Predicting 10 Backups Who Will See Significant Playing Time
A.J. McCarron, Braxton Miller, Jadeveon Clowney, Ka'Deem Carey and dozens more starters are going to be plastered all over TV screens throughout the 2013 season. They have earned their recognition and deserve the attention.
However, hundreds of these players will be flocking to the NFL draft in May of 2014. They will leave their backups behind to take care of business for the future.
Who are these backups, and which ones are good enough to see significant time before the starters leave? Here are the 10 best backups who will see that significant playing time throughout the 2013 season, presented in alphabetical order by team.
Teams who consistently run two-player systems at specific positions for years have been removed from consideration. For instance, Alabama's backup running back is going to get significant playing time, but that isn't exactly an informative prediction. It's practically common knowledge in college football circles.
Adam Griffith (PK, Alabama)
With Jeremy Shelly, Alabama's short-range kicker, gone from Tuscaloosa, Adam Griffith will get his shot at playing time on the field.
Griffith has the leg to take over for Cade Foster on field goals and kickoffs and for Cody Mandell at punter. Griffith weighed in at a slightly light 187 pounds, but that's still better than his recruiting weight of 165.
Griffith may have a way to go before he's the official kicker for the Crimson Tide, but you can bet your last dollar that Saban isn't going to wait until 2014 to find out if he's a viable kicker for that season.
Griffith was the No. 1 kicker of the 2012 class, and a scale score of 187 is plenty big enough to put him on the field to see what he can do.
Austin Tate (TE, Arkansas)
Arkansas has a lot of work to do to overcome the giant setback that was the 2012 season, but guys like Austin Tate will make that much easier.
Sure, Tate is buried behind Mitchell Loewen at tight end, but his experience will get him a good amount of playing time. A solid tight end that's able to make plays is hard to come by.
Arkansas simply isn't going to let talent like his go to waste, even if he is a backup. There's only so much one man can do, and college football in the power conferences is simply too much for one man to take all the reps in most games.
Tate will get far more than just 14 catches in 2013, and the Razorbacks will be back on track for a power position in the SEC West.
Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Missouri)
Dorial Green-Beckham isn't just a threat for significant playing time. He is a legitimate threat to any wide receiver standing between him and the top of the depth chart.
DGB was the top receiver in his recruiting class, and he ranked No. 3 overall. To put that into perspective, Alabama's Amari Cooper was ranked 49th overall in the same class and No. 8 at wideout.
Missouri will have its roster at full strength when 2013 kicks off. With quarterbacks and offensive linemen all healthy again, don't expect DGB to sit on the bench for long. He'll be on the field sooner rather than later and could take over the starting position in any given game.
J.W. Walsh (QB, Oklahoma State)
Despite everything J.W. Walsh did last season, Clint Chelf is still listed as the Oklahoma State starting quarterback. David Ubben of ESPN says that's the situation to expect as well.
Regardless of Chelf's status entering the season, Walsh will see the field frequently and for sustained periods of time. Why? Simply put, here are their stats from 2012:
Clearly, Walsh was the more complete quarterback as a freshman. The only real reason the coaches should even consider Chelf as the starter is if he is that ensconced as the team's leader. If that's the case, then that team is simply deluding itself.
Regardless of whether Walsh takes over at starter, he will get plenty of time under center.
Dylan Thompson (QB, South Carolina)
In 2012, Dylan Thompson proved that he is more valuable to South Carolina than expected, and he did it much quicker than expected. Thompson was brought into the Outback Bowl when starter Connor Shaw left with an injury.
Needing a touchdown for the lead, and possibly the win, Thompson stepped in and gave the Gamecocks the leading score with 11 seconds to go.
Thompson could sit the bench and wait for his turn in 2014, but Steve Spurrier is no slouch. Thompson will get plenty of snaps in 2013, and he will impress the fanbase with his opportunities.
Justin King (TE, Tennessee)
Tennessee is in dire need of its players to step up and put together complete games. Sloppy defense played a large part in most of the Volunteers' losses last season, and there's no telling how long the "depth chart shuffle" will go on in 2013.
On offense, most positions are fairly cemented. Tyler Bray is gone, so Butch Jones needs to provide as much consistency as possible to the new passer. Also, the tight end position will be one of the biggest advantages that Tennessee has in 2013, and here is why.
As quarterback Justin Worley gets used to the collegiate game, his safety valves are going to make the difference on many drives. Tight end Justin King is a relatively new addition to the Vols' roster, but he's already at No. 2 on the depth chart.
He is behind only Brendan Downs, and Downs isn't good enough to keep him off the field all season long. Downs can maintain the starting position, but Tennessee isn't going to let talent like King's go to waste.
Malcolm Brown (RB, Texas)
Malcolm Brown has a serious issue at Texas, and his name is Johnathan Gray. Gray is the stellar athlete who turned heads last season as a freshman and earned the starting tailback gig for the Longhorns.
Brown will turn on the afterburners and earn some serious playing time, not just clean-up or backup duties. He's already moved ahead of Joe Bergeron on the depth chart, but he will not settle for a mere 61 carries in 2013.
Brown will be a viable part of Texas' rushing attack in 2013. If nowhere else, his 223-pound frame is incredibly useful in the red zone.
Trey Williams (RB, Texas A&M)
Trey Williams is the "third" running back over at Texas A&M. The first being Ben Malena, of course, and the second being Johnny Manziel.
While Manziel and Malena generally have the rushing game nailed down, A&M is going to run into issues with its schedule. Alabama takes the Aggies on after a bye week, and LSU draws the same hand. (LSU gets Texas A&M in Death Valley, but Alabama draws Kyle Field.)
The Aggies had the element of surprise in 2012, and that is mostly gone. To keep that advantage, Texas A&M is going to have to bring in backups that are as talented as the starters, or at least close to as talented.
Williams is the epitome of that description at tailback. With all the talent running around the A&M roster, the Aggies do have a legitimate shot at a national title and an undefeated season.
However, do not overlook the fact that A&M will have to pull out every trick in the book to accomplish that in 2013. The Aggies made a lot of enemies last season, and those foes have been seething for almost a year.
Manziel, Malena and Williams are going to be the key to breaking the season open for A&M. With successful performances from the trio, the passing game will open up greatly. With an open passing game, A&M can beat anyone...even the national champion.
B.J. Catalon (HB, TCU)
B.J. Catalon was TCU's leading rusher last season, and it may confuse some to see his name here. The reason is that Waymon James is back from his season-ending injury and sitting at No. 1 on the depth chart.
Fortunately for TCU, that leaves Catalon as a highly experienced halfback sitting on the bench. While other teams worry about when they should or shouldn't put their backups in, the Horned Frogs already know that Catalon is ready and able to handle any amount of on-field responsibility that they can throw at him.
With the ability to throw two experienced (and successful, for that matter) backs into the game, TCU will always have a fresh, rested and lethal rusher at its command.
Catalon may not be the starter, but don't expect his spot on the bench to get warm, either.
Sojourn Shelton (CB, Wisconsin)
Sojourn Shelton decided to show up early to Wisconsin in order to compete for playing time as soon as possible. That turned out to be a great decision.
He's already No. 2 on the depth chart at cornerback, and there's no reason to believe that Wisconsin will keep him on the sidelines to take a redshirt. If he is capable of making a difference on the field, the Badgers will be glad to get him out there.
Is he capable of making a significant contribution in his first season? Absolutely. Any player able to sit at No. 2 on a BCS bowl team after just one spring practice is able to contribute in his first season.
Shelton fits that bill perfectly. Look for Shelton on the Wisconsin side of the field, and keep him in your mind. The Freshman All-America Team will likely have his name on it as well.