These dandy positional duos will give their coaches a lot to work with on offense this season

Mike Huguenin
Yahoo! Sports

Everyone knows two is better than one (well, there are some exceptions; it's not good to have two wives, for instance, or two songs by Train in your possession).

For sure, when college football coaches have two stars – or at least two solid players – at one position, it's time for rejoicing.

To that end, today we look at the teams with the best duos on offense – the two best tailbacks, the two best wide receivers, the two best tackles, the two best interior linemen, the best kicker/punter combination.

We do a position-by-position look, then at the end, list the 10 best offensive duos.

We'll do the same thing Friday for defensive players.

Running backs

Best in nation: Wisconsin. Montee Ball was a Heisman finalist last season, when he rushed for 1,923 yards and 33 TDs. James White is a solid backup; he has rushed for 1,765 yards and 20 touchdowns in two seasons.

ACC: Georgia Tech. It's not surprising that a triple-option team would have two good backs. Tech was No. 2 in the nation in rushing last season behind the efforts of David Sims and Orwin Smith, who combined for 1,713 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Big East: Pittsburgh. Ray Graham was well on his way to a 1,000-yard season when he was injured in the eighth game last fall; he still finished with 958 yards and nine TDs. Isaac Bennett was pressed into duty after Graham was hurt and rushed for 237 yards in the final five games; coaches had hoped to redshirt him.

Big Ten: Wisconsin.

Big 12: TCU. The Horned Frogs are the only team in the nation to return three guys who ran for at least 700 yards. For the purpose of this exercise, we're picking Matthew Tucker and Ed Wesley. Tucker ran for 702 yards and 12 scores, and Wesley gained 726 yards and scored six touchdowns despite missing three games.

Conference USA: Tulsa. Tulsa is the only team nationally that returns two players who rushed for 800 yards. Ja'Terian Douglas had 883 yards and four touchdowns, and Trey Watts rushed for 881 yards and three scores. Watts also is a productive receiver.

Mid-American: Eastern Michigan. EMU's leading rusher was QB Alex Gillett, but the Eagles have some solid tailbacks as well, which is a big reason they ranked 14th nationally in rushing (218.3 yards per game). Dominique Sherrer missed half the season with injuries, but still managed to run for 572 yards; he played in six games and reached 100 yards in half of them. Javonti Greene rushed for 667 yards and six scores, and he had nine or fewer carries in half of EMU's games.

Mountain West: UNLV. The Rebels aren't that good overall, but they do have solid tailbacks. Tim Cornett has 1,000-yard potential; he ran for 671 yards and seven TDs last season. Bradley Randle added 489 yards and two scores as the third-teamer; he now will be the main backup.

Pac-12: Stanford. The Cardinal relied heavily on the run with Andrew Luck; expect an even heavier emphasis this fall now that Luck is in the NFL. Stepfan Taylor should contend for the Pac-12 rushing title; he ran for 1,330 yards and 10 TDs last season. Backup Tyler Gaffney finished with 449 yards and seven scores.

SEC: LSU. The Tigers go a legit four-deep at tailback, and these guys will be running behind one of the nation's best offensive lines. Bruising Spencer Ware, who was a high school quarterback in Ohio, is the main man; he had 707 yards and eight touchdowns last season. LSU doesn't have a true backup tailback; the depth allows coaches to ride the hot hand. We're betting 240-pound sophomore Kenny Hilliard has the hot hand a lot this fall. He managed 336 yards and eight TDs last season; he totaled just seven carries in the first seven games before becoming a bigger part of the offense in the second half of the season. Michael Ford and Alfred Blue also will be in the mix.

Sun Belt: Middle Tennessee State. Benny Cunningham ran for 501 yards and four TDs in an injury-filled season, and William Pratcher filled in nicely, finishing with 585 yards and two scores. Expectations are high for LSU transfer Drayton Calhoun, too; he was a DB at LSU.

Western Athletic: Texas State. It likely will be a long first season for the Bobcats in the FBS ranks, but they have a nice duo at tailback in Terrence Franks (863 yards, nine TDs) and Marcus Curry (637 yards, three TDs). Curry began his career at Navy, but had off-field issues and resigned from the academy.

Wide receivers

Best in nation: USC. Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are the best duo at any position nationally. They combined for 184 receptions for 2,435 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. That's more receptions than 24 teams, more yardage than 37 teams and more TDs than 86 teams.

ACC: Clemson. Sammy Watkins was the best freshman in the nation last season, finishing with 82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 scores. He is a big-time deep threat and also is a weapon on sweeps and returns. DeAndre Hopkins is a more-than-capable No. 2 guy; he had 72 catches for 978 yards and five TDs.

Big East: Pittsburgh. Devin Street and Mike Shanahan will be playing for their third coordinator in as many seasons; they played in a pro-style attack in 2010, a version of the spread last season and now are back in a pro-style attack. They combined for 93 receptions for 1,247 yards and six TDs last season.

Big Ten: Michigan. The Big Ten doesn't have a lot to choose from, and this is a leap of faith, of sorts, that Ray Roundtree reverts to the form of his sophomore season. Roundtree had 72 receptions in 2010 but fell off the face of the earth last season, finishing with just 19. It might be too much to ask for him to catch 70 again, but a season in the 50s is a legit goal. Speedy Jeremy Gallon, who had 31 catches last season, is the No. 2 guy.

Big 12: West Virginia. Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin torched secondaries last season, to the tune of 173 receptions for 2,465 yards and 20 TDs. They, and not the USC duo, have the most yards of returning tandem this season. Bailey is the deep threat and has good rapport with QB Geno Smith, not surprising considering they were teammates at Miramar (Fla.) High. Austin is the epitome of what coaches want in a slot receiver, as he is super-quick and tough to get on the ground.

Conference USA: Tulsa. With QB G.J. Kinne gone, Tulsa's passing attack likely takes a hit. But Willie Carter (who plays a hybrid fullback/tight end/wide receiver position) and Bryan Burnham still will be tough to handle for opposing defenses. They combined for 115 catches for 1,718 yards and 16 touchdowns. (Interestingly, Tulsa had a tailback duo combine for 1,764 yards last season.)

Mid-American: Central Michigan. Expect good numbers from QB Ryan Radcliff because he again can work with Titus Davis and Cody Wilson. They combined for 88 catches for 1,277 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wilson is a former 83-receptions guy (in 2010).

Mountain West: Hawaii. The Warriors no longer will use the run-and-shoot, but Billy Ray Stutzman and Jeremiah Ostrowski return after combining for 143 receptions for 1,597 yards and nine touchdowns.

Pac-12: USC.

SEC: Tennessee. The Justin Hunter-Da'Rick Rogers combo should terrorize SEC secondaries this fall, assuming Rogers remains out of coach Derek Dooley's doghouse. Hunter played in just three games last season (torn ACL) and has only 33 career receptions, but those catches have gone for 729 yards (22.1 yards per catch) and nine TDs and he already is showing up as a first-round pick in numerous mock drafts for 2013. Rogers, a big, physical target, had 67 receptions for 1,040 yards and nine TDs despite seeing constant double-teams after Hunter was hurt.

Sun Belt: Troy. There are a few good duos in the league, but we're going with the Trojans' Eric Thomas and Jamel Johnson. Thomas had 67 catches for 875 yards and nine TDs last season. Johnson, meanwhile, was at Holmes CC in Goodman, Miss., getting his academics in order. He played at Troy as a true freshman in 2010 and came on strong at the end of the season, finishing with 23 receptions. He is big (6 feet 2/217 pounds) and fast.

Western Athletic: San Jose State. Noel Grigsby and Chandler Jones were one of the most productive duos in the nation last season, combining for 150 receptions. But those catches went for only 1,452 yards (9.7 yards per catch) and just four touchdowns. Still, they are a productive combination.


Best in nation: Texas A&M. The Aggies' junior pair of Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews barely edges out LSU's duo of Chris Faulk and Alex Hurst. Joeckel has started all 26 games since he set foot on campus; Matthews, whose dad, Bruce, is an NFL Hall of Fame lineman, has started the past 20 games in his career. Neither redshirted, and both are considered potential first-round picks in the 2014 NFL draft.

ACC: Virginia. Senior Oday Aboushi and junior Morgan Moses weigh a combined 645 pounds and provide the Cavs with ample protection on both ends of the line. Aboushi, from Staten Island, N.Y., and of Palestinian descent, could be the next Cavaliers offensive lineman to go in the first round.

Big East: USF. Senior Mark Popek finally began to live up to expectations last season, and he and sophomore Quinterrius Eatmon started 12 games apiece last season. Eatmon, who has dropped about 65 pounds since enrolling at USF and now weighs 300 pounds, garnered some Freshman All-America mention last season.

Big Ten: Michigan State. Fou Fonoti stepped into the starting lineup out of junior college last season and helped solidify the Spartans' line. The other tackle is Dan France, a converted defensive lineman whose aggressiveness makes him tough for opposing ends.

Big 12: Oklahoma. No league team returns both its starting tackles. The Sooners get the nod because of the potential of sophomore RT Darryl Williams, who was a reserve last season. The other tackle is Lane Johnson, who is moving from the right side to the left.

Conference USA: Houston. Jacolby Ashworth is one of the best linemen in the league, and the other tackle is Rowdy Harper, who was one of the conference's best freshmen last season. And, hey, how can a lineman nicknamed "Rowdy" be anything but a rough-and-tumble guy?

Mid-American: Western Michigan. Massive Dann O'Neill (6-8/307) was a first-team All-MAC performer last season. He is heading into his third season as a starter after transferring from Michigan. His running mate at tackle is Terry Davisson, who likely is one of the tallest electrical engineering majors (he's 6-6) in the nation.

Mountain West: Nevada. One of the league's three new teams has the best pair of tackles in the conference. The leader is senior Jeff Nady, heading into his third season as a starter. His sidekick is junior Joel Bitonio, also heading into his third season as a starter.

Pac-12: Colorado. The Buffs lack talent overall, but not at tackle. Junior David Bakhtiari was a second-team All-Pac-12 pick last season, but junior Jack Harris, who missed last season with a broken ankle, may actually have a higher upside.

SEC: Texas A&M.

Sun Belt: Louisiana-Lafayette. ULL averaged 32.3 points per game last season, and one reason the Ragin' Cajuns' skill-position guys had room to operate was the play of Ts Leonardo Bates and Jaron Odom. Both are heading into their third seasons as a starter; Bates is a former guard.

Western Athletic: Louisiana Tech. Seniors Oscar Johnson and Jordan Mills are key members of the league's best offensive line. Johnson started at guard last season after moving in from junior college. Mills' cousin is Green Bay Packers CB Tramon Williams, a Louisiana Tech alum.

Interior linemen

Best in nation: Alabama. G Chance Warmack is considered a possible first-round pick and C Barrett Jones is trying to become an All-America selection at his third position. Jones was an All-America guard in 2010 and an All-America tackle last fall, when he won the Outland Award as the nation's best interior lineman. He will be a four-year starter for the Tide.

ACC: Georgia Tech. Senior Omoregie Uzzi and junior Will Jackson are headed into their third seasons as starting guards for the Yellow Jackets. Uzzi earned some All-America acclaim last season, while Jackson is a Dean's List student majoring in business administration.

Big East: Pittsburgh. Ryan Turnley used to back up Chris Jacobson at guard, but they will start next to each other for the second season in a row this fall. Turnley is entering his second season as Pitt's starting center. Jacobson was granted a sixth year of eligibility because of his injury history. He started the first three games at guard last season before being lost with a torn ACL; he started all 13 games for Pitt in 2009 and '10.

Big Ten: Michigan State. C Travis Jackson was one of the better freshmen offensive linemen in the nation last season, and Spartans coaches rave about his ability. He'll line up next to senior G Chris McDonald, who is going to be a three-year starter for the Spartans and looks to be the best guard in the Big Ten this season.

Big 12: Oklahoma. Junior G Gabe Ikard arrived on campus as a tight end, but was moved to the line and has thrived. He is heading into his third season as a starter and was a first-team all-league pick last fall. C Ben Habern was a highly hyped high school center who has lived up to his press clippings; Habern, a senior, is going to be a four-year starter for the Sooners.

Conference USA: Southern Miss. Gs Darius Barnes (6-4/354) and Joe Duhon (6-2/304) give the Golden Eagles a lot of beef in the middle of the line. Both are seniors heading into their third seasons as starters. Barnes signed as a defensive lineman in 2008 and was converted to offense in 2009.

Mid-American: Toledo. C Zac Kerin and G Greg Mancz helped pave the way for an offense that averaged 42.2 points per game last season. Kerin was a second-team All-MAC selection, while Mancz was a freshman All-America pick in his first season at guard (he's a former center, and Kerin is a former tackle).

Mountain West: San Diego State State. G Nik Embernate is going to be a four-year starter for the Aztecs, and senior C Alec Johnson is heading into his third season as a starter. He is a former guard who moved inside for the first time last season.

Pac-12: USC. C Khaled Holmes is considered the best pro prospect among the nation's centers. This will be his third season as a starter for the Trojans and his second at center; he started at guard in 2009. Holmes is working on his master's degree in communication management. G Marcus Martin was one of several Trojans who earned freshman All-America honors last season. He was the first true freshman to start at guard for the Trojans since 2004.

SEC: Alabama.

Sun Belt: Western Kentucky. TB Bobby Rainey provided more than 50 percent of Western's offense last season, and C Sean Conway and G Adam Smith helped clear the way. Smith is going to be a four-year starter for the Hilltoppers and was a first-team all-league selection last season. His play has to irk the coaches at conference rival Middle Tennessee: He is from Murfreesboro, Tenn., and grew up a few miles from the MTSU campus. Conway, a junior, is heading into his third season as the starter and played every offensive snap last season.

Western Athletic: Louisiana Tech. C Stephen Warner is heading into his third season as the starter. How much do coaches think of him? He calls the pre-snap cadence for the Bulldogs instead of the quarterback. G Kevin Saia, like Warner a senior, also is heading into his third season as a starter.


Best in nation: Oklahoma State. Senior Quinn Sharp handles the punting and kicking for the Cowboys. He will be one of the favorites for the Ray Guy Award, which goes to the nation's best punter. He averaged 46.3 yards per punt last season (third nationally) and owns a career average of 45.8 yards. Last season was Sharp's first as the Cowboys' kicker and he was 22-of-25 on field goal attempts. In addition, Sharp led the nation with 61 touchbacks on kickoffs, 23 more than anyone else in the nation.

ACC: North Carolina. Senior K Casey Barth should become the Tar Heels' career leader in field goals this season; he needs five to move past his brother, Connor. Casey Barth is 50-of-62 in his career but was just 1-of-1 last season before redshirting with a groin injury. P Tommy Hibbard was effective as a freshman; he gets good hang time.

Big East: Pittsburgh. Junior P Matt Yoklic, a former walk-on, was Pitt's main punter for the first time last season and was second in the league with a 41.2-yard average. K Kevin Harper was 21-of-31 on field goals; he has a strong leg and five of his misses were from at least 47 yards away.

Big Ten: Nebraska. Senior Brett Maher handles both duties for the Huskers. He saw his first action last season and was 19-of-23 on field goals, with three of his misses coming from in excess of 50 yards. Maher also averaged 44.5 yards per punt, with 25 of his 59 attempts landing inside the 20.

Big 12: Oklahoma State.

Conference USA: Houston. Senior K Matt Hogan has made almost 85 percent of his career attempts (39-of-46, including 13-of-17 last season). He made 91 extra points last season, including an NCAA-record 78 in a row at one point. P Richie Leone has a career average of 41.2. He also handles kickoffs for the Cougars.

Mid-American: Ball State. Senior P Scott Kovanda was one of 10 finalists for the Ray Guy Award last season, when he averaged 43.6 yards per attempt. He has a career average of 41.1 yards. Senior K Steve Schott was 15-of-19 last season, his first as the Cardinals' kicker.

Mountain West: Air Force. Senior Parker Herrington served as the Falcons' kicker for the first time last season and earned some all-league acclaim after going 15-of-18 on field goal attempts. P David Baska averaged 40.8 yards per kick.

Pac-12: Utah. K Coleman Petersen walked-on at Utah in 2006 but didn't see game action until last fall. He didn't play in '06, then took a one-year Mormon mission. He was a scout-team member in 2008, didn't play football in '09, then was a scout-team member again in 2010 before going 18-of-25 last season. P Sean Sellwood is heading into his fourth season as the starter; he averaged 45.0 yards per attempt last season and 15 of his 50 attempts went at least 50 yards.

SEC: LSU. Senior K Drew Alleman is a former walk-on who became the Tigers' kicker last season; he was 16-of-18 on field goal attempts, including 3-of-3 from at least 40 yards. Sophomore Brad Wing, an Australian native who attended his senior year of high school in Baton Rouge, averaged 44.1 yards per punt last season. Twenty-three of his 50 attempts landed inside the 20.

Sun Belt: Louisiana-Lafayette. Brett Baer is ULL's kicker and punter. He was 18-of-20 on field goal attempts last season and kicked a 50-yarder on the final play of the game to give the Ragin' Cajuns a 32-30 victory over San Diego State in the New Orleans Bowl. Baer also averaged 40.3 yards per punt and nine landed inside the 5-yard line.

Western Athletic: Louisiana Tech. Senior Ryan Allen, a transfer from Oregon State, won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top punter last season. He averaged 46.1 yards per attempt, and dropped 39 of his 83 punts inside the 20 and 22 inside the 10. K Matt Nelson was 15-of-21 on field goals and had 10 touchbacks on kickoffs.

The 10 best duos

1. USC wide receivers
2. Texas A&M tackles
3. West Virginia wide receivers
4. LSU offensive tackles (second-best in their league, but still deserving of national ranking)
5. Alabama interior linemen
6. Clemson wide receivers
7. Tennessee wide receivers
8. Wisconsin tailbacks
9. Virginia tackles
10. Stanford tailbacks

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