Will there be a player who has a Johnny Manziel-type breakout season in 2013?
That may be a bit too much to expect, but there is always a few players who become the breakout stars of each season.
Some have recognizable names, but just haven’t had the chance as they sat behind someone else, while others showed signs the past season and just need a little more seasoning.
Here is a look at 10 that should have breakout campaigns during the 2013 football season.
1. Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
It’s not like Devin Gardner is an unknown, but this is the first time he enters a season in Ann Arbor as the starter.
He started the 2012 season as a receiver since the Wolverines figured Denard Robinson would be a Heisman candidate. When the diminutive QB was injured Brady Hoke turned to the more durable Gardner.
He completed 75-of-126 passes for 1,219 yards. He also threw 11 touchdown passes, but was picked off five times. Gardner’s accuracy was much better than Robinson’s, but if you saw that first pitch he threw in Detroit you could see why this was true.
With Michigan switching to a more traditional offense, Gardner could thrive with a more balanced attack in a somewhat weak Big Ten.
2. Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
Taking over for Barrett Jones is not easy task, but you go to Alabama to start and win championships.
Kelly is ready for both.
Let’s not forget he also backed up William Vlachos two years ago. So he’s learned a lot from two great centers.
He gained valuable experience while playing late in games that the outcome was decided, and he also got to practice the with the No. 1 unit after the SEC title game and the BCS Championship.
3. Johnathan Gray, RB, Texas
Johnathan Gray was a huge recruit and arrived in Austin with huge expectations. He played in all 13 games in 2012 and led the Longhorns in rushing with 701 yards.
But don’t be shocked when this guy doubles his output to something around 1,300 to 1,400 yards this season. He should easily double his touchdown production, which was a dismal three.
Gray is going to be one of the Big 12’s best runners and he should benefit from an improved offense. Of course, Texas’ quarterback situation is still a mess.
4. Michael Brewer, QB, Texas Tech
New Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury worked his magic with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Now it’s going to be interesting to see what he does with Michael Brewer.
He has great bloodlines. His father, grandfather and uncle all played quarterback at rival Texas.
He had his ups and downs this spring, but that’s to be expected when trying to learn a new offense. But when he was on he showed the potential that could turn into an explosive offense for the Red Raiders.
5. Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
You could make an argument that Shaq Thompson was the nation’s most athletic and dynamic freshman in 2012.
He was name to pretty much every freshman All-American team and he did that strictly on natural ability.
Now that he has a year under his belt, Thompson could be a dominant force in the Pac-12 and he will be asked to do much more on defense.
6. Jordan Jenkins, LB, Georgia
As a freshman, he finished second on the team in sacks and is now ready to lead a defense that could be the difference between winning the SEC or finishing third in the East.
Georgia really needs him to become a big-time linebacker and it appears Jenkins is on the verge of doing just that. In Todd Grantham’s 3-4 defense, outside linebackers have a habit of becoming stars.
Jenkins is not going to be another Jarvis Jones, but he could be as productive.
7. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
As the consensus No. 1 prospect in 2012, Dorial Green-Beckham didn’t live up to his lofty expectations.
Instead of being an impact receiver as Mizzou transitioned to the SEC, Green-Beckham was overwhelmed by the speed and physical play.
He has drawn comparisons to some of the game’s best like Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones, so if he can live up to the hype he will definitely be a breakout player in 2013.
8. Noah Spence, DE, Ohio State
The former 5-star prospect played in all 12 Ohio State games last fall, but his stats didn’t jump off the page.
In the spring game, Spence caught the attention of many with his play. Now Urban Meyer expects even more from his start defender.
He made life miserable on the offensive line and picked up three sacks in the spring game.
9. Mario Edwards, DE, Florida State
Mario Edwards thought he would sit out the 2012 season on a redshirt after arriving on campus out of shape. An injury to Brandon Jenkins forced the FSU coaches to let him play.
Now he’s lighter and ready to live up to the high expectations the coaching staff have placed on him.
Edwards was considered by many to be the top high school player so it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that this guy has big-time talent. But now that he has a better grasp on what he needs to do to be successful at this level, watch out for his progress.
10. Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma
Chris Huston at HeismanPundit.com has already tabbed Blake Bell as a dark horse candidate for the Heisman, and that’s before Bell has even officially been named the starter for 2013.
At 6-foot-6, 263 pounds, he has earned the nickname of Belldozer. He has rushed for 24 touchdowns the past two seasons. But now he’s planning to lead the Sooners’ offense with his arm also.
He completed 14-of-23 passes for 213 yards and two scores in OU’s spring game. If he continues to improve Bell could be the next superstar quarterback for Bob Stoops.