Matt Barkley (USCw) – Barkley came into USC with all of the hoopla that a top player in the country comes with. He took several lumps his first year, but avoided a sophomore slump and from about the 3rd game on during his sophomore campaign, not only did he look like a capable college QB, but he looked like an NFL QB. He has great mechanics, wonderful pocket presence, and he’s a leader.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Luck (Stanford), Nick Foles (Arizona), Landry Jones (Oklahoma), Robert Griffin III (Baylor), Aaron Murray (UGA), Taylor Martinez (Nebraska), Denard Robinson (Michigan)
LaMichael James (Oregon) – James is a dynamic runner with vision, quickness, and speed. The fact that he plays in Oregon’s wide open offense can cause some to overlook the fact that he is a legitimate “between the tackles” back with game breaking speed.
Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina) – A tough,hard-nosed runner who is not only not afraid of contact, but he quite often initiates the contact. His hands out of the backfield are rare for a young player and his pass protection skills are improving immensely.
Honorable Mention: Cyrus Gray (Texas A&M), Ronnie Hillman (San Diego St.), Doug Martin (Boise St.), Dennis Johnson (Arkansas), Montee Ball (Wisconsin), James White (Wisconsin), Michael Dyer (Auburn), David Wilson (VaTech)
Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma St) – He was a legitimate threat to win the Heisman last season from the wide receiver position. He’s stepped in admirably into the same position that Dez Bryant made a name for himself.
Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma) – If it weren’t for Blackmon, Broyles would get a LOT more attention in his own state. Although Blackmon had more receiving yards than Broyles last season, Broyles had 20 more receptions than Blackmon (131 receptions total). With Oklahoma making a push for a national title this season, I expect to see Broyles replicate that production.
Alshon Jeffery (South Carolina) - A huge body with big play ability reeling in 88 receptions for over 1500 yards last season. Depending on who his QB is, I look for a stellar season from Jeffery.
Honorable mention: Juron Criner (Arizona), Lance Lewis (ECU), Michael Floyd (Notre Dame), Greg Childs (Arkansas), Joe Adams (Arkansas)
Michael Egnew (Missouri) – A big body that served as a main target for Blaine Gabbert reeling in 90 passes last season. With a first year starter this season in Mizzou’s pass happy offense, look for Egnew to duplicate or eclipse those numbers this season as he serves as a security blanket for the young QB.
Honorable mention: Davis Paulson (Oregon), Coby Fleener (Stanford), Orson Charles (UGA), Philip Lutzenkirchen (Auburn)
Matt Kalil (USC) – This guy is a prototypical left tackle. He is a physical specimen! And he has the pedigree to go along with it being the son and younger brother of former NFL players.
Riley Reiff (Iowa) - Reiff is a hand-spanked, corn fed naturally strong, athletic left tackle. He’s equally as good as a pass blocker as he is a downhill run blocker. He has solid footwork that is good enough to stay with a speed rushing DE and push him upfield past the QB.
Honorable mention: Mike Adams (Ohio St.), John Martin (Stanford), Bobby Massie (Ole Miss),
Cordy Glenn (UGA) – At 6-5 330lbs, Glenn is massive for a guard. He moves well in pass protection and in a man blocking scheme wins 9 out of every 10 battles he has.
Kelechi Osemele (Iowa St) – Another HUGE guard standing 6-6 and weight 347. He’s a traditional road grader who has spent time at both Guard and Right Tackle. For his size, he’s incredibly agile.
Honorable mention: David DeCastro (Stanford), Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin), Ryan Miller (Colorado)
Mike Brewster (Ohio St.) – Brewster has started for the Buckeyes since his freshman year and has been a stalwart. He’s equally as impressive as a pass blocker as he is a run blocker.
Honorable Mention: Ben Jones (UGA), Ben Habern (Oklahoma), Phil Blake (Baylor), T-Bob Hebert (LSU)
Quinton Coples (UNC) – Continuing in the long line of NFL type DEs that Butch Davis recruited to North Carolina, Coples filled in all last season for the suspended Robert Quinn and put up monster numbers with 10 sacks, 15 ½ tackles for loss, and 2 forced fumbles.
Jared Crick (Nebraska) – A quick and strong DT who could play a traditional 4-3 DT position or slide over to DE in a 3-4 scheme. He has a nice motor and late last season once he got adjusted to being the man after the departure of phenom Ndamukong Suh, he wound up with 7 sacks in his last 8 games.
Marcus Fortson (Miami) – He was supposed to be the second coming of Warren Sapp. I have yet to see anything close to that, but his raw athleticism is too good not to live up to those expectations. With new coach Al Golden on board, I look for Fortson to start walking into his destiny as a legitimate NFL type DT.
Honorable mention: Fletcher Cox (Miss. St.), Kheeston Randall (Texas), Kuwann Short (Purdue), Roosevelt Nix (Kent St.)
Vontaze Burfict (Arizona St.) – In short, this kid is a heat seeking missile with bad intentions. The fact that he goes for the knockout blow on just about every tackle leads some to question his maturity level. But his intensely violent playing style intimidates opposing runners.
Zach Brown (UNC) – An absolute freak athlete, who (at 6-2 225 lbs) is said to have clocked at 4.28 seconds (!!!!) in the 40 yard dash, outproduced the big names for UNC like Quan Sturdivant & Bruce Carter last season.
Travis Lewis (Oklahoma) – This is the only returning player from the All-Mack pre-season team from last season. Lewis is a tackling machine. All he does is produces. And he’s a legitimate team leader on defense.
Honorable mention: Sean Spence (Miami), Emmanuel Acho (Texas), Luke Kuechly (Boston College), Tank Carder (TCU), Jerry Franklin (Arkansas), Chris Marve (Vandy)
Tyrann Mathieu (LSU) – This kid plays a lot bigger than his size indicates. Forced into action last season as a true freshman due to multiple injuries in the Tiger backfield, Mathieu more than held his own. I’m not saying he’ll be Patrick Peterson, but he’ll be darn close.
Jayron Hosley (VaTech) – Ball hawk..End of story.
Honorable mention: Alphonso Dennard (Nebraska), Morris Cleiborne (LSU), Chase Minnifield (Virginia), Casey Heyward (Vandy), Janoris Jenkins (N. Alabama)
TJ McDonald (USC) – McDonald is the best safety on USC’s roster. And coming into his second year under the tutelage of legendary defensive wizard Monte Kiffin, he should have a strong season.
Ray Ray Armstrong (Miami) – Like his teammate Marcus Fortson, Ray Ray was supposed to be the next Sean Taylor or Ed Reed. Thus far he has been neither. But he has all the physical tools and ability to be that type player. I look for Ray Ray to have a great season.
Blair Walsh (UGA) – If you’ve ever seen the kid play, not much explanation is necessary. He’s money. And for the past couple seasons, he has been the only sure thing on UGA’s roster.
Honorable mentions: David Ruffer (Notre Dame), Danny Hrappman (Southern Miss), Derek Dimke (Illinois)
Bryan Ager (Cal) – A big punter (6-4, 207) with a big leg (has 54 punts of over 50 yards in his career).
Honorable mentions: Kyle Martens (Rice), Brian Stahovich (San Deigo St.), Drew Butler (UGA)
Cliff Harris (Oregon)
Greg Reid (Florida St.)
Greg Reid (Florida St.)