Replacing the SEC underclassmen leaving on offense
Players come and go in college football, and sometimes, they leave a bit earlier than fans would like.
The SEC was particularly hard hit by early departures for the NFL on the offensive side of the ball, as 17 players made themselves eligible for the draft.
This creates chances for others to shine, of course, and here’s a look at how teams might deal with these defections:
RB Derrick Henry, Alabama: Henry led the world in rushing yards (2,219) and touchdowns (28) on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy and a national championship. The parade of big, physical running backs through Tuscaloosa will likely continue with local product Bo Scarbrough.
RB Alex Collins, Arkansas: Expected to share the load with Jonathan Williams, Collins bore it alone — and bore it well. He rushed for 1,577 yards and 20 scores last season. It will take a committee to fill his shoes, with Kody Walker, Rawleigh Williams and four-star recruit Devwah Whaley likely fighting for carries.
RB Jonathan Williams, Arkansas: Speaking of Williams, a foot injury ended his 2015 season before it ever began. He does have a 1,200-yard season on his resume, however.
RB Kelvin Taylor, Florida: Taylor rushed for 1,035 yards and 13 TDs in an up-and-down season. The two backs that spelled him most often last year, Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett, enter the spring as the co-favorites for the starting gig.
RB Keith Marshall, Georgia: Marshall rushed for 759 yards in spot duty in 2015, finally avoiding the injury bug that plagued him throughout his career. The Bulldogs aren’t exactly hurting at the position, with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel still in the fold..
RB Peyton Barber, Auburn: Barber was a late addition to this list, deciding to test the NFL waters after putting up 1,016 yards and 13 scores in 2015. Jovon Robinson, who finished the season with a flourish, and Roc Thomas return to pick up the slack.
WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss: Treadwell bounced back from injury to lead the league with 82 catches for 1,153 yards and 11 TDs. The position is in good hands, as returnees Damore’ea Stringfellow, Quincy Adeboyejo and Markell Pack combined for 105 grabs and 15 scores last season.
WR Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina: The prospects for South Carolina replacing its leading receiver aren’t as rosy. Cooper’s stats (66 receptions., 973 yards and eight TDs) dwarfed the other wide outs remaining on campus. Deebo Samuel, who had 104 yards and a score against Clemson, seems poised for a breakout sophomore season and early enrollee Bryan Edwards may help, if he can recover from his knee injury.
WR De’Runnya Wilson, Mississippi State: Compounding Dak Prescott’s exit from the program is the loss of Wilson. He had 60 catches for 918 yards and 10 scores in 2015. At least his running mate, Fred Ross (88 receptions, 1,007 yards) is still on campus.
WR Demarcus Robinson, Florida: Robinson is long on athleticism, but short on numbers (48 receptions, 522 yards and 2 TDs). Antonio Callaway and a slew of newcomers should be able to absorb his departure.
TE Hunter Henry, Arkansas: Henry is the slam dunk No. 1 tight end prospect in this draft class, and he tallied 51 catches for 731 yards and three scores last fall. However, Jeremy Sprinkle is a more-than-capable replacement who hauled in six TD passes last season.
OL Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss: Tunsil may end up being the top overall pick. Something about protecting a quarterback’s blind side comes to mind. Five-star recruit Greg Little will get a long look as his potential replacement, as will his backup, Sean Rawlings.
OL Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M: Ifedi also decided to declare early, and projects as a late-first or early-second round pick. Koda Martin was the backup at both tackle spots and will get the first shot to take Ifedi’s spot.
OL Jerald Hawkins, LSU: Hawkins’ departure means that both tackle spots are open on the Tigers offensive front. K.J. Malone and Toby Weathersby were the primary backups, but plenty of other names will figure into the mix as well.
OL Shon Coleman, Auburn: Coleman is one of two players to leave early from the offensive line. New offensive line coach Herb Hand will look for ways to cope with the departures of Coleman and the next player on this list.
OL Avery Young, Auburn: Like Coleman, Young leaves a void at tackle. Robert Leff and Mike Horton were the primary backups, but it’s possible that a guard could move outside in a reshuffled line.
OL Denver Kirkland, Arkansas: Kirkland decision to turn pro leaves a sizable hole at left tackle. Dan Skipper and Brian Wallace are the prime candidates to replace him.