Five SEC Offensive Players Who Won't Suffer a Sophomore Slump
A sophomore slump is easy to explain. It's a condition which has effected enough second-year players that it has become a well-known, oft-expected affliction.
Some guys will manage to avoid it, but most players do hit that proverbial wall at some point.
Why? The main reason is opposing defenses begin to familiarize themselves better with that guy's style of play.
See, the great thing about being new to a conference is that defenses aren't familiar with a player's tendencies yet. Film can only show so much—the real test comes on the field. Therefore, many times, a players speed, agility, and strength can be underestimated.
That said, upon first encounter, many defenses will be a bit unprepared. However, defensive coordinators don't get paid to only watch tape, they are paid to not be fooled twice, and that means, by the second time around, most defenses will have adjusted their schemes to impede a particular player's progress.
Once that happens, it becomes that player's job to adjust his tendencies again.
That is not done easily as many of these guys have been running, catching, juking, and cutting the same way for their entire lives. As a result, they simply cannot make those adjustments without seeing a drop in their production from the previous season—therein laying the foundation for the dreaded sophomore slump.
Even so, there are players who will be able to defy those odds and make a run at being even better than the year before—a sophomore superstar if you will.
In my opinion, these guys are primed to be even better players as sophomores than they were as freshmen.
Orson Charles: Georgia
2009 Stats: 23 Receptions, 374 Yards, and Three Touchdowns (16.26 YPC)
Charles may have been one of the last guys to sign in Georgia's 2009 recruiting class, but he was one of the first to make some noise on the football field last season.
He is listed as a tight end for Georgia, but his overall skill set makes him every bit as dangerous as a wide receiver.
The Bulldogs will break in a new quarterback this year—Charles' good friend and teammate from Plant High—Aaron Murray.
The two had great chemistry in high school and have renewed that bond as teammates at Georgia. That bodes well for Orson, who became a safe target for former QB Joe Cox in multiple situations last season.
Added to that, the receiving corps is thin for the Bulldogs in 2010, and that means more looks coming the way of the tight end.
Expect Orson to enjoy having more opportunities to shine brightly for Georgia.
Fearless Prediction: 38 Receptions, 665 Yards, and Five Touchdowns
Tori Gurley: South Carolina
2009 Stats: 31 Receptions, 440 Yards, and Two Touchdowns (14.19 YPC)
It would have been easy to pick Alshon Jeffery here, after all, he's one of the most talented receivers on the Gamecock squad, and he, too, is just a sophomore.
However, the pressure to succeed in the face of tremendous expectations will be much higher on Jeffery than on Gurley. This, in my opinion, means Gurley is more likely to continue his consistency into 2010 and make an even bigger name for himself in Columbia this coming season.
At 6'5", 230 lbs, he's already a load. However, it's his stifling ability to make the big grab which makes him one of the most dangerous weapons in South Carolina's arsenal—assuming he has a competent quarterback to throw him the ball.
Look for more production out of Gurley this season as he struts out of the shadow of his fellow teammate's meteoric rise.
Fearless Prediction: 52 Receptions, 769 Yards, and Seven Touchdowns
Reuben Randle: LSU
2009 Stats: 11 Receptions, 173 Yards, and Two Touchdowns (15.73 YPC)
As a freshman, Randle wasn't able to make as big of an impact as he might have liked.
The Tigers of 2009 were squared away at the No. 1 and No. 2 receiver positions, with both Brandon LaFell and Terrance Tolliver towing the line.
However, with LaFell moving on to the NFL and Tolliver laying claim to the No. 1 spot, Randle could finally get his opportunity to show the SEC what he can do—sitting pretty at No. 2.
He will get a little interference from Russell Shepard, the other sophomore dynamo, who recently moved over from the quarterback spot, but the benefit of playing as a true wide receiver last season will give him a bit of an edge, development-wise, over his teammate.
Randle has great ability as a playmaker and he will, no doubt, break off some highlight reel runs after the catch this coming season. Add to that, the introduction of Billy Gonzalez (the former Florida Gators receiving coach) as his new position coach, and the sky could be the limit for Randle in 2010.
Fearless Prediction: 52 Receptions, 780 Yards, and Five Touchdowns
Ronnie Wingo, Jr.: Arkansas
2009 Stats: 50 Attempts, 318 yards, and Three Touchdowns (6.36 YPC)
Everyone knows that the Razorbacks can throw the ball behind the arm of probable Heisman candidate Ryan Mallett, but the key to a Hog revival in the SEC West won't come through the air, but on the ground.
In the SEC, it's nice to have a good passing game in your arsenal, but if you expect to win the close ones, you have to establish a good running game to offset your air attack.
The Hogs have no less than three talented men to fill that void, and none of them are full of more promise than Ronnie Wingo.
His 6'3" frame, coupled with his 200-plus pounds of muscle, are daunting enough, but in combination with his speed and vision, you have one serious player on your hands.
He didn't get nearly the carries he deserved last season, but don't expect that to happen again in 2010.
Fearless Prediction: 115 Attempts, 667 Yards, and Seven Touchdowns
Trent Richardson: Alabama
2009 Stats: 144 Attempts, 749 yards, and Eight Touchdowns (5.20 YPC)
He's got great size, tremendous strength, and an uncanny ability to leave defenders diving at his heels. He also plays for a team that has a Heisman trophy winner starting at the tailback position.
Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman winning running back for the Tide, returns for his junior season. He will still command the bulk of the Tide's carries, leaving Richardson free to run as dangerously as he pleases in 2010.
No pressure means very little drop in production.
The spotlight on him is brighter, but it's still Ingram's team until further notice. That means Richardson can keep auditioning for 2011—the year he's likely to take over the top spot for the Tide.
I see big things for him in 2010—how could you not?
Fearless Prediction: 175 attempts, 962 yards, and 12 Touchdowns
(This article appears courtesy of The Lady Sportswriter at http://theladysportswriter.blogspot.com/)