in his first season as a starter in 2010, Oklahoma's Gabe Ikard had no trouble taking the next step and playing at All-American level in 2011, as Ikard showed this past season that he truly was one of the top offensive linemen in the nation.
The 6'4'', 295-pound sophomore earned third-team AP All-American honors after putting together a dominant campaign, and he now looks poised to have an even bigger season in 2012.
Ikard possesses the type of strength and athleticism to flourish as both a pass-blocker and a run-blocker, but he really makes his biggest impact opening up giant running lanes for Oklahoma's backs to slide through.
Don't be surprised if Ikard turns out to be the 2012 version of David DeCastro.
All A.J. McCarron did in his first year as a starter in Tuscaloosa was lead the Tide to a 12-win season and a BCS national championship.
Not too shabby, eh?
Sure, it certainly helped that he had the most talented running back in the country, Trent Richardson, lining up behind him, a brick wall offensive line in front of him and the most dominant defense in college football history to help him out. But still, it's hard to argue with that type of success and those types of results.
When you guide your team to a national championship in your first season as a starter, it's OK to brag a little.
McCarron may not have been overly flashy, but he was one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the country this past season, as he completed nearly 67 percent of his passes while only tossing five picks.
With Richardson, three of his top four receivers and many of the important pieces of that dominant defense all gone, the 6'4'', 205-pound redshirt sophomore will be asked to make the transition from game-manager into a true offensive leader in 2012.
It will be interesting to see if he can take the next step, but one's thing for sure, McCarron's already come a long way and he's proven that he's more than just that guy who Nick Saban spanked on the sideline.
Any time a defense loses a star player like Von Miller, obviously the unit is going to take a step back. However, Sean Porter made sure that Texas A&M's pass rush didn't decline too much, as he stepped up his game and became one of the most feared defenders in the Big 12 last season.
Porter may not have played at the same elite level as Miller, but he was pretty close, as he racked up 9.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss in 2011.
The 6'2'', 230-pound will once again team with Damontre Moore to give the Aggies one of the best pairs of linebackers in the country as the team prepares for its transition into the SEC in 2012.
Porter has the type of speed off the edge that will cause some major headaches for even the strongest SEC offensive lines.
Arkansas fans have had to wave goodbye to three of their team's most talented wide receivers—Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs. But they will be happy to welcome back one of the most talented pass-catchers in the country, Cobi Hamilton, to lead the way for what is shaping up to be a very inexperienced receiver corps.
Hamilton was overshadowed by the success of Adams and Wright this past season, but the 6'3'', 210-pound junior still caught 34 passes for 542 yards and scored four touchdowns.
Those numbers should increase dramatically in 2012, as Hamilton is now set to be QB Tyler Wilson's No. 1 receiver.
Hamilton has all of the physical tools to be a star, and he'll have every chance to prove his worth next season. Wilson will surely be looking in his direction plenty of times in 2012.
I got my first look at North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon during one of those ESPN recruiting skills competitions, where you have to chuck a ball at moving targets and such.
My initial impression of the former 4-star prospect was that he was one of the skinniest 6'6" human beings I had ever laid eyes on, but boy could he throw a football.
One of the best-kept secrets in college football is Glennon's arm strength, but now that he's added a little more weight to his frame and N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien has shown faith in the soon-to-be senior signal-caller, it may be hard to keep that secret quiet next season.
O'Brien took some heat for opting to let proven star Russell Wilson loose and hand Glennon the starting job instead. However, even though there were certainly a few times when that decision looked like a foolish one as Wilson thrived at Wisconsin, Glennon showed enough glimpses in 2011 to make even his most ardent critics believe that he's capable of some mighty big things next season.
Sean's little brother completed 62 percent of his passes for over 3,000 yards and hit 31 touchdown strikes in his first year as a starter.
Now that he's got a year of experience under his belt, O'Brien's decision to start Glennon this past season could pay off in a big way in 2012.
Arkansas' defense isn't going be showered with a ton of fanfare before the start of the 2012 season, as many people are likely going to be focused on the Razorbacks' potentially explosive offense, led by QB Tyler Wilson and RB Knile Davis.
I'll say it now, though, Arkansas' defense has the chance to be one of the best units in the country next season, even though you're not going to find many heralded preseason All-Americans, as it's likely going to start off as more of a no-name type of group.
One of the underrated Arkansas defenders who should really open up some eyes in 2012 is CB Tevin Mitchel.
Mitchel is a talented former 4-star recruit who really developed into a reliable stalwart in the Arkansas secondary in just his first season in Fayetteville, finishing the year sixth on the team with 56 tackles.
The 6'0'', 195-pound freshman is loaded with potential; if he continues to refine his technique throughout the offseason, he's got the chance to develop into one of the top defensive backs in the SEC next season.
Oregon State endured a forgettable season in 2011, as the Beavers finished with a disastrous 3-9 record and missed out on the postseason for the second year in a row.
Coach Mike Riley is going to have some work to do if he wants to guide the Beavers back to respectability in 2012, but he does have a few intriguing offensive pieces to work with, the main one being explosive WR Markus Wheaton.
Because of his team's struggles, Wheaton didn't receive much national attention in 2011, but that should definitely change next season.
Even though he had to deal with inconsistent play at the quarterback position throughout most of the season, the 6'1'', 178-pound junior still managed to haul in 78 passes for 986 yards in 2011.
The former high school track star will be looking to find the end zone more than once during his senior year, and with the type of game-changing speed that Wheaton possesses, he should have no trouble getting behind opposing secondaries on a consistent basis in 2012.
101. QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
102. CB Merrill Noel, Wake Forest
103. OT Morgan Moses, Virginia
104. RB Malcolm Brown, Texas
105. DE Walter Stewart, Cincinnati
106. LB Jonathan Brown, Illinois
107. S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
108. WR Emory Blake, Auburn
109. DT Joe Vellano, Maryland
110. RB Devonta Freeman, Florida State
111. LB Gerald Hodges, Penn State
112. CB Greg Reid, Florida State
113. LB Chris Borland, Wisconsin
114. WR Theo Riddick, Notre Dame
115. QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State
116. RB Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State
117. CB Desmond Trufant, Washington
118. DT Tim Jernigan, Florida State
119. TE Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State
120. S John Boyett, Oregon
121. OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame
122. DT John Jenkins, Georgia
123. CB Johnny Adams, Michigan State
124. WR Josh Gordon, Utah
125. QB Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
126. OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
127. DE Devin Taylor, South Carolina
128. RB Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
129. S Prentiss Waggner, Tennessee
130. RB Spencer Ware, LSU
131. CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
132. QB Bryn Renner, North Carolina
133. DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
134. DE Sharif Floyd, Florida
135. LB Dion Bailey, USC
136. RB Dustin Garrison, West Virginia
137. WR Michaelee Harris, Louisville
138. DE Darryl Cato-Bishop, North Carolina State
139. OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
140. WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
141. RB Silas Redd, Penn State
142. OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
143. DE Aaron Lynch, Notre Dame
144. LB Chase Thomas, Stanford
145. TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn
146. DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
147. RB Cierre Wood, Notre Dame
148. S Matt Elam, Florida
149. OG Larry Warford, Kentucky
150. CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
151. LB Jelani Jenkins, Florida
152. S DeVonte Holloman, South Carolina
153. OG Chris Barker, Nevada
154. RB Onterio McCalebb, Auburn
155. DT Ashton Dorsey, Texas
156. LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
157. CB Jason Verrett, TCU
158. S Eric Rowe, Utah
159. OG Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
160. QB Jeff Tuel, Washington State
161. CB Nickell Robey, USC
162. DE Malliciah Goodman, Clemson
163. S Hakeem Smith, Louisville
164. WR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
165. RB Isaiah Crowell, Georgia
166. LB Kenny Tate, Maryland
167. C Khaled Holmes, USC
168. WR Keenan Davis, Iowa
169. DT Bennie Logan, LSU
170. TE Joseph Fauria, UCLA
171. LB Kenny Demens, Michigan
172. RB Dominique Whaley, Oklahoma
173. C Reese Dismukes, Auburn
174. DT Stacy McGee, Oklahoma
175. DE Josh Shirley, Washington
176. LB Christian Jones, Florida State
177. WR Conner Vernon, Duke
178. LB Michael Buchanan, Illinois
179. DT Bryan Jones, Arkansas
180. RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama
181. LB Kevin Minter, LSU
182. OG Alvin Bailey, Arkansas
183. RB Ed Wesley, TCU
184. CB Demontre Hurst, Oklahoma
185. WR Erik Highsmith, North Carolina
186. DT Kwame Geathers, Georgia
187. RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon
188. QB James Vandenberg, Iowa
189. WR Mike Davis, Texas
190. LB Andrew Wilson, Missouri
191. DE Jesse Williams, Alabama
192. QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
193. WR Kasen Williams, Washington
194. OT Justin Pugh, Syracuse
195. LB Kenny Cain, TCU
196. DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame
197. DE Trevardo Williams, Connecticut
198. S Nickoe Whitley, Mississippi State
199. DE Wes Horton, USC
200. WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
1. Matt Barkley, USC (1)
2. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (3)
3. Aaron Murray, Georgia (8)
4. Denard Robinson, Michigan (10)
5. Landry Jones, Oklahoma (12)
6. Geno Smith, West Virginia (15)
7. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (25)
8. Keith Price, Washington (31)
9. Tajh Boyd, Clemson (40)
10. James Franklin, Missouri (44)
11. Casey Pachall, TCU (59)
12. Collin Klein, Kansas State (66)
13. E.J. Manuel, Florida State(80)
14. Tyler Bray, Tennessee (88)
15. A.J. McCarron, Alabama (95)
16. Mike Glennon, North Carolina State (98)
17. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville (101)
18. Braxton Miller, Ohio State (115)
19. Taylor Martinez, Nebraska (125)
20. Bryn Renner, North Carolina (132)
21. Jeff Tuel, Washington State (160)
22. James Vandenberg, Iowa (188)
23. Derek Carr, Fresno State (192)
24. Bryan Bennett, Oregon
25. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
26. Connor Shaw, South Carolina
28. Alex Carder, Western Michigan
29. Jordan Wynn, Utah
30. Corey Robinson, Troy
31. Seth Doege, Texas Tech
32. Brett Smith, Wyoming
33. Riley Nelson, BYU
34. David Ash, Texas
35. B.J. Daniels, South Florida
36. Tyler Russell, Mississippi State
37. Zach Maynard, California
38. Sean Mannion, Oregon State
39. Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois
40. Tommy Rees, Notre Dame
41. Sean Renfree, Duke
42. Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt
43. Kain Cotter, Northwestern
44. Chase Rettig, Boston College
45. Marqueis Gray, Minnesota
46. Matt Scott, Arizona
47. Tevin Washington, Georgia Tech
48. Cody Fajardo, Nevada
49. Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio)
50. Jared Barnett, Iowa State
Andrew Maxwell, Michigan State
Brett Nottingham, Stanford
Caleb TerBush, Purdue
Chris Coyer, Temple
Clint Moseley, Auburn
Danny O’Brien, Maryland
Dayne Crist, Kansas
Jeff Driskel, Florida
Jeff Godfrey, Central Florida
Joe Southwick, Boise State
Kevin Prince, UCLA
Michael Rocco, Virginia
Munchie Legaux, Cincinnati
Ryan Aplin, Arkansas State
Ryan Katz, San Diego State
Ryan Radcliff, Central Michigan
Stephen Morris, Miami
Tanner Price, Wake Forest
Tyler Tettleton, Ohio
1. Montee Ball, Wisconsin (5)
3. Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State (11)
4. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina (22)
5. Knile Davis, Arkansas (26)
6. Stepfan Taylor, Stanford (35)
7. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina (38)
8. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska (50)
9. Henry Josey, Missouri (68)
10. Ray Graham, Pittsburgh (74)
11. Andre Ellington, Clemson (78)
12. John White IV, Utah (82)
13. Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt (93)
14. Malcolm Brown, Texas (104)
15. Devonta Freeman, Florida State (110)
16. Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State (116)
17. Johnathan Franklin, UCLA (128)
18. Spencer Ware, LSU (130)
19. Dustin Garrison, West Virginia (136)
20. Silas Redd, Penn State (141)
21. Cierre Wood, Notre Dame (147)
22. Onterio McCalebb, Auburn (154)
23. Isaiah Crowell, Georgia (165)
24. Dominique Whaley, Oklahoma (172)
25. Eddie Lacy, Alabama (180)
26. Ed Wesley, TCU (183)
28. Kenny Hilliard, LSU
29. Curtis McNeal, USC
30. Fitz Toussaint, Michigan
31. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
32. Michael Ford, LSU
33. Isi Sofele, California
34. Christine Michael, Texas A&M
35. Cameron Marshall, Arizona State
36. Jeff Scott, Ole Miss
37. Lyle McCombs, Connecticut
38. Perry Jones, Virginia
39. Dennis Johnson, Arkansas
40. Zach Line, SMU
42. Waymon James, TCU
43. Eric Stephens, Texas Tech
44. Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech
45. James Sims, Kansas
46. Montel Harris, Boston College
47. Mike James, Miami
48. Rickey Galvin, Washington State
49. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
50. Jawan Jamison, Rutgers
52. Tre Mason, Auburn
53. Matthew Tucker, TCU
54. LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State
55. Shawne Alston, West Virginia
56. Donovonn Young, Illinois
57. James Washington, North Carolina State
58. Orleans Darkwa, Tulane
59. Kedrick Rhodes, Florida International
60. Jeremy Wright, Louisville
61. Joe Bergeron, Texas
62. Robbie Rouse, Fresno State
63. Mike Gillislee, Florida
64. Branden Oliver, Buffalo
65. Kendrick Hardy, Southern Miss
66. Chris Thompson, Florida State
67. Mike Bellamy, Clemson
68. Jalston Fowler, Alabama
69. Ronnie Wingo Jr., Arkansas
70. CoShik Williams, Kentucky
71. Ja’Terian Douglas, Tulsa
72. Kenny Turner, New Mexico State
73. Mike DeWitt, Air Force
74. James White, Iowa State
75. Jawon Chisholm, Akron
Andrew Buie, West Virginia
James Wilder Jr., Florida State
Jordan Hall, Ohio State
Josh Harris, Wake Forest
Marlin Lane, Tennessee
Raymond Maples, Army
Savon Huggins, Rutgers
Stephen Houston, Indiana
1. Robert Woods, USC (4)
3. Marquess Wilson, Washington State (16)
4. Tavon Austin, West Virginia (19)
5. Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (42)
6. Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee (51)
7. Keenan Allen, California (57)
8. Ryan Swope, Texas A&M (62)
9. Marqise Lee, USC (69)
10. Stedman Bailey, West Virginia (70)
11. Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia (79)
12. Josh Boyce, TCU (86)
13. Terrance Williams, Baylor (91)
14. Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas (97)
15. Markus Wheaton, Oregon State (100)
16. Emory Blake, Auburn (108)
17. Theo Riddick, Notre Dame (114)
18. Josh Gordon, Utah (124)
19. Michaelee Harris, Louisville (137)
20. Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU (140)
21. Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin (164)
22. Keenan Davis, Iowa (168)
23. Conner Vernon, Duke (177)
24. Erik Highsmith, North Carolina (185)
25. Mike Davis, Texas (189)
26. Kasen Williams, Washington (193)
28. Brandon Carter, TCU
29. Aaron Dobson, Marshall
30. Rashad Greene, Florida State
31. Jeremy Gallon, Michigan
32. Deon Long, New Mexico
33. Matt Miller, Boise State
34. Josh Cooper, Oklahoma State
35. Jaxon Shipley, Texas
36. Kenny Bell, Nebraska
37. Tavarres King, Georgia
38. Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech
39. T.J. Moe, Missouri
40. Roy Roundtree, Michigan
41. Duron Carter, Alabama
42. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
43. Eric Ward, Texas Tech
44. Jalen Saunders, Fresno State
45. Justin Hunter, Tennessee
46. Nick Harwell, Miami (Ohio)
47. Justin Hardy, East Carolina
48. Darius Johnson, SMU
49. Jaz Reynolds, Oklahoma
50. Geraldo Boldewijn, Boise State
51. Andre Debose, Florida
53. Paul Richardson, Colorado
54. Josh Huff, Oregon
55. Billy Ray Stutzmann, Hawaii
56. Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
57. DeVonte Christopher, Utah
58. Uzoma Nwachukwu, Texas A&M
59. Kenbrell Thompkins, Cincinnati
60. Kevin Dorsey, Maryland
61. Ty Montgomery, Stanford
62. Chris Harper, Kansas State
63. Ivan McCartney, West Virginia
64. Kenny Bell, Alabama
65. Cody Hoffman, BYU
66. Devin Street, Pittsburgh
67. Ace Sanders, South Carolina
68. Marcus Davis, Virginia Tech
69. Devin Smith, Ohio State
70. Tracy Moore, Oklahoma State
71. DeAndrew White, Alabama
72. Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss
73. Noel Grigsby, San Jose State
74. Eric Thomas, Troy
75. Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt
76. Darrin Moore, Texas Tech
78. Chad Bumphis, Mississippi State
79. Josh Lenz, Iowa State
80. Jheranie Boyd, North Carolina
81. Eli Rogers, Louisville
82. Skye Dawson, TCU
83. Titus Davis, Central Michigan
84. Bernard Reedy, Toledo
85. La’Rod King, Kentucky
86. Sterling Green, South Florida
87. Tevin Reese, Baylor
88. Colin Lockett, San Diego State
89. Christian Green, Florida State
90. Tim Smith, Virginia
91. Darius Millines, Illinois
92. Bryan Burnham, Tulsa
93. Kevonte Martin-Manley, Iowa
94. Marcus Lucas, Missouri
95. Alex Neutz, Buffalo
96. Devon Smith, Penn State
97. Javone Lawson, Louisiana-Lafayette
98. Alec Lemon, Syracuse
99. Antavian Edison, Purdue
100. Colin Larmond Jr., Boston College
Alex Torres, Texas Tech
Arceto Clark, Mississippi State
Bobby Swigert, Boston College
Brent Leonard, Louisiana-Monroe
Bruce Ellington, South Carolina
Corey Brown, Ohio State
D.J. Beshears, Kansas
DeAnthony Arnett, Michigan State
DeVante Parker, Louisville
Gary Bush, Purdue
James Johnson, Washington
Jaron Brown, Clemson
Jeremiah Ostrowski, Hawaii
Justin Brown, Penn State
Kofi Hughes, Indiana
Lanear Sampson, Baylor
Marquise Goodwin, Texas
Michael Bennett, Georgia
Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest
Mike Scott, Idaho
Mike Shanahan, Pittsburgh
Mitch Burroughs, Boise State
Nick Johnson, South Carolina
Quinton Dunbar, Florida
Quron Pratt, Rutgers
Rodney Smith, Florida State
Taylor Stockemer, Arkansas State
Tobias Palmer, North Carolina State
Verlon Reed, Ohio State
1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame (30)
3. Chris Gragg, Arkansas (87)
4. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State (119)
5. Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn (145)
6. Joseph Fauria, UCLA (170)
7. Jack Doyle, Western Kentucky
8. Michael Williams, Alabama
9. Dion Sims, Michigan State
10. Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
11. Ryan Otten, San Jose State
12. Nick O’Leary, Florida State
13. Jon Davis, Illinois
14. Lucas Reed, New Mexico
15. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Washington
16. Kyler Reed, Nebraska
17. Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin
18. Xavier Grimble, USC
19. Ryan Griffin, Connecticut
20. Levine Toilolo, Stanford
21. Chris Pantale, Boston College
22. Randall Telfer, USC
23. Luke Wilson, Rice
24. D.C. Jefferson, Rutgers
25. Jordan Thompson, Ohio
Arthur Lynch, Georgia
Chase Clement, LSU
Clive Walford, Miami
Darian Williams, Florida Atlantic
Evan Landi, South Florida
Gabe Linehan, Boise State
Garrett Hoskins, Eastern Michigan
Hubie Graham, Pittsburgh
Jay Rome, Georgia
Jordan Najvar, Baylor
Jordan Reed, Florida
Justin Jones, East Carolina
Justice Cunningham, South Carolina
Kolby Arendse, Nevada
Matt Furstenburg, Maryland
Michael Lamothe, Texas A&M
Mychal Rivera, Tennessee
Nehemiah Hicks, Texas A&M
Nelson Hurst, North Carolina
Rory Anderson, South Carolina
Terrence Miller, Arizona
1. Barrett Jones, Alabama (14)
3. D.J. Fluker, Alabama (53)
4. Alex Hurst, LSU (84)
5. Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma (94)
6. Morgan Moses, Virginia (103)
7. Zack Martin, Notre Dame (121)
8. Chance Warmack, Alabama (126)
9. Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M (139)
10. Taylor Lewan, Michigan (142)
11. Larry Warford, Kentucky (149)
12. Chris Barker, Nevada (153)
13. Travis Frederick, Wisconsin (159)
14. Khaled Holmes, USC (167)
15. Reese Dismukes, Auburn (173)
16. Alvin Bailey, Arkansas (182)
17. Justin Pugh, Syracuse (194)
18. Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
19. Matt Summers-Gavin, California
20. Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech
21. Oday Aboushi, Virginia
22. Cyril Richardson, Baylor
23. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
24. Tanner Hawkinson, Kansas
25. James Hurst, North Carolina
26. Chaz Green, Florida
28. Chris Faulk, LSU
29. Nick Cody, Oregon
30. Fou Fonoti, Michigan State
31. Dalton Freeman, Clemson
32. Jeremiah Sirles, Nebraksa
33. Mario Benavides, Louisville
34. LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech
35. Mason Walters, Texas
36. Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State
37. Andrew Rodriguez, Nebraska
38. Dann O’Neill, Western Michigan
39. TJ Johnson, South Carolina
40. Ben Habern, Oklahoma
41. Emmett Cleary, Boston College
42. Dallas Thomas, Tennessee
43. Cameron Fleming, Stanford
44. Patrick Ward, Northwestern
45. Andrew Norwell, Ohio State
46. Daryl Williams, Oklahoma
47. Hroniss Grasu, Oregon
48. Travis Swanson, Arkansas
49. Jon Halapio, Florida
50. Justin Britt, Missouri
51. John Sullen, Auburn
53. Spencer Long, Nebraska
54. Tyler Larsen, Utah State
55. Kevin Graf, USC
56. Andrew Miller, Virginia Tech
57. Kaleb Johnson, Rutgers
58. David Bakhtiari, Colorado
59. Seantrel Henderson, Miami
60. Quinterrious Eatmon, South Florida
61. Marcus Jackson, Tennessee
62. Brennan Williams, North Carolina
63. Jacob Fahrenkrug, Florida State
64. Charles Leno, Boise State
65. John Fullington, Washington State
66. Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
67. Nick Becton, Virginia Tech
68. P.J. Lonergan, LSU
69. Carson York, Oregon
70. Kenarious Gates, Georgia
71. Joe Madsen, West Virginia
72. Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
73. Graham Pocic, Illinois
74. Chad Slade, Auburn
75. Colin Porter, Washington
A.J. Cann, South Carolina
B.J. Finney, Kansas State
Blaize Foltz, TCU
Brandon Linder, Miami
Brian Schwenke, California
Brett Boyko, UNLV
Chris Watt, Notre Dame
Ivory Wade, Baylor
James Ferentz, Iowa
Jake Smith, Louisville
Ja’Wuan James, Tennessee
Jon Feliciano, Miami
Josh Cochran, Texas
Josh Williford, LSU
Malcolm Bunche, Miami
Mark Popek, South Florida
Marcus Martin, USC
Pat Eger, West Virginia
Patrick Lewis, Texas A&M
Patrick Omameh, Michigan
R.J. Dill, Maryland
R.J. Mattes, North Carolina State
Ryan Dannewitz, Colorado
Theo Goins, Central Florida
Trey Hopkins, Texas
Tyler Love, Alabama
Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt
Weston Richburg, Colorado State
Will Jackson, Georgia Tech
Xavier Nixon, Florida
Zach Fulton, Tennessee
1. Kawann Short, Purdue (33)
3. Sylvester Williams, North Carolina (46)
4. Anthony Johnson, LSU (49)
5. Dominique Easley, Florida (56)
6. Jordan Hill, Penn State (73)
7. Baker Steinkuhler, Nebraska (76)
8. Jeffrey Whitaker, Auburn (85)
9. Joe Vellano, Maryland (109)
10. Tim Jernigan, Florida State (118)
11. John Jenkins, Georgia (122)
12. Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh (133)
13. Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State (146)
14. Ashton Dorsey, Texas (155)
15. Bennie Logan, LSU (169)
16. Stacey McGee, Oklahoma (174)
17. Byran Jones, Arkansas (179)
18. Kwame Geathers, Georgia (186)
19. Louis Nix, Notre Dame (196)
20. Derrick Hopkins, Virginia Tech
21. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
22. Everett Dawkins, Florida State
23. Akeem Spence, Illinois
24. Calvin Howell, Texas
25. Josh Boyd, Mississippi State
26. Nigel Nicholas, Oklahoma State
28. Justin Washington, Arizona
29. Kaleb Ramsey, Boston College
30. Scott Vallone, Rutgers
31. Roosevelt Nix, Kent State
32. Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest
33. Bruce Gaston, Purdue
34. Casey Walker, Oklahoma
35. Jordan Kohout, Wisconsin
36. Elkino Watson, South Florida
37. Aaron Tipoti, California
38. Gabe Wright, Auburn
39. Khyri Thornton, Southern Miss
40. Josh Downs, LSU
41. Will Hill, Virginia
42. Mister Cobble, Kentucky
43. DeQuinta Jones, Arkansas
44. Terrence Stephens, Stanford
45. Maurice Couch, Tennessee
46. Taylor Hart, Oregon
47. Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
48. Chris Jones, Bowling Green
49. Roy Philon, Louisville
50. Cassius Marsh, UCLA
A.J. Francis, Maryland
Angelo Blackson, Auburn
Anthony McCloud, Florida State
Anthony Rogers, Oklahoma State
Antoine Hopkins, Virginia Tech
Beau Allen, Wisconsin
Dave Kruger, Utah
Garrett Goebel, Ohio State
George Uko, USC
Jamarkus McFarland, Oklahoma
Jorge Wright, West Virginia
Kendrick Payne, California
Kenneth Carter, Auburn
Larry Black Jr., Indiana
Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Boise State
Rob Lohr, Vanderbilt
Shamar Stephen, Connecticut
Sione Potoa’e, Washington
T.J. Barnes, Georgia Tech
Trey Flowers, Arkansas
Ugo Uzodinma, New Mexico
Will Sutton, Arizona State
1. Sam Montgomery, LSU (6)
3. Brandon Jenkins, Florida State (24)
4. Barkevious Mingo, LSU (27)
5. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina (32)
6. William Gholston, Michigan State (41)
7. Dion Jordan, Oregon (48)
8. Corey Lemonier, Auburn (58)
9. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas (64)
10. Bjoern Werner, Florida State (71)
11. John Simon, Ohio State (77)
12. Ronald Powell, Florida (81)
13. Stansly Maponga, TCU (89)
14. Kareem Martin, North Carolina (92)
15. Walter Stewart, Cincinnati (105)
16. Devin Taylor, South Carolina (127)
17. Sharif Floyd, Florida (134)
18. Darryl Cato-Bishop, North Carolina State (138)
19. Aaron Lynch, Notre Dame (143)
20. Malliciah Goodman, Clemson (162)
21. Josh Shirley, Washington (175)
22. Jesse Williams, Alabama (191)
23. Trevardo Williams, Connecticut (197)
24. Wes Horton, USC (199)
25. James Gayle, Virginia Tech
26. Brad Madison, Missouri
28. Cameron Meredith, Nebraska
29. Abry Jones, Georgia
30. Nathan Williams, Ohio State
31. Nosa Eguae, Auburn
32. Quinton Dial, Alabama
33. Chidera Uzo-Diribe, Colorado
34. Margus Hunt, SMU
35. Ben Gardner, Stanford
36. Will Clarke, West Virginia
37. Spencer Nealy, Texas A&M
38. Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame
39. Marcus Smith, Louisville
40. Damion Square, Alabama
41. Datone Jones, UCLA
42. Tevin Elliot, Baylor
43. Ryne Giddins, South Florida
44. Tenarius Wright, Arkansas
45. J.R. Collins, Virginia Tech
46. Sean Progar, Northern Illinois
47. Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
48. Toben Opurum, Kansas
49. Scott Crichton, Oregon State
50. Travis Long, Washington State
Chaz Sutton, South Carolina
Chris Smith, Arkansas
Craig Roh, Michigan
Cornellius Carradine, Florida State
Dan Giordano, Cincinnati
David Gilbert, Wisconsin
David King, Oklahoma
DeAndre Coleman, California
Dee Ford, Auburn
Devon Kennard, USC
Dominic Appiah, Boston College
Ed Stinson, Alabama
Eric Martin, Nebraska
Izaan Cross, Georgia Tech
Jacques Smith, Tennessee
Jason Ankrah, Nebraska
Jesse Joseph, Connecticut
Joe Kruger, Utah
Lavar Edwards, LSU
Marcus Rush, Michigan State
Meshak Williams, Kansas State
Nordly Capi, Colorado State
Paipai Falemalu, Hawaii
Quentin Williams, Northwestern
R.J. Washington, Oklahoma
Robert Maci, Purdue
Ross Forrest, TCU
Tourek Williams, Florida International
Travis Johnson, San Jose State
Trevor Reilly, Utah
Troy Davis, Central Florida
Tyler Hoover, Michigan State
1. Manti Te’o, Notre Dame (2)
3. Kevin Reddick, North Carolina (28)
4. C.J. Mosley, Alabama (36)
5. Hayes Pullard, USC (52)
6. Alec Ogletree, Georgia (55)
7. A.J. Johnson, Tennessee (61)
8. Shayne Skov, Stanford (67)
9. Mike Taylor, Wisconsin (83)
10. Nico Johnson, Alabama (90)
11. Sean Porter, Texas A&M (96)
12. Jonathan Brown, Illinois (106)
13. Gerald Hodges, Penn State (111)
14. Chris Borland, Wisconsin (113)
15. Dion Bailey, USC (135)
16. Chase Thomas, Stanford (144)
17. Jelani Jenkins, Florida (151)
18. Arthur Brown, Kansas State (156)
19. Kenny Tate, Maryland (166)
20. Kenny Demens, Michigan (171)
21. Christian Jones, Florida State (176)
22. Michael Buchanan, Illinois (178)
23. Kevin Minter, LSU (181)
24. Andrew Wilson, Missouri (190)
25. Kenny Cain, TCU (195)
26. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers
28. Corico Hawkins, Clemson
29. Jake Knott, Iowa State
30. Tom Wort, Oklahoma
31. Sio Moore, Connecticut
32. Denicos Allen, Michigan State
33. Tanner Brock, TCU
34. Christian Kirksey, Iowa
35. Will Compton, Nebraska
36. DeDe Lattimore, South Florida
37. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
38. Jeremy Grove, East Carolina
39. Jonathan Willard, Clemson
40. Patrick Larimore, UCLA
41. Alonzo Highsmith, Arkansas
42. Julian Burnett, Georgia Tech
43. Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College
44. James Morris, Iowa
45. Jonathan Bostic, Florida
46. Preston Brown, Louisville
47. Michael Clay, Oregon
48. Demetrius Hartsfield, Maryland
49. Zaviar Gooden, Missouri
50. Tariq Edwards, Virginia Tech
51. Marquis Spruill, Syracuse
53. Shaun Lewis, Oklahoma State
54. Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech
55. Cameron Lawrence, Mississippi State
56. A.J. Klein, Iowa State
57. Trey Depriest, Alabama
58. Cornelius Washington, Georgia
59. Denzel Perryman, Miami
60. Michael Mauti, Penn State
61. Brian Wagner, Arizona
62. Max Bullough, Michigan State
63. Corey Nelson, Oklahoma
64. Derrick Matthews, Houston
65. Sam Barrington, South Florida
66. Dwayne Beckford, Purdue
67. Jamie Collins, Southern Miss
68. Storm Klein, Ohio State
69. Andrew Jackson, Western Kentucky
70. Chris Norman, Michigan State
71. Darren Bates, Auburn
72. Steve Greer, Virginia
73. Mike Gilliard, Georgia
74. Shawn Jackson, Tulsa
75. Travis Brown, Fresno State
76. Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA
78. Aaron Morris, Ball State
79. Shaq Wilson, South Carolina
80. Alex Elkins, Oklahoma State
81. Feti Unga, Oregon State
82. Brandon Ogletree, BYU
83. Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers
84. Doug Rigg, West Virginia
85. Daniel Cobb, Texas Tech
86. LaRoy Reynolds, Virginia
87. Trent Mackey, Tulane
88. Brian Blechen, Utah
89. Phillip Steward, Houston
90. Mike Marry, Ole Miss
91. Jake Holland, Auburn
92. Kyle Van Noy, BYU
93. Dan Fox, Notre Dame
94. Jon Major, Colorado
95. Princeton Fuimaono, Washington
96. Tahj Jones, LSU
97. Brendan Beal, Minnesota
98. Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
99. Quandon Christian, Clemson
100. Darius Lipford, North Carolina
Caleb Lavey, Oklahoma State
Christian Robinson, Georgia
Chase Garnham, Vanderbilt
Curtis Grant, Ohio State
Eric Kendricks, UCLA
Jewone Snow, West Virginia
Jonathan Evans, Auburn
Jonathan Stewart, Texas A&M
Kendall Thompson, Texas
Michael Doctor, Oregon State
Michael Taylor, Florida
Prince Shembo, Notre Dame
Quin Smith, South Carolina
Ross Rasner, Arkansas
Sean Fisher, Nebraska
Travis Freeman, Ball State
Tre Walker, Kansas State
Uona Kaveinga, BYU
1. Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (9)
3. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State (23)
4. Xavier Rhodes, Florida State (35)
5. Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State (47)
6. Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State (54)
7. Micah Hyde, Iowa (63)
8. Nigel Malone, Kansas State (72)
9. Tevin Mitchel, Arkansas (99)
10. Merrill Noel, Wake Forest (102)
11. Greg Reid, Florida State (112)
12. Desmond Trufant, Washington (117)
13. Johnny Adams, Michigan State (123)
14. Dee Milliner, Alabama (131)
15. Bradley Roby, Ohio State (150)
16. Jason Verrett, TCU (157)
17. Nickell Robey, USC (161)
18. Demontre Hurst, Oklahoma (184)
19. Marcus Cromartie, Wisconsin
20. Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
21. Carrington Byndom, Texas
22. Rod Sweeting, Georgia Tech
23. Marcus Roberson, Florida
24. Demetrious Nicholson, Virginia
25. Logan Ryan, Rutgers
26. Branden Smith, Georgia
28. Terry Hawthorne, Illinois
29. Corey Broomfield, Mississippi State
30. Gabe Lynn, Oklahoma
31. Leon McFadden, San Diego State
32. Eric Gordon, Tennessee
33. Chris Davis, Auburn
34. Tharold Simon, LSU
35. Steve Williams, California
36. Torin Harris, USC
37. Ricardo Allen, Purdue
38. Andrew Green, Nebraska
39. Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
40. Sanders Commings, Georgia
41. Kenny Okoro, Wake Forest
42. Deron Wilson, Southern Miss
43. J.T. Floyd, Michigan
44. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut
45. Terrence Brown, Stanford
46. Brandon McGee, Miami
47. K’Waun Williams, Pittsburgh
48. Bryce Callahan, Rice
49. Damonte Horton, Washington State
50. Shaquille Richardson, Arizona
Adrian Bushell, Louisville
Bennett Jackson, Notre Dame
Blair Burns, Wyoming
Brodrick Jenkins, West Virginia
Camerron Cheatham, Cincinnati
Chance Casey, Baylor
Charles Sawyer, Ole Miss
Ciante Evans, Nebraska
Darius Winston, Arkansas
Dexter McDougle, Maryland
Dwayne Gratz, Connecticut
E.J. Gaines, Missouri
Isaiah Wiley, USC
Jamar Taylor, Boise State
Jeremy Brown, Florida
Jerome Junior, Connecticut
John Fulton, Alabama
Kayvon Webster, South Florida
Osahon Irabor, Arizona State
Quandre Diggs, Texas
T’Sharvan Bell, Auburn
Tra’Mayne Bondurant, Arizona
Travis Howard, Ohio State
Troy Stoudermire, Minnesota
Xavier Brewer, Clemson
1. Eric Reid, LSU (21)
3. Bacarri Rambo, Georgia (37)
4. T.J. McDonald, USC (43)
5. Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma (60)
6. Ray-Ray Armstrong, Miami (75)
7. Kenny Vacarro, Texas (107)
8. John Boyett, Oregon (120)
9. Prentiss Waggner, Tennessee (129)
10. Matt Elam, Florida (148)
11. DeVonte Holloman, South Carolina (152)
12. Eric Rowe, Utah (158)
13. Hakeem Smith, Louisville (163)
14. Nickoe Whitley, Mississippi State (198)
15. Tre Boston, North Carolina
16. Antone Exum, Virginia Tech
17. Shawn Williams, Georgia
18. D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina
19. Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern
20. Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State
21. Craig Loston, LSU
22. Tanner Miller, Iowa
23. Earl Wolff, North Carolina State
24. Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State
25. Sean Parker, Washington
26. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
28. Vaughn Telemaque, Miami
29. Thomas Gordon, Michigan
30. Terence Garvin, West Virginia
31. Rashard Hall, Clemson
32. C.J. Barnett, Ohio State
33. Jarred Holley, Pittsburgh
34. Isaiah Johnson, Georgia Tech
35. Cody Davis, Texas Tech
36. Dexter McCoil, Tulsa
37. Jon Lejiste, South Florida
38. Daimion Stafford, Nebraska
39. Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, Alabama
40. Demetruce McNeal, Auburn
41. Kemal Ishmael, Central Florida
42. Jordan Kovacs, Michigan
43. Jerome Junior, Connecticut
44. Jawanza Starling, USC
45. Tevin McDonald, UCLA
46. Jahleel Addae, Central Michigan
47. Christian Bryant, Ohio State
48. Javon Harris, Oklahoma
49. Alden Darby, Arizona State
50. Ray Polk, Colorado
Aaron Garbutt, Mississippi
Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Courtney Osborne, Nebraska
D.J. Johnson, Texas Tech
Darwin Cook, West Virginia
Deone Bucannon, Washington State
Drew Frey, Cincinnati
Duron Harmon, Rutgers
Eric Franklin, Maryland
Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State
Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
Jonathan Meeks, Clemson
Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt
Nick Moody, Florida State
Sam Holl, Baylor
Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama
Zeke Motta, Notre Dame
1. Andre Heidari, USC
3. Drew Alleman, LSU
4. Dan Conroy, Michigan State
5. Dustin Hopkins, Florida State
6. Michael Hunnicut, Oklahoma
7. Brett Baer, Louisiana-Lafayette
8. (P) Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
9. Chandler Catanzaro, Clemson
10. Ross Krautman, Syracuse
11. Matt Weller, Ohio
12. Tyler Bitancurt, West Virginia
13. (P) Brett Maher, Nebraska
14. Brandon McManus, Temple
15. (P) Drew Basil, Ohio State
16. Mitch Ewald, Indiana
17. Zack Hocker, Arkansas
18. (P) Anthony Fera, Penn State
19. Ty Long, UAB
20. Cody Parkey, Auburn
21. Jack Griffin, Florida International
22. Maikon Bonani, South Florida
23. Jeremy Shelley, Alabama
24. Chris Boswell, Rice
25. Matthew Sims, Northern Illinois
Note: (P) denotes kickers who also punt
1. Brad Wing, LSU
3. Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech
4. Jackson Rice, Oregon
5. Jeff Locke, UCLA
6. Brett Maher, Nebraska
7. Bobby Cowan, Idaho
8. Cody Webster, Purdue
9. Steven Clark, Auburn
10. Trey Barrow, Missouri
11. Darragh O’Neill, Colorado
12. Tom Hornsey, Memphis
13. Pat O’Donnell, Cincinnati
14. Sean Sellwood, Utah
15. Kirby Van Der Kamp, Iowa State
16. Dylan Breeding, Arkansas
17. Mike Sadler, Michigan State
18. Anthony Fera, Penn State
19. Ian Campbell, UTEP
20. Tyler Bennett, Utah State
21. Tress Way, Oklahoma
22. Kyle Christy, Florida
23. Brian Shmiedebusch, Bowling Green
24. Ryan Epperson, Texas A&M
25. Cody Mandell, Alabama