Welcome back to Three Downs and Punt, where we promise to let you spend the next few minutes reading a college football column that won't mention Jim Tressel or tattoo parlors.
Before we get started, I continue to receive some lovely responses to my last post, in which I said that USC head coach Lane Kiffin is on the hot seat. In the midst of the venom came this surprising correspondence from a reader named Hal from SoCal:
"Ryan, at first I wanted to print out your hot seat story, write f-bombs all over it and email it back to you. Then my wife pointed to the Trojans' 2011 schedule that I have taped to the fridge. I will admit, it looks rough. If we don't find someone who can block for Barkley it could get ugly. If that happens then you might not be wrong. But for now I still think you are a damn idiot."
To the plays!
First down: You don't know these names yet ... but you will
As spring practice hits full stride across America, the biggest names in college football are doing battle to take over the most cherished positions in the sport. The quarterback battles alone were enough to supply my man Bruce Feldman with this excellent pre-spring blog just a few weeks ago.
But there are always a handful of players who seem to come out of nowhere each fall, leaving us to say, "Why I have never heard of this guy before?" I'm talking about the players whose teams are looking to them to fill big shoes, bigger needs, and yet are still so unproven that the head coach has trouble remembering their names.
If you're a die-hard follower of the teams listed below, then sure, you've heard of them. But the national college football audience has no idea they even exist. And I'm not saying one of these guys is the next Cam Newton, but they are my candidates to go from "Who?" to headlines by September (Nick Fairley could also qualify).
To read the rest of Ryan McGee's list of unknown guys to watch out for in 2011, become an ESPN Insider today.