Tyler Gaffney, Stanford: Gaffney piled up the accolades as a senior, with All-American and all-conference honors. He finished eighth in the nation with 1,709 rushing yards and fifth with 21 rushing touchdowns en route to being a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award. One more accolade would have been Comeback Player of the Year. After three years of football and three years of baseball, Gaffney decided to play minor-league baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012 rather than run the ball for the Cardinal. He hit .297 at Class-A but came back to football, anyway. "In baseball, when you get hit by a pitch, that leaves a bruise. When you get tackled 35 times a game, that's going to leave a little more than a bruise," he told the Los Angeles Times.
Marion Grice, Arizona State: Grice (6-0, 207), a junior-college transfer, played just two seasons for the Sun Devils but ranks fifth in school history with 39 touchdowns. Despite missing the final three games of his senior season, he was a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, which goes to the nation's most versatile performer. He led the team in all-purpose yardage with 1,941 yards (996 rushing, 438 receiving, 507 kick returning) and was the only player in the country to have more than 400 yards in each of those categories. His all-purpose yards are the second-most in school history and only trailed the legendary Whizzer White, who tallied 2,065 in 1950. Not only did he rush for 1,675 yards in his 24 games but he caught 91 passes. Grice scored four touchdowns in ASU's controversial win over Wisconsin. His best friend, a fellow shoe collector whom he called a brother, was slain over a pair of just-released Jordans. "Eventually I'm going to frame the shoe in memory of my brother," Grice said. "I'm going to put them in my living room."
FB Ryan Hewitt, Stanford: Hewitt (6-4, 246) led the way for many of Tyler Gaffney's yards and touchdowns. He carried five times for 8 yards and had nine receptions for 46 yards. Hewitt showed his good hands with 34 receptions in 2011. It's for that reason he projects as more of an H-back than a traditional fullback. His high school coach was Dave Logan, who caught 262 passes and scored 24 touchdowns with the Browns from 1976 through 1983.
Jeremy Hill, Louisiana State: Early entry. Hill (6-2, 235) was named first-team MVP in 2013, his redshirt sophomore season. Despite playing in just 23 career games, he ranks seventh in school history with 18 rushing touchdowns and 11th with 2,156 rushing yards. In 2013, he rushed for 1,401 yards (No. 2 in LSU history) and 16 scores (No. 4). He reached 100 yards seven times, including his LSU finale — 216 yards against Iowa in the Outback Bowl. There are character concerns, including Hill being found guilty of having sex with a 14-year-old when he was a high school senior. He also participated in a bar fight in April.
Carlos Hyde, Ohio State: Hyde (6-0, 235) rushed for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns in 10 games in 2012. As a senior, despite missing the first three games for an off-the-field incident at a Columbus, Ohio, bar — he allegedly hit a woman, though charges were dropped — he had a monster senior season with 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns. Including receiving, he scored 35 total touchdowns during his final two years. Heading into the bowl game, Hyde averaged 9.4 yards per carry in the fourth quarters of games. "Now you know that everybody is keyed in on you," he said before the Orange Bowl. "Now you have to make not just one person miss, but a couple people miss to get the first down and get the yards that you need. Your mind-set definitely has to change." Hyde is coach Urban Meyer's first-ever 1,000-yard rusher, an amazing fact considering Meyer's Florida teams led the SEC in rushing during his tenure. Along with the bar incident, teams will want to ask about Hyde's Twitter comments following a win against Illinois.
Storm Johnson, Central Florida: Junior entry. Johnson (6-0, 215) rushed for 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns, plus caught 30 passes for 260 yards and three more scores in 2013. He had big games against quality teams: 117 yards vs. Penn State and 124 yards and three touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl against Baylor. In 2010, he rushed for 119 yards for Miami as a true freshman, then transferred to UCF because of lack of playing time. When Miami forbid Johnson from transferring to any ACC and SEC schools, plus a handful of others, Johnson's dad called Miami's rules "slavery." During a Q&A with Scout.com during the recruiting process, Johnson said his favorite part about football was "running the ball and making people look dumb."
Henry Josey, Missouri: Junior entry. Josey (5-10, 190) led the Big 12 and ranked fifth nationally in rushing in 2011 before suffering a season-ending knee injury that required three surgeries to repair multiple ligament and meniscus tears. "There were some days that were pretty dark for a lot of us," Rex Sharp, Missouri's head athletic trainer, said. "I know it was for me, and I've dealt with injuries for 30 years. I care so much about these kids, and him in particular. Football was the farthest thing from my mind when he got hurt that day and after that initial surgery. My goal was just to get him to be able to walk and run … football, if that came along, great, but that would be a bonus." After missing all of 2012, he rushed for 1,166 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013. Three of those came in the Tigers' Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma State.
Tre Mason, Auburn: Junior entry. Mason had a monster season with 1,816 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns. He even averaged 26.3 yards with a touchdown on kickoff returns. At Auburn's Web site, there is a set of graphics comparing Mason's 2013 season with Bo Jackson's Heisman Trophy-winning campaign of 1985 and Cam Newton's Heisman-winning 2010 season. Mason finished with more all-purpose yards than Jackson (2,137 to 1,859) and more rushing touchdowns than Newton (22 to 20). In four games against Top 10 teams, Mason rushed for 778 yards and eight touchdowns. In the SEC title game, he rushed a stunning 46 times for 306 yards and four touchdowns. If football doesn't work out for Mason, there's always music. His father is a member of the hip-hop group De La Soul. Mason showed his speed to his father during his fourth or fifth birthday.
Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern: McKinnon (5-9, 215) played three positions in the Eagles' option-oriented backfield, including quarterback. He posted back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, ranks third in school history with 3,899 rushing yards and sixth with 42 rushing touchdowns. Against Florida on Nov. 23, he rushed for 125 yards and the game-winning touchdown. The touchdown, a 14-yarder, came on the last touch of McKinnon's college career as the Eagles, four-touchdown underdogs, won without completing a pass. As a junior, McKinnon rushed for 1,817 yards — tops among FCS quarterbacks. He started at five positions, including defensive back, in his career. Against Maine in the 2011 FCS playoffs, he intercepted two passes. A brother, Lester Norwood, played 46 games as a safety and special-teams player at Florida from 1998 through 2002.
FB Trey Millard, Oklahoma: Millard (6-2, 253) saw his season end with torn knee ligaments. He will not test for scouts. For his career, he played in 48 games (18 starts) and rushed 98 times for 538 yards (5.5 average) and, more importantly for scouts, caught 70 passes for 677 yards (9.7). He scored 13 total touchdowns. Not only was he first-team all-Big 12, despite the injury, but he's a two-time all-conference academic selection. He's an accomplished writer who's had two poems published.
Adam Muema, San Diego State: Junior entry. Muema (5-10, 205) rushed for 1,458 yards and 16 touchdowns as a sophomore, then backed it up with 1,244 yards and 15 scores in 2013. He closed his career with a bang by rushing for 229 yards and three touchdowns against Buffalo, and finished fourth in school history with 2,955 rushing yards. In 2010, he was hit in the face with a baseball bat, resulting in a fractured orbital bone and 36 stitches. Doctors said the damage to his left eye might prevent him from playing contact sports again.