Boom or bust: 3 SEC players set to shine in Week 4, and 3 who may flop
The SEC’s powerhouses get a bit of a break in Week 4 when Alabama, Georgia and LSU squared off against Louisiana-Monroe, Southern University and Syracuse, respectively.
But several mid-level matchups could go a long way toward shaking out the contenders from the pretenders as Kentucky hosts Missouri, Texas A&M travels to Arkansas and Tennessee tries for its first victory in Gainesville since 2003.
Of course, when one player goes boom, another player goes bust. Here are three candidates to “boom” on Saturday, and three candidates to bust:
- Derrick Henry: Derrick Henry gets his shot at the Louisiana-Monroe rush defense, three weeks after Nick Chubb did his damage to the Warhawks. Chubb rushed for 122 yard and 2 touchdowns in Week 1 before Georgia head coach Mark Richt pulled the sophomore running back with 1:17 left in the third and the Bulldogs up 44-14. Henry and Alabama play host to Louisiana-Monroe (1-1) in Week 4. The Warhawks, who are coming off a bye, are prone to giving up yards on the ground (201.0 ypg) — including 77 yards to Nichols State’s Michael Henry in Week 2, a decent amount of yards for a Colonels team that lost 47-0. This week it’s the Crimson Tide’s Derrick Henry who abuses the ULM run defense. Henry has 370 yards on the season and has fallen behind Chubb (468 yards) and LSU’s Leonard Fournette (387) for tops in the SEC. Henry, however, leads the conference with 7 rushing scores. Look for the junior from Yulee, Fla., to pad his touchdown lead against the Warhawks and go for his third 100-yard rushing performance of the season and eighth of his career.
- Charles Harris: Kentucky should expect a heavy dose of Charles Harris and the Missouri pass rush when the two squads meet in Lexington. The sophomore is tied with Harold Landry of Boston College for tops in the nation with 8.0 tackles for loss. Look for Harris to retain that spot after a Week 4 matchup against the Wildcats. Kentucky (2-1, 1-1 SEC) gave up six sacks against Florida last week and is tied with Texas A&M for No. 116 in the nation with 10 sacks surrendered.
- Brandon Harris: Leonard Fournette destroyed the Auburn run defense for 223 yards and 3 touchdowns in Week 3. This week, however, the sophomore running back goes up against a defense that might be able to actually slow Fournette (notice I didn’t day stop). Syracuse ranks No. 3 in the nation when it comes to preventing the run giving up a slim 46.7 ypgG. Of course, that was against Rhode Island, Wake Forest and Central Michigan and not against a guy who has 387 yards in two weeks. With a staunch run defense coming at them, look for LSU to pass more. Brandon Harris ranks near the bottom of many passing categories in the SEC, partly because of who he’s played (Mississippi State and Auburn), his inexperience and the fact that the Tigers have played one less game than everyone else in the conference. But the sophomore signal caller is third in the SEC in completion percentage (67.74 percent), trailing only Greyson Lambert (74.1) of Georgia and Florida’s Will Grier (68.4). Harris gets in a groove against the suspect Orange secondary and eclipses his career mark of 178 yards passing set last year against New Mexico State.
- Daeshon Hall: He burst onto the scene in Week 1 against Arizona State with four sacks. But the Texas A&M weakside defensive end has just .5 tackles for loss since. The junior from Seattle, Wash., has registered 7 tackles in the two games since tallying 7 tackles total against the Sun Devils. His sack-less streak will run to three games in Week 4 when the Aggies face Arkansas in AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Razorbacks have endured their share of struggles on both sides of the ball, but the offensive line isn’t one of them. The Hogs’ front line is one of five units in the nation* who have yet to give up a sack yet this season. Texas A&M leads the nation in sacks (15, 5.0 per game), making this a heavy matchup between the two lines.
- Sean White: He’s one of two quarterbacks replacing ineffective signal callers in the SEC this week (along with South Carolina’s Lorenzo Nunez) when the redshirt freshman takes over for the benched Jeremy Johnson in Week 4 for Auburn. Johnson hits the pine after throwing six interceptions and 473 yards in three contests. White possesses a strong and accurate arm, but expect the Boca Raton, Fla., native to struggle in his Tigers debut when Auburn plays host to Mississippi State this week. The Bulldogs lead the SEC West in fewest passing yards allowed (164.3 yards). With Johnson under center, the Tigers averaged 157.7 ypg. White has plenty of upside and should have a talented offense surrounding him. That said, watch for some hiccups early on.
- Jaylen Walton: Wait … you’re saying Jaylen Walton who leads the nation’s No. 3 team in rushing is going to bust in Week 4 against …Vanderbilt? The Ole Miss running back has 136 yards this season, averaging 6.5 ypg. Vanderbilt only allows 117.3 rushing yards per game — a number slightly skewed when you consider Nick Chubb rushed for 189 of Georgia’s 281 total rushing yards in Week 2 against Vandy. The Vanderbilt defense should be able to slow the senior Walton out of the backfield and on special teams. Walton, the program’s all-time leading kick returner (1,542 yards), faces a Commodores special teams unit that ranks No. 3 in the nation. Head coach Derek Mason’s squad gives up a stingy 12.8 return yards per game. As good as Ole Miss has been this season, the Rebels have struggled returning kicks, ranking No. 103 in the nation at an average of 18.4 yards per return. Don’t expect Ole Miss to lose to Vanderbilt. But if the Commodores can clamp down a bit on Walton and the Rebels’ dynamic offense, then perhaps they’ll have something to build on moving forward.
*Fun Fact: Arkansas is tied with five teams in the nation having yet to allow a sack this year. Among those teams who haven’t coughed up a sack are Toledo and Texas Tech — who doled the Razorbacks their two losses this season.