2013 college football: Top returning players, according to raw stats

USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of prolific players are back for the 2013 season. Based on the numbers, these are the names to watch.

College football always reloads, because college football has Nick Saban. There are also other reasons, but Nick Saban. There are tons of productive players who are returning for 2013, and many more ready to step into the limelight with breakthrough seasons.

For our purposes here, we're focused on the former group. Below you'll find the top 10 returning players in a handful of major raw statistical categories. (All stats courtesy cfbstats.com.)

Quarterback rating

Name Team Yr Pos G Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att TD Int Rating
AJ McCarron Alabama JR QB 14 314 211 67.2 2933 9.3 30 3 175.28
Aaron Murray Georgia JR QB 14 386 249 64.5 3893 10.1 36 10 174.82
David Fales SJSU JR QB 13 451 327 72.5 4193 9.3 33 9 170.76
J.W. Walsh Oklahoma State FR QB 10 163 109 66.9 1564 9.6 13 3 170.11
Tajh Boyd Clemson JR QB 13 427 287 67.2 3896 9.1 36 13 165.58
Marcus Mariota Oregon FR QB 13 336 230 68.5 2677 8 32 6 163.23
Teddy Bridgewater Louisville SO QB 13 419 287 68.5 3718 8.9 27 8 160.49
Taylor Kelly Arizona State SO QB 13 360 241 66.9 3040 8.4 29 9 159.45
Connor Shaw South Carolina JR QB 11 228 154 67.5 1956 8.6 17 7 158.06
Brett Smith Wyoming SO QB 10 330 205 62.1 2832 8.6 27 6 157.57

The list of the most efficient returning quarterbacks is led by a pair of SEC signal callers who played against each other in the conference title game last season and could do so again in 2013. McCarron wasn't asked to carry the load for Alabama, and he didn't need to - the Crimson Tide finished last season ranked sixth nationally in yards per carry. McCarron made the most of this run support and took care of the football, averaging an interception for every 100 pass attempts or so. Murray, meanwhile, led the conference in both yards per attempt and touchdown passes, and finished in the top five nationally in both categories.

Noticeably absent from this list is Heisman winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, but he didn't miss the top 10 by much. Manziel ranks No. 12 among returnees in this category and was the nation's third-most efficient freshman quarterback in 2012.

Rushing yards per game

Name Team Yr Pos G Att Yards Avg. TD Att/G Yards/G
Ka'Deem Carey Arizona SO RB 13 303 1929 6.37 23 23.31 148.38
Antonio Andrews WKU JR RB 13 304 1733 5.7 11 23.38 133.31
Jordan Lynch NIU JR QB 14 294 1815 6.17 19 21 129.64
David Fluellen Toledo JR RB 12 259 1498 5.78 13 21.58 124.83
Beau Blankenship Ohio JR RB 13 312 1604 5.14 15 24 123.38
Kasey Carrier New Mexico JR RB 12 255 1469 5.76 15 21.25 122.42
Zurlon Tipton CMU JR RB 13 252 1492 5.92 19 19.38 114.77
James Sims Kansas JR RB 9 218 1013 4.65 9 24.22 112.56
Adam Muema SDSU SO RB 13 237 1458 6.15 16 18.23 112.15
Bishop Sankey Washington SO RB 13 289 1439 4.98 16 22.23 110.69

Ka'Deem Carey thrived in Rich Rodriguez's offense last season and broke out in a huge way, leading the FBS in rushing yards; he also finished among the nation's top five in rushing touchdowns.

Aside from the running backs, there are several 1,000-yard quarterbacks returning, including Jordan Lynch and Johnny Manziel. Lynch carried the ball more often last season than any other quarterback, and by a wide margin.

Receiving yards per game

Name Team Yr Pos G Rec. Yards Avg. TD Rec./G Yards/G
Marqise Lee USC SO WR 13 118 1721 14.58 14 9.1 132.4
Austin Hill Arizona SO WR 13 81 1364 16.84 11 6.2 104.9
Austin Franklin NMSU SO WR 12 74 1245 16.82 9 6.2 103.8
Jordan Matthews Vanderbilt JR WR 13 94 1323 14.07 8 7.2 101.8
Davante Adams Fresno State FR WR 13 102 1312 12.86 14 7.8 100.9
Alex Amidon BC JR WR 12 78 1210 15.51 7 6.5 100.8
Noel Grigsby SJSU JR WR 13 82 1307 15.94 9 6.3 100.5
Nick Harwell Miami (OH) JR WR 9 68 870 12.79 8 7.6 96.7
Cody Hoffman BYU JR WR 13 100 1248 12.48 11 7.7 96
Ryan Grant Tulane JR WR 12 76 1149 15.12 6 6.3 95.8

Southern Cal's Marqise Lee is the nation's leading returning receiver, but he faces some uncertainty heading into the 2013 season -- the situation at quarterback is unsettled following Matt Barkley's departure, and just how it shakes out will affect Lee's production to some extent.

Elsewhere on the list, there are some impressively productive players who may have flown under the radar last season. Alex Amidon is one such case, buried as he was by the sadness machine otherwise known as Boston College football. He's the most prolific returning wide receiver in the ACC, and he should be Chase Rettig's favorite target again in 2013.

All-purpose yards per game

Name Team Yr Pos G Rush Recv. Punt Ret. Kick Ret. Yards/G
Antonio Andrews WKU JR RB 13 1733 432 234 767 243.5
Marqise Lee USC SO WR 13 106 1721 0 856 206.4
Dri Archer Kent State JR RB 14 1429 561 -4 591 184.1
Bernard Reedy Toledo JR WR 13 63 1113 210 885 174.7
Ka'Deem Carey Arizona SO RB 13 1929 303 0 16 172.9
Stefon Diggs Maryland FR WR 11 114 848 221 713 172.4
Duke Johnson Miami FR RB 12 947 221 0 892 171.7
Trey Watts Tulsa JR RB 13 1108 343 154 586 168.5
Venric Mark Northwestern JR RB 13 1366 104 280 416 166.6
David Fluellen Toledo JR RB 12 1498 246 0 0 145.3

Antonio Andrews did a little bit of everything for Western Kentucky, and his heavy workload allowed him to lead the nation in all-purpose yards; he was the only FBS player to accumulate more than 3,000 all-purpose yards in 2012.

Lee makes another appearance here, and pair of ACC players with bright futures ahead of them figure prominently as well. Some of these players do most of their damage in one particular aspect of the game, while others, like Stefon Diggs, are pure terror in multiple roles.

Tackles for loss per game

Name Team Yr Pos G TFL TFL Yards TFL/G
Will Sutton Arizona State JR DL 12 23.5 124 1.96
Jadeveon Clowney South Carolina SO DL 12 23.5 113 1.96
Kyle Van Noy BYU JR LB 13 22 120 1.69
Carl Bradford Arizona State SO LB 13 21.5 88 1.65
Anthony Barr UCLA JR LB 14 21 103 1.5
Khalil Mack Buffalo JR LB 11 20 89 1.82
Morgan Breslin USC JR DL 13 19.5 107 1.5
Devonte Fields TCU FR DL 13 18.5 91 1.42
Aaron Donald Pittsburgh JR DL 12 18.5 78 1.54
Scott Crichton Oregon State SO DL 13 17.5 76 1.35

There is plenty of talent represented by these numbers, but they are overshadowed by memories of Jadeveon Clowney, who was last seen destroying Michigan running back Vincent Smith. Clowney may be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, and he certainly will be the most prominent defensive player in the SEC this year. That hit on Smith will be tough to top, though.

Interceptions per game

Name Team Yr Pos G Int. Yards TD Int./G
Bené Benwikere SJSU JR DB 13 7 152 1 0.54
Jonathan Dowling WKU SO DB 12 6 111 1 0.5
Derron Smith Fresno State SO DB 13 6 127 1 0.46
Jason Hendricks Pittsburgh JR DB 13 6 64 0 0.46
Jason Verrett TCU JR DB 13 6 16 0 0.46
Ed Reynolds Stanford JR DB 14 6 301 3 0.43
Ty Zimmerman Kansas State JR DB 11 5 67 0 0.45
Byron Moore Tennessee JR DB 12 5 88 1 0.42
Lorenzo Doss Tulane FR DB 12 5 79 0 0.42
Zachary McMillian Houston JR DB 12 5 8 0 0.42

Only one player picked off more passes in 2012 than Benwikere, who also returned one of his picks for a score. He was part of an 11-win San Jose State team, and he could be one of the top defensive back prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft.

A trio of players led BCS-conference defensive backs with six interceptions, including the very opportunistic Ed Reynolds, who returned three picks for touchdowns. No one in the nation had more pick-sixes, and no one had more interception return yardage.

***

Those are just some of the players to keep an eye on this season. If there is one takeaway from these lists, it's that Western Kentucky is one action-packed place. The Hilltoppers manufacture excitement, though few might be around to witness it.

If there's a second takeaway, it's holy cow let's just watch that Clowney hit again.

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