Posted by Walter
So the 2006 regular season is in the books. Good season, not great. And before a whole new generation of stars and chic teams for 2007 emerge during bowl month I thought I'd post on some of the players I saw this year who look to be the next big thing for college football. Basically, I'm getting my analysis on record before these guys start exploding into the national spotlight.
Calais Campbell, Sophomore DE University of Miami
If you haven't heard of this guy already, you will very soon. Only a sophomore, Campbell has played like a man among infants since being inserted into the starting lineup. Campbell is an absolute monster at 6'8'' and 260 lbs., and with plenty of room to add weight we may be looking at a future number one overall draft pick. Campbell is that good.....just ask the Boston College offense that was shut down almost singlehandedly by Campbell. The scary thing is that Campbell has just begun to scratch the surface of his potential, yet he is already putting up other wordly numbers nothing 49 tackles, a whopping 20 tackles for a loss (no that isn't a typo!), and 10 sacks.
Sammie Stroughter, Junior WR Oregon State
It's not hard to get overlooked when you are a skill position player playing in the Pac-10 and you don't play for USC or California. Still, it's time for Sammie Stroughter to introduce himself to the national college football world. As explosive as any player I saw all season, Stroughter was the most consistent, and best player on an underrated Oregon State team in 2006. Stroughter's numbers are outstanding (1206 yards, 18.3 yards/catch, 4 TD), but the thing I like best about Stroughter is that he plays his best when the lights shine the brightest. Against USC, Stroughter caught 8 balls for 127 yards and returned a punt 70 yards for a score. Against Oregon, he caught 8 balls for 114 yards. And against Hawaii (at Hawaii) Stroughter delivered big play after big play, catching only 3 passes but for over 100 yards and a score. When we think of Pac-10 offensive stars from 2006, Stroughter is an afterthought to the likes of Dwayne Jarrett, Marshawn Lynch, and Steve Smith. That won't be the case in 2007.
Bruce Davis, Junior DE UCLA
Though he doesn't have the raw potential of Calais Campbell, Davis is similar in the sense that he is already producing at an all america level. Davis is a more polished end, but at only 6'3'' and 250 lbs. he is a bit of a tweener as far as the NFL is considered. UCLA, and the rest of the Pac-10, don't care one bit. Davis was an absolute terror in 2006 recording 17 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks, but he was helped a ton by the presence of senior Justin Hickman (18 TFL, 12.5 sacks) on the opposite end. Davis will be the focal point for every offense next season, so his 2007 numbers may not be quite as good. Still, if Davis continues to improve he could find himself rising from a relative unknown right now to a potential top 10 NFL pick.
Andre Woodson, Junior QB Kentucky
Sometimes the guys that get overlooked make no sense. Woodson falls into that category. Here is a guy who has put up all america caliber numbers in the SEC, and I will guarantee you most college football fans would rattle off names like Chris Leak, Erik Ainge, Brandon Cox, and Jamarcus Russell before they finally got to Woodson. Thing is, with the exception of Russell, Woodson has outperformed all of those household names, and done so without the benefit of the skill position talent they work with. Consider Woodson's numbers in 2006: 3216 yards, 62.4 completion %, and a 28/7 TD ratio. Now consider that he is 6'5'' and 240 lbs. with picture perfect mechanics, and he has put up these numbers in the toughest defensive conference in the nation. So why doesn't anyone know about this guy? Yeah I can't think of a reason either. If Jamarcus Russell declares for the NFL draft, and a relatively weak crop of quarterbacks next season, I wouldn't be surprised if we were talking about Andre Woodson as a potential 2007 all american and first round NFL pick.
Marcus Monk, Junior WR Arkansas
Unlike Woodson, it's easy to see why Monk gets overlooked.....he plays on the same team as some guy named McFadden. Still Monk deserves his due. Monk is HUGE. He stands a legit 6'6'' and 220 lbs., and he plays every bit as big as he is. Though he hasn't had a quality quarterback throwing him the ball this season, Monk still managed to produce nearly 1000 yards and 11 TD for the Razorbacks. The most impressive thing for me, however, is that Monk was a big play reciever despite a relative lack of blazing speed. Monk averaged nearly 20 yards per catch in 2006, and one has to wonder how high his numbers could go in 2007 with both McFadden and Felix Jones returning. If quarterbacks Casey Dick and/or Mitch Mustain show marked improvement, you can just about etch Monk's name on the 2007 All American team.
CJ Spiller, Freshman RB Clemson
Spiller is a bit of an oddity on this list, because lots of people know about him. Still, Spiller is thought of as somewhat of a secondary back to Clemson starter Anthony Davis. Fact is, Spiller is the much better of the two backs, and it isn't really that close. The situation in Clemson reminds me a lot of Virginia Tech a few years ago when they had Lee Suggs entrenched as the starter before Kevin Jones came in as a Freshman. Not wanting to alienate the elder Suggs, the Hokies split carries between them despite the fact that Jones was the far superior athlete. Not giving Jones the ball hurt Tech, and by mimicing that strategy Tommy Bowden cost his team games this year. In Clemson's 4 losses this season, Spiller had a combined 34 carries. In their 2 biggest wins (@ Wake Forest, Georgia Tech) Spiller toted the rock a combined 25 times for 220 yards. Anthony Davis is a solid back, but Spiller is special. He is a big play back (7.4 yards/carry in 2006) who will challenge Darren McFadden and Steve Slaton for highlight reel time in 2007.......assuming Tommy Bowden doesn't go all Frank Beamer on us.
South Carolina Gamecocks
OK, so we all know that I have unabashed love for Steve Spurrier. That said, let the record reflect that on Dec. 16, 2006 I give you the super sleeper team for the 2007 season. Consider the following:
(i) Talent - Outside of Arkansas, the Gamecocks should have the most returning talent of any team in the SEC. South Carolina should return 7 offensive starters (inluding their entire slate of skill position players) who will all have had another year of tutelage by Spurrier. The Gamecocks should also return 9 starters from a defense that has improved steadily all season and will be the strength of the 2007 squad. So that is 16 potential returning starters, but it's not just the quantity of these players. If Sidney Rice returns he will probably be the preseason favorite for all america and Belitnikoff award honors, but among the other 15 returning starters are potential all SEC players Jasper Brinkley, Casper Brinkley, Eric Norwood, Ryan Succop and Kenny McKinley.
(ii) Schedule - South Carolina has three tough road games in 2007: LSU, Arkansas, and Tennesse. Given that they play in the SEC this isn't too bad. LSU and Arkansas will both be loaded, but Tennessee will be a very winnable game for the Gamecocks, especially with Spurrier on their sideline. The bigges thing about their schedule though, is the murderous four game stretch they end with: @ TN, @ AK, Florida, Clemson. Now this will really test the Gamecocks' meddle, but two things immediately come to mind. First, the fact that the schedule is so backloaded means that South Carolina should be able to win a lot of games early and build some confidence. Only LSU will stand in their way of rolling into TN as an 8-0 team and ranked in the top 10. Second, those four games will really give South Carolina a chance to make up ground in the BCS should they need to late in the season. While they probably aren't going to go into TN and AK and win, if they can win one of those games and then take care of Florida and Clemson at home, that will really help their BCS standing.
(iii) Trends - Take a look at who South Carolina lost to this year: Georgia (ranked #12 when the teams played), Auburn (#2), Tennesee (#12), Arkansas (#12), @ Florida (#6). Not a bad loss in there. Now consider that aside from an 18-0 loss to Georgia, South Carolina was within one score in each of the remaining losses. The point is that the Gamecocks were right there in 2006. A few plays go their way here or there and we're talking about a potential 9 win team instead of a team that lost 5 games and didn't really beat anyone all year.
(iv) Spurrier - The guy is the best their is, it's as simple as that. He hears the whispers that he is overrated, and believe me, he doesn't like it. Steve Spurrier knows the kind of talent he has coming back in 2007, and he also knows that the SEC is going to lose a ton of talent to the NFL. The stars are aligning, somewhat, for South Carolina to really break out and have a huge year in 2007. Winning the SEC title at South Carolina would be the crowning achievment in Spurrier's career. I'm not saying that it will happen in 2007, but I am saying that Steve will be driven by that possibility......a scary thought for opposing coaches.