Five SEC teams losing the most talent after 2014 season
Nothing lasts forever in the world of college football. Players are given four years of eligibility and are then ushered into the real world to make room for the next class of collegiate stars.
It’s not just difficult for teams to maintain a core of superstars — it’s impossible. All 14 SEC teams will lose talented players at season’s end, although some teams will lost more key contributors than others.
These five teams will lose the most talent among SEC schools at the end of the season:
Alabama has attracted more talent than any other program in the SEC since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, so while the Tide stands to lose a lot after this season it also stands to gain a lot through recruiting. Nevertheless, the losses of starting quarterback Blake Sims, fullback Jalston Fowler, wideout DeAndrew White, defensive back Nick Perry, linebackers Trey DePriest and Xzavier Dickson (the team’s sack leader), offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio and versatile skill player Christion Jones won’t be easy to overcome. Alabama could also lose a handful of juniors to the NFL, including wideout Amari Cooper and tailback T.J. Yeldon. The Tide doesn’t rebuild, it reloads, but it will have plenty of bullets to replace when its playoff run comes to an end.
The Tigers stand to lose more starters than most other SEC teams, and worse yet many of those starters had a huge impact on the team’s success the last two seasons under Gus Malzahn. Auburn will lose quarterback Nick Marshall and the SEC’s leading rusher in Cameron Artis-Payne, and that’s just scratching the surface. The Tigers will also bid farewell to four-year starting center and Rimington Trophy winner Reese Dismukes, dynamic athlete Quan Bray, menacing defensive lineman Gabe Wright, and starting defensive backs Jermaine Whitehead and Jonathon Mincy. Starting wideout Sammie Coates already said he’s leaving for the NFL a year early, and fellow starting wideout D’haquille Williams might do the same. Malzahn’s abilities as a recruiter will be put to the test in the coming years as he’s tasked with replacing the stars that carried his team to an SEC title just last year.
As far as the seven teams in the SEC East are concerned, no team will lose more talent after the season than the Georgia Bulldogs. The Dawgs will bid farewell to superstar tailback Todd Gurley, who ran for 911 yards in just six games, and they’ll also say goodbye to four-year starting center David Andrews, who anchored their offensive line throughout his career. Georgia learned many of its best underclassmen (other than Gurley) will return next season, but it won’t be able to retain senior starters Damian Swann, Jonathon Rumph, Ramik Wilson, Amarlo Herrera, Chris Conley, Michael Bennett and quarterback Hutson Mason. Mark Richt is familiar with replacing top talents in his lineup, and he’ll have plenty to replace after next week’s Belk Bowl.
The Bulldogs will lose 19 seniors from this year’s team, including both of its starting defensive ends, its three best offensive linemen, both its starting safeties, a starting wideout, a starting cornerback, its starting tight end, and a handful of other contributors on both sides of the ball. It will also likely lose middle linebacker Benardrick McKinney and quarterback Dak Prescott a year early as both are expected to declare for the NFL Draft. Not only will Mississippi State lose much of its star power on both sides of the ball, but it will also lose a ton of depth at key positions like the offensive line, the secondary and the linebacker corps. The Bulldogs have their work cut out for them if they hope to duplicate this year’s success in 2015.
The Tigers were led this season by their stout defensive line, headlined by All-SEC defensive ends Shane Ray and Markus Golden, and it will have to compensate in the trenches upon losing both stars at season’s end. Golden is a senior, while Ray is a junior expected to declare for the NFL Draft where he’ll likely be a first round pick. But Mizzou will lose far more than just its dynamic defensive end tandem. It also stands to lose starting defensive tackles Lucas Vincent and Matt Hoch, as well as All-SEC safety Braylon Webb. Additionally, the Tigers will have to find replacements for starting wideouts Bud Sasser and Darius White, dynamic tailback and kick returner Marcus Murphy, starting linebacker Darvin Ruise and punter Christian Brinser. Missouri will have to move on from this season without many of its best playmakers on both sides of the ball, leaving Gary Pinkel with quite a challenge as he seeks out a third straight SEC East title next year.