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Every year, contingency plans are formed by college coaches to deal with the loss of key personnel they might experience over the longevity of the 13-week regular season, but some guys are just nearly impossible to replace.
Not playing captain obvious, the most indispensable player in the SEC East is Aaron Murray, and for obvious reasons, I didn’t include him on this list. Georgia’s offense would take a step back without Murray.
Here are seven SEC East players who are irreplaceable:
Jeff Driskel, QB: It’s imperative that Florida keeps Jeff Driskel healthy this season, because behind him, there’s a sizeable experience gap. Driskel was injured last season, but then backup Jacoby Brissett spelled Driskel and led Florida to victory against Louisiana Lafayette and Jacksonville State. But Florida won’t have that luxury this season because Brissett transferred, and neither backup Tyler Murphy or Skyler Mornhinweg have any experience. Yes, Florida’s offense is a run-first, pro-style attack, but Driskel is a major part of the running game, too, despite not being a big downfield threat.
Kenarious Gates, OT: The thought of losing tackle Kenarious Gates would have massive implications from an offensive line standpoint. The Bulldogs’ O-line was a pleasant surprise in 2012, and Gates is the versatile staple and anchor of an overachieving and efficient position corps that returns five starters.
Demarco Robinson, WR: Kentucky is installing the Air Attack offense led by new OC Neal Brown. The Cats have three different quarterbacks to choose from and a bevy of running backs, but the one lacking position is receiver. Demarco Robinson is the best the Cats have on the roster, and knowing what little depth UK has, Robinson becomes one of the most important offensive players in 2013.
Henry Josey, RB: We actually saw what a Henry Josey-less Missouri offense looked like last season. Kendial Lawrence filled in nicely, but it clearly wasn’t the same potent rushing attack like in 2011. Josey returns after missing last season, and hopefully we get to see the ‘11 version of Josey in his truest form.
Bruce Ellington, WR: With Ace Sanders’ absence, Bruce Ellington’s play becomes important for a position group that doesn’t have many proven players. There’s Damiere Byrd and strong young talent like Shaq Roland, Jerell Adams and Kwinton Smith, but Ellington played a major role last year with his 600 receiving yards, which led the team.
Antonio Richardson, OT: The Vols’ offense may be lacking at the skill positions, but the offensive line is stout and ready to be road graders. Antonio “Tiny” Richardson is the best tackle on the team, and he’s made it known he can’t wait to face Jadeveon Clowney in 2013. The offensive line, led by Richardson, will give Tennessee at least a staple to lean on this season.
Wesley Johnson, OT: The best offensive lineman you’ve never heard of is versatile Wesley Johnson. Johnson can play tackle, guard and even center if James Franklin needed it, and he’s one of the best tackles in the SEC for 2013. Losing Johnson would halt the running game and hurt first-year starter Austyn Carta-Samuels.
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