The college football season is upon us, and while expectations for Indiana, Purdue and Ball State aren’t exactly optimistic, at least Notre Dame should give local fans something to cheer about.
But if the Irish aren’t your cup of tea, there’s still plenty of reason to follow college football this year. There are 210 players from the state of Indiana currently on NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) rosters. That number includes both scholarship players and walk-ons.
We narrowed down those 210 players to find the state’s top performers to fill out our annual All-Indiana College Football team. Keep in mind, these are players from Indiana, not just playing at Indiana colleges.
QB: Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati (Columbus East) – By now you know about Kiel’s circuitous route to Cincinnati. The 2011 Indiana Mr. Football committed to both IU and LSU in high school before eventually signing with Notre Dame. After a season on the Irish bench, Kiel transferred to Cincinnati and for Bearcats fans, he was worth the wait. Kiel tied the school record for touchdowns in a season (31) and became the first QB in school history (that’s 127 years) to throw for four or more TDs in three straight games. With seven senior receivers returning and Cincinnati picked to win the American Athletic Conference and be a non-Power Five threat, Kiel has garnered talk as a dark horse Heisman candidate and potential high NFL draft pick.
RB: Remound Wright, Stanford (Bishop Dwenger) – It’s slim pickings at RB, and it’s too early to anoint 2015 Indiana Mr. Football Markell Jones, even though he may get some run as a true freshman with Purdue. Wright led the Cardinal in rushing last season with 601 yards and 11 TDs. But as a fifth-year senior, he’s in line to share carries with Christian McCaffrey and Barry Sanders Jr. (You may know his dad.)
WR: Jordan Williams, Ball State (North Central) – Williams, a second-team All-Mid American Conference selection in 2014, saw a dip in production from his sophomore to junior seasons (1,050 to 753) but there’s a good reason for that. In 2013, he had the school’s all-time leading passer, Keith Wenning, throwing to him. That wasn’t the case last season with QB duties split between Ozzie Mann and Jack Milas. The job is now Milas’ alone, giving Williams a chance to establish a better rapport and climb the Ball State career receiving lists (he’s currently 10th in yards).
WR: Danny Anthrop, Purdue (Lafayette Central Catholic) – A devastating knee injury cut short Anthrop’s productive junior season in which he was basically the Boilers’ entire aerial attack. His 616 receiving yards led the team, with running back Akeem Hunt a distant second at 293. Chosen as a team captain for 2015, word on Anthrop’s recovery has all been positive so far from Purdue camp. With Hunt and Raheem Mostert currently trying to make NFL rosters, playmakers are at a premium for the Boilers’ offense, so a healthy Anthrop would go a long way in the development of QB Austin Appleby.
TE: Josiah Price, Michigan State (Eastern) – All-Big Ten honorable mention a year ago, Price started six games in 2014 and tied a single-season school record for most TDs by a tight end with 6 (Kellen Davis, 2007). A first-team All-Big Ten preseason pick by numerous publications, Price, who is also on the John Mackey Award list (awarded to the nation’s top TE), is in line for a big season. It helps when you sit down with your QB and re-watch every pass he’s thrown to you as Price and Connor Cook did this summer. “I think I’m a more confident tight end this year, especially in the passing game,” Price told the Detroit News.
TE: Steven Scheu, Vanderbilt (Evansville Memorial) – Known primarily as a blocker his first two seasons at Vanderbilt (17 total catches), Scheu became an integral part of the Commodores’ passing attack last season and led all SEC tight ends in catches (39). That earned Scheu AP All-SEC honors as he led or shared the team-lead in receptions, receiving yards (525) and TD catches (4).
OL: Nick Martin, Notre Dame (Bishop Chatard) – Yeah, believe it or not, Martin is still in South Bend. A two-time captain for the Fighting Irish, Martin is back for a fifth year as the team’s anchor at center. The younger brother and former teammate of NFL Pro Bowler Zack, Martin played through injury last year and has more appearances than any other Notre Dame lineman (39).
OL: Ted Karras, Illinois (Cathedral) – The latest in a line of Karras men to excel in the trenches (grandfather Ted was a defensive tackle at IU and great-uncle Alex won the Outland Trophy at Iowa), Karras is Illinois’ undisputed leader on offense. That leadership will be tested with the abrupt dismissal of head coach Tim Beckman a week before the season kicks off. A knee injury cost Karras the final four games of the 2014 season, but he still earned All-Big Ten honorable mention.
OL: Jon Toth, Kentucky (Brebeuf Jesuit) – A leader on a veteran offensive line that returns four of five starters, Toth has made 23 starts in a row at center. A two-time SEC Academic Honor Roll selection while majoring in mechanical engineering, Toth is also on the Rimington Award Watch List, given to college football’s top center.
OL: Deyshawn Bond, Cincinnati (Warren Central) – Another standout center on the Rimington Award Watch List, Bond will be entering his third season as the Bearcats’ starter. A year ago, he anchored an offensive line that produced the second-highest yardage total in school history, while at the same time surrendering the second-fewest sacks in the American Athletic Conference (16).
OL: Jason Spriggs, Indiana (Concord) – An All-Big Ten honorable mention by the media last year, Spriggs has been a starter since Day 1 in Bloomington, starting 34 of 35 career games at left tackle. In 2014, Spriggs allowed just two sacks in 689 snaps and helped clear the way for IU running backs to set a single-season school record with 3,163 rushing yards.
DL: Sheldon Day, Notre Dame (Warren Central) – Day and the previously mentioned Nick Martin are just the 19th and 20th two-time captains in the storied history of Notre Dame. An Outland Trophy candidate, Day posted 40 tackles last season, including 24 solo stops and 7.5 tackles for loss, despite missing two games to injury. The season-ending injury to defensive lineman Jarron Jones in mid-August will put a heavier reliance on Day, the 2011 IndyStar Mr. Football runner-up.
DL: Darnell Smith, Ball State (Warren Central) – Smith finished last year with 37 total tackles, including 5.5 for loss, and forced two fumbles at defensive tackle for the Cardinals. He had three or more tackles in seven games last season, earning third-team All-MAC honors, and was selected as a team captain for the 2015 season.
DL: Darius Latham, Indiana (North Central) – Arguably IU’s most important defensive player, the heralded recruit out of North Central has a chance to provide a disruptive force from the interior of the Hoosiers D-line. An offseason knee scope has him playing catchup in camp, but when healthy, he’s IU’s most talented defensive lineman.
DL: Joel Hale, Ohio State (Center Grove) – Hale returns to the defensive side of the ball after working along the offensive line during an injury-plagued 2014. He started nine times along the defensive front from 2011-13, and was moved back to the D-line to take advantage of his experience and leadership. He’s been bothered by nagging calf injuries, but when healthy should figure in the rotation for the top-ranked Buckeyes.
LB: Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame (Bishop Luers) – A four-time state title winner with Bishop Luers and the 2012 IndyStar Mr. Football, Smith is no surprise success story. One of the top linebackers in the country, he is working on a resume that could put him among the greatest LBs in Notre Dame history. A second-team AP All-American, Smith is on the watch list for the Butkus, Bednarik, Lombardi and Nagurski trophies — all for the second year in a row. In 2014, he was a finalist for the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top LB after leading the Irish with 112 total tackles, including 65 solo stops. His nine tackles for loss were also a team-best. He’ll be playing on Sundays in the near future.
LB: Jimmy Herman, Purdue (Carmel) – An eight-game starter last year for the Boilers, Herman finished 2014 with 56 tackles, fourth-most on the team. A two-time Academic All-Big Ten, he’s been slowed by hamstring issues during camp, but figures to return in time for Purdue’s opener versus Marshall.
LB: Tim Kimbrough, Georgia (Warren Central) – Named the Bulldogs’ Most Improved Player following the 2014 season and then again after spring practice, Kimbrough is a ready-made replacement for Colts draftee Amarlo Herrera and is in line for a breakthrough season. Kimbrough played in 13 games a season ago, registering 32 tackles and has a growing reputation as one of Georgia’s hardest hitters.
DB: Chase Dutra, Indiana (Brownsburg) — The pickings are slim for Indiana-bred defensive backs — though they might be even slimmer in Bloomington. The dismissal of Antonio Allen following his offseason arrest means Dutra — a redshirt sophomore — is the elder statesman in the Hoosiers’ defensive backfield. Dutra played in all 12 games last season, and led the team with three interceptions, while adding five pass breakups.
DB: Jason Beck, Eastern Michigan (Tech) — The former Tech standout proved a nice find for the Eagles, starting 10 games last season as a freshman and finishing fourth on the team with 86 tackles. A free safety, Beck added an interception and three pass breakups in 2014.
DB: Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame (Fort Wayne Carroll) – A versatile defender and three-game starter as a freshman, Tranquill will be used in a variety of ways for the Irish this season, featuring prominently in dime packages. An ACL tear prematurely ended his 2014 season, which finished with 33 tackles and one interception.
DB: Austin Brown, Wabash (Griffith) — As we do with one selection every year, we’re stretching outside D-1 to round out our roster. Brown led the Little Giants in tackles (101) and interceptions (three) last season and was a first-team North Coast Athletic Conference selection. He is among Wabash’s returning defensive leaders for a team ranked 10th in Division III preseason polls.
P: Tyler Williams, Marshall (Fort Wayne Snider) – A first-team All-Conference USA punter, Williams averaged 44.1 yards per punt a season ago. A former walk-on, Williams quickly earned a scholarship, leading all FBS freshmen in punting in 2012. He’ll be just the fifth four-year punter in school history and is a preseason All-Conference pick entering the season.
K: Griffin Oakes, Indiana (Greenwood) — In 2014, Oakes set an IU record with a 58-yard field goal against Maryland. Not bad for a freshman. In all, Oakes made 13 of his 18 field goal attempts and was perfect on his 23 extra points. Aaron Del Grosso’s injury in camp this year pretty much sealed Oakes’ spot as IU’s starting kicker.
QB: Zach Terrell, Central Michigan (Homestead)
RB: Connor Kacsur, Dayton (Leo)
WR: Jared Murphy, Miami of Ohio (Columbia City)
WR: Reece Horn, UIndy (Cathedral)
WR: Juwan Brescacin, Northern Illinois (Culver Academy)
TE: Anthony Corsaro, Indiana (Cathedral)
OL: Colin Sandor, Air Force (Cathedral)
OL: Tim Gardner, Indiana (Lawrence Central)
OL: Jake Reed, Indiana (Columbus North)
OL: Jeremiah Harvey, Ball State (Culver)
OL: Hayden Janney, UIndy (Hamilton Southeastern)
DL: Pierre Aka, Iowa State (Pike)
DL: William Lee, Northern Illinois (Tech)
DL: Keenan Noel, Ball State (Columbus North)
DL: Nathan Braster, Western Michigan (Fort Wayne South Side)
LB: Ben Ingle, Ball State (LaSalle, OH) – from West Harrison, Ind.
LB: Ike Spearman, Eastern Michigan (Lake Central)
LB: Kevin Brown, Cincinnati (Lawrence Central)
DB: Mario Swann, Indiana (Center Grove)
DB: Mykelti Williams, Notre Dame (Warren Central)
DB: John Turner, Notre Dame (Cathedral)
DB: Daniel Rojas, Marian (Roncalli)
P: A.J. Hughes, Virginia Tech (Terre Haute North)
K: Drew Oehrle, Air Force (Roncalli
QB Tre Roberson, Illinois State (Lawrence Central)
QB James Knapke, Bowling Green (Bishop Luers)
RB Darian Green, Ball State (Lafayette Jeff)
WR Gehrig Dieter, Bowling Green (South Bend Washington)
WR Chris Shillings, Ball State (Columbus North)
WR Anthony Rice, Central Michigan (Mishawaka Marian)
TE Nate Wozniak, Minnesota (Center Grove)
TE Raymond Epps, Arizona State (Warren Central)
OL Will Ash, Kansas State (Cathedral)
OL Kody Bontreger, DePauw (Middlebury, Ind.)
LB Brandon Lee, Missouri (Lawrence Central)
LB Alex Green, Valparaiso (Zionsville)
LB Michael Mitsch, DePauw (Cathedral)
P Erich Toth, Indiana (Brebeuf Jesuit)