Any so-called college football expert or analyst can tell you all day about the Montee Balls and the Matt Barkleys of the college football world. Me? Well, I'm all for propping up the best in the nation, too, but y'all know me: I like to keep my eyes on guys that don't get the requisite amount of deserved buzz and hype.
This year is no different as I've got my eyes on guys that'll get overlooked and may not get a ton of national attention, but definitely deserve it.
One of my favorite players in the country is Michigan State outside linebacker Denicos Allen. Overshadowed, perhaps, a bit by All-American candidate DE William Gholston and by former star DT Jerel Worthy, Allen almost always pops on film.
Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi loves to use Allen off the edge in blitz schemes, but Narduzzi always finds ways to put Allen in a spot to make plays. He's not an NFL-sized linebacker, topping the scales at 5'11" and 232 pounds, but he's the prototype college outside linebacker. He can fly, play in space, play the run and blitz the edge. Pro scouts will love everything about Allen but his size; however, this isn't about projecting players, but noticing those that need recognition. No. 28 is a beast and one of the most versatile linebackers in the Big 10.
After starring in high school on the east coast in Greensboro, NC, Cal WR Keenan Allen has made Berkeley his home, alongside his half-brother QB Zach Maynard. Keenan, unlike Denicos, is a pro prospect but will spend this year (most likely what will be his last at Cal) under the radar.
At 6'3" and 205 pounds, Allen has great size and explosiveness; as such, those traits present themselves each and every Saturday. He had 98 receptions for 1,343 yards and six touchdowns in 2011 and will be the focus of nearly every defense that Cal faces this season.
He can make acrobatic catches downfield, turn a simple slant route into a big-time catch and run or be the team's go-to threat across the deep middle of the field. Shoot, what am I saying—He's the team's go-to option on nearly every play.
The Oregon Duck offense has been the story in Eugene since Chip Kelly arrived as offensive coordinator a few years ago, so the defense gets shoved aside, more often than not. Defensive end Dion Jordan, though, could help change the perception of the Ducks defensive unit throughout 2012.
At 6'7" and 240 pounds, Jordan looks more like a small forward than a defensive end but his agility and quickness make him extremely difficult to block out on the edge. His length and ability to move give him versatility that Ducks defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti covets, especially in a conference that features offenses of all different shapes and forms.
NFL scouts are already planning their itineraries to Salt Lake City this fall to ogle Ute defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Wearing #92 at over 6'4" and 325 pounds, you will hear most pundits compare him to former Oregon Duck Haloti Ngata, but he's not of that caliber... yet.
He's strong as an ox with tremendous feet and quickness and can play the 3-technique and the nose. He needs to understand how to use his hands a bit better, but when he does, he'll be a bonafide Top 10 pick in April. He's a well-known commodity on the West Coast, having won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12's top lineman in 2011, but nationally, not many know of Lotulelei.
Some others that I'll be interested in watching in the near future: LSU's pair of tackles Chris Faulk and Alex Hurst, Georgia Tech OLB Jeremiah Attaochu, West Virginia WR/PR Tavon Austin, Mississippi State OLB Cameron Lawrence, Oregon S John Boyett, Vanderbilt DT/DE Rob Lohr and NC State CB David Amerson (okay, he's an All-American, but no one pays him too much mind because he doesn't play in the SEC).