Scott Haynes, College Editor
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 - 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.
Avon Cobourne has gained 4,091 yards on the ground in his career.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.