The Georgia Bulldogs have won the SEC East each of the past two years, and have been putting together some fantastic recruiting classes to go along with that success on the field.
However, this fall, Florida looms large as a potential challenger to the Bulldogs’ supremacy. Meanwhile, Mizzou is loaded with talent, South Carolina is always tough, Tennessee looks primed for a better year, Kentucky is coming off a 10-win season and Vanderbilt returns some star power on offense.
Yes, the SEC East is loaded this year, and there should be a few new players who make names for themselves within the division.
Looking at the offenses in particular, there are a few big names that fans will know by season’s end. Here’s a look at the most important new addition for each SEC East offense this fall:
Florida: Keon Zipperer, TE
The incoming freshman tight end has yet to arrive on Florida’s campus, but when he does, he’ll have an opportunity to compete for immediate playing time. Zipperer was a 4-star tight end in the 2019 class, and was rated the class’s No. 2 overall tight end by 247Sports.
Considering sophomore Kyle Pitts, who had three catches for 73 yards and a touchdown last season, is the likely starter at tight end, Zipperer could earn some first-team reps if he comes on strong this summer. He has the talent to do it, now he just needs to prove it on the field.
Georgia: Dominick Blaylock, WR
The Bulldogs lost WRs Terry Godwin, Riley Ridley and Mecole Hardman, as well as TE Isaac Nauta, from their 2018 receiving corps. Jeremiah Holloman looks like a future star, and Cal transfer Demetris Robertson has loads of potential, but this group of wide outs could still use some help.
Blaylock is the No. 5 receiver in the 2019 class and was a dynamic, do-it-all player in Marietta. He has a lot of work to do to live up to the example Hardman set, but he does have the skill set to come in and make an immediate impact for the Dawgs’ offense.
Kentucky: Sawyer Smith, QB
The Wildcats have had a tumultuous offseason when it comes to the quarterback position. Starter Terry Wilson is still in place, but backups Gunnar Hoak and Danny Clark both transferred following the 2018 campaign.
Now, former Troy QB Sawyer Smith is in Lexington as a graduate transfer, and he has two years of eligibility remaining. After throwing for 1,669 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions for the Trojans last season, Smith will be counted on to solidify the backup quarterback spot at Kentucky.
Missouri: Kelly Bryant, QB
This one is obvious. After losing Drew Lock to the NFL Draft, the Tigers will have another star quarterback ready to step in for the 2019 season. Bryant, a Clemson graduate transfer, was named the starter immediately upon his arrival in Columbia, and big things are expected from him this fall.
Bryant is a more-polished runner than Lock was, so that’s a dynamic OC Derek Dooley should have fun using this fall. He doesn’t have the same arm strength, but he’s a more-than-capable passer who should be able to get the ball to guys like TE Albert Okwuegbunam and WRs Johnathon Johnson, Jalen Knox and fellow grad transfer Jonathan Nance.
South Carolina: Ryan Hilinski, QB
The Gamecocks are still in the mix for Clemson graduate transfer RB Tavien Feaster, and if they land him, he’ll be the most important addition to the offense. However, for now, that honor goes to the quarterback from California.
This is starting QB Jake Bentley’s final year in Columbia, but if he doesn’t show signs of improvement and Hilinski looks great this summer, the true freshman could get some immediate playing time. The likely move is that the Gamecocks will get Hilinski some action in four games and maintain his redshirt, but he could force Will Muschamp’s hand if he looks like the future star many project him to be.
Tennessee: Jim Chaney, OC
In Knoxville, the most important addition to the offense will spend the season in the press box, as that’s where new OC Jim Chaney likes to do his work. Five-star OL Wanya Morris is also important, as he could be the Day 1 starter at left tackle, but Chaney is the one calling the shots for the Vols this fall.
He’ll be tasked with helping QB Jarrett Guarantano takes a big step forward and with helping jumpstart an offense that ranked 13th in the SEC in scoring offense and 14th in total offense in 2018. If he can do that, the Vols will go to a bowl game this season.
Vanderbilt: Riley Neal, QB
Neal spent the past four seasons at Ball State, where he was the starter for the 2015, 2016 and 2018 campaigns. He was impressive during spring practices and is the leader in the clubhouse for the starting job this fall.
Replacing Kyle Shurmur won’t be easy, but Neal will have plenty of weapons to work with on offense. RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, WR Kalija Lipscomb and TE Jared Pinkney form a great group of skill position players at Neal’s disposal.