Breakout players emerge seemingly out of nowhere each year to make big plays in the SEC. Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson and Georgia LB Jarvis Jones were names that not all SEC fans knew heading into 2011. They certainly do now.
Here are five players who could have the same kind of impact in 2012:
He's a 6-foot-7, 250-pound OLB who waited his turn behind Courtney Upshaw and Jerrell Harris in 2011. It's his time now. He will start at one of the OLB spots in coach Nick Saban's defense. He only got a small taste of playing time in 2011, appearing in eight games and recording nine tackles. He will have a learning curve, but his ceiling is incredibly high due to athleticism. He considered playing basketball at Alabama as well, but decided to focus on just football. That will likely turn out to be a good choice.
2. Sheldon Richardson -- DT, Missouri
A former five-star recruit, Richardson is among the most physically gifted players in the SEC. After a junior college detour, he saw action in all 13 games for Missouri in 2011, and collected 37 tackles, eight tackles for loss and two sacks. He moves very well at 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds. He will get the starting nod in 2012. Look for big numbers from the redshirt junior that might propel him to the NFL early.
3. Cordarrelle Patterson -- WR, Tennessee
The suspension of All-SEC WR Da'Rick Rogers makes Patterson even more valuable to the Vols. He shattered records at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College on his way to being named the top junior college recruit in the 2012 class by 247Sports.com. He averaged nearly 50 yards per kickoff return. He's got good size at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, and he will immediately become a huge target for QB Tyler Bray.
4. Johnny Manziel -- QB, Texas A&M
He surprised many by beating out Jameill Showers for the starting QB job at Texas A&M. Manziel is a dual-threat QB, and it will be interesting to see how coach Kevin Sumlin uses him in his offense. He's never thrown a pass in college, but any QB in a Sumlin offense has the potential to put up huge numbers.
5. Keith Marshall -- RB, Georgia
Ranked as a five-star prospect by several recruiting services, Marshall could be the starting RB at some point this year for the Bulldogs. He will start as a backup to Ken Malcome, but expect coach Mark Richt to get him on the field early and often. He the size at 5-foot-11 and 215 to be a featured RB in the SEC, and the speed to break away from defenses. He could make fans forget about dismissed RB Isaiah Crowell by the end of the year.
For more up-to-the minute news and analysis from SEC bloggers Larry Hartstein and Daniel Lewis, follow @CBSSportsSEC.