Stefphon Jefferson – RB Nevada:
Be honest, how many of you out there in cyberspace have heard of this guy? Well, you should! Stefphon Jefferson, the Nevada Wolf Pack running back, leads all of FBS in rushing. He has more yards on the ground then more household names like Montee Ball, Le’Veon Bell, Ka’Deem Carey, and Kenjon Barner.
Jefferson, a junior, leads the FBS in the following categories: rushing attempts (290), attempts per game (29.0), and average yards per game (143.60). He ranks second in the FBS in TDs with 19 and he is third in the nation in rush yards with 1,436.
Some may say that Nevada is just a purely rushing team so Jefferson has inflated numbers. That couldn;t be further from the truth. In fact, Nevada ranks second in the MWC in passing offense. Cody Fajardo is quite exceptional as a passer. No, the real answer is Jefferson has become a vital cog in the Wolf Pack arsenal!
In 2011, Jefferson only had 70 rushing attempts good for 429 yards and 5 scores. He was only a sophomore then, and he was relegated to few carries as he sat behind seniors Lampford Mark and Mike Ball.
So, at the start of the 2012 season, not much was known about this young running back from Visalia, CA. I would say Jefferson compares favorably to another running back that those in the Big Ten might be familiar with, Venric Mark. Now that Jefferson has burst onto the scene, he is likely to be reckoned with as one of the best rushers not only in the MWC, but also in the country.
Matt McGloin – QB Penn State:
Being a Nittany Lions fan, I have seen him play every single game of his college career. While I still label him as extremely immobile and lacking some vision down field, he has become significantly better under one year of Bill O’Brien’s tutelage. McGloin has gone from a mediocre Big Ten quarterback to one of its best. Matt leads the Big Ten in passing yards per game with 267.6 ypg while also being only one of five QB’s in the Big Ten to have a completion percentage of 60% or better (60.7%). McGloin also leads the Big Ten in passing yards (2,676), TD passes (19), and completions (229). He has even rushed for a team-leading 5 scores!
I highly doubt that any of these individual stats would have been possible under the previous regime. Coach O’Brien has opened up the offense, and placed more responsibility on McGLoin’s shoulders, and he hasn’t disappointed. For a team that many thought would be lucky to win 2-3 games all year, Penn State is one win shy of clinching a winning season. This is in no small way due to Matt McGloin. Just this week, McGloin was listed as a candidate for the Burlsworth Trophy. This is a relatively new award, but it is given to the top player who began his career as a walk-on (or run-on in the O’Brien lexicon).
Since Matt McGloin got his first start in a prime time affair against Michigan two years ago, he has become vastly improved, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him get an opportunity at the next level!
Johnny Manziel – QB Texas A&M:
How could any list of off-the-radar players not include “Mr. Football” himself? Look, any player that is looking to have his nickname trademarked after his FRESHMAN season, has to be on a list that no one saw coming. Manziel has played out of his mind, all-the-while keeping Texas A&M in the hunt for a BCS bowl in their first season in the SEC West. Last week he led the Aggies to a win over #1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
His numbers are video-game like. In 10 games, he has thrown for 2,780 yards on (227/336 – 67.6% passing). He has thrown 18 touchdowns against only 6 interceptions. As for his running prowess, he leads the team and has 1,014 yards rushing and 15 scores. The only thing missing from his resume is any receiving yards, but if you give him a chance I’m sure he would do well there, too!
Oh, by the way, he will more than likely be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He may even be the first ever freshman to win the award. Yea…I’d say he deserves to be on this list.
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