5 SEC players with the most to prove in 2017
One of the glories of summer is that every team is undefeated, every squad a potential champion. The same applies to players — it’s a clean slate for everybody. Well, almost everybody. Sometimes, the guys whose recruiting profiles are impressive are slumbering through seasons. Here are five players who face 2017 knowing that they have a lot to prove — and that not just their seasons, but their team’s seasons, hang in the balance.
Jacob Eason, Georgia
Eason was expected to be a star as a true freshman in 2016, and there were times when he showed why. His game-winning pass against Missouri and crisp final drive against Kentucky both showed poise, skill and maturity. On the other hand, he passed for 29 yards against South Carolina and was absolutely demolished by an Ole Miss defense that couldn’t stop anybody. Meanwhile, UGA recruit Jake Fromm boasts a highly-prized skill set. Eason could lead UGA to the East division title or could end up on the bench.
Antonio Callaway, Florida
Florida’s offense is often considered a sleeping giant, but it might just be sleepy. Callaway is a guy who has all the skills to be a star. But he’s subjected his team to multiple off-field distractions and, much like the UF offense, has struggled mightily with consistency. Callaway is a junior in 2017, and it’s time to either show elite receiver skills or yield the field to a more consistent big-play threat.
Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
The guy who is drawing all-SEC honors in the preseason isn’t the Tide’s returning 1,000-yard rusher (Damien Harris) or their all-world recruit (Najee Harris), it’s Scarbrough. It’s not hard to understand — in the two CFP games, Scarbrough rushed for a combined 273 yards and four scores. However, in the first five games of Alabama’s season, Scarbrough rushed for 36, 19, 13, 19 and 21 yards. He has to show up every game — something that Alabama will also have to do if they want to hold on to the West title.
Danny Etling, LSU
As the quarterback has gone, so has gone the Tigers’ offense. The Brandon Harris era was a disaster, and Etling took the job and was very blandly adequate, passing for 2,123 yards and 11 touchdowns. If LSU wants to get back into the top of the West, he has to be better. With receivers Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural gone, Etling has less help and more pressure in 2017. Time to put up or shut up.
Darrin Kirkland, Tennessee
Kirkland, like virtually all of Tennessee’s top defenders, suffered injury woes in 2016. The highly touted linebacker has been decent — he’s racked up 111 tackles in two seasons. But Kirkland has rarely equaled his hype — he’s never had a game with 10 tackles or more than one sack. Butch Jones and the Tennessee coaches rave about his leadership, but he has to prove his credentials on the field.