Silas Redd toting the rock for Penn State
The haze of the summer months has just struck the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, yet everywhere I turn, someone has a list of college football players that everyone needs to know of in 2011.
The funny thing is, no one is mentioning the five guys I am about to highlight. Simply put, Cam Newton was a name to know last year, yet no one—I repeat, no one—had him as a Heisman candidate in June.
The reason is that no one really does much other than recycle other writers' perspectives. This is no knock on any other writer, but it is the truth. Be it at Bleacher Report or at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, when someone writes something, another person will come out with something similar if they find it inspiring.
In regard to college football, I consider this part of nature. After all, we all have to start somewhere.
But if you are looking for players to watch in 2011, you must start here. From Penn State's Silas Redd to Arizona State's Brock Osweiler, here are the five names you must know as you continue to prepare for the 2011 college football season.
Alabama's Lacy carrying the pigskin.
Even the casual fan knows that Alabama will miss Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram. When Ingram was crushing defenders with the Crimson Tide, his counterpart was Trent Richardson. Now that Ingram has moved on to the NFL, Richardson will play the role of Batman.
Who will be Richardson's Robin?
In 2008, Lacy was not the most sought-after recruit, but he was highly recognized among the scouting circuit in the Deep South. Hailing from Geismar, Louisiana, Lacy chose to ride out his college career with Nick Saban's Crimson Tide over the likes of Tennessee, Oklahoma and LSU.
The Alabama faithful should count their lucky stars that Lacy made such a decision.
Lacy will be listed as a redshirt sophomore upon entering the 2011 season. His style contrasts with that of the incumbent Trent Richardson. This will bode well for an Alabama offense that will look to rely more on the ground attack than in previous years, even though the ground attack has always been the focus of the offense since Saban skipped out on the NFL to take over the 'Bama program.
This ground-pounder was the third wheel behind Ingram and Richardson, but when Ingram was out with an injury early on, Lacy was able to show his abilities. In his first ever collegiate game, Lacy rushed for 111 yards versus San Jose State. He would also score two touchdowns.
Over the next two weeks, Lacy would carry his own weight against Penn State and Duke. In 13 total carries, Lacy rushed for 73 yards and one score, making the most out of the slight opportunities he was given.
This year, he will see a major increase in number of carries. With this increase will come more production and more recognition. Lacy is a name to remember because he will undoubtedly be in the Heisman discussion when the day comes that Richardson leaves Alabama to play on Sundays.
The recurring pattern we are seeing with talented running backs in Tuscaloosa is alarming to the rest of the SEC, but everyone, even Auburn fans, must admit that the prospect of another one-two punch like we have seen with Ingram and Richardson is scary. Not just scary, but "scary tough."
FSU's Brandon Jenkins taking a stroll after obliterating an offensive line.
For a player that was one of the best sack artists in college football last year, it is surprising that no one knows who Brandon Jenkins is. Okay, I know, Florida State diehards know who he is, as do Gators fans, as Jenkins obliterated the Florida offensive line a year ago.
Still, not even Bleacher Report recognizes his talents. When conducting a search for images while compiling this slideshow, Getty Images only had two—count 'em, two—images of the Seminole pass rusher.
It is time for Jenkins to receive the respect that has earned after a 2010 campaign where he finished with 13.5 sacks. As a matter of fact, only two players had more sacks than Jenkins—Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers and West Virginia's Bruce Irvin.
Jenkins will be a junior in 2011, but 2010 was the first year that he had been a full-time starting defensive end on the gridiron.
A local product, Jenkins hails from Tallahassee and chose the Seminoles over LSU, Miami and South Carolina.
Jenkins will have to prove that he wasn't a one-year wonder. While many people have their doubts about a repeat performance from Jenkins, one thing is for sure: If he performs in 2011 like he did the year before, he will be a top-five pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
Cliff Harris doing his thing for the Ducks in 2010.
When we hear about Oregon football, the first name we hear is LaMichael James. The second is Darron Thomas. In 2011, you will be acquainted with Cliff Harris.
Harris is arguably the most dynamic athlete on the Ducks roster. At cornerback, Harris reeled in six interceptions a year ago, taking one to the house.
On punt returns, Harris reached pay dirt four times.
Harris is set to be a junior in 2011, and he will be looking to improve on his punt return numbers, which were near the top nationally (18.83 yards per return). Only Utah's Shaky Smithson yielded a higher average per punt return.
In a conference full of strong arms, Harris will look to take the next step towards being recognized for his coverage abilities as well.
He works well in open space and has a knack for breaking on the ball in mid-flight. Harris is known to not only pick the ball off, but interrupt passes as well. He flips his hips well and has good speed.
The bottom line is that this Fresno native is going to be a household name. He might even be billed as the next Devin Hester.
ASU's Osweiler delivering a bullet to one of his receivers.
A team that is being championed as a potential BCS dark horse in 2011 is the Arizona State Sun Devils, and that is due to the fact that they have a tremendous passer behind center in Brock Osweiler.
Osweiler is listed at 6'8" and 235 lbs. The Kalispell, Montana native is primed to set the turf ablaze in the new-look Pac-12 with his fundamentally strong mechanics and terrific intangibles.
In 2010, the sophomore quarterback started just two games for the Sun Devils. At home versus UCLA, Osweiler torched the Bruins with 380 yards and four touchdowns while completing 75 percent of his passes.
He followed that performance up at Arizona with 267 yards passing and one touchdown when the Sun Devils surprised everybody and upset their in-state rival.
Looking to build off that impressive end to 2010, Osweiler will not creep up on anyone in 2011. He has the stature of a great quarterback, but he will have to prove his worthiness over the stretch of the season.
If my crystal ball is accurate, Osweiler is a dark horse for the Heisman Trophy. While everybody may be talking about Andrew Luck, LaMichael James, Trent Richardson and Marcus Lattimore, don't sleep on Osweiler. He is the best quarterback to come out of Arizona State since Jake Plummer.
Just remember, when Plummer was a Sun Devil, he took his team to the Rose Bowl. Look for Osweiler to make that push as well.
Silas Redd looks to follow in the long line of great Penn State rushers.
While Penn State may be known as "Linebacker U," it could also be known as "Running Back U." From Franco Harris to Blair Thomas, Ki-Jana Carter to Evan Royster, Penn State is known for producing great college running backs.
Silas Redd is the next to emerge and carry on the tradition in Happy Valley.
With just 77 carries a year ago, Redd managed to rush for 437 yards and two touchdowns. With Evan Royster moving on and Stephfon Green never materializing, the show will be hosted by Redd.
Redd was a freshman in 2010, so with a year of experience now under his belt, look for him to emerge and produce heavily in the coming years. He will get his first true test when Penn State hosts Alabama early in September, but nothing is guaranteed for Redd since he plays in the Big Ten.
Redd hails from Norwalk, Connecticut, and according to Penn State's official athletic website, he was one of the most recruited running backs coming out of high school.
Redd will carry on a tradition at Penn State—a tradition that has satisfied the masses for years. His ability to find the hole, be patient until a running lane opens and hit a higher gear all while being hard to tackle is what makes him stand out.
There is nothing flashy about Redd or Penn State, but he will be a household name in 2011. If Penn State wants to make noise in 2011, it will lean on Redd to do the drumming.