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19 Dec 2005

Junkie's "Other" All Americans

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.


Skill Positions

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

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.

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).

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

Offensive Linemen

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.)

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.

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.

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 10–1 Big East champions.


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).

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.

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.

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 6–5 record and its first winning campaign since 1998.

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

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.

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

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.

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 23–20 loss to Michigan in October, making 14 solo tackles.

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 2–9 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 26–18 loss to San Jose St.

Honorable Mention: Anthony Trucks, Oregon. 6-foot-1, 226, Senior. 85 tackles, 51 solo, 4 forced fumbles

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, 56–14.

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

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.

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

John L. Smith Trophy

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 Update

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:

The Picks
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
Season-long Results
("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)

Posted by: Russell Levine on 19 Dec 2005

26 comments, Last at 22 Dec 2005, 4:06pm by Vinny


by Trogdor (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 8:57pm

Well, at least neither of you threw an Edelstein on there. Maybe bowl season will see an end to your RVUCP anyway.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 9:01pm

Oh, do you think any 'Bama fans will show up at the GMAC bowl to, um, "greet" Mike Price? If they do, and ESPN has the guts to show any of it, that would be worth watching by itself.

By the way, I think my age and shifting priorities are showing, in that the game is Wednesday and I still don't know a single thing about UTEP other than the Price thing. Ten years ago, I'd've known their backup linebackers and junk, even during the season.

by Duck in MA (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 9:07pm

I think any other Duck fans out there reading this and seeing an Oregon DB making any kind of distinction for themselves that doesn't involve someone else's highlight reel will just shake their heads. But I suppose 3 years of getting burned (again and again and again) finally caught up with both Gipson and Phinisee and there was actually very good play in the secondary most of the year. And now they leave. I hope the learning curve isn't so steep the next time around.

by chris (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 9:23pm

Here's a stupid question for you guys: what is the advantage for height for an OL (segueing off of the lone bright spot for my beloved Boilers)? It seems to me that height would be a disadvantage for two reasons: it's more difficult for the QB to see over you, and getting "down low" to push DL's around. Also, for Russell, isn't it more likely for increased mass to reduce Sester's agility (though, presumably the decreased agility would be more than offset by the increased push that comes with the increased mass)?

by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 9:38pm

Quick nitpick regarding Brennan:

Shouldn't it be a +22 TD-INT differential, rather than ratio?

I really don't follow College FB. I just felt like being an [redacted].

by Nate (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 10:11pm

Chris - one advantage I can think of is longer arms.

by noahpoah (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 10:13pm

I think it was last week that Mora was confronted, in perhaps the only interesting pre/post halftime interview ever, with his 1-and-24 (or something) successful/unsuccessful challenge record. He had a fantastic look of surprise on his face when he learned how bad he was at challenging.

Well, this week gave us a clue why - he's impatient and perhaps a bit dim. Not only would they have had the two-minute warning to see if the pass had really been caught, if I'm remembering correctly, the catch-not-a-catch occurred at the line of scrimmage.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 10:17pm

I think the advantage would come in increased reach, to be able to keep opponents from getting into his body better. And bad QB's will be more likely to throw it off the back of his head, which is bonus comedy.

by NF (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 10:24pm

"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."

Coaches can't challenge plays after the two-minute warning. Any reviews have to come from game officials after the warning.

Also, the bigger question on the two run plays is why he didn't call a play-action pass on 4th down. The defense was completely keyed on to stopping the run, and totally overwhelmed the OL on both plays. If they called a the same play except a fake of the handoff to Duckett then a quick pass to Crumpler, they might have got the first down on 4th and 1.

Although I have to say, the defensive play at the LoS there was awesome. The entire left side of the line was simply pushed back and trampled, and on the other side there were just too many guys moving too fast to block all of them.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 10:28pm

7: It was a 7 yard completion, but it made the difference between 3rd and 8 and 3rd and 15 (Which, according to the three horsemen, is the difference between manageable and unmanageable). I think Mora deserves extra bonus points for his second unsuccessful challenge, when he gave his team a 15 yard penalty for arguing the call after he lost and nearly slapping a ref. He looked like Lou Panella(sp) trying to get thrown out. I'm starting to enjoy the Jim Jr era, although he has a while yet to surpass his father in unintentional comedy.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 12/19/2005 - 11:16pm

I believe that the booth review process occurs only after the two minute warning. That is, if a play happens prior to the two minute warning, but the clock then ticks to 2:00, triggering it, a challenge to that play must still be initiated by the coach. This came up last week in a game I believe.

Now, what I don't know is whether or not a review of a play that starts prior to 2:00 but ends at, say, 1:55, but before the actual two minute warning timeout, would be reviewed via coaches challenge or from the booth, but it wouldn't surprise me if it required a coaches challenge and that booth reviews are only for plays that BEGIN in the final two minutes (i.e. after the warning timeout).

So the clock ticking to 2:00 would mean that Mora could use the warning timeout to look at replays and then determine whether to challenge, since the play occurred before the alloted 2:00.


by Harris (not verified) :: Tue, 12/20/2005 - 6:12am

At least half those guys sound like they're either characters in a soap opera or the stars of a gay porn flick. Does this say more about the riduculous names American parents are handing out -- Colt Brennen? Garrett Wolfe? Cole Snyder? -- or Russell's late night viewing habits?

by Nelphonious of Pennefielde (not verified) :: Tue, 12/20/2005 - 1:04pm

Great stuff/alot of these guys will showcase in the 28 Bowlarama 2005 games ready at the gate. CHARLIE WARD AWARD: to Reggie Ball=G/Tech for the most exciting upset this year against Miami=running left or right while pumping and throwing or tucking and /or finding CATACYLISMIC CALVIN.

by Todd S. (not verified) :: Tue, 12/20/2005 - 2:14pm

#11 I agree. My interpretation of the rule (which should be taken with a grain of salt) is that any play that begins before the 2:00 warning is only challengeable (real word?) by coaches.

by Todd S. (not verified) :: Tue, 12/20/2005 - 2:16pm

Oh, and thank you, Russell, for giving me some good news about the Purdue football program, which is currently a trainwreck. (Disappointing season, NFL defections, arrests, de-commits, etc.)

And yes, that is an intentional pun.

by ChrisS (not verified) :: Tue, 12/20/2005 - 3:01pm

#11 & #14 That is definitely the rule. It depends on when the the play starts, prior to 2 min warning is coaches challenge after is booth initiated.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 12/20/2005 - 4:37pm

Speaking of bowl season, whatifsports.com is simming a I-A 16-team playoff ... and no, I'm not just linking to it because they happen to be using the playoff system I advocate. :)

Todd, I don't think NFL defections are a bad thing. Those are more of a sign that Tiller's been recruiting better talent than his predecessors. Now, the arrests are another thing ...

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/20/2005 - 4:53pm

Yah, unfortunately, the simulation they're using is retarded. It's projections from last year, rather than based on actual results from this year.

Note that Notre Dame, Oregon, and Penn State all struggled, whereas Florida State and Ohio State rolled.

You can check my website (linked) to see a more detailed breakdown (they actually have the entire simulation playbyplay linked) but it definitely looks like they never updated the system, other than removing injured players. A particularly damning statement is the fact that one of the defensive backs they have get a sack in the PSU/Tulsa (TULSA!) game has essentially never played a meaningful down this year (and likely won't, as he's third on the depth chart).

Similarly, Fox Sports is also doing "video game simulations" of the bowls, where you get the same bias. Teams that people thought were good at the beginning of the year roll - the surprise teams suck.

by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/20/2005 - 6:33pm

I just thought I'd mentioned this - I signed up today for AOL's Bowl Pick-Em competition. They have a few things listed for each team. Colorado's coach was "Not Gary Barnett". Hee.

by admin :: Wed, 12/21/2005 - 5:18pm

Is Oregon St. still running a similar offense to what they had a few years ago when both Chad Johnson and TJ Whosyourdaddy came out of there? If so, somebody really should draft that Hass guy, because that's an excellent track record for Oregon St. receivers.

by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Wed, 12/21/2005 - 6:28pm

My beloved TJ -- who helped my fantasy team into the playoffs after my being stupid enough to draft Eric Moulds -- went to Syracuse, Aaron.

by Russell Levine :: Wed, 12/21/2005 - 11:17pm

Re: 21, Aaron was right. Houshmanzadeh went to Oregon State and was a teammate of Chad's on the team that kicked the living crap out of Notre Dame in Fiesta Bowl after the 2000 season.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Thu, 12/22/2005 - 9:28am

Ha! Not even you two could stop the mighty Gradkowski! By the way, a fun side bet during a MAC game with a good QB is "when will they break out the same old Pennington/Leftwich/Roethlisberger montage"? Hopefully soon Frye will be added in there, of course.

by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 12/22/2005 - 12:55pm

I stand corrected. My apologies, Aaron; but now I'm wondering why I was so certain about Syracuse. Houshmandzadeh isn't exactly the Arabic of "Smith."

by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Thu, 12/22/2005 - 12:56pm

Or, to remember Geroge Carlin's old line, maybe it is pronounced Smith, "and they're all silent."

by Vinny (not verified) :: Thu, 12/22/2005 - 4:06pm

Aaron - Johnson and Housh were at Oregon State under Dennis Erickson's regime. Hass was recruited by Erickson but has been playing under Mike Riley for the past three years. Riley and Erickson have run similar offenses though, and the Oregon State offense might be more pass-happy the last couple years since Steven Jackson left.