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2012 Hall of Fame - Who Should've Been In?

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Mar 8, 2013


The players and coaches who should've been voted into the Hall last year


2012 Hall of Fame Class

The Ones Who Should've Been In

2013 Hall of Fame Ballot Rankings
- Slam Dunk Hall of Famers | The Coaches 
- Hall of Worthy, But Not Quite | Hall of Maybe | Hall of the Very Good

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By Pete Fiutak

The College Football Hall of Fame is sort of a strange bird.

It’s not like the other halls of fame, which are usually cut and dry when it comes to the selection process. The debates around the voting for the baseball and pro football halls are usually about whether or not a very, very good player should be in or not, but some selections are no-brainers with no questions asked.

Peyton Manning and Greg Maddux are going to be in their respective halls of fame, but it’s not so obvious for some of the greatest players in the history of college football. Instead, very good players and coaches from eras gone by tend to pop up and get on the ballot, and sometimes, all-timer, slam-dunk legends don’t get in.

I get a vote, and to me it seems relatively easy. In my world, if you win a Heisman Trophy it should be enough for an automatic in. If you were one of the most accomplished players at your position during your era, you should be in. If you did things no one in the history of the sport was able to do, you’re in. But it doesn’t seem to work like that, and the 2012 class proves that.

Getting into the historical side of college football is always tricky since the sport dates back to the 1800s and has changed so drastically and in so many ways.

There’s the race issue, with African-Americans not playing a role in some areas of the country until the 1970s. There’s the style issue, with the forward pass not becoming a big deal at some places until the last 20 years or so, and with the invention of the spread changing the statistical nature of the game. And over the ls few decades the NFL is playing a role. Deion Sanders would’ve been long gone to the pros if he was eligible as an early entry, but back in the late 1980s he had to play his senior year at Florida State, won the Thorpe Award, and went from being an all-time great to an unquestioned legend.

Not only do voters have to take into account all the different eras and all the different aspects of the game’s evolution, but there’s also the criteria to deal with.

According to the National Football Foundation, to shorten and sum up the criteria:

1. A player has to have been a First Team All-American on a list recognized by the NCAA. No Joe Montana.
2. He’s eligible ten years after his final year of playing.
3. Post-career citizenship is factored into the voting, and an extra boost is given to those who earned a degree. Lawrence Taylor: Not in. O.J. Simpson: Still in.
4. Players must have played within the last 50 years. So to be eligible for the 2012 class, the player had to have finished his career by 1962.
5. A coach is eligible three years after retiring or if he’s older than 70, and active coaches are eligible after age 75. He had to be a head coach for at least ten years and had to have coaches at least 100 games with a .600 minimum winning percentage.

No big deal, right?

Okay, so explain why the ten players listed below weren’t in the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame Class. I’ll argue why they should’ve been in.

The Top Players Who Should’ve Been Included in the 2012 Class

14. Jim Otis, FB Ohio State (1967-1969)

A consensus First Team All-American in 1969, he was even better a year after leading the team in rushing on the way to the 1968 national title. On the Ohio State All-Century Team, he led the team in rushing all three years for a team that liked to throw the ball as much as it liked wearing Maize and Blue. After starting the 1967 season 2-3, the Buckeyes won 24 straight games with Otis being the main man earning team MVP honors in 1969. The juggernaut of a 1969 squad was better in the regular season than the 1968 team, but the great run ended with the classic 24-12 loss to Michigan.

13. Tony Franklin, PK Texas A&M (1976-1978)

It’s this simple; Tony Franklin might be the greatest kicker in the history of college football. A three-time All-American, he belongs in the Hall simply for doing things no player has ever done. The barefoot star had a cannon for a leg, setting the NCAA record for the most field goals made from 50 yards or more, nailing 15, and set the record for the most career points scored by a kicker with 291. In a strange twist to his underappreciated career, he set the record for the longest field goal with a 65-yarder against Baylor, and later connected from 64 yards out to become the only player to ever hit two 60-yarders in one game, but Abilene Christian’s Ove Johansson blasted a 69-yarder on the same day to quickly take over the record for the longest boot.

12. Lorenzo White, RB Michigan State (1984-1987)

The greatest running back in Michigan State history, leading the team in rushing for four straight years, he was also one of the greatest backs of the 1980s. An All-American in 1985 and 1987, he finished his career with 4,887 yards, 43 touchdowns, and 23 100-yard games as the ultimate workhorse. Considering bowl stats didn’t count in the record books back then, he was a 5,000-yard back helped by his 113-yard, two score game to lead the Spartans to its only Rose Bowl win since 1955. Most impressively, when MSU needed a win to take the 198 Big Ten title and get to Pasadena, he carried the mail 56 times for 292 yards to beat Indiana.

11. Ted Brown, RB NC State (1975-1978)

Arguably the greatest running back in ACC history, he’s been lost in the shuffle when it comes to discussions of the best college runners ever. He’s not remembered for being flashy, and his mediocre pro career with the Minnesota Vikings took him out of the spotlight, but for four years in the 1970s he was a special college runner. The 1978 First Team All-American was the only four time All-ACC selection, leading the Wolfpack in rushing in all four years. Not only did he finish with the conference career record of 4,602 yards, but he was the main reason the team went to three bowls in four seasons. After he graduated, NC State would go eight years before getting back to a bowl game. How good was he? Penn State went 11-1 in 1977 led by a stifling defense, but Brown rumbled for 251 yards in the 21-17 loss.

10. Vinny Testaverde, QB Miami (1982-1986))

Fine, so he melted down against Penn State to cost the dominant 1986 Miami team a national title, and he might have failed to win a championship like Bernie Kosar, Steve Walsh, Gino Torretta, Ken Dorsey or Craig Erickson, but he won a Heisman and finished his career with 6,058 yards with 48 touchdowns. There were too many picks, but he came up with a transcendent performance in the 1986 win over Oklahoma and, with Jim Kelly in the mix, arguably the greatest quarterback in the history of Quarterback U.

9. Raghib (Rocket) Ismail, WR/KR Notre Dame (1988-1990)

Arguably the most electrifying player in college football history, or at least in the team photo, he holds the distinction for coming up with the greatest play of all-time that didn't happen.

Looking to seal up the national title in the 1991 Orange Bowl, Colorado was looking to ice the game late, but the Irish D held tough sacking QB Charles Johnson twice to knock the Buffs back to their own 47-yard line with 43 seconds to play. Waiting to return the kick was Ismail. Colorado had to kick the ball out of bounds didn’t they? Nope. Tom Rouen kicked it high in the air to the Rocket at the nine. He somehow navigated his way through traffic and busted loose up the right side going 91-yards for a touchdown and ruining Colorado’s dream season - except for the flag bringing it back on a phantom clipping call.

He was a good receiver, catching 72 passes for 1,565 yards and four scores, averaging 21.7 yards per grab, while running for 1,015 yards and averaging 27.6 yards per kickoff return with five scores and 13.4 yards per punt return with a score.

8. Danny Wuerffel, QB Florida (1993-1996)

This makes no sense at absolutely every level. He won a Heisman and a national title and got the Gators to another title game finishing as one of the most accomplished players in college football history. 

When Steve Spurrier took over the Florida program in 1990, he turned the Gators from a solid upper-echelon program into one of the nation's elite with one of the best offenses college football had ever seen. While Rex Grossman put up huge numbers in 2001 and Shane Matthews and Doug Johnson were solid, no one has ever run Spurrier's offense, or had the even temperament to handle Spurrier's criticism, better than Wuerffel.

There's no controversy, there aren't any knocks, and there's no excuse whatsoever for him not to be a slam-dunk choice after finishing his career with 10,875 yards and 114 touchdown passes - and an unbeaten record against Peyton Manning..

7. Mike Ruth, NG Boston College (1982-1985)

One of the key components to getting into the College Football Hall of Fame is character. Ruth almost became a priest and was known for his impeccable commitment to his values. He hit hard times since then, but there’s no denying his greatness on the field or his uniqueness at the time. Despite dealing with a slew of injuries throughout his career, he was the most dominant defensive tackle of the 1980s with a 1985 Outland, 29 career sacks, and 344 tackles while working on the nose. Quick as a flash and unbelievably strong – as legend has it, benching 560 pounds – he was always active, always producing, and always unstoppable.

6. Derrick Thomas, LB Alabama (1985-1988)

Normally it works the other way. Too often a mediocre college player gets retroactive credit for a great career after becoming a dominant pro – Johnny Unitas is front and center on that list. In the case of Derrick Thomas, not only was he a Hall of Fame pro player, but he was among the greatest pass rushers college football has ever seen. The 1988 Butkus Award winner was the defense star on four straight bowl teams destroying everything in his path, setting the NCAA single-season record with 27 sacks while finishing his career with a whopping 74 tackles for loss.

5. Eric Dickerson, RB SMU (1979-1982)

Okay, so there was that whole SMU Death Penalty thing, and there was the slimy, slick recruiting issue that got him to the school in the first place (which he won’t talk about in any way), but on the field he was as electrifying and as special as any back to ever carry the ball. Despite splitting carries with Craig James in the Pony Express, he still broke Earl Campbell’s record for career rushing yards by a Southwest Conference runner with 4,450, to go along with 48 touchdowns while averaging a whopping 5.6 yards per carry. A unanimous First Team All-American in 1982, he finished third in the Heisman voting while closing out his career with a second SWC Player of the Year honor.

4. Tedy Bruschi, LB/DE Arizona (1991-1995)

An Arizona Wildcat from the Desert Swarm era got into the Hall of Fame this year, but it was the wrong one. Rob Waldrop was a whale of a defensive lineman and deserves to be in, but Bruschi, the heart and soul of those dominant defenses, was the better college player. The two-time All-American tied the NCAA record with 52 sacks, to go along with 185 tackles and 74 tackles for loss, as a defensive end/linebacker hybrid who did a little of everything right. A three-time All-Pac 10 pick, he was the 1995 conference Player of the Year making 60 tackles with 18.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss.

3. Brian Bosworth, LB Oklahoma (1984-1986)

Bosworth is an interesting case because of his admitted steroid use, but if he’s left out because of that, then the history of the era has to be rewritten – and that might not be a bad thing. On the field, The Boz was brash, arrogant, annoying and a total and complete bust as a professional football player. He taunted opponents, fans, and the NCAA with his headbands, hairstyles and colorful comments.

And along the way he might have been the greatest inside linebacker of all-time.

Behind all the gimmicks and all the self-promotion was a peerless tackler making 395 tackles in three years including a school record 22 in the 1986 classic loss to Miami. The model of consistency he made 128 tackles in 1984, 131 in 1985, and 136 in 1986 earning consensus All-America honors in 1985 and 1986 and becoming the first ever two-time Butkus Award Winner.

2. Orlando Pace, OT Ohio State (1994-1996)

Uhhhhh, huh?! There's absolutely no excuse for Pace to not have been the easiest call for the voters. If Jonathan Ogden was picked, then Pace should've been a lock. There's John Hannah and Orlando Pace. That's the exclusive club of the greatest offensive linemen in college football history - but if you want to argue for Anthony Munoz or Tony Mandarich, you're probably right.

Pace was among the most decorated players of all-time as the first sophomore to ever win the Lombardi Award and the first two-time winner taking the award again as a junior. In that junior season, Pace won the Outland Trophy and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting behind Danny Wuerffel, Troy Davis and Jake Plummer. The only reason the term pancake is part of the vernacular now is because of Pace after winning the Lombardi Award twice, the Outland in 1996, and working as a two-time All-American and key part of the Ohio State puzzle.

1.Tommie Frazier, QB Nebraska (1992-1995)


Tommie Frazier should be the litmus test for College Football Hall of Fame voters. If he wasn’t on your ballot, you simply 1) need to wear a helmet to avoid hurting yourself, and 2) don’t know enough about the history of the game to be a functional member of a civilized society.

Remember, college football, historically, has been about the running backs. That has all changed with the spread offense and the improvements in the passing game, with Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Tim Tebow, and for one year, Cam Newton, all able to claim to be among the greatest and most accomplished quarterbacks of all-time. Before them, though, the greatest college quarterbacks were … ?

John Elway? He didn’t lead Stanford to a bowl – although a certain band play had something to do with that. Dan Marino? Maybe, but he didn’t win any national titles. Joe Montana? His legend and the chicken soup game were greater than his career. There were more talented college football players than Tommie Frazier, but no quarterback accomplished more.

He might not have been the prettiest passer and other Nebraska quarterbacks ran for more touchdowns and more yards, but few college players were better in the big games or were better winners. Before Frazier came to Nebraska, the Huskers had only beaten one top 20 team in four years. That all changed as he became the heart and soul of one of the most talented teams college football ever saw, leading the Huskers to a 13-2 record as a starter over AP ranked teams, with the two losses coming to Florida State in two Orange Bowls.

Despite missing seven games as a junior with a blood clot, he still ended up finishing his career with 33 wins while leading the Huskers to two national championships and within a missed field goal in the 1994 Orange Bowl of a third.

Okay, so he only completed 49% of his passes, but he was ultra-effective throwing 43 touchdown passes and only 11 interceptions. In his senior season he completed 56.4% of his throws for 1,362 yards and 17 touchdowns while only giving away four picks, and of course, his game was about running the ball, leaving Nebraska as the career leader in total yards with 5,476 to go along with 36 rushing scores. To cap off his special career, he set the NCAA record for quarterback rushing yards in a bowl game with 199 against Florida, highlighted by his 75-yard gallop to seal the national title.

2013 Hall of Fame Ballot Rankings
- Slam Dunk Hall of Famers | The Coaches 
- Hall of Worthy, But Not Quite | Hall of Maybe | Hall of the Very Good