Thursday, January 31, 2013
Biggest junior shoes to fill in the SEC East
By Edward Aschoff
All of the underclassmen from the SEC who declared early for the NFL draft (and there were a lot this year) are officially in training mode. They've kissed their schools goodbye and are looking for riches at the next level.
It's a bittersweet feeling for coaches and fans, but in less than a week, they'll usher in the newbies that will be expected to eventually fill the holes left by those underclassmen.
But there are some big shoes to fill this year with all of those early departures.
Not to rub it in, but we thought we'd take a look at 10 juniors SEC teams will find the hardest time replacing in 2013. We're splitting it up by division, so since "E" comes before "W" in the alphabet, we'll start things off in the SEC East (in alphabetical order):
Georgia will certainly miss the production of Jarvis Jones, No. 29, in 2013.
Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia: He wasn't just one of the best players on Georgia's roster, he was one of the nation's best players overall. He was a sack artist and knew how to track players down from anywhere on the field with his speed. Jones also was a major leader for this Georgia defense, which will lose a wealth of talent and starters in 2013. Look for rising sophomore Jordan Jenkins' role to expand. Jones' 24.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks will certainly be missed.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee: Patterson was just beginning to scratch the surface when it came to his potential. He was one of the most dynamic players in the SEC, making noise as a receiver, a return man and a rusher. He led the SEC with 1,858 all-purpose yards (154.8 yards per game) last season and while he was still raw, he was a big play waiting to happen when he got the ball in his hands. Patterson was a real difference-maker and could have made tremendous strides and really helped Butch Jones in his first year in Knoxville.
Jordan Reed, TE, Florida: The Gators really struggled throwing the ball in 2012, but Reed was the best, most consistent receiving option for quarterback Jeff Driskel. He was an All-SEC performer in 2012, leading the Gators -- and all SEC tight ends -- with 45 catches. He also led the team with 559 yards and was second with three touchdowns. While he still showed some rawness at times, he was a mismatch for defenders, as he was too fast for most linebackers and too big for most defensive backs. The Gators didn't have any receiving targets as reliable as Reed last fall, and losing him creates a giant hole in Florida's passing game. Look for the athletic Kent Taylor to take over Reed's spot.
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri: Richardson was easily the Tigers' best player in 2012. He played his way into the first round and might be poised to break into the top 15. Richardson was a major force up front for the Tigers, finishing the year with 75 tackles, including 10.5 for loss and four sacks. He could stop the run and chase quarterbacks around. He will be very hard to replace. Lucas Vincent was Richardson's backup last year, but he has a lot more room to grow. Also, nose guard Matt Hoch had a decent fall. The Tigers are overloaded at defensive end and might have to move someone over to help out at tackle.
Ace Sanders, WR, South Carolina:Marcus Lattimore was South Carolina's best offensive player when he was healthy, but even if he returned in 2013, there was no telling how much he would actually play. Losing Sanders, who surprised everyone with his decision to turn pro, is a major blow to South Carolina. He was the Gamecocks' best big-play receiver and was one of the SEC's top return specialists. Bruce Ellington's role will now expand in order to make up for the loss of Sanders on offense, and he could also get some time in the punt return game. Rising sophomore Shaq Roland will also have to grow and develop more before the fall.