Posted by Walter
Wait a minute, didn't we already do a 323 all america team? Well, yes we did, but this team is a bit different. All america teams are about numbers.....flashy, gaudy, sexy numbers. So what is the all-323 team about? Well pretty much the exact opposite. Whereas an all america team takes the best players who have the best numbers, the all-323 team takes the best players who didn't have the best numbers. In a word, the all-323 team is filled with players who may not have the numbers, but have "it".....whatever "it" may be.
QB - Stephen McGee, Texas A & M
Walter: As any loyal 323 reader no doubt already knows, I am a huge Stephen McGee fan. But my man love aside, McGee was really an outstanding performer this year for the Aggies. The numbers don't lie, nearly 2300 passing yards, 666 rushing yards, 16 total TD (12 passing) against just 2 INT. McGee was efficient (134.9 QB rating), fearless (146 carries on the season), and tough as nails (4.6 yards per carry, a real grid in out type runner). Though his numbers weren't the equal of a Brady Quinn or Colt Brennan, McGee was every bit as important to his team, as was the emotional lift his gutsy play provided.
RB - Tony Hunt, Penn. State
Walter: Another 323 favorite, but this time, one that the national media is starting to pay attention to. Funny, all it took was an MVP performance at the Senior Bowl. Hunt has been the definition of a workhors this season for the Nittany Lions (277 carries), and was by far their team MVP. While talented but erratic QB Anthony Morrelli was getting his feet wet, JoePa and Co. relied on the broad shoulders of Hunt to carry the load. Hunt is what he is, a power back, and he knows this. He doesn't try to reinvent the wheel, rather he just gets his pad level low and plows forward. Even though he will never have many 50 yard runs on his resume, you can win with a back like Hunt. He is a positive yardage machine and is going to make an excellent NFL player.
RB - Felix Jones, Arkansas
Frazier:The all-323 backfield is an excellent example of the two-back approaches being u at the professional level. While Tony Hunt is a hard driving, workhorse type, who can move thetilized pile and wear down defenses, Felix Jones is the homerun. Jones paired with Darren McFadden to provide a lethal 1-2 combination that left defenses worn out. While McFadden is a physical freak, delivering punishment while he runs, Jones found creases and blew them up for huge gains. He made small creases into touchdowns, and was excellent in open space. Jones also did an excellent job in the receiving game, with screens and short catches out of the backfield making up for the fact that the Hogs quarterbacks really struggled. Jones exploded for 1,168 yards and a stunning 7.6yds/carry. Although he may have done his work in the shadow of the incredible McFadden, Felix Jones has really earned a little recognition of his own.
WR - Willie Idlette, Wake Forest
Walter: Ah yes, Mr. Idlette....or as I like to call him, the best player with the worst stats you've ever seen. Idlette's numbers this year were, for lack of a better word, pedestrian (511 recieving yards, 125 rushing yards, 4 TD). But that can be attributed to the uber conservative, spread the ball around offense Wake Forest ran. The fact is that whenever the offense needed a big play they turned to Idlette, and he delivered just about every time (just as Boston College). Idlette is the classic player who is at his best when there is the most on the line. Just consider what he did in Wake's final four games: 59 yds. recieving and 20 yds. rushing against VTech, 64 yds. recieving and a TD against Maryland, 73 yds. recieving and 35 yds. rushing against Georgia Tech, and 91 yds. receiving against Louisville. Again, you won't find him on any all america teams, but I bet you'd be hard pressed to find a guy who made more big plays for his team when they needed it the most.
WR - Darius Reynaud, West Virginia
Frazier: Reynaud isn't on this list because he caught an unseemly amount of balls. He didn't. And he isn't on this list because he turned every catch into a homerun, he didn't, but he did turn a lot of them into big gains. He's here because he's the perfect running back for his system. He has good hands, which were essential because as skilled as Pat White is, his passes are often a step behind, or high, or low, of his targets. Darius turned those into receptions. He also helped provide a balance on offense, and turned third and longs into first downs. And he turned short gains into long ones. When West Virginia needed a reception, there was only one man they were going to. More than anything, Darius was willing to give up his own stats to make his team better. He isn't just a willing blocker, he takes pride in it. West Virginia turns creases into touchdowns better than any team in the country, and Reynaud made that possible by taking on his blocking assignments, and wiping out cornerbacks or safeties trying to make the play downfield. Reynaud also gained a couple of hundred yards on the ground, since Rodriguez knows how good he is in space, and he had to find ways to get the ball in his hands.
WR - Harry Douglas, Louisville
Frazier:Man, that Mario Urrutia is good, huh?! Wait, he only tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions? Wait, he didn't lead his team in receptions? He didn't lead his team in receiving yards? He didn't lead his team in yards per catch? Yeah, that was Harry Douglas. Every time. He was the leading receiver on the top offense in the country. He was Brohm's primary weapon. He really made that team go, and he didn't get any of the love for it. Harry Douglas did everything. He caught the ball well, ran good routes, made big plays, and moved the chains. It's only because the Louisville offensive attack was so balanced that he didn't get the love he deserved. Well, he's getting it now, and he's going to get it next year when he and the other Louisville receivers are catching perfect Brohm passes, and running roughshod over any defense that dares challenge them.
OL - Phil Trautwein, Florida
Walter: As a former offensive lineman with limited athletic ability myself, I really love and admire self made player like the Gators' Trautwein. Trautwein was not a hugely recruited player out of high school in New Jersey, and he wasn't one of Urban Meyer's guys when the coach stepped in. Still, Meyer challenged Trautwein, and he responded with a gritty attitude that allowed him to perform at an all conference level for Florida en route to a national title. Trautwein gets by on simply being meaner, nastier, and wanting it more than his opposition. While the Gator skill position players got all the love from pundits after their domination of Ohio State, Trautwein and the rest of the Gator O-Line performed quite well in manhandling the Buckeye front.
OL - Kasey Studdard, Texas
Walter: Studdard is a similar player to Trautwein in the sense that neither really get their due. Trautwein because he isn't flashy, Studdard because of his far more heralded teammates. While everyone knows just how good Justin Blalock is, Studdard is just as tough and effective a collegiate blocker. While he doesn't share Blalock's athleticism or pro potential, Studdard is a straight up mauler who has always been at his most effective in the running game.
OL - Ryan Clady, Boise State
Frazier:The fightin' Broncos roared for 2,700 yards on the ground this year, and no one was more valuable to that attack than Ryan Clady. Now, he's an obvious choice for the all-323, because his entire team was pretty much overlooked. Clady isn't just a WAC blocker, either. He's a hulking 6'6, 320lb. behemouth out there. While he might not have gone against top competition every week, he always brought his game, and against an excellent Oklahoma defense, he proved his worth. He paved the road for a hundred yard game from Ian Johnson in the Fiesta Bowl, and one day he'll be doing the same for a back in the NFL.
OL - James Marten, Boston College
Walter: Marten's game is quite similar to one of my all time favorite BC Eagle lineman, Jeremy Trueblood. Trueblood was a massive (6'8'') blocker who played as physically and mean as anyone. Well, Marten is a massive blocker (6'7'') who shares Trueblood's mean streak. Marten is a typical BC lineman. He may not have the measurables or athletic ability, but between the lines he just gets the job done. Marten also possesses the rarest of rare qualities in an O-Lineman, namely that he just takes pleasure in finishing blocks. Marten is the type of player who never has to be told to play to the whistle, and is always the one getting into fights on the first day of training camp. Trust me, coaches love guys like him.
OL - Steve Vallos, Wake Forest
Frazier: Now, Vallos isn't as overlooked as many of the players on this team. But he's another guy who really represents an entire team that was short-shrifted. The Wake Forest philosophy was to run well, control the ball, and not make mistakes. A big part of that is protecting the quarterback. Wake Forest also produced 2,100 yards on the ground, with no back going for over 500 yards. That means that no matter who was toting the ball, Vallos was making holes.
DL - Chris Long, Virginia
Frazier: Go Hoos! Maybe it's a homer pick. But, maybe it isn't. Howie's son has been an outstanding player for Virginia, and they've desperately needed somebody to be. He recorded 5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 21 quarterback pressures, all while being the cornerstone of an improved Virginia defense. Long is a big body at 6'4 and 290 lbs. from his defensive end position. But he has good quickness, excellent hands, and you can tell that his father is a hall-of-famer. His instincts and football IQ are both excellent. Chris got overlooked this year because in a down ACC, Virginia couldn't get anything going. But their defense improved from 60th in the nation in total defense to 20th this year. Long was a big reason for that jump.
DL - Tommy Blake, TCU
Walter: I will guarantee you one thing, Tommy Blake is the absolute best defensive player you've never heard of. TCU was a defensive machine this year, thanks in large part to this dominant junior end. Yes his stats are gaudy at 7 sacks and 16.5 tackles for a loss, but Blake is physical specimen who is the rare end who contributes as much against the run as he does rushing the passer. TCU had one of the top rush defenses in the nation this year and a large part of those kudos must go to Blake. Blake will enter 2007 as one of the top defensive ends in the college game and TCU will be a tough out once again.
DL - Casper Brinkley, South Carolina
Walter: Unlike Blake, Brinkley is a player whose best contributions don't appear on the stat sheet. Well, kind of. Brinkley did post a very respectable 7 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss for the Gamecocks this season, but that said, he wasn't even the most recognizable Brinkley on his own team (his twin brother Jasper is the South Carolina middle linebacker). Casper is a bit undersized at only 260 pounds or so, but he is a true technician who is absolutely never (and I mean never) out of position. Casper is a coaches dream in that he is a solid positional player who will always make sure his responsibility is taken care of and never puts his own stats ahead of the team. With Casper (and Jasper) leading the way, look for the Gamecocks to have one of the best defenses in the SEC in 2007.
DL - Bryan Pata, Miami
Frazier:This is just one way to honor a young man who lost his life too early. Bryan Pata was an excellent football player, and he should at this moment be preparing himself for the April draft. He would have been selected, and whichever team got him would be lucky to be getting a player of such high moral character, who was a leader on a team that desperately needed them. No one ever had a bad word to say about Pata. He was liked and respected by teammates and opponents, and even when things were spiralling out of control in Coral Gables, he was trying to hold his team together, and to get foolish young men to act with class and character. Maybe I'll remember Bryan stuffing a run, or terrorizing a quarterback, but mostly, I'll remember him as a young man who had a lot to give. To his team, to his sport, to his community. He is the ultimate 323 player.
LB - Dallas Sartz, USC
Walter: Sartz probably wouldn't have been on this team had he stayed healthy in 2006, because he would have been on another......the 323 all america team. Sartz is the classic player who has all the physical and mental tools but just never could stay healthy in college to put it all together. Shhhhhh, don't tell anyone but most of the time those guys become great NFL players (see Martin, Curtis; Davis, Terrell). Sartz is a physical football player who put up 70 tackles and 7 sacks on the season. At 6'5'' and 240 pounds Sartz is a prototype NFL linebacker, not to mention that he was one of the more underappreciated college backers.
LB - Mark Dodge, Texas A & M
Frazier: Dodge is a favorite of mine. He is the definition of what a leader should be. After serving his country in the Army, Mark decided to go back to college. But he still hadn't fulfilled his dream of playing big-time college football, and so he transferred to Texas A&M. He hadn't been on the campus for over a month before he was selected to the leadership committee on the Aggies football team, a sign of the respect that his teammates and coaches had for him. He has been a leader since the first moment he stepped on the field. While he might be a first year player, he has a whole lifetime of experience off the field, and has seen pressures far greater than playing in front of the rabid members of the 12th man. While his leadership is truly admirable, his play is what really earned him this nod. He led a tough Aggies defense from his position in the middle, and was constantly plugging holes, and making huge tackles. It was Dodge filling a gap, cutting down a Longhorns running back on 4th and short that set the tone early in the upset over Texas. When a play needed to be made, Dodge was there.
LB - Buster Davis, Florida State
Frazier:Buster is the ferocious hitter in the middle of the Seminoles defense. Every time I saw them play (which was far too often for that sorry bunch) I couldn't keep my eyes off Buster. He was virtually everywhere. At only 5'9 he is an absolute fireplug of a man, at a bruising 240lbs. But he doesn't carry it heavy. He is very quick, and while his straight line speed may not be great, he plays very, very quick. He is also a tackling machine. If he hits you, you're going down. And he doesn't blow tackles trying to light up every opponent. It's just that he happens to light up a lot of them. But don't worry, he's focused on bringing them down. The real value of Buster was just his ability to be everywhere his team needed him to be. He went sideline-to-sideline, and made plays all over the field. Honestly, I couldn't watch enough of him. I love the way he plays the game, and I love watching the "little" man plastering all the big boys.
DB - Anthony Scirrotto, Penn. State
Frazier: Scirrotto was a big part of the Nittany Lions success this year. He's another guy who while having goot speed, was at his best making plays when they were needed. He came up and played excellently against the run, making tackles and providing a reliable last line of defense. But his real gift was his ability to be in the right place, and make the right plays. He was at his best playing the position well, and breaking up passes. He is a very heady player, which is hardly surprising for a Joe Pa favorite, and he helped make the Nittany Lions secondary an excellent unit. In the win against Tennessee, he showed how valuable he is, with 6 tackles, an interception, and 2 passes defensed. That's a hell of a showing, in a huge game.
DB - Leonard Peters, Hawaii
Walter: In case you didn't know, offense isn't the only thing that the Warriors do on the island....well maybe it is, but Peters is still one hell of a football player. Perhaps he would have gotten more recognition had the rest of the players around him not stunk so badly, but Peters is a classic inside the box safety who really excells in the running game. At 6'1'' and 200 pounds Peters has the size to be a factor, and with 74 tackles in less than 10 full games this season he also has the productivity. Peters will never be a great coverage safety but with his kamikaze style laying WR out he will always have a place in the game of football.
DB - Dejuan Tribble, Boston College
Walter: Yes he may be only 5'9'' and 189 pounds. Yes he wasn't any sort of highly recruited player coming out of high school. And yes, he was one of the best all around defensive backs in the nation in 2006....wait, what? Well it's true. The lightly regarded Tribble was all over the field for the Eagles this season, registering 49 tackles, 7 interceptions, 5 pass break ups, and even 4 tackles for a loss for good measure. Tribble is a heady corner who has uncanny instincts and ability to read the quarterback. Only a Junior in 2006, expect to hear a lot more from him in 2007, especially if his team finally fulfills the promise they have showed for the past 3 seasons under recently departed Tom O'Brien.
DB - John Talley, Duke
Walter: Talley deserves a ton of credit for almost single handedly making the Duke defense respectable in 2006. Despite playing on a unit with players who are closer to division II caliber than division IA, Talley matched his all 323 teammate Dejuan Tribble with 7 picks. Talley is a classic ball hawk who just always seems to get his hands on opposing QB's passes (8 passes broken up to go with those 7 picks). Talley probably doesn't have the athletic ability to compete in the NFL in man to man coverage, but there will always be a place for players who have his instincts and playmaking ability. Gotta love those Bluedevil defensive backs.
The All-323 Player Of the Year - Paul Thompson, QB Oklahoma
Walter: With no disrespect whatsoever to Stephen McGee or any of the other all323 players, no player in America more embodied what the all-323 team is supposed to be about more than Thompson. In 2005 Thompson was the starting quarterback for the Sooners on their first play against TCU. When they lost that game, the Norman faithful crucified him and forced Bob Stoops to go with Rhett Bomar for the rest of the season. Thompson quietly took the criticism all on himself (even though he surely did no deserve it) and started working on his hands and route running, eventually working his way into the top three of the depth chart for wideouts at the beginning of the 2006 season. But when Bomar was dismissed from the team who was there to save the day? Thompson. Despite the fact that he had worked his ass off becoming a wide reciever, Thompson yet again put himself aside for the better of the team. He easily could have told Bob Stoops, "Coach, I'd love to do it but I'm a senior, I've worked to become a wideout, that's where I have the best chance to be drafted, can't you find someone else?" And frankly, had he said that I don't think Stoops would have blamed him. Yet when the season started, there was Thompson under center, leading the Sooners to their most improbably Big 12 title in years. Thompson had a great year, but by moving back to QB he probably cost himself a chance to be drafted. He wasn't an all america, but he is the definition of an all-323.
So Mr. Thompson, we know it may not mean much to you, but we here at the323 take out hat off to you Sir.