Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Making the grade this spring
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
All but Texas A&M in the SEC will be finished with spring practice after this coming weekend.
Who are those players who've blossomed this spring?
We've pinpointed 10 players who weren't stars last season, and in some cases, didn't even start, but players who've shown that they're poised to have big seasons in 2012.
Here's what we came up with:
Mike Gillislee (left) made a case during the spring to be Florida's top running back.
Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida: Entering his senior season, Gillislee made a big push to be the Gators' starting running back in the fall. The coaches love how hard he worked and his willingness to become a more complete back. He improved his pass-blocking, which was one of the things keeping him off the field in the past.
Adrian Hubbard, LB, Alabama: The Crimson Tide feel like they've found somebody to replace Courtney Upshaw as a finisher off the edge on passing downs. The 6-6 Hubbard is now pushing 250 pounds entering his sophomore season and is an excellent fit at Jack linebacker. He had three sacks in Alabama's spring game.
Byron Jerideau, DT, South Carolina: The former junior college transfer ran into trouble off the field earlier this year, but bounced back with an impressive spring. The 6-3, 316-pound senior is the strongest player on the team and has squatted 670 pounds. He's just another reason this South Carolina defensive line should be something to see in 2012.
Malcolm Johnson, TE, Mississippi State: As a freshman last season, Johnson caught 11 passes, but three of those were for touchdowns. Judging by way the he's played this spring, the 6-2, 230-pound sophomore has a chance to be one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league in 2012.
Bennie Logan, DT, LSU: Overshadowed by Michael Brockers in the middle of that LSU defensive line last season, Logan was one of the more underrated players in the SEC. In fact, LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis thinks the 6-3, 290-pound junior is right there in that same class as Brockers.
Marcus Lucas, WR, Missouri: Fans in the Show Me State got just a little taste of how good Lucas can be last season. He started in three games, but caught five touchdown passes. Look for the 6-5, 215-pound junior to emerge in 2012 as one of the SEC's top big-play threats.
Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee: After seeing spot duty as a freshman, Richardson has been good enough this spring that senior Dallas Thomas has moved inside to guard and Richardson has stepped in as the starter at left tackle. The Vols weren't physical enough up front last season, but the 6-6, 329-pound Richardson should help change that.
Marquel Wade, WR, Arkansas: As a freshman last season, Wade took a kickoff return back for a touchdown. He's showcased that same explosiveness at receiver this spring and is one of the reasons the Hogs aren't panicking about the loss of Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs.
Jermaine Whitehead, CB, Auburn: He came in and played as a true freshman a year ago and immediately demonstrated that he wasn't afraid to mix it up. This spring, Whitehead also demonstrated his versatility. He's somebody who could end up playing cornerback, safety or nickel in Brian VanGorder's system.
Trey Wilson, CB, Vanderbilt: The Commodores just seem to breed outstanding defensive backs, and Wilson is the next in line. The 5-11, 192-pound senior will take over for Casey Hayward as Vanderbilt's shutdown corner and has the talent, smarts and experience to be an All-SEC player in 2012.