With the beginning of the season just around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce my faithful readers to some of the more unheralded skill position players in the nation. We did this last season. Some of those players enjoyed outstanding seasons. Others, not so much. I'll begin with the quarterbacks today, then run down the running backs on Tuesday, and tackle the receivers/tight ends on Wednesday.
Trevor Vittatoe had some sizeable shoes to fill in his freshman season. He replaced Jordan Palmer (Carson's little brother), who depearted as the Miners' all-time leading passer following the 2006 season. All Vittatoe did last season was throw for 3101 yards and 25 touchdowns with just 7 interceptions. After a rough start to his college career (completed just 18 of his first 47 throws in his first 2 games), Vittatoe got it going. He threw at least 1 touchdown pass in every game from that point, and threw at least 3 touchdowns 4 times (peaking with a 5 touchdown game against Rice). Vittatoe is a true pocket passer, putting up negative rushing numbers and failing to score a touchdown on the ground. With the tuteluge of a passing guru like Mike Price, Vittatoe should leave UTEP as the number 1 passer in school history.
He may not be Tim Tebow, but Michael Desormeaux was one of only 3 quarterbacks to rush for over 1000 yards last season (Pat White and Dan LeFevour were the others). Desormeaux was much more effective as a runner than he was as a passer. He threw for only 1405 yards on the season with 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He topped 200 yards though the air in only a single game. However, on the ground Desormeaux rushed for 1141 yards and 7 touchdowns while averaging over 6 yards per rush. He topped 100 yards on the ground 6 times, peaking against Middle Tennessee State with 175 yards at more than 9 yards per rush. Going into his senior campaign, Desormeaux is once again a threat to top 1000 yards in both categories.
Seeking to follow in the footsteps of Bruce Gradkowski, Aaron Opelt stepped up his game at the end of 2007. In 2006, Opelt split time with Clint Cochran and neither established themselves as legitimate quarterbacks. With their subpar passing, 2006 was the first year Toledo failed to average over 30 points per game under head coach Tom Amstutz. Opelt didn't exactly set the world on fire to start the 2007 campaign either. In his first 5 games, Opelt completed just a shade over half his passes (53.7%), averaged only 5.58 yards per attempt, and had a touchdown to interception ratio of 4:6. The Rockets were 1-4 in those games. He missed the next 2 with an injury and came back a new man. Over his next 4 games (he missed the finale with another injury), he completed 61.9% of his passes, averaged 8.49 yards per attempts, and had a touchdown to interception ratio of 8:1. Not surprisingly, Toledo was 3-1 in those games. The Rockets hope for their first winning season since 2005 rests on the arm of Aaron Opelt.