The National Football Foundation released the list of nominees for the 2014 class of the College Football Hall of Fame on Thursday.
75 players and six coaches are on the ballot, and 12-14 or so of the players and two of the coaches will be announced as part of the induction class in May.
Voting for the College Football Hall of Fame isn't nearly as straightforward as it is for the Pro Football Hall of Fame or even the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, a lot of people want to overhaul baseball's voting process, so isn't that saying something? Players are selected by region in the College Football Hall of Fame, and there's even a rule that players from the same school can't be selected in back-to-back years. It's why Tommie Frazier and Orlando Pace had to wait until 2013 to be inducted.
So here's who we think are the strongest candidates for induction in 2014. Because of the rules, they may not all get in, but that doesn't mean their Hall of Fame cases are any less valued.
Derrick Thomas, LB, Alabama
Perhaps I'm biased about DT, as he was the most recognizable football player of my childhood in Kansas City. Many of my first Chiefs memories include Thomas and the news of his January 2000 car crash sticks vividly in my memory.
He's credited with the NCAA career sack record (52) and has 74 tackles for loss. It's his fourth year on the ballot, and it should be his final year on the ballot.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, TCU
Tomlinson won the 2000 Doak Walker Award as the nation's best running back. As a junior, when he was the WAC player of the year, he averaged 6.5 yards a carry and ran for 1.974 yards. As a senior, his YPC dipped a bit, but he got the ball more and ran for 2.158 yards and 22 touchdowns. Imagine the attention Tomlinson would have gotten if TCU was in the BIg 12 when he was a college player.
Antwaan Randle El, QB, Indiana
Randle-El became a benchmark for college quarterbacking in the 2000s. As more quarterbacks became dual-threat weapons, Randle-El was the first to accumulate 6,000 yards passing and 3,000 yards rushing in his career. Sure, those benchmarks were eclipsed by the likes of Brad Smith and Colin Kaepernick, who joined the 8,000/4,000 club, but we're going to recognize him for being a trendsetter.
Raghib Ismail, WR, Notre Dame
If it wasn't for Ty Detmer's cartoonish passing numbers, the Rocket would have been the 1990 Heisman Trophy winner. His offensive numbers don't stand out when compared to today, but he ran for over 1,000 yards and had over 1,500 receiving in addition to over 1,500 career return yards.
Eric Dickerson, RB, SMU
Yes, Dickerson is not in the College Football Hall of Fame. It's just a wild guess, but maybe it has something to do with the death penalty that SMU received in 1987 that stopped football for the 1988 season? One of these days, Dickerson will get in. His 4,450 rushing yards and 47 TDs are too good to keep him out forever.
Zach Thomas, LB, Texas Tech
Wait, a dominant defensive player at Texas Tech? He may be the best Red Raiders defensive player ever. He was the Southwestern Conference defensive player of the year in 1993 and 1994.
Randall Cunningham, QB/P, UNLV
Cunningham is officially listed on the ballot as a punter, but we're putting him here because of his accomplishments at quarterback too. In addition to averaging over 45 yards a punt in three seasons, Cunningham threw for over 8,000 yards and 61 touchdowns. But did you know that QB Eagles only ran for 223 yards at UNLV? Yeah, sacks are counted into college rushing stats, but that seems like a mismanagement of resources.
Here are the rest of the nominees below. In case you were wondering, the official criteria to be on the ballot, according to the NFF is that "players must have been named a First Team All-American by a major/national selector as recognized and utilized by the NCAA for their consensus All-America teams; played their last year of intercollegiate football at least 10 years prior; played within the last 50 years and cannot be currently playing professional football. Coaches must have coached a minimum of 10 years and 100 games as a head coach; won at least 60 percent of their games; and be retired from coaching for at least three years. If a coach is retired and over the age of 70, there is no waiting period. If he is over the age of 75, he is eligible as an active coach. In both cases, the candidate’s post-football record as a citizen may also be weighed."
- Trev Alberts, LB, Nebraska
- Eric Bieniemy, RB, Colorado
- Dre Bly, DB, North Carolina
- Tony Boselli, OT, USC
- Brian Bosworth, LB, Oklahoma
- Bob Breunig, LB, Arizona State
- Jerome Brown, DT, Miami
- Ruben Brown, OT, Pitt
- Larry Burton, WR, Purdue
- Dave Butz, DT, Purdue
- Freddie Carr, LB, UTEP
- Mark Carrier, S, USC
- Wes Chandler, WR, Florida
- Shane Conlan, LB, Penn State
- Tim Couch, QB, Kentucky
- Tom Cousineau, LB, Ohio State
- Bob Crable, LB, Notre Dame
- Paul Crane, C/LB, Alabama
- Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska
- Troy Davis, RB, Iowa State
- Mike Dirks, DT, Wyoming
- D.J. Dozier, RB, Penn State
- Tim Dwight, WR/Returner, Iowa
- Jumbo Elliott, OT, Michigan
- William Fuller, DT, North Carolina
- Thom Gatewood, WR, Notre Dame
- Willie Gault, WR, Tennessee
- Kirk Gibson, WR, Michigan State
- Charlie Gogolak, K, Princeton
- Joe Hamilton, QB, Georgia Tech
- Al Harris, DE, Arizona State
- Dana Howard, LB, Illinois
- Randy Hughes, DB, Oklahoma
- Bobby Humphrey, RB, Alabama
- Roy Jefferson, WR, Utah
- Ernie Jennings, WR, Air Force
- Keyshawn Johnson, WR, USC
- Clinton Jones, RB, Michigan State
- Lincoln Kennedy, OT, Washington
- Tim Krumrie, DT, Wisconsin
- Greg Lewis, RB, Washington
- Jesse Lewis, DT, Oregon State
- Ray Lewis, LB, Miami
- Robert Lytle, RB, Michigan
- Bob McKay, OT, Texas
- Cade McNown, QB, UCLA
- Mark Messner, DL, Michigan
- Darrin Nelson, RB, Stanford
- Ken Norton Jr, LB, UCLA
- Tom Nowatzke, FB, Indiana
- Jim Otis, FB, Ohio State
- Paul Palmer, RB, Temple
- Simeon Rice, LB, Illinois
- Ron Rivera, LB, Cal
- Willie Roaf, OL, Louisiana Tech
- Mike Ruth, NG, Boston College
- Rashaan Salaam, RB, Colorado
- Warren Sapp, DT, Miami
- John Sciarra, QB, UCLA
- Larry Seivers, WR, Tennessee
- Sterling Sharpe, WR, South Carolina
- Art Still, DE, Kentucky
- Jackie Walker, LB, Tennessee
- Wesley Walls, TE, Mississippi
- Lorenzo White, RB, Michigan State
- Clarence Williams, RB, Washington State
- Ricky Williams, RB, Texas
- Steve Wisniewski, OG, Penn State
And the six coaches:
- Mike Belotti: Chico State, Oregon
- Jim Carlen: West Virginia, Texas Tech, South Carolina
- Pete Cawthon: Texas Tech
- Danny Ford: Clemson, Arkansas
- Billy Jack Murphy: Memphis
- Darryl Rogers: Call State-Hayward, Fresno State, San Jose State, Michigan State, Arizona State
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