South Carolina’s Cody Waldrop, Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander rank 8th among most important players for 2013



Can you name the award given every year to college football’s top center?

Maybe you know it is the Rimington Trophy, first awarded in 2000. Still, there’s no doubt that it is far from the sport’s most renowned accolades.

Perhaps no football player has a great gap between his value to a team’s inner workings and the amount of attention he receives from people outside the team than the center. Most often, he is talked about on a television broadcast only when he botches a snap.

Waldrop doesn’t need to be a Rimington Trophy finalist for South Carolina this season.

He has never even played in a game, since he redshirted last fall. He hasn’t played center in a game since he was a high school freshman. After that, he played guard. He played some center in practices last fall, but mostly guard.

But the Gamecocks are used to steady play at center. T.J. Johnson started there for the past three seasons. His 53 career starts — every game of his career — are a school record. Waldrop is USC’s only new offensive line starter, and while the Gamecocks don’t need him to be Johnson immediately, they do need him to catch up quickly.

Sometimes during spring practices, he snapped the ball too hard.

His position coach, Shawn Elliott, worked with him on slowing down and focusing on just making accurate snaps. As the spring unfolded, Waldrop’s snaps improved, but he is still far from a game-proven player.

A center is also usually responsible for identifying the defensive front before the snap and relaying information to the other offensive linemen. Waldrop was solid with those duties in the spring, but left guard A.J. Cann and right guard Ronald Patrick (a junior and a senior) can provide help if needed.

Position: Center

Year: Redshirt freshman

Height/weight: 6-2/312

Hometown: Seffner, Fla.

Last year: Redshirted in 2012 while practicing mostly at guard, but some at center.



Clemson’s recruiting class of 2010 featured Bashaud Breeland, Martin Jenkins, Garry Peters and Darius Robinson. Only Breeland was a four-star prospect per; the others were three stars. All four are between 5-10 and 6-foot tall; all four are between 175 and 195 pounds.

Peters had plenty of opportunities in last year’s repaired defense, in part because Breeland, Jenkins and Robinson all combatted injury.

Breeland did have two interceptions for 93 yards total in the 2011 season; other than that, the quartet has a combined four picks for eight return yards, with one fumble recovery and no forced fumbles, in 97 career games. Seven turnovers in 97 games. None are what you would call, based on their collective track record, an impact player at cornerback.

Enter Alexander in 2013, who very nearly went to defensive back-rich Mississippi State and also flirted with Auburn and Florida State following his decommitment from Tennessee.

It’s completely reasonable Alexander cracks the lineup early in his rookie year, perhaps even from day one.

(LSU’s defense does just fine installing young corners.) Not only can Alexander make plays, he’s a gifted cover corner and tackler, which is notable as the Tigers look to boost their 73rd-rated pass defense. Don’t forget Alexander’s name among special teams contributors, as well.

Position: Cornerback

Year: Freshman

Height/weight: 5-11/185

Hometown: Immokalee, Fla.

Last year: The No. 4-rated prospect in the country by ESPN’s recruiting services, the highest rating by a Clemson commit since defensive end Da’Quan Bowers in 2008