Northern Illinois entered 2012 replacing a four-year starter at quarterback. Chandler Harnish was among the nation’s best dual-threat play makers in 2011, and replacing him would be a tall order for then-Huskie head coach Dave Doeren.
In Week 1, Northern Illinois struggled against the Iowa Hawkeyes. But then a funny thing happened. As the season progressed, quarterback Jordan Lynch began producing at levels not even Harnish had reached. The Huskies won 11 games for the third straight season and through various twists of fate, made the Orange Bowl.
Lynch is back for an encore, headlining the 2013 Detmer Award preseason watch list. The 2012 winner put up Heisman-like numbers en route to claiming the second installment of the honor, reserved for the best individual performer from the non-Bowl Championship Series conferences. He joined inaugural winner, Houston Cougars quarterback Case Keenum.
Lynch faces stiff competition for the award, both in his own conference and around the nation.
• Shane Carden, QB, East Carolina: Carden completed a little over 66 percent of his pass attempts and threw 23 touchdowns for the Pirates. Since Ruffin McNeill took over as head coach in 2010, East Carolina has employed a heavy pass attack. Carden’s predecessor Dominique Davis was among the most prolific passers in college football; the ECU junior Carden could have similar numbers in his second year as starting quarterback.
• Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall: Rekindling the rich quarterback tradition of the Thundering Herd’s glory years, Cato Led the nation in passing last season with nearly 34 completions per game for 4201 yards and 37 touchdowns. Cato is looking to add a running element to his game in 2013, which should make the stat-compiling standout all the more dangerous.
• Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech: As a freshman, he rushed for more touchdowns than any player in the FBS with 27. Dixon finished a shade below 1200 yards as the feature back in then-head coach Sonny Dykes’ air raid offense. Despite a coaching change, Dixon should not have to adjust too much with former Marshall offensive coordinator Tony Petersen bringing a similar philosophy.
• Cody Green, QB, Tulsa: Dual-threat quarterback Green came along nicely in the stretch run of Tulsa’s Conference USA championship season, throwing seven of his 17 touchdown passes in the Golden Hurricane’s final three regular season games. The Nebraska transfer also rushed for 283 yards and four touchdowns.
• Taylor McHargue, QB, Rice: Despite coming out of the Armed Forces Bowl early, McHargue was integral in leading the Owls to just their third postseason appearance since 1961. He ran the option offense for 667 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, but added the extra dimension of an effective passing game (12 touchdowns, over 2200 yards passing).
• Jordan Parker, RB, MTSU: Benny Cunningham’s injury last season opened the door for Parker to emerge as the Blue Raiders’ rushing option. Parker made the most of the opportunity, accruing 851 yards on the ground. He also caught 10 passes for 102 yards for 8-win MTSU. His return, alongside experienced quarterback Logan Kilgore, makes the Blue Raiders immediate contenders upon joining C-USA.
• Cairo Santos, K, Tulane: You are reading correctly, a kicker is on the Detmer Award preseason watch list. Tulane’s Cairo Santos isn’t just any kicker, though; he’s the reigning Lou Gorza Award winner as college football’s premiere placekicker, coming off a 2012 in which he went 21-of-21 on his field goal attempts. Santos was also inspiration for this fantastic video:
• Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU: The BYU passing game left something to be desired in 2012, which makes Hoffman’s performance all the more impressive. He caught 100 passes for 1248 yards and 11 touchdowns. With Robert Anae returning to run the Cougar offense, expect an even bigger year from Hoffman.
• Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU: BYU’s aggressively blitzing outside linebacker could have been a first round draft pick in this year’s draft, but opted for another season with the Cougars. He forced six fumbles, registered 13 sacks, and came about as close as any one player can to singlehandedly winning a bowl game.
• Dri Archer, RB/KR, Kent State: A 2012 All-American and the breakout star of Kent State’s 11-win season, Archer went for 1429 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. He caught for another 461 and four scores, but really made his bones on special teams. Archer reached the end zone on kickoffs three times.
• Beau Blankenship, RB, Ohio: A top 10 ball carrier in 2012, Blankenship accrued the most yards of any MAC running back with 1604. He also notched 15 touchdowns.
• Jahwan Edwards, RB, Ball State: As a sophomore, Edwards broke out for 1410 yards and 14 touchdowns in the Cardinals’ run to the postseason.
• David Fluellen, RB, Toledo: Fluellen led the MAC in rushing yards per game with 124.8, and finished just below 1500 yards on the season.
• Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois: The 2012 Detmer Award winner returns from a season in which he put up regular season numbers actually surpassing those of Heisman winner Johnny Manziel in some key areas. Lynch racked up 3138 yards and 25 passing touchdowns and 1815 yards with 19 touchdowns on the ground.
• Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo: Mack made eight sacks, forced four fumbles and was among the nation’s leaders in tackles for loss with 21. He’s been among the nation’s best blitzing linebackers throughout his UB career.
• Terrance Owens, QB, Toledo: No longer splitting quarterbacking duties with Austin Dantin, Owens gets to demonstrate his full capabilities as the decided play-caller for the Rockets. He’s a dual threat, rushing for 395 yards to go with his 2707 yards passing.
• Tyler Tettleton, QB, Ohio: A celebrated dual-threat quarterback, Tettleton’s rushing numbers dipped in 2012 but his passing game improved — he threw 10 interceptions in 2011, and just four last season.
• Zurlon Tipton, RB, Central Michigan: Tipton rushed for just below 1500 yards and scored 19 touchdowns as Central Michigan returned to the postseason for the first time in the Dan Enos era.
• Keith Wenning, QB, Ball State: A three-year contributor, Wenning has improved his statistics each season. He enters his senior year off a 3095-yard, 24-touchdown 2012.
• Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State: A breakout star for Fresno State’s explosive offense last season, Adams went off for 1312 yards and 14 touchdowns.
• Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: Not only is Carr a front runner for the Detmer Award, Fresno State’s passing prodigy could contend for the Heisman. Carr passed for 37 touchdowns and threw just seven interceptions, all while completing 67.3 percent of his attempts en route to 4104 yards.
• Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada: Following in the footsteps of three-time 2000-plus-yard passing, 1100-yard-plus rushing star Colin Kaepernick, Fajardo has continued the legacy of Chris Ault’s Pistol offense. The Wolf Pack has a new head coach, but Fajardo ensures the transition should be smooth. He is coming off a 20 passing touchdown, 12 rushing touchdown sophomore season.
• David Fales, QB, San Jose State: Fales powered the San Jose State’s 34.8-point per game offense with 4193 yards and 33 touchdowns through the air. Fales also completed an astounding 72.5 percent of his attempts.
• Chuckie Keeton, QB, Utah State: Among the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, Keeton passed for nearly 3400 yards and rushed for another 600 to power the final WAC champions.
• Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State: BSU’s offense has long drawn the attention, but the Bronco defense is top notch. Lawrence was key to the eighth ranked scoring defense with 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.
• Adam Muema, RB, San Diego State: He stepped in for Ronnie Hillman and the Aztec run game did not miss a beat. Muema scored 16 touchdowns and surpassed 1450 yards on the ground.
• Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming: The Cowboys suffered a disappointing season coming off their 2011 New Mexico Bowl run, but quarterback Smith had no sophomore slump. He passed for 27 touchdowns with just six interceptions. His rushing output was down from his freshman year, when Smith surpassed 700 yards, but he’s a proven dual threat.
• Derron Smith, CB, Fresno State: Fresno State’s defense led the nation in interceptions last season; Smith contributed six of them. He was also the Bulldogs’ No. 2 tackler with 79.
• Joe Southwick, QB, Boise State: Southwick stepped into the unenviable situation of replacing Kellen Moore, but performed admirably with 19 touchdowns and 2730 yards passing. A year of experience should result in improved output from Southwick.
• Antonio Andrews, RB/PR, Western Kentucky: Andrews finished 2012 in the top five among all rushers with 132.9 yards per game. He was also one of the top punt returners in college football with 12.3 yards an attempt and a touchdown.
• Terrance Broadway, QB, La.-Lafayette: A transfer from Houston, Broadway supplanted Blaine Gautier in 2012 and showed flashes of brilliance. After a season to flourish under Mark Hudspeth’s system, Broadway should break out from 17-touchdown, 2842-yard season.
• Kolton Browning, QB, La.-Monroe: Browning led the Detmer Award voting for much of 2012, and with good reason. The Warhawks’ dual-threat quarterback enters his fourth year as a starter, coming off his best season yet: 29 passing touchdowns, 7 on the ground and over 3500 yards of total offense.