College Football's Biggest Breakout Offensive Stars of September
The 2012 college football season is just one month old. But already, we've seen many of the most talked about players of the offseason struggle and drop out of the Heisman race.
Highly publicized stars such as Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson, Logan Thomas, Denard Robinson, Landry Jones and Montee Ball have all tasted defeat already this season.
There have been a handful of heavily hyped-up players who have already shown signs of being overrated. However, there have also been plenty of breakout stars who stepped up and shined in the month of September.
Here's a look at college football's biggest breakout offensive stars of the first month of the season.
QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
Geno Smith had everyone intrigued after throwing for over 4,300 yards and 31 touchdowns and leading West Virginia to a 10-win season, a Big East championship and an Orange Bowl win last season.
What was so impressive about the performance was that it occurred during Smith's first year spent in Dana Holgorsen's Air Raid-style offensive system.
The strong-armed senior signal-caller has looked even more comfortable leading the pass-heavy attack this year. He has completed an incredible 83 percent of his passes for 1,728 yards and thrown 20 touchdowns without tossing an interception.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft and the Heisman Trophy are now both within Smith's reach.
WR Marqise Lee, USC
Robert Woods was the USC receiver who garnered most of the publicity this offseason. However, so far this season, it has been his teammate, Marqise Lee, who has looked like the best receiver in college football.
In four games, Lee has hauled in 40 passes for 457 yards and six touchdowns.
The 6'0'', 195-pound sophomore is on pace to easily surpass the 73-catch campaign he had as a freshman in 2011.
If Lee keeps playing at this level, the Trojans definitely still have a shot to win the Pac-12 title this season.
RB Todd Gurley, Georgia
Todd Gurley is starting to receive comparisons to former Alabama running back Trent Richardson. But as an overall athlete, the former Tide player he most resembles is WR Julio Jones.
Like Jones, Gurley is a big, powerful, yet smooth-looking playmaker, who's capable of coming up with explosive gains any time he touches the ball.
The 6'1'', 218-pound freshman has rushed for 536 yards on just 68 carries (7.9 yards per carry) and scored nine touchdowns in the first five games of the season.
Gurley's the SEC's next big star running back who belongs in the same conversation with other recent conference greats such as Marcus Lattimore, Trent Richardson and Darren McFadden.
QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State
It seemed like Braxton Miller would be a perfect fit for Urban Meyer's shotgun-based spread offensive scheme.
From everything we've seen so far this season, that certainly seems to be true.
Miller has looked like a true dual-threat weapon in Meyer's spread attack. The speedy, sophomore signal-caller has totaled 1,510 yards of offense and accounted for 15 touchdowns, as he has led the Buckeyes to a 5-0 start.
It's a performance that's on par with Michigan QB Denard Robinson's fantastic five-game run at the start of his sophomore season back in 2010.
QB AJ McCarron, Alabama
AJ McCarron no longer deserves the title of "Game Manager."
McCarron has proved this season that he is now a true offensive leader.
The second-year starter was one of the most efficient passers in the country in September, finishing the month with a 177 passer rating.
The junior signal-caller has completed nearly 66 percent of his passes for 999 yards and thrown 12 touchdowns compared to no interceptions.
If McCarron plays this well all season long, it's tough to see any other team in the country knocking off the Tide this year.
RB Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State
Even though he was only just a seventh-round pick in this year's NFL draft, it looks like Edwin Baker made the right decision to leave Michigan State a year early.
If Baker had stayed, he would have likely had to take a backseat to Le'Veon Bell, who became a breakout star in September.
Bell is currently ranked fifth in the country with 655 total rushing yards.
The powerful 6'2'', 244-pound junior possesses the type of shocking athleticism for his size that surely has plenty of NFL scouts buzzing right now.
He's the football equivalent of a powerful locomotive.
QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Texas A&M was picked by many publications to finish near the bottom of the SEC West division this season. However, most of those prognosticators must not have realized just how good new freshman starting quarterback Johnny Manziel would be.
Manziel may have lost his first game to Florida, but since then he has been a one-man offensive showcase.
The highly athletic and instinctive, young signal-caller, has completed 70 percent of his passes for over 1,000 yards, added 366 yards on the ground and accounted for 16 touchdowns in just four games.
It may not be too long before we have to start comparing Manziel to last year's Heisman winner Robert Griffin III.
RB Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
Since UCLA was such a mediocre team during Rick Neuheisel's tenure, RB Johnathan Franklin never received much national publicity. However, Franklin has certainly made plenty of headlines in the first month of the 2012 season.
The veteran senior ball-carrier has totaled 877 yards of offense and accounted for four touchdowns, as he has helped guide the Bruins to a 4-1 record and a No. 25-ranking in the AP Poll.
Franklin is an explosive and versatile playmaker who has to be considered the early favorite to win the Pac-12 rushing title this season.
WR Terrance Williams, Baylor
Not only is Terrance Williams the best senior wide receiver prospect for the 2013 NFL draft, he has proven that he's the best overall pass-catching prospect in the entire draft class.
Baylor's offense may have lost the all-time leading receiver in school history, Kendall Wright. But Williams has done a solid job of stepping up to fill the void.
The big, speedy, 6'2'', 205-pound senior has caught 34 passes for 667 yards and six touchdowns in just four games.
At this point, Williams has to be considered one of the top contenders for the Biletnikoff Award as well as a potential Top 20 NFL draft pick.
QB EJ Manuel, Florida State
Florida State QB EJ Manuel arrived in Tallahassee as a highly touted high school recruit out of Virginia Beach back in 2008.
It has taken Manuel a considerable amount of time to reach his potential. This season, though, it finally seems like he's ready to make the most of his tremendous physical ability.
The second-year starter has completed 73 percent of his passes for 1,147 yards and tossed nine touchdowns this season.
With Manuel leading the way, the Seminoles offense is currently ranked in the Top 10 in the country, in both scoring offense and total offense, averaging 51 points and 544 yards per game.
QB Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
Everyone always knew that Taylor Martinez was one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the country. However, in his first two years, Martinez wasn't able to match his running ability with a consistent passing attack.
That has changed in 2012, however, as Martinez has shown some major improvement as a passer so far.
The junior signal-caller has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,059 yards and thrown 11 touchdowns compared to just one interception.
Martinez looks like a legitimate Heisman contender. If he continues to progress and develop as an all-around difference-maker, Nebraska should make it to its third ever Rose Bowl this season.
RB Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
Since the powerful passing duo of QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon has moved on to the NFL, Oklahoma State now needs RB Joseph Randle to be the focal point of the offense in 2012.
So far, Randle has looked like he's ready and capable to handle the role.
The junior back has carried the ball 75 times for 534 yards and scored six touchdowns in the first four games of the season.
Randle possesses an outstanding combination of speed, power, pass-catching ability and playmaking instincts.
WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Clemson has only had the services of star sophomore receiver Sammy Watkins for two games this season. But the Tigers haven't actually missed Watkins' presence all that much.
That's because his teammate DeAndre Hopkins has stepped up in a big way during his absence.
Hopkins has caught 42 passes for 604 yards and six touchdowns this season. The athletic junior has looked every bit as dangerous as Watkins did in 2011.
Once Watkins gets back to full speed and rejoins Hopkins, Clemson's passing attack will be almost unstoppable.
WR Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Da'Rick Rogers may be gone, but Tennessee's receiver corps is doing just fine without him.
The Vols' top two receivers, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, have combined to catch 54 passes for 746 yards and six touchdowns this season.
Both players have a future playing on Sundays.
RB John Hubert, Kansas State
QB Collin Klein is the undisputed MVP of the Kansas State offense. But if the Wildcats want to win the Big 12 this season, they're going to need RB John Hubert to play a crucial role as well.
Hubert looks like he's ready for the challenge. In just four games, he has rushed for 431 yards and four touchdowns.
The 5'7'', 191-pound junior is a very similar player to former Kansas State star Darren Sproles.
Like Sproles, Hubert won't overwhelm a defense with his size. However, he's a strong, tough and physical back who can create big runs once he finds open space.
OTs Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
The two best offensive tackles in the country might just be playing on the same team.
Texas A&M's tackle tandem of juniors Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews has been as good as advertised so far this season.
Joeckel and Matthews both appear to be future Top 20 NFL draft picks.
WR Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas
Arkansas has struggled mightily early in the season, dropping four of its first five games. But one player who surely can't be blamed for the disappointing start is WR Cobi Hamilton.
Hamilton has embraced his role as the offense's new No. 1 receiver and he has become QB Tyler Wilson's most reliable target.
The strong and speedy senior has caught 31 passes for 591 yards and four touchdowns this season.
His showcase performance of the season came in Week 4 when he set an SEC record with 303 receiving yards and scored all three of the Razorbacks' touchdowns in a 35-26 loss to Rutgers.
QB Connor Shaw, South Carolina
During his eight years spent at South Carolina, coach Steve Spurrier has been searching for a quarterback that can lead the Gamecocks to an SEC championship and a BCS bowl game.
Spurrier may have finally found his special signal-caller in junior Connor Shaw.
Shaw led the team to a 7-1 finish in 2011. So far this year, he has looked even better and more comfortable as the leader of the offensive attack.
Although he has dealt with a few early bumps and bruises, Shaw has still managed to complete 78 percent of his passes. Plus, he has averaged 4.1 yards per carry. More importantly, he has led South Carolina to a 5-0 record and a Top 10 national ranking.
QB Sean Mannion, Oregon State
Oregon State has only played three games so far this season. However, the Beavers have already managed to match their 2011 win total with a 3-0 start.
QB Sean Mannion deserves a lot of the credit for the team's early success and its quick rise in the rankings.
Mannion has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,088 yards and six touchdowns, and he has beaten two ranked teams.
He may only be a redshirt sophomore, but the prototypical pro-style pocket passer has already established himself as a viable NFL prospect.
RBs Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue, LSU
LSU has the deepest and most talented backfield in college football this season.
During the offseason, it was expected that Spencer Ware and Michael Ford would again be the leaders of the four-horse stable. Instead, however, it has been Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue who have led the ground attack.
Hilliard and Blue have combined to carry the ball 93 times for 636 yards and eight touchdowns.
Both players are big, physical and powerful backs, who possess remarkable athleticism for their size.
QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Louisville has let QB Teddy Bridgewater off the leash this season, and it has really paid off.
Bridgewater has evolved into a dynamic offensive playmaker in his second year as a starter.
The athletic 6'3'', 218-pound sophomore has completed 73 percent of his passes for 1,134 yards and eight touchdowns.
The Cardinals are now 5-0, and they look like they're ready to contend for a Big East title in 2012.
WR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
Wisconsin's offense may not be able to establish a consistent running game with RB Montee Ball. However, the Badgers have found success in the air so far this season.
The team's top receiver, Jared Abbrederis, caught 20 passes for 399 yards and four touchdowns in the team's first four games.
If Abbrederis can get more consistent play at the quarterback position, he has the chance to have an All-Big Ten caliber campaign in 2012.
RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon
Kenjon Barner had to wait three years sitting behind LaMichael James. But now, Barner finally has the chance to be the featured back for the Oregon offense.
So far, the senior speedster has made the most of the opportunity.
Barner has carried the ball 96 times for 605 yards, caught 11 passes for 111 yards and scored 10 touchdowns this season.
With Barner and fellow explosive weapon De'Anthony Thomas leading the way, the Ducks likely won't miss James much at all this season.
TE Ryan Otten, San Jose State
Ryan Otten's name isn't being mentioned alongside some of the top tight end prospects for the 2013 NFL draft just yet. However, is shouldn't be much longer before Otten begins causing quite a buzz in the pro scouting community.
The 6'6'', 245-pound senior from San Jose State has caught 20 passes for 285 yards and a touchdown this season.
Otten has the size, speed and hands to be a dangerous receiving tight end at the next level.
RB Stepfan Taylor, Stanford
QB Andrew Luck has moved on to the NFL, which means this season, Stepfan Taylor can finally get the recognition he deserves.
For the past two seasons, Taylor has been one of the most underappreciated players in the country because he has played in the same backfield as college football's biggest star.
Now that Luck is gone, the sturdy and strong senior back has been asked to be the offense's main man, and he has accepted that role without hesitation.
Taylor has rushed for 413 yards and scored four touchdowns this season.
RB Mike Gillislee, Florida
Florida may have lost its two dangerous scat backs, Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. But the Gators have still had great success running the football without them in 2012.
That's because Mike Gillislee has proven that he's ready to be a workhorse this season.
Gillislee has rushed for 402 yards and five touchdowns in the team's first four games.
The 5'11'', 209-pound senior may not possess the same type of game-breaking speed as Demps or Rainey. But he's still a very important weapon to have in the backfield.
WR Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech's offense is currently averaging 52 points and 498 yards per game.
The Bulldogs have beaten two BCS teams in recent weeks, knocking off both Illinois and Virginia.
The team's most valuable offensive player has been WR Quinton Patton.
Patton has certainly looked like an NFL caliber receiver this season. He has caught 24 passes for 407 yards and four touchdowns.
QB Brett Hundley, UCLA
First-year UCLA head coach Jim Mora raised some eyebrows when he chose inexperienced redshirt freshman Brett Hundley to be the Bruins' starting quarterback in 2012.
So far, though, Hundley hasn't let his head coach down.
The athletic 6'3'', 223-pound dual-threat signal-caller has completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,480 yards and 11 touchdowns, while adding 165 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
Hundley has led UCLA to a 4-1 start. Eventually, he could have the Bruins challenging cross-town rival USC in the Pac-12 South division this year.
RB Duke Johnson, Miami
Miami needed someone to step up and fill the void left by last year's leading rusher Lamar Miller, who left school early for the NFL, and the Hurricanes found that player in freshman Duke Johnson.
Johnson has been just what the Miami offense needed.
The former highly touted high school recruit from Miami Norland High School has rushed for 359 yards, caught 15 passes for 147 yards and scored seven touchdowns in his first five games.
The Hurricanes have had plenty of star running backs in recent years, and it looks like Johnson is the next in line.
QB Cody Fajardo and RB Stefphon Jefferson, Nevada
Nevada looks like it will challenge Boise State for the Mountain West title this season, just as long as the backfield duo of QB Cody Fajardo and RB Stefphon Jefferson stays hot.
So far, Fajardo has totaled 1,767 yards of offense and accounted for 14 touchdowns, while Jefferson has totaled 980 yards and scored 12 touchdowns.
TE Dion Sims, Michigan State
RB Le'Veon Bell hasn't been the only Michigan State offensive player who has looked like a beast early on this season.
TE Dion Sims has also looked physically superior to basically any player that has had the misfortune of trying to cover him.
Sims has caught 24 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns this season.
WR Stefon Diggs, Maryland
Stefon Diggs looks like he could be this year's version of Sammy Watkins.
The former blue-chip recruit from Maryland's Good Counsel High School has made an immediate impact for the Terrapins this season.
Diggs is averaging 21 yards per catch, 26 yards per kick return, 11 yards per punt return and he has scored three touchdowns.
Maryland fans have to be ecstatic and excited about the type of star potential that Diggs has to offer.
RBs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
Alabama doesn't seem to be missing star running back Trent Richardson at all thus far this season.
Richardson's replacements, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon, have combined to carry the ball 114 times for 606 yards and six touchdowns.
The bigger, stronger Lacy and the leaner, faster Yeldon complement each other extremely well. They truly form one of the best backfield duos in the country.
WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
Last year, Jordan Matthews averaged 3.2 catches per game.
This season, Matthews is averaging 6.5 catches per game.
The 6'3'', 205-pound junior has been Vanderbilt's most dangerous offensive weapon so far, catching 26 passes for 395 yards and two touchdowns.
Matthews definitely belongs in the same conversation as the best wide receivers in the SEC.
QB Seth Doege, Texas Tech
Even though Seth Doege threw for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns last season, the Texas Tech quarterback didn't receive a lot of love from the media during the offseason.
The senior signal-caller has proven that he deserves plenty of recognition, though, as he has come out and completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,189 yards and 15 touchdowns in his first four games.
Even though Texas Tech is 4-0 after the first month of the season, we still have to see if Doege and the Red Raiders can keep winning against quality Big 12 competition.
QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Everyone was wondering why Oregon QB Darron Thomas decided to leave school early for the NFL even though there was little chance that he would be drafted.
After finally getting a look at Marcus Mariota, it's easy to see that Thomas clearly didn't want to have to compete for his job with the young freshman sensation.
Mariota has stepped into the starting role and flourished, totaling 1,284 yards of offense and accounting for 12 touchdowns in his first five games.
If the young first-year starter continues to play like a seasoned veteran, the Ducks should win their fourth straight Pac-12 title this season.
WR Kenny Bell, Nebraska
Nebraska's passing attack wasn't exactly all that great last season. In fact, the Cornhuskers ranked 104th in the nation in passing offense in 2011, averaging just 162 yards through the air per game.
Now that QB Taylor Martinez has taken strides towards becoming a more consistent passer this season, the offense has opened up a lot more in 2012.
The main beneficiary of the offensive evolution is WR Kenny Bell.
Bell is averaging 22 yards per catch and he has already hauled in four touchdown passes in five games.
QB Kain Colter, Northwestern
Northwestern's offense has been one of the most impressive units of the early part of the season. The 5-0 Wildcats are currently averaging 33 points and 466 yards per game.
The key playmaker has been do-it-all quarterback Kain Colter.
Colter has displayed tremendous versatility in 2012. He has thrown for 369 yards and two touchdowns. He has run for 371 yards and six touchdowns. And he has also caught nine passes for 181 yards.
He may not be great at just one thing, but Colter can still put a ton of stress on a defense.
RB Cody Getz, Air Force
Cody Getz may not be the biggest or the fastest running back in college football. However, it would be hard to find many other backs that run with the type of determination that he has.
This year, Getz has proven to be a great fit for Air Force's Flexbone triple-option offensive attack.
The 5'7'', 175-pound senior has rushed for 687 yards and seven touchdowns on just 83 total carries.
His 8.2 yards per carry average is one of the best in all of college football.
QB Kolton Browning, Louisiana-Monroe
Louisiana-Monroe has beaten one BCS team, Arkansas, and given two others, Auburn and Baylor, a real scare this season.
The Warhawks have been able to hang with the big boy schools because of their potent offensive attack, which is led by QB Kolton Browning.
Browning has completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,164 yards and 11 touchdowns, while also adding 189 yards and three scores on the ground.
If Browning keeps progressing, Louisiana-Monroe will definitely challenge for a Sun Belt title this season.
WRs Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Oregon State has been one of the biggest surprise teams of the season so far.
The Beavers have managed to transform from preseason unranked afterthought, into Top 20 ranked undefeated conference contender in just a few weeks time.
QB Sean Mannion deserves a lot of the credit for the team's early success. But Mannion's two top receivers, Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks, also deserve plenty of praise as well.
Wheaton and Cooks have combined to catch 48 passes for 807 yards and five touchdowns in just three games.
WR Kenny Stills, Oklahoma
Kenny Stills knew that replacing record-breaking receiver Ryan Broyles as Oklahoma's new go-to receiving weapon wouldn't be easy. Nevertheless, Stills certainly hasn't looked like he has let the pressure and expectations phase him so far this season.
The speedy Sooner has caught 22 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns in just four games.
Stills looks like he's indeed ready to handle being the true No. 1 target for QB Landry Jones in 2012.
WR Brandon Carter, TCU
Everyone expected Josh Boyce to be TCU's clear No. 1 receiving weapon in 2012. However, so far this season, Boyce has been overshadowed by his teammate, Brandon Carter.
Carter leads the Horned Frogs with 17 catches for 308 yards and four touchdowns.
The sophomore speedster is a dangerous deep threat.
QB Tyler Tettleton, Ohio
Tyler Tettleton has already led Ohio to one of the biggest wins in school history, a huge road upset of Penn State in Week 1.
Now, Tettleton is hoping to guide the Bobcats to a MAC championship.
The junior signal-caller has thrown for over 1,000 yards and accounted for 11 touchdowns, as he has guided Ohio to a 5-0 start.
Tettleton won't be a hidden gem for much longer.
WR Rodney Smith, Florida State
Florida State has plenty of size and speed in its wide receiver corps. But the most overall physically gifted pass-catcher that the Seminoles have is Rodney Smith.
Smith is a 6'6'', 219-pound senior who possesses an incredible amount of speed and athleticism for his size.
Right now, Smith leads the team with three touchdown catches, and he's also averaging 15 yards per reception.
The big, athletic pass-catcher could be a real sleeper prospect for the 2013 NFL draft.
QB Munchie Legaux, Cincinnati
It may be time for the Big East to get a feel for what Munchie Mania is all about.
Cincinnati QB Munchie Legaux has led the Bearcats to three straight wins to start the season, including a statement victory over Virginia Tech at FedEx Field this past weekend.
Legaux has totaled 958 yards of offense and thrown seven touchdowns in just three games.
The athletic dual-threat signal-caller has added a valuable new element to the Cincinnati offense this season.
RB LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State
Mississippi State has had to replace RB Vick Ballard, who rushed for over 2,100 yards in his two years with the Bulldogs.
It's a good thing that the team has had a capable rusher in LaDarius Perkins, who has taken the reigns from Ballard and thrived as the team's new featured back.
Perkins has averaged 6.8 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns so far this season.
The 5'10'', 190-pound junior appears to be a solid fit for Dan Mullen's spread offense.
WRs Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, LSU
LSU lost last year's most dangerous receiving weapon, Rueben Randle, who left school a year early to become a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
Luckily for the Tigers, they had plenty of young talent waiting in the wings to replace Randle this year.
The two receivers who have made the most noise in Baton Rouge so far this season are Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
Beckham and Landry have combined to catch 34 passes for 450 yards and three touchdowns.
QB Stephen Morris, Miami
Miami QB Stephen Morris put on a sensational show against N.C. State this past weekend.
Morris threw for a school-record 566 yards and five touchdowns in a 44-37 win over the Wolfpack.
The first-year starter has helped lead the Hurricanes to a surprising 4-1 start, even though the team is full of inexperienced players at key positions.
The junior signal-caller has thrown for over 1,600 yards and nine touchdowns. Judging from his early performance, Morris appears to be a much better and more consistent passer than his predecessor Jacory Harris.
WR J.D. Woods, West Virginia
Everyone knew before the season started that West Virginia wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey had the chance to be a dynamic duo in 2012.
What many didn't know, however, was what to expect from the team's other starting receiver, J.D. Woods.
Woods caught just seven passes in 2011. However, he has played a much bigger role in the offense this year.
Obviously, Woods hasn't produced at the same incredible level as Ausitn or Bailey, but he has still caught 27 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns.
QB Kiehl Frazier, Auburn
No, just kidding.
Kiehl Frazier has been a disaster.
TE Jake McGee, Virginia
Virginia has had six tight ends drafted by NFL teams since 2001. Now it looks like Jake McGee will be the next talented tight end prospect to emerge from Charlottesville.
McGee has displayed outstanding athleticism, hand and body control for a player his size. He has hauled in 15 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Center Jonotthan Harrison, Florida
Florida has one of the most talented offensive lines in the country this season. The unit's top standout player is center Jonotthan Harrison.
Harrison has looked like an All-SEC caliber performer during Florida's first four games of the season.
The 6'4'', 299-pound junior has helped open up some huge holes for RB Mike Gillislee. Plus, he has really developed into the line's vocal and emotional leader in 2012.
RBs Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown, Texas
Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown showed plenty of flashes of their enormous potential as freshmen back in 2011.
This year, Bergeron and Brown appear to be prepared to take that next step toward national stardom.
The two sophomore backs have combined to total 625 yards of offense and score eight touchdowns.
There simply aren't many backfield tandems that can compare to the one Texas has in 2012.
QB Nick Florence, Baylor
Replacing a Heisman Trophy winner and arguably the greatest player in your school's history is obviously an almost impossible challenge. However, that hasn't stopped Nick Florence from going out and trying his best to prove that he can handle taking over for Robert Griffin III at Baylor.
Florence hasn't appeared to let the pressure get to him at all this season. So far, the senior signal-caller has been one of the most productive passers in college football, throwing for 1,585 yards and 16 touchdowns in four games.
With one of the best receiver trios in the country at his disposal, Florence should be able to keep Baylor's offense playing at a high level even without RG3.
RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
When Nebraska's top running back Rex Burkhead was sidelined by a knee injury early in the season, his backup Ameer Abdullah stepped in and proved that he could carry the rushing load.
Abdullah has averaged 6.1 yards on 79 total carries, caught nine passes for 100 yards, averaged 15 yards on punt returns and scored seven touchdowns this season.
The 5'9'', 185-pound sophomore looks like he's going to have no trouble replacing Burkhead after he departs for the NFL following this season.
WR Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest
Wake Forest may have lost its leading receiver from 2011, Chris Givens, who was a fourth-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft. However, the Demon Deacons have been fortunate that WR Michael Campanaro has developed into a key difference-maker this season.
Campanaro has caught 38 passes for 429 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Luckily, the highly productive junior receiver will no longer have to live in the shadows of Givens in 2012.
QB Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech
Last year, Colby Cameron had an inconsistent, yet still encouraging campaign during his first full year as the starter.
Cameron has clearly taken all of the lessons he learned in 2011 and put them to good use so far this season.
The senior signal-caller has completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,131 yards and thrown 12 touchdowns compared to no interceptions.
Most importantly, Cameron has helped guide Louisiana Tech to a 4-0 record, which includes consecutive wins over BCS opponents.
RB Jawan Jamison, Rutgers
When Savon Huggins arrived at Rutgers as the most highly ranked high school recruit in the state of New Jersey, some Scarlet Knights fans said that he would be competing for the Heisman Trophy by his sophomore year in 2012.
Instead, Huggins has been forced to take a backseat to fellow sophomore back Jawan Jamison.
Jamison has been the bell cow back for the offense in 2012, rushing for 491 yards on 102 carries and scoring two touchdowns.
With Jamison leading the way on offense, Rutgers has a legitimate shot to compete for a Big East title this year.
WRs Dan Buckner and Austin Hill, Arizona
Rich Rodriguez was known for relying heavily on the running game during his time at West Virginia and Michigan. However, Rodriguez has opened things up in his first year at Arizona. He has gotten back to implementing the type of system he used earlier in his career.
Under Rodriguez's watch, the Wildcats are currently ranked second in the Pac-12 in passing offense, averaging 343 yards through the air per game.
The team's top two receivers, Dan Buckner and Austin Hill, have combined to catch 62 passes for 865 yards and five touchdowns.
Buckner and Hill combined to catch 63 total passes in 2011.
RB Beau Blankenship, Ohio
QB Tyler Tettleton isn't the only reason Ohio is the clear-cut favorite to win the MAC this season.
The Bobcats also have one of the league's most feared running backs, Beau Blankenship.
Blankenship has already rushed for 757 yards and five touchdowns in just five games this season.
The former transfer from Iowa State has really managed to get his career back on track in Athens.
WR Justin Hardy, East Carolina
East Carolina looks like it could contend for a Conference USA championship this season.
The Pirates have one of the most explosive and productive players in the conference, WR Justin Hardy.
Hardy opened up plenty of eyes when he caught 64 passes as a freshman last year. However, he has now taken his game to the next level in 2012.
The 6'0'', 185-pound sophomore has caught 34 passes for 361 yards and four touchdowns.
QB David Ash, Texas
Texas' unusually poor performance in each of the past two seasons can be mainly attributed to the team's lack of consistency at the quarterback position.
Now, though, it looks like the Longhorns have found the signal-caller they need to lead them back to the top of the Big 12.
David Ash has been a stabilizing force for the offense so far this season.
Ash has completed 78 percent of his passes for over 1,000 yards, accounted for 12 touchdowns and led the team to a 4-0 start.
WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
Amari Cooper arrived at Alabama as a very highly touted high school recruit out of Miami. It hasn't taken him long to live up to expectations.
The 6'1'', 198-pound freshman has already caught 17 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns so far this season.
TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Eric Ebron had just 10 receptions in his freshman season in 2011. However, this year, he has already caught 17 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns.
The athletic 6'4'', 235-pound sophomore has been one of QB Bryn Renner's most dependable targets this season.
Ebron has the type of rare size-speed combination that makes it difficult for defenses to figure out how to contain him.
WR Marcus Davis, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas has not come close to meeting expectations this season. However, the Hokies' top wide receiver, Marcus Davis, has been playing very well in 2012.
Davis is averaging 19 yards per catch and averaging 18 yards per rush.
The 6'4'', 232-pound senior is the type of natural athlete that NFL scouts drool over.
If Thomas improves his accuracy, Davis should have a memorable final campaign this season.
QB Bo Wallace, Ole Miss
The Ole Miss offense is currently averaging 32 points and 434 yards per game. That's a big improvement over the 16 points and 280 yards per game the team averaged last season.
Sure, the Rebels have been beaten easily by the two top teams they've played so far—Alabama and Texas. However, you have to give credit to first-year starting quarterback Bo Wallace for the job he has done with the offense.
Wallace has completed 62 percent of his passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns, and he has also added 165 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
It will be interesting to see how the former JUCO transfer will handle the grueling schedule that Ole Miss is now about to face.
RB Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky
This offseason, Western Kentucky had to figure out how to make up for the loss of All-American running back Bobby Rainey, who ran for 1,695 yards last season.
So far, Rainey's replacement, Antonio Andrews, has looked like he's definitely capable of filling his predecessor's role.
Andrews has rushed for 547 yards and five touchdowns and also caught 19 passes for 235 yards and another score.
If the junior back keeps performing at this current level, the Hilltoppers will surely be a factor in the Sun Belt race.
WR Kevonte Martin-Manley, Iowa
Iowa has struggled to put together a consistent passing attack this season, averaging just 200 yards through the air per game.
The Hawkeyes' passing struggles certainly can't be blamed on the team's two top receivers, Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley, who have both played well this season.
We knew that Davis had the potential to produce at a high level this season. But Martin-Manley has managed to be just as effective, catching 19 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown.
QB Rakeem Cato, Marshall
Marshall is currently leading the country with 274 total pass attempts this season.
The Herd have tried their best to feature young sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato as much as possible in 2012.
Cato has been astonishingly accurate, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 1,920 yards and throwing 15 touchdowns compared to just five interceptions.
Don't be surprised if a lot of Marshall's single-season passing records get reset this season.
RB Damien Williams, Oklahoma
Damien Williams has only had 30 carries this season. However, Williams has certainly made the most of his limited opportunities.
The 6'0'', 208-pound junior has averaged 9.7 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns in three games.
QB Jeff Driskel, Florida
Jeff Driskel arrived in Gainesville as the highest rated quarterback prospect in the 2011 recruiting class. He didn't really do much as a freshman. However, he's finally beginning to meet high expectations as a sophomore this season.
Driskel has completed 69 percent of his passes for 698 yards and four touchdowns, while adding 148 yards and a score on the ground.
The most important thing is that he has got Florida at 4-0 going into a crucial conference clash with LSU this weekend.
If the Gators beat the Tigers, they have to be considered a true national title contender.
RB Kendial Lawrence, Missouri
Missouri is without the services of last year's star rusher Henry Josey, so the Tigers have turned to senior Kendial Lawrence to lead the way in 2012.
So far, Lawrence has looked more than capable of filling in for Josey and keeping the running game going.
The senior back has totaled 476 yards of offense and scored five touchdowns this season.
Lawrence had his second 100-yard rushing game of the season this past weekend in a 21-16 win over UCF.
WRs Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley, Texas
Texas QB David Ash has had an easier time finding success in 2012, and a lot of that has to do with the consistent play he has been getting from his two top wide receivers, Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley.
Davis and Shipley have combined to catch 33 passes for 435 yards and six touchdowns in just four games of action.
Davis came up with the Longhorns' biggest catch of the season this past weekend against Oklahoma State when he hauled in a key 32-yard pass late in the fourth quarter of the 41-36 win.
RB Venric Mark, Northwestern
QB Kain Colter hasn't been the only player who has been playing at a high level on Northwestern's offense so far this season.
RB Venric Mark has also played a major role in the unit's early success.
Mark has rushed for 538 yards, caught 13 passes and scored six touchdowns this season.
The junior back was one of the Big Ten's biggest breakout stars in September.
TE Jordan Reed, Florida
We may soon have to start comparing Florida TE Jordan Reed to former Gator great Aaron Hernandez.
Like Hernandez, Reed is a big, athletic pass-catching tight end who really brings an explosive element to the Florida offense.
The 6'3'', 243-pound junior has caught 16 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown so far this season.
It's clear that Reed is finally figuring out how to put his tremendous physical talent to good use.
RB Storm Woods, Oregon State
Oregon State's offense has featured some very productive running backs in recent years such as Jacquizz Rodgers, Yvenson Bernard and Steven Jackson.
The next in line appears to be Storm Woods.
Woods has rushed for 293 yards, caught 10 passes and scored two touchdowns in just three games.
QB Derek Carr and WR Davante Adams, Fresno State
Fresno State QB Derek Carr is currently tied for seventh in the nation with 193 total pass attempts.
A good chunk of those throws have been aimed at Carr's favorite receiver Davante Adams.
Adams, who is just a freshman, leads the Mountain West with 36 catches for 437 yards and three touchdowns.
WR Chad Bumphis, Mississippi State
Mississippi State fans have always known that WR Chad Bumphis has plenty of natural ability. However, up until this season, they've been forced to wait for him to put it to full use.
Bumphis is finally beginning to break out of his shell in 2012.
The speedy senior is averaging 22 yards per catch, and he has already found the end zone five times in just four games.
QB Chuckie Keeton, Utah State
Going into this season, Utah State hadn't beaten its in-state rival Utah since 1997. However, QB Chuckie Keeton helped the Aggies end that drought with a 27-20 victory over the Utes in Week 2.
Keeton has guided Utah State to a 4-1 start to the 2012 season.
The athletic dual-threat quarterback has thrown for 1,281 yards and 11 touchdowns and he has also added 206 yards on the ground.
If the senior signal-caller keeps playing this well, Utah State should be able to contend with Louisiana Tech for a WAC championship this year.
WR Alonzo Russell, Toledo
When Alonzo Russell was playing for New York's Milford Academy, he had numerous scholarship offers from BCS schools such as Arkansas, Illinois, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. However, Russell decided that he wanted to play for Toledo in the MAC.
So far, it has proven to be a wise choice. The redshirt freshman has already caught 24 passes for 452 yards and two touchdowns this season.
WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
At 6'6'', 220 pounds, Brandon Coleman has the perfect frame to be a dangerous matchup nightmare in the red zone.
So far this season, Rutgers has been able to exploit Coleman's size on more than a few occasions.
The towering sophomore pass-catcher is currently tied for first in the Big East with five touchdown catches.
Coleman has also shown that he's more than just a big possession receiver, as he has averaged an impressive 17 yards per catch this season.
RB Dri Archer, Kent State
Dri Archer totaled just 215 yards of offense and scored just two touchdowns in 2011.
This season, however, he has already piled up 504 yards of total offense, averaged a whopping 42 yards on 10 kick returns and scored eight touchdowns.
Archer is proving to be the type of versatile and explosive X-factor that Kent State needs in order to compete in the MAC this season.
The Golden Flashes are now 3-1. If Archer keeps playing this well, they have a chance to have their best season of the millennium in 2012.
WR Allen Robinson, Penn State
This offseason, Penn State lost its best running back, Silas Redd, and its best returning wide receiver, Justin Brown. Both players decided to transfer to different schools after the NCAA sanctions were handed down.
With both of them gone, others have been forced to step up this season. The player who has really made the biggest leap is WR Allen Robinson.
Robinson caught just three passes as a freshman last year, but this season, he has already hauled in 32 passes for 439 yards and five touchdowns.
The 6'3'', 201-pound sophomore possesses a terrific combination of size, speed, sure hands and impressive body control.
WRs Aaron Dobson and Tommy Shuler, Marshall
Marshall currently has the third-ranked passing offense in the country. The Herd are averaging 394 yards through the air per game in 2012.
The two key weapons in the passing attack are receivers Aaron Dobson and Tommy Shuler.
Dobson and Shuler have combined to catch 83 passes, which is the most of any receiver duo in college football.
NFL scouts have surely taken notice of the intriguing physical skills that Dobson has to offer.
QB Matt Scott, Arizona
Matt Scott looked like a true star quarterback in his first three games of the season, as he led Arizona to a 3-0 start. However, he has fallen off a bit in the last two games—both losses to Oregon and Oregon State.
Still, even with a miserable performance against the Ducks in Week 4, Scott has still completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,608 yards and 10 touchdowns and added 228 yards and two scores on the ground.
The mobile 6'3'', 197-pound senior has had to wait his turn behind Nick Foles, but he seems to be making the most of his opportunity to start this season.
So far, Scott has looked like a perfect fit for Rich Rodriguez's spread offensive system.
WR Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss
Last year, Donte Moncrief gave Ole Miss fans a taste of what he was capable of, as he caught 31 passes for 454 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman.
This season, Moncrief has taken his game to the next level.
The 6'2'', 214-pound sophomore is averaging 18 yards per catch and he has already hauled in four touchdown grabs, matching his total from 2011.
The Rebels may not win many games in the SEC this season, but Moncrief will certainly cause havoc for opposing defenses.
TE Chris Coyle, Arizona State
Chris Coyle had just six catches in 2011. However, he's averaging nearly six catches per game this season.
Coyle currently leads Arizona State with 26 catches for 338 yards and two touchdowns.
Right now, the junior's number of receptions is the highest total out of any tight end in the country.
Sun Devils QB Taylor Kelly will surely continue to look Coyle's way on a regular basis throughout the rest of the season.
WR Kasen Williams, Washington
Washington lost its two most productive wide receivers from the 2011 season. However, the Huskies' receiver corps is still in relatively good shape.
Even though he's just a true sophomore, Kasen Williams has now taken over as the leader of the group.
Williams leads the team with 25 catches for 292 yards and three touchdowns.
The 6'2'', 216-pound speedster is one of the most highly touted recruits to ever sign with Washington. It looks like Williams is fully ready to back up his high school hype in 2012.
QB Wes Lunt, Oklahoma State
Wes Lunt has only played in three games this season, but when he has been in, he has been very impressive.
Lunt has completed 68 percent of his passes for 588 yards and four touchdowns.
The true freshman signal-caller has been forced to quickly adapt to a starting role for the Cowboys. However, he has shown the type of intriguing skill set and mental makeup that you want to see from a young, developing quarterback.
WR Mike Shanahan, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh's passing offense has gone from averaging 209 yards through the air per game in 2011 to averaging 299 passing yards per game this season.
QB Tino Sunseri has shown signs of improvement in 2012. One of the big reasons he has looked better is due to the fact that receiver Mike Shanahan has been playing so well.
Shanahan leads the team with 21 catches for 369 yards and three touchdowns.
The 6'5'', 225-pound senior is a big target, who moves exceptionally well for his size.
RB Mark Weisman, Iowa
Iowa has had to figure out how to properly replace RB Marcus Coker, who ran for 1,384 yards in 2011 before transferring to Stony Brook during the offseason.
The Hawkeyes seem to have found a runner they can rely on in Mark Weisman.
Weisman was a non-factor in the first two games of the season, but over the last three weeks, he has made a huge impact for the offense.
The 6'0'', 225-pound sophomore has averaged 24 carries per game and rushed for a total of 507 yards and seven touchdowns in the last three contests.
WRs Corey Brown and Devin Smith, Ohio State
Last year, Ohio State didn't have a wide receiver who totaled more than 14 catches. This season, the Buckeyes have two players, Corey Brown and Devin Smith, who have already topped that mark.
Brown and Smith have combined to catch 51 passes for 668 yards and five touchdowns.
QB Braxton Miller may be the star of Ohio State's offense. However, he wouldn't have been able to accomplish all that he has so far this season without his two most talented receivers helping out.
RB Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona
Last year, Ka'Deem Carey ran for 425 yards and six touchdowns. This season, Carey has already eclipsed those totals, rushing for 538 yards and seven touchdowns.
The sophomore back clearly has the chance to grow into a highly productive playmaker in Rich Rodriguez's offense over the next few years.
WR Mike Evans and Thomas Johnson, Texas A&M
Seniors Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu were the two Texas A&M receivers that were really supposed to light things up this season. However, instead, it has been two freshmen, Mike Evans and Thomas Johnson, who have made the most noise.
Evans and Johnson have combined to catch 39 passes for 515 yards so far this season.
The Aggies may only have Swope and Nwachukwu for a few more games, but the future of the receiver corps still looks very bright.
QB Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
This offseason, Northern Illinois lost one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, Chandler Harnish, who was a seventh-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
The Huskies replaced Harnish with Jordan Lynch, who has picked up right where his predecessor left off.
Lynch has totaled 1,642 yards of offense and accounted for 14 touchdowns in the first five games of the season.
The junior signal-caller has led Northern Illinois to a 4-1 start. He should continue to guide the Huskies into contention for a MAC championship this year.
TE Blake Jackson, Oklahoma State
The loss of WR Justin Blackmon has opened the door for other Oklahoma State pass-catchers to prove themselves this season.
One player who has stepped up and become a key part of the Cowboys' passing attack in 2012 is TE Blake Jackson.
Jackson has caught 12 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown.
The 6'3'', 235-pound junior has made an instant impact after arriving in Stillwater as a coveted JUCO recruit during the offseason.
WR Phillip Dorsett, Miami
Many expected Allen Hurns to step up and be Miami's go-to wide receiver this season. Instead, though, Phillip Dorsett has been the pass-catcher who has made the biggest splash so far.
Dorsett currently leads the Canes with 28 receptions for 464 yards and three touchdown catches.
The 5'9'', 187-pound sophomore is one of the most explosive receivers in the ACC.
He has certainly got a bright future ahead of him in Coral Gables.
WR Isiah Myers, Washington State
Marquess Wilson is without a doubt the best wide receiver that Washington State has. However, Wilson isn't the only player who has benefited from the arrival of Mike Leach.
Another Cougar who fits Leach's Air Raid offense well is Isiah Myers.
Myers only had seven catches in 2011, but this year, he already has 25 receptions for 227 yards and four touchdowns.
While Wilson may be the receiver who soaks up all of the attention, Myers also plays a key part in the offense's overall success as well.
QB Chase Rettig and WR Alex Amidon, Boston College
Boston College QB Chase Rettig has played much better early on this season than he did last year.
Rettig's success can be attributed to the fact that he has now grown comfortable in the offense and found a reliable receiver, Alex Amidon, who he can always count on.
Amidon has caught 33 passes for 559 yards and three touchdowns this season.
There's nothing particularly special about the 5'11'', 186-pound junior, but he certainly knows how to get the job done when he's called upon to produce.
OG Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
Mississippi State has allowed just two sacks this season, which is the lowest total in the SEC.
The standout in the trenches has been OG Gabe Jackson.
Jackson has not only excelled as a pass-blocker this year, he has also opened up some big holes for RB LaDarius Perkins.
WR Jaime Wilson, Western Michigan
Western Michigan has a potent passing attack, which is averaging 272 yards through the air per game. The featured player of the passing game is WR Jaime Wilson.
Wilson has caught 47 passes, a total which currently ranks third in the nation, and scored five touchdowns in the Broncos' first five games.
The 5'11'', 196-pound freshman didn't receive much attention from BCS schools when he was playing at Florida's Glades Central High School. However, he's proving early on in his career that he's capable of producing in a big way at the collegiate level.
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