Mark Ingram, Terrelle Pryor and Kellen Moore are all guys that even the casual fan knows. Even on a team like Ball State, which won two games last year, most fans know who running back MiQuale Lewis.
But there are a ton of very good, even great, players around the country on bad teams that don't get noticed by most of the country. As we are only two months away from the start of the season, here are five guys to keep your eye on even if their teams end up at 3-9 this season:
Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State: The die-hard fans will know Burfict, but the average fan might not. Not much is expected from the Sun Devils this season, but the sophomore linebacker will be a beast this season. In case you missed it, he was named Pac-10 defensive freshman of the year and earned freshman All-American honors. One of the best linebackers in the nation, he won't be a name most have heard of because he plays on such a bad team out west. Look for him to improve on his numbers from last year -- 69 tackles, seven for a loss and two sacks. Burfict has already earned earned preseason first team All-American honors by the Sporting News.
Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State: The first-team All-Big 12 member is posed for another big season. Thomas is back for his senior season after leading the conference with 1,265 yards on 247 attempts (5.1 avg) to go along with 11 touchdowns. Kansas State hasn't played in a bowl since 2006 and it might miss the postseason again, but it won't be because of Thomas. The 6-foot-2 back has flown under the radar a bit, mostly because he plays for Kansas State and he came in last year as a junior college transfer. Be ready to know this guy as his production should increase after being involved in 34.4 percent of the offensive plays last year.
Donovan Varner, WR, Duke: It's not too often that Duke has a leader in the ACC, but the junior wide receiver led the conference with 65 catches and receiving yards per game (88.8). He became just the third player in Duke history to have 1,000 yards receiving. Against Miami (Fla.) he had eight catches for 165 yards. Varner is a definite first-team all-conference member and if he can improve on last year's numbers, he just might be able to earn some third-team All-American honors.
Duke Ihenacho, S, San Jose State: Not even diehard fans know much about San Jose State, considering its had one winning season in the past 10 years, but you need to know Ihenacho. He led the Spartans last season with six pass breakups and 89 tackles and is one of the best safties in the nation. He's also a two-time All-WAC selection and can also play linebacker. NFLDraftScout.com has the fourth-best safety for the 2011 NFL Draft. Ihenacho will be center stage for the first game of the season as the Spartans play at Alabama.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Florida International: The Golden Panthers have never had a winning season since the progam started in 2002. And for the most part, it hasn't had any big-time players, until Hilton came to Miami. After a tremendous freshman season where he earned Freshman All-American honors as a punt return specialist by the FWAA, he struggled a bit as a sophomore due to injuries. He still led the team with 57 catches and a return average of 28.8 yards per game, the highest in school history and 13th in the nation. I'll bet the Alabama special teams unit knows Hilton as he opened the season in 2009 with a 96-yard kickoff return for touchdown.