NCF Nation: Josh Dobbs

What we learned in the SEC: Week 12

November, 15, 2014
11/15/14
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We’re getting close to resolution in the SEC’s division races after another wild weekend of conference play.

Here are five things we learned after the conclusion of Saturday’s games:

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper
AP Photo/Butch DillWith their win over Mississippi State, Amari Cooper and Alabama are on track to play for the SEC title.
Georgia-Alabama?: We went through all of that to get to this? After beating No. 1 Mississippi State 25-20 on Saturday, Alabama is back in the driver’s seat in the SEC West, as many prognosticators expected before the season. Meanwhile, Georgia (9-2, 6-2 SEC) destroyed Auburn 34-7 in its final SEC game of the season, which put the pressure on Missouri to win out if it wants to win the SEC East. Otherwise, it’ll be Alabama-Georgia in the SEC championship game, which seemed the most likely outcome before the Mississippi schools and Missouri made unexpected title pushes. Mizzou (8-2, 5-1) still leads the way in the East, though, with games remaining at Tennessee and versus Arkansas. The Tigers can still spoil the Bulldogs’ title hopes, and Georgia tailback Todd Gurley's injury status will also have a bearing on the Bulldogs' prospects moving forward.

It tolls for thee, Muschamp: Maybe there was a way for Will Muschamp to save his job after Florida shocked Georgia a couple weeks ago. But the way the Gators blew a late lead and fell 23-20 in overtime against South Carolina on Saturday -- getting two kicks blocked in the last 3:30 -- probably removed any doubt. The Gators are now 5-4 and can become bowl eligible with a win against Eastern Kentucky next week, but this has to be the end for Muschamp. The Gators should have won this game but imploded at home in the closing minutes.

A breakthrough for Arkansas: It was a long time coming, but Bret Bielema finally got the first league win of his Arkansas tenure when the Razorbacks shut out LSU 17-0 on Saturday. Oddly enough, the win ended a 17-game SEC losing streak. The Hogs came close against several teams this season -- most notably Alabama and Mississippi State -- but they controlled the night against LSU. They even handed the Tigers their first shutout loss since they fell 21-0 to Alabama in the BCS title game to end the 2011 season. Clearly, it meant something to the Razorbacks’ fans, though. They rushed the field to celebrate the win.

Gus Bus hits a speed bump: Saturday’s loss was by far the worst for No. 9 Auburn since Gus Malzahn became head coach last season. The Tigers scored seven points in a loss to Georgia -- well below their previous scoring low (20 points in a win against Kansas State earlier this season) under Malzahn. Auburn came in averaging 506.9 yards and 38.7 points per game and mustered just 292 yards and seven points against a UGA defense that got dominated by lowly Florida two weeks ago. The Tigers also lost for the second straight week and fell out of the SEC West and playoff conversations.

Look out for the Vols: They lost their first four games in SEC play, but here come the Tennessee Volunteers (5-5, 2-4). With quarterback Josh Dobbs leading the charge, the Vols blasted Kentucky 50-16 on Saturday after beating South Carolina in overtime two weeks ago. Dobbs passed for 297 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday and ran for 48 yards and another score. They’ll host Missouri on Saturday with a chance to spoil the Tigers’ hopes of winning the SEC East.

SEC viewer's guide: Week 10

October, 31, 2014
10/31/14
10:00
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Ready for the weekend? Here's a glance at the SEC slate. All times Eastern:

Noon

Louisiana-Monroe at Texas A&M, SEC Network: This is what the doctor ordered for the Aggies, who are coming off a three-game losing streak, including their second-worst loss in school history (a 59-0 embarrassment in Alabama). Louisiana-Monroe won't be intimidated, because it has played two other SEC teams on the road this year (LSU and Kentucky). It will likely matter little. The thing to watch in this game is who starts at quarterback for the Aggies: Kyle Allen or Kenny Hill (it's sounding as though Allen will get the nod, his first after Hill started the previous eight, though A&M won't make the decision publicly known until its first offensive possession Saturday).

3:30 p.m.

[+] EnlargeTreon Harris
AP Images/John RaouxThe Gators turn to true freshman QB Treon Harris to break Florida's three-game losing streak against the Bulldogs.
Florida at No. 11 Georgia, CBS: Georgia is going for its fourth straight win in this rivalry and if the Bulldogs get it, it'll be the first four-game winning streak over the Gators in this series since 1983, when they capped off a six-game winning streak. And if they're able to, expect the Will Muschamp talk to only intensify. The Florida coach's days in Gainesville seem to be numbered. The Gators have made a quarterback change though, giving true freshman Treon Harris the start for this one. So that provides some intrigue for the Gators while the Bulldogs try to strengthen their hold on the SEC East lead.

4 p.m.

Kentucky at Missouri, SEC Network: This should be one of the most compelling games of the day. Kentucky is still seeking that sixth win to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2010. The Wildcats lost last week but competed admirably against No. 1 Mississippi State. Missouri is looking to stay within reach of Georgia in the SEC East Division race but the Tigers have been up and down this season. They've won their past two thanks to their defense and special teams but the offense has left much to be desired of late.

7 p.m.

No. 3 Auburn at No. 4 Ole Miss, ESPN: Make no bones about it, this is the game of the day (or night, rather). It's basically a College Football Playoff elimination game, as the loser would have a rough time trying to sneak back into the top four. Ole Miss is coming off its first loss, a 10-7 heartbreaker to LSU in Death Valley; Auburn had to shoot it out with South Carolina to escape with a 42-35 home win last week. You have Auburn, one of the league's premier offenses, going against Ole Miss' Landshark D. And two innovative coaches (Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn) who started from the bottom -- now they're here. Should be a blast.

Old Dominion at Vanderbilt, ESPNU: With no SEC wins and a rough first season for its new coach, Vanderbilt needs all the positives it can get. That means a win here would be nice, regardless of the fact that it's a nonconference game against a Conference USA team. The quarterback carousel continues for the Commodores as redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary became the team's fourth starting quarterback this year. Fortunately, he showed some signs of promise in the loss to Missouri, throwing two touchdowns, and will get the nod again, though Derek Mason noted Patton Robinette could see some time as he recovers from an injury. Old Dominion comes into this game having lost four straight.

7:15 p.m.

Arkansas at No. 1 Mississippi State, ESPN2: Mississippi State has been No. 1 for a few weeks in the polls, but it is in the driver's seat officially now, holding the No. 1 ranking in the first set of College Football Playoff rankings. The pressure will undoubtedly increase each week as the Bulldogs get closer; it will be compelling to see how the Bulldogs handle it. This week's challenge is Arkansas, a team still seeking its first SEC win of the Bret Bielema era but a squad that has given other SEC West foes headaches, taking Alabama and Texas A&M down to the wire. Mississippi State has won 10 straight; Arkansas' SEC skid is now at 16.

7:30 p.m.

Tennessee at South Carolina, SEC Network: Both teams are having a rough go at it this year but when these two met at Neyland Stadium last year, it was quite memorable. South Carolina came in ranked as the No. 11 team nationally but Tennessee pulled off a 23-21 win with a 19-yard field goal from Michael Palardy as time expired. Butch Jones did not publicly announce who is starting at quarterback for this game (Justin Worley, Nathan Peterman and Josh Dobbs are the options) and the Vols are still seeking their first SEC win of the season. South Carolina is looking to snap a three-game SEC skid and it's a wonder if we'll see some more fourth-down magic from Steve Spurrier, whose Gamecocks went 5-for-6 on fourth down last week.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Lane Kiffin's return to Neyland Stadium was a successful one, as Alabama rolled up 469 yards of offense in a 34-20 win over Tennessee. Things got a little interesting after the first quarter, but Alabama held strong in front of a crowd of 102,455. Here's how it happened:

How the game was won: Alabama put on a clinic in the first quarter, leading 20-0 and outgaining Tennessee 253 to 80 yards. Alabama added another touchdown in the second, but Tennessee made a nice comeback during the second and third quarters, after Joshua Dobbs replaced Nathan Peterman at quarterback. Alabama converted 11 of 15 third downs, and Derrick Henry's 28-yard touchdown run late in the third put the game away.

Gameball goes to: Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper was outstanding, as 185 of his 224 yards and both of his touchdowns came in the first quarter, alone. Cooper made plays down the sideline and over the middle. He was easily the best player on the field all night, and continues to look like the country's best receiver.

What it means: Alabama didn't look as sharp after the first quarter, but the win means it's still very much in the SEC -- and playoff -- race. With Ole Miss losing to LSU, Alabama is right back in the thick of the SEC race, especially with Mississippi State playing in Tuscaloosa in November. Tennessee might have lost its eighth straight to Alabama, but Dobbs might have played himself into the starting role for as long as Justin Worley is out after looking more confident that we've seen in the past and throwing for 192 yards with two touchdowns. He also rushed for 75 yards.

Playoff implication: Alabama is in great position, really. After two straight dominating wins, Alabama still has an ever-improving LSU team to play (on the road) and No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 5 Auburn at home to close the season. Alabama is hitting its stride and strength of schedule won't be a problem for the Tide at all.

Best play: It has to be Cooper's touchdown on Alabama's first play from scrimmage. What started as a routine pass underneath to the right flat turned into a back-breaker for Tennessee's defense, as Cooper sprinted toward the sideline, made a move on a defender and was gone. Who was jacked about it? Oh, that would be Kiffin, who sprinted alongside him some.

video What's next: It cools down this week for Alabama, as the Tide have a bye next weekend. However, the following week brings a trip to Baton Rouge to play LSU. Tennessee travels to South Carolina next week.
Now that Riley Ferguson has apparently decided Tennessee is not for him, the Vols’ future at quarterback just got a lot murkier.

And, really, not so much for this upcoming season. The feeling among the Tennessee coaches coming out of the spring was that senior Justin Worley would be their starter. The Vols played their best football a year ago when Worley was healthy.

[+] EnlargeJustin Worley
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesJustin Worley should be fine under center in 2014, but who will be the Vols' quarterback in a critical 2015 season?
He’ll have more playmakers around him this season and has both the experience and right stuff mentally to more than adequately man the quarterback position for the Vols in 2014.

It’s the 2015 season that should have Butch Jones and the Big Orange Nation on alert.

That’s the season Jones needs to make his move, his third season on the job. Regardless of what he does this year, he’s going to be (and should be) OK.

But Year No. 3 will be pivotal. That’s when the first fair evaluation of the program on Jones’ watch can be made, and it’s reasonable to expect the Vols should at least be in the East Division race conversation by then.

As it appears now, Jones and the Vols will head into such an important season with either a first-year starter at quarterback -- presumably a true freshman -- or hoping rising sophomore Josh Dobbs gets a lot better between now and then.

There’s no question Tennessee needs to upgrade on the defensive line if this program is going to return to the prominence it enjoyed in the 1990s under Phillip Fulmer. The Vols hope they’ve taken a big step in that direction with the defensive line class they’re bringing in this summer.

But the more you look at it, the more pressing priority now for Jones is getting it right at quarterback. In fact, his future may well depend on it.

The good news for the Vols is that they should be in prime position to lure a top-flight quarterback in the 2015 class. Some of the ones they’re on are Sam Darnold of San Clemente, California; Quinten Dormady of Boerne, Texas; Deondre Francois of Orlando, Florida; Torrance Gibson of Plantation, Florida; and Sheriron Jones of Moreno Valley, California.

Tennessee hadn’t been exploring the idea of bringing in a junior college quarterback or a transfer, but that could well be an option now. Maybe the Vols hit it just right, similar to the way Auburn did with Nick Marshall or the way Alabama hopes it has with Jacob Coker.

Either way, good luck in pinpointing the Vols’ quarterback of the future.

That’s not to write off Dobbs, who was put into a very difficult situation last season when he had to come in and play as a true freshman after Worley was injured. He struggled during the last month of the season, but to his credit, he came back this spring and performed well in the Vols’ spring game.

It’s also telling that while Ferguson went home to Charlotte, North Carolina, after the semester ended earlier this month that Dobbs and Worley were both out in California working with quarterback guru George Whitfield.

Nathan Peterman, who will be a redshirt sophomore, also returns, although his reps were limited in the spring. There was some thought that he might transfer, too.

The bottom line is that there’s not a quarterback on campus who will be around in 2015 who has inspired confidence among the coaches or his teammates that he can unequivocally be “the guy” to lead the Vols back into championship contention.

Look, that can change, and we’ve all seen quarterbacks develop, transform and grow over time. And even though Ferguson was thought to be the most talented of the bunch, do you really trust a guy to lead your team who never seemed to have both feet in the boat?

It’s probably better for Jones and Co. to find that out now as opposed to later, say in the fourth quarter of a tight game on the road against Alabama or Florida.

With the way Jones and his staff are recruiting, the Vols should finally look like an SEC-contending team again in 2015.

But the race is on to find the right trigger man.

SEC Power Rankings: Week 10

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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We are officially in the sport's toughest month. Alabama has survived this month before without being perfect, but can the Crimson Tide afford that this season? The next few weeks will tell:

1. Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC; last week: 1): The Crimson Tide were off last week, which sets up perfectly for Alabama's home showdown with LSU this weekend. Knock Alabama's cakewalk of an October all you want, but the Tide allowed just 20 points last month while scoring 45 or more in all four games.

2. Auburn (8-1, 4-1 SEC; LW: 2): The offense wasn't totally exciting in the win over Arkansas, but it's pretty clear that running back Tre Mason is knocking on the door of the elite running backs club in the SEC. He's third in the league with 921 rushing yards and leads the conference with 13 touchdowns. There's no need for Auburn to throw much when the Tigers are rushing for 5.1 yards per carry and crossing the 230-yard mark.

3. Texas A&M (7-2, 3-2 SEC; LW: 3): We've been waiting to see a complete performance from the Aggies, and they looked pretty good on both sides of the ball against an overmatched UTEP team. Who cares what kind of talent the Miners didn't have; A&M needed this kind of game to start November. Behind six Johnny Manziel touchdowns and a defense that allowed just 198 yards and 3.2 yards per play, the Aggies rolled 57-7.

4. South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC; LW: 4): The Gamecocks are a victory over Florida away from sitting back and rooting for Ole Miss and Texas A&M to knock off Missouri and for Auburn to take down Georgia. If all that happens, the Gamecocks, who dismantled Mississippi State 34-16 on Saturday, will be headed to Atlanta for the SEC championship game. Also, running back Mike Davis has been excellent and leads the SEC with 1,058 yards.

5. Missouri (8-1, 4-1 SEC; LW: 5): The Tigers throttled Tennessee 31-3 at home and still control their own destiny in the SEC East. Missouri hit the 500-yard mark on offense for the fifth time this season and harassed the Vols' offense all day, forcing three turnovers and allowing just 334 yards.

6. LSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC; LW: 6): The Tigers were off, which gives them an extra week to prepare for No. 1 Alabama. LSU has had a problem with focus in the last couple of games, but don't expect that to be an issue in Tuscaloosa, Ala. LSU won the last time it was there and gave Alabama a heck of a game last season. LSU, averaging 480 yards of offense per game, will be only the third team Alabama has faced that is averaging more than 400 yards.

7. Georgia (5-3, 4-2 SEC; LW: 7): Aaron Murray picked up his third consecutive victory over Florida and the Bulldogs are right back in the East race. They still need Mizzou to lose two more SEC games, but the Dawgs aren't out of it by any means. Georgia's 23-20 victory over the Gators wasn't exactly pretty with its second-half play, but the Dawgs put up 414 yards on the SEC's then-No. 1 defense.

8. Ole Miss (5-3, 2-3 SEC; LW: 8): The Rebels were off, but should still have some momentum churning after consecutive victories. The Rebels rank eighth in the conference in total offense (462.3) and sixth in total defense (379.4). Now, Ole Miss prepares to host an Arkansas team that has lost six in a row.

9. Florida (4-4, 3-3 SEC; LW: 9): It's been a very long and very frustrating season for the Gators. With their loss to Georgia, they are looking at a 6-6 season after winning 11 last year. But with Vanderbilt next, 5-7 certainly isn't out of the question. This team is struggling in all phases of the game, Will Muschamp is feeling the heat and it's clear that Florida's stale offense is too limited to drastically improve.

10. Tennessee (4-5, 1-4 SEC; LW: 10): Freshman Josh Dobbs is now the guy at quarterback, but he had a rough debut as the Vols' starter in the loss to Missouri. He threw for 240 yards, but had two interceptions and was sacked twice. This team still has a long way to go on both sides of the ball, but there has to be some encouragement with Dobbs' play. He certainly isn't perfect, and he needs a lot more help around him, but is composure has been better than expected.

11. Vanderbilt (4-4, 1-4 SEC; LW: 11): After being blown out by Texas A&M, the Commodores were off. This team really is hurting without Chris Boyd on offense, and injuries on defense haven't helped. But Vanderbilt is still very much in the postseason race and takes on a Florida team that has now dropped three games in a row.

12. Mississippi State (4-4, 1-3 SEC; LW: 12:): The Bulldogs' two-game winning streak ended with a blowout loss to South Carolina. The Bulldogs hung around in the first half, but were outscored 17-6 in the second half. It didn't help the Bulldogs that quarterback Dak Prescott threw three interceptions after throwing just three on the season coming in. With Texas A&M, Alabama and Ole Miss remaining, making a bowl game won't be easy.

13. Arkansas (3-6, 0-5 SEC; LW: 13): A very long season for the Razorbacks only got longer with their 35-17 loss to Auburn. The good news for the Hogs is that the defense had one of its better performances in conference play and the offense hit the 300-yard mark for the first time since Sept. 28. But there just aren't enough working parts on either side of the ball for this team to be competitive under Bret Bielema.

14. Kentucky (2-6, 0-4 SEC; LW: 14): After losing five in a row, the Wildcats got back into the win column with a 48-14 victory over Alabama State. The competition wasn't great, but Mark Stoops and this bunch will take any wins they can at this point. Banged-up quarterback Jalen Whitlow had an impressive day, rushing for 101 yards and two touchdowns and throwing for 186 yards and two more scores. One of his rushing touchdowns came on an 88-yard run in the first quarter.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 10

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
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World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail PartyKevin Liles/USA TODAY SportsTailgaters fill the parking lots in Jacksonville with a sea of red and black, orange and blue.

Here are 10 things to watch in the SEC this week:

1. All eyes on Jacksonville: Don't look now, but the battle formerly known as the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party has some intrigue. Georgia has been decimated by injuries, but Mark Richt continues to send Aaron Murray out to play each Saturday, giving UGA a chance to win. Murray has hung in despite the fact players are dropping like flies around him. If he gets a third consecutive win over rival Florida, it might make it all worthwhile. Florida has dealt with its own set of injuries, but more problematic is the Gators' offensive ineptitude. Quarterback Tyler Murphy will have to find a way to score some points on Saturday. But for two teams with so many problems, whichever gets out of Jacksonville with a win is still in the SEC East race. Missouri's loss last weekend breathed new life into both squads.

2. Can South Carolina keep it up? It would be classic South Carolina to come out on Saturday against unranked Mississippi State and play down to the competition. It's happened so much lately that we've come to expect it. After winning a thriller on the road last weekend against Missouri, the Gamecocks are on upset alert. Without Connor Shaw's fourth-quarter return, South Carolina loses to Missouri by two touchdowns. If he can't start against Mississippi State, will Steve Spurrier's offense sputter again? You have to like Shaw's leadership, and after all he's done you have to believe he'll play on Saturday and play well.

[+] EnlargeMaty Mauk
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonMissouri redshirt freshman Maty Mauk is likely to make his third career start against Tennessee true freshman Josh Dobbs, who will make his first start.
3. Missouri rebound: That was a hard pill to swallow. Missouri was undefeated and ranked in the top five of the BCS Standings at this time last week. Then South Carolina hit the Tigers with a brutal rope-a-dope, pulling Shaw off the bench, down 17 points, for the fourth-quarter comeback. It took two overtimes and a missed field goal for Missouri's perfect season to come to an end. But Gary Pinkel's squad is by no means out of the SEC East race. A win against Tennessee would keep the Tigers in the driver's seat. But watch out for the Vols, who beat South Carolina earlier in the month.

4. Josh Dobbs: Speaking of Tennessee, keep an eye on the true freshman quarterback. Butch Jones burned his redshirt this past weekend, bringing him off the bench in the second half against Alabama. The athletic Dobbs provided a spark to a Vols offense that couldn't move the football to save its life. His ability to get outside the pocket and buy time helped the receivers, and his speed and elusiveness allowed him to pick up yards with his feet. It's too early to say he's won the starting job, but watch closely because a good game against Missouri could propel him to such status. We could very well be looking at Tennessee's future under center.

5. The SEC East race: The field in the SEC East will narrow this weekend. The loser of the Georgia-Florida game is likely out of it, and neither Missouri nor South Carolina have sure-thing wins on their plates. It may appear that no one wants to win the division and be forced to play Alabama in the conference championship, but someone's got to do it.

6. Manziel health watch: The Johnny Manziel watch never ends. But no, I'm not talking about monitoring his off-the-field behavior this time. No, there's still some concern over whether the defending Heisman Trophy winner is healthy. He injured his throwing arm late against Auburn and played well this past weekend against Vanderbilt. But with Texas A&M facing an overmatched UTEP team Saturday, should he play?

7. Bielema versus Malzahn: Boy, did we see a rivalry form at SEC media days when a pair of first-year coaches in the SEC, Arkansas' Bret Bielema and Auburn's Gus Malzahn, traded barbs about the safety of the no-huddle offense. Malzahn said he thought it was a joke. Bielema said he wasn't a comedian. It was awesome. Their rivalry was born that day, and this week it sprouted leaves as Bielema accused Auburn of altering the game film it sent to Arkansas in preparation for this week's game between the two programs. The issue even prompted a response from Auburn to the SEC. Man, the Malzahn-Bielema postgame handshake is going to be fun.

8. Jeremy Johnson: Every time Nick Marshall goes down at quarterback for Auburn, Johnson steps right in and doesn't miss a beat. Both times the freshman has played significant reps, he's won SEC Freshman of the Week honors, first against Western Carolina and then last weekend against Florida Atlantic. With Marshall officially "day to day," according to Malzahn, expect the focus to shift to Johnson again.

9. The trainer's table: Playing an SEC schedule will catch up with you. We're starting to see injuries pile up around the league recently as the fatigue of playing physical games week in and week out builds. Tennessee is turning to a true freshman quarterback in place of Justin Worley (injured thumb). Missouri senior quarterback James Franklin is questionable, leaving backup Maty Mauk in a weird state of limbo. South Carolina, meanwhile, is hoping Shaw can continue to play the part of Superman and keep coming back from injury. Oh, and let's not forget Jeff Driskel's prolonged absence at Florida. If another SEC quarterback goes down, we'll have to start calling it an epidemic.

10. Who isn't playing: Give Alabama and LSU credit because they know how to make a schedule. The rivalry game between the two schools isn't until Nov. 9, so they're taking the week off. But unfortunately for the rest of the SEC, those teams' bye weeks leave the league to play without two of its best. Where's the fun in that? We're even deprived of seeing Hugh Freeze and his up-tempo offense at Ole Miss. The SEC East is busy this weekend, but the West is noticeably boring.
A year ago, things were much different for Johnny Manziel and college football as a whole. The country hadn't yet figured out who he was. And neither had he. Johnny Football hadn't yet been born.

The breathtaking plays, the otherworldly athleticism, the Sharpie-saturated scandal -- none of it had begun to devour College Station midway through fall camp in 2012. We were still wondering how Texas A&M would adjust to the SEC, not the other way around.

It felt like the league had finally caught its breath from Cam Newton's unexpected romp through the conference when Manziel came along, first winning the Aggies' starting quarterback job and then the Heisman Trophy. His ascension was as swift as it was unpredictable. He didn't look the part of a superstar, but he could sure play it. At 6-foot in stilettos, Manziel was a ballroom dancer on the football field, only no one else could figure out the steps.

Can anyone catch on to his act this year? No one knows.

Can anyone duplicate his success? Maybe.

With that in mind, here's a look at some sleeper candidates to pull off a Manziel-like rise from a no-name commodity to a player on the tip of everyone's tongue:

[+] EnlargeMike Davis
Curtis Wilson/USA TODAY SportsAfter averaging 5.3 yards a carry in spot duty last season, and with a huge line in front of him, Gamecocks running back Mike Davis is poised for a big year.
Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina: Steve Spurrier put it best when he went on the ESPN airwaves and told the "First Take" desk, "You don't know much about Mike Davis, but watch him play this year." The 5-foot-9, 215-pound sophomore filled in admirably for Marcus Lattimore when he went down, rushing for 5.3 yards per carry. With a mammoth offensive line -- the smallest of the projected starters coming in at 314 pounds -- South Carolina has to feel good about Davis' potential.

Jordan Jenkins, LB, Georgia: Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree got all the attention, but Jenkins was a quiet force on the Georgia defense as a freshman last season. At 6-3 and 246 pounds and with the speed of a safety, Jenkins aims to improve on his five sacks and set his sights on the school's single-season sack record of 14.5 that Jones set a year ago. If he reaches that goal and Georgia is in the SEC championship game again, Bulldogs fans will know who to thank.

Brandon Williams, RB, Texas A&M: Watch the Aggies long enough this season and your attention will inevitably be turned in two directions: to Manziel and his speedy tailback. Williams, a transfer from Oklahoma, hasn't won the starting job just yet, but give him time. With his burst, he'll be a threat to score every time he touches the football.

Tre'Davious White, DB, LSU: He's just a true freshman, but White is the type of cornerback LSU has become known for. Big, athletic and physical, he has the upside of former Tigers great Morris Claiborne. And like Claiborne, White came out of Shreveport, La., and knows a thing or two about playing with an edge.

Denzel Devall, LB, Alabama: Alabama has been something like Linebacker U in recent years, with Rolando McClain, Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw starring at the position. And though C.J. Mosley certainly fits the bill of an All-American talent, he's not as physically imposing as his predecessors. Devall is. At a solid 6-2 and 250 pounds, Devall has the size and the talent to be a force at linebacker for the Tide this season.

Nick Marshall or Jeremy Johnson, QBs, Auburn: It's down to either Marshall or Johnson, and whomever Auburn ends up with will have the talent to make plays in Gus Malzahn's offense. Johnson has an NFL arm, according to the new coach. Marshall brings more of a running flair to his game, a former Georgia cornerback who went the junior college route to end up on The Plains. Both are raw, but with some polishing they could be playmakers in the SEC.

Matt Jones, RB, Florida: If Will Muschamp's revitalization of power football really is complete in Gainesville, then Jones will be looked on as the final piece to the puzzle. A bowling ball of a runner, Jones brings a north-south style of play to a Gators backfield that has too long gone sideline to sideline. Up to 226 pounds after backing up Mike Gillislee last year, Jones has the size to shoulder the load and a coaching staff willing to let him do it.

Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennesee: He may be a year off, but Dobbs is the type of quarterback who could revitalize the Tennessee fan base with his ability to make big plays with his arm and his feet. Though a true freshman, he has a leg up on his competition in that he's not a typical pro-style passer recruited by coaches from bygone eras. First-year coach Butch Jones is looking for a fresh start at Tennessee, and he could be tempted to dive in head-first with Dobbs, who has the size and athleticism that's perfect for his up-tempo scheme.

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