College Football 2011: 52 Coaches, Players and Teams Everyone Is Rooting for
It’s easy to love or hate Notre Dame. The same goes for Ohio State, Alabama and so on.
Yet, sometimes there are coaches, players and teams that you believe everyone should be rooting for.
Why not show a little love for the star quarterback coming back from a serious injury, or the Vietnam vet who is giving football another shot when he should be playing with his grandchildren.
Let’s take a look at the 52 people and programs you should be rooting for this season.
Alan Moore, Faulkner University
Alan Moore is not your typical football player.
He’s a 61-year-old Vietnam veteran who is now the starting place kicker for Faulkner University, a NAIA program in Montgomery, Ala.
He connected on the team’s first extra point of the season, and the Eagles are 1-0.
It’s not because of the crazy new uniforms, but the Sun Devils deserve our support.
Dennis Erickson has amassed a talented team that most fans outside of the Pac-12 couldn’t name.
Watching Vontaze Burfict and Brock Osweiler won’t disappoint.
Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut
Paul Pasqualoni is an old-school coach who got a raw deal at Syracuse. He bounced around the NFL as an assistant and got another shot with the Huskies.
UConn donor Robert Burton may not like the new coach, but Pasqualoni has been successful in the past and should be with the Huskies.
Andrew Luck, Stanford
Andrew Luck is smart, talented and just an all-around good guy. If he wins the Heisman and goes No. 1 in the draft, he’ll officially be perfect.
Try competing in the SEC with Vanderbilt’s talent. It might be the toughest task in all of college football.
If you can’t root for the Commodores then you just don’t get it.
Rich Ellerson, Army
Rich Ellerson may be the best coaching fit at Army since I’ve been alive.
His father and two brothers both played at West Point, and he once said: "I grew up with that special connection to Army Football. At that age, watching my big brother captain the Army football team, living on Army posts, it was just the biggest thing in our life. It was the foundation of my football experience, not just my Army football experience, and obviously, football is a big part of my life," said Ellerson.
Yep, I’m rooting for this guy.
Case Keenum, Houston
Case Keenum may be 23 and playing in his fifth season, but when the NCAA gave him another year of eligibility it showed the governing body had a heart.
Keenum deserved the opportunity and let’s hope he makes it through his final season.
Can anyone remember when Colorado was good?
The Buffaloes have a storied history, but it just seems like they have been so bad for so long that no one remembers.
It’s time a little luck came Colorado’s way.
Derek Dooley, Tennessee
Hey, Derek Dooley has the Volunteers at 2-0 to start 2011, but the big games are still to come.
Dooley stepped into a hornet’s nest following the one-year Lane Kiffin spectacle.
He’s a good fit for Tennessee and better days should be coming soon.
John Brantley, Florida
The Florida quarterback had the unenviable task of replacing Tim Tebow, and it went about as bad as any transition could have gone.
He was booed by fans, and most of them probably thought he wouldn’t be back in 2011.
But he is and Charlie Weis is doing a good job of coaching him up.
Poor Western Kentucky. It seems the Hilltoppers are always running the wrong way.
Yep, the Hilltoppers need your love.
Western Kentucky actually had a good season last year at 2-10.
But Willie Taggart’s team is 0-2 right now and they really need your support.
Howard Schnellenberger, Florida Atlantic
Howard Schnellenberger has enjoyed a storied career, and even won the 1983 national championship at Miami.
Now the 77-year-old coach at Florida Atlantic is calling it quits after 27 seasons.
It’s OK to hope he goes out on top. Well, maybe a Sun Belt championship.
Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
Did any individual player get chewed out more than Taylor Martinez last year?
He’s still wiping Bo Pelini’s spittle off his face from some of those sidelines fits.
Here’s to Martinez avoiding the wrath of Pelini.
The Wolverines’ three seasons with Rich Rodriguez must have felt like a decade.
Michigan’s offense may have clicked at times, but the defense was atrocious.
Following Saturday’s crazy 35-31 victory over Notre Dame, you can’t help but love what Brady Hoke is doing in Ann Arbor.
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
With all of the negative news surrounding some college coaches and programs, you’ll never hear a bad thing about Pat Fitzgerald.
He’s a smart, classy coach and he deserves our admiration.
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin
Russell Wilson just loves to play football, but for some reason North Carolina State was ready to part ways with him.
Wilson has shined for Wisconsin, while the Wolfpack are 1-1 following a bad loss to Wake Forest.
Greg Childs, Arkansas
Greg Childs is one of the nation’s best receivers, and he’s back to lead Arkansas following a season-ending knee injury last year.
There are lots of players who get hurt each year, so Childs can represent all of them.
Give BYU credit for being gutsy enough to try the independent route.
The Cougars are on TV more and have played two close games against BCS foes to open the season.
Good luck Cougars.
Joe Paterno, Penn State
Whether he’s coaching from the sidelines or in the press box, Joe Paterno has been a fixture at Penn State since 1950. He took over as the head coach in 1966.
He’s enjoyed crazy success, and there’s no question he’s near the end.
One more magical season isn’t too much to ask for.
Bobby Bowden, Florida State
While we're talking about old coaches, let's not forget former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden.
The long-time coach recently revealed he had prostate cancer back in 2007 and chose not to tell anyone but his wife because he feared what it might do on the recruiting trail.
I understand a coach will use anything for an advantage, but it's a sad statement when we know they would have used his health against Bowden.
Knile Davis, Arkansas
The Arkansas running back suffered a season ending ankle injury before the season even began.
The hard-running Knile Davis will be missed this year, but we should root for him to have a full recovery.
Dan Persa, Northwestern
Dan Persa is another guy coming back from an injury, but he still hasn’t seen the field.
He’s one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, but he’s still not 100 percent from an Achilles injury.
He’s too good to be on the sidelines, so here’s hoping he’s back soon.
Frank Solich, Ohio
Today’s fans don’t remember how Frank Solich was completely screwed over by Nebraska.
How did Solich respond? With total class.
Now he’s built the Ohio Bobcats into one of the top programs in the Mid-American Conference.
Eric LeGrand, Rutgers
OK, Eric LeGrand isn’t playing this season, but not because he doesn't want to be on the field.
LeGrand suffered a major spinal injury on Oct. 16, 2010, and he’s been battling to regain full mobility since.
Thanks to his passion and medical advances, LeGrand has regained some feeling.
He should be an inspiration to us all.
Tray Allen, Texas
Sometimes 5-star recruits don’t live up to the hype. So far Tray Allen falls into that category.
Allen may never fulfill the potential, but he has had some bad luck along the way.
Last year, he was ready to become a starter on the Texas offensive line when he broke his foot in the weight room, all but ending his season.
Now he has one last chance to be a star with the Longhorns.
Kellen Moore, Boise State
While Kellen Moore seems like an easy target for fans of the big schools, you should appreciate and root for a player like him.
He doesn’t talk a lot and he shows up every week ready to compete.
He may never make it at the next level, but he’s been a special college player.
So let’s enjoy his final season.
Andre Ellington, Clemson
Andre Ellington was one of the best running backs coming out of high school, but an injury last season was a big reason Clemson struggled in 2010.
He’s back and running the ball well for Dabo Swinney and the Tigers.
Ellington has had some big days, and he’s good enough to do that every week if healthy.
Kevin Prince, UCLA
It seems like every season, Kevin Prince is in a battle for the UCLA quarterback job. No one ever seems to have much confidence in Prince, but he usually wins the competition.
Then everything falls apart and Prince struggles while UCLA loses.
He’s been battling injuries so far this season, but it may be Prince who has to save Rick Neuheisel’s job.
Boy does he need your support.
Levine Toilolo, Stanford
Levine Toilolo had some serious bad luck in 2010.
He was injured in his first start and didn’t play again.
Now he’s back, and with Andrew Luck throwing him the ball he could have a monster season.
Here’s hoping he stays healthy in 2011.
Troy Woolfolk, Michigan
The Michigan cornerback was injured last year and he’s been in and out of the line up so far this season.
When he’s healthy, Troy Woolfolk makes Michigan’s defense better. Even when's he's banged up, he still gets on the field and makes plays.
UM’s defense is horrible, so they need him bad.
Mark Richt, Georgia
Mark Richt’s worst nightmare came true.
Everyone knew he started the season on the hot seat, but a win over Boise State or South Carolina in the first two weeks would take some heat off.
Well, he’s 0-2.
Hey Florida fans, could you root for Richt just a little?
Trent Steelman, Army
You could put about any player from Army, Navy or Air Force on this list.
But Trent Steelman is a personal favorite.
I’ve loved watching this guy play in the Army-Navy game the past two seasons.
He’s a true leader and will do just fine without your cheers. But wouldn’t you feel better if you did?
Luke Fickell, Ohio State
Just look at Luke Fickell, doesn't he look like he needs a hug?
Fickell is doing just fine (in spite of wearing a black pullover on one of the hottest days in Ohio history). There are a lot of people who would love a one-year audition as Ohio State’s football coach.
But with all of the distractions and that close win against Toledo he needs us now.
Julian Paksi, Albion
It’s possible you’ve never heard of Albion's Julian Paksi, but he’s worth cheering for this year.
The 5’11”, 240-pound defensive lineman, was diagnosed earlier this year with a rare form of cancer. Eventually, he will need a liver transplant if he hopes to beat it.
Instead of missing his senior season, Paksi has chosen to put off the transplant and is risking the potential spread of the cancer.
Al Golden, Miami
Al Golden may be the head coach of the hated Miami Hurricanes, but Golden is one of the good guys in the game.
What he has inherited at Miami was not his fault and he doesn’t deserve the potential fall out.
I hope Golden remains in Coral Gables and someone finally teaches the Hurricanes how to win the right way.
Garrett Gilbert, Texas
Garrett Gilbert has been officially benched as quarterback at Texas and it’s not likely he’ll see the field again as a Longhorn.
Look, the best guy should be the starter. Still, it’s a tough pill to swallow for the former five-star player.
His options aren’t great, but he could stick it out and try to win back the job or he could bolt for a FCS program and play next season.
Good luck, Garrett!
Big 12 Leftovers
If the Big 12 truly does fall apart in the coming weeks, the remnants of that league—Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State—could be in serious trouble.
Of course they could get snatched up by the Mountain West or the Western Athletic conferences, but you can believe they are holding out hope the Big East comes a calling.
Rodney Stewart, Colorado
Rodney Stewart was never expected to be much more than a complementary player to the highly recruited Darrell Scott at Colorado.
But the 5'6" speedster plays hard and runs fast and now he is in his final season with the Buffs.
Here's a nod to all the little guys in the game.
Robert Marve, Purdue
Robert Marve has to be one of the unluckiest guys in football.
Before he even began his career at Miami, he was seriously injured in a car accident.
After sitting out a season following his transfer to Purdue, Marve was named the starting quarterback and got injured early in the year.
Now he's healthy and ready to play again.
San Jose State
The Spartans went 1-12 last year and are currently 0-2 in 2011.
San Jose State is currently on a 12-game losing streak.
You may not want to root for them, but don't you feel bad booing such a bad team?
Doc Holliday, Marshall
Marshall's second-year coach Doc Holliday finally got a signature victory when the Herd defeated Southern Miss last weekend.
Holliday was one of the hardest working assistants in the nation before getting his shot in Huntington. He's one of the best recruiters and, given time, will build the Herd into a perennial contender in Conference USA.
Eric Page, Toledo
Toledo's junior receiver and returner, Eric Page, is one of the more exciting players that almost no one ever gets to see play.
If you went to the Ohio State game last week then you learned quickly that Page is a big-time player in a small frame (5'10", 180).
Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Dabo Swinney seems like a lovable guy, and he's passionate about Clemson.
I'm just worried that he's about to run a three-game gauntlet—No. 21 Auburn (Sept. 17), No. 5 Florida State (Sept. 24) and at No. 13 Virginia Tech (Oct. 1)—that may cost him his job.
Casey Pachall, TCU
Casey Pachall had the fun job of replacing four-year starter Andy Dalton at quarterback for TCU.
Look how tatted up his right arm is...err, back to Pachall.
He had his ups and downs in a season-opening loss to Baylor, but he proved to be a gutsy performer.
The future is bright for this one.
Luke Kuechly, Boston College
Since Luke Kuechly arrived on campus he's been a tackling machine.
He's an old-fashioned player, who just loves to play the game (and bust some heads).
Mike London, Virginia
Mike London is leading Virginia into a new era of football in Charlottesville.
It's a process and the Cavaliers just might sneak into a bowl game this year.
The best part is, London is doing it with great recruiting and hard work.
Alex King, Duke
Never heard of him, huh?
Well, Alex King is the punter at Duke, and when you punt for the Blue Devils you get to see the field a lot.
Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Justin Blackmon is so freakishly good that he's just fun to watch play.
Of course no one else in the Big 12 likes him, but you have to respect a player that's this good.
Carson Tinker, Alabama
Carson Tinker is the long snapper at Alabama.
If not for the deadly tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa in the spring we probably wouldn't be talking about him.
But he was banged up pretty bad during the storm, and he also lost his girlfriend who was killed.
The community is still healing, but we can all help by rooting for Carson.
Robert Griffin III, Baylor
If you watched that Friday night classic against TCU, then you saw why Robert Griffin III is a special talent.
Unfortunately he plays at Baylor so very few people outside of the Big 12 have ever heard of him.
It's players like Griffin that make college football so much fun to watch.
Every Offensive Lineman in the Country
The big, burly offensive linemen of the world never get much respect.
Even defensive linemen make tackles and get a few sacks. The best an offensive lineman can get is a pancake block, and not since Ohio State's Orlando Pace has anyone really cared.
The linemen are the key to making a good offense work.
Watch your team next time and if the offense isn't moving the ball, good chance it's because of the offensive line play.
Oak Trees at Toomer’s Corner
If you can’t support Toomer’s Corner then you have a problem.
Even Alabama fans want to see the oak trees survive.
So do I.