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10 Greatest College Playmakers Of All-Time

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10 Greatest College Playmakers Of All-Time

Unread postby swerb » Mon Aug 14, 2006 10:14 pm

Very cool column on www.collegefootballnews.com in which four of their writers list their ten greatest college playmakers of all time ...

http://collegefootballnews.com/2006/TQ/ ... estion.htm

Pete Fiutak

Q: The ten greatest playmakers of all-time...

A: Let me start off by saying that I'll accept just about any suggestions you might have to make my list. I twisted my brain to come up with what makes for a great college football playmaker, and in the end, I decided that he 1) has to be able to come up with big plays on his own regardless of the situation, 2) comes through with the biggest plays with everything on the line, 3) turned games around by himself and 4) could do several different things well.

I tried to walk the razor-thin line to separate the difference between the best playmakers and the ten most electrifying players ever. Reggie Bush and Barry Sanders are probably 1-2 on that list in some order, but did they come up with the clutch game-saving plays my top ten guys did? (Did they have the opportunities?) No, I have no real argument whatsoever if you want to put Bush, Sanders, or a slew of other legends in the top ten.

Some who just missed my cut ...
- Rod Woodson, DB Purdue ... Woodson finished his career with 11 interceptions, 445 career tackles with a school-record (at the time) 19 in the 1984 Peach Bowl. He was also a phenomenal kick and punt returner.
- Herschel Walker, RB Georgia ... Walker won the Heisman Trophy in 1982 with 1,752 yards and 17 touchdowns, but his best season was 1981 running for 1,891 yards and 20 scores running for over 100 yards in every game and over 200 yards two of them.
- Hugh Green, DE Pitt ... No defensive player was more disruptive. Missed the top ten because partially because he's missing the signature big game. His best performance was in a loss to Notre Dame.
- Jamar Fletcher, CB Wisconsin ... Fletcher returned five interceptions for touchdowns, a Big Ten record, including game sealing picks in tight games against Northwestern, Purdue (twice) and UCLA in the Rose Bowl.
- Lawrence Taylor, DE North Carolina ... Taylor was directly responsible for beating Clemson and Texas Tech with his game saving tackles in 1980. He finished the year with 16 sacks.
- Rocket Ismail, WR Notre Dame ... Ismail averaged 22 yards per catch and returned two punts for touchdowns in the 1989 win over Michigan.
- Michael Vick, QB Virginia Tech/Don McPherson, QB Syracuse/Major Harris, QB West Virginia ... All three were talented, all three were clutch, and all three carried their teams like few others could've.
- Anthony Carter, WR Michigan ... His touchdown numbers (37), one every four catches, and all-purpose yards per play (17.4) were even more impressive considering he played for the stodgy Wolverines.
- Tommy Casanova, DB LSU ... He did it all as a running back, kick returner, punt returner and defensive back for the Tigers from 1969 to 1971.
- Larry Fitzgerald, WR Pitt ... Despite being a marked man, Fitzgerald scored and scored and scored.
- Nile Kinnick, HB Iowa ... Kinnick had a flair for the dramatic and was the iron man of ironmen on the 1939 team that stunned Notre Dame and Minnesota.

10. (tie) Reggie Bush, RB USC/Barry Sanders RB Oklahoma State
I can't do it. I'm breaking my own rules, but I can't in good conscience put together this list without including these two in some way. Bush did save the day against Fresno State. 2,628 rushing yards, 3,249 total yards, 39 touchdowns and 234 points in 1988 are enough to earn Sanders a spot.

9. George Gipp, HB Notre Dame
Keeping in mind that Gipp amassed these stats from 1917 to 1920, he ran for 2,341 career yards and 21 touchdowns, threw for 1,789 yards and eight scores, punted 96 times for 3,690 yards (a 38.4 yard per kick average), picked off five passes, returned 16 punts for 217 yards, 22 kickoffs for 454 yards and kicked 27 PATs to finish his career with 156 points. His 2,341 rushing yards lasted in the Notre Dame record books until Jerome Heavens surpassed it in 1978. As a defensive back, Gipp never allowed a completed pass.

8. Desmond Howard, WR Michigan
Howard's 1991 season was amazing by any standard catching 61 passes for 950 yards and 19 touchdowns with 23 total TDs. He was the first receiver in Big Ten history to lead the league in scoring with 138 points. Add the 12 scores as a sophomore and two as a freshman and Howard amassed an amazing 37 touchdowns in his career. Evidenced by his diving catches game in and game out, a 63-yard TD catch against Mississippi against the Gator Bowl, and heartbreaking plays against Notre Dame and Ohio State, he was as clutch a playmaker as there was in the 90's. He was also a top kick and punt returner.

7. O.J. Simpson, RB USC
How's this for a two year college career? 3,424 yards, 36 touchdowns and a 23.7-yard average per kick return. Of course, on the field, he'll be known for Red 23-Blast, the 64-yard touchdown for the 21-20 win over UCLA to give USC the 1967 Pac 8 title and a birth in the Rose Bowl where the Trojans beat Indiana and won the national title. Simpson was huge in USC's two bowl games running for 128 yards and two touchdowns against the Hoosiers and tore off 171 yards and a touchdown in a 27-16 loss to Ohio State.

6. Terrell Buckley, CB Florida State
He set an FSU record with 21 interceptions over three years and broke the NCAA record for return yards with 470. Quarterbacks kept challenging Buckley and he kept burning them registering 12 picks in 1991 on his way to winning the Thorpe Award. Talk about a home-run hitter, Buckley returned a pick 83 yards for a touchdown against Cincinnati, 71 yards for a touchdown against Virginia Tech, and intercepted Elvis Grbac's first pass and took it 40 yards for a TD leading the way to a 51-31 Seminole win in the Big House over No. 3 Michigan.

5. Red Grange, HB Illinois
In a day and age (1923 to 1925) when final scores in football looking more like a soccer final, Grange's achievements were remarkable averaging 5.3 yards per carry running for 2,071 yards, catching 14 passes for 253 yards, and scoring a total of 31 touchdowns. He also threw for 575 yards and three scores. The game that turned Grange from a great college player into a legend was the 1924 upset of Fielding Yost's Michigan team that hadn't lost in three years. Grange proved mightier than college football's best team from the start scoring a 95-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff. On the day Grange scored five touchdowns and threw for another in an improbable 39-14 win. To put Grange's performance into perspective, Michigan allowed a total of 32 points in its previous twenty games and gave up 24 points over the 17 games after the the Illinois loss.

4. Charles Woodson, CB Michigan
Even with everyone knowing all about him and hardly ever throwing his way in 1997, Woodson still picked off eight passes including a brilliant one-handed grab against Michigan State which made every highlight reel. Want clutch? Along with the game-saving interception against Ohio State, he killed a drive in the Rose Bowl intercepting Ryan Leaf in the end zone. While QB Brian Griese had a magnificent season and the defense was great as a whole, without Woodson the Wolverines wouldn't have won the national title. Woodson was the difference in the 20-14 win over the No. 4 Buckeyes staying on the field for 83 plays. He clinched the Heisman with 78-yard punt return for a score.

3. Deion Sanders, CB Florida State
Sanders picked off 14 passes including three in bowl games with a game-sealing interception against Auburn in the 1989 Sugar Bowl. As good a college corner as Sanders was, he was just as good at returning punts leading the nation in 1988 with a 15.2-yard average holding the FSU record with 1,429 career punt return yards and 503 in 1988. His signature return was against Clemson in the classic 1988 game taking a kick 76 yards for a touchdown.

2. Johnny Rodgers, WR Nebraska
Nebraska was never known as a high-octane passing team up until recently. Even so, Rodgers caught 143 career passes for 2,479 yards and scored 26 touchdowns finishing as Nebraska's all-time greatest pass receiver. Known for his thrilling punt return for a touchdown in the 1971 35-31 "Game of the Century" win over Oklahoma, he also helped lock up the Huskers' second straight national title in the 1972 Orange Bowl with a 77-yard return for a touchdown in a 38-6 win over Alabama. In all, he returned eight punts and nine kickoffs for touchdowns, both NCAA records at the time.

1. Vince Young, QB Texas
Doing all the all-time stuff, it's important to avoid the recency effect. It's far easier to remember what Young did than to go by all the historical writings about someone like Red Grange or George Gipp, but I'm still going with No. 10 for the ultimate playmaker. He cranked out 839 yards of total offense in two Rose Bowls, took over the Oklahoma State game last year, and threw a perfect game-winning pass to beat Ohio State. No way, no how do the Longhorns come close to the national title without Young last year.

Richard Cirminiello

Q: The ten greatest playmakers of all-time...

A: 10. Joe Washington, Oklahoma (1972-75) – Washington offset his diminutive size with darting quickness and shifty moves. His offensive wizardry and penchant for breaking open games on special teams helped the Sooners win national championships in 1974 and 1975.

9. Raghib Ismail, Notre Dame (1988-90) – The nickname, “The Rocket”, pretty much said it all. Ismail may have been the fastest college football player ever, and he used those jets to torch the opposition, especially as a returner.

8. Desmond Howard, Michigan (1988-91) – An up-and-down NFL career sort of made folks forget just how electrifying Howard was in his days in Ann Arbor. More than just a speedy game-breaker, he also had a knack for delivering the big play when it mattered most.

7. Glenn Davis, Army (1943-46) – Mr. Outside to Doc Blanchard’s Mr. Inside, Davis was a pioneer of sorts with the kind of moves and speed that was uncommon in his era. A three-time All-American, he averaged an NCAA-record 8.26 yards a carry throughout his career.

6. Johhny Rodgers, Nebraska (1970-72) – Had he gotten his wish and played for USC, Rodgers might have been ranked even higher. In a conservative Nebraska offense, he was a human dynamo, who could bring a crowd to its feet as a receiver, runner out of the backfield or return man. During his career, Rodgers returned an amazing 17 kicks or punts for touchdowns.

5. Doak Walker, SMU (1945, 1947-49) – More than just a great playmaker, Walker could do just about everything back in the day. On offense, he could run and pass as well as any of his contemporaries. On special teams, he was an ace punt and kickoff returner, while also handling SMU’s punting and placekicking duties.

4. Gale Sayers, Kansas (1962-64) – The aptly named “Kansas Comet” was Reggie Bush before the Trojan was ever born. Sayers had the world class speed and swiveling hips that made it impossible to stop or catch him once he broke out into the open field.

3. O.J. Simpson, USC (1967-68) – Simpson played just two years at USC, but authored quite a legacy during that time. Before he arrived, there had been big backs and fast backs, but very few that possessed his devastating combination of track speed on a large frame.

2. Reggie Bush, USC (2003-05) – The word gets tossed around like loose change, but Bush was a bona fide superstar in his three years at USC. No one in his generation has had quite the ability to electrify a crowd or frustrate a defense. Whether he was taking a hand off, catching a pass or fielding a punt, Bush was pure magic for the Trojans.

1. Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State (1986-88) – Sanders was buried behind Thurman Thomas for two years, but when his number was called in 1988, he responded with one of the greatest seasons ever for a college football player--2,628 rushing yards, 3,249 total yards and 39 touchdowns…before running for another 222 yards and five scores in the Holiday Bowl. No back has ever been better at making something out of nothing than Sanders.

John Harris

Q: The ten greatest playmakers of all-time...

As difficult as it was to come up with this list, the thought of trying to ‘encapsulate’ the word playmaker was even more difficult. So, I had two thoughts coming up with this list. One was that the QBs already had their day, so I left them off this list (see our first greatest ever listing). The second was my ‘definition’ of playmaker – the guy who, when he had the ball in his hands, was the most difficult to defense. In other words, if I was a defensive coordinator, the one guy who I didn’t want to see touch the ball. These were my top ten ‘nightmares’.

1. Reggie Bush, USC – Transcendent game/moment – 2005 Fresno State – 513 yards total offense – the nail in the 2005 Heisman Trophy race coffin.

Quite frankly, there was no other college football player in my lifetime that I honestly felt like could take every ball he touched for six. After his first year, I said he was the best college football player in the nation, even before his sophomore year and caught some flack for saying it. Flash forward two years and maybe I was onto something (sorry, I just sprained my shoulder from patting myself on the back). You saw him play. You saw what he did. Let’s put it this way – when a team ‘holds’ a guy to 275 total offensive yards and that’s keeping him under control as Texas did in the Rose Bowl, that should tell you something.

2. Herschel Walker, Georgia – Transcendent game/moment (tie) – Running over Tennessee’s Bill Bates in his first game or the dive over the top against Ole Miss when he maintains feet and scores TD.

Walker’s Georgia teams were strong, no question, but the Dawgs rode his back to a national title as a freshman, an SEC title as a sophomore and a national championship game/Heisman Trophy as a junior. He was one of the first ‘combo’ backs – powerful with track speed – that the nation had seen. It was hard at the time to think that every back wasn’t going to be like him, but there just wasn’t another one quite like him. What made Herschel so scary is that he sat back in the I every play, you knew he was going to carry it 35 times for 200 yards and there was very little you could do about it. You just hoped it didn’t turn into 275.

3. OJ Simpson, USC – Transcendent game/moment – 64 yard run against UCLA in 1967 Battle of LA.

On the field, #32 changed games when he touched the ball. I thought of him a power runner, but it was a different powerful style than Walker’s. He glided to a hole then hit the gas and was by you with his track speed. But, he had everything you wanted out of an every down back and then some. All it took him was two years to build a legacy in Troy that was unequaled by any before, and, arguably, after him. And, it took one, well, let’s not go there.

4. Rocket Ismail, Notre Dame – Transcendent game/moment – 1989 two kickoff returns for touchdowns against Michigan.

Some think that Reggie Bush was comparable to Barry Sanders, but to me, he was more like Ismail. The former Irish star returned kicks, punts, ran the ball, caught passes out of the backfield, ran with surprising power, had some shake and a flair for the dramatic. Too bad a clip wiped out perhaps his greatest moment – the 1991 Orange Bowl punt return in the fourth quarter that would’ve put the Irish ahead late. Leave it to a guy nicknamed the Rocket to leave teams in his wake.

4. Jim Brown, Syracuse – Transcendent game/moment – scoring all 43 points against Colgate in 1956

Versatility is thy name. In his era, players were forced to do a little bit of everything. Brown just did it better than anyone had ever seen to that point. It’s hard to believe that the man finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting his senior year, when he had games when he scored 43 points and 21 points twice, including the Cotton Bowl against TCU, by himself. He may have been ultimately held back by Syracuse’s offense, but Brown was still a freak of nature who dominated games.

5. Johnny Rodgers, Nebraska – Transcedent game/moment – 1971 punt return against Oklahoma in the Game of the Century

Rodgers wasn’t a glider or a smooth runner. He ran with fury when he got the ball in his hands. His cuts were explosive and somewhat herky jerky all at once, a 1970s version of former FSU whirling dervish Peter Warrick. But, when he got into the open field, one on one against a defender, forget it. He averaged 13.8 yards every time he touched the ball – run or pass or return.

6. Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State – Transcendent game/moment – 1988 Holiday Bowl against Wyoming

It’s scary to think what we might’ve seen in Stillwater if Barry wouldn’t have had Thurman Thomas in front of him at the outset of his career. His running style was a sight to behold. Sanders’ 1988 season defies anything, from a production standpoint (2,628 rushing yards with 39 total touchdowns), that we’ve seen before or since. I just wish we would’ve gotten to see him, more regularly for more than just that one great year.

7. Marshall Faulk, San Diego State – Transcendent game/moment – 299 yards rushing against BYU in 1992

Faulk has a run in that BYU game that tells you everything you would want to know about Marshall. He finds a seam on an inside run, bursts past the linebackers and into the secondary. The BYU corner from the other side of the field has the angle on him, but just as he’s about to make the tackle, Faulk put it into another gear – you can visibly see him run away from that defender. It’s one of those runs that words just can’t describe.

8. Tony Dorsett, Pitt – Transcendent game/moment – 202 yard performance in 1977 Sugar Bowl/National Championship game

Consistency and productivity were his hallmarks. Oh, that and his vision and quick feet. Dorsett’s record for career yardage stood for 25 years and it epitomized the fact that people were still chasing Aliquippa’s finest, just as they did in the 1970s. The man was All-American for four years, a record that’ll never be topped.

9. Billy Cannon, LSU – Transcendent game/moment – 1959 Halloween night against Ole Miss – 89 yards into history

The punt return that still reverberates in Bayou land made Cannon more than just the 1959 Heisman Trophy winner – it made him a legend. After shaking off about 20 Rebels to match his jersey number, Cannon finally had clear sailing in the rain and muck, helping put the Tigers in the Sugar Bowl at season’s end. He was the foundation of the 1958 national championship team and was one of the greatest SEC players in the history of that storied conference.

10. Desmond Howard – Michigan – Transcendent game/moment – 1991 Notre Dame – the diving catch

Most everyone remembers what Desmond did in his Heisman Trophy year, especially the Catch against Notre Dame. He made big plays with the cameras on and, as a college player, no one in the Big Ten put fear into opposing defensive coordinators like this guy.

Honorable Mention (“2nd Ten” – in no certain order) – Gale Sayers - Kansas, Eric Dickerson - SMU, Peter Warrick - Florida State, David Palmer - Alabama, Doak Walker – SMU, Anthony Carter – Michigan, Marcus Allen – USC, Bo Jackson, Auburn, Glenn Davis, Army, Tim Brown – Notre Dam


Matthew Zemek

Q: The ten greatest playmakers of all-time...

A: One should be able to sense what a playmaker truly is, but just to be clear about it, a playmaker is someone who--whenever he touches the ball--is the kind of lightning-bolt threat who can score a touchdown on any play if the defense takes a one-second mental holiday (and even then, it might not matter). Playmakers scare the living daylights out of the opposition and its fans. You want to use chipped kickoffs, out-of-bounds punts, and radically altered tactics to contain these guys.

1) Red Grange, Illinois. A playmaker so good, he created a national sensation in the 1920s that helped lift college football to previously unseen heights of popularity. What he did on just one afternoon--October 18, 1924--is enough to cement his credentials as an all-time great playmaker:

402 rushing yards on just 21 carries in a 39-14 win over Michigan. (And 78 passing yards on six completions, too.)

2) Vince Young, Texas. Well, duh. The greatest playmaker in the history of the Rose Bowl, that's for sure.

3) Reggie Bush, USC. Well, duh, part two. As purely electrifying a player as this sport has ever seen.

4) Michael Vick, Virginia Tech. The average American's attention span is short and getting shorter, but one should be able to assume that the 1999 and 2000 seasons can be remembered to some extent, especially the 2000 Sugar Bowl.

5) Raghib Ismail, Notre Dame. Sure, his touchdown in the 1991 Orange Bowl was called back because of a penalty. However, that didn't detract from his personal excellence, the stupidity of the Colorado special teams unit, or the electricity generated in Miami's venerable stadium when he touched the ball on that one memorable occasion.

6) Tony Dorsett. He performed big, he performed consistently big, he did so in the sport's great settings (Notre Dame Stadium and the Superdome for the

'77 Sugar Bowl), he won the Heisman, and he won a national title. His imprint upon Pitt football is a particularly large mark imposed by one player upon a program.

7) Desmond Howard, Michigan. That a man could strike a Heisman pose and not come across as begging for votes tells you all you need to know about the legitimacy of this guy's playmaking ability.

8) Tim Brown, Notre Dame. The first of two Golden Domers who struck fear into the hearts of the opposition during the second half of the 1980s.

9) Terry Baker, Oregon State. The notion of a dazzling, ultra-fast playmaker is something that admittedly belongs to more recent years, but Baker was a guy who, in 1962, outran entire defenses and scored points very much on his own at a school not traditionally known for football excellence. That Baker won the Heisman is a testament to how good a playmaker he was in his day. A man who deserves to be included with the faster, cooler cats of more recent vintage.

10) Anthony Carter, Michigan. Put it this way: Carter was as dynamic as his Bo Schembechler offense was simple. That tells you how much he stood out on his team and, frankly, in the sport during the years he played the game.
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Unread postby yargs7 » Thu Aug 17, 2006 12:15 am

I love CFN. That is THE best College Football site.

Here are a few guys that played more recently that stick out in my mind...

-Keyshawn Johnson-Dude was unstoppable at USC. Dismantled Northwestern in Rose Bowl.

-Drew Brees-He was awesome at Purdue. A fantastic college QB.

-Roy Williams-The Texas version. He was a man amongst boys in college.

-Mike Williams-Jaw dropping one handed catch against Ore St. was unreal.

-Terry Glenn-Blistering speed. Big play after big play.

-LaVar Arrington-Freakish athleticism. Mean as a snake. Lavar Leap? Sick.
"You win with people"

-W.W. "Woody" Hayes
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