July 3, 2010

Devine leads list of nation's most explosive

It's July 4th, and fireworks are as much a staple of this day as hot dogs, the beach and beer.

In honor of those fireworks you're going to see tonight, here's a look at the 12 most explosive players in the nation heading into the season.

1. RB Noel Devine, West Virginia
His highlight reel from high school is other-worldly - he's like a human pinball in some of them, outrunning everybody trying to tackle him - and while he hasn't been quite as spectacular at WVU, he still makes fans and opponents hold their breath every time he touches the ball. He ran for 1,465 yards and 14 scores as a junior last season, career-highs in both categories, and averaged 6.1 yards per carry. He had at least one 20-yard run in 11 games, and he's the only player in the nation to have at least one 70-yard run in four games. He averaged 10.0 yards per carry in two games - 220 yards on 22 carries against Colorado and 168 yards on 16 carries (10.5 ypc) against Florida State.

2. WR Chris Owusu, Stanford
Owusu ranked fifth in the nation in kickoff returns with a 31.5-yard average, and he returned three for touchdowns. As a receiver, he averaged 18.4 yards on 34 catches, which included receptions of 63, 47, 40, 38, 37 and 31 yards. Five of his catches went for touchdowns.

3. RB LaMichael James, Oregon
As a redshirt freshman last season, James ran for 1,546 yards and 17 touchdowns. He had nine 100-yard games, including six of at least 150 yards. James had six runs that covered at least 40 yards and 20 plays of at least 20 yards. He averaged 6.7 yards per carry, a stat boosted by touchdown runs of 52, 56 and 60 yards.

4. WR Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
Though hurt early in the '09 season, Broyles still ranked third in the nation with a 15.9-yard average on punt returns; he took one back for a score. He also had 1,120 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. Overall, Broyles had seven plays of at least 40 yards, and he caught a pass of at least 30 yards in eight games. In two seasons, he has scored 24 touchdowns via return, reception or rush, and 13 of them have covered at least 23 yards.

5. WR Titus Young, Boise State
Young had 79 receptions for 1,041 yards and 10 touchdowns; that's an average of 13.2 yards per catch. He also averaged 26.9 yards on 31 kickoff returns and took two back for scores. For good measure, Young scored three rushing touchdowns. He had a catch of at least 20 yards in 10 games and of at least 40 yards in seven games.

6. LB/E Von Miller, Texas A&M
Anyone who questions whether a defensive player should be listed among the most explosive didn't see Miller routinely blast past frustrated blockers on the way to a national-leading 17 sacks in '09 He posted multiple sacks in five games. He also forced four fumbles.

7. WR Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh
Baldwin had 57 catches for 1,013 yards and eight touchdowns; that's 19.5 yards per catch. He had seven 100-yard games. Baldwin had a catch of at least 40 yards in seven games and caught at least a 49-yarder in four games. He also carried the ball once - and took it 61 yards.

8. LB Akeem Ayers, UCLA
Ayers has a penchant for making big plays. Last season, he scored three touchdowns - two on interception returns and one via a fumble return. Ayers also made 75 tackles, forced four fumbles, had six sacks, made 14.5 tackles for losses and came up with four picks.

9. DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina
He isn't talkative and doesn't try to draw attention to himself. But you can bet opposing offenses always are scheming to contain him. Last season, he had 11 sacks, 12 quarterback pressures and six forced fumbles.

10. RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
Williams burst on the scene in a big way for the Hokies, rushing for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. Williams had 10 100-yard games and had a carry of at least 30 yards in nine games and at least 40 yards in six games. He scored at least three touchdowns in three games and twice scored four in a game.

11. WR Dwayne Harris, East Carolina
Harris scored 15 TDs for the Pirates last season, and they came three ways - seven via receptions, five on the ground and three on kickoff returns. He averaged 27.0 yards on 37 kickoff returns and 11.8 yards on 83 receptions. He had at least 20-yard catch in 11 of ECU's 14 games and twice scored three TDs in a game.

12. RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
Given Alabama's emphasis on a grind-it-out rushing attack, you might think Ingram was a 4-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust guy. You would be wrong. He ran for 1,658 yards and 17 TDs and averaged 6.1 yards per carry. He had at least one run of 20 yards in nine games and at least one of 30 in six games. He had nine 100-yard rushing games and scored at least twice in eight games.

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