NCF Nation: Top 25 players 2010

And the top non-AQ player is...

July, 3, 2010
No. 1: Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State

2009 numbers: Led the Broncos to a 14-0 season and a Fiesta Bowl win. He completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 3,536 yards and 39 touchdowns to just three interceptions.

Making the case for Moore: You can’t say enough positive things about Moore and his play during his two seasons as starter for the Broncos. It’s not his stats that make him so impressive, it’s his ability to control a game and not make mistakes. Moore is 26-1 during his time as the Broncos starter and is the reason why Boise State is expected to open the season ranked in the top three nationally and potentially challenge for a national championship.
No. 2: Case Keenum, QB, Houston

2009 numbers: Led the nation in total offense for the second consecutive season with 416.36 yards per game. He also led the nation with 5,671 passing yards.

Making the case for Keenum: Keenum was fun to watch last year because of his ability to lead his team back in almost any situation. He started to gain national recognition after come-from-behind wins against Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, but some key mistakes during the conference season and at the end of the year eliminated his name from Heisman contention. However, he’ll be on the watch list again this year especially with all of his offensive weapons returning. Keenum completed 70.2 percent of his passes and threw 44 touchdowns.
No. 3: Matt Reynolds, OL, BYU

2009 numbers: Helped BYU rank 21st nationally in total offense with 427.15 yards per game and 11th in scoring offense with 35.46 points per game.

Making the case for Reynolds: Reynolds might be the most important man on the BYU offense this year as the Cougars break in a new starting quarterback and running back. Reynolds, a left tackle, spent his first two seasons protecting former quarterback Max Hall and will spend at least this year either protecting Jake Heaps or Riley Nelson. Reynolds has had some injury issues in the past, but when healthy is considered one of the best offensive lineman in the country.
No. 4: Ricky Dobbs, QB, Navy

2009 numbers: Passed for 1,031 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for 1,192 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Making the case for Dobbs: Dobbs set the record for rushing touchdowns last year with 27, which earned him national acclaim and the key to his hometown -- Douglasville, Ga. But what’s most amazing about his accomplishment is that he played the entire season with a bone chip floating around in his knee. The injury required surgery, but Dobbs was back practicing this spring and promised to be even better in the fall.
No. 5: Vai Taua, RB, Nevada

2009 numbers: Had 172 carries for 1,345 yards and 10 touchdowns. Also had 99 receiving yards and two scores.

Making the case for Taua: Taua was part of a three-headed rushing attack that made up the best running game in college football last year. He’s the rushing workhorse for the Wolf Pack and it was apparent how much he meant to the team after it struggled without him in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. Taua had academic issues that kept him out of the bowl, but he’s learned from them and said he’s coming into his senior season with a resolve to be a more well-rounded and stronger player. If he can do that, he could be one of the best backs in the country.
No. 6: Dwight Dasher, QB, Middle Tennessee

2009 numbers: Ranked seventh nationally in total offense with 303.31 yards per game. He threw for 2,789 yards and 23 touchdowns and rushed for 1,154 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Making the case for Dasher: In his first year as a full-time starter, Dasher excelled in offensive coordinator Tony Franklin’s spread system and became one of the more effective offensive threats in the country. However, with Franklin gone, Dasher could struggle as he gets used to a new offensive coordinator. While the offensive style won’t change, Dasher will have to adjust to the nuances the new OC wants to install in the offense. Dasher does have the ability to once again be one of the top offensive threats in the country if he can cut down on the turnovers; he had 14 interceptions in 2009.
No. 7: Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada

2009 numbers: Contributed 3,325 yards of total offense with 2,052 yards passing and 1,183 yards rushing. He had 36 total touchdowns.

Making the case for Kaepernick: Kaepernick proved once again that he is one of the game’s most dynamic players with his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing and 2,000-yard passing season, but he struggled early and late in the season, which cost the Wolf Pack a conference title and a bowl win. This spring, like past springs, Kaepernick worked on his passing in an effort to be a more well-rounded player. While his passing numbers are OK, he hasn’t quite learned how to harness his fastball. Still, he’s always a threat whenever he steps on the field simply because of his elusiveness when he tucks the ball and runs.
No. 8: Andy Dalton, QB, TCU

2009 numbers: Completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 2,756 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also rushed for 512 yards and three scores.

Making the case for Dalton: Dalton’s numbers don’t jump off the page, but the way he navigated the Horned Frogs through their BCS-bowl qualifying season is what put him high on this list. He led TCU to game-winning scores against Clemson and Air Force to help preserve an undefeated regular season. He struggled against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl, but he should be better for the experience and able to lead the Horned Frogs back into contention this season.
No. 9: James Cleveland, WR, Houston

2009 numbers: In his first FBS season, Cleveland was third nationally in receptions per game and eighth in receiving yards per game and total receiving yards.

Making the case for Cleveland: Cleveland became quarterback Case Keenum's favorite target last season as he led the team with 104 catches for 1,214 yards and 14 touchdowns. He had five games with at least 100 yards, but shined during the Conference USA title game with 19 catches for 241 yards and three scores. Cleveland’s effort was impressive because the Cougars had three receivers with 1,000 yards and two others with more than 500 yards. He should be a key part of the Cougars this year as they try to claim the BCS bowl that eluded them a year ago.
No. 10: Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple

2009 numbers: As a true freshman, Pierce led the Mid-American Conference with 236 carries for 1,361 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Making the case for Pierce: It took just one season for Temple to start hailing Pierce as a potential Heisman candidate after he broke all of Temple legend Paul Palmer’s freshman rushing records. The most impressive aspect of Pierce’s numbers is that he wasn’t the starter during the first two games of the season and missed the final two games of the regular season after suffering an injury. Pierce had seven 100-yard games and two 200-yard games. He’s had the summer to recover from his shoulder injury and if he can stay healthy, he has an opportunity to be among the nation’s leaders in rushing.
No. 11: Nick Bellore, LB, Central Michigan

2009 numbers: Led the Chippewas with 132 tackles and 13 tackles for loss. He also had three sacks and two interceptions.

Making the case for Bellore: Bellore, who is heading into his senior season, is the defensive mainstay for the Chippewas and one of the top linebackers in the Mid-American Conference. He’s been the conference’s first-team linebacker each of the past two seasons and led the Chippewas in tackles each of those seasons. Bellore will be relied upon heavily this year as the Chippewas navigate through a season with a new head coach and without several key players who have helped the team win conference titles. Look for Bellore to lead the team in tackles for a third consecutive season and to be one of the most effective linebackers in the country.
No. 12: Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State

2009 numbers: Had 63 catches for 855 yards and 14 touchdowns, which ranked second on the Broncos and fourth in the WAC.

Making the case for Pettis: Pettis might not have had the flashiest numbers, but on several occasions he came up big for the Broncos and helped preserve their undefeated season. Pettis is coming off a lower leg fracture that kept him out of the final two regular-season games and the bowl game, but he’s expected to be 100 percent by the fall and will remain quarterback Kellen Moore’s top target. Pettis is the best senior receiver in the WAC and could, if he stays healthy, be one of the best receivers in the country.
No. 13 (A): Donald Buckram, RB, UTEP

2009 numbers: Rushed for 1,594 yards and 18 touchdowns, which led Conference USA and ranked fourth nationally.

Making the case for Buckram: Buckram is the best returning running back from the nonautomatic qualifying schools after a breakout season that is giving the Miners hope that they can make a run for the Conference USA West title. Coach Mike Price was given a vote of confidence because players such as Buckram were returning this year and his dynamic ability makes him one of the most formidable threats in the country. Buckram had eight games with at least 100 yards and had at least 147 yards in five of his final six games. He rushed for more than 200 yards three times a year ago.

No. 13 (B): Titus Young, WR, Boise State

2009 numbers: Had 79 catches for 1,041 yards and 10 touchdowns and had 15 total touchdowns during the season.

Making the case for Young: Young is so high on this list not because of his receiving stats, though they are impressive, but because of all of the things he does for the Broncos. He led the team in receptions per game, receiving yards per game and kick returns. He had two kick return touchdowns and three touchdowns rushing. The Broncos have a lot of offensive weapons, but Young will be one of the players to watch as the Broncos attempt to be the first nonautomatic qualifying team to play for a national title.
So, this might be the first of a couple ties during the countdown. As I was working on my list, I realized that I had too many players and not enough spots. So this is my attempt to make sure everyone gets their due.

No. 15(A): Josh McNary, DE, Army

2009 numbers: Ranked third in the country in tackles for loss (22.5) and fourth nationally in sacks (12.5). He also had 65 tackles and two forced fumbles.

Making the case for McNary: McNary is Army’s all-time sack leader with 18 and last year’s 12.5 sacks set a single-season record for the Black Knights. He had a season-high four sacks against Temple, which allowed less than two sacks per game. McNary is already being considered as a potential All-American candidate and should get some consideration if he continues to play at the level he played during his senior season.

No. 15(B): Bruce Miller, DE, Central Florida

2009 numbers: Led UCF and ranked fifth nationally with once sack per game (13 overall) and had 18 tackles for loss. He also had 53 tackles and seven quarterback hurries.

Making the case for Miller: Miller is the defending Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year after leading the conference in both tackles for loss and sacks. He became the first UCF player to earn the honor. Behind Miller, the Knights led Conference USA in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense, sacks and tackles for loss. The UCF defense should be equally as talented this year and Miller is expected to have another big season.
No. 16: Anthony Wright, DB, Air Force

2009 numbers: Led Air Force and was tied for third nationally with seven interceptions, including two he returned for touchdowns. Also had a punt returned for a score, 54 tackles, four tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

Making the case for Wright: Wright was a consistent threat in the Air Force secondary and often forced teams to change their game plan to keep the ball away from him. He had consecutive games against New Mexico, San Diego State and Navy with an interception and had three interceptions against Houston quarterback Case Keenum in the Armed Forces Bowl. Prior to that game, Keenum had only thrown nine interceptions all season. Wright will once again be one of the top defensive players for an Air Force defense that will be one of the best in the country.