Ranking the triplets: Best QB/WR/RB combos in the SEC
In the early 1990s, the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys had the original “Triplets,” with eventual Hall of Famers in quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin. All that group did was win three Super Bowls in four seasons, setting the standard by which other trios are measured.
There’s no group in the SEC (or anywhere else) on that level, but having talent at those positions makes scoring points much easier. Defense may win championships, but every little bit of offense helps in the nation’s toughest conference.
As spring football rapidly approaches for SEC schools, let’s have a look at all 14 sets of “Triplets” and how they rank:
14. SOUTH CAROLINA
QB: Lorenzo Nunez/Brandon McIlwain
RB1: David Williams
WR1: Deebo Samuel
Rationale: South Carolina’s QB race is wide open. Nunez is an exceptional athlete. McIlwain is an intriguing talent, but he is a true freshman. Williams picked up 299 yards in a reserve role last season, but will have to fight off some talented newcomers to hold on to his starting spot. The same is true for Samuel, who had 12 grabs for 161 yards in an injury-plagued freshman campaign. The new coaching staff brought in plenty of talent at running back and wide receiver, so the Gamecock triplets will likely look much different as the season unfolds.
QB: Drew Lock
RB1: Ish Witter
WR1: J’Mon Moore
Rationale: Lock is the clear-cut starter now that Maty Mauk is gone for good. He’ll need to be much better than he was in 2015, when he completed only 49 percent of his passes and had twice as many interceptions (8) as touchdowns (4). Witter returns as the team’s leading rusher (518 yards, 1 TD), but he’ll be pushed by the nation’s No. 2 JUCO running back recruit, Natereace Strong. J’Mon Moore had 29 catches for 350 yards in 2015, which were both team highs.
QB: Drew Barker
RB1: Stanley Williams
WR1: Garrett Johnson
Rationale: Much like Missouri, an exodus of quarterback talent has dropped the job into the lap of a rising sophomore. Barker played in five games in relief of the now-transferred Patrick Towles, and went 35 for 70 for 364 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Stephen Johnson II, a JUCO prospect, waits in the wings if Barker falters. Williams is a more proven commodity at running back, picking up 855 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games. Johnson hauled in 46 passes for 694 yards and two scores in a solid sophomore season and will be hoping to raise his game even more as an upperclassman.
QB: John Franklin III/Jeremy Johnson/Sean White
RB1: Jovon Robinson
WR1: Marcus Davis
Rationale: Pegging JUCO transfer Franklin as the starter in February is nothing more than a dart throw with the competition he’s facing from Jeremy Johnson and Sean White, but he has the pedigree and skill set to reignite the offense. Robinson, who rushed for 639 yards last season, should step into the feature back role with Peyton Barber’s jump to the NFL. Marcus Davis caught 30 passes last fall for just 182 yards. A big-play threat at receiver would be nice, and the nation’s No. 9 receiver recruit, Kyle Davis, may turn out to be that guy.
QB: Kyle Shurmur
RB1: Ralph Webb
WR1: Trent Sherfield
Rationale: Shurmur was tossed into the deep end as a freshman, and his numbers reflected that (44 for 103 for 503 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions). At least he has the luxury of working with Webb, one of the league’s more dependable backs. Webb rushed for 1,152 yards and five touchdowns last season, despite being the top name to stop on every opposing scouting report. Sherfield had 51 receptions for 659 yards and three scores last fall, and should be Shurmur’s go-to option this fall.
9. MISSISSIPPI STATE
QB: Nick Fitzgerald
RB1: Brandon Holloway
WR1: Fred Ross
Rationale: All Fitzgerald must do is replace the most decorated quarterback in school history. While he may not be quite on Dak Prescott’s level, he was sharp in limited action last fall (11 for 14 for 235 yards and three scores). Holloway was the team’s second-leading rusher behind Prescott, but is very much part of a committee approach with Ashton Shumpert, Aeris Williams and others. Ross had a breakout season in 2015, catching 88 passes for 1,007 yards and five touchdowns. He’s the undisputed No. 1 receiver now, with De’Runnya Wilson off to the NFL.
QB: Austin Allen
RB1: Kody Walker
WR1: Drew Morgan
Rationale: Allen is the favorite to take over for his older brother as the Razorbacks starter, but that race is too close to call right now. Walker, Rawleigh Williams III and newcomer Devwah Whaley will battle for carries this fall, and we know that coach Bret Bielema isn’t shy about rotating running backs. Morgan survived the rash of injuries that struck Arkansas’ receiving corps last season, and led the team with 63 catches for 843 yards and 10 touchdowns.
QB: Austin Appleby/Luke Del Rio
RB1: Jordan Scarlett
WR1: Antonio Callaway
Rationale: Appleby, a graduate transfer from Purdue, seems likely to get the first look at quarterback for the Gators. He completed 57.5 percent of his passes last fall for 1,260 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. Scarlett (181 yards) and Jordan Cronkrite (157 yards) both saw plenty of action behind last year’s starter, Kelvin Taylor, and will likely share the load in 2016. Callaway was the team’s big-play threat as a true freshman, reeling in 35 passes for 678 yards and four touchdowns, but will have to adjust to being the center of attention for opposing defenses.
6. TEXAS A&M
QB: Trevor Knight
RB1: Keith Ford
WR1: Christian Kirk
Rationale: Thanks to a pair of Oklahoma transfers, the Aggies seem set in the triplet positions. Knight, beaten out by Baker Mayfield at OU last fall, passed for 2,300 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2014. That was the same season that Ford ran for 392 yards and five scores for the Sooners. Both will need to shake off some rust this fall. Kirk, on the other hand, was an overnight sensation as a true freshman. He caught 80 passes for 1,009 yards and seven scores.
5. OLE MISS
QB: Chad Kelly
RB1: Akeem Judd
WR1: Quincy Adeboyejo
Rationale: Despite some significant losses elsewhere on the roster, the Rebels return the SEC’s best quarterback in 2016. Kelly broke school records in 2015, accounting for more than 4,500 total yards and 41 touchdowns. Judd is the leading candidate to handle the running back duties this fall after rushing for 421 yards and three scores last year. Adeboyejo (38 catches, 604 yards and seven touchdowns) will try to help fill the void left by Laquon Treadwell at receiver.
QB: Greyson Lambert/Jacob Eason
RB1: Nick Chubb
WR1: Terry Godwin
Rationale: Nobody expects Lambert to start every game for the Bulldogs in 2016 with five-star recruit Eason waiting in the wings. But Lambert should start the opener, and for all of his struggles in 2015, he still had the league’s fifth-best passer rating. Chubb is on his way back from a devastating knee injury, but was one of the nation’s best backs before that injury hit last season. His understudy, Sony Michel, is a 1,000-yard rusher good enough to start almost anywhere else. Godwin caught 35 passes for 379 yards and two scores last fall and should be ready to become a No. 1 receiver.
QB: Cooper Bateman/Blake Barnett
RB1: Bo Scarbrough
WR1: Calvin Ridley
Rationale: Bateman backed up Jacob Coker but saw a little action early last season. This year, he’ll have the chance to win the job again if he can hold off Barnett. Scarbrough is the latest big, fast running back to grace the top of the Alabama depth chart, but he’ll have to hold off Damien Harris. Ridley did his best Amari Cooper impersonation as a true freshman, catching 89 passes for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns.
QB: Joshua Dobbs
RB1: Jalen Hurd
WR1: Josh Malone
Rationale: Dobbs got better and better as the year progressed in 2015, accounting for 2,962 total yards and 26 touchdowns. Hurd rushed for 1,288 yards and a dozen scores and has an outstanding backup in Alvin Kamara. Malone is listed as the No. 1 receiver right now, based on his 2015 production (31 catches, 405 yards and two scores), but the Volunteers are looking for more consistency and explosiveness out of this unit.
QB: Brandon Harris
RB1: Leonard Fournette
WR1: Malachi Dupre
Rationale: Anyone who has seen Harris play knows that, on occasion, he looks very poor. But his numbers suggest that he’s not quite as bad as his reputation suggests. His completion percentage (53.6) could be better, but a 13-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio is nothing to sneeze at. Fournette rang up 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns in just 12 games last fall, and is the favorite to win this year’s Heisman Trophy. Dupre needs to show more consistency, but still caught 43 passes for 698 yards and six scores in 2015.