NCF Nation: Tobias Singleton

Our look at the SEC's most productive returning players in 2012 continues with a look at the league's top returning kickoff returners.

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The SEC returns seven of the top 10 kick returners from 2011. The top three returners are back, so kickers beware. However, the ball will now be moved forward five yards to the 35-yard line for kickoffs, meaning returns should occur less often. But that also means they'll now be more important. We're going by average per return. Note: To qualify, a player must have at least one return per team's games played. This is one of the most exciting plays in football and here's a look at the SEC's top returner:

Tre Mason, RB, Auburn: He returned 24 kicks for an average of 26.4 yards per return, had a long of 97 yards and recorded a touchdown. Mason dealt with being in a crowded backfield by making a name for himself in the return game during the first half of the season. He did most of his damage in the first two weeks, grabbing 10 returns for 348 yards and had a touchdown in the season opener against Utah State. He saw his production dip as the season went on because of injuries and his fumbling issues. He eventually lost his job, but could he make a comeback for his crown in 2012?

The SEC returns six more of the top kickoff returners in 2012:

Andre Debose, WR, Florida: He returned 19 kicks for an average of 26.1 yards per return, had a long of 99 yards and registered one touchdown.

Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas: He returned 18 kicks for an average of 25.6 yards per return, had a long of 98 yards and registered one touchdown.

Tobias Singleton, RB, Ole Miss: He returned 21 kicks for an average of 24.6 yards per return and had a long of 47 yards.

Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt: He returned 31 kicks for an average of 23.8 yards per return, had a long of 96 yards and registered one touchdown.

Devrin Young, RB, Tennessee: He returned 27 kicks for an average of 23.3 yards per return and had a long of 67 yards.

Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina: He returned 20 kicks for an average of 23.2 yards and had a long of 45 yards.

With kickoffs being moved up, we might see even less in the kick return game this fall. We could also see a new winner for this category if Mason doesn't get his job back. And with the amount of production he'll have on offense, his returns might get cut short anyway. Keep an eye on Mason's teammates, Onterio McCalebb and Quan Bray. McCalebb averaged 30.1 yards per return and had a touchdown on just 11 returns, while Bray averaged 24.2 on 10 returns.

Johnson has always been very dangerous in the return game. He entered the 2011 season as the SEC's active leader for career kickoff return yards and total return yards with 2,014 and he added 461 last fall. Johnson will likely have more steam to work with this fall with Knile Davis eating into his carries at running back. That will make him even tougher to stop in the return game and counting him out of the race for the return crown is just silly.

Debose was named the nation’s top kick returner by the College Football Performance Awards in 2010, but has always had some issues with his decision-making in the return game. Still, there's no doubting his speed when he finds a hole. When he's focused, he's exciting to watch, but he's yet to keep his focus for an entire season as a returner.

LaDarius Perkins will have more responsibility in Mississippi State's offense, but he was sometimes fun to watch in the return game.

Missouri receiver T.J. Moe averaged 23.3 yards on 26 kicks, but didn't return a kick longer than 49 yards. Still, he's shifty enough and has the vision to make a run at this thing.
On Tuesday, Tobias Singleton confirmed to The Clarion Ledger that he had enrolled at Ole Miss. On Wednesday, he started summer school, a team spokesman confirmed to ESPN.com.

The NCAA Clearinghouse reviewed Singleton’s high school transcript after his ACT score increased from a 16 to a 24. The Clearinghouse is accustomed to reviewing such high jumps in scores, so it came as no surprise when Singleton was flagged.

Getting Singleton on campus and ready to compete this summer is pretty big news for the Rebels. Singleton, who ESPN Recruiting ranked as the No. 21 receiver in the country and the No. 128 player overall in the 2011 recruiting class, finished his senior season at Madison (Miss.) Madison Central with more that 1,800 yards of total offense and 19 touchdowns.

With the Rebels short on proven playmakers at wide receiver, the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder is expected to compete immediately for playing time.

Singleton not only possesses quality speed, but he's extremely elusive in the open field. He's someone Ole Miss' coaches are hoping they can use early in the Rebels' offense.

Ole Miss is in desperate need for receiving weapons. Running back Brandon Bolden was Ole Miss' leading receiver last year, grabbing 32 passes for 344 yards. Returning junior Melvin Harris was second in receptions with 30 and had 408 receiving yards. The only other receiver returning with double-digit catches from 2010 is Ja-Mes Logan (29 catches for 387 yards).

The Rebels currently have no proven downfield threat or a receiver who makes defenses adjust what they do. It's still too early to ask Singleton to be that player, but there's no doubt that Ole Miss' staff is expecting him to be that kind of player down the road.

This spring, offensive coordinator David Lee had mixed emotions when discussing his receiving corps. While there were flashes here and there by players, the one consistent factor was the knack for dropping passes.

One real bright spot was redshirt freshman Vince Sanders, who had a game-high 96 receiving yards in the spring game and possesses that big-play ability the Rebels are seeking on offense.

Now, the focus is grooming Singleton, who will be joined by fellow in-state receiver Nickolas Brassell. Brassell is more of a slasher on offense and caught 52 passes for 877 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior.

It's not ideal to put freshmen in these kinds of situations, but the Rebels' coaches won't be afraid to play true freshmen. The Rebels need them and the freshmen will have to learn very quickly if they want to make meaningful contributions to a team looking to rebound from a sloppy 4-8 campaign from a year ago.
True freshmen have been rolling onto SEC campuses this month to get a jump on summer school, and more are on the way for the second session of summer school.

Every year about this time, it’s the same question: Who among the true freshmen will make the biggest impact?

We’ll take our stab at it, breaking it down by division.

We’ll start with the West. One thing to keep in mind is that we’re only including true freshmen who weren’t on campus early and didn’t go through spring practice, so you’re not going to see guys like LSU’s Anthony Johnson, Arkansas’ Brey Cook, Auburn’s Reese Dismukes and Florida’s Jeff Driskel on this list.

We’ll do our impact newcomers (freshman early enrollees, junior college players, transfers, everybody) at a later date.

For now, here’s a look at who among the incoming true freshmen in the West might contribute right away. Edward will do the same with the East later today:

ALABAMA

Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, S: Alabama boasts one of the best safety tandems in the league in Mark Barron and Robert Lester, but the 6-foot-1, 203-pound Clinton-Dix has the size and skill set to come in and make the Crimson Tide even stronger on the back end of their defense.

Cyrus Kouandjio, OT: One of the top offensive tackle prospects in the country last year, Kouandjio could provide some immediate depth. The Tide were already looking at moving All-SEC guard Barrett Jones to left tackle.

ARKANSAS

Tevin Mitchel, CB: The Hogs ended the spring a cornerback short in their secondary, which is where Mitchel comes in. He’ll get a chance to show what he can do this fall both as a lock-down cover guy and potentially as a return specialist. It was a real coup for Arkansas to get him away from Nebraska.

AUBURN

Erique Florence, S: The Tigers were hit hard in the secondary by personnel losses, and Florence was one of the most coveted safety prospects in the country last year. He’s a big-time talent with the size (6-2, 190 pounds) to come in and contribute right away.

Kiehl Frazier, QB: It’s never easy for a quarterback to go straight from high school to the SEC without the benefit of enrolling early and going through spring practice. But the Tigers haven’t settled on a quarterback, and Frazier is the type of run-pass threat Gus Malzahn is looking for in his offense.

Jermaine Whitehead, CB: There should be some fierce competition at cornerback this fall on the Plains, and Whitehead will be one to watch. Auburn was able to sway him late in the recruiting process, and he’s expected to vie for a starting spot from the time he walks onto the practice field.

LSU

Jarvis Landry, WR: If the Tigers are going to make a run at a national championship in 2011, they’re going to need a lot more production from their passing game than they got a year ago. Landry is dynamic in the open field and should complement Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard nicely.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Joe Morrow, WR: Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen has been outspoken about the Bulldogs’ need for more receivers. The 6-4, 200-pound Morrow gives them a different dimension with his size and ability to make plays over the middle.

OLE MISS

C.J. Johnson, LB: As long as Johnson stays away from Twitter, he’s poised to play a major role at linebacker for the Rebels in 2011. Losing D.T. Shackelford to a knee injury threw the door wide open for Johnson, who could play in the middle or outside.

Tobias Singleton, WR: A lot of the attention in Oxford has been concentrated on who’s going to be throwing passes for Ole Miss this coming season. Singleton, who says he qualified academically, is one of those sure-handed, athletic receivers who could help spruce up any passing game.

SEC position rankings: WRs/TEs

June, 16, 2011
6/16/11
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Today we take a look at the wide receiver/tight end positions in the SEC. This one gets tricky since we’re basing rankings on two different positions.

Let’s take a look at what we came up with:

[+] EnlargeJoe Adams, Jarius Wright, and Greg Childs
AP Photo/April L. BrownJoe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs combined for 2,260 yards last season.
1. Arkansas: The Razorbacks could have the best wide receiver corps in the country. Making things even better for Arkansas is that each member of its tremendous trio is a senior. First, there’s Greg Childs, who would have taken part in the NFL draft this year had he not suffered a knee injury late in the season. Childs is Arkansas’ best receiver when he’s healthy. Joe Adams really came on strong last year, especially after Childs went down. He’s the best when he gets the ball in open space and will command the slot. Then there’s Jarius Wright, who is the fastest of the three and got even stronger this spring as well. The three have 324 combined career receptions for 5,404 yards and 41 touchdowns.

2. LSU: The Tigers might have lost Terrence Toliver, but they’ll still have weapons at receiver. Junior Rueben Randle is expected to be the go-to guy in LSU’s offense and is coming off a season where he caught 33 passes for 544 yards and three touchdowns. Russell Shepard was right behind him last season, catching the same amount of balls, but only totaled 254 yards and one touchdown. He looked sharper this spring and is looking to break out this fall. Tight end Deangelo Peterson should also get more attention this fall. He only caught 16 passes, but that number should increase.

3. South Carolina: For starters, the Gamecocks have the league’s best receiver in Alshon Jeffery. The 6-foot-4, 233-pound freak snatched just about everything that came his way last fall and registered 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s nearly impossible to stop in one-on-one situations. Senior Jason Barnes didn't make a major impact in 2010, but he does have 60 career receptions under his belt. The smaller Ace Sanders should be even better after bursting onto the scene with 25 receptions for 316 yards and two touchdowns. D.L. Moore, who caught 17 passes in 2010, should have a more expanded role as well.

[+] EnlargeTavarres King
Dale Zanine/US PresswireWith A.J. Green in the NFL, Tavarres King should become the Bulldogs' main receiving threat.
4. Georgia: The Bulldogs are still looking for a few playmakers at receiver, but there is definitely talent in Athens. Junior Tavarres King has moved into A.J. Green’s flanker spot and while he’s not Green, he proved this spring that he’s ready to be the Bulldogs' main receiving threat. Tight end Orson Charles is the best at his position and can flex out to receiver if needed. His 26 catches for 422 yards should increase this upcoming season. Marlon Brown also made strides this spring and should be the No. 2 receiver.

5. Tennessee: Neither Justin Hunter nor Da'Rick Rogers had a ton of catches last fall, but that will change with a strong passing game in 2011. Hunter caught 16 passes, but registered 415 yards and seven touchdowns in the process. He’s a solid deep threat and playmaker. Rogers also only caught 16 passes, and while he didn’t have the yardage Hunter had, he made tremendous strides this spring. Tight end Mychal Rivera caught 11 passes in 2010 and with Luke Stocker gone he takes over as the Vols’ weapon at tight end.

6. Alabama: There aren’t a lot of questions surrounding the Crimson Tide, but receiver isn’t Alabama’s best area. Seniors Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks should get the brunt of the catches. They combined for 70 catches for 1,013 yards and six touchdowns last season. There is a long list of other inexperienced players who should grab some catches as well and former Ohio State receiver Duron Carter, who just transferred in, could be a factor this fall.

7. Florida: The Gators have talent at wide receiver, and Florida should have a more pass-friendly offense, but the group is very unproven. Frankie Hammond Jr. could be Florida’s best weapon at receiver with his speed and athleticism. Omarius Hines has the size and speed to be a major mismatch for defenders in the slot and on the outside. Freshman Quinton Dunbar was Florida’s top deep threat this spring and should get ample playing time. At tight end, Jordan Reed was called Florida’s best athlete and could end up being the Gators’ top playmaker. Trey Burton should catch a few more passes as well.

[+] EnlargeChad Bumphis
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireMississippi State's Chad Bumphis caught 44 passes for 634 yards and five touchdowns last season.
8. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have a ton of depth at receiver, starting with Chad Bumphis. The junior has yet to really break out, but this could be the year he finally puts it together. Alongside him, Mississippi State has Chris Smith, Brandon Heavens and Arceto Clark, who all had solid springs. Those four combined for 115 catches last fall. The Bulldogs also have a host of young receivers who appear ready to compete.

9. Auburn: There is still some talent left on the Plains at receiver. Sure, Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery are gone, but the Tigers will look to Emory Blake and Trovon Reed to make up for their departures. Blake is the leading returning receiver, while Reed will be used all over the field by Auburn’s coaches. He can be a threat in the slot and on the outside. Philip Lutzenkirchen will be more of a staple in the offense as the Tigers’ trusted H-back.

10. Ole Miss: Athletically, the Rebels are fine. However, this group is very inexperienced and was inconsistent this spring. The incoming freshmen will have every opportunity to take a starting spot and Tobias Singleton could be the best option of Ole Miss’ youngsters. Of the returners, Melvin Harris did the most in 2010, catching 30 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Vincent Sanders will also get a chance to heavily contribute after making strong strides this spring.

11. Vanderbilt: Four of Vanderbilt’s five receiving leaders return, but the group wasn’t tremendously productive last fall. The Commodores didn’t have a receiver go over 320 yards last season and tight end Brandon Barden caught a team-high 34 passes for 425 yards. Vanderbilt's top two wideouts -- John Cole and Jonathan Krause -- are back, but the Commodores might have to turn to their youngsters for help.

12. Kentucky: The Wildcats lost a lot when do-everything Randall Cobb left early for the NFL and things didn’t get any better by losing No. 2 wideout Chris Matthews. Now, it’s back to the drawing board in Lexington. La'Rod King should be the top target for quarterback Morgan Newton, but he disappointed at times this spring. Matt Roark and E.J. Fields will compete for time, but both need vast improvement. The top athlete could be Brian Adams, but he spent spring playing for Kentucky’s baseball team.

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