Commentary

Young, Bush among select group of iconic talents

Originally Published: May 23, 2008
By Tim Griffin | ESPN.com

The Bowl Championship Series-era has featured some of the most proficient individual talents in college football history. But a select group has risen above the sport to become the most iconic talents of the period. It's helped make them the individual players who helped shape and define the last 10 seasons because of their dramatic individual talents.

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesVince Young had no peer as a dual-threat quarterback while he was at Texas.

1. Vince Young: It's hard to imagine a more fitting climax for a career than the one that Young enjoyed at Texas. He punctuated his career by leading his team to the national championship, capping a remarkable 20-game winning streak by beating defending national champion USC in the Rose Bowl.

Young's skills were most apparent when his team needed a dramatic comeback, such as in back-to-back Rose Bowl victories where he accounted for 839 total yards. During Texas' 2005 championship season, he willed his team to thrilling, comeback victories over Oklahoma State and Kansas leading up to the championship.

Earlier in his career, some doubted Young's passing abilities. That only served as inspiration to him as he developed into a multifaceted player who won 30 of his 32 starts in college. And his rushing and passing allowed him to become the first player in college football history to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.

[+] EnlargeReggie Bush
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireReggie Bush was arguably the most electrifying player of the BCS era.

2. Reggie Bush: Whether it was the "619" he had under his eye markings as a tribute to his hometown of San Diego or his remarkable individual talents, Bush stood out during his college career. USC coach Pete Carroll gave him a tape of Gale Sayers when he arrived at college. Bush spent the next three seasons emulating and eventually bettering the accomplishments of the iconic running back.

Bush undoubtedly could have piled up more yards and accomplished more things in a different program than USC. He alternated with LenDale White throughout much of his career and wasn't a starter until his junior season. His accomplishments were noticeable before then as Bush ranked fifth in the Heisman balloting as a sophomore, despite limited playing time.

His production was exhibited as a runner, receiver, kick returner and blocker during his career. His "Bush push" block at Notre Dame, while technically illegal, helped extend the Trojans' winning streak with a dramatic comeback as a junior.

Some of his legacy has been tarnished by allegations of illegal payments while he was in college, but Bush remains one of the most iconic players in the history of a school that has produced many of them.

[+] EnlargeMatt Leinart
Harry How/Getty ImagesUSC's Matt Leinart was an icon in Tinseltown.
3. Matt Leinart: His first college pass went for a touchdown. He was romantically linked with starlets and named as one of People Magazine's 100 Most Beautiful People. His team won a share of two national championships and played for another one. Life is pretty good for a successful quarterback at Southern California, so it's no surprise that Leinart wanted to stretch his college career as long as possible.

A deep supporting cast and his own transcendent abilities helped lead the Trojans to a wire-to-wire run to the national championship as a junior as Leinart won the Heisman Trophy. The Trojans stretched their winning streak to 34 games before losing to Texas in his final college game. Leinart finished among the top six finalists for the Heisman in each of his three seasons as a starter and helped make the Trojans as hot a ticket in Los Angeles as any of the area's professional sports teams.

His place in Heritage Hall is secure as USC's career leader in completion percentage and touchdowns, finishing his college career with 10,693 passing yards, 99 touchdowns and only 23 interceptions. The Trojans were 37-2 in games he started.

Michael Vick
Scott Halleran /Getty ImagesMichael Vick led Virginia Tech to the national title game in his freshman season.

4. Michael Vick: The biggest football prodigy of the BCS era was Vick, who made history from his first game with Virginia Tech.

Vick arrived as a ballyhooed recruit and displayed those scintillating talents in a remarkable debut, scoring three touchdowns in his first game. He developed into the first freshman quarterback to lead his team to the BCS national championship game, leading the nation in passing efficiency in his first season. He produced a game for the ages in the 2000 Sugar Bowl, leading his team back from a 21-point deficit to grab the lead early in the fourth quarter against Florida State before a late defensive collapse.

Injuries cut short his Heisman chances in his final college season. But Vick still led the Hokies to an 11-1 record and a Gator Bowl victory. His career helped build awareness for the Hokies that helped push them into the Atlantic Coast Conference in the most recent round of conference realignments.

[+] EnlargeKen Dorsey
Eliot J. Schechter/Getty ImagesKen Dorsey wasn't flashy at Miami, but he racked up the wins.

5. Ken Dorsey: No player better typified the Miami dynasty of the early part of the decade than Dorsey, the heady quarterback who led them to the national championship in 2001 and posted a record of 38-2 as the Hurricanes' starting quarterback.

Dorsey was a two-time Heisman finalist who rewrote Miami's record book, setting marks for passing touchdowns, completions, attempts, total offense and passing yards. His leadership also marked Miami's dominance, keeping his team in the national title hunt during most of his college career as the Hurricanes ran off a 34-game winning streak.

His big efforts enabled him to be a three-time All-Big East selection and two-time conference offensive player of the year. He was the co-MVP of the 2001 Rose Bowl, leading the Hurricanes to the national championship with a victory over Nebraska. He also directed Miami to a victory over Florida in the 2000 Sugar Bowl, earning MVP honors after passing for three touchdowns.

[+] EnlargePatrick White
Ned Dishman/Getty Images Pat White's big-game performances help make him the top clutch player of 2008.

6. Pat White: Known to his teammates as "The Chief," White has emerged as the catalyst in West Virginia's development into a BCS staple and a dominant national power.

The two-time Big East Offensive Player of the Year symbolizes the effectiveness of a multitalented quarterback in a spread offense. He combined with running back Steve Slaton to become the third duo to each rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive season. No quarterback has ever been a part of such a combo in back-to-back seasons.

A projected two-star recruit who turned down a lucrative chance to play professional baseball, White emerged as the Mountaineers' starting quarterback midway through his freshman season. He led them to BCS bowl victories over Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl and Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl -- arguably the biggest triumphs in school history.

White twice broke the Big East rushing record for a quarterback and finished fourth in Heisman balloting in 2007. He could be poised for much more during his upcoming senior season.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Charles Sonnenblick/Getty ImagesTim Tebow answered any doubts about his throwing ability when he tossed 32 touchdowns.

7. Tim Tebow: Arriving at Florida with the nickname of "The Chosen One," Tebow wasted little time living up to his early hype. He was a key contributor as the Gators claimed the national championship in his freshman season as a change-of-pace replacement for starting QB Chris Leak. Tebow made history the following season by becoming the first sophomore to ever win the Heisman Trophy.

His multi-faceted abilities enabled him to become the first player in college football history to run for 20 touchdowns and pass for 20 touchdowns in the same season, throwing for 32 TDs and setting the SEC record with 23 rushing touchdowns in 2007.

His legend grew to almost larger than life when he performed some medical and dental surgical tasks at an impoverished village outside General Santos City in the Philippines earlier this spring. And, he could become even more iconic in his bid for back-to-back Heisman trophies in 2008.

[+] EnlargeTroy Smith
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesTroy Smith led Ohio State to back-to-back BCS bowl games.

8. Troy Smith: After arriving at Ohio State as the last recruit of his class, Smith overcame some early off-the-field transgressions to become a Buckeye icon as the first true Big Ten quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy.

Smith became the first Ohio State quarterback in history to beat archrival Michigan in three-straight seasons. He posted a 25-3 record as a starting quarterback, leading the Buckeyes to back-to-back BCS bowls. The versatile Smith was effective both as a runner and as a thrower. Those talents enabled him to earn MVP while leading Ohio State to a 2006 Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame.

Even a disappointing loss to Florida in the BCS title game at the end of his Heisman season couldn't diminish Smith's contributions or stature in the BCS era.

[+] EnlargeEd Reed
Al Messerschmidt/WireImageEd Reed was a dominant playmaker in Miami's secondary.

9. Ed Reed: A two-time consensus All-American, Reed was the unquestioned defensive leader of the Miami dynasty that claimed a national championship in his final college game. He was a catalyst for a talented Miami secondary that featured three pro-draft picks, helping to turn around the Hurricanes' program.

After an All-American season as a junior in 2000, Reed was a devastating force for the Hurricanes during his senior season. He led the nation with nine interceptions for a school-record 209 yards and three TDs. His biggest was a play that sealed a season-saving victory over Boston College, when he snatched a ball out of teammate Matt Walters' hands and raced 80 yards for a game-saving touchdown.

He capped his career with a dominating performance against Nebraska in the Rose Bowl, finishing as Miami's career leader in career interceptions, career interception return yards and interceptions return for touchdowns. His athletic versatility was highlighted with four career blocked punts as a special-teams standout and a javelin championship in the Big East conference track meet.

Glenn Dorsey (72)
AP Photo/Bill HaberMany times at LSU, there was just no stopping Glenn Dorsey.

10. Glenn Dorsey: A catalyst from his opening snap -- a play on which he recovered a fumble -- Dorsey developed into the dominant playmaker on LSU's punishing defense that punctuated his college career with a national championship.

Although dogged by motivational concerns earlier in his career, Dorsey became the pivotal player in LSU's recent dynasty. He was a two-time All-American who finished ninth in Heisman Trophy balloting as a senior in 2007. And he was the first player in history to win the Lombardi Award and the Outland, Lott and Nagurski trophies in the same season.

His career was punctuated by a gritty performance late in 2007, where he played through knee and tailbone injuries to continue a streak of 27 consecutive games to conclude his career. Dorsey finished his career with 179 tackles, 27 tackles and 13 sacks, but his value to the Tigers' success was bigger than merely statistics.

Tim Griffin covers college football for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Tim at espntimgriff@yahoo.com.