Projecting SEC East spring breakout players

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SDS has taken a look at all the best players this spring heading into practice. Now, let’s take a look at some of the spring breakout players and which players will get the most ink in the next two months.

SEC East

Florida: DE Dante Fowler
Buzz: The rising sophomore had a solid freshman season, nabbing 8.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Fowler is ready for the spotlight and the one player the Gators and Will Muschamp can count on to give the defense added production. Fowler’s development from his freshman to sophomore years should be very obvious, as he possesses all the athletic ability and strength to become one of the SEC’s most feared defensive linemen. That all starts this spring.

Georgia: OLB Jordan Jenkins
Buzz: Jordan Jenkins’ freshman season was about learning the defense, the rush linebacker position and backing up Jarvis Jones. Jenkins could have been an everyday starter for any other team in the SEC as a freshman, and saying he could eventually be better than Jones isn’t a ludicrous statement at all. Jenkins possesses all the ability – mentally and physically – to become Todd Grantham’s next star defender. Jenkins registered 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in minimal time. Jenkins will be one of the focal points to Georgia’s spring practice.

Kentucky: DE Za’Darius Smith
Buzz: Smith’s signing could be the cornerstone for Kentucky building success, starting with the defensive line. Smith is an early enrollee, and he’s ready to compete and start from day one. Stoops and defensive coordinator DJ Eliot are known for developing defensive ends, and Smith is ready to be the talk of spring for the Wildcats.

Missouri: WR Dorial Green-Beckham
Buzz: DGB has all the makings of a being a top receiver in the SEC. Unfortunately his lackluster freshman season didn’t exactly live up to expectation, but that certainly had more to do with the overall passing offense than anything. But with TJ Moe gone and a new offensive coordinator, it bodes well for DGB to emerge as the most talked about player in spring practice.

South Carolina: WR Shaq Roland
Buzz: The former No. 1 overall recruit from South Carolina should become the Gamecocks’ biggest breakout star this spring at a position of need. With Ace Sanders’ departure, Roland is the natural pass catcher who possesses as much talent as anyone in the league to become the next big play go-to receiver for Steve Spurrier’s offense. With Bruce Ellington currently playing basketball, it’s imperative that Roland emerges in the next two months. He’s going to be a player.

Tennessee: RB Marlin Lane
Buzz: Lane is heading into his junior season, and we still haven’t seen his best yet. Derek Dooley couldn’t get it out of him, and Butch Jones will have to develop him. Lane could be the perfect back for Tennessee’s new spread attack. He’s only rushed for 938 yards and four touchdowns in two seasons, and it’s time Lane becomes the back we all thought he would be out of high school.

Vanderbilt: DE Caleb Azubike
Buzz: Caleb Azubike’s development from his freshman to sophomore seasons will be a telling sign for Vandy’s defensive line. Losing three starters isn’t exactly comforting, but knowing Azubike’s high ceiling for ability and talent certainly will make one feel better. His 6-4, 255-pound frame has plenty of room to grow and tools with which to develop. Azubike should be the biggest breakout player for the Commodores this spring at a big position of need.

Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

COMMENTS

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  • To say that I’m excited to see what Jordan Jenkins becomes this season is a bit of an understatement and, barring injuries, I totally agree that he could put up better numbers than JJ. His motor will determine that, but physically he’s set to do it. Jones, size-wise, always looked more like a DB who moved into the OLB position — which sometimes worked against him, particularly against run-heavy teams (a la SEC CG last season). But Jenkins is a former DE moved to OLB who I think will be a lot more fit to straight over-power guys where Jones couldn’t. All that to say, if he has/develops the same relentless motor as Jones, Jenkins will make life miserable for opposing offenses. He’s one of the big reasons I think this defense can be better than what a lot of folks are saying right now — folks tend to forget that when you have a bunch of all-stars starting, their back-ups may not get as much playing time, but they are still equally as talented.

  • A lot of Mizzou fans expect Maty Mauk to be our breakout player and take the QB job from James Franklin in spring practice. Pinkel keeps comparing him to Brad Smith … not in style of play, but in the way Smith beat a senior 3-year starter out for the job as a RS freshman. Mauk is the national prep record holder for passing yards and TDs, so Mizzou fans are hoping (irrationally) that we have Maty Football on our hands.

    • Mauk is a future star, but, to me, it’s a stretch to think that Mauk beats out James Franklin this spring. In the fall, I could definitely see it. It will certainly be interesting to watch this develop, nonetheless.