College Football: Manti Te'o and the 11 Hardest Players to Game Plan for

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2012

College Football: Manti Te'o and the 11 Hardest Players to Game Plan for

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    Coaches spend countless hours preparing for upcoming opponents during the week, but some players are seemingly impossible to game plan for.

    Names from recent collegiate history that come to mind are Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III and Tyrann Mathieu.

    Age has not been a factor in 2012's group of stars as some underclassmen have been more than a handful for their opposition.

    These players are some of the biggest reasons opposing coaches lose sleep at night.

    In no specific order, here are the 11 players that are the hardest to game plan for in the NCAA.


    Note: Statistics courtesy of

Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

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    Damontre Moore leads the nation in the top-two categories for defensive linemen.

    The converted linebacker has amassed 20 tackles for loss and co-leads sacks with 12.

    Moore's 51 solo and 73 total tackles are higher than his totals as a linebacker last season. Whether he gets credit for the tackle or not, Moore is always hovering around the ball.

    He is also the top-ranked underclassman at defensive end by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. behind the Insider paywall.

    But the even worse news for coaches is that Moore plans on returning for his senior season according to Kate Hairopoulos of Sports Day DFW.

    Like Bart Scott said, "Can't wait!"

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

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    Jadeveon Clowney is already demanding double-teams on the defensive line with his 6'7" frame and equally massive skillset.

    He ranks third in nation this season with 17 tackles for loss—including 9.5 sacks.

    Clowney's career numbers are also piling up. Only in his second collegiate season, he has six career forced fumbles, 29 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks.

    If it weren't for those double teams, Clowney would be in the backfield even more often than he is—a terrifying thought for opposing coaches.

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia

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    Jarvis Jones has been a menace from his hybrid linebacker position.

    He has recorded 10.5 sacks and is also third in the nation with 17 tackles for loss. Jones is second in the nation and leads the SEC with five forced fumbles on the season.

    The junior linebacker made Georgia's play of the year against Florida. After getting caught up in the blocks, Jones forced a fumble on Gators' tight end Jordan Reed inside the five-yard line.

    He made his first collegiate interception in 2012 and again looks like an All-American this year.

    Jones is Kiper's first-overall player and the top-rated pass rusher by B/R's Gerwel.

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame

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    Linebackers aren't supposed to be in the running for the Heisman Trophy. They aren't supposed to have six interceptions in a single season, either.

    Notre Dame's Manti Te'o has accomplished both of those so far in 2012.

    His six picks ranks second in the nation, and the senior has also knocked down 10 passes showing his athleticism in the middle of the field.

    Though he isn't a terrifying pass-rusher like Moore, Clowney or Jones, Te'o is impressive in his own right.

    He has 92 tackles on the year—46 solo and 46 assisted—with 5.5 for a loss.

    Bleacher Report's Steven Gerwel rates Te'o as the best linebacker prospect in the country.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

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    I could write all day long about Johnny Manziel.

    The young quarterback already has a signature win by beating then top-ranked Alabama last week.

    Manziel is having a Heisman-caliber season and should see a boost in his chances after the win.

    He is second in the SEC in completion percentage to go with 2,700 passing yards and 18 touchdowns. Johnny Football has not thrown an interception since the Aggies' loss to LSU.

    Dual-threat quarterbacks are often found in the collegiate level, but Manziel has set the mark this year with 1,000 rushing yards and 15 more scores.

    He has twice earned Walter Camp National Player of the Week this season as well as being a seven-time recipient of the SEC's Freshman of the Week. analyst Bucky Brooks says Manziel is the prototypical quarterback of the future.

    Oh yeah, Manziel is a freshman.

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State

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    Collin Klein has led the Kansas State Wildcats to a 10-0 record and a fantastic shot at the BCS National Championship game.

    The senior from Loveland, Colorado has 748 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns—which ranks second in the nation—this season. Those 19 scores put him fourth in the country in scoring.

    Klein is an equally prolific passer averaging 9.7 yards per attempt while completing nearly 70 percent of his throws. He has tossed 12 touchdowns to just three interceptions.

    The ultimate result of those stats is Klein being the eighth-most efficient passer in the NCAA.

    He has as good a chance of winning the Heisman Trophy as making it to the title game, an impressive senior campaign.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

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    The Oregon Ducks didn't know who their quarterback would be going in 2012.

    Well, I think Marcus Mariota has been a solid choice. He has led the Ducks to a 10-0 start and a first-place national ranking.

    Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas are dynamic weapons, but Mariota is the ultimate distributor for Oregon's high-flying offense.

    The freshman has completed 71.7 percent of his passes and is the most efficient quarterback in the nation with a 177.0 rating.

    He has 28 touchdowns—fifth most in the nation—to only five interceptions.

    Mariota, like Manziel, is a sensational dual-threat quarterback. He has posted 516 rushing yards with 6.6 yards per carry and even has a receiving score this season.

    The nightmare of preparing for him will continue as Oregon has at least two more years with this freshman sensation.

Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State

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    If it weren't for sanctions, the Ohio State Buckeyes' 10-0 record could have ended with a trip to the national title game with Braxton Miller squaring off against Klein or Mariota.

    The sophomore from Huber Heights, Ohio has thrown 14 touchdowns to his Buckeyes' teammates, but has been more impressive using his legs.

    Miller has scampered for 1,166 yards—13th in the country—and nationally ranks in the Top 20 in rushing touchdowns with 13 appearances in the end zone.

    He also leads the Big Ten with 8.0 passing yards per attempt.

    With Urban Meyer at the helm and Miller under center, the Buckeyes will be a force to be reckoned with in 2013.

Marqise Lee, WR, USC

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    Through ten games, Marqise Lee has shattered the impressive numbers from his freshman season.

    With 98 catches and 1,447 yards—both of which lead the NCAA in their respective categories—the sophomore has been an absolute stud for the Trojans. Lee also has 13 receiving touchdowns in 2012.

    The first all-purpose player of the list averages 11 yards per rush attempt while compiling 29.4 yards per kick return. His 677 return yards places Lee at 13th in the nation and also has the sixth most yards from scrimmage in the NCAA.

    He and fellow receiver Robert Woods comprise a deadly combination for quarterback Matt Barkley.

Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

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    Giovani Bernard was injured for two of North Carolina's first three games this season.

    He wasted no time making an impact upon his return.

    The redshirt sophomore has already eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing with 13 touchdowns in eight games played.

    Bernard is also one of the best pass-catching backs on the collegiate level with 38 receptions on the season. He has 411 receiving yards in addition to his four scores.

    But it doesn't end there, as the 5'10" playmaker leads the ACC with 17.9 yards per punt return and has taken two punts to the house in 2012.

    Well aware of his chances at playing at the next level, Bernard has a tough decision to make at the end of the season.

    UNC fans hope their best player returns next year, but opposing coaches wouldn't miss him one bit.

Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern

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    Though not well-known, Northwestern running back Venric Mark is one of the most versatile players in the country.

    Relegated mostly to returning kicks his first two season, the junior has burst onto the college football scene in 2012 with 1,181 yards and ten touchdowns. Mark also boasts a 6.2 average per run on nearly 200 carries.

    He has also earned 100 receiving yards and a score out of the backfield.

    Mark hasn't strayed too far from his return duties averaging 19.7 yards per kick return thus far. His punt returns, however, have been extraordinary.

    The Wildcats' speedster boasts 21.6 per punt return—second in the nation—along with two more touchdowns.

    Opposing coaches have one more season of Mark, one they cannot be looking forward to.