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May 21, 2011

Will last season's national leaders repeat?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport. There are two questions this week, one today and one Sunday.

TODAY'S QUESTION: The nation's leading rusher (Oregon's LaMichael James), passer (Hawaii's Bryant Moniz) and receiver (Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon) from last season all return. Will those guys again lead the nation in those respective categories this fall?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
There doesn't appear any reason to believe they would not again lead the nation in those categories. Oregon has to replace a few starters along the offensive line, but the sum was always greater than the parts. I anticipate Oregon's offense will remain explosive and James to be their most potent threat. Lache Seastrunk could take some carries away, but James is proven and consistent. I doubt his rushing totals will fall much, if at all. Hawaii's scheme is perfect for Bryant Moniz. Unless Houston's Case Keenum returns to his 2009 form - and that's a distinct possibility - then Moniz is a good bet to be the nation's most productive passer. And nobody could stop Blackmon last season, so why would they this seasons? Defenses could adjust their coverages, but last season he had more catches in November than September. By then, coverages already were being adjusted for him.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
With Brandon Weeden back at quarterback for Oklahoma State, I expect Blackmon again to pace the nation in receiving. And even with top targets Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares gone, I can see Moniz again leading the country in passing. Hawaii's attack is all about the pass - and that won't change in 2011. But I think James will have trouble repeating as the nation's rushing champ after compiling 1,731 in 2010. Why? Because the Ducks will be breaking in three new starters on the offensive line.

David Fox's answer:
It's tough to see any of them leading the nation in those categories again, though I'd expect all three to be in the top five in those respective statistics. Oregon will be hard-pressed to have a better offensive line than it did last season. Meanwhile, LaMichael James will have the chance to be spelled by Kenjon Barner and Lache Seastrunk. Bryant Moniz plays in the right system to lead the nation in passing, but his two 1,000-yard receivers from last season are gone. Throw in the return of Houston's Case Keenum from injury and the field is a little tougher. The good news for Moniz is no Boise State on the schedule. Justin Blackmon, with quarterback Brandon Weeden coming back, has a good chance to lead the nation in receiving again, but look at the other receivers returning: Ryan Broyles, Alshon Jeffery, Juron Criner, Michael Floyd. If Blackmon leads that field for a second consecutive season, he'll have earned it.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I think Blackmon repeats. He'll again be working with QB Brandon Weeden and I wouldn't be surprised if the Cowboys throw the ball more now that TB Kendall Hunter is gone. But I don't think James or Moniz repeats. I think a couple of factors are working against James. First is that Oregon's offensive line is being retooled. Second is that the Ducks have great depth at tailback and I think James gets two or three fewer carries per game this season. My preseason pick to win the rushing title would be Western Kentucky's Bobby Rainey, who was third last season and again will be a workhorse this season. As for the leading passer, I'll go with a former winner - just not Moniz. Assuming he is recovered from a torn ACL, I think Houston's Case Keenum will be the leading passer. He has more established targets than Moniz, who lost his top two receivers from last season.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I seriously doubt any of them repeat. For one thing, it makes more sense to bet on the field in these types of situations. But I also was a little surprised that major-conference players won the rushing and receiving titles last season. The guys who finish atop the major statistical categories typically play in smaller conferences that feature softer defenses and bigger production. I always like to predict that the rushing leader will come from the Mid-American Conference, since that league's combination of poor weather and suspect defenses often produces plenty of 1,000-yard rushers. And it's always reasonable to guess the receiving leader will come from the WAC or Conference USA. By my logic, Hawaii's Bryant Moniz probably would have the best chance to repeat, but I'm guessing he wouldn't have won the passing title last season if Houston's Case Keenum had stayed healthy. Keenum led the nation in passing in 2009 and ranked second in that category in 2008. Now that Keenum has returned from a knee injury that sidelined him for most of the 2010 season, I believe he will re-establish himself as college football's most prolific passer.

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