College Football's 10 Most Underrated Players
Not everyone can be a star, at least not nationally.
For every Johnny Manziel or Jadeveon Clowney who claims the spotlight, there are dozens of other college football players who play at a high level every week. But, for whatever reason, many of those players just don't get the recognition they deserve.
A few of the players on this list have been all-conference selections—some even All-Americans—but by and large, they've been overshadowed in postseason accolades simply because other players received more recognition. Whether it was failing to make a finalist list for an award or getting overlooked because they play for a smaller program, the idea is that the players on this list aren't household names yet—at least not nationally.
These are the underrated players of major college football.
So it's time to put together a list of 10 of those underrated players. Of course, this list is going to exclude even more players, who are then, in turn, super underrated.
Can't please everyone.
Anyway, which players make the list of the most underrated? The answers are in the following slides.
Arizona State Quarterback Taylor Kelly
The Pac-12 has, collectively, some of the most exciting quarterbacks in college football right now. Between Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley, the conference has two top quarterbacks in next year's draft class.
Even Oregon State's Sean Mannion and Stanford's Kevin Hogan get some love from time to time.
So what about Arizona State's Taylor Kelly?
Kelly finished fourth in the Pac-12 with 3,635 passing yards. He also had 28 passing touchdowns to 12 picks. But he also finished second on the team in rushing with 608 yards on the ground and another nine scores. He's a key component to the Sun Devils' high-powered offense.
In a conference of great quarterbacks, Kelly is right up there in terms of production.
Boise State Running Back Jay Ajayi
Many of the great running backs in college football last year—Carlos Hyde, Bishop Sankey, Lache Seastrunk and the like—are gone. But one of the more underrated running backs in the country, Boise State's Jay Ajayi, is returning.
Everyone knows (or should know) about Todd Gurley at Georgia, or Melvin Gordon at Wisconsin, but Ajayi finished 15th nationally with 1,425 rushing yards. He also tied for eighth in the country with 18 touchdowns and earned All-Mountain West first-team honors.
Yet, he wasn't held in the same regard as Gurley, Hyde or any of the other big-name running backs.
A bruising 6'0", 215-pound back, Ajayi is great between the tackles. As B/R's Michael Felder notes, Ajayi had a fumbling problem that kept him from being on the best backs in the country.
As long as he fixes that, he'll be among the more valuable running backs next season.
BYU Quarterback Taysom HIll
BYU's Taysom Hill returns as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in college football.
Hill finished the 2013 season with 1,344 rushing yards, only two behind Navy's Keenan Reynolds. However, Hill had 54 fewer rushing attempts than Reynolds. He also had nearly 3,000 yards passing and 19 touchdowns.
More famously, Hill gashed Texas for 259 yards on the ground and three touchdowns in last September's win over the Longhorns. Of course, that came at a time when you and I could have rushed for 200 yards against Texas, but it was an eye-opening performance all the same.
Hill makes the underrated list because, though he returns as the second-leading rusher among quarterbacks, he still gets overshadowed by the bigger names at the position.
Indiana Cornerback Tim Bennett
Quick: Name the cornerback who had the most pass break-ups last season.
Okay, yeah, it was Indiana's Tim Bennett. You might have guessed that by the fact that this slide carries his name. But Bennett did have 20 pass break-ups last season, the most in the country and more than TCU's Jason Verrett or Ohio State's Bradley Roby.
Yet, Bennett was only recognized as a Second-Team All-Big Ten selection by the media.
For as bad as Indiana was on defense last season, Bennett was a bright spot. He does well in man and zone coverage and has good closing speed. B/R's Michael Felder has Bennett as a possible first-round selection next season, so he's definitely a name to watch.
Kansas State Wide Receiver Tyler Lockett
Given how deep last year's wide receiver class was, you could name a lot of guys who were criminally underrated.
Kansas State's Tyler Lockett isn't underrated within the Big 12—in fact, he's probably considered the second-best player behind Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty—but his name just didn't come up a lot nationally.
That's understandable when the top of the wide receiver class is Sammy Watkins, Jordan Matthews, Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks and Allen Robinson.
Now that the '14 class has passed through, Lockett is in a position to become more of a household name this season. CBSSports.com has Lockett as the No. 7 receiver for next year's draft. For context, Matthews was the seventh wide receiver taken in May.
But don't overlook Lockett again this year. Twice last season, Lockett accounted for at least 80 percent of Kansas State's receiving yards by himself. He's not big at about 5'11" and 175 pounds, but he's productive and knows how to get open.
Kansas State Defensive End Ryan Mueller
Yes, there are two Kansas State players on this list. Yes, I'm obviously a Wildcat homer/(insert team) hater, and for that I apologize.
But Ryan Mueller had a legitimate case to be the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in a group that featured Jackson Jeffcoat, Justin Gilbert and Jason Verrett. The latter two got drafted in the first round of the NFL draft.
Mueller, a former walk-on, had 11.5 sacks last season and returns as one of the best in the country at getting in the backfield. The junior finished the 2013 season as a first-team All-Big 12 selection.
Maryland Defensive Lineman Andre Monroe
Maryland defensive lineman Andre Monroe burst on to the college football scene as a freshman in 2011 when he led the team with five sacks and earned All-American consideration.
However, it's been a bit of an uphill climb since then. Monroe missed the 2012 season because of a knee injury and only started four games in 2013—appearing in 13—but they were the last four. He finished the year with 17 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks.
Monroe could finally put everything together in 2014 and become one of the better defensive linemen in the Big Ten. Most of the focus will be on Michigan State and Ohio State's defensive lines, so there's not going to be as much attention on Monroe.
But Monroe nevertheless has All-Big Ten potential.
Notre Dame Tight End Ben Koyack
Tight end Ben Koyack didn't have eye-popping stats for Notre Dame last season: just 10 catches for 171 yards and three touchdowns. Much of the pass-catching focus was on another Irish tight end, Troy Niklas, who would end up being selected in the second round of this year's draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
Rather, Koyack was used more as a blocking tight end but found his way on to the field more at the end of the 2013 season in two-tight end formations. Koyack is underrated because he simply hasn't seen the field enough, but flashed a ton of potential in limited time.
Now that Niklas is gone, Koyack should be the go-to guy at the position. With Niklas, Tyler Eifert and Kyle Rudolph, the Irish have a recent line of excellent tight ends.
Keep your eye on Koyack this season as he looks to be the next great tight end to come through South Bend. If he can improve on his pass catching, he could one of the more well-rounded tight ends in the country.
Tulane Defensive Back Lorenzo Doss
Put simply, Lorenzo Doss was a ball hawk for Tulane last season.
As a sophomore, Doss finished with seven interceptions, tied for second most in the country, with 185 return yards and a pair of pick-sixes. Doss also had nine pass break-ups and 34 tackles on the season.
Not bad for someone who falls behind some of the bigger-name defensive backs in college football.
Of course, stats aren't everything, especially with turnovers. Sometimes, turnovers are nothing more than an occurrence of being at the right place at the right time. Doss is still growing into the position, but he's been starting since he was a freshman.
Doss received All-American votes last season, but wasn't even a Jim Thorpe finalist.
Entering his junior year, Doss should be on some radars as one of the best defensive weapons in college football.
UNLV Wide Receiver Devante Davis
One of the big-bodied, highly-productive receivers in college football who played outside the "power five" conferences was UNLV's Devante Davis.
In 2013, the junior caught 87 passes for nearly 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns. At 6'3" and 210 pounds, Davis has the prototypical size for a No. 1 receiver on the outside.
Davis choosing to stay another year in Vegas was a surprising move, but speaking to Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, head coach Bobby Hauck said Davis can help his draft stock.
"He’ll be able to improve where he begins his NFL career, which I think is evident," Hauck said. "By staying in college, he’ll make himself a lot of money."
That could hold true if Davis has another big year in 2014. Davis may not get All-American status or Biletnikoff Award consideration, but he's one of the best big receivers in college football.
Ben Kercheval is a college football lead writer at Bleacher Report. All stats courtesy of ESPN.com.
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