25 breakout stars for 2013


The following players aren’t being talked about too much right now, but by season’s end they will be:

Deion Belue, CB, Alabama — As if Bama needed another breakout star, right?  Belue has first round talent and should come into his own this season for the Tide.

Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State — At 6-4, Strong, a JC transfer, is that rare tall receiver who can actually run like he’s 5-11. He should develop into one of the Pac-12’s best receivers in 2013.

Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas — Williams is a big time talent who should flourish in Brett Bielema’s scheme. If there’s a dark horse to lead the SEC in rushing, he’s it.

Robbie Rhodes, WR, Baylor — I was the first to tab Rhodes as a breakout star back in February and he hasn’t disappointed during fall camp. He’s might be the top freshman wide receiver in the country.

Kenny Lawler, WR, California — While Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper are the headline wide receivers for Cal, Lawler is the one with the most upside. If spring ball is any indication, he should have a stellar redshirt freshman season.

Dante Fowler, DE, Florida — Count on the explosive and athletic Fowler to turn into one of the best pass rushers in the SEC now that he’s starting full time as a sophomore.

Ray Drew, DE, Georgia — The highly-touted Drew hasn’t quite lived up to his recruiting billing thus far, but he should finally emerge as a star on Georgia’s reconstituted front seven.

Brenden Daley, LB, Hawaii — The Hawaii defense was a mess last season but Daley has the size (255 pounds) and the footwork to be its bright spot in 2013.

Jake Waters, QB, Kansas State — Waters has the unenviable job of replacing the great Collin Klein. While he doesn’t have Klein’s toughness, he’s a better passer and is also a threat to make plays with his feet.

Danielle Hunter, DE, LSU — Hunter is the latest freak to take up residence on LSU’s defensive line. He’s an elite athlete who should eventually be a first round pick.

Noah Spence, DE, Ohio State — The Buckeyes need Spence to step up to the challenge of being a full-time starter. His development should be one of the keys to their run at the national title.

Lavon Hooks, DT, Ole Miss — Hooks is a big, bouncy, jumbo JC transfer who should immediately become one of the SEC’s best interior lineman. He has a chance to be a first round pick one day.

Theiren Cockran, DE, Minnesota — A former basketball player who bloomed late, Cockran has the wingspan and the athleticism to be a terror off the edge for the Gophers.

Romar Morris, RB, North Carolina — Morris, who has great speed borne of a track background, should help make Tar Heel fans forget that Giovanni Bernard left early. He’s a good bet to become UNC’s next 1,000-yard rusher.

Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma — Phillips is a big-time talent who is being counted on to anchor the Sooners defensive line. When all is said and done, he could be the best tackle in the Big 12.

Boseko Lokombo, LB, Oregon — Lokombo is a heat-seeking missile at linebacker, a versatile athlete with a knack for making plays. He should have a stellar season now that he’s a full-time starter.

Damiere Byrd, WR, South Carolina — Byrd is another one of those track guys who people conveniently forget are track guys because he’s also a good football player. He is a threat to take it to the distance at any time and he’ll do so a lot in 2013.

James Vaughters, OLB, Stanford — As good as Stanford’s linebacker corps is, Vaughters is the best athlete of the bunch. He should become a star now that his apprenticeship as a backup is over.

MJ McFarland, TE, Texas — McFarland isn’t listed as the starter for the Longhorns, but he’s too dynamic and athletic to keep off the field. He’s has the ability to be a deep threat despite being 6-6, 245 pounds.

Tommy Sanders, LB, Texas A&M — Sanders is a lightning quick JC transfer who nailed down a starting job for the Aggies this past spring. He should be turn into the leader of the A&M defense before too long.

Jordan Payton, WR, UCLA — Payton has some of the best hands in the country and, with his size and strength, he’s sure to become one of Brett Hundley’s favorite targets.

George Uko, DT, USC — The cat-like Uko spearheads USC’s talented front seven and should flourish in the Trojans’ new 5-2 scheme.

Travis Wilson, QB, Utah — Look for the tall, athletic Wilson to improve considerably after taking his lumps as a true freshman in 2012. He should lead the Utes back into bowl contention.

Cyler Miles, QB, Washington — Keith Price is the starter for now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian turns to the uber-talented Miles if/when his team’s season goes south.

River Cracraft, WR, Washington State — Besides having a great name, Cracraft is a perfect fit for Mike Leach’s offense. He’s an excellent route runner with good hands, size and speed. He’ll catch a lot of balls this year.

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Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of Heismanpundit.com, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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3 Responses to 25 breakout stars for 2013

  1. Moose Haas August 28, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

    You are right on the mark in thinking that Boseko Lokombo, LB, Oregon is going to be a breakout year. Last year, he was hidden behind Dion Jordan, so not many people know of him.

    But I think you missed someone. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin. Out of all of the great backs to come out of this school, Gordon “might have the most talent of any kid I’ve ever signed at that position”, according to former coach Bret Bilemma. As a freshman, Gordon averaged a ridiculous 10 yards per carry.

  2. HP August 29, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    I do like Melvin Gordon, but I feel like he had some play last year, so maybe he wouldn’t be considered a total breakout. Kind of a judgement call, I guess. But good suggestion.

    There were a lot of guys that could’ve gone on this list, including several from the same team, but I tried to confine it to one per team. Oregon for instance: I also like DeForest Buckner, Thomas Tyner, Arik Armstead, Tyson Coleman and Joe Walker.


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