If you’re an SEC fan, you’ve likely heard of all five players who we’re going to discuss in a moment, but the average household is about to be introduced to each of them this fall.
Every year, SEC ‘nobodies’ jump onto the scene and finally get their opportunity to make a splash, either from a void in the depth chart or because the switch finally turns on.
Here are five who should be household names in 2014:
A’Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama (SO)
2013 stats: 38 tackles, 8 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 5 QBHs
Bring it: A popular pick for Alabama may be Derrick Henry, but the world knows who Henry is after he had his way with Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. Let me tell you about A’Shawn Robinson, who played in all 13 games last year. Alabama has lacked a superior defensive lineman for the last few years, but Robinson looks to be that guy. Fellow sophomores Robert Nkemdiche and Chris Jones overshadow him, but Robinson may be better than both. Whispers around the Alabama program say Robinson could be the best defensive lineman Nick Saban has had at Alabama. A’Shawn Robinson may not be a common name yet, but you’ll know him this season.
Leonard Floyd, OLB/DE, Georgia (SO)
2013 stats: 55 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 22 QBHs, 2 FF
Bring it: Entering last season, Jordan Jenkins was thought to become one of the top breakout players of the year, but freshman Leonard Floyd kind of stole his spotlight. Floyd looked like a freshman at times last year, often struggling on zone-read plays, but his upside is undeniable. Floyd can either play outside linebacker or defensive end in Jeremy Pruitt’s new defense, and his athleticism reminds you of former FSU star Christian Jones, but Floyd’s ceiling is higher. Georgia fans know him, but SEC fans don’t yet. They will this season.
Shaq Roland, WR, South Carolina (JR)
2013 stats: 25 catches, 455 yards, 5 TDs
Bring it: Now that Bruce Ellington is gone, Carolina is looking for a pass catcher to emerge and become the go-to receiver for Dylan Thompson. Shaq Roland may be the biggest stretch of the five listed, but his talent, upside and ability is undeniable. The former Mr. Football in South Carolina is ready to evolve into the player Steve Spurrier recruited him to be. At 6-1, 190 pounds, we’ve seen bursts and flashes in prior years, but according to SportsTalkSC, he was suspended for three games last year for taking Adderall. Roland is still waiting to make his mark on a club that’s recorded three straight 11-win seasons, and 2014 could be the year.
Ricky Seals-Jones, WR, Texas A&M (rFR)
2013 stats: 3 catches, 84 yards, 1 TD
Bring it: The once-hyped prep star is a legend in Texas, but few know about him outside the Lone Star State. Mike Evans was a fantastic talent, but Seals-Jones could have more talent and upside than Evans. Did I just go there? Of course it’s all potential at this point. RSJ suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2013, but it wasn’t before he riveted the A&M fans with his 71-yard touchdown against Rice. He had a big spring, and he’s looking to become a pain for opposing defensive coordinators.
D’haquille Williams, WR, Auburn (JR)
2013 stats: JUCO transfer
Bring it: Of the five listed, D’haquille Williams is the only one who hasn’t played a snap in the SEC. The JUCO transfer is a Cordarrelle Patterson-type talent, and he could be a one and done much like Patterson at Tennessee. We got a taste of Williams during Auburn’s spring game when he showed amazing ability, great hands and fluid body positioning on tough catches. Lining up opposite Sammie Coates isn’t too shabby either, and Nick Marshall has weapons galore on Auburn’s offense. His name’s D’haquille, but you’ll know him as Duke Williams in 2014.
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