Breakout candidates from 2012 class
On the heels of signing day, we often predict which players in the class might be impact freshmen. But the reality is there usually are not all that many. Sure, a good number of the ESPN 150 or even the ESPN 300 receive playing time in their first seasons, but pronounced difference-makers? Breakout players? There aren't many.
Take the Class of 2012.
Georgia's combo of North Carolina-raised backs, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, was the standard for freshman excellence. The pair combined for 2,144 yards and 25 touchdowns, making Bulldogs fans somehow forget that a promising young player, Isaiah Crowell, had been dismissed from the team. Without Gurshall -- I prefer Marley, but that's just me -- Georgia probably isn't oh-so-close to playing for the national title.
They already had their breakout seasons, although who is to say they couldn't exceed the high bar they set for themselves?
The same goes for Alabama back T.J. Yeldon (1,108 yards, 12 TDs) and Tide receiver Amari Cooper (1,000 yards, 11 TDs). And TCU defensive end Devonte Fields (10 sacks). From the ACC, Miami back Duke Johnson (947 yards, 10 TDs) and Maryland receiver-return specialist Stefon Diggs (848 yards, six TDs; 28.5-yard kick return average, two TDs) fit into the category.
Still, from all the freshman contributors in the country, that's a pretty short list of those who have "made it." Plenty from the '12 signing class will emerge this fall, as redshirt freshmen and sophomores, and you'll find below a sampling of those most likely to excel.
Here are my top 10 breakout candidates from the 2012 recruiting class, with a list of 10 more you should keep an eye on.
1. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri TigersLast season: 28 catches, 395 yards, 5 TDs
All right, so he wasn't the latest version of A.J. Green or Julio Jones (or Cooper, for that matter) as a freshman. But perhaps we shouldn't have been so presumptuous, what with Missouri's move to the SEC and Tigers quarterback James Franklin coming off shoulder surgery.
The SEC and QB play are still factors that could detract from Green-Beckham's sophomore season, but the 6-foot-6, 220-pound specimen showed signs of growth in the second half of the year. Seventy-five percent of his catches, 68 percent of his yards and four of his five scores came in the final five games, which followed a drug arrest and subsequent suspension that could have been something of a wake-up call.
Even though the progress was plodding, a lot of SEC coaches I've spoken with said they had to be aware of where Green-Beckham was on the field because of the size mismatch he creates. Perhaps, like the program at large, he needed time to adjust. Additionally, it will be interesting to see whether it makes any difference, one way or the other, that Josh Henson took over for David Yost as offensive coordinator.
2. Nelson Agholor, WR, USC TrojansLast season: 340 yards, 2 TDs
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