Can't Wait To Get The Party Started
You think you’re excited about the start of football season. Try to imagine for a moment how loud the countdown click is ticking in the psyche of all those student-athletes whose careers have been off-line for some time.
The start of the 2013 season is the restart of so many college careers. And for a select few, it’s a chance to reset what NFL scouts think of them.
Guys like Jameill Showers, who came to UTEP looking for a chance to play after backing up Ryan Tannehill at Texas A&M two seasons ago and then being beaten out for the starting job by redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel.
Or Central Michigan tackle Jake Olson, a sixth-year senior who is hoping to reestablish his pro potential after three straight injury-shortened seasons (in 2012, he started the first two games at right tackle, having moved there to make way for Eric Fisher).
Here’s a quick look at just a few of the guys who are looking forward to next week’s kickoff more than you are:
Tommy Rees, Notre Dame: Rees’ college resume reads like those of so many NFL quarterbacks – a few spot starts sprinkled over several seasons, a couple of comebacks off the bench, some unmemorable moments in mop-up duty. But Rees has the rarest of opportunities this season: a second chance to make a first impression. He gets one more shot at showing scouts that he’s starter material.
It’s not that Rees hasn’t played well when he’s played. He’s completed 64 percent of his pass attempts, thrown for 4,413 yards and 34 touchdowns in 33 games, 18 of which he’s started for the Irish.
It’s more a matter of him being less a fit in Brian Kelly’s offensive scheme than Everett Golson was. And that arrest that got him suspended for the first game of the 2012 season didn’t help him retain the starting job that was his throughout 2011.
We already know what Rees isn’t. He’s not the dual threat than Golson is, the kind of quarterback Kelly likes. He’s not the pocket passer protoype either (though at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, he probably could post up Drew Brees).
But Rees gets this one last chance to show what he is – a maturing prospect who can recognize defenses and deliver the ball. If he displays better arm strength and a bit more mobility than we first thought, Rees may earn himself another look.
Aaron Lynch, South Florida: Of the many What-If’s bouncing around the brains of Notre Dame fans watching Alabama run all over the Fightless Irish on its way to the BCS championship, perhaps the one that resonated loudest was “What if Aaron Lynch were here?”
True, Notre Dame didn’t seem to miss him much after Lynch decided in April 2012 to transfer to South Florida. But in that one game, against all those NFL prospects on the Alabama offense, the presence of Lynch – in his rightful place alongside Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt on the defensive line, in front of Manti Te’o – might have been the difference.
Lynch had to harbor similar regrets over what might have been as he sat out the 2012 season. Now, though, he’s back and ready to prove that his decision to come home to Florida was the right one.
Unlike other guys on this list, Lynch doesn't require a reintroduction to NFL scouts. They’re already all over him. When you’re a 6-6, 244-pound defensive end who led your team in hurries and sacks as a true freshman (as Lynch did his one season in South Bend), the pros take notice.
The biggest question is whether the year off will have set back Lynch’s development enough to keep him out of the 2014 draft (he was 27th on Football.com’s First Round First Look). As a freshman, he was relentless, raw and occasionally undisciplined. Will a season spent on the sidelines manifest as a more mature, controlled performance? If so, he’ll be the most dominant defender in America (well, in The American, at any rate). If not, the recommendation might be for Lynch to return for a third college season.
Louisville’s running backs: When Michael Dyer signed with the Cardinals (eligible to play immediately, he came to campus more like a free agent than a transfer), his past once again played out on sports pages everywhere. The troubled path that wound from Auburn to Arkansas State to Arkansas Baptist. The track record that includes transgressions (of the guns and drugs variety) as well as triumphs. He was, after all, the Offensive MVP of the 2011 BCS Championship, and had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons to start his college career. You don’t erase Bo Jackson’s name from the Auburn record books if you’re not someone special.
But Dyer, the newcomer to the Cardinals backfield, isn’t the only back anxious to get back in the game. There’s Senorise Perry, whose 2012 season was cut short by a knee injury. And there’s Dominique Brown, who missed all of 2012 with a knee injury.
The Cards are stacked with backs looking to come back with something to prove. Dyer and Brown both have two seasons left to remind scouts of the promise they once had (they combined for more than 12,700 yards and 148 touchdowns in high school); one, or both, could have breakout seasons that vault them into next year's draft pool. Perry, the senior, has this one last chance to make an impression.