For today's column, I went back to something I saw on the Bleacher Report website when I was researching potential NFL draft selections from WVU, Ohio State and Marshall.
What caught my eye was a column by Alex Callos ranking the top 10 football players in each BCS conference for the coming season.
WVU had three players and OSU two on the Big 12 and Big Ten lists.
Speaking of respect, the Mountaineers are sure getting a lot of it from the Big 12, despite not having played a single game in their new conference, with quarterback Geno Smith tabbed No. 2, and wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey coming in at Nos. 4 and 8.
''Smith put up some mind-boggling stats in 2011 (4,385 yards passing for 31 TDs with only seven interceptions), and you can expect much of the same in 2012,'' wrote Callos, who thinks Smith ''is one of the top five quarterbacks in the country and should be a Heisman candidate. Simply put, Smith is a stud and has a lot of talent around him.''
Austin and Bailey head up that WVU talent pool. ''In a league filled with talented receivers, Austin is the best of the bunch,'' said Callos. Austin's stats last season: 101 receptions for 1,186 yards and eight TDs, 182 yards rushing and was ''also a force on special teams, earning All-American honors,'' noted Callos.
For Bailey, who ''quietly had a great season in 2011, he will join Austin to form one of the best duos in the country in 2012,'' said Callos. Last season as just a sophomore, Bailey had 72 receptions for 1,279 yards and 12 TDs. including 80 yards or more in 10 games, ''and will likely do better next season in the Big 12,'' concluded Callos.
At No. 10 in the Big Ten is Buckeye QB Braxton Miller, who ''showed signs in 2011 of being a Heisman candidate a few years down the road,'' said Callos. ''And with Urban Meyer now running the show, Miller will have a break-out year,'' Callos predicted.
Miller's stats last season as a true freshman: 1,159 yards passing for 13 TDs with just four interceptions, and rushed for 715 yards and seven more TDs.
So Callos expects Miller's ''passing stats to go up big time in 2012, especially with Miller entrenched as the undisputed starter from Day 1.''
At No. 4 in the Big Ten is OSU defensive lineman John Simon. ''In a league that's always filled with talented defensive players, John Simon is the best of the bunch heading into 2012,'' wrote Callos. Last season, Simon led OSU with seven sacks and 16 tackles for loss.
His 2011 performance netted Simon third-team All-American honors at defensive tackle, after being a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and a second-team pick by the media.
For those of you wondering, the No. 1 player choices across the board by conference were SEC: LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu; Big 12: Kansas State QB Collin Klein; Pac-12: USC QB Matt Barkley; Big Ten: Wisconsin RB Montee Ball; ACC: Clemson QB Tajh Boyd; and Big East: Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene.
Contact Steve Hemmelgarn at firstname.lastname@example.org