SEC Debate: Toughest player to replace for 2015
Personnel changes are a harsh truth in football, some more meaningful than others.
We asked a few member of our editorial staff for their thoughts on potential player exits this season and who would be the toughest to replace for their respective teams in 2015.
WHAT PLAYER WILL BE TOUGHEST TO REPLACE IN 2015?
Christopher Smith (@csmithSDS): Dak Prescott
This assumes Prescott heads for the NFL, but he sounded very interested in doing just that earlier this season. If Prescott exits, along with a number of defensive personnel losses, the Bulldogs could take a pretty big tumble without the all-conference quarterback. A bowl win could very well propel Mississippi State to a Top 5 finish in the polls. With Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M all looking competitive for 2015, it’s possible — maybe even likely — a Prescott-less Bulldogs team could finish worse than fifth in the SEC West.
Drew Laing (@DLaingSDS): Dylan Thompson
Although Thompson wasn’t the best quarterback in the SEC, South Carolina simply has no experience behind him. Wide receiver Pharoh Cooper had as many passing attempts as the backup quarterback did combined during 2014 (8). So in 2015, South Carolina will go from one of the program’s most productive quarterbacks in a single season to who knows what. The lack of options behind Thompson has led some fans to speculate whether Cooper would make for a better option at QB in 2015. Never a good sign.
Jason Hall (@JasonHallSDS): Amari Cooper, Blake Sims
I think it’s Alabama. When you lose seniors like Amari Cooper and Blake Sims, it’s going to be a tall task to find an immediate replacement. The jury is still out on Jacob Coker, who was expected to beat out Sims for the starting job. We’ll have to see whether he is the right fit for the Tide’s offense. With Cooper, Alabama looks to replace the conference’ top player. But it doesn’t end there. The Tide also needs to account for it’s second and third leading wideouts in DeAndrew White and Christion Jones. The Tide, who consistently ranks in the top 5 for recruiting, should have enough talent to win next season. However, it will be a major task replacing it’s best offensive players.
Ethan Levine (@EthanLevineSDS): Blake Sims
I sense that fans and media members expect Jacob Coker to step in as Alabama’s quarterback and pick up right where Sims left off. And he might. He’s had a year to watch and learn, and he’s been among the most touted quarterback prospects of the last five years since he began his college career. But there’s a reason Sims edged Coker for the starting job this season, and there’s a reason we’ve hardly seen Coker since the start of the year. Lane Kiffin obviously saw something in Sims that let him know Sims could take his offense to new heights, and he was right. It doesn’t appear as if he sees that same quality in Coker, at least not yet, and Alabama’s offense stands to regress early next season with Sims gone and Coker under center.
Brett Weisband (@WeisbandSDS): Nick Marshall
Jeremy Johnson might be very good next year, but he’s not going to be Nick Marshall. Johnson is more of a natural pocket passer, which will remove the very dangerous dynamic that Marshall brought to the field. Gus Malzahn will no doubt be able to adapt his game plans, but things are going to look different on the Plains without Marshall’s game-breaking running ability. Taking away the threat of Marshall running will allow teams to key on the running back option in the zone-read. Auburn may have to become more of a vertical offense when it loses the key component to its rushing attack.