What if SEC West teams could bring back just one player?
It’s June and the 2017 college football season is a faint image about to vanish from the rearview mirror.
The 2018 season is starting to come into sight on a horizon that is creeping closer.
But until teams start practicing for the upcoming season, it’s tempting to glance back and wonder what might have been.
As SEC teams try to plug holes created by the departure of key players, it’s easy to wonder what could be if one key player from last year’s team were back for this season.
Every year Alabama sends a bunch of players to the NFL, and every year perceived holes or questions wind up being strengths as players take on bigger roles and thrive.
This year is especially challenging because 12 Crimson Tide players were selected in the April draft — the most ever from one SEC school in one draft — including four in the first round.
Still, it seems likely that Alabama will once again have capable replacements ready for everyone who left, but there would be less concern about a relatively young secondary if safety Minkah Fitzpatrick were still suiting up.
The Razorbacks hired Chad Morris as head coach because of his proven ability to produce high-scoring offenses as offensive coordinator at Tulsa and Clemson and head coach at SMU.
The rebuilding figures to begin with Morris again doing what he does best, but the task would be a little easier if he had a talented, experienced running back such as David Williams, who had more than 800 yards from scrimmage and scored 10 touchdowns last season.
The Tigers are having to rebuild their offensive line this season. That unit’s growing pains would be easier for coach Gus Malzahn to endure if he had last year’s leading rusher in the SEC running behind them.
Kerryon Johnson ran for 1,320 yards to pace Auburn’s offense, which was fourth in the SEC in rushing yards per game last season. Who wouldn’t want the guy who was named SEC Offensive Player of the Year?
All anyone in Baton Rouge seems to want to talk about is who will be the quarterback, and there’s also concern about the Tigers being unproven at running back.
But even though they have a lot of young talent that they expect to thrive on defense, the secondary could use a veteran presence such as cornerback Donte Jackson.
The Rebels are still ineligible for a bowl as they work their way back from NCAA sanctions, and Matt Luke did a nice job as the interim head coach last season as Ole Miss won six games.
Luke has the job on a more permanent basis now and the passing game seems poised to keep the Rebels competitive, but the rebuilding would be a little easier if they still had edge rusher Marquis Haynes, who had 8.0 sacks last season, to spearhead the defense.
New coach Joe Moorhead has a lot to work with, especially with QB Nick Fitzgerald returning from injury. But one thing he doesn’t have is center Martinas Rankin, and Moorhead’s debut would be a little less stressful for him and for Fitzgerald if Rankin were back to anchor the line.
When Rankin was the anchor last season, State finished third in the SEC in rushing yards per game.
With the money Jimbo Fisher was given to leave Florida State, it might be easy to think he has an answer for everything.
But the fact is that the transition to his pro-style offense, as well as the punt and kickoff return games, could have used a boost with the return of dynamic, all-purpose receiver Christian Kirk. With him running loose last season, the Aggies were fourth in the SEC in passing yards per game.