We're a day away from July 4, and fireworks are as much a staple as hot dogs, the beach and beer.
In honor of those fireworks we'll all see Wednesday night, here's a look at the 10 most explosive players in the nation. (The numbers cited come from the NCAA statistics website and from cfbstats.com, a site that can keep a true fan busy for hours.)
10. West Virginia WR Stedman Bailey
Buzz: Bailey averaged 17.8 yards on each of his 72 receptions, and scored 12 touchdowns. He had eight receptions covering at least 40 yards (tied for fourth-most nationally) and had three cover at least 60 yards (tied for second-most nationally). He also had seven 100-yard games for WVU.
9. Houston RB Charles Sims
Buzz: He should have a bigger role for the Cougars this season with QB Case Keenum and big-play WR Patrick Edwards gone. Sims is a powerful runner with good top-end speed. Sims had four rushes that covered at least 50 yards (tied for third-most nationally) and seven that covered at least 30 yards. He averaged 7.5 yards per carry on 110 attempts last season and scored nine rushing TDs. He also caught 51 passes and averaged 11.3 yards per catch, a way-better-than-average number for a running back.
8. USC WR Marqise Lee
Buzz: Robert Woods gets more notice, but Lee actually made more big plays last fall – and as a true freshman. He had 13 receptions that covered at least 30 yards, tied for fourth-most nationally and the most for any returning player nationally. He also had seven catches of at least 40 yards and three of at least 50. He averaged 15.7 yards per catch and scored 11 times on his 73 receptions.
7. Georgia LB Jarvis Jones
Buzz: Can a defensive player be explosive? Certainly. And this guy should be the nation's most feared pass rusher this fall. In his first season with Georgia after sitting out following a transfer from USC, Jones made life miserable for SEC quarterbacks by racking up 13.5 sacks and seven quarterback hurries. Jones, who has great speed off the edge, also forced two fumbles. The potential is there for Jones to be even more effective this fall because he should be more comfortable in his second season in coordinator Todd Grantham's scheme.
6. Washington State WR Marquess Wilson
Buzz: The possibilities seem endless for this guy in Mike Leach's offense. Wilson was dangerous as it was. He averaged 16.9 yards per catch last season and had 82 receptions and 12 TDs; in his two-year career, he has averaged 17.5 yards on his 137 receptions, with 18 TDs. He led the nation last season with five catches covering at least 60 yards, was tied for first nationally with three receptions covering at least 70 yards and was tied for third with 26 receptions covering at least 20 yards. He is tall (6 feet 4) with a long stride, and is deceptively fast.
5. Clemson WR Sammy Watkins
Buzz: He made a huge national splash as a true freshman last fall. He was a five-star recruit and more than lived up to his billing. After tuning up against Troy and Wofford, Watkins announced himself on the national stage in Games 3 and 4 last season, torching the Auburn and Florida State secondaries to the tune of 17 catches for 296 yards (17.4 yards per catch) and four TDs. He finished the season with 82 receptions for 1,219 yards (14.9 yards per catch) and 12 TDs. He also was effective on wide receiver sweeps and as a kick returner (25.0 yards per return, with a TD). He had seven touches that covered at least 50 yards (tied for third-most nationally) and five that covered at least 60 (also tied for third-most nationally). He also had 17 touches that covered at least 30 yards (tied for fourth-most nationally).
4. West Virginia WR Tavon Austin
Buzz: He led the nation in all-purpose yards per game at 198.0. He set a school record with 101 receptions. He also was dangerous as a runner and as a punt and kick returner. He averaged 14.96 yards every time he touched the ball (172 times) and scored 11 TDs. Austin had 19 plays that covered at least 30 yards (third-most nationally), four that covered at least 70 (tied for first nationally), three that covered at least 80 (tied for first nationally) and two that covered at least 90 (tied for third nationally).
3. LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu
Buzz: "The Honey Badger" is the other defender on our list. His big-play exploits helped make him a Heisman finalist last season. He was one of just four players with two punt returns that covered at least 60 yards; he scored on both. In addition, Mathieu scored twice on fumble returns, caused six fumbles, had two interceptions and broke up nine passes. He also tied for the team lead with 76 tackles and had 7.5 tackles for loss.
2. Michigan QB Denard Robinson
Buzz: He wasn't as dangerous last season in a more traditional offense as he had been in Rich Rodriguez's spread, but "Shoelace" still makes every fan hold his breath when he breaks containment at the line of scrimmage. He ran for 1,176 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and 16 touchdowns, and also threw for 2,173 yards and 20 scores. He had 47 rushes that covered at least 10 yards, which was fourth-most nationally, and six that covered at least 30. He also completed 11 passes that gained at least 40 yards
1. Oregon WR De'Anthony Thomas
Buzz: LaMichael James was the Ducks' big-play guy last season; he led the nation with 19 runs covering at least 20 yards, 13 covering at least 30 and eight covering at least 40. This season, Ducks opponents will need to beware of Thomas, the L.A. product nicknamed "The Black Mamba." Thomas scored three times on plays covering at least 90 yards. He tied for the national lead with seven touches that covered at least 70 yards. He was second with 12 touches that covered at least 40 yards. He scored 18 total touchdowns. What should be frightening to opponents: Thomas did all that as a still-raw true freshman and had just 140 total touches. He scored once every eight times he touched the ball and averaged 15.96 yards on each touch.
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