Commentary

Four faces to watch in 2008

Updated: June 20, 2008, 3:55 PM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

We've looked back through history to find each school's Face of the Program. Now we look ahead to the faces to watch for in 2008.

Tim Tebow, Quarterback, Florida

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Doug Benc/Getty ImagesCan Tim Tebow repeat his Heisman season?
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner will have a big target on his back in 2008.

Tebow, who became the first sophomore to win college football's most coveted individual honor, insists he'll continue to run as much as he did last season. Tebow carried the football 210 times in 2007 -- more than twice as much as any other Florida player. The Gators hope USC transfer Emmanuel Moody and freshman Chris Rainey can relieve some of the pressure on their quarterback.

The Gators also hope Tebow finds the end zone as much as he did last season, scoring on 23 runs and throwing 32 touchdowns.

If Moody and Rainey prove to be dependable, and junior receiver Percy Harvin fully recovers from a heel injury, the Gators will be very explosive on offense.

If coach Urban Meyer can shore up his team's young defense, the Gators will challenge Georgia for the SEC East title and a potential spot in the BCS Championship Game.

If the Gators accomplish that, Tebow might be in line to become college football's second back-to-back Heisman Trophy winner. Ohio State running back Archie Griffin accomplished the feat in 1974-75.

Knowshon Moreno, Tailback, Georgia

[+] EnlargeKnowshon Moreno
Dale Zanine/US PresswireKnowshon Moreno is a star in Georgia's backfield.
Moreno burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2007, rushing for 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns.

The SEC Freshman of the Year became the first Georgia player since Herschel Walker to run for 100 yards or more in five consecutive games, helping the Bulldogs win their final seven games, including a 41-10 rout of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl.

Moreno will have to match his production from last season if Georgia is going to meet its lofty expectations in 2008. A popular choice for No. 1 in many preseason polls, the Bulldogs face a difficult road. Georgia plays consecutive road games at South Carolina and Arizona State in September and plays at LSU, Florida (in Jacksonville, Fla.) and Auburn near the end of the season. Home games against Alabama and Tennessee also loom large.

Moreno will have to stay healthy, and quarterback Matthew Stafford will have to be more consistent. Moreno won't have the luxury of playing beside tailback Thomas Brown, who ran for 779 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2007. Freshman Caleb King will fill that role, and some Georgia coaches believe he might be as talented as Moreno.

Pat White, Quarterback, West Virginia

Pat White
Brett Hansbauer\US PRESSWIRE Will Pat White showcase more of his passing skills?
White helped West Virginia fans turn the page after coach Rich Rodriguez left for Michigan.

The dual-threat quarterback ran for 150 yards and threw for 176 and two touchdowns in a surprising 48-28 rout of Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, one of the biggest victories in West Virginia history.

New Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart wants White to throw more often and run less this coming season. New offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen added plenty of wrinkles to West Virginia's spread offense in hopes of taking advantage of White's improved passing. White ran 197 times in 2007, and the Mountaineers lost two games (against South Florida and Pittsburgh) after White left early with injuries.

With Noel Devine becoming the every-down tailback, and the offensive line returning nearly intact, the Mountaineers should again be explosive on offense. Stewart's challenge is rebuilding a defense that lost seven starters, including both interior linemen and three defensive backs.

If the Mountaineers can win early tests at Colorado and against Auburn, they will again challenge for a spot in the BCS Championship Game.

White will have to do more than run for West Virginia to get there.

Michael Crabtree, Wide Receiver, Texas Tech

Michael Crabtree
Rams Reyna/US PRESSWIREMichael Crabtree could be in NYC at season's end.
Last season, Crabtree had the greatest season by a freshman receiver in college football history.

The Dallas native set school, Big 12 conference and NCAA freshman records by catching 134 passes for 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns. He became the first freshman to win the Biletnikoff Award as college football's top receiver, and became Texas Tech's first unanimous All-American since Zach Thomas in 1995.

What can Crabtree do for an encore?

How about leading the Red Raiders to a BCS bowl game? Texas Tech returns 18 starters from a team that finished 9-4 in 2007 and beat Virginia 31-28 in the Gator Bowl.

The Red Raiders might have two legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates. Along with Crabtree, quarterback Graham Harrell returns after completing 71.8 percent of his passes for 5,705 yards and 48 touchdowns in 2007. All five offensive linemen return from a unit that allowed only one sack every 39.6 pass attempts.

Texas Tech might even be capable of stopping opponents in 2008. Eight starters return from a defense that played very well down the stretch in 2007, and a mixture of freshmen and junior college transfers gives the Red Raiders the depth they'll need.

Road games at Texas A&M, Kansas and Oklahoma are potential roadblocks, but Texas Tech should start the season with a 5-0 record. Home games against Nebraska and Texas might ultimately determine whether the Red Raiders will compete for a spot in a BCS bowl game.

If that happens, Crabtree might be in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

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