College Football: 14 'Mid-Major' Players Who Will Steal the Show in 2012
We are all aware of Denard Robinson, Tyrann Mathieu, Montee Ball and Matt Barkley.
You can hardly turn around with a story coming at you from somewhere about these guys.
Not all good, either.
The 13 players that made this list don't get much national hype, none have real Heisman aspirations and not one of them plays in a BCS conference.
Even so, they have all shown us that guys from the "mid-majors" can get it done on the field in a big way.
So whether you love all things BCS or are a fan of the "little guy," put on your hat of impartiality and check out the 13 players from non-BCS conferences who are going to have monster seasons in 2012.
14. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
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As a red-shirt sophomore in 2011, Carr provided us a glimpse of the talented quarterback he will become.
He threw for over 3,500 yards, 26 touchdowns and scored three more on the ground.
Even with the loss of his most talented receiver to transfer, Car still has plenty of talent left with which to work.
His emergence as a solid quarterback should give Fresno State fans hope for their chances in the challenging MWC.
13. Bryce Callahan, DB, Rice
When one thinks of great performances and excellent playmakers in the college ranks, it's rare that anybody from Rice comes to mind.
Callahan is the exception to the rule.
He finished the 2011 season with six interceptions, tied for seventh in the nation.
Even though defenses will put up plenty of big numbers against Rice again in 2012, Callahan will improve on those numbers.
12. Colby Cameron, QB, L.A. Tech
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Cameron only started at quarterback for part of last season, but he made it count.
After seven games as a starter, Cameron finished the season with a 13-to-3 touchdown to interception ratio, and was instrumental in the Bulldogs winning the WAC title in 2011.
He has yet to nail down the starting job for 2012, but I fully expect him to. The Bulldogs have a stellar group of receivers who will help make this offense extremely explosive.
Cameron has the arm and smarts to have a huge year, and a WAC Player of the Year award is not out of the question.
11. Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State
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Aplin is primed for a monster year in his final season with the Red Wolves.
But it's not just his arm that makes Aplin a threat to destroy game plans for opposing teams.
He's dangerous with his legs, scoring 10 times on the ground last season, including a four-touchdown performance against FAU.
His interception numbers need to come down, though. He struggled last season, throwing 16 of them to only 19 touchdowns.
With Gus Malzahn taking over as head coach and Michael Dyer now gone, Aplin again finds himself the focal point of ASU's offense, with the potential to put up huge numbers.
10. Trent Mackey, LB, Tulane
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Last year, as a junior, Mackey finished fourth in the nation in total tackles, tallying more than 12 per game.
The average football fan sometimes forgets about the stars who play at schools such as Tulane, and then guys like Mackey have great seasons and remind us of the talent that riddles the "lower-tier" conferences.
Mackey demonstrated his versatility throughout the season, anchoring the Green Wave defense while racking up 4.5 sacks and an interception.
Obviously, the MAC head coaches have plenty of respect for his abilities, as they named him to the All-Conference team and also named him the Preseason Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
9. D.J. Harper, RB, Boise State
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Boise State lost a ton of talent this offseason, but D.J. Harper is still around.
With a new quarterback taking over, Harper is going to have plenty of opportunities to show his stuff, as the offense will not have the benefit of Kellen Moore at the helm.
Harper finished the 2011 campaign with 557 yards on only 115 carries, and scored a total of ten times on the season.
With Boise State poised to win the MWC as the most talented team in the conference, Harper will more than double those numbers.
8. Alex Carder, QB, Western Michigan
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Carder had a great season last year coupled with stud wide receiver Jordan White, throwing 31 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while amassing over 3,800 yards and four more scores on the ground.
The year before that, his sophomore year, he put up even bigger numbers.
He has the potential to crack the 4,000-yard mark, especially if his receivers step up and replace White's production.
7. Ryan Katz, QB, San Diego State
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Katz had a tough career at times with Oregon State, as evidenced by the picture of him during his final game against Oregon.
He has since transferred to San Diego State, where he steps in just in time to take over for the departed Ryan Lindley.
Katz is an excellent quarterback who struggled at times while with Oregon State, mainly because he did not have time to make solid throws and did not benefit from adequate blocking.
At San Diego State he will be a star, benefiting from talented receivers as well as a solid offensive line.
6. Zach Line, RB, SMU
SMU's backfield is going to be the best in C-USA in 2012.
Let's start with Line.
He rolled to 17 touchdowns last season in spite of missing three games due to injury, while averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
While he did not have a great season as a receiver, it's not improbable that he will emerge next season as a solid option out of the backfield, as well as a bruising back who is hard to bring down.
If he can stay healthy, his contribution to the Mustangs will be huge and the sky will be the limit for June Jones' team.
5. Nick Harwell, WR, Miami (OH)
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Harwell, at 6'1", has the size and speed to be a nightmare for opposing defenses.
In 2011 he had an incredibly solid season, exploding to over 1,400 yards receiving and scoring nine times.
Expect those numbers to be similar this season, but his touchdown numbers should go up in 2012 as he finishes of an excellent career for the Redhawks.
4. Jeremy Grove, LB, East Carolina
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This one seems a little obvious, but he still deserves the mention.
Grove, as a true freshman last season, averaged over 11 tackles per game and anchored East Carolina's defense.
Of course, the defensive line was not that great, giving Grove plenty of opportunities to make the plays that he did last season.
The defense will be mildly improved in '12, giving Grove room to have a bigger impact on every game.
3. Garrett Gilbert, QB, SMU
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Gilbert left Texas once he found out the starting job was not going to be his.
The Longhorns' loss was the Mustangs' gain.
Gilbert joins running back Zach Line in the SMU backfield, and this change of venue will prove to be extremely beneficial for Gilbert.
June Jones has a history of turning quarterbacks into number producing machines, and with the potential lying latent in Gilbert, expect him to burst on the scene with a huge year in 2012.
2. Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
Khalil Mack is, arguably, the best linebacker in the country.
While playing for a Buffalo team that is not exactly a candidate to win any awards this season, Mack dominates from his position, posting 20.5 tackles for loss through the course of last season's campaign.
His versatility was evident in his ability to back up and make an impact in coverage, and follow that up with run-stopping play in the backfield.
Mack is set to have an absolutely huge season again in 2012, and will see his NFL stock rise dramatically.
1. Tyler Tettleton, QB, Ohio
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Tettleton is one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the nation, not just in the MAC.
He finished last season with 10 rushing touchdowns and 28 passing, to only 10 interceptions.
He finished of the season by leading the Bobcats to a comeback win over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
This was the Bobcats' first bowl win in history.
On that final drive, where Tettleton scored a one-yard keeper to put Ohio ahead for good, the man looked as cool as they come, shredding the defense with accurate passing and good decisions.
That momentum will carry over to the 2012 season, and I fully expect Tettleton to lead the Bobcats to the conference title.