There were nine SEC players listed on the Paul Hornung preseason watch list for the most versatile player in the country. But the watch list left off one key player in Vanderbilt’s Wesley Johnson.
Here’s my breakdown of the SEC’s seven most versatile players for 2013, aside from Johnny Football:
Odell Beckham, LSU (JR)
What he plays: WR, PR
Why: Odell Beckham’s potential is off the charts. He’s a big-play receiver who hasn’t fully blossomed and hasn’t been at his best yet, and he’s a hell of a punt returner. He caught 43 passes for 713 yards and two touchdowns, but he returned 35 punts for 320 yards and two touchdowns, including a game-tying return against Ole Miss in the fourth quarter. I like his receiving numbers to make a jump, along with keeping those same impressive return stats. Beckham is LSU’s versatile star who needs to have a big year.
Trey Burton, Florida (SR)
What he plays: QB, RB, FB, WR
Why: Trey Burton is Mr. Do-It-All for Florida. He plays QB in the Wild Gator and played running back, full back, H-back and slot receiver all at the same time. Okay, maybe not at the same time, but as a runner, he’s totaled 664 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns and also registered 531 yards receiving and three touchdowns. With the limited amount of playmakers in Florida’s offense, I expect to see more Trey Burton in 2013.
Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt (SR)
What he plays: OT, OG, C
Why: Johnson was the one player I was shocked not to see on the Hornung watch list. Yeah, he’s a lineman, and despite you thinking it’s easy to play all five positions along the line, it’s not. Johnson is one of the most underrated players in the SEC who never gets the ink he deserves because he’s on an up-and-coming team. Johnson has started at four different positions in his 38 career starts and has never been called for a holding penalty. That’s versatility. Think of Johnson as this year’s Barrett Jones.
Christion Jones, Alabama (JR)
What he plays: WR, KR, PR, CB
Why: Christion Jones is Alabama’s Jack-of-all-Trades. He’s a wide receiver who doubles as kick returner and moonlights as a cornerback. Jones caught 27 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns last year, along with also returning 20 punts for 212 yards and six kickoffs for 182 yards, including a 100-yard touchdown against Ole Miss. If that’s not enough, Nick Saban even experimented with him at corner this spring. We’ll probably find out whether or not he can play corner this season. He can do everything else.
Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia (JR)
What he plays: WR, KR, PR, CB
Why: Malcolm Mitchell now becomes Aaron Murray’s top target replacing Tavarres King. Mitchell is a nasty natural athlete who could have a big season for UGA, and he won’t have to worry about playing corner this year, or so it seems entering 2013. Mitchell started at corner to begin 2012 and transitioned over to full-time receiver around game four. Mitchell registered 572 receiving yards and four touchdowns, while also returning 16 kicks for 360 yards and 11 punts for 57 yards. I would like to see OC Mike Bobo get Mitchell more involved in the downfield passing game as well in the running game. Mitchell is Georgia’s X-factor.
LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State (SR)
What he plays: RB, KR
Why: MSU’s Mr. Versatile LaDarius Perkins is due for a big senior season. Perkins is one of a few 1,000-yard running backs returning, and he’s the SEC’s third leading all-purpose returner, after having combined for 1,509 yards on offense and return yardage. It’s imperative the Bulldogs get Perkins more involved in the offensive game plan.
Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida (JR)
What he plays: WR, DB, KR
Why: Loucheiz Purifoy is Florida’s Honey Badger. Along with having one of the best names in college football, Purifoy makes sure you hear it called multiple times throughout every game. He forces fumbles, he tackles, he covers, and he’ll even play more receiver in 2013. Florida even had him returning kick offs toward the end of the season. This guy is a playmaker, and you need to see what all the hype is about.