If every SEC East team could bring back 1 former player, who would it be? (P.S. QBs are not allowed)
Aaron Murray was the most prolific passer in SEC history. Drew Lock enjoyed a career unlike all but a handful. Josh Dobbs made Tennessee’s offense go. Since he left, it’s just … gone. South Carolina’s huddle hasn’t been nearly as stable since Connor Shaw left.
The SEC East enjoyed some fantastic QB play in the 2010s. Without question, all 4 of those programs would sign up for another year of Murray, Lock, Dobbs and Shaw. Heck, it’s fair to wonder when Vanderbilt will have another QB as good as Kyle Shurmur.
But turning back the clock and selecting a QB to help in 2020 is too easy.
Removing quarterbacks from consideration 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 East program who would have helped that team the most in 2020.
Florida: S Keanu Neal
I crowd-sourced this one. Florida needs help at safety, so I asked our Gators columnist, Neil Blackmon, who would help the 2020 team the most.
“Three All-Americans,” he said. “Pick one.”
Ultimately I chose Neal over Matt Elam and Marcus Maye. Without question, Elam was an absolute star, but he’s also the farthest removed.
Neal didn’t start as a freshman and left after his junior year, but what a campaign that was. He absolutely set the tone on the back end, punishing ball carriers and receivers who dared to cross his facemask.
Georgia: K Rodrigo Blankenship
Murray isn’t eligible. A.J. Green is too far removed to be on the ballot. Of course the Bulldogs could use Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb or Sony Michel, but have you seen Kirby Smart’s backfield? It’s 5-star studded.
Georgia’s defense might be the best he’s ever had, too, even without Roquan Smith.
Point being, Georgia is more than fine in just about every eligible spot. I suppose you could plug in 1 of the 3 Dawgs OL who were drafted in the 1st round in the past 3 years. But Smart has reinforced that unit as well.
Georgia is going to miss Hot Rod’s steady foot and cool demeanor in 2020.
Kentucky: Edge Josh Allen
The Cats have numerous candidates on offense, from Lynn Bowden to Benny Snell, but give me a chance to add the greatest defensive player in program history, and I’ll grab it.
Just like Allen did to quarterbacks.
Missouri: Edge Shane Ray
The Tigers finished last in the SEC in sacks in 2019 with 19. It’s been an ongoing issue for a program that likes to refer to itself as D-Line U.
Since leading the SEC with 44 sacks in 2014, the Tigers haven’t finished higher than 7th and topped 30 sacks just once.
Ray was the dominant force on that 2014 SEC East title team. Taking over for Michael Sam, Ray led the SEC with 14.5 sacks. That was the 2nd-highest total in the league in the past decade.
South Carolina: Skai Moore
The instant temptation is to choose Jadeveon Clowney, but we’d want the hungry sophomore, not the feared junior that teams stayed away from.
The Gamecocks certainly could use a runner like Mike Davis, the program’s most recent to reach 1,000 yards.
But adding the versatile Moore when teams are throwing more than ever makes too much sense to pass up.
Tennessee: Alvin Kamara
Huge caveat/demand: Use him properly and exclusively this time!
Vanderbilt: Jordan Matthews
Zach Cunningham is probably Vandy’s player of the decade, but the Dores need help on offense.
He didn’t stretch the field like some former SEC receivers, but Matthews was the best to ever do it at Vanderbilt.
He was the primary offensive weapon on Vanderbilt’s best teams, too.
Having a reliable outside threat is exactly what this Vanderbilt team needs to help whoever wins the starting quarterback job.