Georgia State Football 2012: Breakout Candidates For Upcoming Season

The Georgia State Panthers are looking to bounce back from a 3-8 season. This series highlights five players that could be candidates to have a breakout season in 2012 and become leaders of the Panther football team.

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Georgia State Football 2012: Breakout Candidate No. 5 Terrance Woodard

Georgia State will need to improve in a lot of areas in order to turn around last year's 3-8 season. This series will identify five players that could be candidates to have a breakout season for Georgia State and give them a push in a certain area. The players highlighted must have started fewer than 6 games for the Panthers, but also were on the team last season. The fifth and final player highlighted in this series is nose guard Terrance Woodard.

Position: Defensive Line

Class: Junior

2011 Review: Woodard appeared in 9 games last season and finished with 21 tackles on the year, a respectable mark for an interior defensive lineman. His best game came against South Carolina State (this year's home opener) where he recorded 5 tackles. He also recorded four tackles and forced a fumble in a win over Campbell. Woodward did not play in two games because of injury.

Spring 2012: Woodard was one of a number of guys that were suspended during Spring camp for a violation of team rules. While he was with the team, he was productive and one of the team's best interior defensive linemen.

2012 Depth Chart: Georgia State has a lot of new faces along the defensive line. Redshirt freshman David Huey switched from guard to defensive tackle and immediately was plugged in to the starting lineup. The Panthers also received two transfers from FBS schools in Nermin Delic and Theo Agnew, but their eligibility status remains in question. True Freshman Joe Lockley is also a beast on the inside and should compete for playing time right away.

2012 Outlook: Ultimately, Woodard's playing time will depend on the status and health of Agnew and Delic. If those two are not eligible or are injured, then Woodward will see the majority of snaps at nose guard. But even if the other players are in the mix, Woodard is the biggest guy on the entire defensive line and has shown he is worthy of seeing the field, even if it's only in a rotational role.

Worst Case Scenario: Delic and Agnew are ruled ineligible and Woodard is either consistently hurt or simply ineffective, causing GSU's run defense to be gashed.

Best Case Scenario: Woodard, Agnew, Delic, and Kelly form a much improved defensive line that stops the run and is able to consistently get pressure on the quarterback. A true breakout season from Woodard would be 30 tackles or more with 2-3 sacks.

Prediction: No one knows what the NCAA will decide to do. While it certainly looks more promising for Delic than it does for Agnew, Woodard needs to approach this season assuming neither will be available. That would put a tremendous amount of pressure on him to anchor a smaller defensive line and be the disruptive force he was against SCSU and Campbell last season. I would expect Woodard's numbers to increase only slightly in total tackles.

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Georgia State Football 2012: Breakout Candidate No. 4 Darren McCray

Georgia State will need to improve in a lot of areas in order to turn around last year's 3-8 season. This series will identify five players that could be candidates to have a breakout season for Georgia State and give them a push in a certain area. The players highlighted must have started fewer than 6 games for the Panthers, but also were on the team last season. The fourth player highlighted in this series is wide out Darren McCray.

Postion: Wide Receiver

Class: RS Junior

2011 Review: McCray struggled with some injury issues in 2011 that hampered his production, but ended the season on a high not with a 37 yard kick return against Cambell and a 13.25 average yards per catch over the last three games.

Spring 2012: McCray was one of the best performers throughout the spring and was a constant highlight reel. He is one of the fastest players on the team and is a guy that can take it the distance on any given play. He established himself as a favorite target of Ben McLane, particularly in the flats or as a check down option when things don't develop down field.

2012 Depth Chart: The Panthers once again return their top three receivers, but McCray has done enough to definitely warrant playing time. Look for him to be in the slot in three and four wide receiver sets a lot this fall. Also, McCray is one one of the best kickoff returners on the team. I would expect him and running back Parris Lee to be the main kick returners and for those two to split time on punt returns in an attempt to keep wide receiver Albert Wilson healthy.

2012 Outlook: McCray looks healthy and ready to be a major for this offense. His electric athletic ability was displayed by a couple bright moments in 2010 where he had a 41 yard touchdown run on a reverse against Jacksonville State and returned a kick for a touchdown against Campbell. He averaged 27 yards per kick return in 2010 and 22.7 yards per return in 2011. That kind of game changing ability needs to be utilized more. Look for Darren have chances to get the ball in space and have chances to make a big play.

Worst Case Scenario: When you have a wide receiver who is as small as McCray is injuries are always going to be a concern. It's just a matter of physics that when a 230 pound linebacker tackles a 150 pound wide receiver, the smaller guy is going to take the worse of the hit. While there is certainly no questioning McCray's heart, the worst case scenario would certainly be him having another injury plagued season.

Best Case Scenario: McCray teams up with Parris Lee and Albert Wilson to form the most electric trio of play makers in the CAA. He returns kicks for touchdowns and has several plays of 20 yards or more on offense.

Prediction: I don't think anyone should expect McCray to have 30 catches or more for 500 plus yards. But his blazing speed is a weapon that should be taken advantage of. I would look for McCray to be utilized in a number of ways including reverses and screens as well as in the slot and once he gets the ball in his hands all bets are off. I think about half a dozen touchdowns and half a dozen plays of 30 yards or more to go with a number of great kick returns is certainly not out of the question and would definitely be considered a breakout year.

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Georgia State Football 2012: Breakout Candidate No. 3 Ulrick John

Georgia State will need to improve in a lot of areas in order to turn around last year's 3-8 season. This series will identify five players that could be candidates to have a breakout season for Georgia State and give them a push in a certain area. The players highlighted must have started fewer than 6 games for the Panthers, but also were on the team last season. The third player featured in this series is offensive tackle Ulrick John.

Position: Left Tackle

Class: Junior

2011 Review: Started four games at three different positions. He filled in at left tackle when Clyde Yandell was injured to start the season, and started at center against Houston when Ben Jacoby went down. Then left guard Joseph Gilbert was suspended for the Murray State game, so John filled in there. John played in 10 games overall and was one of the Panther's most reliable options all season.

Spring 2012: The common theme of spring camp was that this year's offensive line will be much more athletic than the group has been the last two years. It doesn't take long to realize that John is one of the big reasons for that assertion. One of his fellow linemen told me that he is so athletic that he could play tight end if he wanted to and be incredibly successful. At 6'8 and 290 pounds that would be quite the sight as John moves incredibly well despite his size. John was one by far one of the best lineman on the field during spring.

2012 Depth Chart: John has the left tackle spot on lockdown. He will be backed up by senior Gabriel Hampton, but hopefully John is able to stay healthy.

2012 Outlook: Defensive ends will have a hard time getting around John this fall. His size and strength combined with his elite athleticism make him the perfect left tackle. It is a little hard to quantify what would be considered a "breakout" year for an offensive lineman, because to be successful at that position usually means your name is being mentioned very much. Nonetheless, Panther fans likely know what to expect from John on the field, but it's the intangibles off the field that need to be shown. Georgia State has suffered largely from a lack of leadership. With so few experienced players along the offensive line, John needs to be someone the coaches can count on to rally his teammates and become a role model for his younger counterparts.

Worst Case Scenario: It is certainly hard to imagine John not being successful in 2012, so the worst case scenario would likely be if he gets injured and misses significant time. However it is also possible that John is forced to play another position and his play suffers due to all the shuffling.

Best Case Scenario: The line gels together behind John's shining example. He anchors a line that is improved in every way from 2011 and most importantly... They stay healthy!

Prediction: John's performance seems almost a given at this point. It seems as though the only things that can slow him down are being dragged down by those around him. Barring injury, he is your starter for the next 23 games at left tackle.

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Georgia State Football 2012: Breakout Candidate No. 2 Rashad Stewart

Georgia State will need to improve in a lot of areas in order to turn around last year's 3-8 season. This series will identify five players that could be candidates to have a breakout season for Georgia State and give them a push in a certain area. The players highlighted must have started fewer than 6 games for the Panthers, but also were on the team last season. The second player highlighted is safety Rashad Stewart.

Position: Safety

Class: RS Junior

2011 Review: Saw action in three games after joining the program last summer. Transferred from University of Louisville.

Spring 2012: It was quite the surprise to see former cornerback turned safety D'Mario Gunn not running with the first team defense during spring camp. Gunn had been one of the defense's best performers and many assumed the position change would not effect his role as a starter. However, that changed quickly due to the play Stewart. He out performed Gunn during spring camp and by the end appeared to have cemented his spot as a starter and was consistently praised by defensive coordinator Anthony Midgett, who also is the secondary coach.

2012 Depth Chart: While Gunn is also now in the mix at the "wolf" position, he will certainly see some reps at safety as well. So while Stewart will likely start it will be interesting to see if the two lineup together or are rotated to keep them fresh. Robert Smith also gets reps at the position.

2012 Outlook: Stewart did not cause many to take notice in his first season at GSU, but he certainly turned heads last spring. The Panthers are loaded in the secondary and therefore there could be as many as 4-5 guys seeing reps at either safety position, so I wouldn't expect huge numbers out of Stewart. But one thing Georgia State must improve upon is tackling and getting off the field on third and long. If Stewart can contain opposing offense and keep them from busting a big play then he will have had a very successful season. One thing he needs to continue to work on is his hands. He has great instincts and is closing speed, but isn't always able to reel in the interceptions.

Worst Case Scenario: Stewart does not continue his spring performance and costs the Panthers crucial games early in the season by missing tackles and giving up big plays. He gets benched in favor of Gunn and is relegated to special teams duties.

Best Case Scenario: Stewart is a ball hawk and sure tackler. Grabs a handful of interceptions and is top 3 on the team in tackles. Secures his place a starter and allows Gunn to be utilized in the "Wolf" position and therefore allows GSU to have their best athletes on the field at all times.

Prediction: I was very impressed with Stewart in the spring. I am personally a big fan of D'mario Gunn, so to see him surpass him, at least for the time being, certainly made a statement. I think he will be one of the more consistent players on the team, but won't wow anyone with numbers. I would expect him to be in the 25-30 tackle range with a couple of interceptions and maybe a forced fumble or two. But his performing well would give the Panthers so much flexibility with their defense and truly allow them to have a speed advantage over any opponent they face.

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