College bowl: Like the Pro Bowl, we pick the state's two best football teams (16 items)
The NFL ditched its traditional NFC-vs.-AFC format for this year's Pro Bowl, going instead with two team captains picking the sides just like the pickup games of your youth. We here at the Deseret News were inspired to try something similar with Utah's college teams.
Our player pool was any Utah college football player who participated in the 2013 season. Teams were selected by DeseretNews.com staff writers. Brandon Judd and Lafe Peavler selected for Team Deseret while Trent Christiansen and Carter Williams picked for Team News. Each team was asked to submit a list of its top two players for each position (11 on offense, 11 on defense, three specialists and one head coach). The team captains submitted their first and second choices for each position. Any identical No. 1 selection alternatively was given to the other team.
The results were interesting. Tell us which team would have won this fictional game, and we'll announce the results after Sunday's Pro Bowl.
Who made Team Deseret and Team News? Read our explanations for the picks.
1 of 16. Quarterbacks
Taysom Hill, BYU
Hill made history in 2013 by becoming the first BYU quarterback to rush for more than 1,000 yards while passing for more than 2,000. Hill dazzled us with his rushing ability to begin the season, particularly as he rushed for 259 yards and three touchdowns against Texas. However, he struggled with the passing game as he threw just one touchdown pass in the first five games of the season. That said, he threw 18 touchdowns in the final eight games of 2013. While Hill still has work to do, he has the potential to join BYU’s exclusive club of elite quarterbacks.
Chuckie Keeton, USU
Keeton was the best quarterback in the state and a potential Heisman candidate before he tore his ACL midway through the season. In six games, he threw for 1,388 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was on pace for 42 touchdowns on the season, which would have been good for second best in the nation.
2 of 16. Running backs
Joey DeMartino, Utah State
DeMartino didn't start the 2013 season as Utah State's starting running back, but by the end of the year, he had proven himself as the most reliable ball carrier in the Aggie backfield. His 1,221 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, to go along with a 5.5 yard-per-carry average, were the most impressive overall stats from any running back available in this draft.
Paul Lasike, BYU
Laiske is an All-American, but not in football. The New Zealander is an All-American rugby player. While Hill and Jamaal Williams received the bulk of BYU’s carries, Lasike had two big games in 2013: 87 yards and a touchdown vs. Texas and 101 yards vs. Notre Dame. While his numbers at first glance may not be that impressive, Lasike averaged 5.9 yards per carry in 2013.
Jamaal Williams, BYU
Lil’ Baby J went beast mode for the Cougars this season, rushing for 1,233 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games. His best game came against Nevada when he carried for 219 yards on 15 carries. Williams is still only 18 years old.
Bubba Poole, Utah
Poole had his ups and downs but came up big in the Utes’ 27-21 upset over Stanford in 2013. He ended the year with 836 total yards from scrimmage and two scores, and has the ability to make plays. He finished second on the Utes with 79.7 all-purpose yards per game.
3 of 16. Wide Receivers
Cody Hoffman, BYU
Hoffman is by far the most coveted receiver here. His career numbers broke five BYU records, and he's proven time and again to be a multi-talented weapon. Thirty-three career touchdown receptions? More than 3,600 receiving yards? And remember, he also spent time returning kickoffs and punts. Hoffman is an all-around talent that instantly improves any team.
Bruce "JoJo" Natson, Utah State
Natson makes this team due to his versatility as a player and not just his ability as a wide receiver. He’s a solid return man on special teams as he returned two punts for touchdowns this season. Furthermore, he’s a dangerous man in the Wildcat formation, and he’s more than capable of scoring rushing touchdowns as UNLV learned. Natson finished 2013 with 844 all-purpose yards, seven touchdowns and a two-point conversion.
Dres Anderson, Utah
Anderson caught 53 passes for 1,002 yards for the Utes this season, the fifth best mark in the Pac-12. His best game was against BYU where he went off for eight catches and 141 yards.
Travis Reynolds, Utah State
Despite adjusting to a different quarterback, Reynolds caught 51 passes for 832 yards and four touchdowns in 2013. More impressively, he averaged 16.3 yards per grab.
4 of 16. Tight ends
Jake Murphy, Utah
Murphy's opportunities to shine in 2013 were hampered by an injury midseason, but just look at his numbers when he returned to the field to see what he can do. In the Utes' final three games he had 15 catches for 238 yards and four touchdowns. He nearly went over 100 yards receiving twice. Murphy isn't just a blocking tight end; he makes you pay in the pass game, too.
Joe Don Duncan, Dixie State
The hidden gem of Utah collegiate football played 2013 in St. George — who knew? Duncan led the Red Storm with 71 catches for 1,045 yards and 13 scores. Not only was he named a Division II All-American, he was also invited to play in both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl.
5 of 16. Center
Tyler Larsen, Utah State
The center is the most underrated position in football, and Tyler Larsen is head and shoulders better than any other in the state. Larsen has been a first team all-conference selection since he was a sophomore, but he received a new honor this season. USA Today selected Larsen as a second team All-American. Larsen was also a finalist for the Rimington Trophy, which is the national award for the nation’s best center. To top it all off, Larsen will play in this year’s Senior Bowl.
Brayden Kearsley, BYU
The freshman was BYU’s highest rated freshman recruit entering the 2013 season. He appeared in 10 games in a solid freshman campaign.