The college football season is fast approaching with hopes running high for every program. Everyone is undefeated right now, and these 10 players will be looked upon to keep their teams that way all season.
There is a lot riding on the performance of these stars. AJ McCarron is looking for a third straight national title, and Jadeveon Clowney is out to prove that a defender can run away with the Heisman.
This is a look at the players that will carry the weight of the world for their programs this year.
AJ McCarron carries the highest expectations of any player in the country for 2013.
He has won two straight national titles, and the fans of the program are expecting a repeat. Last season was his best year yet when he finshed with 30 touchdown passes and only three interceptions.
By the end of the year, he was also the nation’s most efficient passer with a 175.28 passer rating.
Anything less than a BCS title will be a disappointment for McCarron’s senior campaign.
If you don’t think that McCarron has a lot to worry about, just look to Braxton Miller.
Miller took the Buckeyes to an undefeated season in 2012, but sanctions kept the program from achieving anything of substance with the impressive run.
The Ohio State faithful are expecting another perfect season, but the competition in the Big Ten is tough and making another undefeated run won’t be easy.
If the Buckeyes don’t land in the national title game against Alabama, Miller will take the fall. If he doesn’t improve on his 58.3 completion percentage, the game won’t come into reach.
Johnny Manziel steps into the year as the first freshman Heisman winner. A repeat would be in order, but making it past the list of talented upperclassmen won’t be as easy as it was last year.
Manziel electrified the country with his play on a regular basis. He finished the year with 3,706 passing yards and 26 passing touchdowns. He also added 1,409 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns to his stat line.
He is a once in a lifetime type player for the Aggies, and the expectations are sky high heading into the fall with Manziel guiding the offense.
If he has a sophomore slump, the Aggies will be destined for SEC West mediocrity.
Ka’Deem Carey was the nation’s leading rusher in 2012 finishing with 1,929 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns. He was the backbone for the Arizona offense, and now that Matt Scott has departed, his role will grow.
Carey is a talented rusher that will be the main weapon for the Wildcats this fall. He is already carrying the pressure as the team’s star, but now the arrests add to the stress.
The weight of the Wildcats offense rests on his shoulders.
Thomas is arguably the most complete running back in the country for 2013. Last year he rushed for 701 yards on 92 carries last fall and scored 11 touchdowns on the ground. He also added 45 receptions for 445 yards and five touchdowns.
The Ducks offense has developed around multiple backs in the past, but this year Thomas will carry more weight than usual.
Marcus Mariota will draw a lot of the attention from defenses, but the dynamic threat that Thomas brings will make him the focus of every unit this team faces. He will also be the leader that the Oregon offense looks to for reaction.
How does Thomas respond?
Last year he took over games when challenged. He should do the same this fall.
Marqise Lee is in a tough position. He became the go-to receiver last year in the Trojans offense, but this year he is expected to provide more.
With Robert Woods now gone, Lee is the leader of the unit. Nelson Agholor and others will look for Lee to provide leadership and motivation.
Not only will Lee need to match his impressive 2012 season, he will need to be a constant guide for the players around him. Making plays is one thing, helping usher in a new quarterback and lead an offensive unit is another.
Watching his season unfold in L.A. could be a thing of beauty or disaster.
Jadeveon Clowney enters 2013 with a real shot at the Heisman Trophy.
He is the most dynamic defender to take the field in the recent memory and should walk through the competition this fall. His pass-rush skills are unmatched, but his control against the run is the most impressive part of his game.
The Gamecocks defense looks to Clowney for motivation and guidance. He has been in the system for three years now, and has been in the playing rotation since he was a freshman.
Fans are expecting Clowney to have his best season in Columbia and finish the year in New York. If he doesn’t, it won’t be the type of season that South Carolina was hoping for.
When the Michigan offense began to struggle under Denard Robinson last year, it was clear there was a need for change. An injury forced the hand of Brady Hoke, but a star was found in the process.
Devin Gardner is now the golden child of the Michigan fanbase as it looks for a shot at the Big Ten title this fall.
Gardner stepped in and showed that he is a proficient pocket passer that has the wheels to make plays with his feet when forced. He doesn’t seek out rushing lanes like Robinson, making him a better fit for the Hoke offense.
He finished the year with 1,219 passing yards and 11 touchdowns. He only started five games and began the year as a receiver.
There is a lot expected out of the Wolverines this fall, and it all rests with the ability of Gardner to push for wins against Ohio State and other major players inside the conference.
Louis Nix became the de facto leader for the Irish football team this spring.
The Irish were blasted by Alabama last year in the BCS title game, and the defense was shredded with the ground game. This program has to step forward this summer as it attempts to return to the national stage.
Nix will help the program get there. The defense was the backbone of the Irish’s success last fall, and it will be the driver of the program again this year. Without Nix taking a major role, this team will struggle out of the gate.
Anything less than a title run will be a disappointment in South Bend.
The Texas program is hanging in the balance of mediocrity and powerhouse.
Over the past 10 years, the Longhorns have won a national title and fallen to nearly the bottom of the Big 12. It has been a tough ride for Mack Brown and Co., but there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.
David Ash is the starter heading into the fall for the Texas offense. He has been a consistent performer in the past, finishing 2012 with 2,699 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and a 67.3 completion percentage.
The Longhorns need Ash to have an all-conference type season. Anything less will spell disaster for a program already on the brink. Brown may be looking for another job if Ash can’t lead the Longhorns to a Big 12 title.