Good players on not so good teams

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To catch these college football stars this season, you probably shouldn’t wait until bowl season.

Their teams didn’t reach the postseason last year and might not win much this year, but expect big seasons from these six players.

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1) Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois. The Illini’s season was already a wreck when Brown, their best player, went down with an injured shoulder against Ohio State and missed the last three games. He finished the season with 59 tackles and led the team in tackles for a loss with 9.5. Year 2 under coach Tim Beckman could be another rough one for Illinois, but expect Brown to go out with a bang as a senior.

2) Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland. The Terrapins’ 2012 season was ruined by injuries, including a remarkably unlucky run of quarterback problems. That didn’t stop Diggs from showing off his vast talents as a freshman. He led the team with 54 catches for 848 yards and six touchdowns and returned two kickoffs for scores. Diggs could lead a Terps turnaround this season.

3) Alvin “Bud” Dupree, DE, Kentucky. The Wildcats didn’t win an SEC game last season and will have a hard time winning one this season. Dupree, though, will be handful for opposing offenses. As a sophomore last season he had 91 tackles and 6.5 sacks. The 254-pound junior should thrive playing for new coach Mark Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot.

4) Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo. The offensive stars of the Mid-American Conference such as Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois and Dri Archer of Kent State will get more publicity, but Mack is the MAC’s best NFL prospect. He led the conference in tackles for loss last year with 13 and would not be out of place playing in the SEC.

5) Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado. The Buffaloes went 1-11 last season with their best offensive weapon, the speedy Richardson, recovering from a serious knee injury. Colorado won’t be much better under new coach Mike MacIntyre, but a healthy Richardson will give the Buffs at least one legitimate big-play threat.

6) James Sims, RB, Kansas. As coach Charlie Weis has so bluntly stated, the Jayhawks were not a good football team last season. Sims was one of the few who can claim he was not to blame for the 1-11 record. He led the Big 12 in rushing at 112 yards per game and scored nine touchdowns. Running back is a position with some quality depth for the Jayhawks this year, so they might not lean so heavily on the 202-pound senior. But they can if needed.

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EXTRA POINT

Six more worthy of mention: Kasey Carrier, RB, New Mexico; Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida; Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee; Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa; Yawin Smallwood, LB, UConn; Nikita Whitlock, NG, Wake Forest.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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