This is the time of the year when college football fans basically are sitting around and twiddling their thumbs. While fall camps open in about eight weeks, there still are more than two months until the first game. That's a long wait.
But there's no twiddling of thumbs here. Today, we unveil a list of top players who toil for bad teams. The first year we did this, in 2010, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, we called it the "All-Loser Team" because we thought every player on the list was going to be on a losing team that fall. Alas, that name didn't go over too well.
We're now calling it "The Preseason All-America Team Made Up Of Players Who We Think Are Going to Play For Losing Programs This Fall."
Here is the team; some of these guys, losing team or not, will be serious contenders for a real All-American team at the end of the season. In short, these guys are worth watching, even if their teams might not be.
QB Jeff Tuel, Washington State
Buzz: Tuel enjoyed a solid season as a first-time starter in 2010, throwing for 2,780 yards and 18 touchdowns for a bad Cougars team. He suffered through an injury-marred junior season last fall and played in just three games. But he adapted quickly to new coach Mike Leach's offense and capped off a good spring by throwing four TD passes in the Cougars' spring game. He has a nice arm and a quick release and could put up huge numbers this fall for Leach. His uncle, Mark Hurm, was a three-year letterman at Florida in the early 1980s as a long snapper.
RB Cameron Marshall, Arizona State
Buzz: Marshall, a senior, is heading into his third season as a starter. He became an every-down back last season and responded by rushing for 1,050 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also is a good receiver, a facet of his game that should be used more by the Sun Devils' new coaching staff. He looks to be a good fit for the new offense, and for a guy who weighs 225 pounds, he has a nice burst.
RB Lyle McCombs, Connecticut
Buzz: McCombs gave the Huskies yet another 1,000-yard rusher, finishing with 1,151 yards and seven TDs last season as a redshirt freshman. His production was notable because of the lack of a consistent passing attack; if McCombs was stymied, UConn's offense generally bogged down. He had six 100-yard games, but his TD production fell way off after he scored four in the season opener. Still, he runs hard and has some burst, and again will be the focal point of the Huskies' offense.
WR Jamal Miles, Arizona State
Buzz: Miles, a senior, is one of the most dangerous big-play guys in the nation, and you can bet Arizona State's new coaching staff is working on ways to get Miles the ball a variety of ways in the Sun Devils' version of the spread. One troubling aspect for Miles is that he has averaged just 7.9 yards on his 91 career receptions. Given his speed and shiftiness, that is an embarrassingly low number. Still, he has scored via the run, pass receptions and on kickoff and punt returns, and also has thrown a TD pass in his career.
WR Connor Vernon, Duke
Buzz: Vernon has been consistent and productive in his first three seasons with the Blue Devils. He has 198 career receptions, with 143 of those coming in the past two seasons. Vernon hasn't seen the end zone all that much (13 TD receptions), but that is more of a function of Duke's overall lack of talent than a knock on Vernon, who has nine 100-yard games in his career.
WR Marquess Williams, Washington State
Buzz: He is one of the best receivers in the nation, and the mind boggles at the numbers he could put up in Leach's pass-happy offense. Williams, a junior, has 137 career receptions, for 2,394 yards and 18 touchdowns. He is both physical and fast, and a 100-catch season seems a legitimate goal.
T David Bakhtiari, Colorado
Buzz: Bakhtiari, a junior, is heading into his third season as a starter. He moved to left tackle from the right side last season, replacing All-American Nate Solder; he held his own, earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors. Bakhtiari, a 300-pounder from the Los Angeles area, considers himself an avid snow and water skier.
T Justin Pugh, Syracuse
Buzz: He seems a lock for first-team All-Big East honors (it would be the second season in a row) and should contend for at least honorable mention All-America notice. Pugh, a junior, is heading into his third season as a starter and has started all 25 games in his career. He is both physical and mobile, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he turned pro after this season.
G Larry Warford, Kentucky
Buzz: Warford, a senior, is one of the best guards in the nation; too bad there isn't all that much talent surrounding him at UK. He's extremely quick for a guy who weighs in excess of 330 pounds and is headed into his third season as a starter. Warford started as a sophomore at tackle for Oceanside (Calif.) High, then moved to Kentucky to finish his high school career.
G Duane Zlatnik, Kansas
Buzz: He and senior T Tanner Hawkinson give new coach Charlie Weis two nice building blocks on the offensive line. Zlatnik redshirted as a freshman in 2008, then was a reserve defensive lineman in '09. He moved to the offensive line during spring drills in 2010 and will be a three-year starter at guard for the Jayhawks; he will contend for All-Big 12 honors again this fall.
C Weston Richburg, Colorado State
Buzz: Richburg has started all 24 games in his Rams career. He's a former high school quarterback who never had played center until he arrived at Colorado State. He is from the tiny town of Bushland, Texas (population of less than 200), near Amarillo.
E Joe Vellano, Maryland
Buzz: The Terps have switched to a 3-4 defense, and Vellano moves from tackle to end with the formation change. He's a squatty guy (6 feet 1/285 pounds) with a quick first step, and his new position should make him even more of a disruptive force. Vellano, a senior, was a first-team All-ACC pick last season, when he had 94 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. His dad, Paul, was an All-ACC defensive tackle at Maryland in 1972 and '73.
T Rob Lohr, Vanderbilt
Buzz: Lohr, a senior, will be a three-year starter for the Commodores. He is coming off a season in which he made 41 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and five sacks, including one sack each against Alabama and Arkansas. He is an active tackle and moves well laterally.
T Kawann Short, Purdue
Buzz: Short flirted with turning pro but decided to stay for his senior season. He will be a four-year starter for the Boilermakers and earned All-Big Ten recognition last season after finishing with 54 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. His best game might have been the Boilers' upset of Ohio State; he had six tackles and three sacks in that one. He has 33.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks in his career.
[Countdown to Kickoff: Top 100 players countdown begins]
LB A.J. Klein, Iowa State
Buzz: Klein has been a tackle machine for the Cyclones and was the co-defensive player of the year in the Big 12 last season along with Oklahoma DE Frank Alexander. Klein, a senior who will be a three-year starter, has made 228 tackles in the past two seasons, including 116 last season; he also had six pass breakups and an interception return for a TD. Klein is from Kimberly, Wis., a town of about 6,000 that was founded by John Kimberly; he was a co-founder of the Kimberly-Clark Corp., makers of Kleenex and Huggies, among other products.
LB Trent Mackey, Tulane
Buzz: Mackey is a Louisiana native who began his career at Duke in 2008 before transferring to Tulane. Mackey will be a three-year starter for the Green Wave and should be in the running for Conference USA defensive player of the year honors this fall. He made 145 tackles last season, which ranked sixth nationally. Mackey also made 14 tackles for loss and had an interception and a fumble recovery.
LB Sio Moore, Connecticut
Buzz: Moore, a senior, is headed into his third season as a starter. He helped the Huskies finish fourth nationally in rush defense last season, finishing with 86 tackles. Moore also had 16 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, three interceptions, six pass breakups and two forced fumbles. "Sio" is a nickname; his real first name is Snorsio.
LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College
Buzz: With Luke Kuechly gone early to the NFL, Pierre-Louis should be in the spotlight for BC this fall. He’s a bit undersized (6-1 but just 212 pounds) but runs well and is productive. Pierre-Louis is heading into his third season as a starter and has made 166 tackles in his first two seasons. He also has seven pass breakups in his career.
CB Merrill Noel, Wake Forest
Buzz: Noel was a freshman All-America selection last season, when he led the nation with 19 pass breakups. He also had two interceptions, 66 tackles and a forced fumble. Noel is a former star at powerhouse Pahokee (Fla.) High.
CB Trey Wilson, Vanderbilt
Buzz: Vandy almost always has one or two defenders who contend for All-SEC honors, and this season won't be any different. Wilson, a senior, made the jump from key reserve to important starter last season and should be one of the better corners in the SEC this fall. He had three picks and eight pass breakups last season playing opposite All-SEC CB Casey Hayward.
S Charles Sawyer, Ole Miss
Buzz: Sawyer, a junior, led Ole Miss with four interceptions last season and added nine pass breakups and 70 tackles. He also can play cornerback, so his coverage skills are a bit above-average for a safety.
S Jahleel Addae, Central Michigan
Buzz: Addae, a senior, is heading into his third season as a starter and is coming off a season in which he was a first-team All-MAC performer. He had four interceptions, eight pass breakups and 107 tackles last season; he has made 187 tackles in the past two seasons. His brother, Jahmile, played safety at West Virginia.
K Chris Boswell, Rice
Buzz: Boswell has big leg. He was 17-of-21 on field goal attempts last season, with a long of 54 yards. He has kicked 28 field goals in two seasons and six more will give him the school's career record. He also had 14 touchbacks on kickoffs last season.
P Bobby Cowan, Idaho
Buzz: Cowan, a senior, has a shot at winning the Ray Guy Award, which goes to the nation's best punter. He was second in the nation in punting last season, averaging 46.4 yards per attempt, and he owns a career average of 45.2 yards.
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