SEC Football: Players Making a Name for Themselves Early in the 2013-14 Season
Every year, college football fans are introduced to a handful of players who go from unnoticed to trending on Twitter in a matter of a few games.
In the Southeastern Conference, there is no shortage of explosive, well-rounded athletes. However, highlighting which players are deserving of such breakout recognition can become a game of second-guessing.
Here, we'll narrow the list down to four players.
While they may have entered the season with less hype than their conference counterparts, these breakout players have certainly made the biggest tangible impact for their team four weeks into the 2013 season.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
A former high school hoops star, Evans reached new heights on Sept. 14 versus a vaunted Alabama defense that few receivers have experienced against a Saban-coached secondary.
Evans' team-best 279 receiving yards fell just 24 yards shy of the SEC single-game receiving record.
Although the Aggies fell at home, Evans' performance on a big stage has generated a ton of buzz in both conference and NFL circles alike. NFL.com's Bucky Brooks touched on what he saw from Evans' performance versus Alabama:
He tore up the No. 1 team in the country with a game that is far more explosive and dynamic than expected from a playmaker of his size. He blew past the Crimson Tide's defensive backs with ease, while also showing the physicality and toughness to overpower defenders in close proximity. Additionally, Evans made a number of plays when the game appeared to be out of reach, which revealed his competitive zeal and mental toughness.
Evans' quick start this season is all but an encore to his 2012 campaign.
Masked by Johnny Manziel's on- and off-field antics, Evans went largely unnoticed as Manziel's most reliable option in the passing game, totaling 82 receptions for 1,105 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Only now with his quarterback's hype dwindling do we see how much talent this big-bodied receiver possesses.
Mack Brown, RB, Florida
Matt Jones' lengthy recovery from a prolonged viral infection has freed up enough playing time for Brown to solidify his role in Florida's offense. His performance thus far suggests the run game will be fine despite Jones' absence.
The 5'11", 215-pound redshirt junior has amassed 227 rushing yards on 59 carries—good for 3.8 yards per rush. But where Brown has stood out the most is in the red zone.
It's no secret that Florida has struggled mightily in such scoring opportunities, as evidenced by the team's league-worst 10-of-17 red-zone efficiency.
Brown's three touchdowns in 2013, however, have each come inside the opponent's 20-yard line and account for 49 percent of Florida's touchdown total in such situations.
Muschamp reiterated that the Gators will go with the tailback that has the hot hand. That would be Mack Brown at the moment.— Robbie Andreu (@RobbieAndreu) September 23, 2013
Although Brown may not lead the SEC in rushing, he has certainly filled a large void left behind by both Jones and former Gator Mike Gillislee, who entered the 2013 NFL draft in April.
Jordan Jenkins, LB, Georgia
With Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree bolting to the pros, Georgia was left with holes in its linebacker corps.
Enter Jenkins, who saw limited snaps as a freshman last year, recording 31 tackles, five sacks and one forced fumble.
Replacing the production of both linebackers—particularly Jones' 14.5 sacks in 2012—is certainly no small task, but Jenkins makes this list because, although his sack total as freshman was enough to build high expectations, he has managed those expectations thus far in 2013.
How strong is Jordan Jenkins? He just knocked 299-pound Garrison Smith to the ground after a chest bump.— Seth Emerson (@SethEmerson) September 21, 2013
Thus far, Jenkins has recorded 15 tackles, four for loss and six quarterback hurries.
Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Losing 10 starters on defense is no easy deficit to overcome. But with Mettenberger playing up to snuff as one of the premier signal-callers in the conference, LSU remains perfect through four games.
It has been a quick turnaround for Mettenberger, who has nearly passed for more touchdowns through four games this season than he did in all of 2012. He's completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 1,026 passing yards and 10 touchdowns.
With first-year coordinator Cam Cameron calling plays, Mettenberger has showcased his arm strength and pocket presence.
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks believes Mettenberger's stock is rising:
If you're looking for a sleeper to follow in the 2014 NFL Draft, I would suggest putting Mettenberger on the short list of candidates. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound standout has completed 62.7 percent of his passes in a pro-style offense that pushes the ball down the field on an assortment of vertical routes. Additionally, he has tossed six touchdowns without an interception, which speaks volumes about his sound decisions from the pocket. Of course, Mettenberger will need to play well against the SEC's top-tier opponents to convince scouts he is worthy of consideration as a high pick, but the arrow is certainly pointing up when assessing his chances at the next level.
On a team known for its defensive prowess, Mettenberger continues to hit on all cylinders with little to no national attention in 2013.
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