Preview 2010 - Top 100 Players, No. 41 to 60
Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd
Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd
Posted Aug 22, 2010

The 100 Most Important Players Going Into the 2010 Season ... No. 41 to 60.

Preview 2010 - Top 100 Players

Players No. 41 to 60

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

- Expert Football Predictions from ATS Consultants - Absolutely Free.
- Get Tickets For Your Team, Any Game

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. 

60. OT Anthony Castonzo, Sr., Boston College
Consistent with its DNA, the Boston College attack will once again be built on a solid front wall returning four starters. For one final year, the cover boy will be the 6-7, 295-pound Castonzo, an All-ACC first teamer at left tackle. The total package at the position, he's started all 41 games of his Eagle career, is going to be a high draft choice in 2011, and has been nominated by the school to be a Rhodes scholar. He has the long arms, light feet, and punch to be impenetrable as a pass protector.

59. WR Vincent Brown, Sr. San Diego State
Brown was on his way to an All-America season before suffering a thumb injury and missing the rest of the year. Over just six games of work he caught 45 passes for 778 yards and six touchdowns cranking out games of 139, 142, 143, 123, 84, and 147 yards, and now he's back and ready to be special again at the outside X. At 6-0 and 195 pounds he's not all that big, but he's a speedy target who always found ways to get deep and always found ways to get open. He's an NFL talent who should be in for a big season.

58. LB Bruce Carter, Sr., North Carolina
Flanking Quan Sturdivant at strongside will be the 6-3, 230-pound Carter, a third-year starter coming off an All-ACC second team season. A former high school quarterback, with a playmaker's mindset, he had 65 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and a pick six for the second straight year. Never far from the action, his blend of lateral quickness and ferocious hits are a recipe for turnovers.

57. DT Stephen Paea, Sr. Oregon State
For the Beavers, it all begins up front with the 6-1, 311-pound Paea, one of the nation's best tackles and a reigning first team All-Pac-10 selection. A rare and menacing combination of brute strength and the quickness of a former rugby star, he's a nightmare for one man to handle. Playing with great pad level, he gets up underneath the opposing guard and has the foot speed to track down backs and quarterbacks from behind. Last year's 43 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and four forced fumbles don't do justice to his dominance in the trenches.

56. LB Quan Sturdivant, Sr., North Carolina
Everyone of relevance is back for a corps of linebackers that promises to be among the best in the ACC, if not the country. The front man of the trio will again be the 6-2, 235-pound Sturdivant, the first Tar Heel linebacker in 12 years to be named first team All-ACC. Playing in the middle and at weakside, he collected a team-best 79 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and a sack, flashing the closing speed and range that have made him so dynamic.

55. CB Kendric Burney, Sr., North Carolina
To the surprise of most observers, North Carolina welcomes back all four starters from a secondary that yielded a touchdown pass in just five of 13 games. The Heels have a returning All-ACC first teamer at cornerback and safety. Burney, a corner, earned all-star recognition for the second straight year, making 52 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and five picks for a school-record 200 return yards. While only 5-9 and 190 pounds, he's a ferocious hitter and one of the league's best cover guys.

54. DE/LB Brian Duncan, Sr. Texas Tech
Is Duncan a defensive end? A middle linebacker? An outside linebacker? Depending on the style of defense the Red Raiders run, moving back and forth between a 3-4 and a 4-3, Duncan will work as sort of a hybrid on the outside to utilize his experience and pass rushing ability. The 6-1, 240-pound senior led the team with 88 tackles with seven tackles for loss with five broken up passes spending all of last year in the middle, but the new coaching staff wants him closer to the line where he can be more disruptive. He has the smart, the quickness, and the experience to be versatile enough to do what the defense needs him to depending on the gameplan.

53. WR Jeff Fuller, Jr. Texas A&M
Fuller came up with 50 catches as a breakout freshman, and he made the most of his 47 grabs last year with 568 yards and seven touchdowns including three against Texas. He would've had a far better statistical season but he suffered a broken leg in the second week of the year and missed all of four games and most of two others. It took him a while to get back into the swing of things, but he became his all-star caliber self by the end of the year. At 6-4 and 215 pounds he has tremendous size, a great motor, and the type of work ethic who'll get a long look from the NFL types as a devastating No. 2 next-level target if he can stay healthy.

52. SS DeAndre McDaniel, Sr., Clemson
The unrivaled star of the entire defense is the 6-1, 215-pound McDaniel, who put off a certain career in the NFL for one more season with the Tigers. Exceeding all expectations in his first season since switching from linebacker to strong safety, he earned All-American honors with 102 tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks, and an ACC-high eight interceptions. The total package in the defensive backfield, he's a big hitter in run defense, yet also has the necessary ball skills and coverage awareness to excel when the ball is in the air. He's that rare safety, who'll discourage opposing quarterbacks from eyeing his spot on the field.

51. RB Evan Royster, Sr. Penn State
Franco Harris, Curt Warner, John Cappelletti, Ki-Jana Carter, Blair Thomas, Larry Johnson, Curtis Enis … senior Evan Royster could turn out to be the most productive Penn State running back ever needing just 482 yards to pass Lydell Mitchell as the school's all-time leading rusher. Along the way, he could be a top five pick in next year's draft. With 6-1, 213-pound size, smarts, and breakaway speed, he has all the tools to be phenomenal at the next level, but first he has to carry the offense with so many issues with the quarterbacks and the passing game. Working behind a mediocre line (by Penn State standards), he tore off 1,169 yards and six touchdowns last year, but scored only twice on the ground over the final eight games. With a few breaks and good healthy, he could easily double his scoring production and could run for well over 1,500 yards. He has had problems with a sprained knee and a bad ankle in the past, but he has been relatively durable.

50. QB Christian Ponder, Sr., Florida State
Ponder was enjoying a terrific second season as a starter when an injury to his throwing shoulder sidelined him in the ninth game. He enters 2010 looking to pick up where he left off. The 6-3, 217-pound future NFL draft choice wound up going 227-of-330 for 2,717 yards, 14 touchdowns, and seven interceptions, adding 179 yards and two scores on the ground. His completion percentage of 68.8 was the highest by a ‘Nole since Charlie Ward in 1993. More important, he looked fantastic in the spring, showing up in great shape, throwing with extra zip on his passes, and moving very well outside the pocket. He's also a terrific leader for this offense and a player on the verge of introducing himself to the entire nation this fall.

49. SS Tyler Sash, Jr. Iowa
Sash went from being a good-hitting safety in need of a little polish to an All-America playmaker who finished third on the team making 85 tackles with six interceptions and 5.5 tackles for loss. Extremely clutch and great when with the ball in his hands, he has amassed a whopping 350 career return yards on his 11 picks. On the short list for the Lott Trophy as one of the nation's top defensive backs, his reputation is quickly growing. At 6-1 and 210 pounds he's a big strong safety, hits like a ton of bricks, and has uncanny instincts, but he has to keep himself on the field after having problems this offseason with a shoulder injury.

48. RB Donald Buckram, Sr. UTEP
The singular bright spot in last year's 4-8 campaign was the improbable eruption of the 5-10, 195-pound Buckram into a contender for national awards. Oft-injured throughout his career, he finally put it all together for a dozen games, rushing for a school-record 1,594 yards and 18 touchdowns on 259 carries. He also added 30 catches for 453 yards and three scores to lead the country in yards from scrimmage. One of the fastest players in El Paso, he's a slasher, who isn't afraid to run between the tackles and does a surprisingly nice job of bouncing off tacklers.

47. DE Aldon Smith, Soph. Missouri
Smith was one of the major finds of the 2009 Big 12 season earning the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year award along with a slew of all-conference and freshman All-America honors. The 6-2, 255-pounder went from being a dangerous prospect with a world of upside to major league pass rusher finishing with 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss along with 64 tackles. Very quick and always working, he forces his way into the backfield with a creative array of moves as well as next-level athleticism. He's the star up front the rest of the line will work around.

46. QB Josh Nesbitt, Sr., Georgia Tech
After two seasons of running the spread option, the 6-1, 218-pound Nesbitt is set to contend for honors beyond just the ACC. The league's first team quarterback, he ran for 1,037 yards and 18 touchdowns on 279 carries, while going 75-of-162 for 1,701 yards, 10 touchdowns and five picks through the air. A tough and physical runner, he has a knack for bouncing off would-be tacklers, and is constantly getting better with his pitches and decision-making. More of a big-play passer than an accurate one, he might not be the same threat through the air now that big-play WR Demaryius Thomas is a member of the Denver Broncos.

45. QB Andrew Luck, Soph. Stanford
It took just a single year for the 6-4, 234-pound Luck to become one of the hottest commodities at quarterback. And not just in the Pac-10. If he builds on his debut, the NFL is going to tempt him with first round projections at some point in December. One of the signature recruits of the Jim Harbaugh era, he failed to disappoint as a rookie, leading the Pac-10 in passing efficiency and connecting on 162-of-288 passes for 2,573 yards, 13 touchdowns, and four interceptions. Plus, for a hurler with a next-level arm, he also flashed tremendous athletic ability, scrambling for 354 yards and two scores. The son of former pro quarterback Oliver Luck, he's the total package in terms of intangibles, sporting unparalleled poise and intelligence for such a young player. With RB Toby Gerhart now a Minnesota Viking, Luck is about to become the focal point of the Cardinal offense.

44. QB Dwight Dasher, Sr. MiddleTennesse
The big question going into last season was whether or not Dasher was ready to step up and become the star many in the program thought he could be. He was always a good rusher and a dynamic playmaker, but he was too inconsistent, didn't practice well, and ended up splitting time when he should've made the team his. The concerns about his potential quickly went away as he blew past his sophomore slump to complete 55% of his passes for 2,789 yards and 23 touchdowns, while also leading the team with 1,154 yards and 13 scores, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. The 5-10, 202-pound senior throws too many interceptions (14 last year) and he's used way too much for the ground game, but now he comes into the season as the best player in the Sun Belt and a leader expected to carry the team on his back. After running for 201 yards and two touchdowns in the New Orleans Bowl win over Southern Miss, and after leading the way to a big season, he's the key to the Sun Belt race.

43. LB Nigel Bradham, Jr., Florida State
Though Dekoda Watson needs to be replaced, the core of the linebackers is back. The new leader will be the 6-2, 241-pound junior Bradham, who's coming off a breakthrough year at weakside. A gem from the 2008 class, he led the team with 93 tackles, including 61 solos, adding 5.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks. Blessed with an ideal combination of speed, power, and crushing hits, he has an exciting second half of his career ahead of him.

42. DE Allen Bailey, Sr., Miami
With just about everyone back from a year ago, Miami is envisioning its best defensive line in years. It all begins on the outside with the 6-4, 288-pound Bailey, the freakishly explosive athlete, with a clear path to the Sundays. With a rare blend of burst and acceleration in the frame of a tackle, he has the strength to with most blockers, en route to making plays behind the line. In his first full season in the lineup, he made 34 tackles and a team-high 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks. After making All-ACC first team, national honors could be next.

41. DE Ryan Kerrigan, Sr. Purdue
The star on the Boilermaker line, and possibly the team, is Kerrigan, a pass rushing terror who earned All-America honors last season after making 66 tackles with 13 sacks, seven forced fumbles and 18.5 tackles for loss. At 6-4 and 263 pounds he's a big end who came to Purdue as a tight end and is becoming one of the school's all-time greatest defenders with 21 career sacks, good for fifth all-time, and with the high motor and the quickness to shoot up the charts. If he can get help from the line and if he isn't double-teamed on a regular basis, he should once again be an all-star and he should be a mortal lock for at least ten sacks.