...and sadly some pencil-legged kid (who throws like he's competing in the shot put) from Reno is on the list too
This year in college football, just like every year, a couple of big-name recruits -- Terrelle Pryor, Da'Quan Bowers, Cameron Newton -- have had big statistical campaigns. But at the same time, if you scan most of the award watch lists, there are a ton of guys who were not highly recruited putting up amazing numbers.
For this week's Top 10 list, I looked at under-the-radar recruits now tearing it up.
1. Justin Blackmon
Oklahoma State Cowboys WR
Normally, a team media guide may oversell an unproven player. For Blackmon's profile the OSU guide said: "Turned in a solid freshman season ... Displayed solid hands and the ability to make a play downfield ... Will be one of the primary threats for the Cowboys' offense in 2010." Hardly sounds like the entry point for what has proved to be one of the best statistical seasons by any wideout in college football history. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound sophomore leads the nation by a wide margin in receiving yards per game. Thus far he's got 84 catches for 1,430 yards and 16 TDs. This guy was ranked No. 139 by ESPN -- and that wasn't overall, that was just what he was ranked among receivers in his class.
2. Kellen Moore
Boise State Broncos QB
The slight Bronco QB has a 24-4 TD-INT mark and leads the nation in passing efficiency with a 191.15 rating. In three years as BSU's starting QB, Moore has lost only one game. The recruiting analysts certainly didn't see this coming. ESPN listed 161 other QBs ahead of him; the Broncos basically only had to beat the Eastern Washington Eagles (famous for their red turf) to get him.
3. Ryan Kerrigan
Purdue Boilermakers DE
The injury-ravaged Boilermakers have had a dismal 2010, but don't blame Kerrigan. Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg made the case this week for Kerrigan to be the 2010 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and he makes a strong argument.
Kerrigan is a one-man wrecking crew. He leads the nation in tackles for loss (23.5) and ranks second in both sacks (11.5) and forced fumbles (five). With two forced fumbles last week against Michigan, Kerrigan increased his career total to 14, breaking the Big Ten mark of 13 shared by Simeon Rice and Bob Sanders and tying the FBS record. ESPN had Kerrigan as No. 72 coming out of HS.
4. J.J. Watt
Wisconsin Badgers DE
If Kerrigan's not the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Watt might be. The 6-foot-5, 292-pound junior is third in the Big Ten in sacks with six, second in TFLs with 18 and even has six passes defensed. And keep in mind we're talking about a guy who started his career as a tight end at Central Michigan. He was an anonymous two-star recruit; ESPN had him as the No. 172 DE in the 2007 group.
5. Randall Cobb
Kentucky Wildcats do-it-all
The Cats' "Mr. Versatility" grew up down the road from the University of Tennessee campus but was hardly deemed a big-time talent. The recruiting sites weren't quite sure what he would become in college. ESPN listed him as the 86th-best "athlete". This year, he ranks second in the SEC in receiving and leads in all-purpose yardage at more than 186 per game.
6. Kendall Hunter
Oklahoma State RB
The Cowboys have hit it big with sleepers of late (and we'll hold off in talking about their former baseball playing QB Brandon Weeden for the time being). Hunter is the country's No. 4 rusher and already has gone for 1,356 yards and 16 rushing TDs. In recruiting talk, he was overshadowed by a lot of other backs. ESPN had him as No. 73 among RBs.
7. Luke Kuechly
Boston College Eagles LB
I've talked about the unheralded tackling machine from Ohio a lot over the past two seasons and the story about how some recruiters observed Kuechly's mild-mannered off-the-field look with his glasses and didn't buy that he could be a big-time linebacker. Man, were they wrong. The sophomore leads the country in tackles. Compared to many other guys on this list, the recruiting sites were actually not too down on him. ESPN had him as the No. 19 LB in his class.
8. Colin Kaepernick
Nevada Wolf Pack QB
The lanky former baseball star has had a spectacular career running the Pack's Pistol offense. ESPN was actually fairly optimistic about his development, putting him as the No. 50 QB prospect in the 2006 class:
"Unfortunately he plays in a Wing-T, run-oriented offense that does not present a pro style, intricate passing game for him to flourish in. As a result he does not get as many opportunities to showcase his skills and may be a bit behind in terms of knowledge of the passing game when he gets into college. Could be a sleeper in this class and you like his overall physical tools to enable him to progress at the next level with some coaching."
Kaepernick's story is an example of why the recruiting game for college is so tricky because you have a slender guy who may be playing in a system that doesn't showcase his skills best for the future.
9. Anthony Castonzo
Boston College OT
Before the season, I delved into the standout tackle's curious recruiting case as the quintessential project that came through in a big way. Nobody, including the kid's own high school coach, thought Castonzo would become a top lineman. Well, other than the kid himself. Now, he's a top 25 draft prospect on Mel Kiper's Big Board.
10. Jeff Maehl
Oregon Ducks WR
Mike Bellotti knew they had something special when he signed the wiry two-way star from Paradise, Calif. "He was a great athlete," said the former Ducks coach. "He was a tremendous basketball player, a good long jumper who played defense and offense." In Chip Kelly's system, Maehl has blossomed into the go-to receiver, catching 59 passes and 11 TDs this season. ESPN didn't even have him ranked a few years ago.
Around college football
"We exhausted all avenues of communicating to the conference office," McGarity said. "And then it's up to the SEC to make the decision. There's really nothing more that we could've done. We just followed SEC protocol in how you communicate and how you deal with questions."
Getty ImagesNick Fairley has been rocketing up draft boards, but is he playing dirty?
Fairley's helmet-to-back hit on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray drew a 15-yard penalty. Fairley also delivered a late hit to Murray's knee, which was not called a penalty, that caused the quarterback to leave the game. Murray did not practice Tuesday and his status is day-to-day. Georgia coach Mark Richt has declined to comment on the Fairley issue. The furthest he went was on his radio show Monday, saying that he does "believe in standing up for our boy."
Last month Georgia center Ben Jones was suspended for one half for a chop block he made at Mississippi State. McGarity said that suspension was decided after the SEC notified Georgia, which then reviewed the play and agreed that discipline was warranted.
• The topic of players faking injuries in hopes of slowing down the Oregon offense has gotten a lot of attention this year in the Pac-10 and my colleague Ted Miller had a good summation of the issue here:
While there's video from the California game that many Ducks fans find most damning -- and hilarious -- my favorite continues to be what I suspect was a purposely poor acting job from Stanford linebacker Chase Thomas that -- again, I suspect -- was intended to goad the crowd at Autzen Stadium.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly mostly danced around the topic during the Tuesday Pac-10 coaches call. "We don't talk about it. If the league wants to look into stuff like that, that's their problem. That's not coming from me," he said. "Obviously you don't know when a player is really injured and not injured. I don't know really what can be done about it."
And that is the issue: Little can be done. Wrote Pac-10 vice president of communications Dave Hirsch, "Officials cannot decide if someone is faking an injury or not."
Don't think for a second Kelly isn't bothered by this. We've all seen him wildly gesticulating on the sideline and yelling at officials about apparently fake injuries during games. We've heard his halftime quips, such as when he noted at Arizona State, "It's kind of like a World Cup game with this crowd. And the injuries." Kelly was referring to the diva bad acting you often see in soccer games in order to draw yellow and red cards.
• Stat of the Day: Wisconsin leads the country in red zone touchdown percentage, converting 81.1 percent of its trips inside the 20-yard line into touchdowns. During Big Ten play, the Badgers have converted 25 of their 28 red zone trips into touchdowns (89.3 percent). per the Badgers' SID office. In the red zone this season, QB Scott Tolzien has completed 20-of-23 passes for 190 yards and 12 touchdowns without an interception, which translates to an efficiency of 328.5.
Nutt said the suspensions were indefinite. Both were touted members of the Rebels' 2010 signing class out of Florida. Nutt wouldn't specify the violations, calling them just "bad freshman mistakes." But he did offer a hint when responding to a question about whether he expected them to return to the team for spring practice. "I'm gonna see how it goes," Nutt said. "I'm gonna see how it goes. Gotta show me some effort in the classroom."
Grimes and Jones were two of the three highest-rated recruits the Rebels signed last year. Grimes was the nation's No. 16 CB and Jones was the No. 25 DE. They were two of the four-star recruits Nutt landed last winter.