College Football's Most Underrated Players of 2012

Danny Flynn@FlynnceptionSenior Analyst IJanuary 1, 2013

College Football's Most Underrated Players of 2012

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    Looking back on the 2012 college football season, there was definitely a select group of players who garnered a ton of publicity from the national sports media throughout the year. High-profile stars such as Johnny Manziel, Manti Te'o, Collin Klein, Jadeveon Clowney, Matt Barkley, Braxton Miller and Kenjon Barner received plenty of hype and attention this year. 

    It's no surprise that the media chose those players to talk about, considering their national appeal. However, there were far too many deserving players who didn't seem to amass anywhere near the type of following and attention that they truly deserved this season. 

    As we head into a new calendar year, here’s a look at the most underrated college football players of 2012.

    Note: Stats up to date prior to Jan. 1 games.

QB David Fales, San Jose State

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    In his first season after transferring from Monterey Peninsula College, David Fales turned out to be the type of offensive savior and leader that San Jose State desperately needed. Fales took control of the offense and led the Spartans to one of their best seasons in school history, guiding them to an 11-2 record and their first bowl win since 2006. 

    The junior signal-caller displayed tremendous arm strength, accuracy and natural passing instincts. He led the nation with a 72 percent completion percentage and threw for over 4,100 yards and 33 touchdown passes. 

    With his breakout performance in 2012, Fales proved that he is one of the best pure passers in all of college football. 

RB Giovani Bernard, North Carolina

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    Since North Carolina wasn't eligible for the postseason this year, the Tar Heels didn't seem to garner much national publicity in 2012. That's a shame, because that meant that one of the best overall players in college football, running back Giovani Bernard, didn't receive the proper recognition he truly deserved. 

    Bernard only played in 10 games this year due to an early injury, but he was still one of the most productive players in the country.

    The speedy sophomore finished the regular season as the national leader with an average of 171 yards from scrimmage per game, and he also had 17 total touchdowns. 

DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame

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    Manti Te'o may be the leader and the face of the Notre Dame defense, but it's highly doubtful that Te'o would have been able to put together the type of season he had in 2012 if it wasn't for nose tackle Louis Nix eating up blockers in front of him. 

    Nix did all of the dirty work for the Irish defense this year, while Te'o was the one getting all of the credit. 

    The powerful and agile 6'3'', 326-pound redshirt sophomore may not have made a ton of flashy plays, but he did rack up 15 solo tackles, two sacks and five pass breakups this year. He's also played a crucial role for an Irish defense that allowed just 3.1 yards per carry and just two rushing touchdowns in 2012. 

WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee

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    It didn't take long for Cordarrelle Patterson to make a huge impact for Tennessee after transferring from Hutchinson Community College during the offseason. 

    Although Justin Hunter may have been the Vols' leading receiver, you can argue that Patterson made just as big of an overall impact in 2012 as his more talked-about teammate. 

    The explosive and versatile playmaker caught 46 passes for 778 yards, rushed for 308 yards, averaged 25.3 yards on punt returns, 28 yards on kickoff returns and scored 10 total touchdowns. 

    Patterson has likely solidified a spot in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft with his outstanding season.

DE Tank Carradine, Florida State

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    Bjoern Werner was the Florida State defensive end that everyone got excited about this season. But the Seminoles also had another disruptive and devastating defensive end, Tank Carradine, who terrorized quarterbacks in 2012. 

    Carradine finished his senior season with 11 sacks, 13 tackles for loss and 80 total tackles, including 47 solo stops. 

    Sadly, the explosive edge-rusher's collegiate career ended with a torn ACL. But he should be able to bounce back and make a name for himself in the NFL once he's fully recovered. 

CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State

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    Bradley Roby didn't receive anywhere near the same type of attention as LSU corner Tyrann Mathieu did last season. But Roby had a 2012 campaign that was arguably just as good, if not better than the Honey Badger's 2011 season. 

    The 5'11'', 190-pound redshirt sophomore finished the year with 62 total tackles, including 40 solo stops and a sack, two interceptions and 17 pass breakups, which was tied for the third-most in the country.

    Roby also scored three touchdowns in three different ways (punt block return, fumble return and interception return). That's pretty impressive. 

FS Ed Reynolds, Stanford

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    Stanford has one of the strongest defensive front sevens in college football this season. But the Cardinal also happen to have one of the top playmaking safeties in the country, Ed Reynolds. 

    Although linebackers Chase Thomas and Shayne Skov may have been the team's top defensive leaders this season, Reynolds also made his presence felt in a big way as well. The son of former NFL linebacker Ed Reynolds finished the regular season with 43 total tackles to go along with six interceptions, three of which he returned all the way for touchdowns. 

    If Thomas and Skov move on to the NFL after this season, Reynolds will become Stanford's most valuable defensive player for 2013 assuming he stays in school.

LB Kyle Van Noy, BYU

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    This season, the big story surrounding the BYU defense was the emergence of freakishly athletic defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, who developed into a potential first-round draft pick after starting off the season as a relative unknown prospect. While Ansah's breakout season was certainly fun to watch, the Cougars' real defensive MVP in 2012 was actually linebacker Kyle Van Noy. 

    Van Noy was an absolute monster coming off the edge this season. The supremely athletic 6'3'', 235-pound junior finished the season with 13 sacks, 22 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles and two interceptions. 

    The fact that Van Noy is coming back for his senior season is terrible news for every team on BYU's 2013 schedule. 

WR Cody Hoffman, BYU

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    Wide receiver Cody Hoffman is another BYU player who flew under the national radar this year, even though he proved to be one of the top players at his position in the country.

    Hoffman put together a truly magnificent campaign in 2012, finishing the season with 100 catches for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns. The athletic 6'4'', 215-pound junior presents a matchup nightmare for any corner that's given the unfortunate task of trying to contain him. 

    Like his teammate, LB Kyle Van Noy, Hoffman will return for his senior season. He'll definitely be one of the premier pass-catchers to watch out for in 2013. 

RB Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech

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    Louisiana Tech's offense finished the regular season ranked first in the nation in both total offense and scoring offense, averaging 51 points and 577 yards per game. The Bulldogs' high-powered passing attack featured one of the best passing combinations in the country, comprised of quarterback Colby Cameron and receiver Quinton Patton. 

    While Cameron and Patton were the ones who soaked up most of the spotlight, it was freshman running back Kenneth Dixon who was doing the heavy lifting on the ground. 

    Dixon finished the season with 1,194 rushing yards on just 200 carries (an average of 5.9 yards per carry), and he ranked first in the nation with 28 total touchdowns scored. 

WR Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State

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    When star receiver Justin Blackmon left Oklahoma State for the NFL, he left some big shoes to fill. But luckily, the Cowboys happened to have a supremely gifted sophomore pass-catcher, Josh Stewart, who proved to be a more than capable replacement for Blackmon. 

    Running back Joseph Randle may have been the featured playmaker of Oklahoma State's offense this season. However, Stewart also put together a highly productive campaign.

    After catching just 19 balls last year, the 5'10'', 170-pound speedster took a big step forward in 2012, finishing the regular season with 96 catches for 1,154 yards and eight touchdowns. 

    Although he doesn't quite belong in the same class as Blackmon just yet, Stewart is definitely on his way to becoming one of the Big 12's next big stars. 

DE Morgan Breslin, USC

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    USC may have been the most disappointing team of the 2012 season. But one player who certainly didn't disappoint was DE Morgan Breslin. 

    Because of the Trojans' struggles, Breslin didn't receive the type of national attention this year that his play truly warranted. In his first year after transferring from Diablo Valley College, Breslin quickly made a name for himself in the Pac-12, racking up 13 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and four pass breakups. 

    It seemed like all the media wanted to do was talk about how quarterback Matt Barkley was struggling, but what the press really should have been talking about was how the junior edge-rusher was lighting things up on defense. 

DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri

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    It didn't take long for Missouri to become a complete afterthought in its first season in the SEC. Following blowout losses to Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama, people seemed to forget all about the Tigers by mid-October. 

    While the team as a whole clearly wasn't ready for the step up in competition, there was one player, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who proved that he was ready to handle college football's toughest conference. 

    Richardson was one of the most disruptive and productive interior defensive lineman in the country this year. The athletic and explosive 6'4'', 295-pound junior likely played himself into the first round of the 2013 NFL draft by racking up 75 total tackles, including 39 solo stops and 10.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, seven quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles. 

LB Kiko Alonso, Oregon

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    It seemed all people wanted to do was talk about Oregon's high-powered offensive attack this season, which isn't surprising, considering the Ducks averaged a whopping 50 points per game in 2012. 

    Unfortunately, because quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back Kenjon Barner were the ones getting their names in the headlines so often, that meant the team's top defender, linebacker Kiko Alonso, often got overlooked. 

    Alonso may not have had the type of highlight-reel plays that his offensive teammates did, but he still put together an outstanding senior season in 2012. The big, instinctive 6'4'', 242-pound middle linebacker finished the regular season with 75 tackles, including 54 solo stops and 12 tackles for loss, and four interceptions.

QB Chuckie Keeton, Utah State

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    All Chuckie Keeton did in 2012 was lead Utah State to the most successful season in the history of the program. 

    Keeton guided the Utes to an 11-2 record, a WAC championship and just the school's second-ever bowl victory. 

    The athletic dual-threat signal-caller threw for over 3,300 yards and 27 touchdowns, and added another 619 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. 

    Although Utah State is going to miss head coach Gary Andersen next season, Keeton is the type of promising young talent that the Aggies should be able to rally around in 2013. 

WR Davante Adams, Fresno State

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    Going into the season, Missouri's Dorial Green-Beckham and Maryland's Stefon Diggs seemed to be the two freshman receivers that were receiving the most publicity. However, Fresno State's Davante Adams, a lightly recruited former 2-star prospect out of Palo Alto, California, actually turned out to be the most productive freshman pass-catcher of the class in 2012. 

    Adams was the featured target of the Bulldogs' explosive passing attack. He finished the season with 102 catches for 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns. 

    The extremely athletic former high school basketball standout is still a bit raw, but he's obviously got the potential to be a truly special player in the years to come. 

RB Venric Mark, Northwestern

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    Northwestern was able to ride its powerful rushing attack to a very impressive 9-3 record in the regular season. The Wildcats averaged 230 yards on the ground per game during their impressive 2012 campaign. 

    The back who helped pick up a good chunk of those yards was Venrick Mark. 

    Not only did Mark rush for over 1,300 yards and score 12 offensive touchdowns; he also averaged an astonishing 20 yards on punt returns and brought two all the way back to the house for scores. 

    The 5'8'', 175-pound junior certainly wasn't the biggest player on the Wildcats roster this year, but he definitely made the biggest impact. 

DE Jamie Collins, Southern Miss

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    Unfortunately, Jamie Collins happened to play for the only team in college football that finished the 2012 season with a winless 0-12 record. 

    Because his team was so putrid this year, Collins didn't get the type of respect he deserved. But any lineman that had to try to block him will tell you just how good he really was. 

    The undersized 6'4'', 239-pound led the Golden Eagles with 92 tackles, including 66 solo stops and 20 tackles for loss, and he also notched 10 sacks and forced four fumbles. 

    We certainly haven't heard the last of Collins, as you can bet that NFL scouts took notice of his terrific senior season. 

RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor

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    Lache Seastrunk raised a few eyebrows when he guaranteed that he would win the Heisman in 2013. However, if you actually saw Seastrunk play during the stretch run of the season, then you know that proclamation isn't really all that far-fetched. 

    Seastrunk may have been quiet in the first half of 2012. But he went on an absolute tear in the latter part of the season, finishing the year with five 100-plus-yard rushing performances in his final six games. 

    The explosive former 5-star recruit out of Temple, Texas, may not have become the next LaMichael James at Oregon (where he transferred from to come to Baylor), but he's got the chance to be a true superstar at Baylor in 2013, especially since he'll be the focal point of the offense next season. 

LB Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut

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    Sio Moore may have been the Connecticut linebacker that everyone was talking about in the offseason. But it was Yawin Smallwood who turned out to be the Huskies' biggest defensive difference-maker in 2012. 

    Smallwood ranked third in the Big East with 120 total tackles, including 59 solo stops and 15 tackles for loss. He also had four sacks, four pass breakups and two forced fumbles. 

    The 6'3'', 235-pound redshirt sophomore is certainly an impressive physical specimen, and he's clearly got the type of talent it takes to be a starting linebacker on Sundays. 

FS D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina

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    Any time someone mentioned the South Carolina defense this season, the first player he or she likely talked about was DE Jadeveon Clowney. 

    Obviously, you can't blame him or her, since Clowney was the most impressive player in the country in 2012. However, the Gamecocks defense also featured one of the top safeties in the country, D.J. Swearinger.

    Swearinger may have been overshadowed by his pass-rushing phenom teammate. But he still put together an impressive 2012 campaign. The physical and active 6'0'', 210-pound senior finished the regular season with 70 total tackles, including 50 solo stops, two interceptions and five pass breakups. 

DE Scott Crichton, Oregon State

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    After enduring a dismal 3-9 season in 2011, Oregon State managed to have one of the biggest bounce-back campaigns of the 2012 season. The Beavers went from a nine-loss team last year to a nine-win team this year. 

    Cornerback Jordan Poyer was the team's standout defensive star in 2012. But Oregon State also got a big-time performance out of defensive end Scott Crichton as well. 

    Crichton finished the season with nine sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss and 23 solo tackles. 

    The 6'3'', 263-pound redshirt sophomore will definitely be one of the Pac-12's most feared pass-rushers in 2013. 

RB George Winn, Cincinnati

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    George Winn had the unenviable task of having to replace Isaiah Pead, a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft, who was the Big East's top overall rusher last year. 

    Winn certainly didn't seem to be too phased by the pressure, however, as he managed to outproduce his former Bearcats teammate with a huge showing this season. 

    The 5'11'', 210-pound senior rushed for over 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns during his swan song season at Cincinnati. 

DT Anthony Johnson, LSU

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    When you play on the same defense as coveted future NFL draft picks like defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, defensive tackle Bennie Logan, linebacker Kevin Minter, corner Tharold Simon and safety Eric Reid, it's quite easy to get forgotten about. 

    Still, even though defensive tackle Anthony Johnson didn't have the magnifying glass focused on him like many of his fellow high-profile defensive teammates did in 2012, you still have to appreciate his performance this season. 

    Johnson finished the regular season with three sacks and 10 tackles for loss, and he turned out to be one of the Tigers' most disruptive defensive penetrating playmakers. 

QB Seth Doege, Texas Tech

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    Seth Doege didn't receive the same type of attention as other more prominent Big 12 quarterbacks such as Collin Klein, Geno Smith or Landry Jones this season. However, Doege actually finished the regular season as the conference's leader with 39 touchdown passes. 

    The senior signal-caller was one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the country, completing 70 percent of his passes for over 4,200 yards.

    Considering that Doege ranked second in the country with 541 total pass attempts, it's pretty amazing how accurate and efficient he was in 2012.

DE Datone Jones, UCLA

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    Linebacker Anthony Barr may have been the spotlight player for UCLA's defense this season, as he became one of the biggest breakout defensive stars of 2012. However, defensive end Datone Jones also played a key role in the Bruins' run to a Pac-12 South division title. 

    Like Barr, Jones was a constant presence in opponents' backfields all season long, finishing the year with 6.5 sacks, 19 tackles for loss and 45 solo stops. 

    The 6'4'', 275-pound senior is the type of athletic, strong and versatile edge-rusher who should climb up NFL draft boards in the coming months. 

RB Trey Watts, Tulsa

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    Tulsa had one of the best performances in the program's history this year, finishing the season with an 11-3 record, a Conference USA championship and a win in the Liberty Bowl. 

    It's hard to imagine that the Golden Hurricane would have enjoyed such a successful campaign if it wasn't for the performance of the team's top overall playmaker, running back Trey Watts. 

    Watts proved to be a dynamic and dangerous weapon, rushing for 959 yards, catching 30 passes, averaging 29 yards on kickoff returns and accounting for six touchdowns in 2012. 

WR Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas

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    Arkansas' 2012 season is one that the team's fans would likely soon forget. The Razorbacks went just 4-8 this year after a tumultuous offseason. However, receiver Cobi Hamilton had the type of performance that likely won't soon be forgotten. 

    Since he played for a non-contending, disorganized squad, Hamilton didn't receive much national publicity this year. But he still finished his senior season with 90 catches for 1,335 yards. 

    Hopefully, Hamilton will be able to put his tremendous physical ability to good use for a winning franchise once he reaches the NFL, because his talents were clearly wasted this year. 

TE Gavin Escobar, San Diego State

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    Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert and Stanford's Zach Ertz were really the only two tight ends who received notable publicity in 2012. But there was another athletic and natural pass-catching tight end, Gavin Escobar, who deserved plenty of praise as well this season. 

    Escobar led San Diego State in receiving, hauling in 42 passes for 543 yards and six touchdowns. 

    Given what we saw from him this season, it's not too early to start thinking that Escobar could be a major receiving threat in the NFL. 

RB Bishop Sankey, Washington

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    Washington's offensive line wasn't very good this season. Just ask quarterback Keith Price, who got sacked 38 times in 2012. However, that didn't stop Huskies running back Bishop Sankey from putting together a huge breakout campaign. 

    When Jesse Callier went down for the year with a torn ACL in the first week of the season, Sankey stepped up and became a rushing force. The 5'10'', 200-pound sophomore ran for 1,439 rushing yards, caught 33 passes and scored 16 touchdowns. 

    When you factor in the lackluster line he had in front of him, it only makes what Sankey accomplished this year even more incredible. 

DE Meshak Williams, Kansas State

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    Linebacker Arthur Brown was the undisputed leader of Kansas State's defense this season. However, there's no way the unit would have been as stout as it was in 2012 if it wasn't for the play of defensive end Meshak Williams. 

    Williams may not have received the type of publicity and praise as other star Big 12 pass-rushers such as Texas' Alex Okafor or TCU's Devonte Fields. But he made just as big of an impact as his conference counterparts. 

    The 6'3'', 245-pound senior finished the regular season with 9.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss, four pass breakups and three forced fumbles.

LB Adrian Hubbard, Alabama

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    It's hard to be underrated when you play for a prestigious program such as Alabama. But when you're surrounded by as much elite talent as linebacker Adrian Hubbard was this season, it's understandable that you might get a bit forgotten about. 

    There seemed to be three players on the Tide's dominant defense that fans and NFL draftniks focused on this season—nose tackle Jesse Williams, linebacker C.J. Mosley and corner Dee Milliner. But Hubbard also played a crucial role in the unit's success as well. 

    In his first year as a full-time starter, the explosive 6'6'', 248-pound edge-rusher proved to be just as talented as former mentor Courtney Upshaw, as he racked up six sacks and 10 tackles for loss.

DE Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State

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    Demarcus Lawrence's season certainly didn't the end the way he was hoping it would, as he was suspended for the Las Vegas Bowl for breaking team rules. However, that shouldn't diminish all that he was able to accomplish in 2012. 

    In his first year after transferring from Butler Community College, Lawrence recorded 9.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, an interception and a fumble return for a touchdown. 

    If he can get his act together off the field, the 6'3'', 245-pound sophomore has the chance to be one of college football's most dangerous defensive ends in 2013. 

RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

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    Unfortunately for Nebraska, the team's workhorse running back, Rex Burkhead, was limited to just seven games of action and finished the regular season with just 74 total touches this year. However, even without Burkhead in the backfield, the Cornhuskers still managed to rank first in the Big Ten in rushing offense with an average of 254 yards on the ground per game. 

    Obviously, the running ability of dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez helped. But the real key to the team's rushing success was the emergence of running back Ameer Abdullah. 

    Abdullah stepped in for Burkhead and displayed a similar combination of power, toughness and natural running instincts, as he ran for over 1,000 yards and scored 11 total touchdowns in the regular season.

RB Zach Zwinak, Penn State

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    Another Big Ten back who surprised onlookers by eclipsing the 1,000-yard rushing mark this season was Penn State's Zach Zwinak. 

    There were a lot of fans and analysts who thought the Nittany Lions offense would be doomed without star running back Silas Redd, who transferred to USC this offseason after the devastating PSU NCAA sanctions were announced. However, Zwinak proved to be a capable replacement. 

    The gritty and powerful 6'1'', 232-pound sophomore finished the season with 1,177 total yards of offense and seven touchdowns. 

CB Logan Ryan, Rutgers

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    When you play on the same defense as a linebacker like Khaseem Greene, who is the two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year, it's certainly easy to get overlooked. But you can bet that NFL scouts certainly weren't overlooking the play of Rutgers cornerback Logan Ryan this season. 

    Ryan may not have made the type of splash plays that Greene did in 2012 (few defenders in the country did), but he was one of the most solid cover corners in college football. 

    The 6'0'', 190-pound junior finished the year with 94 total tackles, including 59 solo stops, four interceptions and 17 pass breakups. 

    He's got all the traits and skills you look for in a starting-caliber NFL cornerback. 

LB Isaiah Bruce, West Virginia

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    As a unit, West Virginia's defense was an utter disaster this season. However, the Mountaineers did get some solid and consistent play out of freshman inside linebacker Isaiah Bruce.

    Bruce finished the season with 91 total tackles, including 51 solo stops and 6.5 tackles for loss. 

    He'll now be expected to be one of the team's key defensive leaders for 2013. 

WR Justin Hardy, East Carolina

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    Any time fans or analysts began talking about college football's best receivers this season, players like Baylor's Terrance Williams, USC's Marqise Lee and West Virginia's Tavon Austin were immediately mentioned.

    One player who never seemed to be included in the conversation, though, was East Carolina's Justin Hardy. 

    Hardy was a hidden gem for a Pirates team that was rarely ever on national television in 2012. 

    The 6'0'', 185-pound sophomore followed up a fantastic freshman season with an even better campaign this year. He hauled in 88 passes for 1,105 yards and caught a touchdown in 10 of the 13 games he played in, finishing with 11 total scores. 

RB Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky

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    It's hard to argue that Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin didn't deserve the Sun Belt Player of the Year award this season. Nevertheless, it's pretty easy to make a convincing case as to why Western Kentucky running back Antonio Andrews deserved it more. 

    Andrews finished as the league's leading rusher with 1,728 yards on the ground. He was also the most productive overall player in the conference, finishing as the league's leader with 3,166 all-purpose yards, which was nearly 1,800 more yards than the second-most productive player. 

    The junior back had some big shoes to fill, taking over for All-American Bobby Rainey. But he turned out to be even better than Rainey was. 

CB Antone Exum, Virginia Tech

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    Virginia Tech's offense may have been a big disappointment this season. But the defense, as always, remained strong and stout in 2012. The Hokies allowed an average of just 22 points and 333 yards per game this year, and one of the key factors for the unit's success was the play of CB Antone Exum. 

    After making the switch from safety to cornerback in the offseason, Exum looked like a natural at his new position, as he totaled 48 tackles, picked off five passes and broke up another 21 throws. 

    There have been a lot of great defensive backs that have come through Blacksburg during the Frank Beamer era, and it appears that Exum is destined to be the next secondary star for the Hokies in 2013. 

WR DeVante Parker, Louisville

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    DeVante Parker finished the regular season with just 38 total receptions. However, it's what he did with those catches that was so impressive. 

    Parker led the Big East with an average of 18.7 yards per catch, and he ranked second with nine total touchdown grabs. 

    Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has definitely formed a special bond with the athletic 6'3'', 205-pound sophomore.

    The two should develop into one of the most feared passing combinations in the country in 2013. 

FS Jonathan Cyprien, FIU

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    FIU started off the season with the goal of competing for a Sun Belt championship. Instead, the Golden Panthers turned out to be the league's most disappointing team, finishing the year with just a 3-9 record. 

    Since the team performed so poorly, defensive leader Jonathan Cyprien didn't quite get the type of attention he truly deserved this season. 

    The four-year starter finished off his collegiate career with his best season yet. He racked up 93 total tackles, including 54 solo stops, picked off three passes and broke up another eight throws. 

    Cyprien will definitely be a safety prospect to watch out for in the months leading up to the 2013 NFL draft.

OT Brian Winters, Kent State

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    Central Michigan's Eric Fisher was the MAC offensive tackle that everyone wanted to talk about this season. However, the league also featured another standout lineman, Kent State's Brian Winters, who caught the attention of NFL scouts with his play in 2012.

    Winters was once again the linchpin of the Golden Flashes' offensive line this season. The big, powerful and physical left tackle paved the way for running back Dri Archer to have a huge breakout campaign. He helped the offense average 5.4 yards per carry and score 35 rushing touchdowns. 

    Like the more highly touted Fisher, the 6'6'', 294-pound senior should also have a long, successful career, playing on Sundays. 

CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

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    When you play on a defense that featured big-name players like William Gholston, Max Bullough, Denicos Allen and Johnny Adams, it's hard to get your fair share of attention. But Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard certainly deserved some accolades for his performance in 2012. 

    Dennard, the younger cousin of New England Patriots corner Alfonzo Dennard, totaled 52 tackles, picked off three passes and broke up another 10 throws during his impressive junior campaign. 

WR Alex Amidon, Boston College

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    It's hard to receive a ton of attention when you play for a team that wins just two games in an entire season, which is why most fans outside of the ACC likely don't know much about Boston College wide receiver Alex Amidon.

    After a rather quiet 2011 season, in which he caught just 20 passes, Amidon broke out in a big way this year, catching 78 passes for 1,210 yards and seven touchdowns. 

    If the Eagles can manage to surround the talented junior with some more offensive playmakers next season, they might actually be able to win a few more games in 2013. 

LB Denzel Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

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    Denzel Nkemdiche didn't receive anywhere near the same level of recruiting attention as his little brother, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, who is the consensus No. 1 prospect of the 2013 recruiting class. However, Denzel has already proven himself against some of the toughest competition that college football has to offer in the SEC, something Robert still has to do. 

    Denzel developed into one of the Rebels' best defenders this season, and he turned out to be one of the top impact freshmen in the country. 

    The undersized outside linebacker finished the regular season as the team-leader with 78 total tackles, including 34 solo stops and 12 tackles for loss, to go along with three sacks and four forced fumbles. 

WR Austin Hill, Arizona

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    The star of Arizona's offense may have been running back Ka'Deem Carey, who led the nation with 1,929 rushing yards. However, the Wildcats' also had a dangerous playmaker in the passing game, receiver Austin Hill, who also did some serious damage to opposing defenses in 2012. 

    Hill finished the season with 81 catches for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns. 

    Rich Rodriguez certainly has to be excited that he has both Carey and his budding star sophomore receiver coming back for the 2013 season. 

CB Demetrious Nicholson, Virginia

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    Virginia's lack of offensive consistency and inability to score consistently cost the team a chance to make it back to the postseason this year. But the Cavs defense actually played pretty well in 2012. 

    One of the unit's top performers was corner Demetrious Nicholson.

    The fact that Nicholson didn't have an interception this year isn't surprising, considering how most opposing quarterbacks chose to shy away from testing him. However, when they did throw the ball his way, he used the opportunity to show off his tremendous ball skills. He totaled 15 pass breakups, which ranked second in the ACC.

OT David Bakhtiari, Colorado

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    Colorado's offense was pitiful this season, ranking 119th in the nation in total offense and 120th in scoring offense. But the unit did at least have one bright spot—tackle David Bakhtiari. 

    Bakhtiari showed why he will be one of the most coveted senior offensive tackle prospects for the 2014 NFL draft, as he was one of the most dominant blockers in the Pac-12 this season. 

LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo

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    Buffalo only won just four games in 2012. However, the Bulls did actually have one of the MAC's strongest defenses, which allowed just 28 points and 363 yards per game.

    The leader of the defense was LB Khalil Mack, who followed up a strong sophomore outing with an even better junior campaign. Mack finished the season with 94 total tackles, including 52 solo stops and 21 tackles for loss, eight sacks and four forced fumbles.