Preview 2009 ... Top 200
71 to 100
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.
71. QB Matt Grothe, Sr., South Florida
Grothe is a living, breathing intangible. At 6-0 and 203 pounds, he is not a next-level quarterback, but does possess many of the characteristics needed for the quarterback position. He’s a tough, experienced gamer, who leads by example and elevates the play of his teammates. While an average passer, he’ll get the job done through the air while always hurting defenses by scrambling outside the pocket. A year ago, he went 240-of-380 for 2,911 yards, and 18 touchdowns, adding 591 yards and four scores on the ground. However, he has also thrown exactly 14 interceptions in each of the last three seasons, a real drag on the offense that needs to be reversed.
72. QB Russell Wilson, Soph., NC State
At this time last year, the Wolfpack quarterback
situation was a complete mess marked by zero reliable
hurlers. Today, the program boasts one of the most
stable situations in the conference. Naturally, most of
the credit belongs to the 5-11, 208-pound Wilson,
the first freshman to ever be named first team All-ACC
at the position. A multi-sport athlete, with dual-threat
ability, he’s laid the groundwork toward becoming the
league’s second-coming of Charlie Ward. In his debut, he
coolly went 150-of-275 for 1,955 yards, 18 touchdowns,
and just one interception, adding 388 yards and four
scores on the ground. And like Ward, he has exceptional
poise under pressure, especially for such a young
73. LB Joe Pawelek, Sr. Baylor
Pawelek isn't all that fast and he’s not all that athletic, but he’s a tackling machine who eats up everything that comes his way with 313 tackles in three years including a 128-stop junior campaign. There was one major difference in his play in the middle last year; he got better against the pass. While he’s not going to stay with too many backs in pass patterns, he knows where to be and he has the instincts to sniff out plays before they happen, as evidenced by his six interceptions. Extremely smart, he always takes the right angles. At 6-2 and 240 pounds, he has no problems coming up with the big hits and he holds up well against the run. While he’s not going to be used much as a pass rusher, he can get into the backfield when asked.
74. WR Dezmon Briscoe, Jr., Kansas
Briscoe turned out to be the team’s breakthrough player of the season finishing with 92 catches for 1,407 yards and 15 touchdowns highlighted by a 12-catch, 269-yard, two touchdown game against Oklahoma and an Insight Bowl MVP performance with 14 catches for 201 yards and three scores against Minnesota. The 6-3, 200-pounder earned Second Team All-Big 12 honors as he grew into a deadly all-around threat. With his size, defenders bounce off of him if they don’t wrap up. With his speed, he’s able to get by most of the slower defensive backs as long as he can beat the jam. While he’s growing into a No. 1 target, he makes the most noise when defenses have to concentrate on other areas. Briscoe destroys single coverage.
75. RB Noel Devine, Jr., West Virginia
Now that Pat White is with the Miami Dolphins, Devine is poised to take over as the star of the offense. He really came into his own a year ago, turning 206 carries into 1,289 yards and four touchdowns, while catching 35 passes for 185 yards. Lightning quick at 5-8 and 175 pounds, he’s almost impossible to corral in the open field. He’s got blazing speed, insane cutback ability, and a knack for hiding behind his linemen until it’s time to burst into daylight. A home run waiting to happen, he’s averaged almost seven yards a carry in his first two seasons.
76. S Morgan Burnett, Jr., Georgia Tech
198-pound junior rover is ready for the next level. After showing glimpses of greatness in his
debut, he really took off last year, making a
team-high 93 tackles, seven tackles for loss, and
seven interceptions. A blazing fast athlete, with
outstanding field vision and ball skills, he’s an
All-America defender, who’ll do a little of everything
77. CB Walter Thurmond, Sr., Oregon
It's a good thing that the 6-0,
180-pound senior has one more year of eligibility remaining because
he’s the new stopper of this group. A next-level cornerback,
with eye-popping speed and three years of starting experience,
he’s the type of defensive playmaker opposing quarterbacks
prefer to avoid. He makes sudden breaks on the ball and knows
what to do when it’s in his hands. He had 66 tackles, five
picks, and 13 passes defended, an off year related to nagging
78. DE Jammie Kirlew, Sr., Indiana
Everyone was focusing on Greg Middleton after his breakout 2007 season, and it was Kirlew who turned into the star. A tremendous athlete with a great burst off the ball, the 6-3, 263 pounder finished second on the team with 74 tackles with 10.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. Voted the team’s most valuable player, he was consistently disruptive with sacks in eight games and an 11-tackle day against Penn State. Now he’ll be the one getting all the attention, but he’s good enough to keep improving and come up with another first-team All-Big Ten season.
79. DE Antonio Coleman, Sr., Auburn
Coleman suffered a frightening cervical sprain in a practice before last year, forcing him to be carted off the field, and after returning healthy he put a big hurt on the SEC finishing with six sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss along with 46 tackles and 13 quarterback pressures. The 6-3, 257-pound All-SEC star is a consistent pass rusher with a great first step and good toughness against the run. A former linebacker, he has the athleticism to blow past most tackles on the outside, and the creativity to mix thing up a bit to get into the backfield.
80. OT Bryan Bulaga, Jr., Iowa
The 6-6, 315-pound junior came into last season as a possible starting guard with enough versatility to move outside. He ended the year as a rock of a starting left tackle who has started 18 games up front and who's now being mentioned among the top NFL offensive lineman prospects. He earned second-team All-Big Ten honors after dominating for the Iowa running game. While he still needs a little work and polish as a pass blocker, with his size and athleticism he'll be under the scouting microscope all year and will be the anchor for the line.
81. LB Bruce Carter, Jr., North Carolina
A converted quarterback from his prep days, Carter has explosive tendencies whenever he gets near the ball. A bona fide defensive playmaker, he tallied 68 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, five sacks, a 66-yard interception return for a score, and five blocked kicks. No. 54 needs to be accounted for at all times.
82. DE Corey Wootton, Jr., Northwestern
The 6-7, 265-pound junior has top 50 NFL draft pick written all over him, but suffered an injury in the Alamo Bowl loss to Missouri. He was dominant last season with ten sacks and 16 tackles for loss to go along with 42 tackles as he finally broke through in a year when it all came together. The size, the quickness, and the finishing ability all combined with his experience to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors, and he'll be desperately needed on the end again to be the main force for the rest of the line to work around. However, with millions of dollars waiting in the wings, no one's looking to rush him back before he's ready.
83. CB Alterraun Verner, Sr., UCLA
The star of the UCLA defensive backfield is Verner, a 5-11, 184-pound senior, a fourth-year starter and a returning member of the All-Pac-10 team. A bona fide lockdown corner, he really started to turn the corner in 2008, finishing second on the team with 73 tackles and No. 1 nationally in passes defended. He breaks to the ball extremely well and becomes a playmaker once he gets it in his mitts.
84. TE Garrett Graham, Sr., Wisconsin
It was a bit of a shocker when Travis Beckum chose to return for his senior season, and while the top pro prospect (who was drafted by the New York Giants in the third round) was a disappointment because he was always hurt, his absence allowed Graham to shine through as a top tight end. Arguably a better pro prospect than Beckum, the 6-4, 258-pound Graham has soft hands, great route running ability, and unlike Beckum, he can block. Graham led the team with 40 catches for 540 yards and five touchdowns, but he was taken away by defenses late in the year when it became apparent that the receivers weren’t going to do much on the outside.
85. QB Jeremiah Masoli, Jr., Oregon
If you saw the rise of Masoli coming before it happened, you might want to consider a career change, Nostradamus. In one of the biggest rags-to-riches stories of the decade, the 5-11, 214-pound junior became an improbable shooting star in the spread option attack. Buried on the depth chart at the beginning of the season, he wound up going 136-of-239 for 1,744 yards, 13 touchdowns, and five interceptions. More important, he rumbled for 718 yards and 10 scores on 127 carries, lowering the boom on everything that got in his way. If he can improve his accuracy and decision-making.
86. SS Reshad Jones, Jr., Georgia
There are some holes to fill in the secondary, but the
return of Jones will pick up the
slack until the new starters are ready to roll. The 6-2,
214-pounder started 12 games at free safety last season making
76 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss and a team-leading five
interceptions, but now he'll move to strong safety where he'll
be an intimidating force and more of a run stopper. Considered
by many services to be the No. 1 safety recruit in America in
2006, he has the full range of skills to grow into a top NFL
player with versatility, speed, and big-time tackling ability.
87. RB James Starks, Sr., Buffalo
Starks is a big, tough back who's getting a long look from the NFL scouts after running for 1,333 yards and 16 touchdowns. At 6-2 and 211 yards, he's a tall pounder who scores in bunches. Two years ago he scored ten times over a five-game stretch, and last year he scored all 17 of his touchdowns over the final ten games with a four-game stretch with nine scores. Already the school's all-time leading rusher with 3,140 yards and 34 touchdowns, to go along with 127 catches for 899 yards and three scores, he can do it all with the ability to line up at receiver from time to time. A home run hitter as well as a physical between-the-tackles runner, all he needs it go get in the open and he can crank out yards in chunks.
88. OT Zane Beadles, Sr. Utah
The Ute line gets enough talent back to be solid, led by the top left tackle. The 6-4, 305-pound junior could’ve left early for the NFL, and likely would’ve been a top 100 pick, but he’s back for another season and should be on most All-America short lists. While he’s not a brick wall of a pass blocker, he’s good enough to get by and is a devastating run blocker. A star recruit when he came to Utah, he has lived up to the hype.
89. QB Rusty Smith, Sr. Florida Atlantic
Smith will end his tremendous career on the short list for Sun Belt Player of the Year candidates. He had a bit of a down year completing just 54% of his passes for 3,224 yards and 24 touchdowns with 14 interceptions after throwing for 3,688 yards and 32 touchdowns as a sophomore. The 6-5, 212-pounder is a legitimate pro prospect with a live arm and the ability to get hot and put up big-time numbers from time to time. He ripped apart Central Michigan for 306 yards and two touchdowns on the way to Motor City Bowl MVP honors and threw for 18 of his 24 scores in the final six games. He’s not a runner, but he was able to run for two rushing scores.
90. DT Ian Williams, Jr. Notre Dame
There's no coincidence that the Irish defensive front got a lot better as Williams improved. The 6-2, 310-pound junior is a rock on the nose making 40 tackles with two tackles for loss, and while he's not going to be a pass rusher, and he's not going to collapse the pocket, he's the team's anchor to work around with tremendous strength and just enough lateral quickness to eat up everything on the inside. A starter from day one, he's expected to make an even bigger leap in production.
91. C Kristofer O'Dowd, Jr., USC
Last year, USC was forced to break in four new starters on the
offensive line. This year, the Trojans reap the benefits as the
entire two-deep returns intact. The crown jewel of the front
wall is the 6-5, 300-pound O'Dowd, who’s poised to take another step toward becoming
the nation’s best center. Already an All-Pac-10 first teamer after just two seasons,
he’s the total package at the position, combining outstanding
footwork and power with the leadership, toughness, and
communication skills of a four-year starter. Start making
reservations for the All-America team.
92. OG Rodney Hudson, Jr., Florida State
The anchor of the Nole line for a third straight
season will be the 6-2, 285-pound Hudson, an
All-ACC first-teamer at left guard. Versatile and fundamentally
crisp, he’s the unit’s best run blocker and pass protector. He
rarely allows sacks or makes mistakes, going 20 games without a
penalty before being flagged for a false start last October.
93. QB Tyrod Taylor, Jr., Virginia Tech
the Taylor show in Blacksburg. Yeah, he’s been instrumental
over the last two seasons, but there’s no longer a
safety net or anyone looking over his shoulder. The
6-1, 216-pound junior was supposed to redshirt in
2008 to salvage a season of eligibility, but was
forced to abandon that plan in order to bail out the
offense. He wound up leading the Hokies to an ACC
title, rushing for 738 yards and seven scores and
going 99-of-173 for 1,036 yards, two touchdowns, and
seven picks. The numbers tell you everything you
need to know. He’s one of the most dynamic
scramblers in America, but needs to make
considerable strides as a passer.
94. RB Eugene Jarvis, Sr., Kent State
Jarvis appeared to be ready for a huge 2008 season, but he had problems with an ankle injury early on and finished with 801 yards and nine touchdowns after tearing off 1,669 yards and ten scores in 2007. When he got healthy he roared with a four score day against Miami University and a 185-yard day against Temple. Only 5-5 and 170 pounds, he's surprisingly tough for his size and is unstoppably quick with breakaway speed and great hands as a receiver. Even in though he was dinged up for more than a quarter of the season, he still caught 23 passes for 273 yards and a score. He'll be the focal point of the offense from the start and is within range, if he can stay healthy, of 5,000 career rushing yards.
95. LB Boris Lee, Sr. Troy
Lee has been one of the Sun Belt’s best players for the last few seasons with 265 tackles and seven interceptions. The 6-0, 231-pound man in the middle has bulked up in a big way over the last few years and no longer is like a safety playing linebacker. He’s a great all-around playmakers who’s all over the field against both the run and the pass, and while he’s not always being sent into the backfield, he can get there with 4.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss last year, to go along with a team-leading 126 stops. The star of the defense, he’s always around the ball and always coming up with the open field stop.
96. LB Reed Williams, Sr., West Virginia
One star leaves but another is back. Easing the blow of Mortty Ivy’s graduation is the return from injury of Williams, a 6-1, 228-pound senior who sat out all but two games to heal his surgically-repaired shoulders. When healthy, he’s as good a linebacker as there is in the Big East, sniffing out run plays from the middle of the field and wrapping up when he reaches his target. In his last full season, he had a team-high 107 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss three forced fumbles, and an MVP award in the Fiesta Bowl. The importance of his return to this team cannot be overstated.
97. DE Alex Carrington, Sr. Arkansas State
The line needed to start generating more of a pass rush going into last season, and Carrington came through big-time with 10.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss to go along with 53 tackles and an interception. At 6-5 and 284 pounds, he has tremendous size for the outside, to go along with a fantastic burst, and will get plenty of long looks from the NFL scouts. While he was great over the first part of the year, he only came up with one sack over the final five games once teams started to gameplan more for him.
98. OG Sergio Render, Sr., Virginia Tech
Render, a senior, is coming off a
second team All-ACC season, his third straight one
in the starting lineup. At 6-3 and 313 pounds, he’s
a mauler, with the strong base and heavy hands to
engulf defenders and dominate as a run blocker. A
successful career in the NFL awaits.
99. CB Syd’Quan Thompson, Sr., California
Thompson flirted with the idea of leaving early for the NFL before opting to return for his final season of eligibility. He’s come a long way since a rocky sophomore year, turning 70 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, four picks, and 14 breakups into a spot on the All-Pac-10 first team. One of the nation’s few bona fide lockdown cornerbacks, he’s far more physical than his 5-9, 191-pound frame might indicate.
100. LB Rico McCoy, Sr., Tennessee
The 6-1, 220-pound senior will be a top draft pick next year, he could’ve gone early this season, with tremendous range, big-time hitting ability, and steady production. He ate up everything that came his way against the run, and chased down everything that didn’t funnel to him finishing second on the team with 87 tackles with a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss. While he’s not all that big, he has unlimited range and is excellent in pass coverage. He’ll be an all-star on the weakside and on the short list for All-America honors.
The Top 200 Players
Top Ten |