12 July 2011

The Best College Football Players You've Never Heard Of, 2011 Edition

These guys will not win the Heisman Trophy. Their plays won't be broken down by Kirk Herbstreit or Gary Danielson. They won't be interviewed by Erin Andrews. But the players here are pretty damn good and are names you should know despite the fact they don't play for a big time program. Here are some of the great unheralded players in college football.

Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky
Wondering who led the nation in carries a year ago? That would be the man pictured above, Mr. Rainey. Rainey carried the rock 340 times for 1,649 yards, third best in college football, and 15 touchdowns. This senior has been carrying the load for the Hilltoppers as they have been working on adjusting to the FBS level. Led by Rainey, plus head coach Willie Taggart who coached Toby Gerhart at Stanford, this is a team that should take a major step forward and getting to .500 in the Sun Belt is a realistic goal.

G.J. Kinne, QB, Tulsa
Conference-USA is known for having terrific quarterback play and Kinne is no exception. He has piloted the prolific Golden Hurricane no-huddle spread attack for the past two seasons to great success, leading to a 10 win season last year, a  No. 24 ranking in the final AP poll, and head coach Todd Graham getting hired by Pittsburgh. There should be no slowing Kinne down this year, even with a new coach and offensive coordinator (Gus Malzahn protege Chad Morris was hired by Clemson).

Dominique Davis, QB, East Carolina
This Boston College transfer only joined the Pirates in the fall but had a spectacular season under new head coach Ruffin McNeill. Davis threw for 37 touchdowns and almost 4,000 yards in a system just like what Mike Leach ran at Texas Tech. What is even more incredible that he led ECU to a bowl despite the worst defense in the nation last year. Imagine what he can accomplish with a full year in Greenville.

Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
Now I know that Tuel plays for a program in a BCS conference but the Cougars have been the worst BCS program over the past three years. That is not a reflection on Tuel, who has play tremendously in the Palouse despite playing with very little talent. Some are comparing him to Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf (as a collegiate player, not a douchy bust). He has a really good arm and is extremely tough. Tuel and Marquess Wilson looks like the most underrated QB-WR combo in the PAC-12.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Florida International
Hilton is probably the most electrifying player on this list. From the moment he stepped foot on the FIU campus he has been a ray of hope thanks to his game-breaking skills. Now as this program, coming off a bowl victory in their first appearance, looks to make a bigger dent in the Sun Belt sphere, look for this kid to start to get the detention he deserves.

Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State
Hillman was awesome last year as he and quarterback Ryan Lindley led the Aztecs to their first bowl victory in forty years. He looks to be in the footsteps of former Aztec great Marshall Faulk, although he isn't on his level as a player. As a freshman last year, Hillman rushed for 1,532 yards on 262 carries with 17 touchdowns. Imagine what he can accomplish as a sophomore.

Jonathan Massaquoi, DE, Troy
When talking about the Trojans, nobody ever talks about their defense and why would they about a defense that ranked 89th in the nation last year. And that's a shame because one of the better pass rushers plays on it. Massaquoi tied for third in the nation with 13.5 sacks as a sophomore despite the fact that their was a lack of production and solid play from the rest of the line. It's not a stretch that he leads the nation in sacks.

Ladarius Green, TE, Louisiana Lafayette
Wondering who the best tight end in the nation was last year? Well this Ragin' Cajun made a certainly strong case as he led the land in five receiving categories among tight ends despite the fact that the team struggled to find a consistent starter at the quarterback position. Now as he is a senior and a strong passing game coach was hired in Mark Hudspeth, he should be in strong consideration for the John Mackey Award.

Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois
The Huskies has another terrific season last year as they reached 11 victories behind the arm of Harnish, who has a tremendous TD-INT ratio in 21-5. The experienced Harnish should have NIU toward the MAC elite despite a new coach in Dave Doeren.

Eric Page, WR, Toledo
Page gives Hilton a run for his money as for who the most explosive player on this list is as he may be the best kick returner in the land. Plus, he's a really good wideout who caught 99 balls for 1,105 yards despite always getting extra coverage. Not to mention the fact that the Rockets have two solid QB's to pick from to get him the ball so this former QB should be putting up gaudy numbers once again. 

There are obviously many more great unheralded players in the world of college football and if there is anybody you feel that got slighted, say so in a comment below.

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