Not to be confused with the top NFL prospects, the top college players are guys that have excelled on Saturdays in one facet of the game or another. Some of these players could become elite pro athletes in the near future, but some of them may never play a single down in the pros. Regardless of that, they should be applauded for their achievements on the college playing field and fans need to take note of them.
Along with their natural abilities as individuals, their hard work throughout the year and commitment to work together as a team is a testament to human evolution. Nowhere on earth will you find a game that has positions for as many different types of athletes. From the 5'7" 180 lb cornerback to the 6'8" 330 lb offensive tackle, nearly every size of human is represented on the college gridiron.
Every one of the guys on this list possesses a unique set of skills that make them the game-changers that they are today. I, for one, absolutely love the display of diversity of the participants, just as I do the diversity of the fan bases. It just makes things more interesting and it is one the reasons why we pay attention. If you don't know these guys yet, here's an introduction. Pay attention this fall and you will probably hear their names again.
1. Andrew Luck, QB Stanford - Could've been the first overall pick this year and is considered by some to be one of the best QB prospects in the last 30 years. Can he lead a young but talented offense to the PAC-12 championship under the guidance of a new head coach?
2. LaMichael James, RB Oregon - Led the nation in scoring last year with 24 TD's and helped get the Ducks to the BCS Title game. He and QB Darron Thomas are perfect fits in the fast-paced style of offense they run in Eugene.
3. Justin Blackmon, WR Oklahoma State - Physically gifted athlete almost scored two TD's per game as a sophomore last season.
4. Landry Jones, QB Oklahoma - Threw for 4,700 yards and could challenge Luck to be the first overall pick in next year's draft, especially if he leads the team to a Big-12 Championship and a BCS bowl win.
5. Trent Richardson, RB Alabama - Another Heisman candidate for the Crimson Tide needs to be the catalyst on offense if they want to make another run at an SEC and national championship.
6. Ryan Broyles, WR Oklahoma - Versatile playmaker is Jones' favorite target. He had over 1600 yards last season and could be a top 15 draft pick.
7. Denard Robinson, QB Michigan - Electrifying runner is not a great pro prospect as a QB but averaged 6.6 yards per rush and totaled 1702 yards on the ground. He is a threat on any given play.
8. Quinton Coples, DE North Carolina - A monster of a human being (6'6" 285 lbs) that collected 59 tackles, 10.5 sacks, and 12 QB hurries as a junior.
9. Alshon Jeffery, WR South Carolina - Huge (6'4" 233 lbs) and explosive SEC receiver. 'Nuff said.
10. Jared Crick, DT Nebraska - Was not completely overshadowed by Ndamukong Suh two years ago and nabbed 9.5 sacks and seven QB hurries last season. He will be one of the top defenders in the Big Ten.
11. Brandon Jenkins, DE Florida State - 21.5 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks, two passes defended, and two forced fumbles as a sophomore last season puts him among the top defenders in college football.
12. Nick Foles, QB Arizona - Looks like a pro QB and could put together a strong campaign this year after completing 67% of his passes as a junior.
13. Luke Kuechly, LB Boston College - Led the entire nation in total tackles (183) last season and also chipped in three INT's.
14. Travis Lewis, LB Oklahoma - Leading tackler the last two years on a solid Sooner defense. He will get a lot of attention from NFL scouts.
15. Courtney Upshaw, LB Alabama - Will be one of the most prized defensive prospects in next year's draft and could be a top 15 pick with an excellent senior season.
16. Matt Barkley, QB USC - First round potential may be overshadowed by the NCAA sanctions still looming over the program, which keep the Trojans from competing for a PAC-12 championship or participating in any bowl games.
17. CB Janoris Jenkins, CB North Alabama - The former Florida Gator star is now playing for the Division II Lions, with head coach Terry Bowden, due to off-field issues. He has a real opportunity to turn himself around there and is definitely a player worth watching as he possesses big-time ability.
18. Manti Te'o, LB Notre Dame - Was one of the top recruits in high school three years ago and is now one of the best defenders in college football.
19. Case Keenum, QB Houston - Has a good chance to become the NCAA's all-time leading passer! This is his sixth and final season after receiving a medical redshirt last year.
20. Kellen Moore, QB Boise St - His 38-2 record is incredible no matter who the competition is and he will go down as one of the winningest QB's of all-time.
21. Lavonte David, LB Nebraska - Benefits from having Crick up front but his six solo tackles per game average is outstanding in its own right.
22. Michael Floyd, WR Notre Dame - If he can stay out of trouble and put a troubled past behind him he could have a big season after turning down the NFL to return to the Fighting Irish.
23. Darron Thomas, QB Oregon - Helped lead the Ducks to within three points of a national championship and helped drive one of the most explosive and entertaining offenses ever.
24. Montel Harris, RB Boston College - Already has 3753 rushing yards in his career. 5,000 are not that far out of reach.
25. Montee Ball, RB Wisconsin - Rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 18 TD's in a crowded Badger backfield as a sophomore. He could be the next great running back in Madison.
26. Greg Childs, WR Arkansas - One of the top weapons in the SEC with a 6'3" 217 lbs frame. He will play on Sundays.
27. Dominique Davis, QB East Carolina - Never heard of him? This former BC Eagle led the nation in completions per game (30.23), threw 37 TD's, and ran for another nine scores to lead the talent-laden Pirates.
28. Brandon Weeden, QB Oklahoma St - Threw for 4277 yards and 34 TD's last season and has one of the nation's top weapons in Blackmon to throw to once again.
29. Jonathan Martin, OT Stanford - Offensive linemen don't get any of the glory but they should. If he can lead a young O-line and use his large wingspan to keep defenders from attacking Luck's blindside all season Martin will become a top pro prospect.
30. Mark Barron, SS Alabama - Big safety that has made 151 tackles and snatched 10 INT's in the last two years.
31. Jerel Worthy, DT Michigan State - Is primed to have a big year for the Spartans. If he does, he will probably enter the NFL draft a year early. He has all the tools to be a professional.
32. CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CB Alabama - One of the top pro prospects at the position has tremendous size (6'2" 190 lbs) and ability. He is just another brick in the wall in Tuscaloosa.
33. Vontaze Burfict, LB Arizona State - Big-time recruit has been an active defender for the Sun Devils but needs to channel his emotions properly and avoid costly penalties.
34. Mike Brewster, C/G Ohio State - The best player for the Buckeyes now that Terrelle Pryor is gone.
35. Donte Paige-Moss, DE North Carolina - The Tar Heels keep producing big-time defenders lately. Paige-Moss had 13.5 tackles for a loss last season and has added some bulk in the off-season.
36. Nate Potter, OT Boise State - Another productive O-lineman with first round ability will protect Moore's blindside.
37. Edwin Baker, RB Michigan State - Will be the focal point of the offense in East Lansing.
38. Tank Carder, LB TCU - The next standout on the Horned Frogs vaunted defense.
39. Dan Persa, QB Northwestern - Emerged last season before breaking his ankle and elevated the Wildcats. He could be the best passer in the Big Ten.
40. Marcus Forston, DT Miami - Looks to really make a name for himself in 2011.
41. Kirk Cousins, QB Michigan State - Perfect fit in the Spartan offense looks like a decent pro prospect.
42. Mike Martin, DT Michigan - The best defender on a horrible Wolverine defense was miscast under former DC Greg Robinson. Martin is as strong, fast, and versatile as they come and the new coaches will try to take advantage of his abilities.
43. Alfonzo Dennard, CB Nebraska - Held his own opposite Prince Amukamara and looks to step out of the shadows. Pro scouts are aware of his talents.
44. Tydreke Powell, DT North Carolina - Definite professional characteristics as an athlete but lacks overall production, possibly due to the wealth of talent along the DL.
45. Marcus Lattimore, RB South Carolina - Freshman sensation produced 92 yards per game.
46. Dont'a Hightower, LB Alabama - One of the best linebackers in the SEC.
47. Jeff Fuller, WR Texas A & M - First ever 1,000 yard receiver in Aggie history.
48. Robert Lester, FS Alabama - Took advantage of being an unknown in the Tide defense and nabbed eight INT's as a sophomore.
49. Aaron Murray, QB Georgia - The most productive QB returning to the SEC this year is only a sophomore.
50. Russell Wilson, QB Wisconsin - Threw for 3563 yards and 28 TD's for NC State last season and was released from his scholarship to play baseball. He says he loves football and the Badgers could use an upgrade at the position. In the end, he could make a lot of waves in the Big Ten this season.
Scot Acocks covers the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the NFL Draft Dog and covers all facets of football at www.100yardspin.blogspot.com