Dallas Colleges: Chris Jones
As far as sleepers, Alabama running back Derrick Henry, who had a coming out party in the Crimson Tide's Allstate Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma, and Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche made the cut.
You can't argue with any of those guys. Nkemdiche can play any position on the defensive line and might make his hay inside in 2014. Hargreaves has shown signs of having true elite corner status -- and he'll be a true sophomore. And we all know that Gurley is capable of being the nation's best back when he's healthy.
So who are some other guys to keep an eye on in the SEC in 2014? Here are 15 other SEC players to keep an eye on next season (in alphabetical order):
Note: These aren't obvious big-name guys, like South Carolina running back Mike Davis, Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham or Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall.
- Caleb Azubike, DE, Vanderbilt: The junior defensive end quietly had four sacks and led the Commodores with 10 tackles for loss. He has all the athletic ability to be a star in this league. If he plays with the motor he's capable of, he could wreak havoc in 2014.
- Darian Claiborne, LB, Texas A&M: As a freshman, Claiborne was a pleasant surprise on a bad Texas A&M defense. He finished the year with 69 tackles, hitting the double-digit mark in games five times. With Steven Jenkins gone, Claiborne could be relied up even more at linebacker, as he turns more into the quarterback of the defense.
- Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas: He finished his freshman year with 1,026 rushing yards and four touchdowns. After rushing for 100-plus yards in four of his first five games, Collins failed to reach the century mark again. He's the pounder Bret Bielema wants, but he can also make moves and be a home run threat.[+] EnlargeNelson Chenault/USA TODAY SportsArkansas RB Alex Collins rushed for 1,026 yards and four TDs in his freshman season.
- Landon Collins, S, Alabama: The junior-to-be had a solid 2013 season. He filled in at both free and strong safety because of injuries and will see even more time on the field with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri leaving early for the NFL draft. He was second on the team with 70 tackles, defended eight passes and had two interceptions.
- Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia: The 2013 season was supposed to be about Jordan Jenkins taking over for Jarvis Jones on the outside. But it was Floyd, a freshman, who stole the show at times at linebacker, leading the Bulldogs with 6.5 sacks and was second with 10 tackles for loss.
- O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama: While he only caught 14 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns in his first season, Howard could have a bright future ahead. He's too big for defensive backs and too fast for linebackers. Getting him on the field more this fall will go a long for Alabama's new quarterback.
- Chris Jones, DE, Mississippi State: He lived up to his billing as a top high school defensive end in Year 1. He finished the year with three sacks and seven tackles for loss, but was also credited with 10 quarterback hurries. He has all the qualities of an elite pass-rusher and could be even more of a problem for offenses in 2014.
- Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn: Another freshman standout in 2013, Lawson finished the year with 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He only had 20 tackles on the year, but with Dee Ford leaving, Lawson has a chance to see the field even more in 2014, but needs to get in the weight room and needs to be more consistent.
- Hutson Mason, QB, Georgia: He has had to sit and bide his time for a few years, but this is his team in 2014. He filled in for Aaron Murray (ACL) during the last two games of the season, passing for 619 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions as the starter. He'll have plenty of offensive weapons to use next fall as well.
- Maty Mauk, QB, Missouri: He filled in while starter James Franklin dealt with a shoulder injury, passing for 910 yards and 10 touchdowns as a starter. Mauk also went 3-1 during that span and helped the Tigers win the SEC East in their second season in the league. Now, he's the full-time starter in Columbia.
- Marquez North, WR, Tennessee: North made some noise as a freshman, leading the Vols with 496 yards on 38 catches. He only caught one touchdown, but showed flashes of being a consistent go-to threat for the Vols moving forward, and he certainly showed off his athleticism with this sweet catch against South Carolina. Getting more comfortable with the offense this spring will pay dividends.[+] EnlargeCharles Mitchell/Icon SMIWR Marquez North showed all the skills to be a big-time playmaker for the Vols.
- Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: He spent most of the year switching in and out with Tyler Russell, but now takes over the offensive reins. After throwing for 283 yards with three touchdowns and rushing for another 78 yards and two more scores in the Bulldogs' bowl win over Rice, Prescott made a lot of heads turn. He's perfect for Dan Mullen's offense and should be even better with his top five receiving targets returning.
- Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU: Yet again, another freshman corner stepped up nicely for the Tigers. Robinson only started two games during the season, including the Outback Bowl, but displayed a lot of upside when he saw the field. He's fast, athletic and rangy, and could be even more of a nuisance for quarterbacks in 2014.
- Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida: Taylor saw his carries increase during the second half of the season. The son of former Florida great Fred Taylor, Kelvin Taylor rushed for 525 yards and four touchdowns. He doesn't have elite speed, but he's shifty and can grind out extra yards.
- Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss: With Donte Moncrief gone, Treadwell becomes the guy at receiver for the Rebels. He led Ole Miss with 72 catches and should improve on his 608 yards. The thing about Treadwell is he's so gifted athletically. He's the kind of person who can step on any field or court, or put a tennis racket in his hand, and he'll make something special happen.
For our all-underclassmen team, we decided to use players who are true freshmen, redshirt freshmen or true sophomores. That means Johnny Manziel, a redshirt sophomore, wasn't eligible. I mean he can't make every list!
The criteria for our other lists once again apply. We're basing things on the season they had in 2013, not who will be the better draft prospect in the future.
Here's what we came up with:
QB: Maty Mauk, Missouri
RB: T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
RB: Todd Gurley, Georgia
WR: Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
WR: Amari Cooper, Alabama
TE: Hunter Henry, Arkansas
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
OL: Jerald Hawkins, LSU
OL: Denver Kirkland, Arkansas
OL: Alex Kozan, Auburn
C: Evan Boehm, Missouri
AP: Mike Davis, South Carolina
DL: Carl Lawson, Auburn
DL: Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
DL: Dante Fowler, Jr., Florida
DL: Chris Jones, Miss. State
LB: Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
LB: Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB: Darian Claiborne, Texas A&M
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
DB: Rashard Robinson, LSU
DB: Josh Harvey-Clemons, Georgia
DB: Landon Collins, Alabama
PK: Colby Delahoussaye, LSU
P: Landon Foster, Kentucky
RS: Trey Williams, Texas A&M
The Longhorns put their hopes in the Garrett Gilbert basket on the recruiting trail, but when Gilbert struggled in 2010 and was benched in 2011, they were left without a big-time prospect.
But has too much blame gone to the quarterbacks? They have the ball in their hands the most, but Gilbert hasn't gotten much help from his receivers.
Texas has recruited some of the nation's best over the past few years, and here's a look at how they shook out:
2008 (three ESPNU 150 receivers):
- D.J. Grant: Grant, an Austin native, was the nation's No. 5 receiver and the best signee in the 2008 class. He moved to tight end this year after missing the 2009 and 2010 seasons with a knee injury and redshirted in 2008. He caught 13 passes for 143 yards and a team-high three touchdowns this year.
- Dan Buckner: Buckner was the nation's No. 6 receiver, and caught 45 passes for 442 yards in Colt McCoy's senior season back in 2009, but transferred to Arizona after the season. He caught 42 passes for 606 yards and two scores for the Wildcats this year.
- DeSean Hales: Hales was No. 95 in the ESPNU 150 and the nation's No. 17 receiver, and caught 10 passes in 2010 before catching one pass in 2011.
- Only receiver signee was Greg Timmons, who never made a catch and left the program before 2011.
- Mike Davis: Davis was the team's leading receiver in 2011 (45 rec., 609 yards, TD) after being No. 2 in 2010 with 47 catches for 479 yards.
- Darius White: White had six catches for 71 yards in two seasons at Texas. He left the team after 2011 and plans to transfer to Missouri.
- Chris Jones: Redshirted in 2010 before transferring in November, during the 2011 season.
- No ESPNU 150 signees but four-star recruit Jaxon Shipley emerged as one of the team's best weapons before suffering a knee injury that slowed his progress and caused him to miss three games. He finished with 44 catches for 607 yards.
- Miles Onyegbule also caught four passes for 51 yards.
So, there you have it.
Six top-flight recruits. Zero impact players among them, though Davis has the most upside of the group and led the team in 2011. Shipley looks the part of future star, and Davis did as a true freshman, but he didn't show a ton of improvement in 2011.
The quarterback play has a lot to do with it, but Texas has swung and missed on so many receivers along the recruiting trail in recent years, perhaps the blame has fallen too heavily on the quarterbacks' shoulders.
Texas lost ESPNU 150 member Thomas Johnson, and has just one receiver committed for the 2012 class, which will sign letters of intent on Feb. 1. Johnson was the nation's No. 4 wide receiver, but he's not coming. Texas is still chasing the nation's No. 1 receiver, Dorial Green-Beckham, but it seems Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri have the inside track in that race.
In 2012, ESPNU 150 recruit Cayleb Jones is set to join the Longhorns. He's the nation's No. 3 receiver.
Marcus Johnson, the nation's No. 79 receiver, and Kendall Sanders are the only other players signed up to come to Austin and play receiver in 2012. Sanders is rated as the nation's No. 10 cornerback.
Can they change the trend?
Cast blame for the receiving troubles wherever you'd like: Coaches' development, poor recruiting evaluation, poor work ethic by the receivers. You could probably come up with a few more.
But it's clear that quarterbacks haven't been the only problem at Texas the past two years.
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