The most talked about SEC players heading into 2015 season
Alabama’s Derrick Henry moved a truck and made a magazine cover while Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram, among several others, Vined a series of one-handed catches.
Can you tell we’re ready for the games to start?
We’ve had nearly six months of build-up for the 2015 season and now fall practice is just six weeks away. Here are the most talked about players in the SEC heading into August:
Derek Barnett, DL, Tennessee
The SEC’s top returning tackles-for-loss master is a lead candidate for league defensive player of the year as a sophomore and has been the topic of preseason All-American conversation, but one respected analyst omitted Barnett from his first and second All-SEC teams.
College football magazine extraordinaire Phil Steele ignited a brief firestorm from the Tennessee crowd during the first week of June when he placed Barnett on the All-SEC third team, citing that since Barnett wasn’t draft-eligible, the pass rusher didn’t stick out to NFL contacts, notably Gil Brandt.
Steele later admitted the snub, then delivered a half-hearted apology during which he brought to light an error inside a 2015 preview from Athlon Sports — a rival outlet — to show that ‘it is impossible to avoid all mistakes, even for other magazines.’
Glad to see Phil Steele had some sense slapped into him and put Derek Barnett on the 1st team. Should’ve been there from the start.
— Not Houston Kress (@KressExperience) June 3, 2015
Steele even calculates ‘accuracy ratings’ for his own publication.
“Obviously, this will reduce the accuracy of this year’s magazine down to the 98-99% category instead of the normal 99.8%, but I feel very good about the overall product despite these couple of shortcomings.”
I think we can all agree that Barnett will be a beast up front for the Vols this season.
Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn
Has a first-year starter ever received as much positive publicity on the Plains as Johnson has this season?
Johnson’s been crowned ‘Cam Newton 2.0’ by the general public based on his comparable size and skill set and a terrific spring game performance added to his intrigue. Perhaps the preseason hype — leading to extremely lofty expectations — is unfair for a career backup.
There’s no doubt a player of Johnson’s caliber could flourish in Gus Malzahn’s offense as one of the SEC’s most accurate passers, but expecting him to be a Heisman finalist, before we’ve really seen what he’s got, is a bit much.
It doesn’t help that the SEC isn’t expected to produce much from the quarterback position this season and Johnson’s been one of the spotlighted players on a preseason favorite.
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
Perhaps the offseason’s biggest story came out of Panama City in March after the SEC’s top returning offensive player was involved in a bloody scuffle during spring break. The event left Prescott with a gash below his right eye, but charges were never filed.
The incident didn’t derail the league’s most-talked about player from improving his game substantially during the spring, however. Part of the reason Prescott returned to Starkville for his senior season was to not only compete for an SEC Championship and the Heisman Trophy, but to prove to NFL scouts he had what it takes to excel at the next level.
At this point, Prescott’s better than your average dual-threat quarterback with a vast skill set and could be the league’s only signalr caller selected next spring. He’s within striking distance of several school records that will likely fall this season as Prescott closes the book on a stellar career.
Prescott’s final public appearance prior to SEC Media Days comes during ESPN’s ‘Takeover’ week in July.
As part of SEC Network’s school “takeover,” Dan Mullen and Dak Prescott will represent Mississippi State on July 6.
— Michael Bonner (@MikeBBonner) June 22, 2015
Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
One of the SEC’s Heisman frontrunners for 2015, Chubb’s done a little bit of everything since rushing for nearly 1,600 yards as a true freshman between the hedges last fall.
Chubb skipped spring break fun to improve physically, compared himself to a Lamborghini when asked why he avoids social media, then did this on Wednesday at Camp Sunshine, a retreat for cancer-stricken children just outside of Atlanta:
Nick Chubb throwing it down at Camp Sunshine https://t.co/BG8KU2hne9
— Radi Nabulsi (@RadiNabulsi) June 24, 2015
Here’s to hoping these four show up in Birmingham next month with much to discuss.