John Adams: SEC players ready for bigger roles

John Adams

When LSU dismissed All-American cornerback Tyrann Mathieu from its team two weeks ago, The Associated Press offered its top-25 voters a chance to revise its preseason ballots.

Its conscientiousness should be applauded. But I didn't take advantage of it.

One thing that has become increasingly clear in the SEC's six-year string of national championships: with the exception of great quarterbacks, the best teams in this league can replace their best players.

Alabama replaced one All-American running back (Mark Ingram) with another (Trent Richardson).

LSU lost All-American cornerback Patrick Peterson one season and promptly replaced him with All-American cornerback Morris Claiborne.

And while Mathieu will be missed as a playmaker, LSU already had a better cover corner in Tharold Simon.

Throughout the league, there are players like Simon ready to assume a more prominent role when a new season kicks off this week. Here's a team-by-team look at some of them.

Alabama: The Tide's run of outstanding linebackers won't likely end with veterans C.J. Mosley and Nico Johnson. Up next could be Adrian Hubbard, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound sophomore who played in a backup role last fall as a redshirt freshman.

Arkansas: Senior wide receiver Cobi Hamilton already has 18 career starts but has never had more than 34 catches in a season while playing in the shadows of a receiving corps that sent three players into the NFL this spring. He could lead the SEC in receiving.

Auburn: If the Tigers are to develop a more physical running game, fullback Jay Prosch likely will play a big role in it. Last season at Illinois, he made Pro Football Weekly's All-American team.

Florida: Cornerback Marcus Roberson started the first 10 games of the 2011 season as a true freshman before he was sidelined by a neck injury. He should blossom as a sophomore on a stout Gators defense.

Georgia: Running back Keith Marshall was the high-profile recruit in the 2012 class. But offensive tackle John Theus, a USA Today first-team high school All-American last year, could start as a freshman.

Kentucky: This team cries out for a big-play threat. Maybe sophomore wide receiver Demarco Robinson is the answer. He had nine catches for 146 yards in the spring game.

LSU: In a crowded backfield with veteran players ahead of him, Kenny Hilliard made an impact last season as a freshman running back. He should emerge as one of the league's best running backs as a sophomore.

Mississippi State: All-American junior college defensive end Denico Autry should bolster the pass rush for a defense that returns seven starters.

Missouri: Senior middle linebacker Will Ebner was redshirted last season after suffering two injuries in the opening game. He also was bothered by multiple injuries in 2010, but was good enough to make All-Big 12 honorable mention three years ago.

Ole Miss: Wide receiver Donte Moncrief distinguished himself on a bad team last year as a freshman. He should distinguish himself even more this season in a new offense on another bad team.

South Carolina: Offensive lineman Brandon Shell, a former Parade All-American, was redshirted last season as a freshman after suffering a shoulder injury. He won a starting job at left tackle this preseason.

Tennessee: After an impressive preseason camp, Rajion Neal is the leading candidate to revive the Vols' floundering running game.

Texas A&M: New coach Kevin Sumlin's offense creates plenty of opportunities for wide receivers. Mike Evans, a 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman, apparently has the size and athleticism to capitalize on that.

Vanderbilt: With 1,000-yard rusher Zac Stacy returning, the Commodores don't need a lead running back. But freshman Brian Kimbrow proved in preseason camp that he could be a factor in the offense.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 9

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

Weak on the UF section, should have included:

Mike Gillislee
Brissett/Driskel
Dante Fowler will be Freshman AA
Dre Debose becomes the next all-world UF playmaker.

DeltaCharlie3 writes:

Hey Thelma, this article mentioned every team in the SEC. Contribute something useful or hit the road.

UTVOL2001 writes:

Probably a little weak as it relates to most teams, especially from a fans point of view. It didnt take DeltaChucks response to this article to inform us which team he cheers for. I have no problem cheering on your team, this is the place for the Vol Fans to do so. Can you give a good reason you post to these sites? Dont you see the confusion here, among Vol fans? Yo must have a fetish for the Vols, huh? I just cant reason it any other way.

Snapshot writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie3:

Weak on the UF section, should have included:

Mike Gillislee
Brissett/Driskel
Dante Fowler will be Freshman AA
Dre Debose becomes the next all-world UF playmaker.

Aren't those so of the players Muschump called "soft"? LOL

GerryOP writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie3:

Hey Thelma, this article mentioned every team in the SEC. Contribute something useful or hit the road.

Awwww, is lil' DCGataBoy not getting enough attention? You might as well get used to it lil' fellar. With the exit of Timbow and lil' Urbie, you no longer have any marquee power. Little Willy? Exactly what I said ... little. And who is this Brissett/Driskel guy? And all of the rest on the Meyer holdovers are gone. I expect that by the end of September that you will be nowhere to be found on this board. And that's a good thing ... for us!

GerryOP writes:

in response to Snapshot:

Aren't those so of the players Muschump called "soft"? LOL

Actually, I think Little Willy called the entire team "soft" ... then he giggled!

orangegrass writes:

You can see the man blush when he writes about his beloved LSU. The SEC is VERY strong at the top but we all know that it is mediocre as you go down the list.

Olddogsrule writes:

Let's see -- mmm at Tennessee there's also Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, Cordarelle Patterson, and "TINY" just to name a few. I'm really excited to see the Vols have grown in size, depth and skill. This year is the year to get some more game experience, add some more recruits, stabilize the staff, and we will be back! Derrick Dooley, you're doing a great job. I didn't expect to be this excited this year, but I am. Congratulations for getting the team this far back under the most difficult situation for a new head coach in Div I football I have ever seen.

Go Vols Go Dooley Go SEC
Smokey Rules!
AAhhhhooooowwwwwwwwwwwllllllllll

johnlg00 writes:

in response to DeltaCharlie3:

Weak on the UF section, should have included:

Mike Gillislee
Brissett/Driskel
Dante Fowler will be Freshman AA
Dre Debose becomes the next all-world UF playmaker.

For the most part, he only mentioned one guy in each team capsule, even the national contenders. Why should a mediocre Florida team have six mentions?

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