Bandwagon Alert: Ten players primed for breakout seasons in '09
Robert Griffin and Taylor Potts look to join the Big 12 South's elite QB ranks
If healthy, Ohio State DE Lawrence Wilson will emerge as a top pass rusher
Jarrett Brown's size and experience should help WVU fans forget Pat White
Who's next? That's what everyone wants to know. We're a culture obsessed with getting in on the ground floor before a given band, show or movie becomes part of the pop-culture lexicon. Those of you who failed to jump on the Seth Rogan and Jason Segel bandwagon back in their Freaks and Geeks days can rest assured you won't meet the same fate this college football season. Here are 10 players poised to become college football's next household names.
Jarrett Brown, West Virginia QB
Brown must fill some seriously big shoes this season as he takes over for Pat White, the most prolific running quarterback in Division I-A history. Brown may not possess White's elusiveness, but the senior-to-be is bigger (6-foot-4, 221 pounds) and has gained plenty of experience as a backup, throwing for 839 yards and five TDs and running for 671 yards and seven scores in 25 games. He'll need to solidify himself as the same double-threat as White to take the pressure off speedy tailback Noel Devine.
Robert Griffin, Baylor QB
Despite earning Big 12 offensive newcomer of the year honors in 2008, Griffin's still largely operating in the shadows because he shares the Big 12 South with some fairly well-regarded quarterbacks (think Bradford, Sam; McCoy, Colt and Robinson, Zac). If Baylor ends its 14-year bowl drought, it will be on the arm and legs of Griffin, who amassed 2,937 total yards and 28 touchdowns as a freshman.
Aaron Hernandez, Florida TE
Despite starting every game after Cornelius Ingram's injury, few realized how dangerous Hernandez could be until the BCS title game, where he killed Oklahoma on shovel pass after shovel pass. Somehow the guy led all SEC tight ends with five TDs in '08 but failed to make the AP All-SEC squad. That'll change in '09.
Caleb King/Richard Samuel, Georgia RBs
Knowshon Moreno's departure should allow either King or Samuel to rise to the top and become the Bulldogs' next featured back, but it could result in Georgia reverting to the running back-by-committee approach it used before Moreno's emergence. Neither back saw a ton of touches in '08, with King carrying 61 times for 247 yards and Samuel totaling 133 yards on 26 carries. The pair could form a solid 1-2 punch, but the smart money's on King, who some exuberant Dawgs fans called "the next Herschel Walker" before he arrived in Athens.
Myron Lewis, Vanderbilt CB
With D.J. Moore headed for NFL riches, the lockdown cornerback designation in Nashville belongs to Lewis. The 6-3, 202-pounder led the Commodores with five interceptions as a junior, finished second to Moore with six pass breakups and recorded 76 tackles. Lewis, who is currently rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn labrum but is expected back for preseason camp, has a chance to be the 'Dores key playmaker on defense this season.
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas QB
Remember him? Mallett appeared in 11 games as a freshman at Michigan before transferring to Arkansas following Rich Rodriguez's arrival in Ann Arbor. Mallett has the kind of arm that should allow Bobby Petrino to open up his spread-option playbook -- and he has the kind of leg that may land him some punting duty for the Razorbacks as well.
Brandon Minor, Michigan RB
Minor emerged as the Wolverines' best backfield option during an injury-plagued junior season, ending '08 with 447 yards and seven touchdowns in the last five games, including 117 against Penn State's vaunted rush defense. This season, he'll get his chance to star as the featured back, and with a freshman likely under center, the veteran back will get his share of touches.
Taylor Potts, Texas Tech QB
Potts played sparingly the last two years as Graham Harrell's backup, but now the keys to Mike Leach's aerial attack belong to the junior. Considering the last five Lubbock-based QBs have averaged 4,557 yards and 34 TDs in their first year as starter, we should expect Potts to put up the same gaudy Red Raiders numbers.
Kyle Williams, Arizona State WR
Williams finished sixth on the Sun Devils with 19 receptions in '08, but he averaged 19.2 yards per catch and scored four times. He's already proven more than capable in the return game, ranking fourth nationally with 17 yards per punt return in '08, and this year he should thrive as ASU's top slot receiver.
Lawrence Wilson, Ohio State DE
Season-ending injuries have prevented Wilson from taking advantage of his opportunities on the Buckeyes defensive line. He suffered a broken leg in the first game of '07, then tore the ACL in his left knee with six games remaining last season. If he stays healthy, Wilson will cement himself as one of the top pass-rushers on the Buckeyes -- and in the Big Ten.
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