Last year, the SEC saw newcomer Cordarrelle Patterson electrify the conference with 1,858 all-purpose yards. From rushing, receiving and returning kicks, Patterson averaged over 154 yards every game. And it makes you wonder why Derek Dooley didn’t make it a point to get him the ball more.
Nonetheless, the SEC returns some star all-purpose animals for spring practice, and others will emerge next season. Here are the best five known commodities:
1. LaDarius Perkins, Miss State
Positions: RB, KR
Buzz: Perkins returns as Mississippi State’s do-it-all running back. Not only can he tote the rock between the tackles to the tune of 1,000-yard seasons, but he also racked up 325 yards returning kicks and 160 receiving yards. Except for Patterson, Perkins was the conference’s other best all-purpose yardage player. And I have a feeling Dan Mullen will feed his savvy veteran more in 2013.
2. Odell Beckham, LSU
Positions: WR, KR, PR
Buzz: The ceiling is so high for Odell Beckham, who flew onto the scene two years ago as a freshman making defensive backs look silly. Beckham still has improvements to make, but he caught 43 passes for 713 yards and two touchdowns last season, while also returning punts and kicks. Beckham racked up 320 punt return yards with two touchdowns and returned five kicks for 79 yards. With Michael Ford gone, Beckham should be the lone kick returner in ‘13.
3. Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia
Positions: WR, PR, KR
Buzz: Malcolm Mitchell’s production on offense decreased last season due to his transition to corner to start the season. However, those days are likely over, as he is Georgia’s most potent weapon in the receiving game. Mitchell caught 40 passes for 572 yards and four touchdowns in ‘12, while racking up 360 kick return yards and adding 57 punt return yards. Mitchell is a game breaker for the Bulldogs, and he should become a focal point of Mike Bobo’s offense in 2013.
4. Marcus Murphy, Missouri
Positions: RB, PR, KR
Buzz: Marcus Murphy enters spring competing for the starting running back job. With Kendial Lawrence graduated and the unknown surrounding Henry Josey’s recovery, Murphy looks to play a much bigger role next season. Last year, Murphy finished third in the SEC with 374 punt return yards with three touchdowns, along with adding 251 rushing yards and 458 kick return yards. The scat back could become a crucial member of the offense in ‘13.
5. Christion Jones, Alabama
Positions: WR, PR, KR
Buzz: Christion Jones should play more of a vital role in the passing game next season. Jones caught 27 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns, along with returning 21 punts for 213 yards and eight kicks for 213 yards, including a 99-yard return against Ole Miss. Jones is an outstanding athlete poised to play a bigger role in ‘13.
Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports