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Published: July 1, 2015 at 12:10 p.m.
Updated: July 1, 2015 at 12:16 p.m.

15 for '15: College football players with best intangibles

» Complete 15 for '15 series

CFB 24/7's "15 for '15" series continues with a look at 15 returning players who bring outstanding intangible qualities to their respective teams. Each brings a high level of leadership and dedication to the game, and is well-respected by teammates and coaches alike. They're not all household names, but they're the type of players coaching staffs can never have enough of.

15 Photos Total

  • The Sun Devils' fifth-year senior has just three career starts to his name, yet 106 of 110 players voted him the team's overall leader in the spring. As such, he'll be one of three captains this fall. Inspiring that sort of confidence in one's teammates is easy when you shred Pac-12 rivals UCLA and USC for 998 combined passing yards in your first two career starts. 15

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    15. Mike Bercovici, QB, Arizona State

    The Sun Devils' fifth-year senior has just three career starts to his name, yet 106 of 110 players voted him the team's overall leader in the spring. As such, he'll be one of three captains this fall. Inspiring that sort of confidence in one's teammates is easy when you shred Pac-12 rivals UCLA and USC for 998 combined passing yards in your first two career starts.

  • The senior is the Falcons' top returning tackler after making 90 stops last year, 5.5 for losses, and three sacks. He led the team in forced fumbles as well, with two. But his role in the team's vast improvement over 2013, as a first-year starter, was what illustrated his leadership best. Two years ago, Air Force opponents rolled up a whopping 470 points for the season and averaged 490 yards per game. Last year, with Healy as a primary stopper, opponents scored just 314 points and averaged nearly 100 yards less (395). 14

    Danny Wild/USA TODAY Sports

    14. Connor Healy, LB, Air Force

    The senior is the Falcons' top returning tackler after making 90 stops last year, 5.5 for losses, and three sacks. He led the team in forced fumbles as well, with two. But his role in the team's vast improvement over 2013, as a first-year starter, was what illustrated his leadership best. Two years ago, Air Force opponents rolled up a whopping 470 points for the season and averaged 490 yards per game. Last year, with Healy as a primary stopper, opponents scored just 314 points and averaged nearly 100 yards less (395).

  • In what was a talented secondary in 2013, Hargreaves commanded immediate playing time as a true freshman and forced the Gators' veterans into a lineup shuffle. Now the leader of the UF defense, he enters his third season as one of the few constants in a program that is undergoing a change of head coaches and another offensive overhaul. Want pedigree? His father, of the same name, has been hired as the linebackers coach at Arkansas. 13

    Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

    13. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

    In what was a talented secondary in 2013, Hargreaves commanded immediate playing time as a true freshman and forced the Gators' veterans into a lineup shuffle. Now the leader of the UF defense, he enters his third season as one of the few constants in a program that is undergoing a change of head coaches and another offensive overhaul. Want pedigree? His father, of the same name, has been hired as the linebackers coach at Arkansas.

  • <b>Editor's note:</b> This list was published before Duke revealed Brown would no longer play college football after <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000500283/article/duke-lb-kelby-browns-cfb-career-concludes-with-latest-injury">suffering another ACL tear</a>. <b>|</b><br />
Brown has overcome not one, not two, but three ACL surgeries to return to the Blue Devils for 2015. The NCAA granted Brown a rare sixth year of eligibility due to his injury struggles, and he's poised to take full advantage this fall. When he's been healthy on the field, he's turned in an All-ACC season with 114 tackles in 2013. Off the field, he's been academic All-ACC and made our 15 for '15 series as <a href="http://www.nfl.com/photoessays/0ap3000000496661" target="new">one of the smartest players</a> in the country as well. 12

    Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY Sports

    12. Kelby Brown, LB, Duke

    Editor's note: This list was published before Duke revealed Brown would no longer play college football after suffering another ACL tear. |
    Brown has overcome not one, not two, but three ACL surgeries to return to the Blue Devils for 2015. The NCAA granted Brown a rare sixth year of eligibility due to his injury struggles, and he's poised to take full advantage this fall. When he's been healthy on the field, he's turned in an All-ACC season with 114 tackles in 2013. Off the field, he's been academic All-ACC and made our 15 for '15 series as one of the smartest players in the country as well.

  • Boddy-Calhoun is a three-time captain of the Golden Gophers and something of a coach on the field; a self-described vocal leader who helps teammates with their understanding of the Minnesota defense and gives a full effort in practice. He overcame a season-ending knee injury in 2013 to lead the team last season in interceptions (5) and pass breakups (9). In the classroom, he's an Academic All-Big Ten pick. 11

    Nati Harnik

    11. Briean Boddy-Calhoun, DB, Minnesota

    Boddy-Calhoun is a three-time captain of the Golden Gophers and something of a coach on the field; a self-described vocal leader who helps teammates with their understanding of the Minnesota defense and gives a full effort in practice. He overcame a season-ending knee injury in 2013 to lead the team last season in interceptions (5) and pass breakups (9). In the classroom, he's an Academic All-Big Ten pick.

  • The Spartans' offensive tackle emerged from walk-on status to being a Big Ten starter by the time he was a redshirt freshman. As the son of a coach, his understanding of the game is above most, and he's also an outstanding student, having made the Academic All-Big Ten team. NFL Media's Lance Zierlein named him <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000498883/article/laremy-tunsil-ronnie-stanley-are-top-cfb-ots-to-watch-in-2015" target="new">one of the NFL prospects to watch</a> at the tackle position this fall. 10

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    10. Jack Conklin, OL, Michigan State

    The Spartans' offensive tackle emerged from walk-on status to being a Big Ten starter by the time he was a redshirt freshman. As the son of a coach, his understanding of the game is above most, and he's also an outstanding student, having made the Academic All-Big Ten team. NFL Media's Lance Zierlein named him one of the NFL prospects to watch at the tackle position this fall.

  • The only sophomore listed here is mature beyond his years. And this fall, he'll have to be. He's being counted on to be the leader of the Cavaliers' secondary, if not the entire defense, after averaging 10 tackles per game as a true freshman in 2014. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/colleges/virginia-safety-quin-blanding-to-step-into-greater-role-in-sophomore-season/2015/04/17/b44b93b2-e534-11e4-81ea-0649268f729e_story.html" target="new">Said coach Mike London</a>: "... he's doing it in the classroom. He's done it on the field. He continues to be a leader in all aspects. He's very quiet and unassuming. But at the same time, he's not afraid to take a leadership role." 9

    Steve Helber/Associated Press

    9. Quin Blanding, DB, Virginia

    The only sophomore listed here is mature beyond his years. And this fall, he'll have to be. He's being counted on to be the leader of the Cavaliers' secondary, if not the entire defense, after averaging 10 tackles per game as a true freshman in 2014. Said coach Mike London: "... he's doing it in the classroom. He's done it on the field. He continues to be a leader in all aspects. He's very quiet and unassuming. But at the same time, he's not afraid to take a leadership role."

  • Two years ago, DePalma walked on at WMU based not on an invitation, which is how most walk-ons get their start, but through a tryout. Two years later, the 5-9, 220-pounder piled up 102 tackles, eight for losses, as an inspirational leader of the team. He'll be a senior this fall, and finally, on scholarship. He got the news he was no longer a walk-on at Christmas time, and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oujxYzzIQ1s" target="new">his teammates' reaction said it all</a> about the intangibles he brings to the program. 8

    Peter Casey/USA TODAY Sports

    8. Grant DePalma, LB, Western Michigan

    Two years ago, DePalma walked on at WMU based not on an invitation, which is how most walk-ons get their start, but through a tryout. Two years later, the 5-9, 220-pounder piled up 102 tackles, eight for losses, as an inspirational leader of the team. He'll be a senior this fall, and finally, on scholarship. He got the news he was no longer a walk-on at Christmas time, and his teammates' reaction said it all about the intangibles he brings to the program.

  • Lomax sets the example for teammates in every way, from the classroom (3.52 GPA) to the field (92 tackles at free safety). He won the team's hustle award for both defense and special teams in 2014, and is part of the program's leadership council as well. A senior this fall, he'll return as the biggest hitter in a veteran secondary. 7

    Mike Dinovo/USA TODAY Sports

    7. Jordan Lomax, DB, Iowa

    Lomax sets the example for teammates in every way, from the classroom (3.52 GPA) to the field (92 tackles at free safety). He won the team's hustle award for both defense and special teams in 2014, and is part of the program's leadership council as well. A senior this fall, he'll return as the biggest hitter in a veteran secondary.

  • The Trojans senior tried to rally the team's top underclassmen to stay in school for one more season last winter. And while he wasn't successful with all of them, it was a display of leadership Steve Sarkisian can expect from his starting quarterback this fall. "Nobody ever has had the kind of season Cody had last year and went as unnoticed as he did, but that serves as great motivation for him this season," Sarkisian said in the spring. "He has a chip on his shoulder and I expect him to have another outstanding season." 6

    Ben Liebenberg/NFL

    6. Cody Kessler, QB, USC

    The Trojans senior tried to rally the team's top underclassmen to stay in school for one more season last winter. And while he wasn't successful with all of them, it was a display of leadership Steve Sarkisian can expect from his starting quarterback this fall. "Nobody ever has had the kind of season Cody had last year and went as unnoticed as he did, but that serves as great motivation for him this season," Sarkisian said in the spring. "He has a chip on his shoulder and I expect him to have another outstanding season."

  • The only returning player from CFB 24/7's <a href="http://www.nfl.com/photoessays/0ap2000000356435/14-for-14-college-football-players-with-best-intangibles" target="new">2014 collection of players with the best intangibles</a>, Coleman is back with a full year of starting experience under his belt at left tackle. His inspirational story as a survivor of leukemia (he was diagnosed in 2010 and went through more than two years of chemotherapy), followed by his battle back to the AU roster and, eventually, a starting role, is an example to everyone on the team. 5

    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    5. Shon Coleman, OL, Auburn

    The only returning player from CFB 24/7's 2014 collection of players with the best intangibles, Coleman is back with a full year of starting experience under his belt at left tackle. His inspirational story as a survivor of leukemia (he was diagnosed in 2010 and went through more than two years of chemotherapy), followed by his battle back to the AU roster and, eventually, a starting role, is an example to everyone on the team.

  • The triple-option offense of the Midshipmen has been in excellent hands with Reynolds, who this fall will look to go 4-0 against Army for his career. He has a reputation for being a perfectionist, along with being a clutch performer: he's led six game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. With a full season left to go, he's already rushed for more career touchdowns (64) than any quarterback in NCAA history. 4

    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    4. Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy

    The triple-option offense of the Midshipmen has been in excellent hands with Reynolds, who this fall will look to go 4-0 against Army for his career. He has a reputation for being a perfectionist, along with being a clutch performer: he's led six game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. With a full season left to go, he's already rushed for more career touchdowns (64) than any quarterback in NCAA history.

  • Perhaps no player in the Big Ten conference plays with more fire and passion than the Badgers' Biegel. He absolutely never gives up on a play and teammates describe him as a highly vocal leader. He backed up that leadership with production last year (16.5 tackles for loss), and recorded three sacks in a nine-snap stretch against Purdue. He plays with an edge -- perhaps too much of one. <a href="http://www.jsonline.com/sports/badgers/badgers-linebacker-vince-biegel-isnt-shy-b99377172z1-280387232.html" target="new">Said former coach Gary Andersen</a>: "Sometimes he is his own worst enemy as a competitor. When something goes wrong it drives him crazy. I like that to a point." 3

    Andy Manis/Associated Press

    3. Vince Biegel, LB, Wisconsin

    Perhaps no player in the Big Ten conference plays with more fire and passion than the Badgers' Biegel. He absolutely never gives up on a play and teammates describe him as a highly vocal leader. He backed up that leadership with production last year (16.5 tackles for loss), and recorded three sacks in a nine-snap stretch against Purdue. He plays with an edge -- perhaps too much of one. Said former coach Gary Andersen: "Sometimes he is his own worst enemy as a competitor. When something goes wrong it drives him crazy. I like that to a point."

  • Armed with an unrelenting work ethic and a chip on his shoulder the size of a cinderblock, Wright embodies what scouts call a "high motor." In two years, he has gone from a disregarded recruit offered a scholarship only by Arizona to the only true sophomore ever named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. One need not be a star player to rate high on intangibles, but Wright checks both those boxes. 2

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    2. Scooby Wright III, LB, Arizona

    Armed with an unrelenting work ethic and a chip on his shoulder the size of a cinderblock, Wright embodies what scouts call a "high motor." In two years, he has gone from a disregarded recruit offered a scholarship only by Arizona to the only true sophomore ever named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. One need not be a star player to rate high on intangibles, but Wright checks both those boxes.

  • You want intangibles? In a college football environment in which quarterbacks are impatient and transfers are more common than ever, Miller had a better reason to leave Ohio State than any of them -- and didn't. Once a Heisman Trophy candidate and a two-year star as a starter for the Buckeyes, he might find himself a third-stringer as a senior behind Cardale Jones and, if healthy, J.T. Barrett, who shared the role last year in a national championship run. But even if he doesn't win back his starting job, don't be surprised if Urban Meyer finds ways to get him on the field, and you can be sure he'll command more respect from his teammates than any bench player in the country. 1

    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State

    You want intangibles? In a college football environment in which quarterbacks are impatient and transfers are more common than ever, Miller had a better reason to leave Ohio State than any of them -- and didn't. Once a Heisman Trophy candidate and a two-year star as a starter for the Buckeyes, he might find himself a third-stringer as a senior behind Cardale Jones and, if healthy, J.T. Barrett, who shared the role last year in a national championship run. But even if he doesn't win back his starting job, don't be surprised if Urban Meyer finds ways to get him on the field, and you can be sure he'll command more respect from his teammates than any bench player in the country.