The popularity and obsession of the big boys in college football - the Power 5 - has continued to rise. But there still are some very elite football players at the second tier of the FBS rankings - the Group of 5. The Group of 5 term refers to players from teams in the Mountain West, Conference USA, MAC, Sun Belt and American Athletic Conference. While the coverage and exposure for teams in these leagues has improved in recent years, plenty of the stars from the Group of 5 conferences fly under the radar each preseason. Who are the names to watch in 2016 as players on the rise in the Group of 5 rankings? Here are five names to know now that spring ball has finished across the nation:
Five MAC Football Players to Know for 2016
Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan
After throwing for 25 touchdowns, 3,848 yards and completing 66 percent of his passes last fall, expectations are high for Rush to lead the Chippewas. He enters 2016 on pace to throw over 10,000 yards for his career, and does a tremendous job of spreading the ball around by having five receivers accumulate over 500 receiving yards last season. Four of those five playmakers return, making it seem that Rush will have another monster year.
Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
The former freshman All-American sure has lived up to the hype since 2013. Davis is the active leading receiver in FBS with 33 career receiving touchdowns and should only increase his targets after All-MAC WR and teammate Daniel Braverman left for the NFL. Also getting back QB Zach Terrell for another year won’t hurt either.
Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo
With two wins over Power 5 teams last year - Arkansas and Iowa State - the Rockets are hungry for more in 2016. They are led by second team all-conference back Kareem Hunt, who rushed for 999 yards despite missing three games to a hamstring injury. The Ohio native has topped the 100-yard rushing mark 21 times in his impressive career. Hunt will eclipse over 4,000 career rushing yards this season and he’s ready to empower “Justice League” to new heights.
Jamal Marcus, DE, Akron
Marcus, an Ohio State transfer, has brought his big-play ability to Akron and it has translated quite well for coach Terry Bowden's defense. Last year he racked up 30 tackles (12.5 tackles for a loss), 5.5 sacks, 12 hurries, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Marcus was a big reason why the Zips ranked third nationally against the run. Expect him to push for All-MAC honors in 2016.
Shawun Lurry, CB, Northern Illinois
Lurry is certainly a known commodity to most around the MAC, but the Florida native deserves more attention on the national level. There aren’t a lot of corners who can cover top receivers on an island, but the 5-foot-8 standout certainly can. After leading the nation in interceptions and having five games in a row with a pick last year, look for Lurry to contend for the Jim Thorpe award this season.
- Written by Lance Dozier