20. Virginia Tech – QB Logan Thomas
Logan Thomas, the massive quarterback for the Hokies, completed just under 60% of his passes last season, throwing for over 3,000 yards and 19 touchdowns. If he continues to elevate his game, and the Hokies find themselves in the midst of another 10+ win season, there is no doubt that Thomas will be in the Heisman discussion.
19. Oklahoma State – RB Joseph Randle
Randle rumbled to over 1,200 yards and a whopping 24 touchdowns last season. Expect him to get many more carries this year as OSU breaks in a true freshman quarterback following the departure of senior
citizen Brandon Weeden. Mike Gundy can coach up an offense as well as anybody, so expect big things from Randle and the Cowboys in the near future.
18. Stanford – RB Stepfan Taylor
Stanford is a true smash-mouth football team, and no time will that be more obvious than in 2012. The great Andrew Luck has departed, but the offense should still be extremely productive as it returns Stepfan Taylor, who has topped 1,000 yards rushing in each of the past two seasons. The Cardinal expect to win a lot of games with a staunch defense and running game; for that recipe to bring success, they need Taylor to be an absolute workhorse.
17. TCU – QB Casey Pachall
2011 was a very productive year for Pachall (although he did fail a drug test that he will not be punished for) and the Horned Frogs, and they will now be taking their talents to the Big 12. Pachall connected on over two-thirds of his passes and sported a 25-7 TD-INT ratio. With numbers like that, Pachall won’t be sneaking up on anybody, so this year he has to prove that he can play with the big boys.
16. Nebraska – Rex Burkhead
This spot very well could have gone to Taylor Martinez as well, but Burkhead will likely be an All-American for the Cornhuskers this fall. Consistent and reliable, Burkhead is your classic workhorse back. In 2011, he had over 1,300 yards rushing, in addition to nearly 200 yards receiving. Martinez is a good enough quarterback to prevent teams from simply stacking the box against Burkhead, so there should be plenty of lanes open for the senior to run through.