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The Top Offensive Players You've Never Heard Of

Scott Haynes, College Editor

On Campus Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If you asked the casual college football fan to name the top offensive stars in 2002, most would be able to rattle off names like Rex Grossman, Ken Dorsey, Byron Leftwich, Maurice Clarett, Charles Rogers and many more household names. However, there is a slew of talent out there with comparable stats to the aforementioned All-Americans. The only difference is that these players lack the media machine that puts them in America's living room every Saturday.

These few names will not be new to the ardent college football fan that knows there is an abundance of supremely gifted players that aren't on primetime each week. You know, those players that only get mentioned on a scrolling scoreboard at the bottom of the television screen.

Yes, 2002 was billed as the "Year of the Quarterback." With names like Dorsey, Grossman, Leftwich, Kingsbury, Ragone, Manning, it is certainly justified. However, a couple of players that weren't on that list that have proven themselves worthy in the first half of the season are:

MATT SCHAUB - This Virginia Cavalier is quietly putting forth one of the most efficient displays of signal-calling in the country. The 6-5, 235-pound junior has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes this season (115-of-166), for 1,319 yards and 16 TDs. He has only thrown four interceptions and has a sterling 163.01 pass efficiency rating (fourth in the nation).

JOSHUA CRIBBS - Michael Vick did it, so did Antwaan Randle-El. Now it is Kent State's Joshua Cribbs who can put the fear in the opposition with his athleticism at the quarterback position. Last season, the 6-1, 190-pounder became the first freshman in I-A history to rush and pass for over 1,000 yards in a single season. He is on another record-setting pace as a sophomore. Cribbs is second in the nation in rushing (149.7 ypg) in 2002 and has already amassed 898 yards and nine TDs in just six games. Meanwhile, he has completed 53 percent of his passes, for 860 yards and four TDs.

Staying in the offensive backfield, the country has seen a huge resurgence of quality tailbacks. Name like McGahee, Suggs, Jones, Benson and Clarett have bombarded us each and every week. They have earned that right as some of the best players at their position, but it certainly helps that they play for teams like Miami, Virginia Tech, Texas and Ohio State.

However, giving credit where credit is due, these next few players have proved to be just as elusive when getting the ball from the quarterback:

Avon Cobourne
Avon Cobourne has gained 4,091 yards on the ground in his career.
AVON COBOURNE - Although he plays in the Big East and leads the nation in rushing (152.2 ypg), this Mountaineer has been lost in the shuffle, as McGahee, Suggs and Jones all do their thing in-conference. The Big East's all- time leading rusher, Cobourne is averaging nearly six yards per carry (5.95) this year and has gained 4,091 yards on the ground in his career. His 22 100- yard games is a school and conference record.

MICHAEL TURNER - Yes, he plays in the MAC, but that shouldn't be held against him. The 5-10, 225-pounder has gone up against the likes of Wake Forest and Wisconsin already this season and is currently third in the nation in rushing. Turner is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 145.3 yards per game. He started the season as a backup, but Thomas Hammock's heart condition thrust Turner into the limelight. He has made the most of it and currently leads the nation in all-purpose yards (196.0 ypg).

IME AKPAN - Staying with the MAC, we take a look at Eastern Michigan's workhorse. Akpan has gone over the 100-yard mark on four occasions this season and currently ranks sixth in the nation in rushing (135.8 ypg). He already has 157 carries on the year (26.2 carries per game) and has amassed 821 yards and eight TDs. In just 10 games played in his career, Akpan has toted the ball 182 times, for 919 yards and 12 TDs, while averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

Michigan State's Charles Rogers has set the bar in terms of excellence at the receiver position this season and few can argue that he is the very best at his position. Still, there is a lot of great receiving talent out there and folks at UCF and San Diego State have their own superstars on the outside:

DOUG GABRIEL - After graduating from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, this 6-2, 205-pound athlete was highly recruited and could have played DB at Florida State. Lucky for head coach Mike Kruczek, Gabriel still wanted to play wide receiver. It has panned out this season, as Gabriel possesses all the intangibles needed to excel at the pro level. He currently leads the Golden Knights in receptions (25) and receiving yards (461) and is tied for the team- lead in TD catches (three). His 115.2 yards per game average is ninth in the nation.

The Aztecs can't seem to get in the win column this season, but isn't because of a lack of effort from a prolific receiving duo:

J.R. TOLVER - The veteran pass-catcher currently leads the nation in receiving yards (149.4 ypg) and is second in receptions (47), while adding five TD catches to lead the Aztecs. The 6-2, 205-pounder was terrific in a loss to Arizona State earlier this season, hauling in 12 balls, for a whopping 296 yards and one TD. He is on the verge of becoming SDSU's all-time leading receiver and with names like Darnay Scott, Az Hakim and Will Blackwell, that is quite impressive.

KASSIM OSGOOD - Tolver's counterpart is just as explosive. The 6-5, 210- pounder leads the nation in receptions (49) and is second in receiving yards (143.4 ypg). He has three of the NCAA's top 26 receiving games this season, including a 14-catch, 178-yard effort against then nationally-ranked Colorado.

There is an abundance of players around the country that are having All- American seasons, but few will get real recognition outside of their own little fan bases.

While they may not be household names right now on Saturdays, these players may get the last laugh in the future -- on Sundays.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.


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