Offensive Players About To
Ten Stars You Need To Know for '10
Defensive Players About To Explode
Yeah, you guys in Atlanta know Anthony Allen, but the folks in Big 12 country wouldn’t know him from Ethan Allen. And although Darvin Adams and Greg Childs may be household names by now in the SEC, they barely ring a bell to the guys out in the Pac-10.
This time of year there are loads of all-star-caliber players within every conference who are busting at the chance to take their brand outside the region and showcase it to a national audience. Clearly, they have the talent and they’ll have the opportunities to put it all on display later in the fall. Whatever shreds of anonymity these guys enjoy today could be long gone by early October.
WR Darvin Adams, Auburn
No Tiger benefited from the change in offensive philosophy in 2009 more than Adams. A year after catching three passes all season, he pulled down a school-record 60 passes for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns. Yet, he failed to even make the All-SEC team, an indication of how fast he snuck up on people last fall. Now that everyone has been in Gus Malzahn’s system for a year and there could be a quarterback upgrade if Cameron Newton delivers, the junior receiver will be impossible to ignore. A long target at 6-3 and 185 pounds, he runs great routes and flashes the big-play ability that the offense desires.
RB Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech
Now that Jonathan Dwyer has left early for the NFL, someone is going to run for plenty of yards from the B-back position in this option offense. That someone will be Allen. As a rarely-used complement a year ago, he ran for 618 yards and six scores on only 64 carries. As the feature guy, he’ll have the opportunity to double those numbers...at least. A physical 6-0, 230-pounder, he also showed tremendous explosiveness in his Yellow Jacket debut, busting through holes like a freight train and averaging more than nine yards a carry.
RB Allen Bradford, USC
The perennial logjam known as the Trojan backfield could be as uncongested as it’s been in years. Bradford is the back most likely to take advantage. He impressed after Stafon Johnson was injured last fall, running for a career-high 668 yards and eight scores on 115 carries. With Johnson and Joe McKnight out of the picture in 2010, he’s liable to turn his senior year into a successful audition for NFL scouts. A modern-day LenDale White at Troy, he’d just assume run over defenders with his 5-11, 235-pound frame than attempt to dance around them.
RB Bryce Brown, Tennessee
Last year was one big saga for Brown, who turned his recruitment into a three-ring circus. This year, he gets an opportunity to show the nation that he was worth all of the attention. He laid a solid foundation by turning 101 carries into 460 yards and three scores, and catching 10 balls for 137 yards and another touchdown. The graduation of Montario Hardesty should keep Brown busy this fall, affording him enough touches to rush for 1,000 yards and earn all-conference consideration. He’s the total package in a runner, blending power with the breakaway speed and cutback ability to make defenders whiff.
WR Greg Childs, Arkansas
Don’t fault Childs if he enters this season with a little chip on his shoulder. Somehow, he was passed over for the All-SEC squad despite leading the team with 48 catches for 894 yards and seven touchdowns. Teammate Joe Adams, however, had 19 fewer catches and 326 less yards, yet earned a spot on the second team. Go figure. Childs is Ryan Mallett’s preferred target, which tells you all you need to know about his upside potential. After a slow start in the offseason, he picked things up in the summer, improving his speed and adding more muscle to his 6-3, 217-pound frame. If he can maintain the focus throughout the spring, individual honors won’t elude him this December.
QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
To be sure, there were rough spots in Gabbert’s debut as the starter for Mizzou. That’s bound to happen when you’ve got limited experience and are replacing local legend Chase Daniel. He eventually settled down in the second half of his sophomore year to finish with respectable numbers, including 24 touchdown passes and 3,593 passing yards. Beyond just the statistics, he has the raw physical gifts to become a special passer in the Big 12 if he continues to improve his reads and decision-making. At 6-5 and 240 pounds, he can make all the throws, moves surprisingly well for his size, and plays in an offense that’ll showcase all of those skills.
QB Robert Griffin, Baylor
Out of sight, out of mind. Griffin was supposed to have his national coming-out party in 2009, but a torn ACL last September completely changed the script. Instead, he’ll be looking to make a splash in a do-over sophomore season. The Bears will take it easy with their prized quarterback in the spring in the hopes that he’ll be completely ready for the Sept. 4 opener at TCU. When healthy, he has as much dual-threat potential as any quarterback in the country, rushing for 843 yards and 13 scores as a rookie in 2008, and throwing 19 touchdown passes to just three picks in his first 15 games.
WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
Just a year removed from high school, Jeffery validated his standing as one of the top wide receiver recruits of 2009. Even in an offense that was inconsistent through the air, his star shined through the mediocrity, a precursor of what’s to come in the next few seasons. After starting slowly, he erupted over the final two-thirds of the year to finish with a team-high 46 catches for 763 yards and six touchdowns. That was just teaser for a 6-3, 215-pounder, who can create mismatches with his physicality and will be reuniting with improving junior QB Stephen Garcia.
WR Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers
When the versatile Sanu arrived last year, the Scarlet Knights weren’t exactly sure where they’d wind up playing him. By midseason, they realized they might as well line him up all over. A 6-2, 215-pound game-changer, he’s instant offense with the ball in his hands. He finished his debut season with 51 catches for 639 yards and three touchdowns, while getting an increasing amount of work taking snaps out of the Wildcat package. Sanu rushed for 346 yards and five touchdowns on 62 carries, giving Rutgers a weapon it’s never had in the past. Best of all, he can grow alongside franchise QB Tom Savage, who’s also in his second year with the program.
RB Shane Vereen, Cal
Vereen is slated to become the next in a long line of 1,000-yard rushers mentored by ace running backs coach Ron Gould. When a serious concussion to Jahvid Best pressed him into a feature role last November, he responded with 100 yards on the ground in three of the last four games. He works like a flat bed and moves like a sports car, a rare combination that’s going to produce Best-like numbers this fall. After racking up more than 2,000 total yards and 19 touchdowns as the second banana, Vereen is ripe for the type of season that makes him a household name by the end of his junior year.