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Group of Five Wild Card Players in 2015

Author:
Kevin Eillson

Kevin Eillson

Every team has one player who, if he steps up and plays to or even above his potential, could be the catalyst for a championship season. The Group of Five teams are no different, as many of them have key players who could be the difference between another season of national obscurity and possibly playing with the big boys to ring in the new year.

Here now are the Wild Card players from the Group of Five:

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American Athletic Conference

Parker Ehinger, OT, Cincinnati

Ehinger is one of two bookend senior tackles on the Bearcat line. He'll be tasked with protecting Gunner Kiel's blindside.

Colton Freeman, C, Houston

The Cougars have high hopes in their first season under new head coach Tom Herman. They'll need their freshman center to play like an upperclassman if 2015 is going to be a success.

Jamir Tillman, WR, Navy

You don't usually think of "elite receivers" when you think of Navy. That said, Tillman is a tough matchup who will give Navy's offense an added deep-ball dimension that could make this offense pretty lethal.

Conference USA

Sandley Jean-Felix, OT, Marshall

The Herd will be working in a new quarterback for the first time in what feels like forever after Rakeem Cato. Protecting him will be key, and Jean-Felix will likely draw that assignment.

Dennis Edwards, C, Western Kentucky

The Hilltoppers are expecting big things from quarterback Brandon Doughty. They'll likely trust a freshman center in Edwards to lead the line in front of him. Like Colton Freeman at Houston, Edwards will need to grow up fast.

Xavier Woods, S, Louisiana Tech

The Bulldogs look to have one of the more complete rosters in the conference. Having an NFL-caliber safety like Woods roaming the secondary doesn't hurt. He could make it very difficult for opposing teams to get things done against Louisiana Tech through the air.

Mid-American Conference

Jack Walz III, S, Bowling Green

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The Falcons have serious conference title hopes in 2015. The freshman safety will play a critical role against the pass on a defense with very limited experience.

Cameron Clinton-Earl, DE, Northern Illinois

Clinton-Earl will be the leader on a relatively experienced D-line for the Huskies. His ability to disrupt the line of scrimmage and in the backfield could determine whether or not Northern Illinois can put together another double-digit win season.

Zach Quinn, LB, Toledo

The Rockets figure to be in the conference title mix as well, largely on the strength of their defense. Quinn is the "young man" of the linebacker corps. If he can exceed expectations, Toledo's defense could be on a whole other level than the rest of the MAC.

Mountain West Conference

Dylan Sumner-Gardner, S, Boise State

Boise State's defense could quite simply be one of the best in all of college football in 2015. Some of that will depend on the play of Sumner-Gardner — the only member of the projected starting secondary without any starting experience.

Austin Albrecht, OT, Utah State

Chuckie Keeton is about as special as they come at quarterback in college football. His has the ability to carry the Aggies to new heights in 2015, but he'll need Albrecht — the only projected starter without a previous start — to excel at left tackle.

Eric Judge, WR, San Diego State

The Aztecs have the talent across the board to make noise on the national scene. In order to get that done, they'll need Judge to step up as the primary option in the passing game.

Sun Belt Conference

Daniel Keith, G, Arkansas State

The Red Wolves have a special, game-changing back in Michael Gordon. He'll be the focal point of the offense, but he'll need help up front. Keith has the least amount of experience on the offensive line. His ability to consistently open holes on the right side for Gordon will be key.

Kevin Ellison, QB, Georgia Southern

Ellison will need to set the tone for a team loaded with talent but short on experience. One of the most underrated dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, Ellis has the ability to lead to the Eagles to 10 or more wins if he can inspire the rest of the huddle.

Brooks Haack, QB, Louisiana-Lafayette

Haack will need to step in and be effective in the passing game right away, as every defense will be keying on running back Elijah McGuire, the 2014 Sun Belt Player of the Year. Haack's failure to perform in the pocket could make the Cajuns an easy out from week to week, especially given the inexperience on defense.

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Scott is the editor-in-chief of KnowItAllFootball.com, a Big Ten site for Big Ten fans. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.