Editor's note: Don't miss out on winners all year long in Phil Steele's season pack!
Top Individual Units: RUNNING BACKS
1. USC -4th string RB Chauncey Washington (PS#12) would start for most teams in the NCAA. Pete Carroll has two of the top backs in the country in Reggie Bush and LenDale White both, of whom will be high #1 DC’s. Put either of these backs on a team by themselves and they are the Heisman frontrunners but they must share the load with each other and Leinhart.
2. Oklahoma -The Sooners were an average rushing team in 2003 but added PS#1 Adrian Peterson and he nearly won the Heisman as a true frosh rushing for 1,925 yards (5.7) with 15 TD’s. He is backed by Kejuan Jones who has 1,438 yards rushing the last 2 years and Donta Hickson (PS#12). Stoops says FB JD Runnels should have been on the All Big 12 team.
3. LSU -Amazing depth. Who will be the feature back? Justin Vincent (PS#9) was the MVP of the SEC Title game and the Sugar Bowl in 2003 topping 1,000 yards as a frosh. He was #3 RB at the end of last year. Alley Broussard (PS#8) had 867 yards (6.1), Joseph Addai (PS#17) had 680 yards (6.7) and Shyrone Carey (PS#22) has 450 in 2 years.
4. Georgia -Kregg Lumpkin (PS#3) rushed for 523 yards as a true frosh in 2003 but missed all of 2004. Danny Ware stepped in and rushed for 692 yards in 8 starts as a true frosh but then was injured. Thomas Brown (PS#3) only had 3 starts but led the team with 875 yards as a true frosh.
5. Memphis -DeAngelo Williams is 217 lbs with 4.24 speed and has rushed for 1,430 yards (5.9) and 1,948 (6.2) the last 2 years. He will be running behind an inexperienced line and teams can key on him more with a new QB. He is one of the top backs this year but the Tigers’ depth is not as good as the teams listed above.
6. Florida St -On how many teams would a PS#1 RB in Lorenzo Booker who rushed for 887 yards in 2004 be the backup? Leon Washington (PS#8WR) missed two games last year but still rushed for 951 yards and 6.9 ypc. 3rd string is PS#5 Jamaal Edwards who played in 5 games as a true and they add in 2 more VHT’s this year.
7. Minnesota -Gophers may have been right at the top of this list had Marion Barber not decided to turn pro a year early. The Maroney-Barber combo rushed for 1,348 and 1,269 yards last year respectively. Maroney is 205 lbs with 4.4 speed. The big question is who will be the #2 man this year?
8. Michigan -The Wolves’ RB’s may be vertically challenged as starter Michael Hart is 5-9 yet taller than true frosh Kevin Grady (PS#2) who is listed as 5-11. That has nothing to do with the talent and running the ball however and Hart rushed for 1,455 yards (5.2) as a true frosh. He will have to fend off Grady while adding depth is Max Martin (PS#21) and Jerome Jackson (PS#31).
9. Tennessee -Gerald Riggs (PS#3) was part of a great class of VHT RB’s but has had to share time in his career. He still managed to rush for 1,107 yards (5.7) in just 3 starts last year but is the top guy this year. Ja’Kouri Williams (PS#15) and true frosh LaMarcus Coker (PS#18) add depth.
10. California -Marshawn Lynch may have been last year’s top true frosh RB if he was a starter. He averaged a scintillating 8.8 ypc rushing when called on (628 yards). Last year’s starter JJ Arrington simply led the NCAA with 2,018 yards and Lynch has a shot at that type of season.
11. North Texas -NEVER in the history of college football has one team returned two NCAA rushing champs (ypg) in the same season but the Eagles have that luxury this year. Patrick Cobbs rushed for 1,680 yards in 2003 and after he was injured last year, Jamario Thomas had 1,801 yards in just 8 starts! Both are back for 2005.
12. Nebraska T-he Huskers were a regular in the RB Top 10 for years but even though they are now in a pass oriented offense, they still have a quality unit. Cory Ross (PS#33) rushed for 1,102 yards (5.3) and added 21 rec’s in 2004. Backup Brandon Jackson is 220 lbs with 4.38 speed. They add two VHT true frosh in Marlon Lucky (PS#3) and Leon Jackson (PS#8DB).
13. Arizona -Mike Bell (PS#9) gets bigger and stronger each year without losing speed and rushed for 950 yards on a rebuilding team last year. He ran with more power in the spring. Backup Chris Henry is 230 lbs but has 4.3 speed.
14. Houston -Anthony Evans (PS#28) topped 1,000 yards in 2003. In an injury plagued 2004, he played in 8 games and was not 100% but rushed for 788. Ryan Gilbert (PS#39) is an LSU transfer that adds depth along with Jackie Battle (769 yds, in 2 yrs).
15. Georgia Tech -PJ Daniels is a walk on who will soon be walking on to an NFL playing field. He had 1,447 yards in 2003 and 714 last year despite injuries which limited him to 7 starts. Rashaun Grant (PS#15) had 425 rush as a frosh and they add in Oklahoma transfer Tashard Choice.
17. Mississippi St
Top Individual Units: RECEIVERS
1. USC Last year this group was young and had the Mike Williams situation hanging over them. They then lost top WR Steve Smith (PS#3) for 5 games but he still had 42 rec’s. Dwayne Jarrett (PS#4) led the team with 55 rec’s and both return as does Whitney Lewis (PS#2) who redshirted. While they lose their starting TE, last year’s backup Dominique Byrd (PS#3) had 37 rec’s. A very talented group and now experienced.
2. Ohio St Ted Ginn Jr, with his 4.22 speed, is one of the most explosive players in the NCAA and only had 6 starts last year. Santonio Holmes had 55 rec in 2004 and vying for time are Roy Hall (PS#15) and Anthony Gonzalez (PS#25) who has 4.37 speed. They have 3 VHT TE’s backing up Ryan Hamby who is NFL caliber.
3. Arizona St Derek Hagan has gotten bigger, stronger and most importantly faster and is now one of the top prospects for next year’s draft at WR. He had 83 rec’s last year. Terry Richardson (PS#38) had 45 rec’s and has a solid 38” VL. TE Zach Miller (PS#1) has lived up to his VHT billing and had 56 rec’s as a true FROSH last year!
4. Purdue The Boilermaker WR’s used to get a lot of catches as a product of the offensive system. They will do so again but now have very talented WR’s as well. Dorien Bryant (PS#11) is on the Purdue track team and had 38 rec. Kyle Ingraham at 6-9 gives matchup problems to opposing DB’s. Ray Williams is 6-2 and also runs on the Purdue 4x100 relay team while TE Charles Davis who had 34 rec’s also plays on the basketball team.
5. Miami, Fl Looking at the top 3 returning rec’s from 2004, this group does not look like much with just 21, 20 and 17 rec’s. Ryan Moore (PS#2) had 44 rec in 2003 but missed most of last year. Lance Leggett (PS#11) avg 20.5 ypc as a true frosh. 3rd string WR’s Devin Hester and Akieem Jolla (PS#5) are dangerous. New TE Greg Olsen was PS#1 and is a ND transfer. They are more dangerous than the stats show.
6. Florida Andre Caldwell (PS#1) had 43 rec as a soph, Chad Jackson (PS#4) had 29 and Dallas Baker is 6-3 with good speed and added 26 rec’s. Backup Jemalle Cornelius (PS#14) could start for most teams and TE Tate Casey (PS#9) had 4 sts as a true.
7. Texas Tech Much like Purdue above, TT’s receiving corps gets more athletically talented each year. Jarrett Hicks is 6-4 and was 1st team B12 last year. Solid talent returns and they get 3 quality additions in Marquis Johnson (PS#3), Robert Johnson (PS#12JC), who moves in from QB and Anthony Jenkins (PS#38).
8. Michigan St If you look at the three deep of the Spartans on pg 66, you will note they have 7 VHT’s and 2 near VHT’s in their receiving corps. They are very experienced with 6 players back with starting experience and 5 of them have 50 plus career receptions.
9. Michigan Yes, Braylon Edwards is gone but Steve Breaston, who had a huge Rose Bowl, was only able to start 4 games last year but is now 100% healthy. He should have a big year. Jason Avant (PS#10), Carl Tabb (PS#12) and Doug Dutch (PS#14) will vie for playing time at WR and they have 4 VHT’s at the TE spots.
10. Notre Dame You normally don’t see the Irish in the Top 25 of receivers but this year is different. Rhema McKnight (PS#9) has more rec’s than any Irish player has had in his first 2 years (89). Maurice Stovall (PS#4) is 6-5 but runs the 60M on the indoor track team! ND TE’s are known for their blocking but Anthony Fasano (PS#8) had 27 rec in ‘04.
11. LSU The Tigers have 7 VHT’s in their 3 deep including PS#1 and PS#2 WR’s from last year that played as true frosh. That shows the talent and they are experienced with the top 13 rec’s from last year all back. Xavier Carter (PS#2), who is 6-2 and takes part in the NCAA track championships as a sprinter, is currently 3rd string!
12. Oregon Demetrius Williams led the team with 47 rec last year despite battling turf toe. TE Tim Day has 58 rec in 2 yrs and is my #6 rated TE in the country. Cameron Colvin (PS#6) did not get going as a true frosh til the end of the year and should have a bigger impact. They add in PS#1JC James Finley.
13. Oregon St The top 4 rec’s from 2004 return including my #7 rated WR this year in Mike Hass and my #4 rated TE Joe Newton. Anthony Wheat-Brown had 30 rec’s until a suspension and is back plus they add in PS#17JC Ruben Jackson.
14. Auburn The Tigers basically return their entire receiving corps from 2004’s undefeated team. With 6 VHT’s, this unit is not only experienced but loaded with talent including this year’s frosh.Top WR Courtney Taylor avg 17.1 ypc and Devin Aromashodu 21.4.
15. NC State Last year the rec totals dropped dramatically for the Wolfpack WR’s as their young QB’s struggled to replace Philip Rivers. Tremaine Hall had 69 rec in 2003 and just 28 last year. This is a very talented group and with a more experienced QB they will be a force once again.
The rest of the Top 25:
22. Texas A&M
24. Washington St