The 10 SEC seniors I'd love to see return with this free year of eligibility (even though they probably won't)
Well, at least as a fan of college football. Selfishly, I want a bunch of SEC players to stay in college forever. It bums me out when talented players leave for the NFL to pursue their dreams and make millions and blah, blah, blah. What about me, future millionaire? Did you not consider how valuable you are to my Saturday entertainment?
OK, jokes aside, I would love to see so many of these current seniors return for another season.
Yes, I realize all of them are likely gone to the NFL. I don’t blame them. Some have already celebrated their senior days and have done everything to suggest that they won’t take advantage of this free, COVID year of eligibility.
So who can make this list? Well, it’s seniors only (redshirt seniors or just regular seniors). That means no redshirt juniors like Mac Jones. These are players who in a normal year, would have exhausted all of their eligibility. You know that if any of these guys told their coaches they love college so much that they want to run it back in Year 5, they’d be welcomed back with open arms.
These are the types of players who would get “let’s goooooooooo” reactions from all of their fans on Twitter if they surprisingly announced that they’d come back. Again, I’m not saying that any of these guys will come back. I’m assuming that they’re all off to the NFL.
But yes, if any of these 10 SEC seniors returned for 2021, you’d get a big “let’s goooooooo” from me.
Kyle Trask, Florida QB
Isn’t it crazy that Trask is in Year 5 at Florida? He’s only 10 months younger than Lamar Jackson. I know, I know. Trask is likely set to cash in on his monstrous 2020 season. I don’t blame him. But can you think of all the records he’d break if he came back for another full season? The guy just passed Johnny Manziel on the SEC career TD passes leaderboard despite the fact that he didn’t get a full season last year, and he’s not going to get a full season this year.
Trask is currently 50 touchdown passes from Danny Wuerffel’s Florida record, and he’s 57 away from Aaron Murray’s all-time SEC-leading mark. Assuming Trask gets 3 more games this year, he could realistically be 45 touchdown passes away from becoming the SEC’s all-time leader in touchdown passes.
I know, I know. He’s gone. Still fun to talk about.
Kadarius Toney, Florida WR
Man, am I glad that Toney came back for 2020. What a player he’s become. Nobody in the SEC is more fun to watch in the open field, and I think that includes a healthy Jaylen Waddle. Toney has turned himself into an All-SEC player who is worth the price of admission. I still can’t believe he threw Nick Bolton off him like that. Toney is a machine, and he’s only getting better.
Kadarius Toney. Mercy. pic.twitter.com/bFwKSqH3rC
— Connor O’Gara (@cjogara) November 1, 2020
Again, he’d be foolish not to cash in on this season. Toney is going to have an NFL future as a special teams player, and if he continues to improve his route-running, he’ll have a long career as a starting wideout. But Toney would likely be the most electrifying player in America if he stunningly decided to return.
DeVonta Smith, Alabama WR
I’d say 0.0%. Those are the odds of Smith returning another season. I couldn’t believe he came back in 2020 after he led Alabama in receiving last year. Pound for pound, there’s not a better player in college football. He should be in the Heisman Trophy consideration for having one of the best single seasons we’ve ever seen from a Power 5 receiver.
Smith coming back for a Year 5 in Steve Sarkisian’s offense would be a cheat code. Like, teams should have the right to protest the game. Smith would be like the Danny Almonte of college football. Everyone would know that he’s too old and that he should’ve been playing at the next level years ago.
Najee Harris, Alabama RB
Speaking of Alabama players who I thought were adios post-2019, Harris has been everything that Alabama fans could’ve hoped for. He’s having a banner season not only as a runner but also as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. He’s a lock to be one of the first running backs off the board in today’s NFL.
In some bizarro world in which Harris returned to college, he’d probably be something like 1,500 rushing yards away from breaking Herschel Walker’s career rushing record, and he’d probably be about 12-14 rushing scores away from breaking Tim Tebow’s SEC rushing touchdowns record. Harris would have a chance to end his career as one of the best SEC running backs ever.
But yeah, let’s say 0.0% chance of returning on that one, too.
Feleipe Franks, Arkansas QB
The worst-kept secret at Florida heading into 2019 was that it would be Franks’ last season in Gainesville. Whether that was going to the NFL, pursuing an MLB career (he got drafted by the Red Sox) or leaving as a grad transfer, the writing was on the wall. In other words, no, I don’t expect Franks to still be in college for a 6th year in 2021. But Franks would be fun to watch on a variety of levels. I compared him to Jameis Winston coming into this season, which now looks outdated. The 2020 version of Franks was much more stable than that.
Even if you don’t think Franks has an NFL future, you can’t deny how pretty his deep throws are. A Feleipe dime is a sight to behold. That big arm will give him a shot at the next level, which is all anyone can ask for. Still, I’d love to see Feleipe dimes for the rest of my life:
FELEIPE FRANKS DEEP BALL 🚀 pic.twitter.com/4g2l90qtUQ
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 8, 2020
Goodness, I’m gonna miss that.
Drake Jackson, Kentucky C
The heart and soul of that smash-mouth Kentucky offensive line has already celebrated his senior day. In fact, he said that he was going to go home and sleep in his jersey after his last home game. I mean, you start 43 consecutive games, you earn the right to do that. Jackson has been a pleasure to watch during this rise that Kentucky has been on with Mark Stoops. How many times did he help clear a path for a Benny Snell/Lynn Bowden/Terry Wilson/Chris Rodriguez touchdown? Countless.
He’s a throwback player with a nastiness that’ll make him valuable at the next level. Why wouldn’t I want to see that at Kentucky for another season?
Richard LeCounte, Georgia S
I hate what happened to LeCounte in the middle of this season. The motorcycle accident that sidelined the Georgia star was another tough pill for the Dawgs to swallow in 2020. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad we at least got to see him at all in 2020 after his multi-interception game in the Sugar Bowl, but it still bums me out that we didn’t get a full season of LeCounte. His instincts are second to none. Few in all of college football can change a game from the safety position like the Georgia senior.
While I don’t blame anyone who does opt out, I appreciate that LeCounte was willing to come back for Georgia and sit out the rest of the season. It didn’t matter to him that the Dawgs already had 2 losses, and that this would be his first December without having Playoff aspirations. That’s what leaders do.
Don’t get me wrong. LeCounte has NFL riches in his future. But if there’s some miracle that results in him staying another year, Georgia fans would be over the moon.
Monty Rice, Georgia LB
Speaking of Georgia players who could already be playing on Sundays, Rice has been banged up throughout this season, as well. He’s going to the Senior Bowl, so Rice absolutely isn’t coming back. Georgia fans know this. All things considered, Rice has still had a solid year patrolling the middle of Kirby Smart’s defense. He’s No. 2 on the team in tackles, and he’s a semifinalist for the Butkus Award.
Rice’s ability to blow up running plays has made him a staple of the Georgia defense for the last 3 years. He already feels like one of those “he’s been in college for 7 years” type of players, and with good reason. When you’re around the ball as much as Rice — he’s now over 200 tackles for his career — you become pretty familiar with SEC foes. Georgia fans will miss watching No. 32 make these types of plays:
Monty Rice, that’ll work. pic.twitter.com/UfxNYx4ZXv
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) October 10, 2020
KJ Britt, Auburn LB
The run-stuffing Auburn linebacker has been sidelined with a thumb injury for the last 2 months. That’s made for a much more inconsistent Auburn run defense in the post-Marlon Davidson/Derrick Brown era. Britt’s presence was invaluable on not just that defense, but the entire team. Like Rice, Britt is also going to the Senior Bowl so any chance of a return is gone. He confirmed as much Thursday night.
Thank you Auburn, Always WDE! Now Next Chapter pic.twitter.com/enRNoxOm9h
— Kj Britt (@K_Britt10) December 11, 2020
It’s a shame that he didn’t get the swan song that he deserved after making the somewhat surprising decision to return for 2020. I’m not sure Britt would’ve put Auburn in contention for a West title had he been healthy for the whole season — he was out there against Georgia — but I don’t think the Tigers would’ve had such major defensive lapses with him on the field.
Larry Rountree III, Mizzou RB
What a bounce-back season it’s been for Rountree in Year 1 of the Eli Drinkwitz era. After a season in which he was held to 3 yards per carry in SEC play, Rountree has gotten back to his workhorse back ways. He’s got 69 carries in the last 3 games alone, which went for 403 yards and 7 touchdowns. On the year, he’s No. 7 in FBS in carries and he’s No. 4 in the SEC in rushing. Somewhat quietly, Rountree totally eliminated that timeshare he had with Tyler Badie last year.
Rountree is gone at Mizzou, but he’d be a fun guy to watch with a full offseason and another year in Drinkwitz’s offense. The guy played with 3 different offensive coordinators in his career, yet he’s still got a shot to finish his career with 4,000 rushing yards, which only 9 SEC backs have ever reached. Rountree is still underrated, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him become a steal at the next level.
Still, what a way to go out:
— Andrew Kauffman (@AndrewABC17) December 5, 2020
And 1 more … Jarrett Guarantano
Just kidding, Tennessee fans. Y’all have been through enough.