SEC Football: Top 10 Future Stars
Predicting tomorrow's stars today was once an absurd thought in college football. Used to be, freshmen were not allowed on the field. They did, however, play their own season somewhat.
Nowadays, everyone is playing. It is no secret when you have a spectacular football player who played in high school just one or two seasons ago. Redshirts are going by the wayside in Knoxville. Freshmen are all over the place in Tuscaloosa. The game is changing so quickly, the level of competition from even some high schools has given players an opportunity to step on college campuses ready to play.
Alabama RB Trent Richardson was just a freshman two seasons ago when the Crimson Tide won a national championship and Mark Ingram garnered the university's first Heisman Trophy. But from the time Richardson made his debut, it was no secret he would be special, maybe even better than Ingram.
Finding the stars of tomorrow may not be as difficult as it was during the 1970s, but not everyone is Trent Richardson.
10. Trey Burton, Ath, Florida (Soph.)
Nobody is really certain what position Trey Burton of Florida plays. His stats would indicate he is a running back, but the all-around player has seen time at nearly every offensive spot, sans left tackle.
Burton averages 4.1 yards per carry, with three touchdowns on the ground as a Sophomore this season. He has also hauled in 13 passes for 90 yards and a score.
In Burton's freshman campaign, he was able to find the end zone 11 times on the ground, rushing 75 times for nearly 350 yards. He completed 4-of-6 passes for 83 yards as well last year. In addition, he grabbed 32 receptions for over 200 yards and a score.
His biggest concern to this point is being able to hang on to the football, having fumbled three times and losing two.
9. Trovon Reed, WR, Auburn (Fresh.)
Trovon Reed, a 6-foot wide out from Thibodeaux, La., has been a bright spot on the Tigers' abysmal offense all season.
Reed has been able to make plays when Auburn was without leading receiver Emory Blake. In his first season on the Plains, Reed has hauled in 15 passes for 117 yards, but has yet to reach the end zone. But let's face it, not many Auburn Tigers are reaching the end zone these days.
His best game was at Clemson, where he grabbed three passes for 31 yards on the day, but Reed has been a consistent target for the rotating wheel that is Auburn's quarterback situation.
8. Andre Debose, WR, Florida (Soph.)
Best known for his torching of Alabama's defense on the first play from scrimmage, Andre Debose has been a main target for John Brantley and others this season.
His 233 receiving yards ranks second on the team but, when Debose touches the ball, you can bet it is for a long gain. His 25.9 yards per catch leads the team, and it isn't close.
Against the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation, Debose hauled in three passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
7. Jalston Fowler, RB, Alabama (Fresh.)
Through seven games this season, Jalston Fowler has had no trouble gaining attention. Despite being stuck behind Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacey, Fowler has managed to rush for over 100 yards in a game, and leads the running back trio in yards per carry.
In Alabama's win over Ole Miss, the freshman phenom ran just nine times for 125 yards and scored two of his three touchdowns this season.
Fowler is destined for greatness, as many of Alabama and Nick Saban's running backs are.
6. Kiehl Frazier, QB, Auburn (Fresh.)
In a season when Auburn needs all the help they can muster, Kiehl Frazier adds a bright spot.
Frazier was a Gatorade Player of the Year last year, and played in the Under Armour All-Star game.
This season, he has been able to keep defenses on their toes, by giving the Tigers the benefit of having a quarterback who's a running threat. Frazier has been much akin to Tim Tebow in his freshman campaign, coming in to give Auburn a boost on the ground.
Completing just 50 percent of his passes, Frazier has a long way to go in the air attack but, on the ground, he has been phenomenal. Rushing 43 times for nearly 200 yards, the quarterback has been dynamic on the ground.
In the years to come, Frazier could take over at QB, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is the next Kodi Burns.
5. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee (Soph.)
In just two games and one play, Justin Hunter has nearly matched his freshman numbers. Before tearing his ACL this season, Hunter was a dynamic and explosive receiver. His numbers are astounding. He was widely considered Tennessee's best outside threat.
This season, Hunter hauled in 17 passes for 314 yards and two scores before his injury.
It is likely Hunter will receive a medical redshirt, and that is not good news for SEC secondaries.
4. Michael Ford, RB, LSU (Soph.)
Saying Michael Ford is a future star is like saying that young kid from the Jackson 5 is going to be a star one day. Ford is already a star for the LSU Tigers.
Ford is proving why he was heralded coming out of high school, and Les Miles is loving every minute of it.
In the month of September alone, he carried the ball 52 times for 300 yards and six scores, including a 92 yard, two TD performance in the season opener against Oregon.
In October, his numbers have dipped, but Ford is still a workhorse for the Bayou Bengals. He carried the ball 12 times in the Tigers' latest win over Auburn for 82 yards. He averages 5.6 yards per carry.
3. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia (Fresh.)
For Mark Richt, Isaiah Crowell may be the saving grace. His top recruit from last year's class has really made his mark so far this season for the Bulldogs.
In his opening year, Crowell is carrying the football like a seasoned vet. Rushing 128 times for over 600 yards and four touchdowns, the running back from Columbus, Ga. is giving Bulldogs' fans hope.
He's rushed for over 100 yards in three games this season, and makes an exceptional complement to Aaron Murray.
2. Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee
Taking over for Matt Simms midway through last season, Tyler Bray has been a special football player.
Throwing for over 3,000 yards and 32 touchdowns in 14 games is exceptional. Before breaking his thumb in a loss to Georgia, Bray had thrown for over 1,500 yards and 14 scores with just two interceptions. Both picks were against Florida.
In the Vols' 45-23 win over Cincinnati (6-1), Bray completed over 80 percent of his passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns.
Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley was high on Bray before the season, telling the Knox News blog, "The quote 'sophomore jinx' has been going on since the beginning of time. I don't think it's a jinx. I think when things come pretty easily for you early, you have a natural human tendency to think that it's easy. And it's not. And so I don't anticipate that happening to Tyler, but it certainly could."
1. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama (Soph.)
For another quarterback to beat out Tyler Bray, he had to be special. If there is a more special player than A.J. McCarron, I'd like to speak with him.
After splitting time with Phillip Sims in the first two games, McCarron made it an easy decision to give him the starting position.
Since essentially taking over the job after the first week against Kent State, despite splitting the first half with Sims, the Sophomore has gone on a tear, throwing nine touchdown passes to just one interception.
His 67 percent completion rate leads starting quarterbacks in the SEC, and he is second in passing yards behind pass-happy Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson.
The thing McCarron does for Alabama is continue the balance in offense that Greg McElroy gave the Tide the last two seasons. He does more than manage the game, he keeps the linebackers and safeties honest enough to help his plethora of running backs tear up the turf.
A.J. McCarron is a star in the making, and could be the best quarterback in Alabama's illustrious history when he's finished.