College Football: 10 Players Who Will Face the Dreaded Sophomore Slump in 2011

David Luther@@davidrlutherFeatured ColumnistMay 3, 2011

College Football: 10 Players Who Will Face the Dreaded Sophomore Slump in 2011

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    Each year, we see some very promising or down-right amazing freshman performances, and 2010 was no different.

    But what happens when the novelty wears off? What happens when that promising young star, now a sophomore, is simply expected to perform at a high level?

    No longer are these phenoms a pleasant surprise—they're now depended upon to be stars.

    And when they don't meet the lofty expectations placed on them, we say they either have a slump, or worse, become irrelevant.

    Here are a list of ten promising freshmen phenoms looking to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.

Danny O'Brien, QB Maryland (FAA)

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    O'Brien had an impressive freshman campaign after taking over the starting duties for Maryland.

    With limited playing time in the first three games, in which two of them he didn't attempt a single pass, he still managed to amass 2,438 passing yards and 22 touchdowns for the Terrapins.

    After being named the ACC Rookie of the Year and a Freshman All-American, Maryland has certainly found a diamond in the rough in O'Brien.

    When you have a quarterback that completes nearly sixty percent of his passes, and also has a touchdown reception to his credit, it's easy to put a lot of pressure on him to continue to perform at a high level.

    Maryland definitely needs a star like O'Brien. The question now is can O'Brien continue to impress now that he'll be counted on to produce?

Marcus Lattimore, RB S Carolina

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    Marcus Lattimore was easily the best freshman running back in the nation in 2010, and he was named a Freshman All-American for his efforts.

    The questions about Lattimore certainly have nothing to do with his talents or abilities, but rather if he can take the full weight of the Gamecocks offense on his young shoulders should starting senior quarterback Stephen Garcia not return for the 2011 season.

    Lattimore is most effective when the defense is kept honest with the real risk of getting beat deep on a play action pass.

    If Garcia doesn't return, South Carolina may lose that facet of their game, and that could seriously effect Lattimore's effectiveness.

Ronnie Hillman, RB SDSU

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    Hillman finished the 2010 season with 1,532 rushing yards, leading all freshmen in the nation.

    San Diego State had a bit of a break-out season in 2010, and nearly made the national scene with a heart-breaking loss to TCU.

    After SDSU lost their effective coach to Michigan, Aztec fans will definitely be looking to returning stars like Hillman to continue the recent successes at San Diego State.

    Not only should Hillman, a 2010 Freshman All-American, respond well to the pressure, he'll be counted on to do so if SDSU has any chance in the Mountain West in 2011.

    He's even been picked as a running back who could be at or near the top of FBS rushing yards in 2011.

Josh Boyce, WR TCU

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    Josh Boyce, another Freshman All-American, had 646 receiving yards in 2010, averaging 19 yards per reception for the Horned Frogs.

    Josh Boyce in one of a handful of returning offensive players for TCU, and with the massive talent drain the Horned Frogs are suffering through, players like Boyce will be counted on to make every pass thrown in their direction count.

    TCU's last season in the Mountain West won't be an easy one, either. TCU has a conference road game at Boise State. It's been quite some time since a conference team went into Boise and left with a win.

    TCU has one shot. Will Boyce and company be able to be one-hit wonders in Boise?

Robert Woods, WR USC

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    Right now, USC can use any good news that comes their way.

    One very bright spot for the Trojans' future is Robert Woods.

    This Freshman All-American wide out had 786 receiving yards in 2010, and also handled kickoff returns, amassing 971 yards on kick returns, including a touchdown.

    Woods Is proving to be valuable both on offense and on special teams, and that's exactly the type of player USC will rely on to get through the lean years with reduced scholarship availability.

    Woods will be counted on to step up his game in his sophomore season, and help USC climb back into the Top 25 in preparation for 2012, when they can once again compete for a bowl bid.

Xavier Rhodes, CB Florida State

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    Could there possibly be any more hype surrounding Florida State for 2011?

    Part of the reason for all of the talk and the high preseason rankings is the talent that the Seminoles will have at their disposal.

    One of the young, talented players suiting up for Jimbo Fisher is Xavier Rhodes, the young corner from Miami Norland.

    Rhodes had 57 tackles in 2010, plus 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, four interceptions and 12 passes broken up.

    Pretty impressive for a freshman—enough to get him named a Freshman All-American for 2010.

    Rhodes is one of the players preseason pundits are looking at when they try to measure Florida State's potential for 2011. If Rhodes can take his game to the next level, it's possible Florida State could be every bit as good as advertised.

C.J. Mosley, LB Alabama

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    C.J. Mosley had a productive freshman campaign for the Crimson Tide in 2010.

    While he only intercepted two passes in 2010, both of them were returned for touchdowns.

    He also had 67 tackles, averaging over five per game.

    He had 10 pass deflections, two QB hurries, and a half sack in his 2010 Freshman All-American season.

    Alabama is highly ranked coming into 2011, and is expected to compete for both the SEC championship and a possible trip to the BCS title game.

    It will be all hands on deck for the Tide, and Mosley will be expected to mature his game and increase his numbers for 2011. And if the Tide want to make a triumphant return to the BCS, they'll need Mosley to do just that.

Aaron Murray, QB Georgia

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    Passing for over 3,000 yards in the SEC is difficult enough.  After all, Cam Newton didn't do it.

    But when you're a freshman, that's down-right impressive.

    Aaron Murray, the young star for the Bulldogs, had 3,049 yards in 2010, and 24 touchdowns.

    While the 2010 season didn't start out as many Georgia fans had hoped, by the time the season was over, Georgia had a perfectly respectable record, and an emerging star in Aaron Murray.

    Murray's task for 2011 is unenviable, however, as he'll not only be expected to avoid a sophomore slump, but be expected to be his teams leader as Georgia attempts to return to the top of the SEC-East.

Tyler Eifert, TE Notre Dame

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    Brian Kelly likes to utilize his tight ends. Freshman Tyler Eifert learned that first-hand in 2010, as he caught 27 passes for 352 yards and two touchdowns in 2010.

    As Eifert gains experience and strength, he'll be expected to have more offensive output and the ball comes his way more often.

    Notre Dame is also hoping for a return to national prominence—something that's eluded the Irish for the past decade or so.

    Eifert will need to avoid a sophomore slump to not only keep his starting job at tight end, but also to help the Irish avoid the close losses that derailed their 2010 season.

Jimbo Fisher, Coach Florida State

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    Our last selection is a sophomore (of sorts) that will not only need to avoid a slump, but is expected to regain his school's past glory.

    When first named as head coach for the Seminoles, Fisher said, “Empowered, confident athletes are winners. My goal is to get the structure, the staff, and the support resources in place to facilitate a winning plan, and get players into the structure and start effecting change. Now.”

    Well, the “now” to which Fisher was referring is here, and the early picture looks pretty good.

    Florida State is highly ranked in most early preseason polls, and is cracking the Top 10 in most of them.

    It's no wonder, after a 10-4 first year, including a Chick-Fil-A Bowl win over SEC-East champions South Carolina.  That performance was good enough for the Football Writers Association of America to name Fisher to their Freshman All-Ameican Team.

    Fisher is expected to bring big things back to Tallahassee in 2010, and he'll definitely need to avoid a sophomore slump if he wants to keep the fans squarely in his corner.

    If he does manage to improve on last season's success, he'll be well on his way to cementing his own legacy at Florida State.