SEC Football: 10 Players with Most to Gain This Spring
Spring football is a springboard every year for a number of rising stars across the SEC. There are always a number of players that step up into starting roles or fill major voids left by departing playmakers.
This is a look at the 10 players that are on the cusp of becoming household names in 2013.
Every team is looking for at least one player to fill a void left behind by departing stars with these 10 being the ones to watch closely heading into spring football.
Kenyan Drake: Alabama Crimson Tide, RB
Michael Chang/Getty Images
Kenyan Drake is the assumed backup to T.J. Yeldon heading into the 2013, but there is still a lot for Drake to gain.
Last season, Drake showed a lot of flash and athleticism when he was given the opportunity to carry the ball, and he will remind Alabama fans a lot of Eddie Lacy early in his Tide career.
Drake is a shifty back for his size, and has a solid second gear that can push him past the secondary once he hits the next level.
He will be challenged by a host of incoming freshmen which will make this spring even more vital to his 2013 campaign.
Incoming freshman Derrick Henry is an early enrollee and will push Drake for the second spot in the Alabama backfield.
Austyn Carta-Samuels: Vanderbilt Commodores, QB
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
Austyn Carta-Samuels is the heir apparent to the starting quarterback role for the Commodores heading into 2013. Carta-Samuels played sparingly last year in a backup capacity, but he brings a lot of experience to the field with him.
Carta-Samuels is a former Wyoming starting quarterback that transferred to Vanderbilt to finish his career.
Entering this spring, he has the starting role in hand if he can continue to grow in the Commodores' offense and protect the football during spring practice. Turnovers have been a consistent issue, but if those can be avoided he will be the starter heading into summer.
Jordan Jenkins: Georgia Bulldogs, LB
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Jordan Jenkins was the most impressive freshman that wasn’t talked about last year.
He became a starter for the Bulldogs at the outside linebacker position and helped guide the Bulldogs past a number of talented teams, and on to a SEC Eastern Division title.
While it was impressive what Jenkins did as a freshman, he did it with two first-round draft choices playing on the field with him in Alec Ogletree and Jarvis Jones. Those guys will be gone and Jenkins will be the new face of the Georgia defense entering 2013.
Jenkins has to head into spring looking to become a leader. Despite being a listed starter in 2012, Jenkins has a lot to gain this spring. He will become the voice of the defense, and will be looked to as the new game-changer at the linebacker position for Georgia.
Kelvin Taylor: Florida Gators, RB
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kelvin Taylor is an early enrollee for Florida that is looking to gain a lot of ground this spring.
The Gators lost starting running back Mike Gillislee to graduation, so the starting position will be wide open heading into spring.
Taylor is an impressive running back prospect that is expected to help the Gators' offense immediately. He may not leave spring as the listed starter, but the experience he will gain will help him hit the field this fall.
Watch Taylor closely as he becomes the next star from the Gators' backfield alongside rising junior Mack Brown.
Matthew Wells: Mississippi State Bulldogs, LB
Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports
The Bulldogs defense has been anchored by Cameron Lawrence at middle linebacker for the past few seasons. Lawrence is now gone from the program, and Matthew Wells is rising in his place.
Wells has earned some experience over the past few years at middle linebacker in a reserve role, but heading into this spring he should gain the starting job.
This is a player that is disruptive at the line of scrimmage, but is also athletic enough to be a solid coverage linebacker.
He is a well-rounded player that will become a defensive leader this spring.
Lavon Hooks: Ole Miss Rebels, DT
Photo via 247Sports
Lavon Hooks is an incoming JUCO transfer that is expected to earn playing time immediately for the Rebels along the defensive line. Hooks is a talented inside man that will be a major upgrade for Ole Miss this year.
While he is expected to be an instant success, he is a transfer player that has yet to play a down of SEC football. He has a lot to gain as a possible rising star for Ole Miss, but there is no guarantee.
Hooks was one of the numerous stars that was pulled in by the Hugh Freeze staff. Ole Miss is looking to become competitive for the SEC West and it starts with big time playmakers like Hooks along the line.
Rob Bolden: LSU Tigers, QB
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Bolden is entering his second and final year as a transfer at quarterback for the LSU Tigers. Bolden started 16 games for Penn State before transferring to the Tigers and should challenge for the starting job this spring in Baton Rouge.
The Tigers started Zach Mettenberger last year, and they are expected to do the same this season barring a major change. Bolden could become that change.
Bolden is a very athletic quarterback that could provide a major spark for the Tigers' offense. There were times that LSU looked very vanilla and could have used the change of pace option that comes with Bolden.
As he continues to learn the offense, Bolden should be worked into the rotation. This spring is huge for Bolden as the Tigers desperately need something extra at quarterback heading into 2013.
JaQuay Williams: Texas A&M Aggies, WR
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
JaQuay Williams is a prep transfer for the Aggies that will be enrolled this spring. Texas A&M is losing star receiver Ryan Swope heading into 2013, but they are gaining a future star in Williams.
The Aggies relied heavily on Mike Evans last season, and Evans finished the year as the leading receiver for Texas A&M. He will need a partner to help pull some of the attention this season, and Williams could be the second half of that tandem.
This spring is huge for Williams as he hopes to gain a starting position in the Aggies' offense. This team is littered with talent at receiver, but Williams is an immediate difference maker.
Williams will prove why he was such a highly coveted star the past two recruiting cycles by the end of spring ball.
Nathan Peterman: Tennessee Volunteers, QB
Photo via 247Sports
Justin Worley is the next in line for the starting quarterback position at Tennessee, but his performances last season were absolutely dreadful.
Enter Nathan Peterman this spring.
Peterman is a talented rising star for the Volunteers, and he will challenge Worley for the starting role this spring. Peterman doesn’t have the experience of Worley, but he is a very talented player that is selective with his throws and poised in the pocket.
This competition will be wide open with new head coach Butch Jones taking over the program, and given a level playing field Peterman should gain the starting job.
It may lead to a transfer for Worley, but Peterman is the answer for Tennessee at quarterback for 2013.
Corbin Berkstresser: Missouri Tigers, QB
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
It is tough for a freshman to step in and be a leader for a struggling offense, but that is exactly what was asked of Corbin Berkstresser last season. He was also asked to lead the Missouri offense through the gauntlet of defenses in the SEC.
It wasn’t a terrible outcome for Berkstresser, but he didn’t overachieve by any means. This spring he is poised to overachieve and gain more playing time heading into the summer.
James Franklin struggled through injuries last year, opening the door for Berkstresser. He will challenge for the starting job this spring and he may walk away with it after the experience gained this past fall.