College Football 2012: 25 Players Nobody's Talking About—Yet

Carl StineCorrespondent IFebruary 15, 2012

College Football 2012: 25 Players Nobody's Talking About—Yet

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    This list is about "unknowns."

    It includes 25 guys you may not have heard about, who are ready to do big things next season.

    Some of them had huge stats last season, but got no love due to their team's ineptitude, while others were overshadowed by the tremendous performances of All-American teammates.

    Keep an eye on them in 2012, these guys are ready to explode.

25. Gavin Escobar, TE, SDSU

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    Escobar stepped up his game last season after SDSU lost some key receivers.

    He was easily one of the top three receiving tight ends in the nation, and is a solid blocker as well.

    He scored seven touchdowns in 2011 receiving, and will be a big target for the Aztecs' new quarterback in '12.

24. Cody Wichmann, OL, Fresno State

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    Wichmann is one off the few offensive linemen to make this list, yet he did not earn his spot by virtue of his blocking skills.

    At least not when Fresno State has the ball.

    No, Wichmann gets the nod because he was a force on special teams last season, blocking four kicks.

    That was good enough to tie him for second in the country.

    While that might not be enough to convince you to watch Fresno State play ball, it should be enough to help you remember this guy.

23. Jared Abbreders, WR, Wisconsin

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    The perception about Wisconsin is that they run the ball, but the passing game is lacking.

    This has just not been true over the past few seasons.

    Last year and the season before, the offense was incredibly balanced.

    Jared Abbrederis was a key to that in 2011, but does not get a whole lot of attention.

    He was the Badgers' leading receiver, and even though he was sometimes ignored for the sake of covering star receiver Nick Toon, he has the tools and skills to be a legit No. 1 receiver for a team such as the Badgers.

    On top of that, he finished fourth in the country in average yards per punt return, with 15.75.

22. Josh Shirley, DE, Washington

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    Husky fans definitely know about Shirley, as do their opponents along the West Coast.

    The rest of us, not so much.

    As a freshman in 2011, Shirley amassed 8.5 sacks, good enough to put him in the company of guys such as Frank Alexander and Damontre Moore.

    Expect him to build on that success in 2012.

21. Tyler Tettleton, QB, Ohio

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    Tettleton gets overlooked because he plays in the MAC, but he is one of the most exciting young players in the game.

    In 2011, Tettleton finished with over 3,300 yards through the air and 28 passing touchdowns to go with 10 on the ground.

    He demonstrated incredible poise in the Bobcats' game-winning touchdown drive in the Idaho Potato Bowl.

    Check this guy out in 2012.

20. Jeremy Grove, LB, ECU

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    Grove was a force as a freshman in 2011.

    He averaged over 11 tackles per game, and finished the season with 122 on the season, which put him just inside the top 25 nationally.

    He will build on this success in 2012.

19. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

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    Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon are gone.

    The offense is going to take a step back, no matter what happens.

    The defense will have to be huge to help the offense adjust, and Gilbert is one of the guys that will make a difference.

    Gilbert played well in 2011 and, in tandem with Brodrick Brown, is going to be the best corner tandem in the conference.

18. Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

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    Khalil Mack is the real deal.

    The man amassed over 20 tackles for loss in 2011 as a sophomore.

    The expectations are high for 2012, but Mack has the talent to build on his success.

17. Denicos Allen, LB, Michigan State

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    Michigan State is known for its hard-hitting defense.

    Allen, while he had an incredible season, was somewhat overlooked due to the existence of other stars on the unit.

    Allen plays a cerebral game, and finished sixth in the nation with 11 sacks last season.

    While that total may go down in 2012 due to some losses on the defensive line, Allen will be a key player in the Spartans defense.

16. Brodrick Brown, CB, Oklahoma State

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    See Justin Gilbert and insert here.

    Brown has good instincts and the solid teammates that free him up to make plays.

    He has made some bad decisions in coverage, but his decision-making will get better in 2012.

15. Zach Hocker, K, Arkansas

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    This guy made 21-of-27 field goal attempts, which is pretty good, but his prowess kicking the ball off is what grabbed our attention.

    Kickers don't often get much attention, and Hocker is no exception to that rule.

    However, he finished last season second in the country in touchbacks, and fourth in the nation in yards per kick.

14. Fitz Toussaint, RB, Michigan

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    Michigan fans and Nebraska know about Toussaint.

    Toussaint torched the Huskers in Michigan's win last season for two scores on the ground and 138 yards.

    Denard is still the focus of this offense, but Toussaint has the ability to be an impact player, and his success or lack thereof will be the difference between a Big Ten title and a fourth place finish in the conference.

13. Matt Schilz, QB, Bowling Green

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    Schilz is an exciting ball player.

    He amassed over 3,000 yards last season in his sophomore season, and scored 28 times through the air.

    He has all the physical tools, and demonstrates great decision-making capabilities.

    Expect him to hit between 3,500 and 4,000 yards in 2012.

12 . Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina

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    The ACC is littered with good quarterbacks: Tajh Boyd, Logan Thomas, Mike Glennon, E. J. Manuel, etc.

    Renner will challenge them all for title of best QB in the ACC this season.

    There were questions as to his ability to take over for T.J. Yates in 2011, and he answered them well with over 3,000 yards and 27 total touchdowns.

    In tandem with running back Gio Bernard, Renner will be a force.

11. Casey Pachall, QB, TCU

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    Pachall was a more than adequate replacement for the departed Andy Dalton.

    You may have heard of him because of his hair.

    In spite of his cosmetological misadventures, Pachall had a great season.

    As a matter of fact, he threw 25 scores and only seven picks.

    If he has another season such as that, he will be one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12.

10. Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State

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    Arkansas State has a new head coach moving in, putting it in shape to make another run at the Sun Belt title, mainly due to the play of Aplin.

    The man was 10th in total offense last season, amassing over 320 yards per game and scoring 29 total touchdowns.

    If he can cut down on those interception numbers (16), he will have a huge season for the Red Wolves.

9. Silas Redd, RB, Penn State

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    Redd garnered some love, especially in the Midwest last season.

    However, he was overlooked often due to the whole Jerry Sandusky debacle and Penn State's miserable quarterback situation.

    It's sad to have to admit, as a Wisconsin backer, Redd will challenge Montee Ball for best running back in the conference.

8. Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State

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    Mannion was only a freshman in 2011, and yet he earned the starting nod for a struggling Oregon State team that showed tremendous improvement over the course of the season.

    He has limited mobility, and will make a few more mistakes that young guys make, but he has definite upside which leads one to believe he will have another solid season.

    He will definitely make some noise in 2012 if he can cut down on his 18 picks.

7. Lyle McCombs, RB, UConn

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    McCombs flew under the radar in 2011, mainly because UConn was one of the worst teams in the worst BCS conference in the FBS.

    He will start appearing on everybody's radar in 2012.

    He finished last season with over 1,150 yards on the ground, and showed the ability to make big plays.

    The Big East may be a little unsettled at the moment, but McCombs will be one of the best they have to offer next season.

6. Jalen Saunders, WR, Fresno State

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    Saunders caught 50 passes in 2011.

    Of those 50, nearly a quarter(12) went for touchdowns.

    He averaged 21.3 yards per reception, and with quarterback Derek Carr showing some progress, Saunders will have another big year coming up.

5. Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming

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    It's simple for Smith.

    He plays for Wyoming.

    Even so, he scored 30 total touchdowns last season, and has the talent to improve on that number in 2012.

    He was fairly accurate, completing more than 61 percent of his passes.

4. Gio Bernard, RB, North Carolina

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    The Tar Heels didn't get a ton of press in 2011 outside of Butch Davis' firing.

    This was partially due to their finish toward the bottom of the ACC.

    For this reason, you may not know about Gio Bernard.

    As a freshman last season, he scored 14 times and averaged over five yards per carry.

    That success is sustainable, and Bernard will be one of the top three running backs in the ACC.

3. John White IV, RB, Utah

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    Utah wound up having a pretty decent season last year, after a rough start in the Pac-12.

    White was a key part of the Utes' resurgence, especially considering quarterback Jordan Wynn went down early with an injury.

    White gained over 1,500 yards, and was second to only LaMichael James in the conference.

    The Utes' defense will be stout next year, and Wynn will be back, but White is still going to get his yards, and Utah will be a top 25 team.

2. Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State

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    Lockett was a freshman last season, but a definite contributor to K-State's success.

    The man did a little bit of everything, he averaged 11 yards per carry for 10 carries, caught 18 passes for 246 yards and three scores, and returned two kicks for touchdowns.

    On top of that, he missed five games last season.

    Despite the missed contests, he earned Big 12 Freshman All-American honors.

1. Keith Price, QB, Washington

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    Price has a legit shot at the Heisman in 2012.

    RG3 paved the way for a player from a non-BCS bowl team to win the trophy, and Price will (hopefully) be completely healthy when the season rolls around.

    His transcendent play in the Alamo Bowl earned him some attention, but Price was playing at a high level all season long.

    He will improve on his 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2012.