Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
19 Dec 2005
by Russell Levine
By now, every college football fan knows the names -- and feats -- of Reggie Bush, Vince Young, Brady Quinn, and Matt Leinart, all of whom populate most All-American teams. Whereas some of our offensive selections were recipients of national honors despite not being household names, this defensive group is even further off the beaten path. Many come from "mid major" programs, and none received so much as a second-team All-America nod from the Associated Press. But they all had a tremendous impact on their teams.
Here's a look at some lesser-known players who enjoyed tremendous seasons in 2005. Call them the "other" All-Americans.
QB COLT BRENNAN, Hawaii
6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Sophomore
350-of-515 for 4,301 yards, 35 TD, 13 INT
Brennan filled the big shoes of the departed Timmy Chang as the triggerman at the controls of June Jones's run-and-shoot offense at Hawaii. It's an attack that's designed to pile up big statistics for the quarterback, but Brennan was very efficient running it, with an outstanding plus-23 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Brennan also averaged a more-than-respectable 8.4 yards per attempt, excellent given the emphasis on short passes in the run-and-shoot. Brennan, who was second in the nation in total offense (371.3 yards per game) and eighth in passing efficiency, still has two more years to grow in the system and should have the Warriors back in a bowl game next year.
Honorable Mention: Brett Basanez, Northwestern, 6-foot-2, 210, Senior. 276-of-427 for 3,206 yards, 19 TD, 13 INT
RB GARRETT WOLFE, N. Illinois
5-foot-7, 174, Junior
242 carries, 1,580 yards, 16 TD
Wolfe is a dynamo at 5-foot-7 who reminds people of former Kansas State star Darren Sproles. Despite his lack of size, his speed and shiftiness should help him find a spot in the NFL as a third-down back or return man. Wolfe missed three games, but led the nation with an average of 175.6 rushing yards per contest. And he didn't just pad his stats against the Mid-American Conference: He ran for 148 yards on just 17 carries against Michigan and 248 against Northwestern the following week.
RB DEANGELO WILLIAMS, Memphis
5-foot-10, 217, Senior
279 carries, 1,726 yards, 15 TD
Williams began the year as a dark-horse Heisman contender, but his candidacy never developed because Memphis stumbled out of the gate. Despite missing a game and playing in an offense with few other threats (the Tigers were 112th in passing offense), Williams cracked 1,700 yards and averaged better than 6.2 yards per carry and 172.6 per game (second nationally). His reward should be a hefty NFL payday next spring.
Honorable Mention: Jerome Harrison, Washington State, 5-foot-10, 200, Senior. 308 carries, 1,900 yards, 16 TD
WR MIKE HASS, Oregon State
6-foot-1, 208, Senior
90 receptions, 1,532 yards, 6 TD
Hass, a little known talent despite posting three straight 1,000 yard seasons, capped a brilliant career by going over the 1,500-yard mark as a senior to lead the nation. He also ranked second at better than eight grabs per contest. A precise route-runner, Hass also showed the ability to get down the field (17 yards per catch).
WR CALVIN JOHNSON, Georgia Tech
6-foot-4, 225, Sophomore
52 receptions, 869 yards, 6 TD
With Johnson, it's not the quantity of receptions that matters most, but the quality. In just two years, he has already put together a lengthy highlight reel of mind-boggling grabs. Chances are, if you've seen a clip of a receiver making a one-handed grab on a ball thrown behind him, it was Johnson, who has the requisite size and speed to be a high-round NFL pick in another year or two.
Honorable Mention: Domenik Hixon, Akron, 6-foot-2, 192, Senior. 68 receptions, 1,147 yards, 7 TD
TE GARRETT MILLS, Tulsa 6-foot-2, 232, Senior
83 receptions, 1,183 yards, 9 TD
Mills set NCAA records for catches and receiving yards by a tight end in a single season while helping Tulsa to a surprising Conference-USA championship. He ranked 12th in the nation in receiving yards per game (98.6), 29 spots and 19 yards per contest better than the next-best tight end, Maryland's Vernon Davis.
Honorable Mention: Marcedes Lewis, UCLA, 6-foot-6, 255, Senior. 58 receptions, 741 yards, 10 TD
Is there such as a thing as a "name" offensive lineman? Not usually. This group of five doesn't get many headlines, but each caught our eyes at some point this season. (Hat tip to Michael David Smith for his assist with the O-line picks.)
OT SEAN SESTER, Purdue
6-foot-8, 282, Freshman
Sester, the lone freshman on this list, showed excellent agility despite playing at a light weight for his height -- a situation that should be rectified by a few more years of training-table fare. He was part of one of the few bright spots in a dark year for Purdue: an offensive line that allowed just nine sacks.
OT DARYN COLLEDGE, Boise St.
6-foot-5, 298, Senior
Colledge could be the captain of our "off the beaten path" squad. He hails from Alaska and actually attended North Pole High School. At Boise, he excels at pass blocking for the Broncos' high-scoring offense.
OG DAVIN JOSEPH, Oklahoma
6-foot-3, 312, Senior
Joseph is one of the few players who had a really good season for an Oklahoma team that struggled after seeing 11 players selected in the NFL draft. His contributions were not as noticeable because of the Sooners' inexperience at quarterback and injuries at tailback, but Oklahoma improved as the year went on.
OG JASON SPITZ, Louisville
6-foot-4, 308, Senior
Spitz played center in fall camp, then switched to guard and helped anchor the left side of the Louisville line. The unit provided great pass protection for standout quarterback Brian Brohm, who found the time to throw for 2,883 yards and 19 touchdowns.
C DAN MOZES, West Virginia
6-foot-4, 290, Junior
Like most centers, Mozes makes the blocking calls in West Virginia's spread-option attack, a surprising unit at the heart of the 10â€“1 Big East champions.
P RYAN PLACKEMEIER, Wake Forest
6-foot-3, 235, Senior
Plackemeier, a linebacker-sized punter, led the nation by more than a full yard in punting average (47.2). He had plenty of practice on a struggling Wake Forest offense, too. (6.1 punts per game).
PK ALEXIS SERNA, Oregon St
5-foot-8, 157, Sophomore
Serna, who led the nation with 2.1 field goals per game, was a solid 23-of-28 on field goal attempts, but that's not the entire reason why he was chosen for the list. Serna, if you remember, almost single-handedly prevented the Beavers from pulling off an upset at LSU as a freshman in 2004 when he missed three extra points. But he's clearly shaken off that disappointment and has a bright future.
KR CORY RODGERS, TCU
6-foot-1, 195, Junior
Rodgers ranked second in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 31.7 yards per attempt, but gets the nod over leader Felix Jones of Arkansas for returning two kicks for touchdowns in just 15 tries, a sure sign that teams kicked away from him.
PR QUINTON JONES, Boise St.
5-foot-9, 186, Sophomore
UCLA's Maurice Drew stood head-and-shoulders above the field in this category, finishing almost nine yards per return ahead of the second-ranked player, Jones. But he's not exactly an unknown, so the honor goes to Boise defensive back Jones, who was the only other player to crack 20 yards per return and took two back for touchdowns.
DE DAN BAZUIN, Central Michigan
6-foot-3, 257, Junior
28.5 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, 5 forced fumbles
Bazuin's name is all over the NCAA's defensive statistical leaders, but not found among the first, second, or third-team AP All-American lists. He led the nation in tackles-for-loss, ranked second in sacks, and tied for fourth in forced fumbles. His outstanding play helped Central Michigan achieve a 6â€“5 record and its first winning campaign since 1998.
DE MARIO WILLIAMS, N.C. State
6-foot-7, 285, Junior
13 sacks, 20 tackles for loss, 13 quarterback hurries
Williams's height and reach make for natural comparisons to another star defensive end who emerged from Tobacco Road: Carolina Panthers star Julius Peppers. Still a raw talent, Williams has incredible athletic ability and the speed to blow past offensive tackles to get to the quarterback. He was fourth in the nation in sacks and tied for sixth in tackles for loss, helping to lead an N.C. State unit that ranked 14th overall in total defense.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Howe, E. Michigan, 6-foot-3, 236, Junior. 10.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles
DT BRODRICK BUNKLEY, Florida St.
6-foot-3, 291, Senior
57 tackles, 23 tackles for loss, 9 sacks
Perhaps the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in the nation, Bunkley was second in the nation with 23 tackles for loss, which established a new school record, and added nine sacks. He was only second-team all-ACC, but was a disruptive force on the line of scrimmage in the Seminoles' upset win over Virginia Tech in the conference championship game, a win that propelled Florida State into the BCS.
DT RAMEL MEEKINS, Rutgers
6-feet, 280, Junior
9 sacks, 58 tackles, 15 tackles for loss
Meekins was a major contributor to a Rutgers defense that finished second in the nation in sacks, one behind Nebraska. Meekins was selected as the outstanding defensive player on a Rutgers team that captured its first Bowl bid in 27 seasons. His nine sacks were among the highest totals in the nation for defensive tackles.
Honorable Mention: Jesse Mahelona, Tennessee, 6-foot-2, 297, Senior. 35 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 2 sacks
LB JIMMY COTTRELL, New Mexico St.
6-foot-1, 238, Senior
179 tackles (90 solo), 4 passes defensed
Cottrell's team, New Mexico State, suffered through a winless season, but the team's ineptitude afforded the smallish linebacker plenty of opportunities to showcase his skills. He led the nation in total tackles with nearly 15 per game and registered 90 solo stops, including 16 against Colorado. He finished his Aggie career with 463 total tackles, leading the team all four seasons.
LB ABDUL HODGE, Iowa
6-foot-2, 234, Senior
139 tackles (82 solo), 3 forced fumbles
Hodge was overshadowed by teammate Chad Greenway, a second-team AP All-America selection, but we prefer Hodge's all-around playmaking skills. He was sixth nationally in both total tackles and solo stops, and also among the nation's leaders in forced fumbles. Hodge was at his best in a 23â€“20 loss to Michigan in October, making 14 solo tackles.
LB COLE SNYDER, Idaho
5-foot-11, 230, Senior
139 tackles (93 solo), 15.5 tackles for loss
The undersized Snyder was second in the nation in solo tackles and tied for sixth in total stops, ranked 24th in tackles for loss, and added three interceptions. Despite a 2â€“9 season, Snyder capped his career with an unbelievable final game: 17 tackles, an interception, a blocked extra point (which he returned for two points), and a safety in a 26â€“18 loss to San Jose St.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Trucks, Oregon. 6-foot-1, 226, Senior. 85 tackles, 51 solo, 4 forced fumbles
CB AARON GIPSON, Oregon
5-foot-9, 179, Senior
7 interceptions, 12 passes defensed, 1 blocked kick
Despite being one of the smaller full-time players in college football, Gipson recorded seven interceptions to lead the nation and added five pass breakups for a total of 12 passes defensed. He capped his regular-season Oregon career with a monster game against arch-rival Oregon State in the "Civil War:" two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and five total tackles. Oregon won, 56â€“14.
CB DEANDRE JACKSON, Iowa St.
6-feet, 190, Senior
5 interceptions, 12 passes defensed, 4 forced fumbles
Jackson proved to be quite a gamebreaker in the Iowa State secondary, ranking in the top 10 nationally with five interceptions and four forced fumbles. He also served as the Cyclones' primary kick returner, averaging better than 25 yards per attempt.
Honorable Mention: Jelani Jordan, Bowling Green. 5-foot-10, 177, Senior. 6 interceptions, 12 passes defensed, 55 tackles
S ANTHONY SMITH, Syracuse
6-foot-1, 194, Senior
6 interceptions, 14 passes defensed, 71 tackles
Smith was a bright spot in an otherwise miserable year for Syracuse, as his six interceptions tied for second-best in the nation with Bowling Green's Jelani Jordan. His efforts -- which also included three sacks, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, and a blocked kick -- earned him All-Big East and team MVP honors, as well as an invite to the upcoming Senior Bowl.
S JOE STURDIVANT, S. Methodist
6-foot-2, 210, Junior
122 tackles (63 solo), 14 passes defensed
Sturdivant ranked among the nation's elite in pass breakups (12th), total tackles (21st), and solo stops (29th). His season included a two-interception day in an upset win at UAB in October, and he registered, 10, 13, and 14 tackles in SMU's season-ending three-game winning streak.
Honorable Mention: Ko Simpson, South Carolina. 6-foot-1, 201, Sophomore. 94 tackles, 65 solo, 10 passes defensed
With college football on hiatus, it wasn't a great week for the JLS Trophy, but I would be remiss if I didn't at least recognize the efforts of Falcons coach Jim Mora. Mora issued an immediate challenge of an incomplete pass call, despite the fact that the play occurred at the two-minute warning and his staff would have had the break to review the replays before deciding whether to challenge the call. It didn't affect the game's outcome, but was still very questionable judgment.
Mora clinched this week's honor with back-to-back run calls for T.J. Duckett on 3rd- and 4th-and-1 in the fourth quarter. The second was stuffed worst than the first. With one of the greatest running QBs in history in his backfield, Mora chose to run Duckett into the teeth of the defense on consecutive plays rather than perhaps a bootleg for Vick.
Seventh Day Adventure will return this Thursday with the first of our two Bowl Spectacular editions. But for now, we offer these picks on the first four games of the bowl season:
|Game||Vinny says||Russell says|
|Southern Miss (-17) vs. Arkansas State (New Orleans Bowl)||Southern Miss||Arkansas State|
|Toledo (-3) vs. UTEP (GMAC Bowl)||Toledo||Toledo|
|Cal (-7.5) vs. BYU (Las Vegas Bowl)||Cal||Cal|
|Colorado State (+2.5) vs. Navy (Poinsettia Bowl)||Colorado State||Navy|
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
|Last Week||Season Total|
|Vinny||4-4 (0-1)||47-60-4 (5-9)|
|Russell||3-5 (1-0)||42-65-4 (9-5)|
26 comments, Last at 22 Dec 2005, 4:06pm by Vinny