- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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All four had breakout seasons in 2009, guys who went from role players/solid players to All-SEC caliber players.
Who are those players going to be in 2010?
Let’s take a look:
1. Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus: Several in and around Alabama’s program think Dareus will be the next great defensive lineman for the Crimson Tide. He certainly made his presence felt in the BCS National Championship Game in January when he was named the game’s Defensive MVP after returning an interception 28 yards for a touchdown and knocking Texas quarterback Colt McCoy out of the game. Dareus only started in four games last season, but he still wound up with 9.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Look for those numbers to soar in 2010, and look for him to emerge as one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the league.
2. Florida quarterback John Brantley: Following a legend is always difficult, but Brantley has the skills to be one of the top three quarterbacks in the SEC next season. No, he’s not going to make everybody forget about Tim Tebow, and he’s not going to be able to provide everything Tebow did for the Gators the last three seasons. But what Brantley can do is throw the football, and Florida will build its offense around Brantley’s strengths next season. The 6-3, 217-pound junior had a lot of work with the first-team offense last spring while Tebow was resting his shoulder and performed extremely well.
3. Vanderbilt safety Sean Richardson: Some might say that Richardson already introduced himself to the league last season with his 84 tackles, which led all SEC defensive backs during the regular season. But if you’re looking for prototypical safeties who can hit, cover and act as an enforcer back there in the secondary, the 6-2, 210-pound Richardson has a chance to really be special next season. Vanderbilt defensive coordinator/secondary coach Jamie Bryant has done an outstanding job when it comes to grooming quality defensive backs, but Richardson is the kind of punishing tackler that may be one of the best yet to come out of Vanderbilt.
4. Arkansas running back Ronnie Wingo Jr.: The Hogs have so many returning offensive weapons that it’s easy for some of those guys to get lost in the shuffle. Don’t look for that to happen with Wingo, who has everything Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino likes in a running back. The 6-3, 220-pound sophomore is fast, tough and can catch the ball out of the backfield. Wingo played in all 13 games last season as a true freshman and ranked fourth on the team in total yards (319) and carries (47). He averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Petrino is on record as saying that the Hogs need to get the ball in Wingo’s hands more and will look for ways to do that this coming season.
5. LSU receiver Rueben Randle: With Brandon LaFell gone, somebody at LSU has to step next season on offense and become that go-to player. The 6-3, 200-pound Randle has all the physical tools to be that player. He was the No. 1 receiver prospect in the nation when he signed with the Tigers and started in four games last season as a freshman. Randle sort of played in LaFell’s shadow, but still caught two touchdown passes and averaged 15.7 yards per catch. In a lot of ways, he was still getting re-acclimated to the position after playing quarterback as a high school senior. Look for Randle to blossom in 2010. The Tigers sure need him to.
4dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
5dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney