Top 150 Returning College Football Players for the 2009 Season

Colin MeansCorrespondent ISeptember 5, 2009

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 22:  Eric Berry #14 of the Tennessee Volunteers carries the ball during the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium on November 22, 2008 in Nashville, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

As the first Saturday of the 2009 college football season is nearly upon us, the excitement level couldn't be any higher.

Besides the preseason polls and All-American teams, the hype building up to the kickoff of college football is unreal.

Here are my top 150 returning college football players for the 2009 season rankings. This is not an NFL Draft Big Board, and is based off potential and success at the collegiate level as opposed to a player's status as a pro prospect.

This list will not contain offensive linemen, as there are no stats or anything to go by in terms of ranking them accurately.

This list will only contain returning players—no incoming freshmen, transfers, and I will also not be including players who are out with season-ending injuries.  It pains me to see players like Mark Herzlich, Nate Irving, Darren Evans, James Starks, and any other players in college football go down prematurely due to injury. 

I haven't tampered with the rankings or comments since before yesterday's games, so none of yesterday's games affected these rankings.  Seeing how LeGarrette Blount is now suspended for the year, I find the comment I had wrote for him to be hilarious.

Love it or hate it, leave a comment and let me know what you think.  For those interested, player No. 151 would have been wide receiver Phillip Livas from Louisiana Tech.

1. QB Tim Tebow, Sr. – Florida: Tebow returns this year as undoubtedly the most accomplished player still playing college football.

2. S Eric Berry, Jr. – Tennessee: Berry is the most exciting player in college football. Call it a fact. 

3. QB Colt McCoy, Sr. – Texas: No other player in college football this year will be watched as much as McCoy. 

4. QB Sam Bradford, Jr. – Oklahoma: You know college football is stacked with talent when the Heisman winner returns and isn’t the best player.

5. WR Dez Bryant, Jr. – Oklahoma State: Easily the best wide receiver in college football, to put it simply.  

6. S Taylor Mays, Sr. – USC: The reason most receivers would rather not cut across the field against USC.

7. LB Brandon Spikes, Sr. – Florida: Anchors the defending National Champions' defense that just so happens to return all eleven starters.

8. DT Ndamukong Suh, Sr. – Nebraska: It’s harder to slip past Suh than it is to pronounce his name.

9. RB Jahvid Best, Jr. – California: Electrifying all-purpose back has emerged as the consensus top running back in college football.

10. DE Jerry Hughes, Sr. – TCU: Returns as college football’s defending sack champ and to help TCU challenge Utah for the Mountain West title.

11. DT Gerald MCoy, Jr. – Oklahoma: An intimidating defender who has jumped into the top five in some 2010 NFL mock drafts.

12. LB Sean Weatherspoon, Sr. – Missouri: Apparently he is going to, “squeeze the juice out of Illinois” week one, and I doubt he’ll stop there.

13. DE Greg Hardy, Sr. – Ole Miss: Only played in seven games last season due to injury, yet still managed to put up one more sack than in as many games.

14. TE Jermaine Gresham, Sr. – Oklahoma: An elite playmaker, is a nightmare for any defensive coordinator’s game plan.

15. DE George Selvie, Sr. – South Florida: Slowed by injury this past season but is returning to his old, backfield-disrupting self.

16. DT Terrence Cody, Sr. – Alabama: He isn’t called Mount Cody because of his 6-5 height and 354 pound frame.  Oh wait, that is why.

17. RB Jonathan Dwyer, Jr. – Georgia Tech: A combination of power and speed, perfect for Paul Johnson’s option-oriented offense.

18. QB Case Keenum, Jr. – Houston: Amazing numbers, yet it seems the casual football fan hasn’t taken note.

19. RB Kendall Hunter, Jr. – Oklahoma State: Gets lost among the Cowboys’ star-studded offense, but he hasn’t gone anywhere.

20. QB Jevan Snead, Jr. – Ole Miss: Colt McCoy’s former backup looks to sneak the Rebels into the top ten and possibly even greater places.

21. WR Dezmon Briscoe, Jr. – Kansas: It seems the trend of the top wide receivers coming from the Big 12 is still in.

22. RB Jacquizz Rodgers, So. – Oregon State:  Blew away the competition his freshman year and looks to help pull off another certain upset this season.

23. LB Rolando McClain, Jr. – Alabama: One of the main reasons Alabama’s defense will rival that of Florida’s.

24. QB Dan LeFevour, Sr. – Central Michigan: Struggled with injuries this past season, but when healthy is one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in college football.

25. CB Trevard Lindley, Sr. – Kentucky: With a big year this season, Lindley could break out as the top cornerback prospect for next year’s NFL draft.

26. LB Navorro Bowman, Jr. – Penn State: Linebacker U is at it again. Bowman is the latest elite backer to pass through Joe Paterno’s defense.

27. DE Carlos Dunlap, Jr. – Florida: Led the defending National Champs in sacks last season. Go figure.

28. QB Todd Reesing, Sr. – Kansas: Has been in Chase Daniel’s shadow the past two seasons, but will return this season as the Big 12 North’s top quarterback.

29. LB Greg Jones, Jr. – Michigan State: Could finish this season as the best defensive player in the Big Ten.

30. DT Brian Price, Jr. – UCLA: A demolishing run-stuffer who has surprising stats for a defensive lineman.

31. QB Terrelle Pryor, So. – Ohio State: An outstanding 40-yard time for a quarterback, the expectations are high in his first full season as a starter.

32. DE/LB Sergio Kindle, Sr. – Texas: Hybrid end who will take over Brian Orakpo’s  spot as the leader of the Texas defense.

33. WR Julio Jones, So. – Alabama: Plays big in big games, and will look to improve on his touchdown total from last season.

34. DE Jason Worilds, Jr. – Virginia Tech: Broke out in his first season as a starter, causes tremendous problems in the opposing backfield.

35. CB Syd’Quan Thompson, Sr. – California: Much more physical than his small frame may indicate.

36. WR Arrelious Benn, Jr. – Illinois: An athlete with blazing speed, Benn can run and return the ball as well as catch it.

37. QB Zac Robinson, Sr. – Oklahoma State: Runs the nation’s most-hyped offense. You might find it surprising that he isn’t even a top two quarterback in his own division.

38. S Morgan Burnett, Jr. – Georgia Tech: Pretty much the consensus No. 3 safety in the nation behind the two aforementioned All-Americans.

39. WR Mardy Gilyard, Sr. – Cincinnati: A dangerous playmaker on offense as well as a very dangerous kick returner.

40. CB Myron Lewis, Sr. – Vanderbilt: Opposing quarterbacks who tried to pick on Lewis last season paid a steep price.

41. CB Joe Haden, Jr. – Florida: An athlete that will be taking some snaps under center in the wildcat formation this year.

42. RB C. J. Spiller, Sr. – Clemson: James Davis is gone; Spiller is the go-to guy now.

43. CB Kyle Wilson, Sr. – Boise State: Hands down the best defensive player in the WAC.

44. LB Sean Lee, Sr. – Penn State: Missed the entire season last year due to injury, but will look to duplicate his numbers from 2007.

45. RB LeGarrette Blount, Sr. – Oregon: Just itching to break onto the national scene this year.

46. WR A. J. Green, So. – Georgia: Starting to close the talent gap the media portrays between himself and fellow sophomore Julio Jones.

47. QB Juice Williams, Sr. – Illinois: Once known as the poor man’s Pat White, Williams has one last year to prove he’s his own man.

48. LB Joe Pawelek, Sr. – Baylor: As Baylor begins to rise to national prominence, Pawelek will draw more attention.

49. DT Arthur Jones, Sr. – Syracuse: Often overlooked as he plays on possibly the worst team in the weakest BCS conference.

50. LB Travis Lewis, So. – Oklahoma: A tackling machine who shined against Texas last season.

51. LB Rennie Curran, Jr. – Georgia: The SEC’s leading returning tackler.

52. LB Eric Norwood, Sr. – South Carolina: Sack machine who calls outside linebacker home.

53. RB Damion Fletcher, Sr. – Southern Miss: Most career rushing yards in college football among active players.

54. CB Alterraun Verner, Sr. – UCLA: Finished last season No. 1 in the nation in passes defended.

55. DE C. J. Wilson, Sr. – East Carolina: Dominates opposing Conference USA backfields.

56. DE Corey Wootton, Sr. – Northwestern: Could solidify a spot as a top 50 draft pick with another big season this year.

57. QB Daryll Clark, Sr. – Penn State: Grittiness and self-sacrifice might lead some to underestimate Clark, but he is more than just a team leader.

58. TE Rob Gronkowski, Jr. – Arizona: Red-zone threat and possible future first-round draft pick.

59. QB Robert Griffin III, So. – Baylor: A national track star, Griffin wowed everyone last season as a true freshman.

60. DE Brandon Graham, Sr. – Michigan: Two three-sack games last season.

61. QB Max Hall, Sr. – BYU: Was in the running for the Heisman in the earlier weeks last season.

62. QB Colin Kaepernick, Jr. – Nevada: Equally as good with his feet as he is through the air, was drafted by the Cubs in this year’s amateur baseball draft, but politely declined to try out.

63. WR Golden Tate, Jr. – Notre Dame: Leading receiver on arguably the nation’s best passing offense.

64. RB Noel Devine, Jr. – West Virginia: Didn’t score many touchdowns last season, but that is likely to change this year.

65. TE Dennis Pitta, Sr. – BYU: Will be the leading target for Max Hall and the Cougars this season.

66. WR Eric Decker, Sr. – Minnesota: Think Wes Welker. Possibly leaning toward baseball as his post- college football career after being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers.

67. RB MiQuale Lewis, Sr. – Ball State: College football’s leading returning yards and touchdown leader.

68. DT Marvin Austin, Jr. – North Carolina: Big force in the middle that lacks the deserved name recognition.

69. QB Russell Wilson, So. – NC State: First freshman ever to be named the first team All-ACC quarterback.

70. DT Jared Odrick, Sr. – Penn State: Burst onto the scene last year after returning from injury.

71. LB Quan Sturdivant, Jr. – North Carolina: The leader of possibly the most underrated defense in college football.

72. DT Geno Atkins, Sr. – Georgia: Isn’t a stat-sheet stuffer but gets the hard work done.

73. QB Matt Grothe, Sr. – South Florida: Has been shaky as a passer over the last three years, but has unquestioned leadership abilities.

74. WR Jordan Shipley, Sr. – Texas: Colt McCoy’s roommate is now his go-to receiver, and is also a solid return man.

75. LB Pat Angerer, Sr. – Iowa: Slowly gaining national respect as an all-around defender.

76. RB Charles Scott, Sr. – LSU: Powerful back who carried the load for the LSU offense last season.

77. WR Brandon LaFell, Sr. – LSU: Regarded as a better pro prospect than college player, arguably a top three receiver for next year’s draft.

78. WR Damian Williams, Jr. – USC: Will likely be freshman quarterback Matt Barkley’s best option at receiver.

79. DE Greg Romeus, Jr. – Pittsburgh: Energetic pass rusher who blocked three kicks last season.

80. LB Rico McCoy, Sr. – Tennessee: Great range and tackling ability.

81. DE Jammie Kirlew, Sr. – Indiana: Someone’s gotta make the plays for Indiana.

82. RB Evan Royster, Jr. – Penn State: Needs to stay healthy to gain more respect.

83. DE Jermaine Cunningham, Sr. – Florida: Carlos Dunlap’s partner in crime.

84. QB Tim Hiller, Sr. – Western Michigan: One of the more underrated passers in the nation.

85. QB Jeremiah Masoli, Jr. – Oregon: When all is said and done Masoli could be in the running for the Heisman.

86. CB Walter Thurmond III, Sr. – Oregon: Fourth-year starter in the Ducks' secondary.

87. RB DeMarco Murray, Sr. – Oklahoma: Ended last season injured, but looks healthy for the start of this season.

88. CB Javier Arenas, Sr. – Alabama: Tied with Kyle Wilson last season for most punt return touchdowns with three.

89. RB John Clay, So. – Wisconsin: Will make name for himself this season.

90. DE Dexter Davis, Sr. – Arizona State: Sack machine who will make a run at All-American honors this season.

91. RB Joe McKnight, Jr. – USC: The rumor is McKnight will be the starting running back for USC this season.

92. TE Garrett Graham, Sr. – Wisconsin: Should shine this season with Travis Beckum finally gone.

93. DT Malcolm Sheppard, Sr. – Arkansas: Does a little bit of everything on the Hogs' line.

94.  QB Jimmy Clausen, Jr. – Notre Dame: This could be the year Clausen shows his true potential.

95. LB Boris Lee, Sr. – Troy: Has been consistently good in the previous three seasons.

96. WR Naaman Roosevelt, Sr. – Buffalo: The only returning receiver to reach triple digits in receptions last season.

97. DE Brandon Lang, Sr. – Troy: Following in the footsteps of former Trojans DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora.

98. WR DeAndre Brown, So. – Southern Miss: Led all freshmen in receiving yards last season.

99. WR/RB Dexter McCluster, Jr. – Ole Miss: Does a little bit of everything for the Rebels.

100. RB Eugene Jarvis, Sr. – Kent State: Struggled with injury last season and looks to return to his 2007 form.

101. LB Ryan Reynolds, Sr. – Oklahoma: Suffered a season-ending injury against Texas last season, but he’s back.

102. CB Stephan Virgil, Sr. – Virginia Tech: Will be Virginia Tech’s top cornerback this season.

103. QB Jake Locker, Sr. – Washington: Missed most of last season due to injury, but the dual-threat player is back.

104. LB Reggie Carter, Sr. – UCLA: Leader of the Bruin ‘backers.

105. CB Rafael Priest, Sr. – TCU: Shutdown corner for one of the nation’s best pass defenses.

106. DT Vince Oghobaase, Sr. – Duke: Yes, there is life on the Duke football team.

107. LB Stevenson Sylvester, Sr. – Utah: Really proved his worth in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama last season.

108. S Jordan Lake, Sr. – Baylor: Possibly the best defensive back in the Big 12.

109. CB Devin Ross, Sr. – Arizona: Should build on his breakout season last year this season.

110. DE Antonio Coleman, Sr. – Auburn: Athletic end who is capable of more than his stats have to offer.

111. WR Antonio Brown, Sr. – Central Michigan: Dangerous returner as well as Dan LeFevour’s top receiver.

112. RB Derrick Washington, Sr. – Missouri: Will be the go-to player for Mizzou now that Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin are gone.

113. DE Jeffrey Fitzgerald, Sr. – Kansas State: Great tackler and pass rusher.

114. TE D. J. Williams, Jr. – Arkansas: An athletic go-to target for Michigan transfer Ryan Mallet.

115. DE Alex Carrington, Sr. – Arkansas State: In the running for WAC defensive player of the year.

116. WR T. Y. Hilton, So. – FIU: Shined as a returner and receiver, also listed in the FIU basketball roster.

117. S Reshad Jones, Jr. – Georgia: Had a big sophomore season last year.

118. QB Tyrod Taylor, Jr. – Virginia Tech: Compared to former Hokie Michael Vick.

119. RB Michael Smith, Sr. – Arkansas: Arkansas didn’t take long to reload at running back after losing Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.

120. RB Victor Anderson, Jr. – Louisville:

121. CB Kendric Burney, Jr. – North Carolina: 

122. LB Nick Bellore, Sr. – Central Michigan: Could lead the nation in tackles this season.

123. S Darrell Stuckey, Sr. – Kansas: Leader of the Jayhawks secondary.

124. LB Alex Wujciak, Sr. – Maryland: A leader and tackling machine.

125. QB/CB Vic Hall, Sr. – Virginia: All Conference-caliber cornerback who will be making the transition to quarterback this season.

126. DE Derrick Morgan, Jr. – Georgia Tech: Should gain more attention with the departure of Michael Johnson.

127. QB Rusty Smith, Sr. – Florida Atlantic: 

128. LB Reed Williams, Sr. – West Virginia: Back after playing in only three games last season.

129. QB Kellen Moore, So. – Boise State: Wasn’t expected to mature this fast.

130. WR James Rodgers, Jr. – Oregon State: Will be the Beavers' leading receiver with the departure of Sammie Stroughter.

131. S Kurt Coleman, Sr. – Ohio State: Will have the chance to make a bigger impact with James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins gone.

132. LB Bruce Carter, Jr. – North Carolina: Blocked five kicks last season.

133. CB Patrick Robinson, Sr. – Florida State: Missed four games last season with only one interception, but had six his sophomore season.

134. RB Chris Brown, Jr. – Oklahoma: More of a power runner than his counterpart DeMarco Murray.

135. S Barry Church, Sr. – Toledo: Will play a little bit of linebacker this season as well.

136. WR Kerry Meier, Sr. – Kansas: Converted quarterback who has become a go-to worthy wideout.

137. DE Rahim Alem, Sr. – LSU: Could be this year’s surprise sack machine.

138. LB Scott Lutrus, Jr. – Connecticut: Enters this season with multiple 100-plus tackle seasons under his belt.

139. RB Jeffery Demps, So. – Florida: One of the most elusive backs in the country.

140. DE Everson Griffen, Jr. – USC: Should look to match his career sack total of nine this season.

141. S Antonio Baker, Sr. – Louisiana Tech: An all-around playmaker for the Bulldogs.

142. DE Jeremy Beal, Jr. – Oklahoma: A benefactor of Gerald McCoy’s presence.

143. QB Tony Pike, Sr. – Cincinnati: An injury last season slowed him down to some degree.

144. LB Cardia Jackson, Sr. – UL Monroe: If the past three seasons are any indication, Jackson is in for a huge season.

145. WR Ryan Wolfe, Sr. – UNLV: Needs 900 more receiving yards to break the all-time MWC record for receiving yards.

146. RB Bryce Beall, So. – Houston: Rushed for over a thousand yards last season, a rare sight in Houston.

147. QB Trevor Vittatoe, Jr. – UTEP: Throws a lot of touchdowns and not so many interceptions.

148. TE Aaron Hernandez, Jr. – Florida: Could be Tim Tebow’s top target.

149. DT D’Anthony Smith, Sr. – Louisiana Tech: Anchors the Bulldog’s defensive line.

150. LB Obi Ezeh, Sr. – Michigan: One guy who appears to have benefitted from more practice time.

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