Super Bowl 2013: Young Stars to Watch in New Orleans

Nathan TesslerCorrespondent IJanuary 28, 2013

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 20: Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens reacts towards the end of the game against the New England Patriots during the 2013 AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium on January 20, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

In many big games, the most talked-about players are often not the ones who have the biggest impact.

Many pundits are currently citing the quarterback play of Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers and Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens as the key battle to watch.

But there are also a few other young stars to look for in Super Bowl XLVII.


Ray Rice

One young star to watch for is Ravens running back Ray Rice.

The Rutgers grad just turned 26 this week, and when given touches, he is one of the more consistent players in the league.

But that is part of the problem: Rice has not had touches consistently. 

His carries have ranged anywhere from 30 in the divisional round victory over the Denver Broncos, to nine in a blowout Week 7 loss to the Houston Texans

Despite the lack of touches at times, Rice has had at least 1,100 rushing yards as well as 60 receptions for the past four seasons.

If the Ravens want to give themselves the best chance to win, it will be interesting to watch how they utilize the dynamic Rice.


Aldon Smith

Another player to watch is 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith.

As of Friday, the 23-year-old was limited in practice due to a shoulder injury and is listed as probable for next Sunday’s game.

But with the next game being the Super Bowl, one can probably expect Smith to play.

The 49ers are simply a different defense when Smith is at his best.  Smith led the league with 19.5 sacks this season and even recorded 66 tackles and three forced fumbles. 

But in the four losses the 49ers recorded this regular season, Smith only recorded one sack.  He also has yet to record a sack this postseason, with his last sack coming in Week 14 against the Miami Dolphins.

Smith’s talent and production speaks for itself.  But if the 49ers want to disrupt the confident Joe Flacco, they will need Smith to get healthy and get constant pressure. 


Vernon Davis

The final star to watch is 49ers tight end Vernon Davis.

Davis’ athleticism and receiving skill are certainly no secret.  He has been the best weapon the 49ers have had for years.

However, with the addition of Kaepernick at quarterback, the 28-year-old Davis has seen his targets plummet. 

After three straight years of over 93 targets, Davis was only targeted 61 times.  He only recorded 41 receptions for 548 yards and five touchdowns on the year.  For a player considered one of the top receiving tight ends in the game, that is a substandard season.

But Davis’ involvement has increased exponentially this postseason. 

He has been targeted a total of 11 times this postseason, which is equal to the number of targets he received the final six games of the regular season.  Most recently, Davis had five receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown in the NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Having made it this far, the 49ers have proven they can win without Davis making a difference in the game.  But after these two postseason games, the Ravens must game plan around stopping Davis’ current form.

In the end, if the 49ers or Ravens want to win the Super Bowl, it will likely come down to at least one of these young stars stepping up for their team.