Rose Bowl 2012: 7 Underrated Players To Keep Your Eye On
Other than LaMichael James and Montee Ball, which underrated players on the Oregon Ducks and Wisconsin Badgers should you keep an eye on in the 2012 Rose Bowl?
It will be a classic matchup of power vs. speed when the Ducks and Badgers go at it, so there will be a few under-the-radar players who will have a major impact on the result of the game.
Oregon has faster players on both sides of the ball, so Wisconsin will need to find a way to slow down the fast tempo of the Ducks offense.
On the other hand, Wisconsin is much larger than Oregon. How the Ducks will try to handle their bigger opponent will be one of the deciding factors of this game.
Here are seven players, who you might not be too familiar with, that will greatly impact the game.
Eddie Pleasant is Oregon's starting strong safety and will play a key role in the Ducks' game plan on defense. Behind LaMichael James, he's also the Ducks' second-best pro prospect in this upcoming NFL draft.
This year, Pleasant has been instrumental in run support. He's also arguably been the most consistent player on the Ducks defense this season.
Pleasant can hit, he can cover and he can play the run better than most safeties in college football. He and his safety partner John Boyett could be the best safety tandem in the nation.
With Montee Ball running behind his mammoth offensive line, he'll likely reach the second level during the majority of his runs. It will be crucial for Pleasant to step up and take Ball out before he breaks free.
Linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Boland get all the attention on Wisconsin's defense, but Kevin Claxton brings a physical presence that tends to be overlooked.
The senior linebacker made the most of his second chance and accumulated 42 tackles this season.
When going up against Oregon's offensive attack, it's up to the defensive linemen to clog the running back's running lanes. It'll then be up to the linebackers to take down the quick running backs of Oregon. That will be no easy task for this linebacking corps who might not be fast enough to keep up with LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas.
Terrance Mitchell is a true freshman defensive back who some Oregon fans might not have heard of before.
The small, yet incredibly gifted cornerback has done an excellent job stepping in for the suspended Cliff Harris this season.
As of now, he's the No. 1 corner listed on the Ducks depth chart, so he'll likely be going up against Nick Toon for the majority of the game.
Mitchell has the ability to shut down receivers, but was exposed by Marquis Lee during the USC game. Toon is a speedy receiver with some size, but it'll be a fun matchup to watch nonetheless.
Speaking of clogging the lanes, that will predominantly be the job of Wisconsin's defensive tackle Ethan Hemer. He's the biggest body that the Badgers have on the defensive side of the ball. It will be up to him to disrupt the point of attack as much as possible in order to deter Oregon from gathering a rhythm in the running game.
In last year's national championship game, Nick Fairely demonstrated how much of an impact an interior lineman can have on Oregon's game plan.
Hemer shouldn't be expected to have the type of game that Fairley had; that's just asking too much. But Wisconsin will need him to take on as many blockers as possible if they want to slow down Oregon's attack.
Oregon lost the majority of its starters on the defensive line last year. Dion Jordan was the only returning starter this season and he's been an intricate piece to the defense's success in 2011.
The once-tight end is one of the more athletically gifted players in college football who play the defensive end position. His tall and lanky stature, combined with his speed, makes him a freak of nature and a handful for any opposing offensive tackle to contain.
He's sacked the quarterback 7.5 times this year, as well as compiling 13 tackles for loss.
The large offensive line of Wisconsin could bottle Jordan up in the run game. However, he will use his speed to get to Russel Wilson on passing situations.
Jared Abbrederis is Wisconsin's version of De'Anthony Thomas. He's a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball both on special teams an in the passing game.
Abbrederis caught 51 catches for 814 yards and seven touchdowns. He added a punt return for a touchdown against Indiana in mid-October.
He had a solid game in the Big 10 Championship Game against Michigan State, which is where some started to take notice of him.
Oregon will try to focus their attention on Nick Toon in the passing game, so expect that to open some opportunities for Abbrederis.
If there is any player who you should watch in this coming Rose Bowl, big-name player or not, De'Anthony Thomas should be atop the list.
Once everybody sees what he is capable of on national television, people will start mentioning him in the same sentence as Heisman Trophy.
His game-breaking speed is unmatched by anyone in college football. His cuts have no wasted motion. It actually looks like he goes a little bit faster when he jukes defenders out of their shoes.
Thomas doesn't really have a position in the Ducks offense. He will sometimes line up in the backfield, and other times he'll be split out wide to catch a screen pass. No matter how he gets the ball, he has the speed and the talent to take it to the house every time.
His 16 touchdowns as a freshman broke Oregon's record for a true freshman. Keep an eye on Thomas this game. In order to do that, you might not be able to blink.