A player with something to prove doesn’t necessarily mean he has not proved anything yet. In fact, some of these players have proved a lot to the fans and their teammates. Others have proved nothing thus far. Either way, these players enter 2012 with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove.
We’ve already taken a gander at the SEC West’s seven players with most to prove. Let’s transition over to the East division for their seven players:
Jon Bostic, MLB, Florida: Jon Bostic looks primed for a big senior season. It’s not so much that Bostic has to prove anything to the Gator nation, but the man doesn’t get the pub outside of the local media that he deserves. He’s no doubt Florida’s best linebacker, and he came on very strong towards the end of last season. Bostic has made 169 total tackles in his career. In 2011, Bostic led the Gators with 94 tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss and 3.0 sacks. He is the heart and soul of this Gator defense, and he needs to elevate his play. Too many times I thought Bostic and fellow linebacker Jelani Jenkins did not really attack the ball carrier last year. Bostic looks to etch his name with other SEC great linebackers in 2012.
Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia: The once top safety prospect turned middle linebacker Alec Ogletree has yet to play up to his potential. Ogletree was the third best safety in the country coming out of high school and a national top 50 recruit. He has big-play and big-hit potential. And UGA hasn’t confirmed yet whether they are going to suspend him for the first two games as previously speculated. But he is without question one of the most talented players on the Georgia roster looking for a big junior season. We’ll wait on word from UGA about the suspension, but Ogletree is ready for a breakout year to prove he’s indeed one of the best linebackers in the SEC.
Morgan Newton, QB, Kentucky: Just three years ago post Morgan Newton’s freshman season, we were talking about how good this kid is going to be. Newton was a pretty hyped player coming out of high school, ranked by several as a high school All-American. Newton broke out his freshman year and split time with Mike Hartline, throwing for 706 yards and six touchdowns and three interceptions. He looked very promising for the Cats and the future. However, since that year, things have regressed. He lost the starting job to Hartline in 2010, but got the nod in the BBVA Compass Bowl due to Hartline’s arrest. It didn’t end up well, and neither did last year. He threw for 793 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions as a junior…not the kind of numbers you want to have. The staff even played backup Max Smith over Newton most of the time. Newton is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery in route to his final season at Kentucky. It’s now or never for Newton.
James Franklin, QB, Missouri: James Franklin proved a lot last year…in the Big 12. I love this kid’s game, and I know he will play well in this conference, but there are a ton of doubters about his game and running ability. In 2011, Franklin threw for 2,865 yards and 21 touchdowns, while rushing for 981 yards and nine touchdowns. There have really only been two dual-threat quarterbacks who have had success in this league, and they are Cam Newton and Tim Tebow. But Franklin is a big enough kid to take the pounding at 6-2, 225 pounds. He’s coming off shoulder surgery, and he enters with a chip on his shoulder to earn some respect. He’s the face of the program leading them into uncharted territory.
Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: Lattimore returns to the lineup after exiting 2011 with a torn ACL. He has his sights set on carrying the running game once again, but he has to prove to everyone he’s healthy. He is said to be ahead of schedule and ready to go. All Carolina fans will be holding their breath the first time he’s tackled below the waste, hoping he’ll get up. And when he does, SEC fans will let out a collective sigh of relief. Hopefully for him and his future, he won’t have to carry 30 times per game. But many don’t feel this young man is the best back in the SEC. Many say he’s second to Knile Davis. So, Lattimore returns with a chip on his shoulder to stay healthy and prove his doubters wrong. USC could be looking at another run towards Atlanta if this young man can stay healthy.
Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee: Lane Kiffin didn’t leave Tennessee with much, but he left them with Tyler Bray. Bray has been scrutinized much in his short career for having too much of a carefree attitude. He arrived on the scene as a freshman, starting the last five games of the year. His only loss came in the Music City Bowl against UNC. He finished with a Tennessee freshman record 1,849 yards and 18 touchdowns, while drawing comparisons to Peyton Manning. He came back strong in 2011 only to eventually break his thumb against Georgia. He missed five weeks and still threw for 1,983 yards and 17 touchdowns. But Bray doesn’t get the respect he deserves, largely in part because we haven’t seen him play a full season yet. He will try and do that this season, as he looks to go head to head with Tyler Wilson and Aaron Murray for the best numbers for a quarterback this season. He’s a sure-fire NFL quarterback if he can stay healthy.
Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt: Zac Stacy is the best running back that you’ve never heard of – or maybe you have since you are a fan of the SEC. I mean we have to remember that he rushed for 1,200 yards last year, NOT going against Big 12 defenses and behind an average offensive line. Can you imagine if Stacy could run behind the behemoths Alabama and LSU roll out every year? Just saying this kid is better than you think. And he’s out to prove it this year, in what will be his final year at Vandy. While he’s probably not on many NFL radars at the moment, his short powerful running style should open scouts’ eyes. Stacy returns as the SEC’s leading rusher with a chip on his shoulder to prove all his doubters wrong again.