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Preview 2010 - Top 100 Players No. 61 to 80
Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd
Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd
Posted Aug 22, 2010

Who are going to be the stars of the 2010 college football season? These might not be the top pro prospects or even the most talented players, but these are difference makers who'll make the year matter. With the top 40 players coming tomorrow, these are some of the ones everyone needs to know about.

Preview 2010 - Top 100 Players

Players No. 61 to 80

2010 Top 100 Players
- No. 1 to 20 | No. 21 to 40 | No. 41 to 60 | No. 61 to 80 | No. 81 to 100

The top 60 to come tomorrow

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These aren't necessarily the top pro prospects, and they might not even be among the most talented players, but they're going to be the most influential and most productive stars of the 2010 season. These will be the difference makers, the playmakers, and the award winners. In other words, these are the players everyone will care about. 

80. QB Robert Griffin, Soph. Baylor
The entire Baylor season rests on Griffin’s injured knee. The 6-2, 210-pound sophomore who was one of the breakout stars of 2008 completing 60% of his throws for 2,091 yards and 15 touchdowns with just three interceptions. He showed off a good, accurate arm and decision-making ability beyond his age setting the NCAA record with 209 straight passes without an interception to start his career. However, his passing ability was nothing compared to his running skills, which made Baylor a hot team to watch out for with 843 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. One of the fastest players in college football when he’s healthy, he won the Big 12 gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles with the third fastest time in school history. He was on his way to a magnificent year completing 65% of his throws for 481 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions, while running for 77 yards and two scores, but he suffered an ACL tear and missed the rest of the season. While he’s not 100% healthy, he’ll be ready for the start of the season.

79. LB Chris Marve, Jr. Vanderbilt
Vandy might have had a rough year on both sides of the ball, but Marve wasn’t part of the problem. The 6-0, 230-pounder was tremendous in the middle leading the team with 121 tackles with a sack, 6.5 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles. With 206 tackles in his first two years, he’s a machine who comes up with big hits and has the range to make plays from sideline to sideline. He’s not huge, but he bulked up enough to hold up even better against the power running teams to go along with the speed to be used as a pass rusher from time to time. Good enough to play any of the three linebacking spots, he’ll earn All-SEC recognition no matter where he plays.

78. TE Luke Stocker, Sr. Tennessee
The 6-6, 253-pound Stocker could’ve gone early and been a top 100 NFL draft pick, and now he’ll be on the All-SEC and All-America tight end short list. He’s a do-it-all player who caught 29 passes for 389 yards and five touchdowns as a reliable target and one of the team’s best route runners. A bulldozer of a blocker, he’s underappreciated for his ability to pound away down the field. Under the new coaching staff, he should blow up with more passes coming his way.

77. LB Carmen Messina, Jr. New Mexico
Messina is only 6-2 and 222 pounds (and that’s bulked up from around 210, what he played at for most of last year), and even though he’s fast, he’s not a particularly special athlete. However, he hits everything in sight. The CFN Honorable Mention All-American made a nation-leading 162 tackles with three sacks, and eight tackles for loss as a steady, clutch producer who never missed a stop and was all over the field. He came up with 17 stops against TCU and UNLV and 19 against both Utah and Air Force as he came up with double-digit tackles in every game but two. The main man in the middle will be all over the field assisting with stops, and he can hold his own inside as well playing bigger than his size.

76. QB Russell Wilson, Jr., NC State
The Wolfpack did not have the services of Wilson in the spring. All the program cares about is whether or not he’s available in the fall. One of the ACC’s premier quarterbacks, he’s also a talented second baseman and a member of the Colorado Rockies, but remains committed to also playing football. That’s great news since he’s spent the last two seasons shredding defenses with his arm and legs. While only 5-11 and 201 pounds, he’s already in the top 5 in most school passing records. An accurate passer and overall terrific athlete, he carried the offense on his back, rushing for 260 yards and four touchdowns, going 224-of-378 for 3,027 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 11 picks through the air. He is the franchise in Raleigh.

75. LB Kelvin Sheppard, Sr. LSU
Sheppard is the unquestioned leader and star of the linebacking corps as the only returning starter and after finishing last year as the leading returning tackler making 110 stops with a sack and 8.5 tackles for loss. At 6-3 and 239 pounds he’s just big enough to work on the inside, but he’s fast enough to move to the outside if absolutely needed. With the speed to be more of a pass rusher from time to time, and with unlimited range, he’s an all-star who’ll be the main man for the defensive front seven.

74. RB Noel Devine, Sr. West Virginia
Devine surprised a lot of people when he chose to return for his senior season, foregoing the NFL Draft. And made a lot of Mountaineer fans ecstatic about the upcoming season. Forget that he’s just 5-8 and 180 pounds. He’s proven to be a workhorse over the last two years, rushing 241 times for 1,465 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2009, while adding 22 catches for 177 yards and a score. One of the nation’s most explosive players and an All-America candidate, he has warp speed and the cutback ability to make defenders look silly. Averaging 6.5 yards for his career, he’s a unique weapon wrapped in a modest package.

73. CB Brandon Harris, Jr., Miami
With most of last year’s letterwinners back, Miami is hoping to take a leap forward in pass defense. Leading the charge is the 5-11, 195-pound Harris, who used last season to become one of the nation’s premier young cover corners. Displaying next-level hips and an instant break on the ball, he earned his spot on the All-ACC first team with 58 tackles, six tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and a team-best 15 pass breakups. If he continues to improve and play with a physical demeanor, the ‘Canes could be replacing him at this time next year.

72. LB Lawrence Wilson, Sr. Connecticut
The leading man at linebacker will once again be 6-1, 217-pound Wilson, the anchor at weakside. One of the team’s best all-around athletes, he’s coming off a seminal, All-Big East first team season, making a league-high 140 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, five sacks, two fumble recoveries, and three forced fumbles. A tremendous playmaker, who’ll defend the pass as well as the run, he has the range and read-and-react instincts to make stops all over the field. An overlooked recruit from Tuscaloosa, Ala., he’s now hoping to use his final year as a launching point to the NFL.

71. QB Jeremiah Masoli, Sr. Ole Miss
The Rebels were going to be okay at quarterback, even with the ranks a bit thin, but they suddenly made the position a major plus with the addition of Masoli, the troubled former Oregon Duck who was charged with burglary after stealing some laptops, and was later nailed for marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license. On the field, there’s no question about his talent or his résumé completing 58% of his passes last year for 2,147 yards and 15 touchdowns and six interceptions while running for 668 yards and 13 scores. As a freshman, he threw for 1,744 yards and 13 touchdowns with five interceptions while running for 718 yards and ten scores. He’s only 5-11, but he’s a bullish 220 pounds with great running skills, a nice arm, and good leadership ability. However, he has struggled against some of the better teams completing just 4-of-16 passes in the win over Utah and 9-of-20 passes for 81 yards in the Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State.

70. QB Nick Foles, Jr. Arizona
It took longer than anyone expected, but Foles grabbed control in the battle to supplant Willie Tuitama in September and never looked back. The backup when the season began, he started the final 10 games, finishing 260-of-410 for 2,486 yards, 19 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. He was also named honorable mention All-Pac-10, quite an ascent for the Michigan State transfer. He has the arm strength you’d expect from a 6-5, 235-pounder and is a student of the game, but needs to work on some mechanical issues and achieve a higher level of consistency. The Holiday Bowl loss to Nebraska was a reminder that there’s ample room for growth in the next two seasons.

69. LB Manti Te’o, Soph. Notre Dame
It’s like many forgot that Te’o was a true freshman and were disappointed that he wasn’t Ray Lewis right away. Arguably the best defensive prospect brought in during the Charlie Weis era, Te’o got on the field early on and finished fourth on the team with 63 tackles with a sack and 5.5 tackles for loss, but he didn’t do much in pass coverage and he wasn’t consistent. Again … true freshman. The 6-2, 250-pound sophomore is a pure middle linebacker who’ll be a sideline to sideline playmaker and will be used as a pass rusher from the inside. A next level talent with all the tools including leadership ability, quickness, and huge, huge hitting skills, he’ll build on his strong first year and should be a more complete player.

68. WR Jonathan Baldwin, Jr. Pitt
The Panthers are facing a glass-is-half-empty situation at receiver. On the one hand, graduation took a heavy toll, especially at tight end. On the other, the star of the group, Baldwin, is back for his junior year. A 6-5, 225-pound human mismatch at flanker, he showed his potential when the quarterback cooperates, catching a team-high 57 passes for 1,111 yards and eight touchdowns. With his long arms, huge hands, and smooth gait, he makes regular appearances behind the secondary.

67. QB John Brantley, Jr. Florida
Alright, hotshot, now it’s time to see if you can actually play. Yes, Brantley is a far, far better NFL quarterback prospect than Tim Tebow (no matter what Josh McDaniel might want to believe), and yes, he’s going to push the ball down the field more and come up with more deep plays. But he’s not a fit for what Urban Meyer wants to do with his offense, and because of it, others, like tight end/backup quarterback Jordan Reed, will have to come in to run the ball. Because of Brantley, Meyer might actually have to start using his running backs in a more traditional role, but the passing game has a Rolls Royce in his parking lot and now it’s time to drive.

The 6-3, 218-pound star-in-waiting could’ve started almost anywhere else a few years ago, but he always dreamed of becoming a Gator, his dad and brother both went to UF, and former star quarterback Kerwin Bell was his high school coach. The NFL arm is there with a tight rotation, tremendous zip, and a pocket poise and presence that Tebow could only dream of owning. However, while Brantley can take off from time to time, he’s never going to be Tebow when it comes to running for the key first down, and it’s asking the world to take over for one of the most accomplished legends in college football history.

66. CB Jimmy Smith, Sr. Colorado
While he might have had a few rocky moments, Smith has all the tools to get a long look from the next-level types. He’s 6-2 and 210 pounds with 4.4 speed and great tackling ability. He came up with 70 tackles and broke up ten passes with two picks. He’s growing into a fantastic all-around defensive back who should get more all-star recognition this season with all the skills and all the ability to erase one side of the field. He’s almost too good to test on a regular basis.

65. OT Gabe Carimi, Sr. Wisconsin
Once again, the star of the front five will be Carimi, a 6-7, 315-pound senior who earned first-team All-Big 12 honors last season as the star at left tackle. While he’s not the most consistent pass protector, he’s a tough run blocker who’s great on the move and buries defenders when he locks on. A great athlete for his size, the hope is that he’ll be better after finally getting a bum knee healthy this offseason. He’ll be on the short list for All-America honors.

64. CB Prince Anukamara, Sr. Nebraska
Amukamara emerged as a top cover corner worthy of First Team All-Big 12 mention after making 64 tackles with two sacks and five interceptions with 11 broken up passes. At 6-1 and 205 pounds he has great size and phenomenal speed with great recovery skills and excellent ball hawking ability. The former high school running back has progressed by leaps and bounds, and now it’s salary drive time with the potential to be a strong mid-range NFL draft pick with another great year. Now that he’s just starting to be known on a national scale, the spotlight is on.

63. RB Bernard Pierce, Soph. Temple
All Pierce did as a true freshman was rip apart the MAC and carry the offense to a huge season rushing for 1,361 yards and 16 touchdowns with a 212-yard, three-touchdown day against Toledo and 267 yards and two scores against Navy. However, he broke down with shoulder injury after carrying too much of the workload, and he missed the key game of the year, the regular-season finale against Ohio, and was limited against UCLA. At 6-0 and 218 pounds, the sophomore is big, runs with power and quickness, and has the potential to be used more as a receiver after catching just eight passes for 39 yards.

62. SS Ahmad Black, Sr. Florida
It’s not a bad thing when you finish second on the team in tackles and were a slight disappointment, but that’s what 2009 was for Black, a speedy strong safety who made 70 stops with an interception and five broken up passes after making seven picks and 59 tackles two years ago. While he’s only 5-9 and 189 pounds, he’s physical for his size, is always around the ball, and is smart enough to always make the right decisions and the right play. He’ll be the leader of the secondary.

61. WR Michael Floyd, Sr. Notre Dame
Forgotten in Golden Tate’s Biletnikoff Winning season was how Floyd was the star of the receiving corps over the first three games. The 6-3, 220-pound junior went from being Minnesota’s Mr. Football to a star in the Irish passing game without a problem catching 48 passes for 719 yards and seven scores as a freshman before having leg problems. All healed up, he was unstoppable against Nevada and Michigan catching 11 passes for 320 yards and four touchdowns before catching two passes for 38 yards and a spectacular 22-yard touchdown grab against Michigan State … but he landed wrong. He broke his collarbone and was out for the next five weeks, but he picked up where he left off with three straight 100-yard games, including a 10-catch, 141-yard, one score effort against Navy, before closing out with two touchdown grabs against Stanford. All the ability is there to become special, but he has to go a full season without getting hurt.