It’s scary to think of the talent coming back in the SEC for 2013, and we’ll get more in depth further into the offseason.
But immediately exiting 2012, here are five players who plan to terrify the opposition in 2013. Yeah, I understand I could have listed 25 here, and four of them will only be sophomores:
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: The Lebron James-Lawrence Taylor clone dominated games in 2012 as a sophomore. He runs like a wide receiver while packing the most punch of anyone in the country. Clowney playing college football next season is like Shaq playing on 8’ rims – you can’t stop it. Some players just venture out of the realm of normal, and Clowney is that type. He nabbed 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss. Clowney has the biggest scare factor of any player in the country for 2013. What a boss.
2. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: For what Johnny Manziel may lack in physical stature, he makes you a believer after the first offensive series. And while Manziel may not scare his opponents to death, he’ll sure scare the coaches. He’s a matchup nightmare for any defense – just ask Bob Stoops and Nick Saban. Manziel’s slippery self takes on top-level defensive linemen who have the patience and wherewithal not to let Manziel get out of the pocket. Only Florida and LSU were able to slow him down, and he would have torched either defense had he played them later in the season. The first-ever freshman Heisman winner returns for just his sophomore season next year. Defensive coordinators are already worrying about the Aggies’ offense, especially after torching Oklahoma’s defense for 516 yards and four touchdowns.
3. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: Aaron Murray is scary, but what makes the Georgia offense so dynamic is the running game led by Gurley. If you thought he was a bruiser in 2012, just wait until next season. He’ll put on some 10 pounds of added muscle. Gurley led all running backs in rushing in ‘12 with 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns, while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Gurley’s yards after contact prove he’s a bruiser, too. And I expect Keith Marshall to improve, too, as well as Murray putting up his normal crazy numbers, and that’s only going to make Gurley better. He’s the complete back, and he gives Georgia’s offense another explosive asset for coordinators to lose sleep over, because you can’t just defend the passing game.
4. TJ Yeldon, RB, Alabama: AJ McCarron doesn’t scare me, and neither does Bama’s 2013 offensive line at the moment. But running back TJ Yeldon sure does. If not for Gurley, then Yeldon would have been the best back in 2012. Yeldon will be better than Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. He has the power of Richardson, the vision of Ingram and the quick feet of Lacy. He’s the perfect back to keep Alabama-NFL running back pipeline alive. Oh and if you’re talking about early Heisman favorites for ‘13, go ahead and add Yeldon’s name to the mix, because with another offseason under his belt, he’ll be so difficult to stop in Bama’s offense. Yeldon totaled 175 carries for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he was instrumental in the Tide’s championship run.
5. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: And if TJ Yeldon isn’t enough to scare opponents to death, think about game planning for Amari Cooper. The nasty running game adds to the potency of Cooper down the field – just ask Notre Dame. Cooper isn’t Julio Jones; he’s better than Julio Jones. He caught a team-high 59 passes for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first season. He’s the best downfield threat returning in 2013, and he’ll be a nightmare for coordinators to scheme against because of his speed.
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