Erik Williams/Rice Sports Information
Jayson Carter, RB, Rice
Particulars: 4-9, 135, Junior
Buzz: Under 5-10? You may make this list, you may not. Under 4-10? You're a no-brainer. Unlike others listed here, Carter didn't make a statistical impact for his team last year. But at 4-foot-9, this moment alone was enough for inclusion. His one carry for one yard in a blowout win over UTEP was a victory for sub-5-foot football players everywhere.
Dave Weaver/Associated Press
Dennis Norfleet, WR, Michigan
Particulars: 5-7, 167, Junior
Buzz: Norfleet hasn’t yet broken through as a major factor in the Michigan offense, but he’s well on his way to being the most prolific kickoff returner in Wolverines history. Norfleet has 1,765 kickoff-return yards in two years, already ranked second in team annals. He rushed just four times last year for 53 yards, a team-best 13.2-yard average.
Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports
Sam E. Richardson, CB, Iowa State
Particulars: 5-7, 189, Junior
Buzz: Catching passes at 5-foot-7 is hard enough, but defending them is even harder, especially with the way wide receivers are trending bigger. Cyclones cover man Sam E. Richardson broke up seven passes last year and finished fifth on the team in tackles (53).
Casey Sapio/USA Today Sports
Nate Phillips, WR, Arizona
Particulars: 5-7, 177, Sophomore
Buzz: As a true freshman last year, Phillips piled up 51 catches for 696 yards and seven touchdowns in a slot receiver role that proved to be an ideal fit in the Wildcats' offense. Phillips ended his first college season on an explosive note, amassing 193 yards on nine catches in an Independence Bowl win over Boston College.
Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Pres
Jaylen Walton, RB, Ole Miss
Particulars: 5-8, 166, Junior
Buzz: Coach Hugh Freeze clearly likes his running backs small and quick, and that’s exactly what Walton brings to the SEC in college football’s most physical conference. He made seven starts in the Rebels' backfield last year, picking up 523 yards and six touchdowns. With 29 catches for 322 yards, he was also one of the SEC’s most prolific receivers at the running back position. And if that wasn’t enough for the two-year letterman from Memphis, he also returned 25 kickoffs for another 515 yards.
Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press
Shane Williams-Rhodes, WR/PR, Boise State
Particulars: 5-6, 160, Junior
Buzz: With five losses last year, it wasn't the season Broncos fans had come to expect. But at least they got some excitement from the diminutive Williams-Rhodes. He caught a whopping 77 passes in the Broncos' creative offense, although at 9.1 yards per catch, he didn't get downfield as much as expected. He also averaged 14.6 yards per punt return. No wonder. He's a hard one to find, much less tackle.
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
Travis Greene, RB, Bowling Green
Particulars: 5-10, 181, Junior
Buzz: Greene is the second-heaviest player on this list, and needs every pound to handle the punishment of an every-down rusher. Greene rushed for a school-record 1,594 yards last year on 279 carries with 11 touchdowns, and caught another 18 passes out of the backfield. That’s a serious workload for a running back who is small even by wide receiver standards.
Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sport
Carlos Wiggins, WR, New Mexico
Particulars: 5-8, 157, Junior
Buzz: Wiggins led the entire nation in kickoff-return yards last year with 1,303, averaging 29.6 yards per return, and breaking an NCAA-high three for touchdowns. But there is more to the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year than kick returns. He was the Lobos’ third-leading receiver and also rushed 13 times for 237 yards (18.2 yards per carry). The Lobos will look to get the ball in his hands more often in 2014, with good reason.
Sam Riche/Associated Press
Shane Wynn, WR, Indiana
Particulars: 5-7, 167, Senior
Buzz: Wynn ranked second in the Big Ten in receiving touchdowns last year with 11 -- two more than teammate and NFL draftee Cody Latimer -- showing the kind of explosiveness receivers must have at his size. He hauled in 46 receptions and could well lead the Hoosiers in receiving this year with Latimer gone. Wynn's punt return for a 58-yard score last year against Indiana State was a nifty one.
Nell Redmond/Associated Press
Kermit Whitfield, WR, Florida State
Particulars: 5-7, 184, Sophomore
Buzz: The Seminoles' dynamo freshman broke a 59-year-old ACC record for kickoff-return average (36.4), which led the entire NCAA. His 100-yard kickoff return in the BCS title game against Auburn was most forgettable for AU's T.J. Davis, who had an angle for the tackle and couldn't run Whitfield down. It remains to be seen how much of a receiving role Whitfield develops this fall for Heisman Trophy quarterback Jameis Winston. He had more yards rushing on three carries last year (110) than he had on five catches, so refining his receiving skills is definitely his next step.
Wade Payne/Associated Press
Damiere Byrd, WR, South Carolina
Particulars: 5-9, 166, Senior
Buzz: One of the fastest players in the SEC, Byrd averaged 17.4 yards per catch last year as the Gamecocks’ No. 2 receiver behind NFL draftee Bruce Ellington. With Ellington now gone, Byrd is in position to lead the South Carolina receiving corps this season with a new quarterback at the helm. Byrd needs just 43 more receiving yards to reach 1,000 for his career.
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
Jakeem Grant, WR, Texas Tech
Particulars: 5-6, 160, Junior
Buzz: The Red Raiders' leading returning receiver pulled in 65 passes last year in a fast-paced, pass-happy offense that puts Grant's speed and skills to great work. Grant also handled 19 kickoff returns for TT. His open-field moves are simply ridiculous, as this Texas Tech video feature illustrates. With tight end Jace Amaro moving on to the NFL, Grant could threaten 100 catches by season's end.
Gerry Broome/Associated Press
Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke
Particulars: 5-9, 175, Senior
Buzz: No single player had a bigger hand in Duke’s football resurgence last year than Crowder, one of the smallest players on the Blue Devils' roster. Crowder caught 108 passes for 1,360 yards and eight touchdowns, and added another 401 yards in punt returns for a hefty 16.0 average per return. He also showed up when it mattered most, delivering 100-plus receiving yards three times on the road, four times in ACC play, and a season-high 163 yards against Texas A&M in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State
Particulars: 5-11, 175, Senior
Buzz: Lockett blistered Big 12 secondaries last year with 81 catches for 1,262 yards. But he wasn’t just feasting on non-conference cupcakes. In fact, against the most prominent two opponents on the KSU schedule – Texas and Oklahoma – Lockett exploded for 237 and 278 yards, respectively. While size will likely prevent most players listed here from an NFL career, Lockett is considered a legitimate prospect for next year’s draft.
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