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Running backs stellar in Week 1; Newcomers will impact Week 2

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Tre Mason (21) runs through the line in the first half for Auburn against Clemson on Sept. 1 in Atlanta. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University) Tre Mason (21) runs through the line in the first half for Auburn against Clemson on Sept. 1 in Atlanta. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University)
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(RNN) - Here's a weekly look at five of the SEC's top performers in Week 1 and who to watch in Week 2.

Top performers:

1. Tyler Bray , QB, Tennessee

Bray came out of the chute firing bullets to Cordarelle Patterson, Zach Rogers and Justin Hunter, erasing any lingering memories of Da'Rick Rogers from Tennessee fans' minds. Bray was 27-of-41 passing for 333 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, including a 72-yard touchdown bomb to Zach Rogers.

Bray spread the ball to 12 receivers and was on target the entire game to lead Tennessee to a 35-21 win over North Carolina State. If that continues, Tennessee should be able to keep defenses from blitzing too much and open room for a running game that struggled to move the ball consistently.

2. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama

Yeldon wasn't supposed to be the standout for the Crimson Tide – at least not yet. But Yeldon stole the show in his first collegiate game, gaining 111 yards on 11 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown in a 41-14 drubbing of Michigan. It was the most yards gained by a Tide freshman in his debut in school history, and he shared SEC Freshman of the Week honors with Georgia's Todd Gurley. He had a catch for 26 yards as well.

Yeldon was the third Tide back to enter the game after starter Eddie Lacy and backup Jalston Fowler, but made his case for moving up that hierarchy every time he touched the ball. He'll likely have a similar game against Western Kentucky this week, but if he can keep it up against Arkansas in the Tide's SEC opener, the sky is the limit.

3. Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida

Florida had only one thing going for its offense, and that was Gillislee. He gained 148 yards on 24 carries and scored two of the Gators' three TDs in a 27-14 win over Bowling Green. The Gators were undoubtedly hoping for a better showing, and now that Jeff Driskel has been named Florida's starting QB, maybe its offense will start to find a rhythm. It will have to happen fast because the Gators open SEC play this week against Texas A&M.

4. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

Eight players had at least one carry for Georgia in its opening 45-23 win over Buffalo. Aaron Murray had the better game, throwing for 258 yards and three touchdowns, but Gurley was the bigger surprise. Gurley ran for 100 yards on eight carries and had two touchdowns, sharing Freshman of the Week honors with Yeldon.

The Bulldogs' starter at tailback, Ken Malcome, left the game with a hand injury and with SEC play starting this week against Missouri, it may be the perfect opening for Gurley to step in and take over that role.

5. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

It wasn't a flashy game for Matthews – and his team lost 17-13 to South Carolina – but he was no less stellar, grabbing eight balls for 147 yards and a touchdown for the Commodores. Vanderbilt's receivers struggled to get open against South Carolina, but when they did it was Matthews, who of five Vandy players with a reception was the only one with more than two.

His game would have been even better if not for a pass interference (though it wasn't called) late in the game that denied him a catch down the sideline for what would have been about 30 yards and given Vanderbilt a chance to win the game.

Who to look for in Week 2

1. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri

Beckham's first game for the Tigers saw him get three catches for 32 yards in a 62-10 win over Southeastern Louisiana. It's hard to know what that means for the rest of the season, but with the Tigers' spread offense the opportunities will be there.

Beckham is a 6'6" freshman who is expected to excel. His physical size is reminiscent of former SEC receivers Alshon Jeffrey of South Carolina, A.J. Green of Georgia and Julio Jones of Alabama. He'll have a long road to reach the level of those players, but he could take his first step in that direction against Georgia this week in a game that should feature plenty of scoring. And it could come against a Bulldog defense playing without All-America safety Bacarri Rambo. Rambo has been suspended, reportedly for four games, but Georgia coach Mark Richt has yet to confirm the duration.

2. Tre Mason, RB, Auburn

Though splitting carries with Onterio McCalebb, Mason staked his claim to being the feature back for Auburn with 106 yards on 14 carries in a 26-19 loss to Clemson last week. Auburn gets an easier test in Mississippi State this week, but not by much.

With the Tigers' passing offense struggling to find an identity behind quarterback Kiehl Frazier, emphasis on the running game will be prevalent, at least early in the season. If Auburn's offensive line can open a few holes, Mason and McCalebb should have no problem getting to the end zone against an untested Mississippi State defense.

3. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Manziel is another freshman getting his first taste of action this week. But he's really getting his first taste of action. The Aggies were slated to play Louisiana Tech, but Hurricane Isaac forced the game to be postponed until October. So Manziel will take his first snap in an Aggie uniform across from a Florida team looking to give the Aggies a welcome to the conference they won't soon forget.

A&M also has a new coach in Kevin Sumlin, who came from Houston in the offseason. Sumlin's passers at Houston put up record numbers – national record numbers – and he'll be hoping for something similar at his new gig.

4. Jeff Driskel, QB, Florida

If Texas A&M gets its offense moving, Florida will have to keep up, and that task will fall to Driskel. Driskel threw for just 114 yards against Bowling Green at home. He'll be facing a much more hostile environment against the Aggies, who will be looking to start their SEC membership on a positive note.

Driskel was able to hit Frankie Hammond for a 50-yard touchdown, but he will probably need more than that Saturday. This game, like the one between Missouri and Georgia, could turn into a high-scoring affair should one team start to get momentum. Florida's defense should help some, but if it isn't prepared for the unknown of A&M's offense, Driskel will have to pick up the slack.

5. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

This will be Murray's time to shine if his candidacy for the Heisman Trophy is to get off to a good start. Murray will be in primetime in Georgia's SEC opener against Missouri hoping to have a consistent showing for the No. 7 Bulldogs.

Balance will be the key for Georgia, but if Murray can find Tavarres King (117 yards on six catches last week) on a couple of deep throws, it will put less pressure on the Bulldog defense, which is not at full strength.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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