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Published: June 9, 2015 at 12:05 p.m.

15 for '15: College football's most versatile athletes

» Complete 15 for '15 series

CFB 24/7's "15 for '15" series continues with a look at 15 of the most versatile players in the college game. Some play on both sides of the ball, and others don't, but they all have an accomplished record in multiple roles.

15 Photos Total

  • One of the most valuable players on the Fighting Illini roster, Bentley plays a big role in the secondary and serves as both punt returner and kickoff returner on special teams. He piled up more than 800 total return yards, including a 10-yard punt-return average. Defensively, Bentley scored on both an interception and a fumble return last year. Bentley was underappreciated on a 6-7 team last year, but he would play for a lot of the Big Ten schools ahead of Illinois in the standings. 15

    Bradley Leeb/USA Today

    15. V'Angelo Bentley, Illinois

    One of the most valuable players on the Fighting Illini roster, Bentley plays a big role in the secondary and serves as both punt returner and kickoff returner on special teams. He piled up more than 800 total return yards, including a 10-yard punt-return average. Defensively, Bentley scored on both an interception and a fumble return last year. Bentley was underappreciated on a 6-7 team last year, but he would play for a lot of the Big Ten schools ahead of Illinois in the standings.

  • Bolden piled up 960 all-purpose yards last year for the Beavers primarily as a receiver, but had 19 rushes and a few punt returns, as well. There are indications he'll see more rushing action under a new coaching staff, so look for a more diverse contribution from Bolden this season, especially if he also sees more action as a return specialist. 14

    Troy Wayrynen/Associated Press

    14. Victor Bolden, Oregon State

    Bolden piled up 960 all-purpose yards last year for the Beavers primarily as a receiver, but had 19 rushes and a few punt returns, as well. There are indications he'll see more rushing action under a new coaching staff, so look for a more diverse contribution from Bolden this season, especially if he also sees more action as a return specialist.

  • The Broncos' diminutive do-it-all player, at just 5-foot-6, 168 pounds, had a role very similar to Bolden's last year: wide receiver, rusher, punt returner. He caught 68 passes to lead the team, but he didn't get very far with them (585 yards). He actually averaged more yards per rush (11.9) than he did per catch (8.6). Throw in an 8.5-yard average on punt returns, and Williams-Rhodes is an invaluable piece of the Boise State puzzle for 2015. 13

    Otto Kitsinger/Associated Press

    13. Shane Williams-Rhodes, Boise State

    The Broncos' diminutive do-it-all player, at just 5-foot-6, 168 pounds, had a role very similar to Bolden's last year: wide receiver, rusher, punt returner. He caught 68 passes to lead the team, but he didn't get very far with them (585 yards). He actually averaged more yards per rush (11.9) than he did per catch (8.6). Throw in an 8.5-yard average on punt returns, and Williams-Rhodes is an invaluable piece of the Boise State puzzle for 2015.

  • Few defensive linemen in the nation can transfer from end to tackle as seamlessly as Day. After a strong first half of the 2015 season, Day missed much of November with a knee injury. At 6-2, 285 pounds, he's not a sleek pass rusher on the edge, but he's tough to block and can play anywhere along the defensive line on all three downs. Expect Day to have a career-best season for the Fighting Irish this fall. 12

    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    12. Sheldon Day, Notre Dame

    Few defensive linemen in the nation can transfer from end to tackle as seamlessly as Day. After a strong first half of the 2015 season, Day missed much of November with a knee injury. At 6-2, 285 pounds, he's not a sleek pass rusher on the edge, but he's tough to block and can play anywhere along the defensive line on all three downs. Expect Day to have a career-best season for the Fighting Irish this fall.

  • A good list of versatile college football players doesn't have to exclude offensive linemen. And few have shown more versatility than Alexander, a 340-pound senior-to-be who has been a career-long starter. He's played both tackle and guard, and he's played both the left and right sides. Center is about the only position that Alexander hasn't logged game time for the Tigers. His pro projection? Guard, or right tackle. 11

    Matthew Emmons/USA Today

    11. Vadal Alexander, LSU

    A good list of versatile college football players doesn't have to exclude offensive linemen. And few have shown more versatility than Alexander, a 340-pound senior-to-be who has been a career-long starter. He's played both tackle and guard, and he's played both the left and right sides. Center is about the only position that Alexander hasn't logged game time for the Tigers. His pro projection? Guard, or right tackle.

  • The Aggies star was all over the field defensively last year with 16.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks, but he ended up playing enough running back to pick up 41 carries and even threw two passes, completing both. In Week 6, he was the Paul Hornung Award player of the week (given to the nation's most versatile player) after playing 108 snaps (nine tackles, 16 carries) in a win over BYU. Like most two-way players, defense will command the majority of Vigil's playing time this fall. 10

    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    10. Nick Vigil, Utah State

    The Aggies star was all over the field defensively last year with 16.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks, but he ended up playing enough running back to pick up 41 carries and even threw two passes, completing both. In Week 6, he was the Paul Hornung Award player of the week (given to the nation's most versatile player) after playing 108 snaps (nine tackles, 16 carries) in a win over BYU. Like most two-way players, defense will command the majority of Vigil's playing time this fall.

  • The triple-option quarterback who gave Florida State's defense fits last year in the ACC title game is back to confound defenders once again. His completion percentage (51.3) left something to be desired, but he threw 18 touchdown passes to only six interceptions in his first year as a starter. And, of course, he was dynamite on the ground (190 carries for 1,086 yards). 9

    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    9. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech

    The triple-option quarterback who gave Florida State's defense fits last year in the ACC title game is back to confound defenders once again. His completion percentage (51.3) left something to be desired, but he threw 18 touchdown passes to only six interceptions in his first year as a starter. And, of course, he was dynamite on the ground (190 carries for 1,086 yards).

  • Along with being one of the most prolific wide receivers in the country (78 catches, 1,261 yards), Boyd handles both return jobs for the Panthers, as well. His 27.6-yard average on kickoff returns was good for 10th in the entire NCAA. With a 10-yard punt-return average and about a once-a-game threat to run the ball, defensive coordinators and special-teams coaches have to account for Boyd in four different ways. 8

    Don Wright/Associated Press

    8. Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh

    Along with being one of the most prolific wide receivers in the country (78 catches, 1,261 yards), Boyd handles both return jobs for the Panthers, as well. His 27.6-yard average on kickoff returns was good for 10th in the entire NCAA. With a 10-yard punt-return average and about a once-a-game threat to run the ball, defensive coordinators and special-teams coaches have to account for Boyd in four different ways.

  • Forget that the Ohio State quarterback is a year removed from the playing field. Forget that he's considered the longshot in a three-man field to win back the starting job he once occupied with a commanding presence. None of that makes one of the most gifted athletes in the college game any less versatile. A quick refresher course: Over his two years as a starter for the Buckeyes, Miller piled up 4,133 passing yards and 2,339 rushing yards -- with his only loss coming in a game he had to leave early due to injury. And if he doesn't win the starting job this fall, you can bet his versatility will get him on the field in some other capacity. 7

    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    7. Braxton Miller, Ohio State

    Forget that the Ohio State quarterback is a year removed from the playing field. Forget that he's considered the longshot in a three-man field to win back the starting job he once occupied with a commanding presence. None of that makes one of the most gifted athletes in the college game any less versatile. A quick refresher course: Over his two years as a starter for the Buckeyes, Miller piled up 4,133 passing yards and 2,339 rushing yards -- with his only loss coming in a game he had to leave early due to injury. And if he doesn't win the starting job this fall, you can bet his versatility will get him on the field in some other capacity.

  • How does the versatile freshman follow up a season that established him as the Ducks' best special-teams player, and included a season-high 104 receiving yards in the Pac-12 title game? By playing defense, of course. Nelson saw action in the secondary in the Oregon spring game and is expected to play defense this fall, but his role as a return specialist and kickoff coverage ace isn't going anywhere. And if he ends up being a three-way player, he'll be one of the most fun players to follow in the game. 6

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    6. Charles Nelson, Oregon

    How does the versatile freshman follow up a season that established him as the Ducks' best special-teams player, and included a season-high 104 receiving yards in the Pac-12 title game? By playing defense, of course. Nelson saw action in the secondary in the Oregon spring game and is expected to play defense this fall, but his role as a return specialist and kickoff coverage ace isn't going anywhere. And if he ends up being a three-way player, he'll be one of the most fun players to follow in the game.

  • Foster is the only returning player in the country with both 1,500 rushing and 1,500 receiving yards in his career, and he's caught at least one pass in 40 consecutive games. Consider this: along with leading the team in rushing last year with 1,081 yards, he was also the Sun Devils' No. 2 receiver behind third-round draft pick Jaelen Strong with 62 catches for 688 yards. There simply isn't a more dangerous pass catcher out of the backfield in the country. 5

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    5. D.J. Foster, Arizona State

    Foster is the only returning player in the country with both 1,500 rushing and 1,500 receiving yards in his career, and he's caught at least one pass in 40 consecutive games. Consider this: along with leading the team in rushing last year with 1,081 yards, he was also the Sun Devils' No. 2 receiver behind third-round draft pick Jaelen Strong with 62 catches for 688 yards. There simply isn't a more dangerous pass catcher out of the backfield in the country.

  • The most versatile player in the SEC can catch it, run it, return it, or even throw it. Cooper exploded for 1,136 receiving yards last year for the Gamecocks, adding 200 more on the ground and threw two touchdown passes in just eight attempts as a quarterback. He wasn't especially dangerous on punt returns (5.0-yard average), but he's a defensive coordinator's nightmare. 4

    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    4. Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina

    The most versatile player in the SEC can catch it, run it, return it, or even throw it. Cooper exploded for 1,136 receiving yards last year for the Gamecocks, adding 200 more on the ground and threw two touchdown passes in just eight attempts as a quarterback. He wasn't especially dangerous on punt returns (5.0-yard average), but he's a defensive coordinator's nightmare.

  • The preseason Heisman Trophy hopeful isn't just one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the country. Just dig back to 2013, when he caught 26 passes for the Horned Frogs and became the first player in school history to post a 100-yard rushing game, a 100-yard receiving game and a 200-yard passing game in the same season. His days of catching passes now are over, but Boykin is dangerous enough just throwing them. He amassed 3,901 passing yards last year and rushed for another 707. 3

    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    3. Trevone Boykin, TCU

    The preseason Heisman Trophy hopeful isn't just one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the country. Just dig back to 2013, when he caught 26 passes for the Horned Frogs and became the first player in school history to post a 100-yard rushing game, a 100-yard receiving game and a 200-yard passing game in the same season. His days of catching passes now are over, but Boykin is dangerous enough just throwing them. He amassed 3,901 passing yards last year and rushed for another 707.

  • If the Bruins junior doesn't play exclusively at linebacker this fall, he'll probably come very close to it. Yet, among college football's two-way players, nobody has proven more on both sides of the ball. His versatility was never more relevant than when he was named both the offensive and defensive Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2013.  Entering his third season, his two-way ability is less likely to surface, but it's no less prolific. 2

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    2. Myles Jack, UCLA

    If the Bruins junior doesn't play exclusively at linebacker this fall, he'll probably come very close to it. Yet, among college football's two-way players, nobody has proven more on both sides of the ball. His versatility was never more relevant than when he was named both the offensive and defensive Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2013. Entering his third season, his two-way ability is less likely to surface, but it's no less prolific.

  • The encore performance for one of college football's most dynamic freshmen last year promises to be a big one. The Trojans' three-way player is primarily a cornerback, and a very good one, but also caught three touchdown passes on offense and had the fifth-best kickoff-return average in the country (29.7). Just for good measure, he long jumps for the USC track squad. Jackson's role on offense could expand this fall, and if it does, he'll be the closest thing to appointment television the Pac-12 has on Saturdays. 1

    Ben Liebenberg/NFL

    1. Adoree' Jackson, USC

    The encore performance for one of college football's most dynamic freshmen last year promises to be a big one. The Trojans' three-way player is primarily a cornerback, and a very good one, but also caught three touchdown passes on offense and had the fifth-best kickoff-return average in the country (29.7). Just for good measure, he long jumps for the USC track squad. Jackson's role on offense could expand this fall, and if it does, he'll be the closest thing to appointment television the Pac-12 has on Saturdays.