Halfway through fall camp, 10 bold predictions for SEC East
As the days tick down toward opening kickoff — next week for Florida! — forgive us if we start feeling a little bold. Of course, in the bold prediction department, we’re always a little out there. Predicting your team’s next All-American or an unlikely starter or something else crazy from fall camp? Well, that’s what we came to do. So here are 10 bold predictions for SEC East fall camps.
1. Demetris Robertson sets himself apart for UGA
Yes, it’s hardly news that Robertson, a Cal transfer last season, is incredibly talented. But he’s going to flash the form that will take him from looking for his first UGA catch to leading the team in receiving this fall. As UGA has some hiccups on its receiver depth chart, Robertson is showing all of the signs of being the multi-talented guy who can combine with Jake Fromm to take the top off defenses. An All-SEC campaign started this fall camp.
2. Elam a big name (again) at UF
Florida has a funny recent tradition. Teams go into the season knowing about talented, veteran UF defensive backs — and so they don’t throw at them. Meanwhile, an under-the-radar defender steps up and has an All-SEC season. Tabor to Wilson to Henderson, it just continues. This year’s entrant is true frosh corner Kaiir Elam, nephew of former Gator Matt Elam. He’s going to find his way on the field and as SEC offenses try to keep away from Wilson and Henderson, they’ll end up throwing a handful of passes to young Elam, who can then return next year and let some other new name become a star. He might play corner, he might play safety, but he’ll make plays wherever he ends up.
3. Badie won’t be bad in CoMo
Larry Rountree is one heck of an exciting running back. Given his 1,216 yards and 11 scores last season, it’s understandable that Mizzou fans are looking forward to seeing him this season. But they’d do well to remember that they were looking forward to Damarea Crockett a year ago, only for Rountree to stay healthier and steal some sizzle. This year, Tyler Badie (437 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns in 2018) might end up doing the same thing. Given Badie’s speed on the edge, don’t be surprised if he has a big year even if Rountree is fine. How good, how bold? 800 yards, 8 scores, we’ll say.
4. A changing of the guard at SC?
Jake Bentley has been South Carolina’s QB forever now. But with Will Muschamp’s job security getting a little dicey, it might be time for USC to jump-start the offense with freshman stud Ryan Hilinksi. Remember how Bentley took the starting QB job as a true freshman and led Carolina from 3-9 to a bowl? If Muschamp wants to continue on the sidelines, he needs more wins than the seven Bentley led in 2018. Hilinksi might be the gamble needed to make that leap.
5. Trey Smith doesn’t make it to the opener
While there’s no doubt that Jeremy Pruitt has done yeoman’s work in pushing Tennessee football back toward its intended destination, there’s also no doubt that he can’t control the medical report. Trey Smith isn’t just the best player on Tennessee’s team, he’s possibly the best lineman in the SEC. Which makes his consistent health problems that much more heartbreaking. Blood clots have sidelined Smith on multiple occasions. He has been a monster in camp, but there are no guarantees. Of all these predictions, we’d most love to be wrong about this one!
6. Xavier Peters (if he plays) replaces Josh Allen
Yes, we’re hedging a bet here. Florida State transfer Xavier Peters is awaiting NCAA word on whether he’ll be eligible this fall for Kentucky. If he is — and that is a big if — he’ll be the guy who fills (some portion of) the shoes of Josh Allen in his freak-mode, pass-rush, defensive-insanity role. Mark Stoops has been planning on life without Peters, not running him in first-team reps. But that would change immediately with word from the NCAA. Don’t be shocked if Peters ends up on the field this fall, and ends up causing headaches for opposing offenses.
7. Deuce gets loose in Nashville
Cast us as part of the group that’s not entirely convinced about Riley Neal at Vandy. The Ball State grad transfer gets mentioned pretty much constantly as a “game manager.” Given 5 consecutive seasons of 7-plus losses, Vandy will need something more than a game manager, particularly to go with a potentially potent offense. We see Deuce Wallace ending up with the starting job at Vandy.
8. Campbell shines for Dawgs
While UGA did lose some substantial contributors on defense, given the amount of talent and depth on their roster, that’s just a matter of “next man up.” We think Tyson Campbell would make a heck of a next guy. Given J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte at safety, the sophomore will be able to take advantage of veteran leadership and the experience he gained last season (45 tackles) in developing into UGA’s next lock-down corner. We see Campbell taking on the Deandre Baker role come the opener in Nashville.
9. Zip(perer) it
Much is being made over Florida’s ton of receiver talent, and for good reason. Freddie Swain, Van Jefferson, Trevon Grimes, etc., etc. But don’t forget tight end, and especially true frosh Keon Zipperer, who might well just become the next outstanding UF tight end. Don’t be surprised to see him making big catches against Miami in Week 0.
10. Ground Jordan in CoMo
It’s not Air Jordan, but defensive tackle Jordan Elliott could become Missouri’s next outstanding defensive lineman. On a team where the back 7 contains a ton of experienced talent, Missouri might be a legitimate inside threat from finishing 2nd in the East. Elliott might well end up being that guy. The Texas transfer had 24 tackles and 3 sacks last season, and he’s impressing coaches this fall.