It’s always tough to have to stick to a specific number of prospects for preseason lists. Inevitably, there will always be omissions we’re summarily reminded of after the list is finished being unveiled. We’ll be told players are over-or-underrated.
Alas, in something so subjective, there’s always cuts to be made, and it hurts because there are a lot of players deserving of recognition. The good news is, there’s a whole season ahead of us to report on the emergence of certain players, and we can take the time to recognize a few players who we thought deserved recognition, but didn’t make the final cut.
This doesn’t mean they’re not deserving of recognition. The committee of nine voters who compiled the list from various reputable sources (including Athlon Sports and Phil Steele) certainly had spirited debates for the spots where concrete locks were less certain. So we write this article to highlight a few of the candidates who were certainly considered for inclusion.
Without further ado: here’s a handful of the Best of the Rest, in alphabetical order.
Bryce Harris, OL, Toledo
Harris finds himself in the Best of the Rest through no fault of his own, as he suffered a knee injury in fall camps which will keep him out for the rest of the season. The news literally broke while the list was going through final cuts, so for the sake of transparency, he otherwise would have been our 19th-best player in the countdown. His injury resulted in a shake-up of the bottom of the countdown.
Harris, a redshirt senior, is certainly one of the best offensive linemen in the MAC, and was recently named to the Rimington Award preseason watchlist for best center in college football. Needless to say, Harris played a huge role in allowing the Rockets passing attack to maintain its frantic pace. He was named to the all-MAC second team offense in 2018, and started all 13 games for a line which allowed the Rockets to lead the league in passing and be amongst the top in rushing and total yards.
At six-foot-three, 292 lbs., Harris is agile enough to play center and guard, and we hope the best for him in his recovery and potential medical waiver.
James Patterson, LB, Buffalo
James, the brother of Top 25 nominee Jaret, certainly made his own name on the defensive side of the ball for Buffalo as an emerging leader in the front seven. As a true freshman, Patterson played in and started all 14 games for Buffalo, collecting 77 total tackles, nine tackles-for-loss, a sack, two passes defended, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. After such an incredible freshman campaign, he’ll be in line to improve on those numbers in 2019 with the departure of Khalil Hodge (144 total tackles in 2018.)
Gio Ricci, TE, Western Michigan
Gio Ricci, a former wide receiver, converted to tight end and became an essential part of the Broncos offense in 2018. He hauled in 35 receptions for 392 yards and three touchdowns, averaging an incredible 11.4 yards per catch over 12 games (three starts.) Ricci is also regarded as a good blocker, and it was this combination that won him third-team all-MAC honors last season. Now entering his senior season, Ricci will have the opportunity to improve on those numbers, as WMU will be without three of its expected top receivers due to transfer in Jayden Reed, Keishawn Watson and Wake Forest product Cortez Lewis.
Jo-El Shaw, RB, Kent State
Shaw, a former JUCO product from Lackawanna (PA) CC, started his career off with a bang against FCS Howard, rushing for 105 yards and three touchdowns in a blowout win, which hadn’t been easy for Kent State to do in recent seasons. He really came on late in the year, starting the final four games, and scoring in all four appearances. Shaw finished with 657 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 138 carries over ten games (four starts), and even contributed in the pass game, with nine receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns. He secured the starting job with his performance in 2018, and should be the feature back in 2019 with the transfer of Justin Rankin to D-II Northwest Missouri State. Shaw was featured on Phil Steele’s third-team all-MAC list and should be in good position to be in the running for the honor.
Spencer Tears, WR, NIU
Tears was a late bloomer in 2018, making 37 of his 40 catches in the last nine games of the season, and totalled at least four catches over the last five games of game action for the Huskies. He led the Huskies in receiving over those last five games as well, finishing third on the team in receptions (40) and receiving yards (422) and second in touchdown catches (four) despite missing the first two games due to suspension. Tears has caught a pass in 24 of his last 25 games, and has shown great development, especially in the new NIU offense, which could see more passing plays.
Maurice Thomas, KR/PR, Miami
Thomas, a running back for Miami, made it into our candidate pool as a specialist. He played in all 12 games, five as a starting running back, but made his bones in the return game. In 2018, Thomas had 25 returns for 667 yards and a 99-yard touchdown return, earning first-team all-MAC honors. His highlights from the Western Michigan alone are worthy of consideration, as he returned six kicks for 237 yards and his score. Thomas averaged an incredible 26.7 yards per return, helping Miami gain great positioning throughout the season.
Ryan Tice, K, Central Michigan
Tice, an immediately-eligible graduate transfer from Michigan, solidified the CMU kicking game early in 2019, winning the job over fellow transfer Michael Armstrong. Tice finished the season 10-of-12 from field goal range, with a career-long of 53 yards vs. Ball State, and 14-of-15 on extra point attempts. Tice was 6-of-7 from 40-49 yards, with his only other miss from 50+ yards out. He was called upon a lot as a primary scoring option in 2018, due to the ineffectiveness of the CMU offense, and his work was duly awarded with a nomination to the Lou Groza preseason watch list for 2019.
Matthew Trickett, K/P, Kent State
It’s hard to replace a cult of personality such as Shane Hynes (transfer to D-II Wayne State via South Carolina), but Trickett did that and then some, making the kicking game an automatic for the Golden Flashes. Trickett connected on 14-of-17 attempts, with a career-long of 49 yards, and went 33-of-34 on extra-point attempts. Trickett was also the primary punter for Kent State, booting 35 punts for an average of 38.7 net yards per punt, with 11 finding their way inside the 20-yard line. He was given first-team all-MAC honors as a true freshman, and there is simply no denying that Trickett will be one of the top kicking prospects in the country as his career develops.