The core group of impact players on this team, at least according to the TDG staff (and really, does anyone else matter) is really starting to come together. All of us are fairly in agreement on the top 6 or 7 players, with the final 3 slots a bit in flux, as I imagine they will be all year.
Here are some interesting tidbits before we get into the actual rankings:
- Just 13 players received any votes at all to fill 10 spots.
- GoAUpher & Jeffrick shared 9 out of 10 players on their ballots but a variation in their actual ranks.
- Of the players listed in the Top 5 below, no TDG staffer had any of them ranked lower than 6th.
- From the "No Surprise" file, the 3 highest ranked players are on defense.
1. Derrick Wells - 36 points (2 first place votes)
Why he's here: The best player on the best phase of the team. He leads the team in tackles & INT"s, and is tied for most pass break ups. Even when he isn't making the play, he's around the ball.
2. D.L. Wilhite - 34 points (2 first place votes)
Why he's here: The pass rush has been unreal, causing major problems for teams like Western Michigan and Syracuse that depend heavily on the pass. Wilhite is a major reason for the huge improvement that this unit has seen.
3. Ra'Shede Hageman - 30 points
Why he's here: See above. Hageman has been just as important to the pass rush as Wilhite.
tie- 4. Donnell Kirkwood - 29 points
Why he's here: Kirkwood is getting the tough yards that the Gopher offense needs and is helping to chew up the clock. He's averaging over 90 yards/game and 4.5 yards/carry.
tie- 4. A.J. Barker - 29 points
Why he's here: The most productive WR on a until that was a huge question mark coming into the season. Averaging a very respectable 3+ receptions, 70+ yards, and 1 TD per game.
6. Michael Carter - 17 points
Why he's here: Cause he's growns up and he's growns up and he's growns up! DIG THAT! The secondary has been very good, and Carter is just one behind Wells for total passes defended (break-ups + INT's) with 6.
7. Max Shortell - 15 points
Why he's here: "The Ginger" has filled in admirably for an injured MarQueis Gray. Hasn't set the world on fire, but his arm was probably the biggest factor in beating Western Michigan, and he put up good, succinct numbers against Syracuse while not making any costly mistakes.
8. Zac Epping - 9 points
Why he's here: The o-line is beginning to gel, and Epping might be the biggest reason for that.
9. John Rabe - 7 points
Why he's here: I'm actually not completely sure. Still feeling the love from week's 1 & 2 I guess. Rabe is certainly missing MarQueis Gray, as he was Gray's favorite target catching 3 TD passes in just 5 receptions from Gray, but he's been very quiet since Gray went down. Rabe has had 3 receptions in the last two games for a total of 23 yards.
10. Devin Crawford-Tufts - 6 points
Why he's here: One word: Emerging. 2nd on the team in receptions, 3rd in total yards. He's still our best deep threat, but hasn't had the chance to prove it yet. Can get big chunks of YAC when he has some space. Better hands that I expected.
Other receiving votes:
MarQueis Gray - received votes on 2 of 4 ballots for a total of 4 points.
Troy Stoudermire - received one vote for total of 3 points.
Michael Amaefula - received one vote for 1 point.