Unfortunately, injuries are a huge part of the game, and once an impact player goes down to a season-ending injury, other role players have to step into the spotlight – ready or not.
Several teams escaped major injuries last season to include Mississippi State and Texas A&M, but these four SEC East teams – and five players – weren’t that fortunate.
Here are the SEC East’s five most important players returning from injuries in 2013:
Michael Bennett, WR, Georgia: Georgia’s best receiver in 2012 wasn’t Malcolm Mitchell or Tavarres King. It was three-star extraordinaire Michael Bennett. Before his nasty knee injury, Bennett led all UGA receivers with 24 catches for 345 yards and four touchdowns. He’s not a game breaker, but he’s the most reliable pass catcher on the Georgia roster. Bennett looked great this spring, and by all indications, he’ll play an integral part in the Bulldogs’ passing game, especially given the rapport we saw last season with Aaron Murray.
Henry Josey, RB, Missouri: The SEC hasn’t been formally introduced to Mizzou running back Henry Josey yet. But if you caught any of Missouri’s 2011 games – which I’m sure you didn’t – you would know what Josey brings to the table. He sat out the entire 2012 season recovering from a 2011 knee injury. To date, it was one of the nastiest knee injuries ever seen. Josey rushed for 1,168 yards and nine touchdowns before his injury, and all Mizzou fans and Gary Pinkel hope Josey returns to his old self. He may be the one missing piece from the Tigers’ offense.
Curt Maggitt, LB, Tennessee: Maggitt was banged up the entire season last year. He had a nagging toe injury for most of the season until he suffered a torn ACL against Missouri. Maggitt is ultra talented, but he hasn’t quite put it together yet. He finished 2012 with 30 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles, and he’ll be a key cog for Butch Jones and the Vols’ defense to get things turned around in 2013.
Ronald Powell, Buck, Florida: The former No. 1 overall recruit according to Rivals.com missed the 2012 season because of a knee injury suffered last spring. Two surgeries later, Powell hopes to be 100 percent by fall camp. Powell is super athletic, and he could be an integral part of Will Muschamp’s defense. Florida hasn’t shown they can rack up many sacks, and Powell will be counted on to live in opponents’ backfields, though Muschamp just hopes 90 percent of 2011 Powell returns this season.
Brian Randolph, FS, Tennessee: After Brian Randolph went down against Florida, the Tennessee defense couldn’t tackle air. It truly showed just how important Randolph is to the Vols’ defense. Tennessee finished with the last-ranked defense in the league and second to last in pass defense. Randolph is one of the leaders of the Vols’ defense entering 2013, and he’ll be key in whether or not Butch Jones and John Jancek can get the Tennessee program rebuilt and heading in the right direction.
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