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SEC’s most improved for 2013: Which LB will take his game to the next level?

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Every single year, players emerge after a mediocre showing and burst on to the scene, and we’re left saying, ‘I should have seen it coming’. So, let’s get a head start on the most improved linebackers for 2013.

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Most Improved Linebacker: Antonio Morrison, Florida (SO)

2012 Stats: 34 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack
2013 Projections: 70 tackles, 10 TFL, 4 sacks

The Story: Antonio Morrison may be a knucklehead off the field, but he brings the absolute wood on it. And yeah, he’s suspended for the first two games against Toledo and Miami, but he’ll be back for Tennessee.

Morrison entered Florida as a little known three-star from Illinois, and he was handpicked by Will Muschamp to lead his defense into the future over other higher-rated four-star players.

Morrison played in all 13 games and made 34 tackles, including two tackles for loss. His skull-thumping hit against FSU’s EJ Manuel will be etched in Florida-FSU rivalry lore, as the Gators reversed all second-half momentum after the play.

Why he will improve the most: Florida MLB Jon Bostic is now gone, along with Jelani Jenkins, and Morrison takes the reins of the linebacking corps.

Morrison is the thumper Muschamp needs to take his underrated defense to the next level in ‘13, and although he may not be on the field the first two weeks, he’s going to have a big year in the remaining 10 games…assuming he can stay out of more trouble. He always seemed to be in the right position and has a knack for getting to the ball carrier, and his football IQ is higher than perceived.

Muschamp now has the depth, size and versatility to run more 3-4 schemes on defense, and Morrison would excel in either the 4-3 or 3-4 as an inside linebacker.

Morrison’s relentless energy and awareness will help him make the biggest jump to becoming one of the most known linebackers in 2013.

Others to watch:

Justin Garrett, Auburn: One linebacker who emerged this spring was Auburn’s Justin Garrett. Garrett slides right into Ellis Johnson’s Star position as a defensive back/linebacker hybrid. He has the speed and agility of a defensive back and the wherewithal and hitting ability of a linebacker.

Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State: Benardrick McKinney had a big year as a freshman last year, and he may be the SEC’s most unknown stud. He made 102 tackles last year, but his game should make a jump based on how raw he was last year. Could McKinney end up being the SEC’s best linebacker by 2013’s end?

Curt Maggitt, Tennessee: Maggitt was banged up with a toe injury before a knee injury ended his season. Maggitt has All-SEC caliber potential, but he hasn’t blossomed the way everyone had hoped so far. The Florida native should have a big junior season.

Photo Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE





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