Published October 10, 2012 - 10:35am
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Irreplaceable players are just that – players who simply can’t be replaced. And when they’re out of the lineup, the offense or defense suffers and struggles their way through games. We’ve come to learn who the top five most indispensable players are in the SEC for 2012:
1. Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida (SR): Little did we know that Mike Gillislee had the opportunity to develop into the one of the best – arguably the best – running back in the SEC in his senior season. He expressed lofty goals of a 1,500-yard 24 touchdown season during SEC Media Days, but everyone laughed and brushed it aside, asking, “Is he really serious?” He is serious; very serious. Will Muschamp described Gillislee as a ‘Muschamp guy’ and one who is willing to do anything necessary to get a win. We saw Gillislee injure his groin against Texas A&M and play the remainder of the game. He rushed for 83 yards and two touchdowns. The very next week, still hobbled by his injury, Gilly carried 18 times for 115 yards. He’s the only back in the SEC averaging over 100 yards per game and currently sits third in rushing yardage with 548 yards and seven touchdowns. Outside of Gillislee, Florida would be relying on sophomore Mack Brown and freshman Matt Jones. Both players are a large step down from Gillislee. He’s off to a fantastic start for the Gators.
2. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama (JR): McCarron is off to a hot start for the #1 ranked team in the country from Tuscaloosa. He has been the efficient facilitator for the Tide’s offense, a role he has excelled at and had to emerge into. Alabama doesn’t have Trent Richardson toting the rock anymore, and they sit around the middle of the pack in rushing yardage. Therefore, more emphasis has been put on McCarron to get the football in the end zone with a better passing attack. He’s answered the call. McCarron has thrown for 999 yards with 12 touchdowns and zero (zero!) interceptions. He’s not turning the football over and ultimately is giving his team and defense a chance to excel in other aspects of the game. He’s a leader and Alabama’s field general. Outside of McCarron, Bama would be relying on Phillip Ely, a redshirt freshman from Tampa, Florida.
3. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (FR): Johnny Football has taken the SEC by storm, and he’s seemingly done it all by himself in the running game, even though Ben Malena stepped up just last week. Manziel is a one-man wrecking crew and playmaker for the Aggies as a freshman. He leads the SEC in total offense (356 ypg), and he is fourth in passing yardage (1,285 yds) and fourth in rushing yardage (495 ypg). What can’t this kid do? I haven’t seen it yet. However, if the Aggies were to lose Manziel, they would be losing their entire offense. Manziel is the facilitator to an explosive offense in College Station.
4. Kevin Minter, LB, LSU (JR): Minter has been playing out of his mind the entire season for the Tigers. As the lone returning linebacker from the 2011 squad, Minter set out to be a leader and lead the team in physicality from the point of attack to help the 2012 Tigers develop a defensive identity without the Honey Badger. Just last Saturday against Florida, Minter was arguably the best defensive player on the field. He racked up 20 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in one game. He leads LSU in tackles for loss with 8.5, which ranks fourth in the SEC. Outside of Minter, there are depth concerns and injury concerns at linebacker. He’s the one player Les Miles and John Chavis can trust at the position.
5. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas (SR): This isn’t a case of “what if”. It’s a case of “I told you so”. When Wilson went down, Arkansas’ world unraveled literally before our eyes. Obviously, Wilson’s injury isn’t the root of the cause, but when he went out against ULM, Arkansas blew a healthy lead and was demolished the next week against Alabama. If Wilson could have stayed healthy, the Hogs would have had one more win and at least scored a point against Alabama…maybe? Anyway, even with missing 1.5 games, Wilson leads the SEC in passing once again with 1,585 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 317 yards per game through the air. Some say his draft stock has plummeted. However, he’ll regain his stock during the NFL Combine, if indeed it has fallen. The Hogs would have lost every single game this year if they had been without Wilson for the entirety.