College Football Season is a little less a month away and that’s really exciting! We start this season preview with the SEC, home of the defending National Champion, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Crimson Tide have just dominated college football since Nick Saban arrived there in 2007. This season looks to provide some intrigue in the conference despite Alabama returning a plethora of talent.
I don’t expect results to be all that different this season as it has been unless Alabama really slips up… But here’s the SEC team-by-team.
- Alabama Crimson Tide
Projected Record: 12-1 (SEC Champions)
Key Players: OT Cam Robinson, S Eddie Jackson, OLB Tim Williams, DE Jonathan Allen, WR Calvin Ridley, and TE OJ Howard.
When it comes to the Crimson Tide, there’s no secret that they’ve recruited top recruiting classes and have gotten what they’ve expected from those blue chip prospects.
The Tide may have lost Heisman Trophy Winner Derrick Henry, but I’m sure Lane Kiffin, OC, will find a new way to win, like he did the previous two years. Junior QB Cooper Bateman looks to be the projected starter and he’ll be expected to the carry the torch the distance like Jacob Coker and his predecessors have done.
At RB, Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough look to split carries the way that Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson did. This was effective for the Tide in previous years although Jim McElwain was the OC for some of that time before taking the HC job at Colorado State in 2013.
This WR core and TE OJ Howard provide an element that Bama hasn’t had in my memory. Calvin Ridley is a true star and looks to terrorize folks once again this season. Howard surprisingly returned to Tuscaloosa for a crack to win one more time and get his degree. Adarius Stewart will be a big factor depending on how explosive this passing game can be. Remember when Kiffin was at USC, where he used Nelson Agholor and Robert Woods in many different formations to get them separation; this will prove vital for the play action passing game!
The Tide may have lost Ryan Kelly, A’Shawn Robinson, and Jarran Reed on the line scrimmage, but have no fear. The team returns potential top 10 pick Cam Robinson to play LT and Alphonse Taylor at RG, they may need to fit some pieces at the other spots but Bama may only miss Kelly’s leadership on the OL. The DL should be able to mask the losses they’ve suffered to the NFL via graduation or early eligibility.
The LB and secondary core was young last year with the exception of Reggie Ragland, this year it’ll be a veteran group with two sophomores at CB (Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick, and sophomore safety Ronnie Harrison.
Overall, I expect Bama to run train like they’ve been doing. Arkansas and Tennessee may end up their toughest matches in back to back weeks. Otherwise, it’s “business as usual” in Tuscaloosa and probably heading back into the playoff.
- Tennessee Volunteers
Projected Record- 11-2 (SEC Runner-Ups)
Key Players: QB Joshua Dobbs, RB Jalen Hurd, LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, CB Cameron Sutton, DT Khalil McKenzie, WR Josh Malone, RB Alvin Kamara
The Vols are 3-28 vs. ranked opponents over the past six seasons; this dates back to the Lane Kiffin era. But now that it’s year four of the Butch Jones era in Knoxville, it’s time for then to become a threat for the SEC crown.
QB Joshua Dobbs, RBs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara were a dynamic trio on the ground, they ran for a combined 2,918 yards between them in 530 carries! That’s like 5.5 yards a carry for them… They’re deadly on the ground and have talented WRs like Josh Malone to spread the field but they need more consistency as a group because Dobbs is a better passer than his 15TD to 5INT ratio indicates. He can be a threat as a passer. No Vols WR caught more than 3TDs last season, it’s time for Malone to become the threat needed to beat teams like Florida and Bama. (whom Tennessee plays at home)
The Vols defense let them down at times last season and on some occasions, Dobbs and the offense were just not good enough in the air to put teams away and win games in the final minutes. If Tennessee finished off Oklahoma and Florida alone in the early part of the season, they’re 11-1 in the regular season.
Seniors Cameron Sutton, Corey Vereen, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and Malik Foreman are going two of 17 starters returning for a chance at glory for the Vols. Each also has a chance to help their draft stock immensely, especially Dobbs, Hurd, Sutton, and Reeves-Maybin.
Sophomore DT Khalil McKenzie should have a breakout season, the former 5* recruit played in all thirteen games but wasn’t a true difference maker, he should be an every down player this year and be the anchor of the run defense that they lacked last year.
I expect the Vols to make a big move in the SEC, especially with LSU, Georgia, and Florida with their offensive woes (Georgia may have freshman Jacob Eason starting, so I’m not expecting him to outduel veteran teams). With 17 starters and 57 returning players, they should be in the top 10 in the polls most of the season. They might just have something special on offense this year.
- Arkansas Razorbacks
Projected Record- 10-2 (2nd in SEC West)
Key Players: RB Devwah Whaley, LB Brooks Ellis, WR Drew Morgan, CB Henre’ Tolliver, S Josh Liddell, DT Jeremiah Ledbetter
The Razorbacks lost four out of their first six games last season, they lost to Toledo, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Alabama. They should’ve beat A&M, Tech, and Toledo, if they did that’s a 10-2 record, with the heartbreaker to Miss State as their 2nd loss.
I mention this because like Tennessee, Arkansas finished the season strong despite early woes, and they return 14 starters, 9 on defense, including ¾ of their DL.
The offense may have lost QB Brandon Allen, RBs Jonathan Williams (ACL tear last season) and Alex Collins, TE Hunter Henry, and a lot of their OL. But Whaley (2nd best RB in the 2016 recruiting class) should step in right away and pair with sophomore Rawleigh Williams. Austin Allen should be able to replicate his brother’s success since Brandon had little issue stepping in during the 2013 season until injury. I expect Bielema to use that running game like he has been, it’s his specialty with that big and strong offensive line.
Arkansas won’t be able to replicate Hunter Henry at all but they still use multiple TE packages to keep the presence of a short passing game to help Allen adjust early in the season, especially at TCU (Fort Worth).
The defense’s nine starters will have to rally this team early in the season and win games while the offense gets their groove. If Arkansas can hold strong they could be a real dark horse, Tolliver and Jared Collins should be welcoming the challenge of the gun-slinging Texas offenses early in the season, and MLB Brooks Ellis should use the games vs. Bama, Florida, and LSU to cement his NFL aspirations, it’s a chance to prove his value as a leader for the Razorbacks.
If they can beat Texas A&M and TCU they could be 5-0 with Alabama heading into Fayetteville on October 8th! If that’s the case, that’s a game they could take advantage of with Bama also having to play the Vols the following week.
Ten Wins might be a bit high but I do believe having Florida, LSU, and Bama at home is a huge benefit that Bielema can rally on.
- Georgia Bulldogs
Projected Record- 10-2
Key Players: RB Nick Chubb, RB Sony Michel, QB Jacob Eason, WR Reggie Davis, RG Greg Pyke, LB Tim Kimbrough, CB Malkom Parrish, FS Domenick Sanders
The Georgia Bulldogs actually moved on from long-time coach Mark Richt for a man who once played for the Bulldogs, Mr. Kirby Smart. Smart has been said to be very intense and a complete 180 to the former HC. They still have questionable characters on the team that have to be dealt with, especially sophomore DE Jonathan Ledbetter, who has been in some trouble this offseason and suspended to start the season.
Returning 14 starters, Smart may have his work cut out for him as he tries to ignite the flame of a talented bunch that has fallen short since their last SEC Championship in 2005. (good old David Greene!) RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel should be able to create big plays out of the backfield and with both dealing with injuries; they’ll need to help each other out.
Having a freshman QB starting is not something that has ever happened to Smart’s mentor Nick Saban at Bama. But Jacob Eason really was the most talented incoming QB in the country (with exception to Va Tech’s Jerrod Evans), and should be effective as a freshman with a veteran group like Barkley did at USC, and Hackenberg at Penn State.
Georgia’s WRs (like Arkansas) will be missing their leading threat but Reggie Davis should provide the spark in the perimeter but they’ll miss Malcolm Mitchell. If sophomores Terry Goodwin and Jayson Stanley step up, this offense could be especially dangerous with that running game.
The OL should be strength. That’s the case even with John Theus gone. RG Greg Pyke, RT Isaiah Wynn, and C Brandon Kublanow return with a unit capable of protecting a freshman.
The defense will be bringing some playmakers back along with Ledbetter (assuming he can stay on the field). They have FS Domenick Sanders who had 6INTs last season and should be a favorite as an All-SEC pick.
LB Tim Kimbrough, a senior, is undersized, but plays the role of the leader in the front seven on defense, losing Leonard Floyd may not impact them too much because he was very inconsistent. But if they can create some consistent pass rush, this secondary can take advantage.
Georgia can go anywhere from 8-4 to 10-2 but I think 10-2 is more consistent with what they’ve done in prior years and I do think Smart is better for the Bulldogs than Mark Richt is, and I respect Richt A LOT!!! Miami is a great spot for Richt.
- Florida Gators
Projected Record- 9-3
Key Players: WR Antonio Callaway, RB Mark Thompson, LT David Sharpe, LG Martez Ivey, DE Bryan Cox, LB Jarrad Davis, CB Jalen Tabor, CB Quincy Wilson, S Marcus Maye
I call Florida the LSU of the SEC East, this defense is so talented, and I don’t know if they’ll give up 30 points in any game this season. They’ve only given up 30 points or more in five games over the past three seasons.
The offense on the other hand has had some real woes in the past couple of seasons, that is expect for the times Willie Greer was pulling his best Willie Beaman impersonation, I wasn’t sold on him either but he was a 65% passer. Graduate Transfer Austin Appleby (Purdue), Feleipe Franks (true freshman, my #4 QB in 2016 recruiting class), and Luke Del Rio (son of Raiders HC Jack Del Rio, transfer from Oregon State) will all battle for McElwain’s starting QB position. The man who won national championships as an OC with Greg McElroy and AJ McCarron has his work cut out for him.
All three offer a skill set, but I think that Appleby could win the position and shine the way that Russell Wilson did at Wisconsin, but this offense will be an adjustment for him. But there’s the dilemma of Luke Del Rio, who originally committed to Alabama when McElwain was still the OC there. Del Rio decided to transfer and play with his offense once again and honestly that could be sets him apart.
RB Mark Thompson is the size of Derrick Henry, and he has the trust of his head coach to step up big this season. Thompson will have a talented OLine led by junior LT David Sharpe, C Cameron Dillard, and sophomore LG Martez Ivey. That should be a boost and they’ll have a few easy games to warm up before heading to Knoxville, Tennessee on September 24th.
These WRs will miss DeMarcus Robinson but Antonio Callaway could be a real game breaker for them and we all know McElwain loved his screens with Julio Jones at Alabama (almost unfair). They’ll need the unit as a whole to really step up and produce in the tough SEC.
The defense is about as good as you’ll see in the entire country. Bryan Cox, Caleb Brantley, Jarrad Davis, CeCe Jefferson, Jalon Tabor, Marcus Maye, and Quincy Wilson as starters from last season’s team, that’s a lot of ammo considering they lost Antonio Morrison, Jonathan Bullard and 1st round pick Vernon Hargreaves.
For a team only returning twelve starters they may actually improve because of how awful the offense was last season. Tennessee and Georgia will be tough tests for the team but wins in both games puts them back in the SEC Championship Game as amazing as that sounds.
- LSU Tigers:
Projected Record: 9-3
Key Players: RB Leonard Fournette, WR Travin Dural, WR Malachi Dupre, C Ethan Pocic, DT Devon Godchaux, LB Kendall Beckwith, CB Tre’Davious White, S Jamal Adams
LSU’s defense is potentially the best in the country, and that’s saying something… They’ve got 9 starters coming back on defense and it looks like they’ll have two projected 1st round picks in that group. On offense, they have 8 starters back with two definite 1st round picks. So talent won’t hold them back, but it usually never does.
The problem with LSU is at QB, and that’s not something I’ll openly say about many teams in pro/college football (kidding). Brandon Harris is in put-up or shut-up mode in 2016, and that’s an understatement. Completing 53.6 percent of your passes isn’t acceptable with the talent at WR.
As far as Fournette and the WRs, there isn’t much to talk about, you get Dupre and Dural the ball and things happen. Fournette alone gets this team to 8 wins, but it can’t be a one-man show with this schedule.
A showdown with Alabama after both teams have a bye week has potentially to be the game of the year (even playoffs). Tre’Davious White, Kendall Beckwith, and the rest of the seniors who came back and are going to want to avenge the losses they suffered last season.
The OL will be much younger this year with the exception of Ethan Pocic at C, so if Harris beats out Purdue transfer Danny Etling, he’ll have less margin of error with opposing pass rushers especially with the meat of the SEC schedule in early November, they square off against Alabama at home and take a trip to Arkansas, a place they don’t fair well in recent memory.
LSU should be in title contention if they just score enough to be average, but for ANY football fan watch Leonard Fournette and this defense, you’ll see more from some of these guys on Sundays.
- Vanderbilt Commodores
Projecting Record- 8-4
Key Players: QB Kyle Shurmer, RB Ralph Webb, WR Trent Sherfield, LB Zach Cunningham, LT Andrew Jelks, DT Adam Butler, S/LB Oren Burks
Vanderbilt on paper doesn’t look like a team that could contend in the SEC East but with South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, and Georgia Tech all in disarray direction wise and on top of that they get Tennessee and Florida at home in Nashville. With a win over South Carolina in week 1 and Georgia Tech in week 3, they have a 4-0 start before October 1st! For Vandy, that’s a HUGE DEAL…
The QB situation was a mess last year but Kyle Shurmur looks to have that spot on lock. His father is former NFL HC Pat Shurmur, he also has to improve on his performance from last season and trust me, there’s nowhere to go but up. Duece Wallace could contend but at this point there’s no word if he’s close.
At the skill positions Vanderbilt brings back the crew of CJ Duncan, Trent Scherfield, Ralph Webb, and Caleb Scott. If they can create some quick points it could take pressure off of a defense that did more than its fair share last season, with the exceptions of the Tennessee game where they were lit up for 53 points and a 34-0 shutout to Houston.
The SEC East only has one offensive power and that’s likely Tennessee, if Florida gets going all they can do is pray, but with 8 starters returning including 3 members of the secondary, 2LBs and both DTs, they should be able to stop the run and force turnovers.
Oren Burks at the Rover/Hybrid Safety position, he’ll be lined up in different places to cause mismatches. Zach Cunningham will have the job to be accountable for the men in front of him and keep plays in front of them. Both could be NFL prospects and will have the competition to merit consideration.
Vanderbilt can beat 9 of their 12 opponents, but it really comes down to being consistent offensively. If they can score, they could be a real dark horse and HC Derek Mason will make quite a name for himself.
They should beat Mizzou, Auburn, South Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia Tech, WKU, and Tenn St. that’s already 7 games, between Ole Miss/Tenn/Florida, they should win one of them.
- Ole Miss Rebels
Projected Record: 7-5
Key Players: QB Chad Kelly, WR Quincy Adeboyejo, TE Evan Engram, DE Marquis Haynes LB DE Marquis Gates, S Tony Conner, CB Tony Bridges
The Ole Miss Rebels are likely dead men walking this season with the NCAA looming on them like a black eye, but until they hand down sanctions they have to focus at the task in hand. The recent four year Ole Miss has had changed the national perception of the program but this year that could be in danger.
QB Chad Kelly loses a lot of firepower on offense, which includes LT Laremy Tunsil (who missed 7 games last year), WRs Laquon Treadwell and Cody Core, and JD Walton at RB who led them in rushing last year. Kelly will still have Evan Engram and Adebayejo who were productive last season and are seniors, they should be consistent for them.
The OL will have freshman Greg Little replace Tunsil, both were #1 OT recruits and like Tunsil I expect Little to be a top 15 pick as a draft eligible junior. They, like LSU, have a group of sophomores in the OL but Kelly may be better suited than most in college football to deal with the extra pressure.
The defense will look different with Tony Connor playing a little LB, but this is a veteran group with one likely freshman playing (S Deontay Anderson). It’ll be up to the pass rush to help absorb the loss of the Nkemdiche brothers and CJ Johnson.
With the schedule Ole Miss has and all the departures it’s going to be hard for them to continue their little run of consistency, but Hugh Freeze may have to push these sophomores very hard to get the most out of them.
- Mississippi State Bulldogs
Projected Record: 7-5
Key Players: RB Brandon Holloway, WR Fred Ross Jr., C Jamaal Clayborn, DE AJ Jefferson, LB Richie Brown, CB Tolando Cleveland, S Kivon Coman
Mississippi State is a team that I’ve openly rooted for over the last two seasons, Dak Prescott carried that team last season and was phenomenal for them. Hopefully, Nick Fitzgerald will produce and though he has very little previous playing time, he looked good last year stepping in for Prescott, completing 11 of 14 passes for 235 yards 3TDs, along with 127 rushing yards and 3TDs.
The Bulldogs do have their leading rusher from last season, Brandon Holloway, is returning for his senior season and could be a sleeper for All-SEC at running back with this veteran offensive line. Holloway could see 150/200 carries this season and Fitzgerald is quite the dual threat himself.
The receiving core still has Fred Ross who had a big season as a junior and should be primed for an All-SEC season. Donald Gray and Malik Dear should be able to get open looks from the attention Ross will get. Fitzgerald’s running ability also gives them even more possible targets.
With only eleven starters, six on defense, you’ll look to younger guys to step up, but for the Bulldogs there are seniors in the system and a small mix of sophomores. Led by senior LB Richie Brown, the Bulldogs should be a steady defensive group and give up around 24ppg, which could bode well.
They had trouble creating pass rush last season and this year it’s hard to think that anyone on this roster can be that guy who creates enormous pressure. The secondary should be their strength as they have three seniors starting.
Overall, it could be a tough season although they very well could start 3-1, but @BYU, @Alabama, and @Ole Miss are tough road games. 7-5 is a realistic record for them because Arkansas, Texas A&M, and @LSU are teams with upside so they got their work cut out for them.
- Texas A&M Aggies
Projected Record- 6-6
Key Players- QB Trevor Knight, WR Speedy Noil, WR Christian Kirk, LT Avery Gennesy, DE Myles Garrett, S Armani Watts, LB Shaun Washington
HC Kevin Sumlin has a lot more pressure on him now more than ever in his coaching career. He has had not one, or two, but three QBs transfer in recent seasons, Kyler Murray (Oklahoma), Kyle Allen (Houston), and Kenny Hill (TCU, will be able to play this season).
It makes me question the culture that exists in College Station. Lucky for Sumlin, he’s got Trevor Knight, a QB beat out by Heisman contender Baker Mayfield. Knight provides a veteran presence and has beaten Bama before in a Sugar Bowl with Oklahoma.
With Knight, you can expect this to be the old Sumlin playbook at Houston, Knight has the arm to make the throws needed in this offense, and the WRs to absolutely explode, but the 6-6 record is more of a reflection to the teams they face. UCLA, Arkansas, Alabama, LSU, and Tennessee are potential top 12 teams and this is an Aggie team that although they beat Arizona State and Mississippi State ranked last season, they were proven very over-ranked.
This WR of Ricky Seals-Jones, Christian Kirk, Josh Reynolds and Speedy Noil may possibly have three NFL draft picks and another NFL walk on, they’re very talented. If Knight can hit his targets we could see four 800-yard receivers. Seals-Jones, Kirk, and Noil were very sought after recruits, so this is expected from them, Reynolds is the senior of the bunch and should be the go-to for Knight under duress. They’ll have Keith Ford, another transfer at RB, should be interesting to see Ford’s role.
The OL may not have a true 1st round guy this year, but LT Alvin Gennesy should be in consideration, he’s also the only veteran starter returning this season. This will be something to watch in the earlier games against UCLA, Auburn, and Arkansas.
The defense has a potential top 3 pick, Myles Garrett, who some compare to JaDaveon Clowney, is coming back to John Chavis’s defense with more havoc to create in opposing backfields, along with senior Daeshon Hall, who recorded 7 sacks last season.
If they can match their production from last season and get any help from the young LBs, this A&M team could win some tough ball games. With two sophomores, Richard Moore and Otaro Alaka in the fold, it’ll be up to the secondary to create turnovers. Senior Justin Evans and Junior Armani Watts might be the best safety tandem in the country returning, but this defense will have to really improve.
- Kentucky Wildcats
Projected Record: 5-7
Key Players: RB Boom Williams, QB Drew Barker, WR Dorian Baker, WR Garrett Johnson, FS Marcus McWilson, LB Denzil Ware, CB/S Chris Westy
Kentucky has a whopping 9 starters returning on offense and a possible improvement at QB with Drew Barker, who fits their system better. The defense has a healthy mix of sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
The thing with Kentucky is that they had seven home games last season and they still managed to miss a bowl game… How does that happen? Mark Stoops isn’t the greatest coach in the world but this is his first coaching job and we all know Kentucky isn’t the easiest place to bring in football talent.
Even with that said, Boom Williams and this offense can win shootouts if sophomore Drew Barker can play like Andre Woodson once did. Barker is said to be a better than Patrick Towles, who will use his post-graduate season at Boston College.
They must start out 3-1 to give themselves a chance at a bowl game. I don’t think they’ll stand a chance against Florida or Alabama on paper but Florida is at least possible, considering the 14-9 loss a year ago.
This group of WRs is not getting enough love heading into the season but Baker, Johnson, and junior Jeff Badet could definitely ignite fireworks. Even against the toughest SEC defenses, they might be able to really be a force.
The OL has A LOT of experience and this could really propel them to some new limits, because of that veteran group, four of them were starters last season. They might not be surefire NFL prospects, but definitely a chance to prove themselves as players.
The defense’s success will make or break Mark Stoops’ season. This young group will have to learn quick; but their three seniors will have to carry their group to be at least average. If this defense can be average they could win as many as 8 games. That alone would help Kentucky earn a bowl bid for the first time since 2010.
I expect Denzil Ware, Chris Westry, and these sophomores to earn some praise and get the Wildcats in position to accomplish their goals. I just think the defense has to prove it consistently and FINISH games late, close games have killed them.
- Missouri Tigers
Projected Record- 4-8
Key Players: WR J’Mon Brown, TE Sean Culkin, OT Tyler Howell, DE Charles Harris, LB Michael Scherer, CB Aaron Penton, S Anthony Sherrils
The Missouri Tigers have a lot of change happening on campus and on the field, but with recent dismissals and a new coach. They also have a new QB, and that man is Drew Lock, Lock did play a tad bit last season after Matty Mauk was dismissed.
Missouri’s offense also didn’t have a RB that had 1TD. That’ll have to be different for the Tigers in 2016.
One of those OL additions include JUCO recruit Tyler Howell. He stands at 6’9” and weighs 300lbs, he’s projected as the LT by the start of the season and with Nate Crawford as the only returning starter, there’s going to be growing pains.
WR J’Mon Brown, TE Sean Culkin, and WR Nate Brown are three of the four legitimate starters they have returning offensively. This will factor huge for the Tigers if they plan on scoring against the tough defenses they match up against.
Barry Odom, their new coach, was a LB for the Tigers from 1996-99, he’s been the DC since 2015, he was previously at Memphis in ’14, where he got results from a team that was a few years removed from 0-12 type seasons. So, in time Odom could be a good fit, I just don’t think a rookie HC was the right plan for Mizzou to go, even if he is an alumnus.
The Tigers defense lost Harold Brantley and Walter Brady who were dismissed last week. They were both projected to be starters. Some teams have depth to handle the losses they may sustain but Missouri looks to not be as capable as their competitors in their division and conference.
Overall, they’re @WVU week one, Georgia in week 3, and @LSU in week 5, that alone could be three losses. Nevermind that bulky part of the schedule, @Florida and @Tennessee will be extremely challenging also. They’ll need to be healthy to really overachieve at this point.
- Auburn Tigers
Projected Record- 3-9
Key Players: RB Chandler Cox, LT Austin Golson, RG Braden Smith, DT Dontavious Russell, DE/OLB Carl Lawson, S Jonathan Ford, CB Carlton Davis
The Auburn Tigers were very fortunate last season to have had their defense remain as consistent as they did because they were doomed with Jeremy Johnson failed to keep his own promises to Auburn fans of replicating Cam Newton.
JUCO prospect John Franklin III is just a smaller Johnson in my books, his mechanics are inconsistent, and just doesn’t seem to have the mindset to be a good leader consistently.
They’ve dismissed RB Jovon Robinson, who rushed for 645 yards last season, who I thought could pair with sophomore Chandler Cox to try and produce a running attack. They’ll have to look to younger guys on their roster to fill the void they’ve lost. Robinson was a senior, so that loses them a lot of experience.
They also have senior Marcus Davis, at WR, along with freshman Nate Craig-Myers, who could be an impact freshman for Auburn.
Once again, the defense will need to carry the team, and they are led by potential top 15 pick, DE/OLB Carl Lawson. Lawson has dealt with injuries but he’s a remarkable talent, could easily be looked at as an EDGE in the NFL level. His production hasn’t matched his talent but maybe that’s what this year is for.
People see Auburn as a 7-5 or an 8-4 football team, I don’t see it. They’ll have a lot to prove outside of their defense to win in an SEC that sees a possible ten bowl teams.
- South Carolina Gamecocks
Projected Record- 2-10
Key Players- QB Brandon Mcilwain, WR Deebo Samuel, LT Mason Zandi, MLB TJ Holloman, CB Rico McWilliams, S Jordan Diggs
South Carolina had a season of disarray with QB Connor Mitch totally losing the job and HC Steve Spurrier to quit during the middle of the season. It was even weirder that they hired Will Muschamp of all people, who was such a disaster at Florida.
But true freshman Brandon McIlwain is a dual threat QB who would’ve been a 1st round pick in the MLB Draft to play both sports at South Carolina. He also showed promise during the spring game to likely think he could start by season’s end.
Replacing Pharoh Cooper and Jerrell Adams won’t be easy but sophomore Deebo Samuel might be able to emulate some of the big play factor they lost in at least Cooper, sophomore TE Kevin Crosby could win that job and turn that into something.
The OL, like most of the offense has sophomores and juniors all over except for LT, Mason Zandi returns to protect the blind side and his leadership is key for a team looking at a long season.
The defense will only have five starters returning and after a strong opening week against UNC this is a defense that was short of good, they lost to Citadel 23-22, and suffered defeats to Clemson, Florida, Georgia, LSU, and Tennesee.
Some of those losses were games that they could have won with better execution. But this team isn’t all that talented. McWilliams and Diggs will have to lead the secondary again and they may not be impacted there as other places on the team.
It’s going to be a rough go for the Gamecocks, but 2017 could be different if they use this season to prepare young guys.