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May 23, 2011

Monday with Mike: Top offensive trios

Sometimes, good things come in threes (personally, I'm partial to things that come in sixes, but that's a saying to be discussed another day).

Anyway, today we're going to look at schools where good things do come in threes. A defense has enough trouble game-planning for a star quarterback or a star tailback or a star receiver. But when you put all three together, it's nightmare time for opposing coordinators.

Here's a look at the top offensive "triplets" in college football for the 2011 season. The individuals aren't necessarily the most talented players at their positions nationally, but when you put all three together, you certainly have something.

Next week, we'll take a look at the top defensive triplets (lineman, linebacker and defensive back).

12. OREGON/STANFORD (tie)
The triplets: QB Darron Thomas, RB LaMichael James and WR Lavasier Tuinei for Oregon; QB Andrew Luck, RB Stepfan Taylor and WR Chris Owusu for Stanford
The buzz: Stanford and Oregon have some of the best quarterback/running duos in the nation, but both teams have reason to be concerned about their receiving corps. Owusu has been a big-time kick returner but never has been a go-to receiver. Tuinei needs to make the jump from third option to No. 1 receiver. If they come through, these offenses will be scary good. As it is, with Luck and James, Stanford and Oregon have preseason All-America selections.

11. SOUTH CAROLINA
The triplets: QB Stephen Garcia, RB Marcus Lattimore, WR Alshon Jeffery
The buzz: The Lattimore-Jeffery combo is the best in the nation. Alas, they - and Gamecocks coaches and fans - have to rely on Garcia, and that's a shaky proposition. Garcia played well enough last season to help the Gamecocks to win the SEC East; they should repeat as division champs - assuming Garcia plays competent football. And we all know what happens when you assume.
10. SMU
The triplets: QB Kyle Padron, RB Zach Line, WR Cole Beasley
The buzz: You could win quite a bit of money with the following query - "I bet you don't know who led Conference USA with 1,494 yards last season." It was Line, a 235-pounder from Oxford, Mich., a town of around 3,500 about an hour north of Detroit. He's a good fit in SMU's one-back offense. Padron could have two 1,000-yard receivers this season in Beasley and Darius Johnson.
9. CINCINNATI
The triplets: QB Zach Collaros, RB Isaiah Pead, WR D.J. Woods
The buzz: These holdovers from the Brian Kelly era were productive last season and will be so again. It's just too bad for them that Kelly is gone. Each of the three is the leading returnee in the Big East in their "category": Collaros in passing yards, Pead in rushing yards and Woods in receiving yards.
8. MICHIGAN STATE
The triplets: QB Kirk Cousins, TB Edwin Baker, WR B.J. Cunningham
The buzz: Baker quietly rushed for 1,203 yards and 13 TDs last season, and he has a legit chance to lead the Big Ten in rushing this season. Cousins is underrated nationally and would put up huge numbers in a more pass-happy offense. Cunningham is the best of a good group of receivers; he had nine TD receptions last season and that number should climb by two or three this season.
7. ARIZONA
The triplets: QB Nick Foles, RB Keola Antolin, WR Juron Criner
The buzz: Criner led the Pac-10 in receptions and receiving yards and was third in TD receptions last season, and an 85-catch, 1,400-yard, 14-TD season is a realistic goal. Foles threw for 3,191 yards and 20 TDs last season; both numbers should increase this season. Antolin shared carries last season and should come close to the 200 mark this season after toting it 143 times in 2010.
6. USC
The triplets: QB Matt Barkley, TB Marc Tyler, WR Robert Woods
The buzz: Woods made an immediate impact as a freshman last season, leading the Trojans with 65 receptions and 792 receiving yards. With the departure of Ronald Johnson, Woods should get more opportunities this season. Barkley will be one of the nation's top dozen quarterbacks. Tyler ran for a team-leading 913 yards last season but is going to be hard-pressed to reach 1,000 because of the Trojans' depth at tailback. USC's offense is going to be a good one; the defense is the question.
5. OKLAHOMA
The triplets: QB Landry Jones, TB Roy Finch, WR Ryan Broyles
The buzz: Jones and Broyles are primed for huge seasons. Jones threw for 4,718 yards and 38 TDs last season, when Broyles had 131 receptions for 1,622 yards and 14 TDs. The question is who gets the bulk of the carries. Finch was effective in spot duty as a true freshman last season, but his lack of size (5 feet 8/173 pounds) makes folks wonder if he can be the feature back. Five-star RB Brandon Williams went through spring practice, and expectations are huge for him.
4. OKLAHOMA STATE
The triplets: QB Brandon Weeden, TB Joseph Randle, WR Justin Blackmon
The buzz: As with their in-state rival, the Cowboys also have a great pass-catch duo. Weeden threw for 4,277 yards and 34 TDs last season, when Blackmon was the nation's best receiver; Blackmon had 111 receptions for 1,782 yards and 20 TDs. As with the Sooners, the Cowboys are looking for a new starting tailback. Randle, who ran for 452 yards last season as a freshman, will be the guy, at least at the start of the season. He also was quite effective as a receiver, with 37 catches.
3. HOUSTON
The triplets: QB Case Keenum, RB Bryce Beall, WR Patrick Edwards
The buzz: Keenum suffered a torn ACL in Game 3 and missed the rest of the season. He is expected back in the starting lineup this fall and should put up huge numbers in this offense. He threw for 5,671 yards and 44 TDs in 2009. Edwards, a senior, has 202 career receptions, for 2,755 yards and 23 TDs; he suffered a gruesome injury as a freshman when he ran into a cart at the back of the Marshall end zone. Beall shared carries last season but still ran for 870 yards and 12 TDs; he likely will share carries again this season, with Michael Hayes and Charles Sims. Sims was the 2009 C-USA freshman of the year but missed last season for academic reasons.
2. OHIO STATE
The triplets: QB Terrelle Pryor, RB Dan Herron, WR DeVier Posey
The buzz: This group would be No. 1 if not for the five-game suspension each faces at the beginning of the season. Pryor may not have lived up to all the hype, but he is a good quarterback who has thrown for 6,177 yards and 57 TDs and rushed for another 2,164 yards and 17 TDs in his career. Herron ran for 1,155 yards and 16 TDs last season. Posey is a big-time deep threat who would be quite scary in an offense that threw the ball more. He has 124 career receptions for 1,793 yards and 16 TDs.
1. TEXAS A&M
The triplets: QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Cyrus Gray, WR Jeff Fuller
The buzz: A&M was on this list last season - but with a different quarterback. Jerrod Johnson ended up losing his job to Tannehill midway through last season, and A&M really took off after that. Gray shared carries with Christine Michael last season, and they will do so again this season. It wouldn't be a surprise to see those two combine for around 2,000 yards. Fuller is overshadowed in the Big 12 by Blackmon and Broyles, but he still is one of the top 10 receivers nationally. He is coming off a 72-catch, 1,066-yard, 12-TD performance in 2010.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.



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