5 SEC Football Players in Need of a Strong Fall Practice
Many teams around the SEC could use a healthy, strong showing by their most important players in the fall.
The offseason, as we all know, can be troublesome. LSU fans will quickly reference Jeremy Hill, while Texas A&M fans will point to their Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel. And no one is safe. Heck, just recently Vanderbilt had to kick four players off of the team for an alleged sexual crime.
On a brighter note, it's also a time for injured players to heal and focus on fall camp.
Because of offseason troubles, rehabilitating injuring or because of the overall importance of the player, here are the five SEC players who most need a strong fall practice.
For LSU, it's all on Zach Mettenberger.
You can talk about replacing eight NFL draft picks on defense all you want, but because of Les Miles' recruiting and John Chavis' expertise, the defense will be solid once again.
You can also mention the fact that LSU might not have Hill starting at running back, but the return of Alfred Blue should balance that out.
Talk, talk, talk. Speak for hours if you'd like about LSU's obstacles in 2013. The fact remains that Mettenberger decides whether this LSU team challenges for another national championship or not.
The defense has talent, and the offense has a lot of weapons with experience. If Mettenberger evolves as a quarterback and allows new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to mold him, the Tigers could shock SEC fans by running through a tremendously difficult schedule.
Your heart had to break for Ronald Powell.
Here's a guy who was playing his best football last spring, and then an injury sidelined him for 2012. The story was especially sad because Powell's ACL tear occurred in last year's spring game.
Recovery, rehab, hours upon hours of stretching, drilling and 11-on-11 drills followed.
All of those hours have paid off. It fueled him for a comeback, and he should be extremely valuable for the Gators in 2013.
The Gators were ninth in the SEC in sacks last season without Powell, and with him rushing the passer, that stat should increase. The Gators need Powell to remain healthy so he can contribute in 2013.
From one injured SEC player to another—James Franklin needs a healthy fall.
A lot like Mettenberger, Franklin is the lifeline for this Missouri team.
When he's clicking, the offense moves up and down the field, and it should again with the return of Henry Josey, along with Dorial Green-Beckham. But at times in 2012, he was far from effective.
In fact, Franklin finished the season throwing for 1,562 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. That's a big step down from his 2,865 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2011. But then again, look at the difference in competition.
First and foremost for the Tigers, Franklin needs to be fully healthy coming into camp. He needs to stay that way. For Missouri to make noise and avoid being a couch cushion next season, Franklin has to lead this offense effectively.
Damian Swann and Tray Matthews are the superstars in Georgia's secondary.
The way it's looking, they might be the only stars. Let's take a head count, shall we?
Bacarri Rambo, Shawn Williams and Sanders Commings were all taken in the 2013 NFL draft. Ouch. Freshman cornerback Reggie Wilkerson, who was expected to start opposite of Swann, is potentially lost for the season with a knee injury. More ouch.
And to make matters even worse, Josh Harvey-Clemons is suspended for the opener against that high-octane offense boasted by Clemson.
That makes Swann valuable. Because of his talent and experience, Swann will be counted on as a veteran in the secondary. Intense preparation this fall is dire.
Nobody needs a better fall practice than Johnny Manziel.
However, you should know this is what people will be saying in a few months: "He's elusive." "He's explosive." "He's a problem for defensive coordinators, and there's no sign of a quick fix."
The offseason has handicapped Johnny Football's brand for the time being, and that's okay, because time is on his side.
Luckily for him, he will start doing what he does best again: playing football. It's time to re-establish that brand, Johnny.