Posts Tagged 'jacory harris'

Changing of the Guard

Florida State’s 31-7 throttling of the Florida Gators this past weekend was much more than a win–it marks a new beginning for the Seminoles and a sign of things to come.  All three of the state’s major programs (Florida, Miami and FSU) have made runs, but with blow out victories over Miami earlier this season and over the hated Gators and Urban Meyer last weekend should have FSU fans very excited about the direction of their program.

College FootBlog takes a look at four major evolutions that were apparent with FSU’s coveted “State Championship”–something the ‘Noles had not done since the 1999 season.

1.  Talent discrepancy:  Over the last decade (Miami in the first part of the decade and Florida over the last six years), FSU was outmatched on at least one side of the ball.  FSU had no answer for Sean Taylor and the dominant Miami defenses in the early part of the decade, and they were absolutely no match for Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin.

My, how times have changed.  While Florida has plummeted to #78 nationally in total offense, the FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher has the ‘Noles have continued to develop into a more balanced offense, but the biggest difference has been the FSU defense.  After ranking in the 100’s in every major statistical category last season, new defensive coordinator Mark Stoops has revamped the D in the top 40 defenses in the nation this year.   While the Gators and Hurricanes have dropped to worse records this year, Florida State already has nine wins with two more games left in the season.

FSU Head Coach Jimbo Fisher beat rivals Miami and Florida in his first season (google images)

2.  Recruiting:  Florida State was already off to a great start in recruiting (Rivals currently has FSU ranked 4th overall), and the huge wins over the ‘Canes and Gators will only solidify a top five finish in recruiting.  There were over 100 recruits at the Florida game, and many of those athletes are considering the Big 3 schools in the state of Florida. 

Those recruits saw a completely one-sided game on Saturday, one in which the Florida Gators displayed an unimaginative, ineffective offensive game plan that generated a whopping 64 yards passing.  Meanwhile, the Hurricanes lost an overtime game to the South Florida Bulls, which resulted in a 7-5 regular season and the firing of head coach Randy Shannon.

3.  Preparation for the NFL:  Tebow’s lack of development as a passer was well-documented last spring before the NFL combine.  Tebow had to spend his spring retraining himself how to throw a football.  Urban Meyer was openly criticized by scouts and media for not making those corrections in the four years he had Tebow on campus.  In contrast, current Florida QB John Brantley, who is more of a pro-style quarterback has struggled mightily in Meyer’s spread attack, posting anemic numbers this season.  Despite having all the speed and talent at wide receiver, Brantley is averaging just over 168 yards passing per game.

In Miami, quarterback Jacory Harris entered the season on the Heisman radar, but he has noticeably regressed in 2010.  Both Harris and FSU quarterback Christian Ponder have been down statistically versus last season, and injuries to each have been a major culprit.  However, there is no question on which QB is more NFL-ready. 

4.  Size of Players:  Since Fisher’s arrival as the offensive coordinator four years ago, he immediately began recruiting bigger, more physical players, and that trend has continued on defense since he took over as head coach this past January.  On the defensive line, FSU is beginning to look more like an SEC team, with defensive tackles going from the 270 lb range to 285-300 lbs.  Defensive ends, linebackers and safeties are getting much bigger and faster as well (FSU’s starting safeties are Nick Moody at 6’2″, 228 lbs. and Terrance Parks at 6’2″ , 218 lbs.).

The past few years, FSU has lost games in the trenches to bigger, stronger teams.  That discrepancy was not as apparent this season, and as Fisher and his staff continue to recruit bigger players, along with an enhanced strength and conditioning program that Fisher instituted immediately after taking the reigns, expect this trend to continue.

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Week 6 College Football Preview: Florida State at Miami

With the recent decline of each program, the Miami/Florida State Rivalry hasn’t garnered nearly as much hype as it did in the late 80’s and 90’s.  In 2010, however, each program looks like a return to glory (at least in the ACC) could be well within grasp. 

The winner of this Saturday’s match up will put one team in solid position for a run at the ACC Championship Game, while the loser will have to claw back in the ACC title hunt.  On the larger scale, the outcome of this game will also let the college football world know which one of these storied programs is closer to regaining its place among college football’s elite programs.

Each team is still at least a year away from being a serious contender for a national title, as evidenced by Miami’s loss to Ohio State and Florida State’s dismal performance at Oklahoma in Week 2.  In this edition of College FootBlog, we take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each team, we present key match ups, and we will make our prediction of one of the most intense rivalries in college football.

Florida State

RB Jermaine Thomas will look to lead FSU's potent rushing attack into Miami this weekend (google images)

Key Strength:  The Running Game–Before the Oklahoma game, FSU quarterback Christian Ponder was considered a viable Heisman candidate, but so far this fall, it has been the ‘Noles’ running game that has been the constant.  FSU is averaging just over 208 yards per game on the ground, which ranks them 26th in the nation.  Head coach Jimbo Fisher relies on three different running backs to carry the load.  The trio of Jermaine Thomas, Ty Jones and Chris Thompson presents three completely different running styles, and they have combined for over 7.1 yards per carry.  The Seminoles will need another solid ground performance this weekend if they want to control the tempo of the game.

Key Concern:  Passing Defense–New defensive coordinator Mark Stoops has shown dramatic improvement since getting sliced and diced by Oklahoma a few weeks ago, but the Hurricanes will present the first real challenge to FSU’s secondary since that blow out loss in Norman.  We will find out this weekend just whether FSU’s pass defense has improved that much or if they have simply been the benefactors of weak opponents with even weaker passing attacks.  As good as OU looked, the ‘Canes appear to have a deeper WR corps, and if the ‘Noles can’t hold their own against Jacory Harris and company, it could be a long night for FSU.

Miami

Key Strength:  The Passing Game–Although Harris has thrown for eight INTs this season, he has also thrown for ten TDs.   When Harris stands tall and steps into his throws, he may have the best touch of any QB in the country.  When his offensive line protects him, Harris does a tremendous job of distributing the ball to his talented group of wideouts, which is led by 6’3″ 205 lb. senior Leonard Hankerson, who already has six TDs on the year.  If Harris and his stable of WRs get hot early, the ‘Canes could present a lot more problems than OU did to the FSU secondary because Miami has a lot more to their passing game than the bubble screen (which shredded FSU in the OU game).

Key Concern:  Rush Defense–Take away Miami’s opening day cupcake against FAMU and focus on their three real football games (Ohio State, Pitt and Clemson), and the ‘Canes are giving up 157 yards on the ground per game.  As good as they have been against the pass (ranked #6 nationally), they have shown vulnerability against solid running attacks, and they will certainly face another solid ground game this weekend.  If the ‘Canes can’t control the line of scrimmage, the FSU ground game could wear them down and take over in the second half.

Jacory Harris will need to cut down his mistakes the 'Canes have any hopes of beating FSU this weekend (google images)

Miami Offense vs. Florida State Defense

While FSU has improved immensely since the Oklahoma game, it is hard to believe that they can shut down Harris and his wide receivers all game.  Look for Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple to challenge Florida State’s young corners early and often, and a couple of big plays are bound to happen.  The key here will be how much pressure FSU can get on Harris.  Even if the much improved FSU defensive line can get in his face, Harris is still likely to burn them a time or two.  EDGE:  Miami

Florida State Offense vs. Miami Defense

Look for Miami to stack the box and do whatever they can to take away FSU’s dominant ground game.  Still, look for FSU’s ground game to make an impact by the second half.  Also, although Ponder has not lived up to the lofty expectations so far this season, he has proven that he can perform against the ‘Canes the past two seasons, and with Miami focused on taking the running game away, FSU’s senior QB will get a few shots at one-on-one coverage, and if history is any indicator, he will produce some big plays.  EDGE:  Florida State

Special Teams

The one thing that kept Miami in the Ohio State game earlier this year was their explosive special teams play.  The ‘Canes returned a kick and a punt for touchdowns in that match up.  Senior kicker/punter Matt Bosher was named to the Preseason All-ACC Team, and he has not disappointed so far this season.  Florida State counters with kicker Dustin Hopkins, who has sent 19 of his 33 kick offs into the end zone for touchbacks.  FSU also has the ever-dangerous Greg Reid returning punts and kicks.  Reid led the nation last season in punt return average and has already brought one back for a TD this season.  EDGE:  Push

Final Analysis

Like most games in this rivalry, expect this one to come down to the wire.  Of the last five meetings in this rivalry game, only one (2007’s match up) was decided by more than four points.  The difference in this one will be who wins the turnover battle, and Miami’s Harris has not made the significant improvement in this part of his game that many thought he would this year.  Florida State leads the nation with 25 sacks, and Harris has shown the same tendency against pressure as he did last year–he tends to throw the ball up for grabs and doesn’t step into his throws.  This could be the difference in what should be another exciting, down-to-the-wire football game.  Final Score Prediction:  Florida State wins 33-30

Heisman Dark Horse Part 5

In the fifth and final breakdown of our Heisman Dark Horse Candidates, College FootBlog takes a look at our last impact player who is not getting the Heisman hype of the usual suspects–Mark Ingram, Terrelle Pryor, Jacquizz Rodgers, etc.  In case you missed it, we covered Florida State’s Christian Ponder, West Virginia’s Noel Devine, Miami’s Jacory Harris and Wisconsin’s John Clay in our previous four dark horse articles.

Here’s a question for all of you college football buffs–Which Heisman finalist from last season finished third in the nation in total yards with the following stats:  3,579 yards passing with 30 TDs and only eight INTs, with another 506 yards rushing with eight more TDs rushing…..no, it wasn’t Colt McCoy….not Tim Tebow, either.

Most people outside the Big 12 didn't notice that Jerrod Johnson put up over 4,000 yards of offense last season (google images)

In our final edition of 2010’s Heisman Dark Horses, we take a look at why Johnson is still not getting the hype this season, and more importantly, what needs to happen for him to get some love from Heisman voters this fall.

Johnson Needs at Least Two Signature Wins in 2010:  Despite shredding one of the most dominant defenses in the nation (Texas), last season, the Longhorns ultimately prevailed in a 49-39 shootout at College Station last season.  Two weeks before that, Johnson was stifled by a dominant Oklahoma defense that held him to 115 total yards, as the Sooners thrashed the Aggies 65-10.  Johnson will get his shot at redemption against both OU and Texas, and he will also get a shot at yet another top-tier defense when Nebraska comes to town on November 20th.  If he wants to be taken seriously, he must perform in all three games, and really needs to lead his team to victory in two of them.

Will it happen?  Unless the Aggies’ defense improves tremendously, it won’t happen.  Despite getting the Sooners and Huskers at home this season, there are no real signs of significant improvement in a defense that gave up 33.5 points per game last season.  A&M finished 105th in the nation in total defense, so there is really nowhere to go but up, but in an offensive conference like the Big 12, first-year defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter will have his hands full.

Unless the Aggies can produce an average defense, they will be a .500 team again this fall, and by all indications, that’s what they will be.  Unfortunately for Johnson, quarterbacking a .500 team will leave him at home again in 2010, instead of making the trip to New York.   On the flip side, if DeRuyter can work his magic and keep A&M in the game against OU, Texas and Nebraska, it will not only give the Aggies a chance to win, but it will give Johnson an opportunity to lead his team to huge, upset victories, which will only bolster his chance at a Heisman Trophy.

Johnson Must Put Up the Same Stats as Last Year, If Not Better:  If Johnson can match or break his 4,000 total yards he put up in 2009, that will force Heisman voters to keep him on their radar.  If those numbers drop, it will effectively kill his Heisman hopes because winning the Big 12 South will be next to impossible for the Aggies to pull off in 2010.  Even though OU and Texas must replace key contributors from the 2010 roster, each program has loaded up in recruiting for the last several years, and each team will make a case for a Big 12 Championship, which will likely leave A&M on the outside looking in when the dust settles in December.  If Johnson can maintain the pace he had last season, facing three of the top defenses in the nation, he deserves to be a Heisman finalist.

Will it happen?  His overall numbers should be very close to the 2009 stats.  How much better or worse they will be depends on how he performs against the big three Big 12 opponents mentioned above.  Despite the difficulty of facing Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, the rest of the 2010 opponents aren’t exactly defensive juggernauts–the Aggies open with FCS opponent Stephen F. Austin and the out of the other remaining opponents, six of them finished 60th or worse in total defense last season, including 119th ranked FIU on September 18th.

Look for the A&M coaching staff to leave Johnson in for the long-haul against the inferior defenses to help pad his stats this year for two reasons:  1)  Having a Heisman hype around Johnson will bring some much-needed attention to a program that consistently loses recruiting battles against intra-division foes OU and Texas and 2)  The coaching staff is well-aware that touchdowns could be hard to come by in the NU, OU and Texas games, so Johnson will need to rack up as much as he can against the weaker defenses.

Given the weak out of conference schedule and the likelihood that Johnson should put up arcade numbers against those defenses, A&M just needs to get upset victories against Nebraska (which would not be a shock at all) and either Texas or OU, which could happen, but not with last year’s defense.

College FootBlog wants your feedback.  Who else deserves to be on our list and why?

Heisman Dark Horse Part 4: John Clay

In Part 4 of our Heisman Dark Horse candidates, College FootBlog takes a look at Wisconsin running back John Clay.  In case you missed it, we have highlighted three other dark horse candidates, Florida State QB Christian Ponder (see link), West Virginia RB Noel Devine (see link) and Miami QB Jacory Harris (see link).

Each of these candidates has two things in common–they have put up big numbers last season, they appear to be poised for an even bigger season in 2010, and finally, the major media outlets are not giving any of them the attention that the bigger names like Mark Ingram or Terrelle Pryor are receiving.

John Clay and his massive offensive line will look to improve on last season's impressive statistics (google images)

Wisconsin’s punishing running back John Clay certainly qualifies for this criteria.  Despite entering the 2010 season as the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and rushing for over 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2009.  Two other factors point to even bigger numbers in 2010, with the emphasis on “BIG.”  Clay enters two-a-days a few pounds heavier, as he is reportedly tipping the scales at 255 lbs., versus the high 240’s that he played at last season. 

The other key factor that will only help Clay’s quest to become the third Heisman Trophy winner in Wisconsin history is the stacked offensive line.  Senior LT Gabe Carimi anchors an O-line that returns all five starters from a season ago that averages 6’5″ and 325 lbs.

In order to be in a position to get the invite to New York a couple of key factors must work in Clay’s favor.  College FootBlog uncovers these factors and breaks down the likelihood that Clay will be in the running for the coveted award at season’s end.

Clay Must Get His Carries Against the Weak Teams:  The Badgers again have somewhat of a laughable non-conference schedule, with only Arizona State as a decent opponent.  The other games are against UNLV, San Jose State and Austin Peay.  In last year’s soft schedule, Clay only carried the ball 15 times against Northern Illinois and just 12 carries against lowly Wofford.  In the Wofford game, Clay rushed for 70 yards on those limited carries, but could have gone for much, much more, and he left the game without scoring a touchdown when the Badgers took full control over the game.

Will It Happen?  Yes, but head coach Bret Bielema will have the difficult task of balancing stats vs. risk of injury this season, but even though Clay is not as much on the national scene as he should be, he is recognized in the Big Ten as a legitimate threat for the Heisman.  Bielema knows that more carries (particularly against weaker opponents) will get Clay closer to 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, which would force the Heisman voters’ hands when they turn in their ballots.  Look for Clay to get a minimum of 20 touches against each opponent this season, regardless of the score.

Clay Must Show Up in Conference Showdowns:  Clay’s numbers would have been even more impressive, and perhaps the national media would be much more on board with his Heisman run this fall, if he had produced against conference foes Ohio State and Iowa.  In 2009, the bruising running back only managed 134 yards and zero TDs combined against the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes, while averaging under 3.3 yards per carry.  Once again in 2010, Clay will go against OSU and Iowa in back-to-back weeks, and each game has a great shot at being nationally televised.  If he can eclipse the century mark in yards in each of those teams, who will each have dominant defenses again this fall, he will be on everyone’s radar.  If he is neutralized in either (or both games like last year), he can probably kiss the Heisman goodbye.

Will It Happen?  The numbers should improve, and he will likely go for 100+ yards in at least one of those games.  We also believe that behind that massive offensive line, he will get into the end zone at least once in each game.  If he does rush for 100+ yards in one game and if he can get to 75-80 yards in the other game plus a couple of TDs, he will be right in the thick of the Heisman talk.  Getting 100+ yards against two of the best run defenses in the country two weeks in a row is a tall order for any running back and O-line combination, and the odds will be against Clay again this season.

If Clay can get more carries, especially against the weak opponents on his schedule, and if he can go for 100 yards against Iowa and/or Ohio State, don’t be surprised if the Big Ten finally endorses him–he wasn’t even voted as the preseason offensive player of the year, despite winning the award last season–and the voters will take notice as well.

Look for College FootBlog’s fifth and final Heisman Dark Horse Candidate later this week.

Heisman Dark Horse Part 3: Jacory Harris

In part three of our Heisman Dark Horse candidates, we take a look at Miami quarterback Jacory Harris.  In case you missed them, we featured Florida State’s Christian Ponder in our first article (see link) and West Virginia running back Noel Devine in our second article (see link).

After splitting snaps with Robert Marve as a freshman, Harris took the reigns last season exclusively.  And the then-sophomore QB didn’t disappoint.  When the dust settled, Harris led the ACC with 3,352 yards passing. In order for Harris to have a legitimate shot at the Heisman, at least two things must happen in 2010.  College FootBlog takes an in-depth look at these items and analyzes Harris’ chances of punching a plane ticket to New York this December.

Harris must cut down on his mistakes this fall if he wants a shot at the Heisman (google images)

Many of those picks were due to poor decisions and/or bad reads.  Other picks were caused by pressure up the middle that did not allow Harris to properly step into his throws, which caused the ball to float, giving the defensive backs time to adjust and attack the ball at its highest point.  He must improve this if he wants to show up on anyone’s Heisman radar this fall.

Will it happen?  It should.  With a full year under his belt and home games against Virginia Tech and North Carolina (two games Harris really struggled) and an off-season to study film can only help him.  An injured thumb on his throwing hand didn’t help Harris last year, either.  Harris had surgery on that thumb and appears to be ready to go for two-a-days, and because he was not able to throw this spring, he spent his time in film study, which should improve his decisions and reads this fall.

Harris must shine in his nationally televised games:  This point directly ties into the previous one–decision-making.  Harris will lead his team into some of the most hostile stadiums in the country this year, traveling to Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes and they travel to Death Valley to take on Clemson, who Harris struggled against last season.  

Each of those games has a great shot at national coverage, and the annual rivalry games against Florida State and Virginia Tech will likely be opportunities for Harris and the ‘Canes to play in front of a national audience.  If North Carolina continues where they left off last season, there is a chance for yet another nationally televised game against the Tar Heals as well.  Big performances in those games would go a long way in impressing Heisman voters who are not in the southeastern United States.

Will it happen?  Probably, but how much he improves is debatable.  What should concern ‘Canes fans is that ten of his 17 Int’s came against the good defenses he faced.  Miami played five games against defenses that ranked in the Top 20 in the country, and there was only one of those games (Wisconsin) that Harris made it through the game without throwing the ball to the wrong-colored jersey.

The Hurricanes will again have to face top-tier defenses in 2010, and that includes trips to Ohio State (ranked #5 in total defense in 2009) and Pitt (ranked #23 in total defense in 2009).  They get North Carolina and rivals Florida State and Virginia Tech at home, but they travel to Death Valley to take on a Clemson defense that roughed Harris up several quarterbacks last year.

2010 College Football ACC Preview (Coastal Division)

In case you missed it, earlier this week, we unveiled our initial power rankings for the ACC’s Atlantic Division (see link).  College FootBlog continues our breakdown, this time with the teams from the Coastal Division.  From all indications, the Coastal Division is much deeper than their friends from the Atlantic.  Let’s take a look at what we should expect this fall.

Va Tech's Ryan Williams finshed fifth in the country in rushing yards per game last season (google images)

1.  Virginia Tech:  Although the Hokies lost a lost a lot on defense from last season’s squad, they were able to retain defensive coordinator Bud Foster despite him being on several programs’ wish list during the off-season.  Even with the youth and inexperience, it would not be wise to count the Va Tech defense out as long as Foster is running the show.  Offensively, the Hokies may have a running back tandem that can rival any other tandem in the country, including Alabama.  We already know what to expect from Sophomore Ryan Williams, who rushed for over 1,600 yards last season, but the Hokies also return Darren Evans, who missed last season with an ACL tear. 

2.  Miami:  After a 9-4 season in ’09, the Hurricanes are looking for an ACC Championship this season.  Randy Shannon’s team benefited greatly from a coaching overhaul last spring, and the results spoke for themselves last fall, especially on offense.  Jacory Harris returns at quarterback and will try to pick up where he left off last season, when he completed nearly 60% of his passes for over 3,300 yards.  Linebacker Sean Spence leads the ‘Canes defense, which was young but talented last season and still ranked 29th nationally in total defense.  The November 20th match up at home against Va Tech will have major implications on who represents the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game.

3.  North Carolina:  Butch Davis has done wonders in Chapel Hill, especially on defense.  The Tar Heels ranked sixth overall in total defense last season.  Linebacker Quan Sturdivant is a legitimate potential first round draft pick in next spring’s NFL Draft.  As great as the UNC defense was last year, the offense was anemic.  The ‘Heels ranked a dismal 108th in total offense last year, and that must change if they want to challenge Miami and Va Tech for the Coastal Division crown.  That means quarterback TJ Yates must improve on his 14 TD/15 Int’s from a season ago.

GT coach Paul Johnson will rely heavily on QB Josh Nesbitt to keep the 'Jackets rushing offense among the nation's best (google images)

4.  Georgia Tech:  We will see how much the loss of running back work horse Jonathan Dwyer will affect the offense, but quarterback Josh Nesbitt returns for his third season as the engineer of Paul Johnson’s tricky, triple option offense.  Running back Anthony Allen appears to be up the challenge of filling Dwyer’s role, but defensively, the Jackets must replace first round draft pick DE Derrick Morgan and long-time starter at safety, Morgan Burnett, which could be a daunting task.

5.  Virginia:  First year head coach Mike London has his work cut out for him, but Cavaliers fans are hoping he can bring the same results that he has produced throughout his career, specifically when he was their defensive coordinator from ’06-’07.  In that short amount of time, London’s defenses were among the nation’s finest, and handed the Miami Hurricanes their worst ever loss at the Orange Bowl when they shut them out 48-0.  With his ties to the Hampton Roads area and his tenacity as a coach, Virginia should be better, but it will likely take a couple of years before we see the Cavs making serious waves in the ACC.

6:  Duke:  The Blue Devils round out our power rankings for the Coastal Division.  After a couple of season’s head coach David Cutliffe has made strides and last season coached them to a 5-7 record, which is quite an accomplishment, considering that is the best record in Durham since 1994.  The departure of quarterback Thaddeus Lewis will hurt Duke quite a bit, and there appears to be no one who can fill that void.  Look for Cutliffe to be under .500, but he will likely be rewarded with another head coaching opportunity after this season.

Next week, College FootBlog will take a look at the Big Ten in another two-part breakdown.  Let us know your thoughts on our ACC breakdown and our power rankings that will be published in the next couple of weeks.

2010 Preseason Heisman Watch List

As Spring Football concludes and summer workouts begin, the Heisman buzz is soon to follow.   College FootBlog takes a look at some of the early candidates that are on the watch list, along with a few things to look for this fall.

Splitting carries with teammate Trent Richardson will make winning a second Heisman Trophy difficult for Mark Ingram (google images)

1.  Mark Ingram (Running Back/Alabama):  Only one player in college football history has won two Heisman Trophies, but that is not the only thing Ingram has going against him.  Expect Ingram to be even better in 2010 than he was last season, but his teammate Trent Richardson will also be bigger, stronger and faster as well.  Although the tandem will likely be the best in all of college football and should put ‘Bama in the driver’s seat for a second straight BCS title, it will have a negative impact on the numbers for each talented back.  An increased role for quarterback Greg McElroy and future first round wideout Julio Jones will also take precious yards away from last season’s Heisman winner.

2.  Kellen Moore (Quarterback/Boise State):  Moore has started since his freshman year, and he is poised to lead his Broncos to a serious run at a BCS Championship this season.  He is one of the most accurate passers in college football, and unlike prior seasons in Boise, if they continue to win, the Broncos will be on the national radar all season in 2010, which will allow the average college football fan to take notice of his stats.  In 2009, Moore threw for 39 touchdowns and only three interceptions.  If he can put up similar numbers in the national spotlight this season, expect to see the junior QB in New York in December.

3.  Dion Lewis (Running Back/Pittsburgh):  Lewis burst onto the scene as a freshman last season, racking up just under 1,800 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns.  The talented back will have the benefit of running behind an offensive line which sports two fifth-year seniors and three juniors this fall, but the front five should expect opposing defenses to stack the box and make the new quarterback (sophomore Tino Sunseri or junior Pat Bostick) beat them through the air.  Wideouts John Baldwin and Mike Shanahan are both 6’5″ and could help the passing game, which could, in turn, help open some running lanes for Lewis.

4.  Terrelle Pryor (Quarterback/Ohio State):  Ever since his highly publicized recruitment out of Jeannette High School in Pennsylvania, the athletic quarterback has generated huge expectations.  After a slow start last season, Pryor finished strong and capped his season off as the Rose Bowl MVP.  If he can continue to build from that and keep his Buckeyes in the National Title hunt, Pryor will get plenty of looks from Heisman voters this fall.

5.  Jacquizz Rodgers (Running Back/Oregon State):  Rodgers blew up last year, accounting for 1,440 yards rushing with 21 touchdowns, and he added another 522 yards receiving.  It also helps that Oregon State has consistently been in the thick of the Pac 10 title the past couple of years.  2010 should be no different, and Rodgers will be a key reason why.  Expect another huge year from the versatile running back, and he will have several opportunities to shine on national television, with games against TCU, Boise State, USC and the Civil War game against rival Oregon to finish the season.

6.  John Clay (Running Back/Wisconsin):  Unless you follow the Big Ten, there is a good chance you have overlooked the big back for the Badgers.  Last season, Clay rushed for over 1,500 yards and an astounding 18 touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards per carry.  Quarterback Scott Tolzien showed a much better command of the offense at season’s end, which will only help Clay in 2010.   If Clay can stay healthy and produce in big games against Ohio State and Iowa this season, he could be the first Badger since Ron Dayne to make the trip to New York.

Others to keep an eye on include: Ryan Mallett (QB/Arkansas);  Christian Ponder (QB/Florida State); Noel Devine (RB/West Virginia); Jacory Harris (QB/Miami); Jake Locker (QB/Washington)