3 SEC players who could be the 2021 version of Kadarius Toney
In every way, Kadarius Toney was rare in 2020.
He was the rare guy who went from being considered underused to being a high-volume, high-end NFL prospect. He was the rare guy who could run through 5 defenders like it was no big deal. He was the rare converted quarterback who put it all together at receiver.
It might be a minute before we see someone follow in Toney’s footsteps. It’s not every day that a converted quarterback develops as a route-runner the way that Toney did in Year 4 in Gainesville.
But there are a handful of SEC players who aren’t really far off from where Toney was at this time last year. Remember that before 2020, Toney had:
- A) 4 career TDs (2 receiving, 1 rushing, 1 passing)
- B) Career high 47 scrimmage touches in a season
- C) Just 5 games with 4-plus catches
- D) 0 games with 100 scrimmage yards
- E) All the above
It’s “E.” It’s always “E.”
Pre-2020 Toney was the great “what if,” and he instead became one of the most dynamic weapons we’ve seen in the SEC in recent memory.
These guys are the best candidates to follow in those promising converted quarterback footsteps and become game-changing weapons in their respective offenses.
1. John Rhys Plumlee, Ole Miss
Um, did ya see the Outback Bowl? It essentially was Plumlee’s announcement to the world that not only does he play piano/baseball/quarterback/Governor (probably?), he can also play receiver. He had 5 catches for 72 yards, including the 44-yard grab that set up Ole Miss’ go-ahead touchdown to upset Indiana.
And sure, Plumlee had a rough drop in that game. Even though he does seemingly everything at a high level doesn’t mean he’s going to be 100% polished, but he seems like as good a bet as anyone to pick something up in a hurry. He stepped into the SEC and immediately delivered a 1,000-yard rushing season, which is a feat that such a select few amount of human beings can claim.
No. 1 LSU got the win …
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) July 3, 2020
Like pre-2020 Toney with Dan Mullen, Lane Kiffin and Jeff Lebby have to find ways to get Plumlee more touches. There’s no way a healthy Plumlee, if he can continue to develop as a route-runner, should get just 38 scrimmage touches (25 rushing, 7 passing, 6 receiving) like he got last year.
Kiffin said that he and Plumlee haven’t discussed in depth what exactly his 2021 role will be, which suggests the full-time move to receiver isn’t written in stone, but with Matt Corral now entrenched as one of the nation’s top returning quarterbacks, it’d be surprising if Plumlee didn’t want to pursue a role beyond holding a clipboard. Hopefully the plan for Plumlee when he’s done playing baseball and/or ending world hunger is to get some increased reps at receiver while still fulfilling his duties as Matt Corral’s backup.
Plumlee played 31 snaps in the slot last year, many of those came when Elijah Moore opted out before the last 2 games. That’s where he’d likely find a home, and with a free release, Plumlee could get those opportunities in space that Ole Miss fans have been (rightfully) begging for. Fingers crossed that Plumlee’s slot usage — and just usage in general — skyrockets in 2021.
2. Dakereon Joyner, South Carolina
If there’s a list of 5 guys who are easiest to root for in the SEC, Joyner has to be on it. Even as quarterbacks came and went out of South Carolina like a 90s fad, Joyner never got bitter and left. He stuck it out and committed himself to learning how to play receiver, which the former 4-star quarterback totally didn’t have to do.
Oh, and Joyner has done nothing but put his head down and go to work since the new coaching staff arrived:
High praise from South Carolina’s new wide receivers coach.
— The Spurs Up Show (@TheSpursUpShow) April 7, 2021
Joyner isn’t expected to be in an offense that can spread teams out the way that Florida did in 2020 with the nation’s top passing game. Luke Doty’s skill set isn’t built for that. But can Joyner still turn into a home-run play guy? He’s certainly not lacking elusiveness. Getting separation is a different story.
The good news is that Joyner now has a full offseason to develop at the position, which he obviously didn’t get last year. Joyner admitted that he wasn’t as prepared as he wanted to be. That explains why he only got 9 scrimmage touches. He did average 12.9 yards per scrimmage touch, though. He also added kickoff return duties to his responsibilities.
It’s crazy to think that Joyner just said that he’s “more coachable than ever” (via 247sports). The guy has already been as unselfish as it gets. Now it’s up to new offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield to find the best ways to use his skill set.
More of this, please:
I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot of Luke Doty to Dakereon Joyner this year!! Can’t wait! pic.twitter.com/Nf3dl9FLv7
— Caroline Rick (@Caroline_Rick_) April 3, 2021
3. Jimmy Calloway, Tennessee
If there’s one thing that should improve in Knoxville, it’s the passing game. Josh Heupel’s aerial attack yields that on an annual basis. We’ve already seen that Baylor-style work in the SEC East, too. There are home-run plays to be had in what’s a vastly different offense than the one we saw at Tennessee last year.
Calloway stands to benefit from that. A lot. The high school quarterback made the switch to receiver last year, and in his first full spring camp, he earned praise from Heupel.
Calloway was a jack-of-all-trades guy at Morrow High School (Ga.). He was the best offensive player in his region, and he was an all-state safety. Not bad. As an underclassman in high school, he was a big-play receiver with 4.4 speed. He might not be fair to include on this list because, unlike the others, Calloway is only entering Year 2 after a freshman season in which he caught 2 passes. But perhaps with that experience playing receiver in high school, his learning curve isn’t as steep.
Here’s another interesting piece of Calloway’s development in Year 2; he couldn’t be learning from a better coach on making that quarterback-to-receiver switch than new Vols receivers coach Kodi Burns. He famously did that at Auburn and caught a touchdown pass from Cam Newton in the 2010 title game. Burns praised Calloway’s approach and added that his experience at quarterback should help him pick up the new offense quickly.
Heupel loves to feature those smaller, speedier receivers in his offense. He did it at UCF with Marlon Williams and Jaylon Robinson, neither of whom were taller than 6-0.
The 6-foot Calloway fits this system well, and if he’s one of the few bright spots in an otherwise frustrating year at Tennessee, don’t be surprised.