Five SEC bounce-back candidates for 2014

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Alabama

Not every player can be named All-SEC every year. Poor performance and injuries usually tell the reason behind a particular player’s down season — or in Georgia’s case, a team – but how sweet redemption is when players bounce back.

Here are five potential SEC bounce-back players for 2014:

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Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: Alabama missed a healthy Amari Cooper last season. Fresh off his 1,000-yard freshman season, Cooper caught 45 passes for 736 yards and four touchdowns last year. Coop had a nagging foot injury that hampered him through the first half of the season, but he should be ready to bounce back this season. Seeing the success of past receivers under Lane Kiffin, Cooper could be the country’s most electrifying receiver in 2014. Remember, Julio Jones had a bounce-back junior season after a down sophomore year. Cooper should too.

Jeff Driskel, QB, Florida: Call me crazy; I just don’t think Jeff Driskel has played up to his ability yet. He won 11 games in 2012, and he suffered a season-ending broken ankle last year against Tennessee. He’s thrown for 2,271 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 INTs in virtually one season. He’s completed more than 62 percent of his passes, and he’s rushed for 469 yards and five touchdowns. But he finally has an offense that will utilize his strength: his running ability.

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: The Bulldogs’ horse will push to become the country’s best overall player in 2014. Off of his electrifying freshman campaign that saw him rush for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns, Gurley recorded 989 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. It wasn’t that he was a downer by any means, but Gurley missed a total of about four games due to his high ankle sprain. Gurley is set up to have a tremendous amount of success and be the backbone of the Bulldogs’ offense this season. He’s the strongest bet on this list of potential bounce-back candidates.

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CJ Johnson, DE, Ole Miss: Johnson helps epitomize the Rebels’ defense. Aside from Robert Nkemdiche, nearly all are undersized players. Johnson, who could also play linebacker, only played four games in 2013 due to ankle surgery. He collected 12 tackles, four tackles for loss and two QB hurries. Led by a very good defensive line, Ole Miss’ defense will have a huge boost with a healthy CJ Johnson. The former All-American is primed for a big bounce-back year.

Marlin Lane, RB, Tennessee: One of the SEC’s most interesting players, Marlin Lane entered Tennessee as a touted Florida prospect. However, he hasn’t lived up to his expectation…yet. Rajion Neal had a big year, rushing for 1,124 yards, but I always seemed to think Lane was more impressive of the two. Lane rushed for just 534 yards after rushing for 658 yards in 2012. Yes, early enrollee Jalen Hurd will have an impact, but Lane is such a mystery, and he could reel off a big season with improved quarterback play.
Photo Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

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  • Aside from CJ, look for DT Schackleford to make a huge bounce-back. The guy has had 2 years as a medical redshirt. If he plays even like he did as a freshman, then he’ll be one of our best players.

  • I’m sure we are going to see more Gurley-like highlght clips this year. Missouri is adding a more Gurley-like “if you want to call him that” back to their play calls. I look for the whole league to get more wall like or beefier in their line-backer corp to counter this. Who can keep both sides of the ball healthy? Alabama seemed to be able to manage it during the past 5 years or so. But the more the league looks for sturdy and mobile back the more the secondary will get lit up by the trend in fast and spread attacks. I can’t wait for week one. I also think Johnson is a good “watch-out”, the reason is part him and part the support that I think Miss. will d-squad can give him.