Preview 2009 ... Top 200
51 to 70
The Top 200 Players
Top Ten |
Here are the 200 best players going into the 2009
season. This has nothing to do with pro potential
and these aren't the 200 best pro prospects (that's
a completely different list). These are the stars
for this year and they should be the difference
makers who'll define the season.
51. RB LeGarrette Blount, Sr., Oregon
Blount proved capable of sharing with others in his first year out of East Mississippi Community College, rushing for 1002 yards and 17 touchdowns, while splitting carries. Now that Jeremiah Johnson is gone, he’ll get a bigger spotlight and more than last year’s 137 carries. At 6-2 and 229 pounds, he’s a powerful runner, but will also run past defenders and has shocking agility and change-of-direction for such a big back. If the rebuilt line cooperates, he’s capable of delivering one of the best seasons by a back in program history.
52. LB Rennie Curran, Jr., Georgia
Forget about a sophomore slump for Curran, a 5-11, 222-pound tackling machine who followed up a 93-tackle first season with a team-leading 115-stop 2008 campaign. While he's not all that big, he's extremely tough and he doesn't miss an open-field stop. One of the team's best pass rushers, with three sacks and ten tackles for loss, he's all over the field and looks like he's shot out of a cannon when sent into the backfield. While he could stand to do more in pass coverage, that's nitpicking for the SEC's leading returning tackler.
53. DE Brandon Graham, Sr., Michigan
On a very thin and a very questionable Michigan defensive front, the 6-2, 268-pound Graham needs to play like the NFL prospect he’s supposed to be. A freak of nature with all the measurables, he ran a 10.9 100-meter dash in high school, he earned second-team All-Big Ten honors after making 46 tackles, ten sacks, and 20 tackles for loss. His sacks came in bunches, destroying Wisconsin with three and playing well against Michigan State with three sacks. Now he’ll be a marked man as the lone star on the defensive front, so he’ll have to get used to more double and triple teams and will have to be patient. The consistent stats won’t be there, but his presence should make everyone around him better.
54. RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Soph., Oregon State
Rodgers became an overnight and improbable superstar in his first season out of high school, becoming the first freshman ever to be named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the year. A blend of shiftiness and power in a compact, 5-7, 193-pound frame, he’s always moving forward and surprisingly difficult to bring down. Despite not being the starter when the season began and missing the final two games, he wound up with 1,253 yards and 11 touchdowns on 259 carries, adding 29 receptions for 247 yards and another score.
55. CB Myron Lewis, Sr., Vanderbilt
Last year, Lewis spent the year as the No. 2 corner with everyone staying away from superstar D.J. Moore, who took off early for the NFL. This year it’ll be Lewis who’s the main man and the big-time upside. At 6-3 and 205 pounds he has tremendous size, excellent athleticism, and three years of experience. He finished fourth on the team with 76 tackles and took advantage of teams that tried to pick on him with five interceptions and six broken up passes. With great timing, he’s fantastic at getting to the quarterback with five sacks and seven tackles for loss last season.
56. WR A.J. Green, Soph., Georgia
When it came to freshman wide receivers, the talk of the SEC last year was Alabama's Julio Jones. But Green was better with 56 catches for 963 yards and eight scores, averaging 17.2 yards per catch (while Jones, who didn't have Matthew Stafford throwing to him, caught 58 passes for 924 yards and four scores). The 6-4, 207-pound sophomore was consistent and explosive highlighted by an eight-catch, 159-yard, one touchdown day against Arizona State. Big and fast with great hands, he has the full complement of skills and will be used even more in a variety of ways. He ran four times for 61 yards last season and will see the ball on end arounds and on running plays, to go along with his duties as the No. 1 target.
57. OT Ciron Black, Sr., LSU
Black came back for his senior season after finishing second-team All-SEC and after a strong season as the steady 13-game starter at left tackle. There have been varying reports on his draft stock with some scouts projecting him as a late first rounder and others questioning his all-around athleticism as a possible NFL left tackle. No matter what his future at the next level, the 6-5, 325-pounder is a dominating run blocker who hasn't been bad against the SEC speed rushers. He's a smart, tough blocker who should be on the short list for All-America consideration.
58. DT Jared Odrick, Sr., Penn State
The star of the Nittany Lion front four will be Odrick, a 6-5, 306-pound all-star who made 41 tackles with 4.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss from his spot at left tackle. While not necessarily an afterthought going into last year, considering he was coming off a broken ankle, no one expected a first-team All-Big Ten campaign. Extremely quick and very tough, he doesn't get pushed around against the run and he feasts on slow guards. It'll be a shock if he's not considered for several All-America teams.
59. RB MiQuale Lewis, Sr., Ball State
Lewis always had the talent, but he never had the health. From a torn ACL that knocked him out of the 2007 season, to a shoulder injury that limited him a few years ago, Lewis wasn’t able to show what he could do. And then came last year when he was finally able to stay injury-free and the former coaching staff rode him into the ground. Lewis, who’s only 5-6 and 184 pounds, was the best player in the MAC finishing with 1,736 yards and 22 touchdowns while finishing third on the team with 35 catches for 325 yards. He’s lightning quick and great at being able to hit the hole and blow through it, but for his size, he’s able to run with surprising power. While he was held to 35 yards in the embarrassment against Tulsa, Lewis was dominant the rest of the year with 11 100-yard games and five with more than 150 yards.
60. WR Golden Tate, Jr., Notre Dame
Tate was a huge recruit for Charlie Weis a
few years ago, but he struggled to do much in his
first year, partly due to the problems across the
board for the Irish offense. And then he blew up.
One of the nation's premier deep threats, the 5-11,
195-pound speedster with 4.4 wheels averaged a
whopping 18.6 yards per grab with a team-leading 58
catches for 1,080 yards and ten touchdowns. A
consistent producer all season long, despite being
shut out by Navy and catching just two passes for 15
yards, he started to really turn it on late in the
year catching seven passes for 146 yards and two
touchdowns against Syracuse and making six grabs for
177 yards and three scores against Hawaii. He missed
most of this spring because he spent a bulk of his
time playing baseball, but he'll be the No. 1 target
on the outside X position come fall.
61. DE C.J. Wilson, Sr., East Carolina
The star of the great Pirate defense will be the All-Conference USA end, one of the country’s premier pass rushers. For the third straight, he harassed opponents to the tune of 70 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, and 10.5 sacks. Now, 6-4 and 271 pounds, he’s big enough to stop the run like a tackle, yet quick enough to have squatter’s rights in the other team’s backfields.
62. QB Max Hall, Sr. BYU
Hall has been good, he has put up big numbers, and he has been a fringe All-America candidate after throwing for 7,805 yards and 61 touchdowns with 26 interceptions and five rushing scores since coming over from Arizona State. He completed 69% of his passes for 3,957 yards and 35 touchdowns with 14 picks last season, with four rushing scores, but for all the big statistics and all the big performances, the 6-1, 201-pounder has to show once again that he can win the big game. He came through in the clutch against Utah two years ago, pulling a clunker of a game out of the fire, but he melted down against the Utes last year throwing five interceptions, and he couldn't handle the pass rush against TCU and struggled. The mediocre performance in the Las Vegas Bowl loss to Arizona didn't help (even though he threw for 328 yards). If he's on and if he can lead the team to a conference title, he'll be the front-runner for the Mountain West Player of the Year honor.
63. CB Joe Haden, Jr., Florida
Not only is Haden a lock-down defender with warp speed, 5-11, 190-pound size, and NFL riches in his near future, but he's also one of the best tackling corners in college football. The junior led the team with 61 solo stops and was second with 87 tackles to go along with three interceptions and 12 broken up passes. Thrown to the wolves as a true freshman, he took his lumps early on but has matured into a better, tighter pass defender able to make up for his mistakes with his wheels. Physical, he can lock on to the bigger receivers and has few problems with the speedier ones.
64. CB Kyle Wilson, Sr., Boise State
The secondary is the strength of the Boise State defense by far, and the strength of the team with five returning starters and several all-star talents. The star is Wilson, a first-team All-WAC corner who flirted with the idea of turning pro, found out he likely would've been a second day selection, and chose to come back to what should be an All-America caliber season. The 5-10, 187-pound senior is one of the nation's best tackling corners, making 35 tackles with 29 of them solo, and he came up with five interceptions and ten broken up passes. He proved he could handle the No. 1 corner job, and then some, and he should up his stock and be one of the WAC's premier playmakers if anyone dares to throw his way.
65. TE Dennis Pitta, Sr. BYU
Pitta followed up a 59-catch season by making 83 catches for 1,083 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 13 yards per grab. The 6-4, 248-pounder is trying to get over a torn MCL, but he should be 100% and more than fine by the start of the year. With great hands, tremendous route running ability, and the talent to be a go-to target, he should put up monster numbers as the team's top target. While he's steady, when he's on, he's unstoppable catching 21 passes for 351 yards and a score to start the season, and he made 12 grabs for 175 yards and two touchdowns against Colorado State. He'll be on the All-America short list and should be among the nation's leading receiving tight ends.
66. QB Daryll Clark, Sr., Penn State
With a sixth year of eligibility, Clark is back after an MVP-caliber season (even though Iowa's Shonn Greene was the Big Ten Player of the Year) completing 60% of his throws for 2,592 yards with 19 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He also ran for 282 yards and ten touchdowns. At 6-2 and 233 pounds, he's a thick, tough, strong player with excellent mobility and a great command of the offense. With so many new pieces to the Penn State offensive puzzle, he'll have to be even steadier this season. With his experience, he appears ready to make everyone around him better. The one question mark is his ability in the clutch. While he helped lead the way to an Alamo Bowl win over Texas A&M two years ago, he threw a key late interception against Iowa that ended up leading to the Hawkeye's game-winning drive, and it was Pat Devlin who led the way to the win at Ohio State with the key late drive (after Clark got knocked out of the game). And then there was the Rose Bowl, when he was fantastic in the second half against USC after he struggled and the team was getting blown out in the first half. That's not to say he can't be the main man when needed, but unlike last year, he'll have to carry the team through adversity.
67. RB Damion Fletcher, Sr., Southern Miss
The 5-10, 177-pound Fletcher was reinstated after a rocky offseason and a suspension for gun-related charges. The offense needs him. One of the nation’s most productive backs over the last three seasons, he’s gobbled up 4,287 yards and 36 touchdowns on the ground to go along with 80 receptions for 615 yards and a score. A prototypical slasher, he has tremendous vision in the hole and almost never gets taken down behind the line of scrimmage. While not a gamebreaker, he’s a professional, intelligent runner, who gets the most out of every carry.
68. WR Eric Decker, Sr., Minnesota
Decker has grown into a special, NFL-caliber receiver following up a team-leading 67-catch season by making 84 grabs for 1,074 yards and seven scores. He was one of the nation’s hottest receivers throughout the first half of the season with ten catches against Northern Illinois and 13 against Indiana, but everything turned on one ill-fated play. Late against Northwestern, with the score tied, Decker missed a catch, it bounced into the defender’s hands, and the Gophers lost on a pick six. Decker was never the same with an ankle injury keeping him to just three grabs over the final three regular season games. At a rock-solid 6-2 and 215 pounds with good speed and great hands, he’s the Big Ten’s premier target and he should be on everyone’s All-America short list. The big question over the next year will be whether or not he wants to be a football player or go off to play baseball; he’s a star left fielder who was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers.
69. DE Dexter Davis, Sr., Arizona State
Davis is an All-America candidate and one of the premier pass rushers in the country. An explosive force off the edge since his freshman year, he combines speed and tenacity with great technique to blow past opposing tackles. Through three years, his resume includes 113 tackles, 39 tackles for loss, 27.5 sacks, and eight forced fumbles.
70. RB John Clay, Soph., Wisconsin
It took about a half a season, and then Clay showed why he was one of the nation’s top running back recruits two years ago. The 6-2, 247-pound sophomore has the look of the next great Badger back with size and stunning speed; he was a star high school sprinter who was good enough to be a part of the 4x100 Wisconsin state finals two years in a row. He had three 100-yard games in the final four in the regular season finishing second on the team with 884 yards and nine touchdowns with a 5.7-yard-per-carry average, highlighted by a 111-yard, one touchdown day on just 14 carries against Michigan State. Not used as a receiver, he only caught one pass for two yards, but that will change with his increased role in the offense. He hasn’t had to be a workhorse yet, carrying the ball more than 20 times just once, and he had a problem with an ankle injury this spring, but he’ll play through the little stuff and should be a lock for at least 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns.
The Top 200 Players
Top Ten |