Philadelphia, PA – The non-BCS conferences of the FBS are filled with talent on both sides of the ball. Here is a look at the best players at each position on offense from programs in the MAC, WAC, Conference USA, Mountain West, and Sun Belt.
Tyler Tettleton - Ohio suffered heartbreak in 2011 as the Bobcats lost the MAC Championship game on the final play. Tettleton's remarkable performance as a sophomore is a big reason Ohio was in Detroit that day. The Bobcats' quarterback threw for 3,302 yards and 28 touchdowns and rushed for another 658 yards and 10 touchdowns. His versatility, leadership, and talent has made Ohio University a contender to win the MAC for the first time since 1968.
Honorable Mention: Alex Carder (Western Michigan), Derek Carr (Fresno State), Ryan Katz (San Diego State)
Robbie Rouse - Fresno State may not use its star tailback in the same ways as the team switches from a pro-style offense to a no-huddle spread, but Rouse is too good to be frozen out by new coach Tim DeRuyter. Rouse finished 9th in the NCAA with 119.2 yards per game. His 5-foot-7, 185-pound frame makes him extremely difficult to get a hold of, which may lead to even greater things in the new spread offense that will bring more open field looks. He needs just 317 yards to become the school's all-time leading rusher.
Honorable Mention: D.J. Harper (Boise State), Charles Sims (Houston), Branden Oliver (Buffalo)
Zach Line - SMU is helping football fans remember the forgotten fullback position with its usage of Line. The Mustangs' power runner has led the Conference USA in rushing each of the past two seasons despite suffering shoulder and foot injuries. His 17 rushing touchdowns last season indicate how valuable he can be in the red zone.
Honorable Mention: Willie Carter (Tulsa)
Nick Harwell - Miami-Ohio has a much better chance at success this season with the lethal hookup of Zac Dysert and Harwell back in the fold. Harwell was second in the nation as a sophomore with 129.6 receiving yards per game (97 catches, 1,425 yards, nine TDs). Five different wideouts in the MAC passed the 1,000-yard mark last season, but Harwell is the only one returning to campus. After earning a spot on the All-MAC First Team as a sophomore, Harwell will be aiming to get his name on national post-season award lists.
Darius Johnson - Garrett Gilbert's transition from Texas to SMU will be made much easier by Johnson's playmaking ability. The Mustangs' wideout is the leading returning receiving in the Conference USA with 86.0 yards per game last year. Johnson was named first-team All-C-USA and earned the MVP of the team's bowl game for the second season in a row with a seven-catch, 120-yard, one-TD performance in SMU's BBVA Compass Bowl win over Pitt. He finished 2011 with 79 catches for 1,188 yards and eight TDs.
Honorable Mention: Aaron Dobson (Marshall), Matt Miller (Boise State), Quinton Patton (Louisiana Tech), Perez Ashford (Northern Illinois)
Gavin Escobar - The 6-foot-6, 255-pound pass-catcher earned All-American accolades in each of his first two seasons. He used his outstanding size and hands to earn a freshman honoree in 2010 and an honorable mention pick in 2011. San Diego State should be effective in the passing game once again as Ryan Katz makes his debut after transferring from Oregon State. Escobar has made a name for himself as one of the best tight ends in the entire country and could be a finalist for the Mackey Award.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Otten (San Jose State), Jack Doyle (Western Kentucky), Luke Willson (Rice).
Dann O'Neill - Alex Carder has towering protection on the end of the offensive line with this 6-foot-8, 305-pounder at tackle. The former guard is quick on his feet despite his massive frame. His size and potential have put him on the radar of several NFL scouts. Western Michigan's giant pass protector earned a spot on the Third Team All-MAC last season as a junior.
Eric Fisher - Central Michigan's offensive line allowed just 17 sacks in 12 games last season in part due to Fisher's outside protection. The left tackle started the first 10 games of the season before being sidelined for the final two due to injury. Fisher still earned a spot on the All-MAC third team. The 6-8, 305 pound tackle was the co-recipient of CMU's Offensive Upfront Player of the Year last season, which makes him a leader for 2012.
Honorable Mention: Brian Winters (Kent State), David Quessenberry (San Jose State), Jeff Nady (Nevada)
Adam Smith - Bobby Rainey set program rushing yards for a career and the single-season record for yards last season for Western Kentucky. Right guard Adam Smith helped clear the way with rangy veteran play. He has started 34 career games and earned a spot on the 2011 second team all-Sun Belt Conference team for his efforts.
Joe Duhon - The Golden Eagles had a very serviceable and balanced offensive attack in 2011. Duhon has started the last 19 games at left guard for Southern Miss and led the team with 108 knockdown blocks in 2011. The 6-2, 292 pound senior will be instrumental in giving Chris Campbell time in his first season as USM's starting quarterback.
Honorable Mention: Chris Barker (Nevada), Theo Goins (UCF)
Zac Kerin - Toledo's high-powered offense starts up front with its tremendous offensive line. Kerin's blocking up front helped the Rockets finish first in the MAC and 8th in the nation in scoring offense (42.2) and 10th in the nation in total offense (481.3). Toledo allowed just 10 sacks throughout the entire 2011 season as well. Kerin is expected to start the entire 2012 season for Toledo and be a leader on what will be a new look offense.
Honorable Mention: Stephen Warner (Louisiana Tech), Trent Dupy (Tulsa), Tyler Larsen (Utah State)