Athlon Sports continues its countdown to the college football season with a look at the top 40 players for 2011 in the Pac-12.
Several factors worked into the criteria for developing the 40 players:
Previous production was weighed, but a heavy emphasis was placed on what we expect will happen in 2011.
In addition to just how good we think a player is, we weighed what impact he will have on his team’s success?
Positional importance – although running backs always produce the stats, we gave linemen a bump in our rankings to show how valuable they are to the team.
Pro potential – how highly-regarded is the player by NFL Draft standards?
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (JR)
2010 stats: 3,338 yards, 32 TD, 8 INT, 453 rush yards, 3 TD
Luck was the most efficient quarterback in the Pac-10 a season ago with a 170.16 QB rating – good for third nationally. He led the team to its first BCS Bowl victory when he ripped apart the ACC champion Virginia Tech Hokies 40-12 in the Orange Bowl. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting. Basically, the only thing Luck could have done better in 2010 was tackle LaMichael James, who rushed for 257 yards in the Cardinal’s only loss of the season. Luck was slated to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft had he decided to come out last spring. But the best amateur football player in the nation is returning to Palo Alto to complete some unfinished business.
2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (JR)
2010 stats: 1,731 yds., 21 TDs, 17 rec., 208 yds., 3 TDs
James solidified his place as one of the top players in college football last year, finishing third in Heisman voting and setting an Oregon single-season record with 1,731 rushing yards. He collected numerous accolades last season, which included the Doak Walker Award (college football’s top running back) and first-team All-American and All-Pac-10 honors. James is not the biggest running back in college football, but he was a workhorse for Oregon, posting eight games of at least 25 carries. He rushed for a season-high 257 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-31 win over Stanford. James was held under 100 yards only twice – at California and in the national title game against Auburn.
3. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (JR)
2010 stats: 111 rec., 1,782 yds., 20 TDs
Dana Holgorsen’s high-powered passing attack transformed Blackmon from a relative unknown to one of the top players in college football last year. Blackmon caught at least one touchdown and went over 100 receiving yards in every game last year. He led the nation with 20 touchdown catches, which also ranked seventh in NCAA history. Also, Blackmon led all receivers with 148.5 receiving yards a game and posted six games of at least 10 receptions. Blackmon was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, finished fifth in Heisman voting and claimed the Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver in college football last season.
4. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (SR)
2010 stats: 3,845 yds., 35 TDs, 6 INTs
Moore has compiled an impressive resume in his three years at Boise State. He has thrown for 10,867 yards and 99 scores, while tossing only 19 interceptions. Moore owns a 68.2 career completion percentage and enters 2011 as college football’s career leader in passing efficiency (166.7). He finished fourth in Heisman voting and earned first-team All-WAC honors last year. Moore has one more shot to lead Boise State to a national title appearance, but lost his top two receivers from last year in Titus Young and Austin Pettis. The season opener against Georgia will be a key contest for Moore’s Heisman hopes, as well as Boise State’s chances to play for a championship.
5. Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska (SR)
2010 stats: 70 tackles, 17 TFL, 9.5 sacks, 10 QBH, 1 FF
Even without Ndamukong Suh by his side, Crick remained one of college football’s top defensive tackles last year. He has started 28 consecutive games, while collecting 32 tackles for a loss and 19 sacks in his career. Crick has earned first-team all-conference honors in each of the last two years and was a semifinalist for the 2010 Lombardi Award. He was a key reason why Nebraska ranked 11th in total defense and allowed only 17.4 points per game last season.
6. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma (SR)
2010 stats: 131 rec., 1,622 yds., 14 TDs
Broyles returns for his senior year in Norman after a record-setting 2010 campaign. He set nine Oklahoma school records, which included most receptions in a season and career, career touchdown receptions, receptions in a game and career receiving yards. Broyles led all receivers in college football with 131 catches and tied for fourth nationally with 14 touchdown receptions. He was also a Biletnikoff finalist and earned first-team All-Big 12 honors last season.
7.Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor (JR)
2010 Stats: 3,501 yards, 22 TD, 8 INT, 635 rush yards, 8 TDs
There may not be a more valuable player to his team than Robert Griffin III. RG3 finished the season sixth nationally in total offense (318.15 ypg) and led the Bears to a bowl game for the first time since 1994. It was the first non-losing season in conference play for Baylor since 1995, and Griffin helped the Bears beat in-state rival Texas for the first time in 14 years.
8. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (JR)
2010 stats: 4,718 yds., 38 TDs, 12 INTs
There were some doubts about whether or not Jones could lead the Sooners to a Big 12 title entering last season. However, Jones answered the critics with a solid 2010 season and has Oklahoma on the verge of making a run at the national title. After throwing 14 picks on 449 attempts in 2009, Jones cut his interceptions to 12 on 617 attempts last season. Jones struggled on the road as a freshman, but tossed four touchdowns and threw for 468 yards at Oklahoma State and sliced Nebraska’s secondary for 342 yards in the Big 12 title game.
9. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (SR)
2010 Stats: 4,277 yards, 34 TD, 13 INTs
Weeden blossomed into a star in his first year as the starting quarterback at Oklahoma State. He quickly developed a deadly rapport with star wideout Justin Blackmon, leading the Pokes to the its first 11-win season in school history. The 11-2 record was the best in Stillwater since the Barry Sanders days of 1988.
10. Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina (JR)
2010 stats: 88 rec., 1,517 yds., 9 TDs
Jeffery has emerged as one of the nation’s best receivers over the last two seasons. He posted a solid freshman year, catching 46 passes for 763 yards and six scores. He followed that up with a monster sophomore effort, leading the SEC in receptions (88) and receiving yards (1,517). Jeffery’s 88 catches tied for 13th nationally. He posted eight 100-yard games last year, including 127 against Alabama and 130 against Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. At 6-foot-4, Jeffery has the size and athletic ability to be a handful for any defensive back.
11. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (SO)
2010 stats: 1,197 yards, 17 TD, 29 rec., 412 yards, 2 TD
Few running backs have ever impacted the game as a true freshman like Lattimore did in 2010. He literally carried South Carolina to victory over Georgia (37 attempts), Alabama (23), Tennessee (29) and Florida (40), while leading the Gamecocks to a SEC East title for the first time in school history. He was the unanimous choice for National Freshman of the Year.
12. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (JR)
2010 stats: 2,570 yds., 18 TDs, 11 INTs, 1,702 rush yds., 14 TDs
It’s a safe bet Robinson will be one of the most-watched players in the Big Ten this year. Michigan is shifting from a spread attack to a pro-style offense under new coordinator Al Borges. Although Robinson is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in college football, Borges and new coach Brady Hoke wants to keep him on the field all year. Robinson missed snaps due to injuries in 10 of Michigan’s 13 contests, which is something the Wolverines cannot afford in 2011. Robinson was named the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year and finished sixth in Heisman voting last season. He also became the first player in NCAA history to post at least 2,500 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards in a single year.
13. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (JR)
2010 stats: 700 yds., 6 TDs, 23 rec., 266 yds., 4 TDs
Richardson has spent the last two years as a backup to Mark Ingram, but he’s tallied 257 carries during that span. With Ingram suiting up for the New Orleans Saints, Richardson will takeover as Alabama’s No. 1 back. Over the last two years, Richardson has posted 1,451 yards and 14 scores. He also has 39 receptions for 392 yards and four scores. One of Richardson’s best performances came in the national title game against Texas, rushing for 109 yards and two scores.
14. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama (JR)
After a freshman All-American season in 2009, Jones garnered first-team All-SEC and third-team All-American honors in 2010. In his second season at right guard, he helped lead the No. 22 ranked offense in the nation at 444.15 yards per game. He has started 25 games at right guard, but could be moved around the line this year. Jones also helped quarterback Greg McElroy post the fourth-most efficient season in the nation (168.98).
15. Matt Reynolds, OT, BYU (SR)
Reynolds enters his senior year as one of the NFL Draft's top tackle prospects. He has started every game in his BYU career and was a first-team All-Mountain West selection last year. Reynolds is an Athlon Sports preseason first-team All-American for 2011 and will anchor one of the nation's top 10 offensive lines.
16. Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame (SR)
2010 stats: 79 rec., 1,025 yds., 12 TDs
If Floyd can stay healthy and avoid off-the-field issues, he should finish 2011 as one of the top receivers in the nation. The senior is an Athlon Sports preseason second-team All-American and will have a chance to improve upon last season's totals. Floyd is a top NFL Draft prospect and figures to be targeted heavily by quarterback Dayne Crist.
17. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame (JR)
2010 stats: 133 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FF
The Irish defense played well in the final four games of last season, allowing only 39 points during that stretch. Te'o has started 23 games in his career, while registering 196 total stops, two sacks and one forced fumble. Te'o is an Athlon Sports preseason first-team All-American for 2011 and should be one of the driving forces behind a much-improved Notre Dame defense.
18. Nate Potter, OT, Boise State (SR)
Potter enters 2011 as one of the top linemen in the nation. The senior is an Athlon Sports preseason first-team All-American. Potter started 13 games at left tackle and earned first-team All-WAC honors last season. He also garnered first-team honors in 2009, after starting the final eight games of the year. Potter is the unquestioned leader for Boise State’s offensive line, which is one of the top units in college football. At 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, Potter has the size and talent to be one of the first linemen selected in the 2012 NFL Draft.
19. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford (JR)
Under Jim Harbaugh, Stanford quickly established itself as one of the most physical teams in the nation. Along with fellow Cardinal hog mollies Chase Beeler and David DeCastro, Martin earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors last year. The Stanford offense ranked no worse than 2nd in the Pac-10 in total, scoring, rushing and pass efficiency offense, along with sacks allowed. The 0.46 sacks allowed per game were good for second nationally to only Air Force - who attempted 211 fewer pass attempts (379 to 168).
20. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College (JR)
2010 stats: 183 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 3 INT, 2 FF
After leading the nation with over 14 stops per game, Kuechly finished as the runner-up for the Butkus Award (college football’s best linebacker). He set the Boston College single-season tackles record with 183 last fall and enters the season eighth all-time in school history (341 total tackles in only two seasons). The ACC Rookie of the Year in 2009 is a two-time All-ACC pick and was a AP All-American in 2010. The Eagles finished No. 1 in the ACC in total defense and rushing defense last year.
21. Levy Adcock, OT, Oklahoma State (SR)
The best returning offensive lineman in the Big 12 helped lead the nation’s No. 3 total offense at over 520 yards per game. The Pokes also finished third in the nation in scoring offense at nearly 45 points per game. And Adcock protected the team’s most valuable asset, quarterback Brandon Weeden, by anchoring the line which led the Big 12 in sacks allowed at a measly 0.77 per game.
22. Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma (SR)
2010 stats: 109 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 3 INT, 1.5 sacks
Lewis has led the Sooners in tackles three consecutive years, entering 2011 with 362 total stops on his resume. He has topped 100 tackles in each of his three seasons in Crimson and Cream. Lewis has played in every game in his career and helped the Sooners to a 32-9 mark over that span – including two 12-2 campaigns.
23. Dan Persa, QB, Northwestern (SR)
2010 stats: 2,581 yds., 15 TDs, 4 INTs, 519 yds., 9 TDs
Just how valuable is Persa to Northwestern? With him in the lineup, the Wildcats went 7-3. Without Persa, Northwestern was 0-3. An Achilles injury against Iowa forced Persa to miss the final three games of last year, but he is expected to be 100 percent in time for the season opener. Persa earned second-team All-Big Ten honors last year and set a conference record for completion percentage (73.5). He also finished ninth nationally in passing efficiency (159.04) and ranked second in the Big Ten in total offense with 310 yards per game.
24. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (SR)
2010 stats: 3,563 yards, 28 TDs, 14 INTs, 435 rush yards, 9 TDs
All Wilson did last season for NC State was lead the ACC in total offense at 307.54 yards per game. The All-ACC performer scored at least three touchdowns in seven different games and topped 300-yards passing in seven games as well. Shifting to Madison, the offense will obviously be a more run-oriented attack, however, Paul Chryst has proven he will let his quarterbacks throw it around.
25. Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M (SR)
2010 Stats: 72 rec., 1,066 yards, 12 TDs
Fuller, shockingly, produced the first-ever 1,000-yard receiving season in Texas A&M history in 2010. He basically set every major single-season receiving record a year ago and has a rare blend of size and speed. Fuller topped the 150-yard mark in three games last season and scored multiple touchdowns in four games.
26.Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina (SR)
2010 stats: 59 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 10 sacks, 2 FF, 12 QB hurries
Coples played a bit out of position in 2010, as he was shifted inside to man the interior of the defensive line. However, he still managed to post solid numbers (10 sacks) from a position that normally does not see that type of production in getting after the quarterback. He also finished strong down the stretch with sacks in five of his last six games. He was a first-team defensive tackle All-ACC selection last year.
27. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State (JR)
2010 stats: 90 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 2 FF
Burfict has turned in two solid years at Arizona State, but there’s still plenty of room to grow. He has tallied 159 tackles in his career, while forcing four fumbles and picking up two sacks. Burfict earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors last season. The junior is one of college football’s ferocious hitters, but needs to do a better job of keeping his emotions in check. Burfict has collected some bad personal fouls during his career and if he can eliminate those mistakes, he could be one of the top defenders in college football.
28. Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State (SR)
The All-American center helped lead the Buckeyes to 220.1 rushing yards per game last fall, good for 14th nationally. Brewster also helped Ohio State rank 11th overall scoring offense at 38.8 points per game, which also placed second in the Big Ten. Brewster and the offensive line pushed the Buckeyes to a 12-win season (including the first bowl win over an SEC team in school history).
29. Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech (JR)
2010 stats: 39 tackles, 9 INT, 8 PBU
Hosley led the nation in interceptions last fall with nine (returned for 110 yards) – including a breakout performance against NC State with three picks off All-ACC signal caller Russell Wilson. The nine interceptions tied a single-season school record. He also contributed in a big way as a dynamic punt return man: 19 attempts, 239 yards, 1 TD. An AP first-team All-American and easy first-team All-ACC pick, Hokie fans won’t have to worry about passes thrown to Hosley’s side of the field.
30. Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska (SR)
2010 stats: 152 tackles, 15 TFL, 6 sacks, 10 PBU
Coaches never know what to expect from JUCO transfers, but David was an instant impact player for Nebraska last year. He collected 152 tackles (a Nebraska single-season record) last season, which also ranked third in the nation behind Boston College’s Luke Kuechly and Washington’s Mason Foster. David posted eight games with at least 10 tackles and earned Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year honors.
31. Matt Barkley, QB, USC (JR)
2010 stats: 2,791 passing yards., 26 TDs, 12 INTs
Barkley came to USC as the No. 1 prospect in the 2009 recruiting class. Although he has been solid, the knock on Barkley has been his turnovers. Over the last two years, he has thrown 26 interceptions, which has to improve if he wants to take the next step in his development as an elite quarterback. An ankle injury at the end of last year hindered Barkley’s progress, as he only mustered 273 passing yards over the final three games.
32. Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State (SR)
Adams is slated to miss the first five games of the season thanks to an NCAA suspension. However, his inclusion on these rankings is a testament to his sheer talent. He was one of only three Big Ten linemen to receive first-team All-Big Ten honors from both the coaches and the media, and the other two were All-Americans. The Buckeyes’ running attack ranked 14th in the nation last season, averaging more than 220 yards per game.
33. Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon (JR)
2010 stats: 2,881 yards, 30 TDs, 9 INT, 486 rush yards, 5 TDs
Entering the fall of 2010, Oregon fans were unsure of what they had under center with Darron Thomas. Everyone knows about Thomas after a 117-yard rushing effort against Stanford, a 288-yard, 4-TD passing game against USC and the first undefeated regular season in Oregon’s modern history. His 150.97 QB rating trailed only Andrew Luck in efficiency in the Pac-10.
34. David DeCastro, OG, Stanford (JR)
This is going to sound familiar: Under Jim Harbaugh, Stanford quickly established itself as one of the nation's most physical offensive lines. Along with fellow Cardinal hog mollies Chase Beeler and Jonathan Martin, DeCastro earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors last year. The Stanford offense ranked no worse than 2nd in the league in total, rushing, scoring and pass efficiency offense, along with sacks allowed. The 0.46 sacks allowed per game were good for second nationally to only Air Force - who attempted 211 fewer pass attempts (379 to 168).
35. Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
2010 stats: 46 tackles, 13 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 11 QB hurries
After a breakout sophomore year, Taylor is poised to take his game to the next level. He led the Gamecocks with 13 tackles for a loss and finished behind Melvin Ingram for the team lead in sacks. Taylor was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week, after scoring on an interception return against Tennessee and recovering two fumbles. He earned second-team All-SEC honors last season.
36. Mark Barron, S, Alabama (SR)
2010 stats: 75 tackles, 3 INT, 3 TFL, 2 sacks
Barron led the Crimson Tide in tackles in 2010, as Alabama led the SEC in total, scoring and pass efficiency defense. The 13.5 points allowed per game ranked third nationally, while the 286.38 yards per game ended up fifth nationally. He earned first-team All-SEC honors by both the media and the coaches.
37. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (SO)
2010 stats: 3,049 yards, 24 TDs, 8 INT, 167 rush yards, 4 TDs
In only his first season on a college gridiron, Murray finished 14th nationally with an incredibly impressive 154.48 rating in passer efficiency. In one of the best seasons by SEC freshman quarterback, Murray finished with a flurry of production in the final four weeks of the regular season. He threw three touchdowns in each of the final four games and averaged 271 yards per game over that span.
38. Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
2010 stats: 69 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 9 QB hurries
Hightower shook off the rust from a torn ACL in 2009 to earn second-team All-SEC honors last year. He ranked second on the team with 69 tackles and seemed to play his best football as the season progressed. Hightower will man the weakside spot in Alabama’s 3-4 scheme and should be one of the leaders for one of the top defenses in college football.
39. Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State (JR)
2010 stats: 63 tackles, 21.5 TFL, 13.5 sacks, 2 FF
After registering only 12 tackles in 2009, Jenkins was one of the driving forces behind Florida State’s defensive improvement last year. The Seminoles generated 25 sacks in 2010, but tied for the national lead with 48 last season. Coordinator Mark Stoops deserves credit for the turnaround, but Jenkins’ emergence was also key. He ranked second in the ACC with 13.5 sacks – which ranked No. 5 for most in a single season at Florida State – and earned first-team All-ACC honors for his 2010 performance.
40. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon (JR)
2010 stats: 33 tackles, 6 INTs, 17 PBU, 18.8 yards per punt return, 4 TDs
Harris was spectacular in his first year as a starter. He became one of the nation’s rising stars at corner, picking off six passes and leading all defensive backs 23 passes defended. Harris took one of his interceptions back for a score against Tennessee and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors.
41. Juron Criner, WR, Arizona (SR)
2010 stats: 82 receptions, 1,233 yards, 11 TDs
Criner emerged as one of the top receivers in college football last year. He posted career-bests in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns, while earning first-team All-Pac-10 honors. Criner averaged 15 yards a catch and led all Pac-10 receivers in receptions and receiving yards per game.
42. Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas (SR)
2010 stats: 32 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 7 sacks
As a junior, the 6-foot-5 270-pound blue collar defensive end earned second-team All-SEC honors. Bequette helped lead the SEC’s No. 2 pass rush a year ago as the Hogs averaged 2.85 sacks per game – good for ninth nationally. He led Arkansas in sacks and finished fifth in the SEC. He has played in all 38 of his career games in Fayetteville.
43. Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina (JR)
2010 stats: 79 tackles, 6 TFL, 3 sacks, 3 INTs, 2 PBU
After a standout freshman campaign, Gilmore had an up-and-down sophomore year. Despite going through some growing pains, Gilmore earned first-team All-SEC honors. He also led the team in tackles (79) and interceptions (three). One of Gilmore's three interceptions was returned for an 80-yard score against Furman.
44. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama (JR)
2010 stats: 53 tackles, 3 INT, 4 TFL
Kirkpatrick excelled in his first full season as the starter. He finished fifth on the team in tackles and second in interceptions, as his outstanding length and raw physical talent continued to develop. Along with some talented Alabama teammates, Kirkpatrick helped lead the SEC’s top pass efficiency, total and scoring defense in 2010.
45. Tank Carder, LB, TCU (SR)
2010 stats: 60 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 5 PBU
The 2011 Rose Bowl gave the national audience a chance to see what everyone in the Mountain West already knew – Carder is one of the top defensive players in college football. Against Wisconsin, Carder collected six tackles and one sack, while breaking up a key two-point conversion late in the game. He was named the 2011 Rose Bowl Defensive MVP for his performance against the Badgers. Carder earned first-team All-Mountain West honors and was named the conference’s defensive player of the year last season. He is an Athlon Sports preseason second-team All-American for 2011.
46. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford (JR)
2010 stats: 84 total tackles, 10.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 2 FF
The heady leader of the defense actually led the Cardinal in sacks per game, finishing third in the league with 0.59 per contest. Despite missing the first two games of the season, Skov still finished second on the team in total sacks and tackles for a loss. His sophomore season was capped by a stellar performance in the Cardinal’s first ever BCS bowl win. Skov posted 12 total tackles (eight solos), four tackles for a loss and three sacks.
47. Billy Winn, DT, Boise State (SR)
2010 stats: 28 tackles, 4 sacks, 9.5 TFL, 1 FF
The overall numbers aren’t particularly overwhelming for Winn, but his impact goes beyond the stats. Winn is one of college football’s top defensive tackles and is an Athlon Sports’ preseason first-team All-American. He earned back-to-back second-team All-WAC honors in 2009 and 2010, but should be one of the top defenders in the Mountain West this season. Winn is generating a lot of interest from NFL scouts and could be a first-round pick in the 2012 draft.
48.Kenny Tate, LB, Maryland (SR)
2010 stats: 100 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3 INT (TD), 3.5 sacks, 4 FF
Entering his senior season, Tate is facing a change in roles as he transitions from free safety to the “Star” position – a hybrid linebacker/safety spot. He led the Terps in solo tackles a year ago (58) and was second in total stops (100) – becoming the first defensive back to reach 100 tackles since Tony Jackson in 2000. He led the ACC in forced fumbles per game, while leading a secondary that ranked No. 9 nationally in efficiency defense.
49. T.J. McDonald, S, USC (JR)
2010 stats: 89 total tackles, 3 TFL, 3 INT, 1 sack, Blk kick
McDonald led the Trojans in the tackles a year ago and was second on the team with three interceptions as only a sophomore – and without playing the final game of the season. In a 34-33 win over Arizona State, McDonald posted arguably his best career game when he made 13 total tackles, including 10 solos, to go with a key blocked kick.
50. Case Keenum, QB, Houston (SR)
2010 stats: 636 yds., 5 TDs, 5 INTs
A torn ACL in the third game ended Keenum’s 2010 season prematurely. However, he was granted an additional year of eligibility and has a shot to make NCAA history. Keenum needs 3,487 yards to break Timmy Chang’s FBS record for most passing yards in a career. Considering Keenum has thrown for over 5,000 yards in his two full years as the starter, he should easily surpass Chang’s total. Houston may bring the senior along slowly due to his knee injury last year. However, Keenum should have the Cougars back into Conference USA title contention.