6 biggest threats to outduel Tua Tagovailoa and win SEC Offensive Player of Year in 2019
Did you know Tim Tebow was the most recent player to win back-to-back SEC Offensive Player of the Year Awards?
And it wasn’t all that recent, either. Tebow repeated in the coaches’ vote in 2008-09.
A decade later, Tua Tagovailoa is a heavy favorite to do the same. It’s not a lock. We thought Johnny Manziel and Jalen Hurts were safe bets to do the same, and they fell short the following year.
If Tagovailoa doesn’t repeat in 2019, who will win the SEC Offensive Player of the Year Award?
Here are the top 6 candidates to grab his title if he can’t match his 2018 totals.
6. Lamical Perine, Florida
Tebow not only was the last player to win back-to-back awards, he was the last SEC East player to claim the award.
There are two primary reasons: The winner almost always comes from a title-contending team, and the SEC West dominated most of the past 10 years.
Perine, who rushed for a career-high 826 yards last year while still splitting carries, is a candidate to lead the SEC in rushing in 2019. That’s also important. All 5 RBs who won the offensive award also led the SEC in rushing, including Darren McFadden twice.
5. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
Mond’s numbers might be worthy, but coaches covet and reward victories, and A&M’s schedule is so brutal an 8-4 regular season should be considered a successful year.
Remember, Drew Lock didn’t win the offensive player of the year award in 2017, when he set the SEC record with 44 TD passes.
4. Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
Tagovailoa spreads the wealth, and Alabama has no shortage of riches on the outside.
Jeudy, however, has separated from his talented teammates much like he pulls away from defensive backs.
He specializes in splash plays, turning simple slants and double moves into viral breakaways.
Across the board, he led the SEC in 10+, 30+, 40+, 50+ and 60+ yard catches. He was second in 20+ yard catches. Every ball thrown his way has the potential to become a Heisman moment.
He also led the SEC with 14 TD catches in 2018 and there’s little reason to think he won’t match or exceed that in 2019.
Amari Cooper in 2014 is the only WR to win the SEC OPOY award since it split into offense and defense in 2003. Cooper’s numbers: 124 catches, 1,727 yards and 16 TDs — all 3 program records. All within Jeudy’s reach.
3. Najee Harris, Alabama
Trey Sanders already promised he’s going to win the Heisman as a true freshman. I admire the confidence. The reality is: This is Najee Harris’ backfield until it’s not.
Harris averaged an absurd 6.5 yards per carry during his first two years and it still doesn’t feel like he’s even come close to maximizing his skill set.
Would it surprise anybody if he goes off for 1,600 yards and 20 TDs in 2019? It shouldn’t. His first two years, in usage and performance, are very Derrick Henry-like.
Alabama can only hope Harris’ third year comes close to matching Henry’s historic junior year.
2. Jake Fromm, Georgia
Fromm isn’t viewed as a stat-stuffer, and game-managers might win national championships, but they don’t win this award.
Fromm has a good chance, however, because he’s the face of the Bulldogs, and the Bulldogs are the favorite again to win the SEC East.
He’ll need a career-year, which means exceeding 3,000 yards passing and 30 TD passes for the first time. He had exactly 30 TD passes last season, but 11 SEC QBs averaged more passes per game than Fromm did.
It’s time to shed the game-manager label and unleash the right arm. He played his best game in the SEC Championship against Alabama, throwing for 301 yards and 3 TDs without an interception.
That stat line should be the norm in 2019.
1. D’Andre Swift, Georgia
Swift has everything an SEC Offensive Player of the Year candidate needs.
He’s a threat to lead the SEC in rushing. His team is favored to get back to Atlanta. And, let’s not forget, he’s a breakaway specialist.
Georgia is in the midst of another outstanding run of feature backs. But as great as Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel were, they couldn’t join the list of Georgia RBs to win a Player of the Year Award. Herschel Walker is the most prominent, obviously, winning 3 consecutive titles from 1980-82. Garrison Hearst is the most recent, winning in 1992.
It’s going to take an upset to upstage Tagovailoa in 2019, but Swift has the best chance.