Philadelphia, PA – Players from non-BCS schools tend to fly under the radar of most casual college football fans, but 2012 saw a number of elite talents emerge from the mid-major ranks, with a handful even setting some historic records.
The following offensive players may not have the name recognition of Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, De'Anthony Thomas or Marquise Lee, but all have the ability to put up numbers every bit as impressive.
David Fales, QB, San Jose State - After beginning his career as a backup at Nevada before spending two seasons at junior college, Fales made an immediate impact in his first season at San Jose State, leading the Aztecs to an 11-2 record (a six-game improvement from 2011), including a win over Bowling Green in the Military Bowl. Fales was the most accurate passer in the FBS a season ago, connecting on an eye-popping 72.5 percent of his throws, resulting in 4,193 yards with 33 touchdowns against only nine interceptions. If Fales puts together a similar season in 2013, not only will the Aztecs find themselves playing in another bowl, but he can expect to hear his name called in the early rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois - The Mid-American Conference champion Huskies were one of the biggest surprises in the nation last season, earning a berth in the Orange Bowl against Florida State, and the biggest reason for their success was due to the efforts of their dual-threat quarterback. In his first season as a starter last year, Lynch shined by not only completing 60 percent of his passes for 3,138 yards, but by rushing for an FBS quarterback- record 1,815 yards while accounting for a total of 44 touchdowns. Lynch is much more efficient than the average mobile quarterback (just six interceptions in 394 pass attempts), and in an offense catered around his skill set, a similar season should be in store.
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State - Carr is another signal-caller who should expect to hear his name called early in the 2014 NFL Draft. As the younger brother of former No. 1 pick David Carr, he certainly has a professional pedigree, but that's not what has people excited. The 6-foot-3 gunslinger was named the Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2012 after completing better than 67 percent of his passes for 4,104 yards, tossing 37 touchdowns compared to only seven interceptions. He needs just 3,049 more passing yards to surpass Kevin Sweeney's school record, which has stood since 1986.
Chuckie Keeton, QB, Utah State - Keeton raised plenty of eyebrows as a sophomore in 2012, especially in the Western Athletic Conference where he beat out Fales for First Team All-League honors. Keeton connected on nearly 68 percent of his passes for 3,373 yards and threw for three times as many touchdowns (27) as he had interceptions (nine). He was also a major threat with his legs, scampering for 619 yards and eight more scores on the ground, but most importantly, he was a winner, leading the Aggies to an 11-2 mark, capping off a sensational season with a triumph over Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Dri Archer, RB, Kent State - Few players in the country are as explosive with the football in his hands as Archer is for the Golden Flashes. Despite logging only 159 totes in 2012, Archer finished the season with an astounding 1,429 yards (9.0 ypc) and 16 touchdowns. He was also the team's leading receiver (39 receptions, 561 yards, four TDs), and if that wasn't enough, he accumulated 591 kick returns yards while taking it to the house three times. Although improving upon a year in which he set a single-season school record in touchdowns and was named a consensus All-American seems unlikely, Archer's multi-faceted weaponry will surely cause even more heads to turn this season.
Adam Muema, RB, San Diego State - Muema managed to make huge strides between his freshman and sophomore campaigns. After carrying the ball just 42 times in his first season at SDSU, the 5-foot-10 running back grabbed hold of the starting job with a vengeance in 2012, rushing for 1,458 yards and 16 touchdowns, highlighted by a 255-yard, four-touchdown performance in the regular-season finale versus Wyoming. Although the Aztecs would certainly like Muema to become a bigger factor in the passing game (he finished with just nine receptions last season), he is undoubtedly one of the best pure runners in the nation.
Antonio Andrews, RB, Western Kentucky - Much like Archer, Andrews punished opposing defenses in nearly every way imaginable in 2012. His primary function was as a rusher, where he amassed an outstanding 1,728 yards and 11 touchdowns on 304 carries, but when adding his receiving and kick return exploits, he finished with 3,161 all-purpose yards, a number that ranks behind only Barry Sanders in single-season FBS history. A finalist for the Paul Hornung Award for the nation's most versatile player, Andrews saved his best for the end of the season, when he tallied 587 rushing yards over the final three games. The sky is the limit for Andrews in 2013 as he serves as the centerpiece for new head coach Bobby Petrino's up-tempo offense.
Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech - Adding to the number of record-breaking seasons already represented on this list, Dixon pieced together a freshman campaign to remember in 2012. His 1,194 yards were certainly a welcomed addition to the Bulldogs offense, but it was his ability to plunge into the end zone that made his presence invaluable, as he finished with an NCAA freshman-record 27 rushing touchdowns. The talented tailback expects to be the closer once again for a La Tech squad that is accustomed to putting up huge point totals.
Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State - A big reason for Carr's success at Fresno State last season was due to the presence of perhaps the Mountain West's best receiver. As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Adams established first-year conference records in receptions (102), receiving yards (1,312) and receiving touchdowns (14). With Carr back under center, the Palo Alto, California native will attempt to elevate his game in 2013, and perhaps even garner attention in the race for the Biletnikoff Award.
Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina - Without the elite quarterback play that Adams was privy to at Fresno State, Hardy managed just as impressive a season with the Pirates a year ago, hauling in 88 balls for 1,105 yards and 11 touchdowns, which helped ECU to an 8-5 record and a berth in the New Orleans Bowl. The First Team All-Conference USA selection made significant strides in production from what was an impressive freshman year (64 receptions, 658 yards, six TDs), and a continued trend upward is likely.