With the football season just few short weeks away, I take a look at the Top 25 Coaches Poll and see what makes these teams click. Each team has several ways that they can beat you, but there is always that one individual unit that keeps opposing coaches up all night.
1. LSU - Defensive Line
- Yes they lose Michael Brockers, but the Tigers arguably have the best 1-2 punch at DE in the entire country with future 1st round picks, Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. Combined they had 17 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. Bennie Logan returns as a starter at DT while five star sophomore Anthony Johnson looks to step in for the departed Brockers.
2. Alabama - Offensive Line
-The Crimson tide return four starters led by Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones and one of the best OG’s in the country, Chance Warmack. Cyrus Kouandjio is the only starter who’s not a returner, and he was the #1 ranked OT in his recruiting class.
3. USC - Wide Receivers
-You could make an argument for QB here, but the Trojans boast the top receiving corps in the land. Robert Woods, a likely top 15 pick in the NFL this year, leads the group with sophomore Marquis Lee(73,1143,11 TDs) and five star recruit George Farmer also on the depth chart. Their two-deep roster is filled with guys who could start for mostly anyone in college football.
4. Oklahoma - Quarterbacks
-As Landry Jones goes, so do the Sooners. The Heisman hopeful is already the Sooners all-time leading passer and looks to continue his assault on Oklahoma record books this season. What makes this unit so dangerous is their depth with Drew Allen and Blake Bell, who accounted for 13 TDs in the “Belldozer” package. Kendall Thompson a highly rated recruit also adds depth.
5. Oregon - Running Backs
-Even with loss of LaMichael James, this unit is still by far the most dangerous unit on the Oregon roster. Kenjon Barner is the starter and accounted for 14 TDs while playing second fiddle to James last season. Behind Barner is one of the more exciting players in the league with De’Anthony Thomas. He does everything from running, catching, to changing field position with his dynamic return ability. Thomas is one of the more lethal weapons in football. Also on the depth chart is Byron Marshall a four star recruit from California.
6. Georgia - Wide Receivers
-Before the suspension to Isaiah Crowell, RB would the ‘dawgs top individual unit. Now you have to consider it their WR’s. Georgia top 5 WRs from a season ago all return led by Tavarres King and Malcolm Mitchell, who combined for 92 catches, 1,370 yards, and 12 TDs. With the development of Aaron Murray, those numbers should increase dramatically.
7. Florida State - Defensive Line
-The Seminoles have to future NFL picks at DE with Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Warner, not to mention Tank Carradine and #1 overall recruit Mario Edwards to provide depth. They also return both starting DT’s in Timmy Jernigan and Everett Dawkins with depth in Eddie Goldman who was the #1 ranked DT in this year’s recruiting class.
8. Michigan - Quarterbacks
-Denard Robinson is the key to the Wolverines offense. He’s the leader and makes things happen both with his arms and the legs. The Heisman contender will be the X-factor in determining if Michigan can win the Big 10 title. Behind him is a more than capable Devin Gardner who can have the same impact on the team if he happens to be called into action.
9. South Carolina – Running Backs
-When you have the best RB in football then that will probably be your best individual unit. Marcus Lattimore leads the Gamecocks rushing attack once again and looks to be an early Heisman contender. After winning National Freshman of the Year he got off to a great start last season before tearing his ACL. He’s back and healthy and looks ready to dominate the SEC. Behind Lattimore is Brandon Wilds and Kenny Miles who combined for 690 yards on the ground last season. They also add highly recruited Mike Davis.
10. Arkansas – Running Backs
-The Razorbacks have 3 RBs who could start for multiple teams in college football. They are led by junior Knile Davis, who in 2010 rushed for 1.322 yards and was All-SEC 1st team. He enters as one of the RBs in the nation and looks regain his form after missing last season with a broken ankle. In his absence last season, Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo became a solid 1-2 punch. Johnson finished with 6670 yards while Wingo chipped in 458. All three return this season not to mention they had highly recruited RBs Jonathan Williams and Donovan Roberts.
11. West Virginia – Wide Receivers
-All three starting receivers from last season return including two 1,000 yard pass catchers in Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin. Those two combined for an amazing 183 catches for 2,465 yards and 20 TDs. Also chipping in is Ivan McCartney who ended up with 49 catches and 3 TDs. They also add Deontay McManus one of their top recruits.
12. Wisconsin – Running Backs
-Any other year it would be a lock that the offensive line is the Badgers top unit. But after the loss of Kevin Zeitler, Peter Konz, and Josh Wagner that unit takes a step back. So instead it’s the RBs, and their horse Montee Ball. Ball is the best in the Big 10 and one of the best in the country. Depth is behind him with James White (713 yards) and sophomore Jeffrey Lewis.
13. Michigan State – Linebackers
-Denicos Allen, Max Bullough, and Chris Norman all started last season, and all three return again for this season. Allen had 11 sacks with 83 tackles, while Bullogh was the team’s leading tackler with 89. Overall, it’s one of the best BL units in the country after allowing only 101 yds/game on the ground last season.
14. Clemson – Wide Receivers
-The receiving corps for the Tigers returns all three starters including arguably the best WR in the nation, Sammy Watkins. When your second best pass catcher is DeAndre Hopkins (72,978, and 5 TDs) it’s a pretty good unit. Also back is Jaron Brown who added 31 catches for 1,406 yards and 4 TDs
15. Texas – Running Backs
-Maybe the hardest on the list was Texas. You could make a great argument for their defensive line and secondary, but ultimately I settled with the running backs. After adding the highest ranked RB recruit in the country in Johnathan Gray, the Longhorns have not only the deepest, but possibly the most talented backfield in the nation. Add Gray to the mix with a pair of outstanding sophomores in Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, and the Longhorn trio will be hard for anyone to stop.
16. Nebraska – Running Backs
-Went with the Running backs here, but it should be more of the running game entirely that is the top individual unit. QB Taylor Martinez rushed for 874 yards and 9 TDs as a scrambling option for the Cornhuskers. But the real threat on the ground is Rex Burkhead. A powerful and punishing rusher, Burkhead ran for 1,357 yards and 15 rushing TDs last season. Sophomore backup Ameer Abdullah is a more than capable #2 option.
17. TCU – Wide Receivers
-Skye Dawson and Josh Boyce both return for the Horned Frogs after combining for 106 catches, 1,498 yards, with 14 TDs. Also returning is Brandon Carter, who as a freshman added 23 catches with 3 TD’s. Last season top recruit LaDarius Brown will be added to the mix as he took a redshirt last season.
18. Stanford – Linebackers
-This one is easy. Not only is the Cardinal LB group the best in the Pac-12, it’s one of the best in the country. Stanford runs a 3-4, and all 4 LBs return, led by future draft picks Chase Thomas and Shane Skov. Thomas led the team in Tkfl last season with 9, and Stanford welcomes back Skov who missed 2012 with a torn ACL. The other two LBs are ILB and leading tackler Jerek Lancaster (70 tackles and 3.5 sacks) and OLB Trent Murphy (6.5 sacks) Also added to the depth chart is Noor Davis, a 4-star recruit from Florida.
19. Oklahoma State – Secondary
-The Cowboys secondary is led by two future NFL players in Broderick Brown and Justin Gilbert. Combined they had 25 passes defended and 10 INTs. Their return leading tackler is FS Daytawion Lowe who finished the season with 97 tackles.
20. Virginia Tech – Defensive Line
-It was hard not to put QB here with one of the country’s best Logan Thomas under center. But, when an entire Defensive Line who only allowed 104 rushing yards/game last season returns – their 16 sacks from last season, it was hard to ignore. James Gayle (7 sacks) has the looks of an NFL caliber DE and continues a strong tradition in Blacksburg. At the other DE spot JR Collins (6 sacks), who lead all Hokie lineman with 57 tackles, returns as well. In the middle brothers Derrick and Antoine Hopkins both return and the Hokies add several highly recruited Defensive linemen into the mix.
21. Kansas State – Linebackers
-Arthur Brown, one of the better ILB in the nations leads a solid group of LBs in Manhattan. Brown finished last season with 101 tackles and 7.5 TKFL. Next to Brown is junior Tre Walker (52 tackles) and former Boston College QB Justin Tuggle. There is solid depth all the way to third string for the Wildcats.
22. Boise State – Wide Receivers
-Despite the loss of last season’s leading receiver Tyler Shoemaker, the Broncos WR’s are the team’s top individual unit. This group is led by sophomore Mitch Miller (62,679, and 9 TDs) and NFL hopeful Mitch Burroughs. Junior Geraldo Boldewijn is also in line to see a significant amount on balls thrown his way.
23. Florida – Defensive Line
-Even if DE Ronald Powell isn’t 100% to start the season, the Gators have a dynamic front four. Aside from Powell, the Gators have Lerentee McCray and Dominique Easley at DE to go along with five star recruit Johnathan Bullard. Junior Shariff Floyd anchors the middle at DT with senior Omar Hunter also in the middle. Dante Fowler is also in the mix and highly rated recruit from St. Petersburg, Florida.
24. Notre Dame – Linebackers
-Not only is Manti Te’o one of the better LBs in the nation, is also one of the better players in the nation. He leads a group that consists of juniors and returning starters Dan Fox and Prince Shembo. Five star recruit Ishaq Williams is expected to contribute greatly in his sophomore season.
25. Auburn – Special Teams
-It isn’t the sexy pick, but Auburn boast one of the better special teams in college football. P Steven Clark was a finalist for the Ray Guy award and junior K Cody Parkey was the number one K recruit when he came out of high school and has lived up to the ranking. Kick returners Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb are both back, and both retuned kicks for TDs last season.
Jeremy Cabler covers the NFL Draft and College Football for Rant Sports. Check out his Scouting Reports