As we are just a few days away from another great season of college football, many people want some insight on big-name players. Everybody wants to know who the Heisman hopefuls are, as well as the Butkus Award candidates, and the Preseason All-Americans.
However, being a draft analyst, I like to take a look at the guys that are projects, young talents, or simply overlooked. I bring to you a list of 10 names that you most likely don't know much about. You may have heard of them, or you may not have. Even if you have, you may not know what they are capable of.
Take a look and find out who some of the top lesser-known names are.
Maze enters 2010 as a junior claiming the No. 2 wide receiver spot opposite stud receiver Julio Jones. Maze isn’t a big name, partly because of guys on the Alabama offense named Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, and the aforementioned Julio Jones. You may have heard of a couple of those guys.
Maze is a receiver that can stretch the field, and is a big-play threat. He’s fantastic after the catch utilizing his speed to get past defenders and gain extra yardage. Despite a heavy rushing attack posed by the Crimson Tide, Maze still had 31 catches for 523 yards as a sophomore with just two scores. Look for Maze to have a bigger impact as teams start to stack the box more against the Alabama rushing attack. He projects to be best fit as a slot receiver in the NFL.
The former Plant High School quarterback enters the 2010 season as the starter for Georgia and there are high expectations. After redshirting his true freshman year, he looks to deliver. Many scouts think he’s a bit on the small side, being just 6’1'' and a touch over 200 pounds, but Murray has a strong arm and can make plays with his feet.
With receivers like A.J. Green and red-zone threat, Kris Durham, Murray looks to be in a position to succeed. His ability to make the throw on the run and evade the pass rush makes him an exciting option to watch in 2010 as Georgia looks to produce another first-round quarterback.
After finishing with seven sacks in 2009, Allen Bailey looks to emerge as a top pass rusher in the ACC. The 6’4'', 287-pound defensive end is overpowering and has a knack for getting to the quarterback quickly. He was heavily utilized in many stunts as well, but mostly came off the edge.
My only issue with Bailey is that if he doesn’t feel like he’s going to make the play he sort of gives up. There were numerous times last season where he could have made a play had he kept his feet going and followed the ball. Conditioning could be an issue here, and he’ll have 2010 to show that he can be a stud pass rusher. He’s got a big frame and doesn’t have bad straight line speed for a big guy. He’s not easy to block at all.
Wilson is actually more known than I’m giving him credit for, but many people forget players that lose quality time due to injury. Wilson suffered a neck injury that cost him all but the first game of the 2009 season. He was heavily recruited out of high school and is a physical specimen.
He’ll have to show that he’s fully healthy and ready to hit somebody before we start calling him a potential high draft pick. He’s got a lot of talent, but has appeared soft at times. Taking over at middle linebacker is the perfect spot for him to prove all the doubters wrong. With improved pass coverage, he could play 3-4 inside linebacker in the NFL.
This guy emerged as an absolute monster in 2009 as a true freshman replacing the cancer-stricken Mark Herzlich at middle linebacker for the Eagles. He finished his freshman season with 158 tackles (87 solo), and 13 tackles for loss.
Kuechly is quick and aggressive. His ability to read and react was most impressive from the youngster, and Mark Herzlich’s shoes are certainly not easy to fill. Kuechly is just a sophomore in 2010, so the NFL Draft talk won’t start until 2011, but if he keeps up this pace, he’s going to be a first-round pick in the 2012 or 2013 NFL Draft. With Herzlich looking to come back, the Boston College defense appears to be quite tough on paper with leadership and athleticism.
The addition of Marecic to this article has a bit to do with the fact that I used to play fullback and the position is one of the most under-appreciated, especially in the NCAA. Remember the name Toby Gerhart? Yeah, he’s the guy who almost won the Heisman Trophy for the Stanford Cardinal in 2009. Now he’s on to play for the Vikings after rushing for 42 touchdowns in his final two seasons. Any idea as to who played a big role in that success? I’ll give you one guess.
Marecic is undoubtedly the best lead blocker in the nation, in my opinion. He hits the hole with aggression, absolutely taking out anybody in his path. Just watch some of the Gerhart highlights and find out. Marecic won’t be on any Heisman watch list and won’t put up any flashy stats, but he is going to lead the way for the three-headed monster of Jeremy Stewart, Stepfan Taylor, and Tyler Gaffney.
If Kirkpatrick was a left tackle, his name may be known a lot more. However, the Remington Trophy finalist is a center for a Mountain West Conference team. Not many people realize how potent the TCU offense was last season, and first-year starter Jake Kirkpatrick was a big reason for it. He was the leader on the offensive line, and despite being inexperienced, he did a pretty darn good job.
He’s very good at the point of attack holding his own quite well. He was the leader of an offensive line that helped their rushing game to a very potent 256 yards per game. Kirkpatrick could end up being the top center of his class if he puts up another great season, and could see a second or third-round draft grade, as the center position isn’t generally drafted very high.
Here’s a wide receiver who can catch the ball effectively. Doss has great size (6’3'', 205), and does a great job of getting open with crisp routes. Despite mediocre quarterback play, Doss caught 77 passes as a sophomore for 962 yards and five scores.
Doss’s ineffectiveness comes down the field as he lacks the possession play style that you want to see out of a taller receiver. He’s not very physical, but he can make plays after the catch and isn’t afraid to go across the middle for the ball. Doss most likely won’t leave after his junior year, but if he does, he could still end up being a third-round pick if he can show more aggressiveness when catching the football.
Bolden is entering his junior year with hopes of being a top-five cornerback at the end of the 2010 season. He’s started since he was a true freshman and has totaled 13 pass breakups and three interceptions in his first two seasons.
What makes Bolden even more intriguing is his ability against the run. Scouts would prefer for him to be a bit taller (5’10''), but he isn’t afraid to make a tackle on a running back coming at him full speed. In the NFL, corners that can tackle are coveted. Bolden shouldn’t disappoint in 2010, and should be on everybody’s radar for the 2011 NFL Draft.
Talk about another freshman sensation, the first-year Vanderbilt running back had the second-best rushing season by a Vanderbilt freshman ever. He’s a quick, shifty runner who shows a great burst to the hole and isn’t afraid to take a hit. He’s extremely elusive and has very good hands out of the backfield. He finished with just 783 yards last season, but did that on only 145 carries.
Not only is Norman a very special running back, but he’s an all-purpose player. He is a dangerous kick returner. He broke an SEC freshman record for kick return yardage with 1,050 yards, and had over 1,900 yards as an all-purpose athlete. Keep an eye on Norman, he’s one of the few great talents for Vandy.