The Most Underrated 2012 College Football Player at Every Position

Joe PenkalaCorrespondent IAugust 9, 2012

The Most Underrated 2012 College Football Player at Every Position

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    Now that we are in the home stretch and the wait for college football is almost over, the hype over certain players will continue to grow as the expectations will by sky high.

    While some of these players are dealing with these high expectations, other collegiate stars are flying under the radar and are coming into the season without as many of the accolades as other players. 

    With the 2012 season just weeks away, here is a look at the most underrated player at each position as they prepare for a breakout season.

Quarterback: Jeff Tuel, Washington State

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    During the 2010 season, Jeff Tuel had a great season for Washington State, throwing for 2,780 yards and 18 touchdowns. While the numbers aren't amazing, Tuel was showing some growth and was gearing up for a strong junior season.

    When the 2011 season arrived, Tuel suffered through injury issues and only played in three games all year long. 

    With head coach Mike Leach now at Washington State, watch out for Tuel as he is poised for a strong bounce-back season in 2012. 

Running Back: Kenjon Barner, Oregon

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    For the past couple of seasons, Kenjon Barner has been spending his time in the shadow of LaMichael James. While James would pile up the yards and awards, Barner proved to be a valuable backup for the Ducks and is now getting his time in the sun.

    While behind James, Barner rushed for 1,856 yards and scored 25 touchdowns. Barner knows that he can carry the load, and he proved it last year when James was injured—but the spotlight will truly be on in 2012. 

Wide Receiver: Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee

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    As goes the health of Tyler Bray will go the success of Da'Rick Rogers. Last season, Rogers took a huge step forward as he jumped up from 167 yards receiving in 2010, to 1,040 yards in 2011. 

    Rogers has great size, and it was clear that during the beginning of last season he had great chemistry with Bray. 

    While the nine touchdowns last year were great, look for Rogers to take his game a step further and become a force in the SEC. 

Tight End: Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn

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    Philip Lutzenkirchen is a player that always seems to be around the ball when a big play happens for Auburn. During his three seasons with the Tigers, Lutzenkirchen has 14 total touchdowns and has watched those numbers grow, year over year. 

    In 2012, Lutzenkirchen will again be a key part for the Tigers offense, and as a senior, he will be leaned on for leadership throughout the SEC season. 

Center: Joe Madsen, West Virginia

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    Aside from Geno Smith, Joe Madsen is one of the main leaders on the West Virginia offense who truly helps things come together. As the center, Madsen is the leader on the offensive line and is responsible for helping the line recognize the defensive front.

    If the Mountaineers hope to have success in the Big 12 this year, Madsen must continue to lead the line and keep Smith healthy throughout the season. 

Offensive Guard: Chris McDonald, Michigan State

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    Michigan State has had a successful running game for the past few seasons, and one of the major reasons why is because of offensive guard Chris McDonald. 

    While McDonald will have support from the rest of the line, the Spartans men up front must step up in 2012 because Michigan State will be replacing their starting quarterback and trying not to let down their defense, which could be the best in the Big Ten.

Offensive Tackle: Justin Pugh, Syracuse

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    Justin Pugh is currently recovering from an injury, but assuming he is able to come back and play the way that he did in 2011, the Orange will be happy to see him return. 

    Pugh has great size and strength, and he does a great job of keeping rushers to the edge. Every game that Pugh is out, the Orange will feel the effects.

Defensive End: Dion Jordan, Oregon

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    Whenever you hear people talking about Oregon, it is generally about their uniforms or their fast-paced offense. What people will learn about this year is that on the defensive side of the ball, Dion Jordan may be one of the best defensive ends in the nation.

    Jordan is a great blend of speed and strength, and if Jordan can remain healthy all year long, there is no reason that he will not eclipse his mark of 7.5 sacks.

Defensive Tackle: Bennie Logan, LSU

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    Not only does Bennie Logan have the size to be a dominate defensive tackle, but he also has the skill to back it up. During the 2011 season, Logan recorded 57 tackles and had three sacks.

    As LSU enters the 2012 season with the No. 1 tag next to their name, they will rely on players like Logan to live up to their potential and help this team match the fierceness that last year's squad showed. 

Linebacker: Jake Knott, Iowa State

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    At linebacker, Jake Knott is like a human missile, flying in on running plays—but he also showed the ability to drop into coverage last year. 

    During his junior season, Knott recorded 107 tackles from his linebacking position and also had two interceptions in coverage. 

    Knott has the ability to go sideline-to-sideline, and during his senior season, Knott will be the bright spot on the Iowa State defense. 

Safety: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

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    The Oklahoma defense appears to be strong heading into the 2012 season, and watching over the entire unit from the safety position will be Tony Jefferson. Jefferson is a great defender in the secondary and does a nice job of providing support to stop the run.

    Last year Jefferson had 74 tackles, 4.5 sacks and a pick. This year, Jefferson should continue to develop and will turn plenty of heads in the Big 12. 

Cornerback: Nigel Malone, Kansas State

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    While most of the attention has been focused on the Kansas State offense, the defense has had their bright spots and hopes to grow on those in 2012.

    One of the brightest spots on the Wildcats defense was corner Nigel Malone. Malone had an outstanding 2011 season, as he recorded seven interceptions and was one of the best corners in the nation.

    Despite other corners grabbing most of the preseason attention, look for Malone to try and repeat the success he had last year. 

Kicker: Andre Heidari, USC

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    What makes the USC offense so effective is that they have the ability to score even when their touchdown drives come up short. 

    Kicking for USC is Andre Heidari, and he had a terrific 2011 season. Last year, Heidari was 15-of-17 on field goals—missing only one field-goal attempt beyond 40 yards—and was a perfect 50 out of 50 on extra points.

    With the ability to rely on Heidari and his leg, the Trojans are even more dangerous than you may think. 

Punter: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State

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    Quinn Sharp may be the most underrated kicker in the nation because of his overall worth to the team. Sharp has the ability to handle kickoff duties and punting duties, and he also kicks field goals. 

    Last year, Sharp was 22 out of 25 on field goals, only missed one extra point on 80 attempts and had 21 punts sail over 50 yards as well.

    When it comes to a complete special teams player, Quinn is head and shoulders above his competition.