6 Pac-12 Players Most Likely to Regress in 2013
Every season in college football there are players who don’t put up the numbers expected of them. For those players with potential futures in professional football, their performances in 2013 could make the difference between the first round in the NFL draft and a much later one, or even between the NFL itself and a less-heralded league.
Which players in the Pac-12 are most likely to find themselves in this group after the 2013 season?
There are an infinite amount of reasons that could cause a player to regress statistically from the previous season. Each of the players listed have underwent some change this offseason which I feel is going to make their numbers drop below expected levels. I’ve described these changes in each player’s slide.
Apologies for the pessimism just under three weeks before the start of the 2013 college football season, but not everyone will live up to their expectations. We might as well start inching closer to reality.
I’ve listed the players in alphabetical order by school.
Ka'Deem Carey (Arizona)
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Ka’Deem Carey will have even more pressure on him in 2013, and he could crack under it.
Carey had the most rushing yards and yards from scrimmage in FBS in 2012. Arizona returns only six offensive starters, and one of them isn’t at quarterback. More for Carey, perhaps?
Carey won’t become the next Montee Ball, and here’s why.
In 2011, the season he finished fourth in the Heisman voting, Ball helped lead the Badgers to the Rose Bowl after winning the Big Ten. Carey’s Wildcats finished 8-5 with a win in the New Mexico Bowl in 2012. Clearly not as good.
Also, Ball didn’t have to carry the load by himself on the ground in 2012, whereas Carey will in 2013. Even with Ball racking up 356 carries for 1,830 yards and 22 touchdowns, he had good backups. James White and Melvin Gordon combined for 187 carries, 1,427 yards and 15 touchdowns in relief of Ball.
The second-leading rusher for Arizona in 2012 was quarterback Matt Scott, but he has moved on to the NFL.
Early returns for Carey don’t look good. Daniel Berk of the Arizona Daily Star wrote about how the offense has struggled so far in fall camp. Rich Rodriguez feels nobody, even Carey, has gotten a passing grade to this point, Berk said.
Carey could get over 300 carries again in 2013, but the rest of the offense will need to do its part for him to repeat his numbers in the yards and touchdowns columns.
De'Anthony Thomas (Oregon)
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De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon’s do-it-all back, won’t be the home run hitter that he’s been over the past two seasons.
Thomas will continue to see touches at running back, wide receiver, kick returner and punt returner, but he’ll have to shoulder more of the load as a rusher thanks to Kenjon Barner’s departure.
In 2011, Thomas and Barner teamed up with LaMichael James to form a potent three-headed monster. Thomas ran the ball 55 times for 595 yards for a mind-boggling 10.8 yards per carry.
In 2012, it was Thomas and Barner who created a feared running back tandem, because James moved on to the NFL. Thomas’s carries went up to 92, and with 701 rushing yards, his average dropped to 7.6. This average still led the Pac-12, but a three-yard drop in yards per carry is significant.
In each of these seasons, Thomas scored 16 touchdowns from scrimmage and 108 total points. The trend says “The Black Momba” will repeat these scoring numbers, but I’m not so sure. Why?
First, Thomas will have more carries this season then he's ever had at Oregon. The Ducks love to run the football, so his carries should easily eclipse triple digits. If all Thomas did was run, he’d be fine, but he also returns kicks and punts. That’s a lot of action.
Second, as Jason Quick of OregonLive.com suggests, Thomas’ size isn’t ideal for a workhorse running back. The coaching staff at Oregon understands what could become of Thomas if he gets hit one too many times. After all, he’s already left a practice early with an athletic trainer, Quick said.
Third, Chip Kelly has left Eugene for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. New head coach Mark Helfrich was Kelly’s offensive coordinator at Oregon, but he’s not Kelly. Helfrich can follow the system Kelly created all he wants, but at the end of the day, it’s his team. Will Helfrich use Thomas in the same effective ways that Kelly did?
“DAT” will be one of college football’s most dynamic offensive players in 2013, but he won’t put up the Heisman-type numbers some expect of him.
Brandin Cooks (Oregon State)
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Brandin Cooks is one of those college football players whose production increases as he moves up the depth chart due to roster turnover. To be considered one of the best wide receivers in the game, though, Cooks might have to match his career totals in one season. I don’t see that happening in 2013.
Cooks enters the 2013 season without Markus Wheaton. Both Wheaton and Cooks had over 1,100 receiving yards for the Beavers in 2012. Now that Wheaton has moved on to the NFL, Cooks understands his role in the offense will increase a lot this season.
The downside: Opposing defenses know it too.
Aside from Cooks being the main target in the passing game, I expect Oregon State to use running back Storm Woods more as well. Woods, as a redshirt freshman, picked up 940 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground in 2012. One thousand yards rushing and more carries are expected out of Woods, and Cooks will be one of the Beavers’ offensive players who will have to surrender some targets to him.
Back to the career totals discussion.
Cooks has accumulated 98 receptions for 1,542 yards and eight touchdowns over two seasons for Oregon State. Wheaton put up 91 receptions for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Cooks could do this in 2013, but he’ll need other receivers to be threats to ensure this kind of production.
There aren't any guarantees.
Kevin Hogan (Stanford)
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Kevin Hogan had a great redshirt freshman season for Stanford in 2012, but he could regress statistically in 2013.
Hogan started the final five games of the 2012 season, which included the Pac-12 Championship Game and the Rose Bowl. With Hogan under center, the Cardinal went 5-0 and finished seventh in the Final AP Poll.
This season, there are questions surrounding Hogan. Kevin Gemmell of ESPN explains:
What remains to be seen…is what the offense around him will look like—specifically the running backs and receivers—and how he holds up over a full season. Head coach David Shaw said they were going to cram as much information as possible into him during the fall camp, because Hogan will be asked to do a great deal more offensively in 2013.
In short, can Hogan handle it?
Two of a quarterback’s best friends are the running back and the tight end. Hogan lost all three to the NFL draft this offseason: Stepfan Taylor, Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo. If their replacements aren’t as good as they were, especially in the running game, then Hogan could have to make up their production through the air.
Hogan had a 71.7 completion percentage and 147.9 quarterback rating in 2012, but perhaps he was so efficient because he played only half the season.
Can the Cardinal get to another Rose Bowl without completing 60 percent of their passes like they did in 2012? Or getting a healthy five yards per touch at 363 touches like Taylor did?
We can’t forget that Stanford returns only six offensive starters. Though only one has left from the offensive line, Andy Drukarev of CardinalSportsReport.com believes what Shaw decides to do at center will determine who plays right guard as well. If the center changes in 2013, then Hogan will have to develop chemistry rather quickly with him for Stanford to be successful immediately.
Are the Cardinal, led by Hogan, ready to play for the BCS National Championship? I don’t believe so.
Anthony Barr (UCLA)
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Anthony Barr surprised everyone in college football in 2012 by becoming one of the sport’s premier pass-rushers. Now that he’s on everyone’s radar in 2013, I wouldn’t expect him to get near those tackles for loss and sacks numbers again.
Barr went under the radar in 2012 because he played linebacker for the first time in college. In 2010 and 2011, respectively, he was a sparingly used wide receiver and running back for the Bruins.
Barr will be more of a leader on defense in 2013 as well. UCLA returns only five starters on defense, which is the fewest in the Pac-12, according to Ted Miller of ESPN. With so much inexperience on this side of the ball, opposing offenses will take their chances with other players besides Barr. If Barr is constantly blocked from getting in the backfield, or he’s not targeted on passing downs, then his production will drop.
The term “shutdown corner” is used frequently in football. Barr could be college football’s best example of a “shutdown pass-rusher,” if there ever was one, meaning opposing offenses will do anything to keep him out of the play.
Marqise Lee (USC)
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Marqise Lee was college football’s best wide receiver in 2012, but there are a few signs pointing to a statistical regression in 2013.
First, Robert Woods has moved on to the NFL. Woods was the Trojans’ second-leading receiver last season. Can USC adequately replace Woods’ 74 receptions, 849 yards and 11 touchdowns, namely with Nelson Agholor?
Second, a new quarterback will be starting for the Trojans. Since Lane Kiffin has ruled out Max Browne as the 2013 starter, according to Trenise Ferreira of ReignOfTroy.com, the race has come down to Max Wittek and Cody Kessler. Will either of them be a suitable replacement for Matt Barkley?
USC recruits blue-chip quarterbacks all the time, but Barkley’s departure could be the program’s most devastating blow to the position in quite some time. Barkley started all four years for USC, and he broke numerous program and conference passing records in the process.
As far as Lee is concerned, will whoever replaces Barkley get him the ball effectively enough?
These two factors mean Lee will need to lead even more in the passing game. He’ll get more attention from defenses, and this could make his 2013 numbers go down from 2012.
Lee will go in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft barring any devastating circumstances (like a major injury), but don’t be surprised if he’s picked outside the top 10 with a not-as-productive 2013.