Spring college football: How 13 breakout stars fared in the regular season

Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Some teams found their future stars in March. Others are still waiting.

It happens every year: someone is so dominant in spring football, so face-wreckingly awesome, that we yearn for the dawn of the actual season so we can see him unleash on actual opponents.

But there's the problem: it's six months before the actual season, and they're playing their teammates in scrimmages. Sometimes, those guys do turn out to be freaks worthy of the praise. Sometimes? Not yet. It's not that we shouldn't read into anything that happens in spring ball - it is a good opportunity to see players we haven't gotten to see much of and gives us our very, very necessary college football fix.

We took a look back at where we were a year ago, and highlighted 13 of the guys who everybody thought was ready to dominate in 2012.

Adrian Hubbard, LB, Alabama

Praise from last spring:

"The standout on defense yesterday was unquestionably Sam linebacker Adrian Hubbard, who may have had the best spring of any player on the roster. He was a consistently dominant force yesterday and could possibly be considered one of the defensive stars at this point." - Roll Bama Roll

Actual season stats

14 games played, 13 starts, 41 tackles, 11.0 TFL's, 7.0 sacks, 4 QB hurries, 3 sacks

It's tough to say Hubbard didn't live up to his potential. The stars of Alabama's defense were C.J. Mosely, Dee Milliner, and Nico Johnson, but Hubbard was a force at the jack linebacker spot in Nick Saban's kill-everything defense. He led the team in tackles-for-loss and sacks and was a key contributor on a team that won the national championship.

Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma

Praise from last spring:

"Oklahoma's designated goal line thumper has an arm, or at least he does in scrimmage situations. After throwing four times for eight yards in 2011, the Belldozer went 14-of-19 for 179 yards and a touchdown through the air as Landry Jones took it easy." - SB Nation

There was even a minor debate on whether Bell should take over for Landry Jones.

Actual season stats

9-for-16 passing, 0 TD's, 0 interceptions, 60 rushes, 201 yards, 11 touchdowns

Bell was once again used mainly as the Belldozer - a 254-pound body looking to bash into people on short-yardage plays - something he was once again effective at doing, scoring four touchdowns against Texas. But the arm he displayed in spring was not really needed in the regular season with Jones doing just fine as Oklahoma's starter.

Deandre Coleman, DE, Cal

Praise from last spring

"Said coach Jeff Tedford of the 6-5, 311-pound junior: "He may be one of the best that we've ever had." That about sums it up. Coleman dominated this spring, looking like an all-conference candidate." - ESPN

Actual season stats

12 games, 48 tackles, 8.5 TFL's, 3.0 sacks

Coleman had a nice season for the 3-9 Bears, but by no means a dominant one. California Golden Blogs is left wondering whether things will come together next year for Coleman with Sonny Dykes likely playing him as a 4-3 defensive tackle rather than a 3-4 defensive end. Says one writer, "I still hold out hope that he will live up to the promise that he had as an incoming freshman."

Dee Ford, WR, Auburn

Praise from last spring

"Corey Lemonier is showing up on preseason All-SEC football teams, but he isn't looking to hog the spotlight. The Auburn defensive end said Wednesday that fans should keep an eye on fellow defensive end Dee Ford, who won praise during spring practice and is still being talked up in June. 'He exploded on the scene,' Lemonier said." - AL.com

Actual season stats

11 games played, 7 starts, 34 tackles, 6.5 TFL's, 6.0 sacks

After winning defensive MVP of Auburn's spring game, Ford was a strong player this year, so far as strong players for Auburn went - he was arguably the best defensive player on a team that crashed and burned. Perhaps in the constant spring football battle of "is X offensive player really good or is X defensive player really bad," Ford was dominant due to the fact he was squaring off against an offense that scored just 18.7 points per game.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson

Praise from last spring

"With 120 yards and a touchdown, Hopkins completed a spring that's seen him add 20 pounds and fight for a bigger role than just Sammy Watkins' sidekick:

'He was clearly the MVP of our team this spring,' coach Dabo Swinney said. 'It's the first offseason he's ever had - even last year he was playing basketball - where's been committed to one sport. What's happened now is all that great talent, athleticism, ability to run and ball skills, now he has added the physical strength to go with it. As he's gotten stronger his confidence has shot through the roof.'" - SB Nation

Actual season stats

82 receptions, 1,405 yards, 18 touchdowns

Yeah, you could make a distinct case that Hopkins was the best wide receiver in the country this season, and after declaring for the NFL early, Mocking the Draft considers him the top wide receiver in the upcoming draft. It's a little unfair to include him on the list - he had 900 yards receiving in 2011, so people knew about him - but he still turned a strong spring into an amazing season.

Wes Lunt, QB, Oklahoma State

Praise from last spring

"Lunt has an absolute cannon for an arm, and regardless of how skinny he looks, has to be in pretty good shape to come out of spring ball intact... I think Wes also offers the greatest headroom, and gives us the best chance to win not only this year, but the next 2-3 years." - Cowboys Ride for Free

Actual season stats

6 games, 5 starts, 81-131, 6 TD's, 7 INT's

Lunt was supposed to be the starter for Oklahoma State out of spring ball, but he suffered a series of injuries during the season that knocked him out of that role. He ended up third in attempts on the team - and the only one of the Cowboys' quarterbacks with fewer touchdowns than interceptions.

Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma

Praise from last spring

"I know it was just a spring game. Yes, I also realize that the spring game is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. However, that doesn't at all diminish the accomplishments of Oklahoma's freshman receiver Trey Metoyer this spring." - Crimson and Cream Machine.

Actual season stats

17 receptions, 148 yards, one touchdown

A 5-star recruit who had trouble qualifying in the class of 2011, Metoyer's spring session in Norman was good enough to turn the nation's heads and earn him a starting spot. He wouldn't hold onto it. Whatever the 6'1 freshman displayed on the field in spring, it didn't translate as he fell out of Oklahoma's wide receiver rotation.

Brandon Moore, DT, Texas

Praise from last spring

"Moore has reportedly been dominant at times during practice and looks like he is headed towards a starting role. Known as a space-eater, Kenny Vaccaro said this week that he's also been strong in pass-rushing drills, which is a major plus. Sounds like Moore has a better first step off the ball than expected." - Burnt Orange Nation

Actual season stats

12 games, five starts, 18 tackles, 8.0 TFL's, 2.0 sacks, 6 QB hurries

Moore impressed with his strength after transferring from a junior college, but he didn't have the stamina to stay on the field for long periods of time with the Longhorns. As a result, he underwhelmed, then surprised many when he declared for the NFL Draft.

Charlie Moore, WR, Oklahoma State

Praise from last spring

"Here's what we know about Charlie Moore. He had a huge spring game, catching 9 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns. His first catch of the game was a 59 yard touchdown pass from Wes Lunt where he outran Justin Gilbert. He played in every single game last year but was mostly a special teams guy. The dude made some unbelievable catches in that spring game." - Cowboys Ride for Free

Actual season stats

35 receptions, 542 yards, 6 touchdowns

Cowboys Ride for Free wasn't the only Oklahoma State publication all over Moore after an amazing spring game - here's a profile on his fight not to become known as "Mr. Spring." When the season came around, Moore had a few good games - 129 yards vs. Iowa State, 135 vs. Kansas State, touchdowns in five straight outings at one point - but he wasn't a world-beater. Cowboys Ride For Free ended up saying that Moore's in-season performances showed the spring game was "a glorified scrimmage." It was certainly the best season of Moore's career - 35 catches is significantly more than the six he had coming into the year - but he was still the third receiver on the team, with Josh Stewart miles ahead of anybody else with 101 catches for 1,210 yards.

Joe Morrow, WR, Mississippi State

Praise from last spring

"It seems like hyped MSU receivers don't often live up to the billing, but after Saturday, that may be different in the case of RFr. Joe Morrow. Although Morrow did have a few early drops (which I would attribute to nervousness), he showed out, catching 6 balls for just under 100 yards (97). Morrow had the ball thrown his way a lot Saturday, and I suspect that Coach Mullen, and maybe even Tyler Russell, were testing Morrow to see how he would handle things for the first time in front of a crowd. Overall, I would say Morrow definitely didn't disappoint." - For Whom The Cowbell Tolls

Actual season stats

5 receptions, 53 yards

Morrow couldn't crack a receiving corps led by Chad Bumphis in his freshman year, but he was just a freshman.

Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State

Praise from last spring

"If you look back to last season, the leading receivers for Ohio State were Devin Smith, Jake Stoneburner and Corey Brown, each with 14 catches throughout the 13-game season. Michael Thomas in his first game in the Horseshoe had 12 receptions on his own for a total of 132 yards." - Land-Grant Holy Land

Actual season stats

3 receptions, 22 yards

LGHL was right that Ohio State's offense would be much more dynamic in its first year under Urban Meyer than it was under Jim Bollman, but Thomas wouldn't be the receiver to help out. That said, Thomas was a highly touted recruit out of prep school and showed he has skills in that spring game, but he couldn't break through in a depth chart that seemed relatively weak at the time.

James Vaughters, LB, Stanford

Praise from last spring

"James Vaughters spent his day working with the inside linebackers as he has this session. When asked if they have finally found a spot for him, Shaw responded that they have now found another spot that he can play. Shaw is very high on Vaughters at inside linebacker, outside linebacker and defensive end. " - Examiner

Actual season stats

14 games, 4 starts, 26 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 1.0 sack

Vaughters was a decent contributor on a solid defense, but guys like Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas were the difference makers at linebacker, with Vaughters eventually finding himself playing off the bench.

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama

Praise from last spring

"True freshman T.J. Yeldon largely stole the show yesterday afternoon, gaining 179 all-purpose yards as a runner and a receiver while adding a touchdown for the second-team offense, despite frequently playing behind a struggling offensive line... As we wrote here on RBR at the beginning of spring practice, Yeldon just simply oozes star tailback based upon even a cursory glance, and frankly it is hard to overstate at this point just how big of a recruiting coup it was last December when 'Bama flipped the Daphne product away from Auburn." - Roll Bama Roll

Actual season stats

175 attempts, 1,108 yards, 12 touchdowns

Anyone who saw Yeldon play last spring and thought he'd be a star was right. Even as Eddie Lacy's backup, Yeldon bruised and maimed, recording 153 yards in the SEC Championship game, then following that up with 108 in the national title game against Notre Dame. The scary thing for SEC defenses is that they have to deal with him for two more years.

More in College Football:

How long will the Harlem Shake survive?

Desmond Howard sued over famous Heisman picture

Penn State QB Matt McGloin's op-ed at Black Shoe Diaries

Let’s have a spring football roundtable

New college football rules for 2013

SB Nation exclusive with Bobby Petrino, football mind

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