If every SEC West team could bring back 1 player, who would it be? (P.S. he can't be a QB)
Of course LSU would love to have Joe Burrow for another season. Just like Alabama would prefer that Tua Tagovailoa had stayed, and Texas A&M would trade Kellen Mond for another year of Johnny Football.
That’s too easy.
Removing quarterbacks from the equation makes this exercise a bit more intriguing.
Roster renewal is an annual occurrence in college football, but it’s also fun to think about what could have been. With that in mind, we selected 1 recent alum from each SEC West program who would have helped that team the most in 2020.
Alabama: S Minkah Fitzpatrick
Alabama doesn’t need any help on offense. Nobody would turn down another year of Derrick Henry, but that’s not what the Tide need most in 2020.
The Tide certainly could use any of their recent 1st-round defensive linemen, too, but that isn’t their biggest issue, either.
They need a playmaker on the back end. They’ve lacked that since Fitzpatrick left. It’s Alabama, so everything is relative. The Tide still have draftable guys in their secondary, but Fitzpatrick is the most recent 1st-rounder. He’s also the last Tide player to lead the SEC in interceptions, grabbing 6 as a sophomore in 2016.
Alabama must replace its top 3 leaders in interceptions in 2020. Patrick Surtain had 2 last season and he’ll need this new-look group. Fitzpatrick would make this unit as impressive as the 2 championship versions he was part of.
Arkansas: C Frank Ragnow
Ragnow developed into the nation’s top center under Sam Pittman, who recruited him out of Minnesota.
Now Pittman is back, and in charge. One of his biggest hurdles is rebuilding the Hogs up front. Chad Morris preferred lighter, faster, quicker. Pittman embraces the road-graders.
With a feature back as talented as Rakeem Boyd, who better to pave the way than a former All-American/team captain and 1st-round pick?
Auburn: RB Kerryon Johnson
I’m not sure this needs much discussion.
Pick an offensive stat, and Auburn hasn’t been as good as it was in 2017, when Johnson won the SEC Offensive Player of the Year award and nearly led the Tigers to the Playoff.
He led the SEC in rushing with 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Since then? JaTarvious Whitlow led Auburn in rushing with a combined 1,550 yards and 16 TDs.
LSU: RB Leonard Fournette
For the better part of 3 years, I wondered why in Billy Cannon’s name LSU didn’t get Fournette involved in the screen game.
Last year, Clyde Edwards-Helaire caught 55 passes — 3rd-most on the team.
Fournette caught 41 passes in 3 years at LSU. He already has 134 catches in 3 years in the NFL. Heck, he led the Jaguars in receptions last year with 76. Not involving him in the passing game at LSU was a huge, huge missed opportunity.
Can you imagine Fournette even getting 40 swing passes in 2020, with everybody in front of him either smaller or slower than he is?
Oh, what should have been.
Mississippi State: WR Fred Ross
We know Mike Leach is going to lead the SEC in pass attempts.
His final Washington State team led the nation with 710 attempts in 13 games.
That’s standard. Washington State led the nation in attempts all 8 years Leach was there and topped 700 attempts 5 times. In 2014, his Cougars threw it 771 times — in 12 games.
It doesn’t matter that Mississippi State only threw it 315 times last season. Leach will double that this season.
Who better to be on the receiving end than Ross, a 2-time All-SEC 1st-teamer who set program records for career catches (199) and yards (2,528).
Ross could have broken Amari Cooper’s SEC single-season record of 124 catches in this offense.
Ole Miss: Edge Marquis Haynes
As much fun as it would be to watch any one of the nasty wideouts operate in Lane Kiffin’s system, I’m going to trust the fact that the offense will be fine in 2020.
The defense? It has been a problem for 4 years.
The Rebels need a game-wrecker. Who better than Haynes, who sits atop the program leaderboard with 32.0 career sacks and 47.5 TFLs.
I also like the fact that he arrived as an undecorated 3-star and left as an NFL Draft pick, earning the right to wear No. 38 along the way.
Texas A&M: WR Mike Evans
Myles Garrett seems almost too obvious.
Besides, Kellen Mond needs some help. The Aggies were new to the SEC, so fans didn’t really get to appreciate how good Mike Evans was. And, just like Johnny Manziel, Evans only played 2 seasons before leaving early for the NFL.
But in those 2 seasons, he recorded back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He totaled 2,499 yards and 17 TDs. As a redshirt sophomore, he averaged 20 yards per catch and earned 1st-team All-America honors.
At 6-5, he rendered jump balls a moot point. Essentially, he was the Aggies’ version of Julio Jones.
What offense wouldn’t want that as a go-to option?