As we close the book on the 2013 football season and look forward to 2014, let’s take a minute to look at the guys who really took a step forward this season. None of the players on this list were seniors, so they should all be back next fall. These are the players that took their contribution and level of play to another level in 2013. So guys like Benardrick McKinney, Dillon Day, Malcolm Johnson or Preston Smith won’t appear on this list despite another solid season – all of the following players broke out to show what they had, and how they will be major factors going forward.
10. Will Redmond – Had he played a full year he might be in the top 5. How special could this kid be? In his first career college game vs. Bowling Green he was on the field as the Falcons drove for what could have been the game-winning FG with under a minute remaining. He had a couple TFL and pass break-ups, but look out over the next two years as he makes up for lost time.
9. Richie Brown – It didn’t look like Richie would see the field too much as the 3rd string MLB but Ferlando Bohanna’s head injury allowed him to see the field early and often as a redshirt freshman. He proved to be an asset for the MSU defense with 38 tackles, 3 TFL and 2 sacks – plus an INT (although he fumbled it away).
8. Beniquez Brown – Like his fellow linebacking brother, Richie, this Brown had nearly the same stat line with 39 tackles, 4.5 TFL and had a couple of fumble recoveries in his redshirt freshman year. He filled in nicely when Deontae Skinner went down with injury late in the year.
7. Ben Beckwith – Not too often do you expect a walk-on to be counted on as a starter for your offensive line in SEC play, but that is what Ben Beckwith has done. But don’t think of him in those terms any longer – he proved his worth this year, taking over for Justin Malone at RG after he went down vs. Oklahoma State. Solid year for Ben, he will be back providing excellent depth for the Bulldogs OL in 2014.
6. A. J. Jefferson – While everyone was busy talking about Denico Autry, Preston Smith, Chris Jones, etc. they forgot about A.J. He came in and made some noise early as a reshshirt frosh. Providing depth at DE he racked up 4 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 QB hurries, 1 pass break-up and a forced fumble. If he can hold down one side of the line opposite Preston Smith next year Chris Jones might be staying at DT.
5. Jameon Lewis – Out of Chad Bumphis’ shadow, Jameon finally got his chance to shine as a starter. He did pretty darn well edging out Bump’s big 2012 receiving total by one yard (923:922). He even set the all-time single game record with his 220 yards in the Liberty Bowl. Watch out for what Tubby could do next year.
4. Chris Jones – Not often do true freshman have this stat line: 32 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 sacks, 3 pass break-ups and TEN QB hurries. Wow. He came in as a highly-touted recruit and not only lively up to the hype but he surpassed many expectations.
3. Kendrick Market – Jay Hughes goes down, Dee Arrington is injured most of the year, so what do you do? Turning to a seldom-used sophomore for 12 starts isn’t something most coaches would want to do, but Market proved he was up to the task and more. He has turned into one of the best tacklers on the team, making what turned out to be one of the biggest plays of the year.
2. Dak Prescott – We didn’t know for sure, but many Dawg fans had hoped Prescott would be the quarterback for Dan Mullen’s system. We weren’t expecting to see as much of him in 2013 as we did, but it gave us a picture of a bright future and plenty of excitement heading into the off-season. He threw for 10 touchdowns and nearly 2,000 yards leading the way (most of the time) to one of MSU’s best offensive years in history.
1. Taveze Calhoun – Before the year guys like Jamerson Love, Justin Cox, Cedric Jiles and the eventual return of Will Redmond were all talked about before mentioning Taveze Calhoun. But that doesn’t matter because what actually happened was Calhoun starting all 12 games he played in (Troy), 6th on the team with 45 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 3 INT and 7 passes defended. He saved his best for last in the Battle for the Golden Egg where he was all over the field. For a two-star from Morton, MS with low-level offers, Taveze Calhoun has proved he is a very good cornerback in the SEC and will be locking down receivers for two more years at MSU.