Monday, August 20, 2012
Proving ground: Eastern Division
By Edward Aschoff
Now that you've seen Chris' five players in the SEC West with the most to prove this fall, let's take at the five players in the East who have a lot to prove in 2012:
Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee: There's no doubting Bray's passing ability, but he's yet to play an entire season for the Vols. He came on late as a freshman and missed five games last year after breaking his thumb against Georgia. Can he stay on the field for a full season? He also has to get rid of his lazy tendencies on the field, something he's said he's worked hard at since the spring. Also, after proclaiming this spring that he was taking his leadership to another level, Bray transgressed with off-the-field issues. He has to be more serious on and off the field.
The expectations have ramped up for Jadaveon Clowney after a very strong freshman season.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: We all know how talented and athletic Clowney is, but he's getting a ton of press and attention heading into his sophomore season. He's being moved around the defense by South Carolina's coaches, but can he duplicate or improve on the eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss he had during his rookie season? A lot is expected from Clowney in his second year and while the coaches are thrilled with his progress we still have to see it on the field. His play could dictate a lot when it comes to the Gamecocks' defense.
Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida: The Gators are looking for their first real downhill rusher since Tim Tebow left. Gillislee is now the guy and its time for him to get over his inconsistencies on the field. One problem he had was just not getting comfortable in Florida's offense.Gillislee means so much this fall because the offense might have to revolve around him. With two young quarterbacks battling it out, the running game will have to be strong for Florida, and that starts with Gillislee. The way he goes is the same way the offense will go.
Marcus Lucas, WR, Missouri: Offensive coordinator David Yost said this spring that he tried to get Lucas on the field as much as possible last fall because of his speed and playmaking ability. The result was 23 catches for 414 yards and five touchdowns. Now, Yost wants more. Lucas admits he slacked some during his first years, but insists that he's totally dialed in now. Mizzou is still looking for a true downfield passing game and Lucas has what it takes to be a top deep threat in this league. A lot of attention has been paid to highly touted freshman Dorial Green-Beckham, but Mizzou's staff wants -- and needs -- a big year out of Lucas.
Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: He has all the tools and leadership qualities, but as he enters his junior season, Murray still has the reputation for struggling in big games. He has a 2-7 record against ranked teams and has admitted to pressing too much and trying to take on too much in bigger games. That comes with building more trust and chemistry. Murray had a rough start and finish to the 2011 season, and the criticism continues to roll in. Still, Murray could be a possible Heisman candidate if he can stay calmer in the pocket and let his receiving weapons help him more.