Most Underrated College Football Player at Each Position
Many of college football's best teams are driven by their stars, but the truly transcendent teams are more than just one big-name player.
Oregon has a top-flight Heisman candidate in quarterback Marcus Mariota but also has a defense laden with talent that few pundits are talking about. Florida State is in an identical situation, as sensational freshman quarterback Jameis Winston steals all the headlines in Tallahassee.
Meanwhile, many of these well-known players in power conferences outshine players who are doing big things in small conferences.
In the end, an excess of players are underappreciated despite enormous production. We call those players "underrated."
QB: Keith Wenning, Ball State
All of the talk in the Mid-American Conference this season has involved Northern Illinois and its star quarterback, Jordan Lynch.
Meanwhile, Keith Wenning and Ball State are also off to a scorching start at 8-1 and stand as the biggest obstacle standing between NIU and a BCS berth.
The senior is No. 2 in the nation in passing with 2,865 yards. He is also tied with a couple familiar names, Teddy Bridgewater and Jameis Winston, at No. 3 in the country with 23 passing touchdowns. At 6'3", 220 pounds, Wenning has the size that NFL scouts look for and could be picked up late in the upcoming draft.
However, the Coldwater, Ohio, native will be focused on a MAC title until then. The Cardinals will be locked in a pivotal Wednesday night "MACtion" date with NIU on Nov. 13.
RB: David Fluellen, Toledo
It's easy to be overlooked while playing in the MAC.
Toledo's David Fluellen is one of just six running backs in the nation to break 1,000 rushing yards already this season.
The senior has tallied 1,067 yards and 10 touchdowns on 152 carries. The Lockport, N.Y., native suffered a back injury and was limited last week but had strung together six straight games with more than 100 rushing yards and five with at last one rushing score.
He is also the only rusher all season to eclipse 100 yards against the Missouri defense, which ranks 16th nationally against the run.
Fluellen's name would be known if he played in a premier conference.
WR: Jamison Crowder, Duke
For years, Duke football has been the punch line of jokes. Now, the Blue Devils are on the way to their second straight bowl game for the first time in school history.
Much of that is thanks to their top playmaker, Jamison Crowder.
The junior is on his way to a 1,000-yard receiving season thanks to his elite speed. He is also one of the nation's best punt returners and has brought two punts back for touchdowns this season, including this electric 82-yard score against Pitt.
He has four games over 100 receiving yards this year and has averaged nearly 140 all-purpose yards per game.
Despite his slight build (5'9", 175 pounds), Crowder is one of the nation's most prolific playmakers.
TE: Gerald Christian, Louisville
Texas Tech's Jace Amaro, North Carolina's Eric Ebron and Michigan's Devin Funchess have emerged as the top three tight ends in college football so far this season.
Louisville's Gerald Christian is right on the cusp of that conversation.
The junior is No. 8 among tight ends with 321 receiving yards and is tied for sixth with four touchdowns. Those four scores have him right alongside several top-flight tight ends, including Funchess, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and ahead of Ebron and Amaro.
The Florida transfer has been one of Teddy Bridgewater's favorite security blankets and has caught a pass in every game this season. If he keeps up this strong play, he could leave Louisville next season as a highly touted NFL prospect.
OL: Morgan Moses, Virginia
Morgan Moses is a giant and might be the best offensive lineman in the ACC.
The 6'6", 325-pound senior doesn't carry the big-name recognition like Michigan's Taylor Lewan or Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, but he'll be an intriguing NFL draft prospect.
Rob Rang of CBSSports.com broke down Moses' performance earlier this season against Oregon:
Moses faced a gauntlet of pass rushers that ranged from speedy junior Tony Washington (6-3, 243) to stouter defensive linemen like Taylor Hart (6-6, 287) and Arik Armstead (6-8, 280). Regardless of the challenger, Moses held up nicely in what was just his second start at left tackle.
Moses showed good initial quickness and was smooth in his kick-step despite his inexperience dropping from the left side. He caught defenders with his long, strong arms and protected the edge nicely, giving Virginia quarterback David Watford enough time to scan the field throughout this game.
CBS also projects Moses to be picked up in the third or fourth round of the upcoming draft. However, if he continues his strong play and preforms well after the season is over, he could see that stock rise.
DL: Tony Washington, Oregon
The secret is out that Oregon is no longer a one-sided team.
The Duck defense has been playing at an extremely high level this season and defensive end Tony Washington has been a big part of that success.
The athletic redshirt junior is No. 5 in the Pac-12 with 10 tackles for loss thus far and is second in the league with 7.5 sacks. He is also third in the nation with four forced fumbles.
Washington is an outstanding playmaker on the defensive line and has come a long way from his 247Sports composite 3-star rating coming out of high school.
He'll continue to disprove that distinction and lead the Oregon defense, as the Ducks have their sights set on a national title.
LB: Avery Williamson, Kentucky
It's easy for a defensive player to be overlooked in the talent-flooded SEC, especially when he plays for Kentucky.
That has happened to UK linebacker Avery Williamson. The senior currently leads the league with 74 tackles and does everything for the Wildcat defense.
Williamson has elite closing speed and seems to come up with at least one eye-popping hit every game. As he told Larry Vaught of The Advocate Messenger, he is looking to follow in the footsteps of former Kentucky and current Denver Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan:
To see that I will have the opportunity next year to go pro like he did does motivate me. It is a dream come true for me to see a guy that played next to me has been successful in the NFL right now. It is something to look up to. I am proud of him and I am ready hopefully next year to get in there and start making some plays myself,. He worked hard. He never did give up. He’s not that type to give up and I am not either.
Even though the Wildcats are struggling through a rough season, Williamson is well on his way to following Trevathan to the next level.
DB: Ronald Darby, Florida State
You probably know the name of Florida State defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, but you should know the name of Ronald Darby.
The 5'11", 190-pound sophomore is on his way to the NFL, if not the Olympics too. He is a sprinter on the Seminole track team and an elite playmaker in the FSU defensive backfield.
His FSU bio lists some impressive running times: 4.37-second 40-yard dash, 21.05-second 200-meter dash.
He also leads the 'Noles with two interceptions and has five pass deflections and a fumble recovery. This is all despite missing spring practice while undergoing offseason surgery. Also, he is only listed as a second-string cornerback.
Next year after Joyner leaves, Darby will be the big-name defensive back in Tallahassee.