With this refreshingly positive outlook, I thought I'd blawg about 10 individuals in the Dawg program right now that, in my opinion, were the brightest spots in 2008. Before I begin breaking down my list I should mention that I intentionally left off Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno. These two guys are clearly the Greene and Pollack of this team and would top any list of "Best Dawgs," so to make things a little more interesting, I'm leaving them off my list.
- AJ Green
Well, I guess this one is just as obvious as Stafford and Moreno, but no list like this could hold water if Green isn't number 1. A 5 star recruit with the hype he had can sometimes have trouble adjusting to college and dealing with expectations. Not Green. Leading the SEC in receiving as a freshman is certainly reason for excitement.
- Ben Jones
More of a "sleeper" prospect, Jones benefited tremendously from enrolling in January 2008 and going through mat and spring drills. His emergence as a solid center has anchored a young line decimated with injuries. Steady and tenacious, our o-line has a solid captain for 3 more years.
- Rennie Curran
Firecracker! Curran is the type of player that makes me proud to be a Bulldog. An underdog because of his size, he plays like anything but. A natural leader and born playmaker, he was the rock of the defense and was, by far, the most consistent performer on an otherwise underwhelming defense.
- Mohamed Massaquoi
Massaquoi's career started with a bang, but was in danger of quietly fading out. 8 touchdowns and potentially 1000 yards later it's clear he was just saving his best for last. Another "good guy" packaged nicely with superior work ethic and talent. The best thing about MoMass is he may have made a 6-7 year impression on the program with his contributions combined with the mentoring he gave AJ Green.
- Asher Allen
The second of the few bright spots on D and the only one in the secondary. Allen understands what it takes to be a shutdown corner (interfering 90 % of the time and only getting caught 10%). He's a physical, sure tackler who earned even more of my respect when I found out he played most of the season with a broken hand.
- Stacy Searels
No seniors. 1 junior (and he was a JUCO transfer with only 1 year in the program). And, yet, the offensive line was not a weakness. I won't go so far as to say it was a strength, but it certainly was not a weakness. Another on this list that lived up to high expectations, Searels "coached em up" in 2008.
- Shaun Chapas
Our offense this year was more wide open than it's ever been, but the fullback still played an integral part. With Southerland being hurt early in the year, we needed Chapas to contribute and he came through so well, he actually took some playing time away from Southerland when he returned.
- Darryl Gamble
Ellerbe was the defensive MVP in 07 (apologies Marcus Howard and Curran), and preseason all-SEC. He got hurt early and was not the same even when he returned. Gamble stepped in and played very well. He still has some work to do to be all-SEC caliber, but it's clear he has the potential.
- Cordy Glenn
Along with Jones, Glenn waded his way up the depth chart and made a very positive impact on the offensive line this year. With teammates, dropping like flies, the true freshman stepped up and proved that he will team with Jones and company to make the o-line one of the biggest strengths of the 2009 Dawgs.
- Corvey Irvin
Irvin wasn't spectacular, but he was consistent. He kept to the grind as injuries decimated the d-line. Entering the season, Jeff Owens was the undisputed leader of the d-line (and really the entire defense), but when Owens went down in the first game, Irvin filled the leadership role. I don't think Irvin made up for the loss of Owens, but you have to admire his determination and willingness to step up in the face of adversity.
Honorable Mention: Vince Vance, Clint Boling, Richard Samuel, Larry Munson