The spring is the best time for coaches to get a feel for their roster, and it’s also a great time for players who may have been stuck down on the depth chart to emerge and contribute. The following players are crucial for their teams’ success next season, and it’s important that all experience growth and exit spring a better player.
Alabama: C Ryan Kelly
2012 stats: Played in 9 games
Buzz: Ryan Kelly’s rare ink within the media in 2012 centered around whether or not Barrett Jones’ foot would be healthy enough to play against Notre Dame. In the weeks leading up to the national championship, it was Ryan Kelly, not Jones, taking the first-team snaps. Now, all the attention turns to Kelly to replace one of the most decorated offensive linemen in the history of college football. The rising sophomore is a lot like Jones because he’s very versatile, and the Ohio native is looking to become the Tide’s next great center. This spring is crucial for his furthered growth and development, as the Tide loses three starters along the offensive line.
Arkansas: RB Jonathan Williams
2012 stats: 45 carries, 231 yards; 8 rec. for 208 yards, 2 TDs
Buzz: Amidst all the uncertainty at the offensive skill positions, rising sophomore running back Jonathan Williams will be a staple. Both Dennis Johnson and Knile Davis are gone, and the talented running back emerges as the starter this spring. The one player Bret Bielema is known for more than any other is former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball. Ball was talented, but Williams has more talent and a higher ceiling. Bielema brings a toughness to the offense, and he wants to feed his hawse in the backfield. It’s Williams’ time to shine for the Hogs.
Auburn: LB Kris Frost
2012 stats: 5 tackles, 1 QBH, 1 FF
Buzz: The former five-star linebacker Kris Frost looks to replace last year’s MLB Darren Bates. The 6-2, 230-pound Frost has to emerge for the Tigers’ defense. One of Auburn’s biggest worries is the development of the second level on defense, and Frost emerging as a star this spring would bode well for an improved season and position corps in 2013. New defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson should work wonders for Frost in his 4-2-5 scheme.
LSU: DE Jermauria Rasco
2012 stats: 10 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 QBH, 1 FF
Buzz: Rising junior defensive end Jermauria Rasco’s time to shine is now. With bookends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, along with primary backup Lavar Edwards, now gone, Rasco looks to become the Tigers’ next star in a long line of strong front-four play in LSU history. Rasco needs to give John Chavis a presence off the edge attacking quarterbacks, and he certainly possesses all the athleticism to do so.
Mississippi State: CB Jamerson Love
2012 stats: 25 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 2 BU, 3 PD
Buzz: The one position group all MSU coaches, players and fans are watching is the secondary. With the loss of corners Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay, coupled with safety Corey Broomfield, candidates must emerge to replace the three this spring. The returner with the most experience is corner Jamerson Love. He racked up 25 tackles and one INT in ‘12, and he should be the one veteran certainty this position group can count on. Love is one of the fastest players on the team.
Ole Miss: DE Channing Ward
2012 stats: 21 tackles, 1.5 TFL
Buzz: Rising sophomore and former five-star Channing Ward possesses all the characteristics of a standout defensive end in the coming years. With CJ Johnson, Ward and talented newcomer Robert Nkemdiche, the Rebels have one of the brightest groups of young ends in the SEC. Ward has a chance to be great, not just good, and taking his game to the next level and developing this spring really bodes well for a much improved defensive line in 2013.
Texas A&M: DE Brandon Alexander
2012 stats: No stats recorded
Buzz: Brandon Alexander is a former top recruit from the ‘11 class, but he couldn’t work himself into the rotation in 2012. Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder needs Alexander to emerge yesterday to replace future NFL star Damontre Moore. The Aggies’ offense is more than capable of putting together a championship run, but the defensive front seven must step up. Alexander could be a key cog to helping Texas A&M’s defense return to championship caliber.
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