Published August 1, 2012 - 4:00pm
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Every year there are football players who appear when the lights come on who may have been buried on the depth chart and did not make an appearance on the field for one reason or another. It’s always tough predicting breakout players because they are all unproven players with loads of talent. And we know there are a few of them in the SEC on every team.
Last year, SDS predicted – Nostradamus if you will! – that Tyler Wilson would have the biggest breakout year. He did not disappoint, but we certainly whiffed on Zach Mettenberger and failed to mention Jarvis Jones, as well as a couple others ranked out of position.
Here are the top 10 SEC breakout players for 2012:
10. Kiehl Frazier, QB, Auburn
9. Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida
8. Vinnie Sunseri, DB, Alabama
Kiehl Frazier looks like he’s physically ready to take over the QB position for Auburn. New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has experience in both a pro-style offense and spread offense, and he will tailor the offense towards Frazier’s strengths. Frazier has proven he can run the football, but his passing ability will be tested in year two. He’s as physically gifted running the ball as Missouri’s James Franklin, but he’ll need to really improve his throwing so defenses cannot key in on him. I think he can definitely do that…Mike Gillislee will now be toting the rock for the Gators, with Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps now gone. Gillislee has shown flashes of greatness in the past two years and has given Gator fans hope that they might actually have a power running game, which has been noticeably absent for a few years. He has set lofty goals for himself as a runner, and he will be the featured back in the offense. He’s bigger and stronger than backs in years past for the Gators, and he adds a weapon in the receiving game, too. One thing is for sure: Gillislee will get the appropriate amount of touches, and he very well could be one of the top breakout players in the SEC for 2012…Vinnie Sunseri comes from a football family and is the son of defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri at Tennessee. Sunseri has a high football IQ, and he made an impact as a freshman on special teams. The Tide’s secondary is an area of concern on defense, and Sunseri could help fill that gap, along with HaSean Clinton-Dix as well. Sunseri has been labeled the Executioner because of his bone-jarring hits on special teams. I think he breaks out in 2012, this time on defense.
7. Tyler Russell, QB, Miss State
6. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
5. Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU
Tyler Russell has been playing in the shadow of former QB Chris Relf in a spread-based offense that is not exactly tailored for his skills as a passer. But Dan Mullen is a talented enough play caller to cater to the strengths of his veteran QB. Russell has been used primarily in backup situations throughout his career and has even made a few starts. This is his time, however, and his team moving forward. Russell has some protection along the offensive line and good backs to eat up yards on the ground, but four senior wide receivers will be the key group that puts Russell over the fence and helps him become a breakout player in 2012…Dorial Green-Beckham is one of the most anticipated freshmen in the SEC this year. He is entering a great situation at Missouri and will ultimately be the face of the program for a few more years. DGB is physically ready to perform right now. And he will likely be the biggest impact freshman in the league. Green-Beckham has one of the top passing and experienced QBs returning for his junior season, and that is significant because he will be able to do some good things in this league as a freshman with that kind of talent around him…Anthony “Freak” Johnson is just another first-round pick waiting to happen for the Tigers. Johnson will start out in the rotation at tackle with Josh Downs, but he will end up starting alongside veteran Bennie Logan before it’s over. Johnson is a hybrid type DT and is strong enough to be a big run stuffer and quick enough to be a big disruptor on the inside. He has very active hands and longer powerful arms that will be used as leverage against opposing linemen. Johnson is poised to have a big year on that nasty LSU defensive line.
4. Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama
3. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
2. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Adrian Hubbard becomes another Nick Saban-coached linebacker poised for a breakout year. Hubbard came to Alabama as a dual-sport athlete, standing 6-7 and weighing 227lbs. He has packed on 25lbs in two years sitting behind Courtney Upshaw at the Jack LB position. However, Hubbard has grown into more of a Sam LB, and that’s the position he’ll likely play. He has a massive frame that oozes athletic ability, and he will develop more as the year goes on and gets more snaps under his belt. I like Hubbard to really come out of nowhere and be a big player at the second level for the Tide. He has the size to play LB or DE in certain formations, much like Upshaw…Cordarrelle Patterson enters Tennessee to make the Big Three the Big Four. With a seasoned veteran at QB with a howitzer for an arm, Patterson is entering a very good situation in terms of the passing game. He will be lined up alongside All-SEC WR Da’Rick Rogers and quite possibly the best WR in the SEC in Justin Hunter. At 6-4, 225lbs, Patterson is physically a very gifted WR who can make tough catches and break tackles after the catch. All coaches and players are very impressed with what they have seen thus far, stating Patterson’s crazy body control. The only thing that could suppress Patterson’s numbers is the talent around him…Jadeveon Clowney had a mediocre freshman year, mediocre by his and his team’s standards for him. Clowney had 8.0 sacks his freshman year, but Steve Spurrier confirmed my suspicion that the staff held Clowney back somewhat last season. Look for those reigns to be lifted and Clowney to be a terror at DE. He’s the most physically gifted DE I’ve seen in quite some time. There was so much pressure and anticipation for him in year one that any numbers would have been viewed as underachieving. It’s hard for me to put Clowney into the ‘breakout’ category, but we haven’t even scratched the surface of what this cat can do on the football field. This is the year it all comes together, and he has a monster season.
1. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
For the second year in a row, SDS is going on record saying another QB will be the breakout player of the year. Last year it was Tyler Wilson. This year it will be Zach Mettenberger. Mett looks to be LSU’s best pocket passing QB since Matt Flynn. He is the exact player LSU has been missing over the last several years: a tall, strong-armed pocket passer with pocket presence. And as almost always the case, top QBs have big-time playmakers around them. Mett has a seasoned offensive line that returns four starters, two returning starters at WR and a four-headed RB monster that is as good as any position group in the country. The table is set for Mett to really have a monster year and give LSU that QB they have been longing for. His ability to stretch the field as a passer will make this Tigers’ offense even more potent than years past. He will be tasked with making LSU’s late season hiccup to Alabama become a distant memory.