While Johnny Manziel got a lot of the media attention and acclaim during the 2012 football season, another redshirt freshman on the Texas A&M team was having a banner year of his own. Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans had a great freshman season in 2012 and enters the 2013 season as the top receiver in the Southeastern Conference.
The quarterback gets most of the credit and receives most of the blame when a team wins or loses. Manziel should have received a lot of attention for his 2012 season, but very few people recognized how Evans played such an integral part of that success.
Evans was Manziel's security blanket. It was Evans who went up over the Ole Miss defensive back to make a clutch 32-yard reception when the Ags were facing a 3rd-and-19 from their own 3-yard line.
The rising sophomore wide receiver from Galveston, TX will be the best receiver in the SEC in 2013. This is a look at a few receivers who will compete with Evans for that title.
Mike Evans set school records for receptions and receiving yards by a freshman in 2012, when he caught 82 passes for 1,105 yards. He also added five receiving touchdowns.
Evans should have an even bigger year in 2013 when he will be the only returning starter in the receiving corps. Manziel should look to Evans even more than he did in 2012, as the other receivers adjust to their increased roles.
Aggie fans may see the Aggies coaches move Evans around in order to create mismatches with the defense. According to Gabe Bock from TexAgs.com, Evans spent some time in the slot during the Ags scrimmage on April 23 and had a tremendous day.
Just tallied the stats for Mike Evans from today's scrimmage. Yep ... just as impressive as I thought. 11 catches; 211 yards; 2 TDs— Gabe Bock (@TexAgsRadio) March 23, 2013
Evans was a basketball star at Galveston (TX) Ball High School and did not take up football until his senior year. As he gains more experience on the field, and learns to run better routes he should put up even better numbers on the field.
He is already a tremendous blocker and one of the more physically dominating receivers in the SEC. With a year of experience under his belt, Evans should an an All-SEC selection who will challenge for All-American honors.
Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper had about as good of a freshman year as anyone could hope for. He hauled in a team-leading 59 receptions for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Cooper stepped into the program as a true freshman and became the best receiver on a national championship squad. He showed tremendous hands and great speed.
Anyone who had not heard about Cooper before learned a lot during the BCS title game when he caught six passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns. The Notre Dame secondary simply could not cover him.
Cooper was at his best in big games. Against Tennessee, Auburn, Georgia and Notre Dame, he averaged seven receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns per game.
He is easily one of the top receivers in the nation and will compete with Evans for All-SEC and All-American honors.
Donte Moncrief was Ole Miss' leading receiver in 2012 with 66 catches for 979 yards and 10 touchdowns. He used his size and speed to torment defenders in 2012.
At 6'2", 212 lbs, Moncrief is adept at boxing out defenders and getting the ball. The 2013 season will be the second year for Moncrief and his Ole Miss teammates in Hugh Freeze's spread offense.
His numbers should increase now that Rebel quarterback Bo Wallace has a season of experience under his belt. Ole Miss signed a highly ranked recruiting class, and that should helped prevent defenses from focusing on stopping Moncrief.
Ole Miss fans should expect Moncrief to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in 2013. The increased exposure from their 2013 recruiting class should help Moncrief's candidacy for national awards in 2013.
Jordan Matthews is statistically the top returning receiver in the SEC. In 2012, the rising senior from Vanderbilt caught 94 passes for 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns.
Vanderbilt has to break in a new starter at quarterback in 2013, but that should be a good thing for Matthews as Jordan Rodgers' play in 2012 was rather mediocre. The Vandy passing game should improve with his graduation.
Vanderbilt also has to replace workhorse running back Zach Stacy. The offense should rely more heavily on Matthews in 2013 as they try to bring their running game up to snuff.
Matthews is a future Sunday player and should have a great season in 2013.
Odell Beckham Jr. was LSU's leading receiver in 2012 with 43 receptions for 713 yards and two touchdowns. He is an explosive playmaker who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
Beckham would average better receiving numbers if he did not play in LSU's pedestrian passing offense. If Tiger quarterback Zach Mettenberger can step up his game in 2013, then Beckham could threaten to pass 1,000 yards receiving.
If not, he will remain one of the best receivers in the country who does not have the statistics to gain national recognition for his strong play.
Dorial Green-Beckham is a rising sophomore receiver for Missouri. He was ranked as the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2012 recruiting class and played as a true freshman at Mizzou.
Green-Beckham had 28 receptions for 395 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman. His numbers suffered as he made the adjustment from high school play to SEC football.
Mizzou quarterback James Franklin struggled with injuries all season and missed multiple games. The inconsistent play under center led to Missouri struggling in their inaugural season in the SEC and a disappointing year for Missouri's wide receivers.
If Franklin is healthy for an entire season, you can expect Green-Beckham to double his numbers from his freshman season. He should be able to use his 6'6" 220 lb frame to cause mismatches against opposing defenses.