SEC: Georgia football

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.

DawgNation links: Williams' voice carried

December, 13, 2012
David Ching writes: Shawn Williams made a difference this season when he spoke out about what he perceived as soft play by his Georgia teammates.

Ching: The Bulldogs hit the practice field Wednesday with refreshed, healthier bodies.

Radi Nabulsi writes Insider: With powerful hitting ability and sound coverage skills, linebacker commit Johnny O’Neal can make an impact next year between the hedges.

Kipp Adams writes Insider: The state finals feature dozens of top recruiting prospects from around Georgia, capped by Saturday night’s game featuring ESPN 150 running back Alvin Kamara and Watch List defensive end Lorenzo Carter.

TideNation, DawgNation links

November, 28, 2012
Roundtable: DawgNation and TideNation staffers discuss the keys to Saturday’s game, the two QBs, some big recruiting misses between UGA/Bama and more.

David Ching writes: Georgia defensive leader Jarvis Jones doesn’t expect too many one-on-one pass-rushing opportunities Saturday against Alabama after facing option attacks each of the past two weeks.

Radi Nabulsi writes : Cornerback prospect D.J. Smith had a huge game in a double-OT playoff loss last week, and now must turn his focus to offers including Georgia, Florida, Michigan State, Nebraska and South Carolina.

Greg Ostendorf writes : Watch list LB Tre Williams had to settle for watching last week’s Iron Bowl from home after an injury in a playoff game. With offers from both sides, he said the Gene Chizik firing surprised him.

TideNation links: Uptempo troubles

November, 27, 2012
Alex Scarborough writes Insider: What’s the key to beating Alabama? In its three losses since 2010, and a near-miss against LSU this year, it’s been an uptempo passing attack.

Greg Ostendorf writes Insider: More than 20 players from the Peach State will line up for the Tide in Saturday’s SEC title game, though the Dawgs have won some key recruiting battles between the programs.

Note: Join Ostendorf at 1 p.m. ET/noon CT for a chat in the TideNation forum, The Tusk Insider.

DawgNation links: Blackout, indeed

November, 27, 2012
David Ching writes: Georgia is still looking to avenge its 2008 loss to Alabama -- when the team and fans wore black, but only eclipsed its own momentum while the Tide saw the light.

Ching Insider: This season’s Bulldogs found a way to bounce back from what could have been a devastating loss to the Gamecocks.

Radi Nabulsi writes Insider: Georgia, with four signees at linebacker this year and two commits already for next year, will likely try to cherry-pick top talent for 2014 – and already has extended a handful of offers.

Note: Join the DawgNation staff at 2 p.m. ET/1 CT for a chat in the DawgNation forum, The Pound Insider.

DawgNation links: Gurley overshadowed

November, 20, 2012

David Ching writes: Running back Todd Gurley is among the best freshmen in the history of the SEC, even if he’s likely to finish as runner-up to Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel for freshman of the year honors.

Kipp Adams writes: Defensive back Brendan Langley flips his commitment from South Carolina to Georgia, citing friend Quincy Mauger’s continued recruitment and a perceived greater interest from UGA in Langley playing two sports.

Adams Insider: Langley can help bolster a Bulldogs secondary that is bracing for several departures after this season.

Radi Nabulsi and Adams write Insider: Georgia, with a class of 28 commits, still has several top offensive talents on its wish list.

Ching Insider: Georgia Tech’s option attack is capable of creating headaches for Georgia as the Bulldogs try to keep their national title hopes alive.

DawgNation links: Top targets on D

November, 19, 2012
David Ching writes Insider: Three plays in Georgia’s win over Georgia Southern hold particular importance for the Dawgs going forward.

Kipp Adams writes Insider: Georgia’s expected signing class is bursting at the seams, but top targets remain among recruits on defense.

Ching Insider: With injuries depleting UGA’s depth at wide receiver, Tavarres King is answering the call and climbing up the Georgia 10 player power rankings.

DawgNation links: Defending option

November, 14, 2012
David Ching writes: There’s no 'Amen Corner’ stretch of tough, late games on SEC schedules anymore. With many of the conference's heavyweights preparing to face their biggest rivals next weekend, most opted to squeeze in an FCS opponent this Saturday.

Radi Nabulsi writes Insider: At 6-foot-4, 256 pounds, Michail Carter might seem light for a defensive tackle. But he's a high school freshman -- and has hit SEC camps already.

Derek Tyson writes: ESPN 300 RB A.J. Turman (Orlando, Fla./Boone) chooses Georgia late Tuesday.

Kipp Adams writes Insider: Attrition at running back in 2011 raises the importance of Turman’s commitment behind standout freshman running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.

Radi Nabulsi writes Insider: Juco cornerback Steven Nelson decommits from UGA late Tuesday and looks west for more options.

DawgNation links: Defending the option

November, 13, 2012
David Ching writes: Georgia is no stranger to the triple option employed by neighboring Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech, but it’s still a tricky challenge to defend.

Ching Insider: Scouting report capsule on Ga. Southern.

Radi Nabulsi writes Insider: 2015 prospect Mekhi Brown has benefitted from talking a couple years ago to UGA LB and fellow Columbus, Ga., product Jarvis Jones.

DawgNation links: Facing former coaches

November, 6, 2012
David Ching writes: The Bulldogs will line up Saturday against former UGA coaches Brian VanGorder and Willie Martinez, now with Auburn, and coaches and players alike know that, despite continued friendships, they must focus on beating one another.

Ching Insider: Scouting report -- Auburn

Radi Nabulsi writes Insider: ESPN Watch List player Bryson Allen-Williams slid over to middle linebacker this past weekend, and immediately turned some heads.

UGA knows it must start faster on offense

November, 3, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. -- The final score does not fully tell the tale, but those who watched Georgia start slowly before pulling away for a 37-10 win against Ole Miss on Saturday -- following sluggish offensive starts in the Bulldogs' previous three games -- can detect a trend.

If the sixth-ranked Bulldogs (8-1, 6-1 SEC) can't find a way to start games with more efficiency, they realize it very well might come back to bite them at some point.

"Playing better teams, playing Alabama or playing whoever else, I don't really think we can start off that slow," said Georgia cornerback Damian Swann, who recovered two fumbles against Ole Miss. "We need to start off first snap in order to give ourselves a chance to win."

Click here to read the entire DawgNation story.

DawgNation links: UGA must win out

October, 30, 2012
David Ching writes: Fresh off the momentum-shifting win over No. 2 UF this past weekend, Georgia team leader Jarvis Jones reminded his fellow Bulldogs – and Mark Richt echoed his words – that such a huge victory will ultimately be worthless if they don’t win out.

Radi Nabulsi writes Insider: ESPN Watch List linebacker Raekwon McMillan announces his top five, and the talented prospect from Georgia has a certain former Florida coach’s team in his No. 1 spot. With: Video

Ching Insider: Ole Miss scouting report

GatorNation links: Rivalry regains steam

October, 24, 2012
Michael DiRocco writes: The Florida-Georgia rivalry is picking up steam again after the Gators dominated the rivalry with Georgia for more than 15 years, with intrigue returning to the border battle during the past five seasons.

DiRocco: A look at the Top 5 Georgia-Florida heartbreakers.

DiRocco: Gators coaches are punishing ‘violators’ who don't carry the football reliably.

Derek Tyson and Kipp Adams write Insider: Former Gators receiver Jacquez Green and former Dawgs defensive lineman Marcus Stroud are linked as two of the top recruiting battles in the history of the Florida-Georgia rivalry.

DawgNation links: Weak starts for D

October, 24, 2012
David Ching writes: Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham likes the way his players have closed out games, but he wants to see the unit start better.

Ching: Tuesday evening, Bulldogs teammates had their opportunity to respond to safety Shawn Williams having called the Bulldogs’ defense soft a day earlier.

Radi Nabulsi writes Insider: Georgia is already targeting some of the top 2014 defensive backs.

Kipp Adams and Derek Tyson write Insider: Former Dawgs DL Marcus Stroud and former Gators WR Jacquez Green are linked as two of the top recruiting battles in the history of the Georgia-Florida rivalry.

GatorNation links: Top 5 rivalry players

October, 22, 2012
Michael DiRocco writes: Georgia's Herschel Walker and Florida's Danny Wuerffel are two of the top-five performers in the Florida-Georgia rivalry all-time.

DiRocco: Florida's offense is suspect this season, but the Gators' excellense on special teams has helped with field position.

DiRocco Insider: Florida 10: Week 8 power rankings

DiRocco Insider: Scouting report: Georgia