5 underrated position groups around the conference
As the dog days of summer arrive and we count down the days until fall practice starts in August, we’ve already parsed through the outlook for the SEC. We have a good sense of what teams are going to be good, what players are going to stand out and who will struggle.
There are always those players and position groups that slide under the radar. Here at SDS, we don’t want any of them to take you by surprise. We’ve identified five position groups around the conference that aren’t getting enough attention heading into summer.
Mississippi State wide receivers — The consensus around the college football world seems to be that if Dak Prescott is to repeat his feats of 2014, he’ll be going at it on his own. That’s simply untrue. The offensive line is rebuilding, but Dan Mullen has a history of producing 1,000-yard backs every year, which will help matters even behind an inexperienced group up front. Just as importantly, Prescott also has a lot of talent to throw to. It starts with De’Runnya Wilson, a 6-foot-5 monster who just started to fully put together his physical gifts toward the end of last season. Wilson has the potential to be a game-breaking receiver that Prescott can throw to in any situation. The Freds, Brown and Ross, are both juniors and showed plenty of promise last year, giving Prescott at least three trustworthy options to throw to.
South Carolina linebackers — The Gamecocks defense deserved all the criticism it received a year ago, as it cost South Carolina several games in a disappointing season. Skai Moore proved himself as a rangy, athletic player who can play both the run and the pass very ably. This year, he’ll be flanked by two equally talented players. Bryson Allen-Williams, a touted recruit in 2014, moves back to play his natural position at outside linebacker after working at defensive end last year, an experience that should help him with diagnosing plays as a sophomore. Jonathan Walton was a late-season breakout, and he could end up as the team’s best defensive player and a much-needed sparkplug by season’s end. South Carolina will have an improved defensive front, and the linebacking corps should be able to take advantage of it in a bounce-back season for the defense.
Florida running backs — Matt Jones is off to the NFL, but former five-star recruit Kelvin Taylor is ready to ascend to the lead back role. Taylor has accumulated more than 1,000 yards in two seasons as a backup, and he has the talent to do that in his junior season (provided the offensive line can open holes for him). Incoming freshmen Jordan Scarlett and D’Anfernee McGriff are both explosive athletes that will provide a nice change of pace from Taylor and provide the quarterback, likely Will Grier, with a bit of relief.
LSU defensive line — The Tigers had one of the weakest pass rushes in the conference last fall, a stark departure from their usual defensive identity. Ed Orgeron is setting out to change that. In the middle of the line, Davon Godchaux emerged as a potential star as a freshman last season, and he was flanked by the steady and productive Christian LaCouture. LSU’s group of defensive ends will be entirely revamped from last year, but Orgeron has a group of former blue-chip prospects to work with. With Orgeron’s reputation, don’t be surprised if someone like Lewis Neal or Maquedius Bain ends up as one of the SEC’s sacks leaders.
Tennessee secondary — The front seven is getting all the attention for the Volunteers, with stars like Derek Barnett, Curt Maggitt and Jalen Reeves-Maybin in place and a host of elite freshmen on their way in to make an impact. The back end of the defense deserves just as much hype. Cameron Sutton is going to be a contender for an All-SEC spot at cornerback, and senior safeties LaDarrell McNeil and Brian Randolph form a strong backbone for the group. Sophomores Emmanuel Mosley and Evan Berry both have potential to break out as impact players as well. The front seven for UT is going to be excellent, but the secondary will be just as potent.