Top Offensive MVP candidates for each SEC team
The SEC is full of 5-star recruits and NFL prospects. So we have a pretty good idea which players will be the biggest stars coming into each season, especially on offense.
Or do we?
The truth is, surprise team MVP candidates emerge every season. You never know which freshman quarterback or transfer running back will burst onto the scene and upend everybody’s expectations.
But we do also have some educated guesses about the players that seem most likely to be offensive leaders, both on the stat sheet and in the locker room. So let’s take a look at likely offensive MVP candidates for each SEC team.
Alabama: RB Najee Harris
We don’t know how much playing time coach Nick Saban will give each prospective starting quarterback, or, outside of DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, how Bama’s new wide receivers will replace talent lost to the NFL. We do know that Najee Harris will be a wrecking ball coming out of the backfield and that Bama’s offense will start with him, at least early in the season.
Arkansas: RB Rakeem Boyd
The senior running back gained 1,133 yards in 2019, an impressive number that wows you even more when you remember that the Razorbacks were otherwise awful on offense. Arkansas has some experience on the offensive line, so look for Boyd to be a steadying force for first-year Hogs coach Sam Pittman.
Auburn: QB Bo Nix
The sophomore goes into 2020 knowing he’s the guy after emerging from a tough QB competition last season. If he can dramatically increase his number of touchdown passes (16 just won’t do this time), the Tigers can contend in the West. Another candidate is kicker Anders Carlson. Don’t scoff, Auburn’s last 3 losses in 2019 were all by one score, so the junior could be critical in close games.
Florida: QB Kyle Trask
After a few seasons of uncertainty and messy quarterback play, Trask carries the Gators’ high expectations on his shoulders. The junior averaged 325 passing yards per game during Florida’s season-ending 4-game winning streak in 2019. It’s no coincidence that UF averaged 39 points per game in that stretch. With so much turnover at the other skill positions, the Gators need Trask to deliver even more.
Georgia: RB Zamir White
We’re rolling the dice here a bit. The QB situation is a bit murky. White is the leading returning rusher for the Bulldogs, who lost their top two in D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien. And Georgia has some mammoth holes to fill on the O-line, not least first-round draft pick Andrew Thomas. But UGA tends to roll top-quality running backs off the assembly line and we’re picking White to be the top Dawg this fall.
Kentucky: Veteran offensive linemen
The Wildcats lost all-everything performer Lynn Bowden and have some questions at the skill positions. Yes, Terry Wilson is back and he’s a logical MVP candidate. But the O-line should be one of the team’s strengths, starting with tackles Landon Young and Darian Kinnard. Those two are keys for a unit that helped Kentucky lead the SEC in rushing in 2019 and if the these big guys provide MVP-caliber performances, the Wildcats could go bowling again.
LSU: WR Terrace Marshall
Remember when LSU had rushing and receiving talent to burn but could not get enough QB play to get over the hump? Way back when, before the Tigers got that Burrow guy? Well, far be it for us to suggest LSU will regress on offense. But they’ll regress on offense. That’s why Marshall has to be dominant, especially with fellow WR Ja’Marr Chase having opted out. Marshall needs to be the big weapon now for new QB Myles Brennan.
Mississippi State: RB Kylin Hill
Yes, Mike Leach likes to pass on darn near every down. If they gave him a 5th down he’d call a passing play then, too. But SEC secondaries will be ready for that style of offense and that’s why, even if it seems counterintuitive, senior running back Kylin Hill might still be the key cog in 2020. If he can duplicate his 1,350 yards and 10 rushing TDs from 2019, it will free Leach to call all those passing plays. You know, for balance.
Missouri: Larry Rountree III
The Tigers ranked only 9th in the SEC and 74th in the nation in rushing offense last season at 151.7 yards per game. Can you imagine how lost they would have been without Rountree? He had 829 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns in 2019, giving the Missouri offense a spark that it otherwise sorely lacked. And that was considered a down year for Rountree. To reach .500 again in a season with a brutal schedule, Mizzou needs Rountree to bounce back and be even better.
Ole Miss: WR Elijah Moore
Moore led the team with 850 receiving yards (nobody else had more than 200) and 6 TDs last season. Now the Rebels bring in Lane Kiffin as head coach and he still has a competitive quarterback derby on his hands. A young running back might break out of the pack to be a big star, but we already know how good Moore is and he will be even more valuable in 2020 in the passing game.
South Carolina: WR Shi Smith
A bit like Moore for Ole Miss, Gamecocks receiver Shi Smith seems to be one of a very few sure things for the South Carolina offense. With a QB battle continuing and a running back corps in search of a breakout star, Moore brings senior leadership to an offense that will be operating under new coordinator Mike Bobo in 2020.
Tennessee: OL Trey Smith
This is an offense with a lot of question marks even though a lot of starters return. Eric Gray is a breakout candidate, but will he be the predominant running back or split time with Ty Chandler? Who will get the bulk of the catches? But there’s no question that first-team preseason All-American Trey Smith is one of the most inspirational players in the SEC. His comeback from career-threatening blood clots has led to his rising NFL prospect status.
Texas A&M: QB Kellen Mond
The senior quarterback had some splendid statistical games in 2019. The problem was, two of his best came in losses to Auburn and Georgia. And star wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon has opted out of the 2020 season. Mond’s passing numbers mostly dipped a bit in 2019 from 2018 so he will have to raise his game again if the Aggies are going to compete in the deadly SEC West.
Vanderbilt: QB Ken Seals
We are taking a real leap here. It’s not even certain that touted true freshman Ken Seals will win the quarterback battle for the Commodores. But with all of the losses to graduation, transfers and players sitting out because of COVID-19 concerns, Vandy is not exactly teeming with MVP candidates. Seals was the top QB recruit in the 2020 class and he seems to be the top candidate to start.