Monday, May 16, 2011
Fans pick Alshon Jeffery as impact player
By Edward Aschoff
Last season, South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery exploded onto the SEC scene. He nabbed 88 receptions for 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns.
He was, and remains, a matchup nightmare for defenders and the fans think he'll continue to push the Gamecocks by selecting him in our poll last week to have the biggest impact in 2011.
Alshon Jeffery's size and strength create a matchup nightmare for opponents.
It was a pretty close race. At last count, Jeffery had 28 percent of the vote, with nearly 16,900 people voting.
Jeffery's impact this fall could be even bigger if senior quarterback Stephen Garcia doesn't return. Having a young quarterback like sophomore Connor Shaw taking over the responsibilities at quarterback will make getting the ball in Jeffery's hands that much more important. If there is a target out there that will make a young quarterback comfortable, it's Jeffery.
At 6-foot-4, 233 pounds, Jeffery can out-muscle just about any defender he faces. And with that height, even I could just chuck the ball up in his direction and have him go up and snatch my duck of a pass.
Now, if Jeffery isn't able to duplicate last season's production, that could put a lot of pressure on both Shaw and South Carolina's running game. Marcus Lattimore is a beast in the backfield, but if you take the Gamecocks' top receiving target out, that will allow teams to bear down on the run more and could complicate things for South Carolina's offense.
But the player I would have gone with is Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell. Yes, he hasn't taken a college rep and is just finishing up high school, but things are setting up for him to get a bunch of carries for the Bulldogs this fall. Crowell has tremendous speed and athleticism and if he quickly catches onto the offense, I wouldn't be shocked if the starting spot was his by the midway point in the season.
Former starter Washaun Ealey left the team earlier this week and Georgia has a stable of unproven runners in its backfield. Crowell could be the key to the Bulldogs' running game.
Crowell came in fourth, with 17 percent of the vote.
Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower placed second, with 22 percent of the vote, and Arkansas running back Knile Davis was third, with 21 percent.
Hightower, who is finally healthy, will be called upon to make the Crimson Tide's defense much more aggressive, especially in the pass rush. He'll also be looked at as one of the leaders of the unit.
Most of the attention at Arkansas has been on the passing game, but Davis' impact will surely be felt. Though redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Wilson isn't expected to miss a beat filling in for Ryan Mallett, having Davis in the backfield will make him that much more effective.
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray took 13 percent of the vote. Bray really came on strong toward the end of the 2010 season and has the tools to make the Volunteers' passing game imposing this fall.