Sunday, January 16, 2011

Staying In School: Who Will Have The Biggest Impact

Every year college players have the chance to realize their dreams and cash in on a potentially lucrative career by taking their talents to the NFL. Let's take a look at some of the guys who passed up the possibility of declaring for the NFL draft in order to stay in school and possibly help lead their teams to Conference and National Championships.

1. Justin Blackmon and Brandon Wheedon, Oklahoma State- Okie State was picked by everybody to finish near the bottom of the Big 12 South this year. But led by Brandon Wheedon, Justin Blackmon and Kendall Hunter they put up the 2nd most points in College Football and passed for the 3rd most yards. As a redshirt sophomore Justin Blackmon emerged as one of the most dynamic wide receivers in the land. In 12 games he caught 111 balls for 1782 yards and 20 TD. He finished 1st in the Nation in TD receptions, 1st in Receiving Yards per game, 2nd in Total Receiving Yards, 2nd in Receptions per Game and 3rd in Total Receptions. To say it was a break-out season would be a huge understatement. In 2009 Brandon Wheedon backed up Zac Robinson and only threw 24 passes all season. This year he got his opportunity and did not waste it. Wheedon put up 4277 yards passing (2nd to only Landry Jones in Big 12 land) and was the highest rated passer in the pass happy Big 12. I'm not sure about how valued Wheedon is by the NFL, especially since he's a 27 year old college QB, but getting both of these guys to come back to school (especially Blackmon) was a huge coo for Mike Gundy. Now the biggest question is how the Cowboys offense will function with Dana Holgerson moving on to West Virginia.

2. Andrew Luck, Stanford- This was the most surprising of all as Luck was thought by many to be the #1 overall pick in the draft. Luck would be my #1 with a bullet if Jim Harbaugh had come back to coach Stanford. Stanford did stay in house with their coaching choice to replace Harbaugh by picking Offensive Coordinator David Shaw. Keeping the offense in tact will be huge for Shaw and Luck. Luck was the third highest rated passer in the Nation (behind some guys named Cam Newton and Kellen Moore) and also led the Pac-10 in Passing Yards and TD. I think it's safe to say that Stanford is here to stay (at least for another year).

3. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma- Oklahoma went 12-2 this year and won the Big 12 Championship. Now they are poised for a run at the National Championship and Broyles coming back gives them the shot in the arm that they might just need to get them over the hump. Broyles led the Nation last year with 131 catches and helped Landry Jones become a much better QB in 2010. Broyles also led the Nation with 9.4 receptions per game, that's an incredible number and Big 12 defenses are going to have their hands full with Broyles and the Sooners offense next year.

4. Kellen Moore, Boise State- Ok, so maybe he's not widely coveted by the NFL. But we still see guys go pro that have no business doing so. Moore is only listed as 6'0" so maybe he's not the typical NFL QB but he sure is the cog that keeps Boise State going. This year the Broncos lose their top two receiving targets in Titus Young and Austin Pettis (both reeled in 71 catches last year) so keeping Moore is huge for maintaining the offense and breaking in some new targets. Moore's stats are as impressive as any other QB in College Football. Over the last two years he has passed for over 7000 yards and has 74 TD and only 9 Interceptions.

5. Case Keenum, Houston- This isn't the typical staying in school but Keenum was a 5th year senior who suffered a torn ACL and missed the last 9 games of last season. Without Keenum, Houston finished the season winning just 3 of their last 9 and concluded the season with a record of 5-7. With Keenum they went 10-4 in 2009. In the two years spanning 2008 and 2009 Keenum passed for over 10,000 yards and posted 44 TD in both of those seasons. If nothing else, Keenum provides us bloggers and sports writers some stats to drool over. Keenum was granted a 6th season by the NCAA and this guy is looking forward to watching it.

6. Jared Crick, Nebraska- There are some good defensive players who passed up the draft but this one might have the biggest impact. Last year Crick posted 70 total tackles (3rd on the team), 14.5 tackles for loss (5th in the Big 12) and 9.5 sacks (2nd in the Big 12). Nebraska was 9th in scoring defense last year in the Nation but their offense faltered and they fell to defeat in 3 of their last 4 games. With Crick coming back Nebraska doesn't need to worry about their DL as they prepare for their first game in their inaugural season in the Big 10.

Honorable Mention: Michael Floyd/Notre Dame, Mark Barron/Alabama, Janoris Jenkins/Florida, LaMichael James/Oregon, Russell Wilson/NC State


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