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Tuesday November 29 2022
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College Football: Local Players to Watch

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It's still the dog days of summer, but college football season is nrarly upon us. Local teams begin to open camp this week and next, and there are several players to keep an eye on.

Saquon Barkley, Penn State (RB, SO.): Named to the Freshman All-American team, Barkley rushed for 1,076 yards on 182 attempts, scoring seven touchdowns last season. He also caught 20 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. Barkley was named to the All-Big Ten second team and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2015. In May 2016, Barkley was tabbed as a sleeper Heisman trophy candidate.

Jason Cabinda, Penn State (LB, JR.): After a breakout sophomore campaign, Cabinda has been named to the Bednarik Award Watch List, given to the National Defensive Player of the Year. In 2015, Cabinda accounted for 98 total tackles, including 5.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks, five pass breakups, and an interception. Last season, Cabinda garnered an All-Big Ten honorable mention.

James Conner, Pitt (RB, JR.): The 6’2 240-lb tail back returns to the Pitt backfield after suffering a torn MCL in the 2015 season opener against Youngstown State. In December, Conner announced he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, but vowed to return to football. As a true freshman in 2013, Connor led the Panthers in rushing and broke Tony Dorsett’s bowl game rushing record with 229 yards versus Bowling Green. In 2014, Conner rushed for over 1,700 yards and an ACC record 26 touchdowns, while being named ACC Player of the Year and First-team All-American.

Shelton Gibson, West Virginia (WR, SO.): Gibson led the Mountaineers with 887 yards receiving in 2015 and was recently named to the 2016 Biletnikoff Award watch list, for the nation’s top receiver. Gibson caught nine touchdown passes, which also led the Mountaineers. Gibson also displayed his speed in the return game, accounting for 361 yard on 11 returns, including a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown.

Chris Godwin, Penn State (WR, JR.): Godwin caught 69 passes for 1,101 yards and five touchdowns as Penn State’s top receiver in 2015. He became just the third receiver in school history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a season. Godwin was named All-Big Ten second team by the media and third-team all-conference by the coaches.

Noble Nwachukwu, West Virginia (DE, SR.): The 2015 All-Big 12 honoree returns to the Mountaineers, who suffered heavy losses on the defensive side of the ball. In his junior year, Nwachukwu accounted for 47 tackles, including 13 for loss, as well as a forced fumble. He also led the team with 8.5 sacks.

Qadree Ollison, Pitt (RB, SO.): Ollison filled in nicely for the Panthers after James Conner’s knee injury, the redshirt freshman broke the single game rushing record for a freshman (207) in the same game Conner was injured. In 2015, Ollison became just the fifth Panthers running back to rush for 1,000 yards in a season as a freshman, rushing for 1,121 yards on 212 carries with 11 touchdowns. Ollison was selected the ACC’s Offensive Rookie of the Year and was a co-recipient of the coaches’ overall Rookie of the Year award with safety Jordan Whitehead.

Jordan Whitehead, Pitt (DB, SO.): Whitehead established himself as one of the nation’s top freshman in 2015. The 5’11, 185-lb Aliquippa native was named a consensus Freshman All-American, ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year, and was selected to the All ACC third team. Whitehead led Pitt in tackles with 109, the most in school history by a true freshman. Late in the season, Whitehead played some on offense, rushing 12 times for 122 yards and two touchdowns.

Small College
Sam Benger, Carnegie Mellon (RB, JR.) - Benger finished 2015 as the leading rusher in Division III with 2,092 yards, which set the school record for rushing yards in a season. He added 22 rushing touchdowns, which broke the school’s single season mark, and also set a school record for a single game with 303 yards rushing.

Garry Brown, California (WR, SR.) – In 2015, Brown earned an All-American Honorable Mention after totaling 1,028 receiving yards on 64 catches, to go along with 11 touchdowns. Brown finished 10th in Division II with in average of 102.8 receiving yards per game.

Brian Khoury, Carnegie Mellon (DE, JR.) – In 2015, Khoury received an All-American Honorable Mention after posting 54 total tackles and forcing and recovering two fumbles each. He set the school record for sacks in a season with 13.5, including four in one game, breaking the school record for sacks in a single game.

Christian Kuntz, Duquesne (LB, SR.): The 2015 All-American recorded 72 total tackles, including 26 tackles for loss and 10 sacks, to go along with four interceptions, six pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery for the Dukes. Kuntz, a Chartiers Valley grad, was also named NEC Defensive Player of the Year and was first-team All-NEC.
Slippery Rock Marcus Martin
Marcus Martin, Slippery Rock (DL, JR.) – Martin was named Second-Team All-American in 2015, after recording 88 total tackles, including 25.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks. The 2016 preseason All-American from West Mifflin also forced three fumbles and recovered four in 2015, making him one of the most effective linemen at the D2 level.

Derek Rivers, Youngstown State (DE, JR.) – Named a 2015 third-team All-American, Rivers returns to the Penguins’ D and projects as one of the top FCS draft prospects for 2017. The 2016 preseason FCS All-American totaled 52 tackles in 2015, including 15.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks. Rivers has set the school record for career sacks with 26, as he enters his final year of eligibility.


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