SEC 2020 Preseason Superlatives
What a year for the SEC. It feels like we say that every single year, but that's what you get when you're college football's best conference. It appeared as if the conference might fall behind in the shift towards high flying offenses, but last year proved that the SEC can do it just as good as anyone else. In fact, LSU was so good last year that you could argue they were one of the best to ever do it. This should come as no surprise, but there's a ton of talent everywhere, but don't let the shift towards offense fool you into thinking there aren't studs on the other side of the ball. If you like wide receivers or defensive backs, this conference has what you need.
Best Offensive Player: WR Ja'Marr Chase, LSU
Don't get me wrong, there's a ton of competition for this spot, even within his own position, but Chase is the guy. After a 1,780 yard, 20 TD season, everyone's trying to find a way to slow him down. Alabama's duo of DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are right behind him, but we have to give credit where it's due.
Top at each position:
QB- Jamie Newman, Georgia
RB- Najee Harris, Alabama
TE- Kyle PItts, Florida
C- Drake Jackson, Kentucky
G- Trey Smith, Tennessee
OT- Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
Best Defensive Player: CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
I'm still not convinced this kid was only 18 last year. Stingley played beyond his years for most of the season last year, and he still has two more years to play with the Tigers. He really only had one bad game (which we'll discuss later), and this pick was another no-brainer. With 15 pas breakups and six interceptions, teams must find a way to either avoid him or exploit some weakness in his game.
Top at each position:
DT- DJ Dale, Alabama
DE- Malik Herring, Georgia
LB- Dylan Moses, Alabama
S- Demani Richardson, Texas A&M
Most Pressure to Succeed: QB Myles Brennan, LSU
Anyone in this position would win this spot. Replacing Joe Burrow turned into a seemingly impossible task in just one year, but people around the LSU program think Brennan is the right guy to do just that. Even with just 70 career pass attempts, two touchdowns, and three interceptions, Brennan has the talent to lead LSU back to the College Football Playoff. With the talent at receiver, he shouldn't have trouble finding open players downfield.
Top Newcomer: QB Jamie Newman, Georgia
Newman's arrival brings a new vibe to the quarterback position for the Bulldogs. Granted, he must fend off USC transfer JT Daniels for the starting spot, but it should be Newman who wins the job. The former Wake Forest star transfer threw for over 2,800 yards last year, but also rushed for almost 600. That will give Georgia a new look for teams to scheme against, and could elevate them to the next level.
Don't Forget About: QB KJ Costello, Mississippi State
I'll admit, I didn't get this transfer at first. But the more I've looking into it and watched Costello, the more I like it. If you look back at the 2018 season, he threw for over 3,500 yards and led the Pac-12 in passer rating. Now you put him in a Mike Leach offense that apparently likes throwing the football, and we should see him flourish.
Breakout Player: RB Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss
With all of the attention on John Rhys Plumlee, Ealy often gets forgotten even on his own team. The Rebels sophomore running back averaged 6.9 yards per carry, and now works in Lane Kiffin's explosive offense. How have Kiffin's running backs done in the past? Here are the leading rusher's yards from the last six seasons:
Oh, and those guys combined to score 104 touchdowns in that same span. That's an average of 1,370.5 yards and 17.3 touchdowns. So to say Ealy is poised to have a big year seems to be an understatement.
Rising Star: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
Yes, the argument can be made that Waddle is already a star, but his production at wide receiver can get better. And that's the scary part. Sitting behind arguably three of the best receivers Alabma's seen, Waddle now gets a chance to touch the ball more in 2020. His production took a dip last year, but Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III left for the NFL. So now the Tide get to utilize arguably the most explosive player in college football touch the ball more. Seems like a successful formula.
Best Position in SEC: WR...err...DB....err...WR....both?
Good luck picking between these two. We've already talked about the receivers in Chase, Smith, and Waddle, but that's just the start. Auburn's Seth Williams, Ole Miss' Elijah Moore, Texas A&M's Jhamon Ausbon, LSU's Terrace Marshall, Florida's Kadarius Toney, the list goes on and on. This group's so loaded that it seems tough to even think of a another group competing with them. Until you look at who's covering these guys.
Everyone knows Stingley, but the list of other DB's provides the conference with a ton of depth:
CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
CB Erik Stokes, Georgia
CB Marco Wilson, Florida
CB Bryce Thompson, Tennessee
CB Roger McCreary, Auburn
CB Kaiir Elam, Florida CB Myles Jones, Texas A&M
S Demani Richardson, Texas A&M
S JaCoby Stevens, LSU S Shawn Davis, Florida S Richard LeCounte, Georgia
Ok I'll stop. We're in store for some epic battles in the passing game this year, but there's one that stands out.
Matchup to Look Forward to: Smith vs. Stingley
Remember that one bad game we mentioned? This was it. Smith averaged 30.4 yards per catch on his way to 214 yards and two touchdowns in this game. LSU-Alabama typically brings a different kind of energy, but now there's a matchup to watch within the game as well. Stingley surely didn't like how this one ended personally, but the Tigers did get the win last year. Smith's hoping he can replicate his success but put the Tide back on top.
Position Battle to Watch: Alabama Quarterback
Mac Jones took over for Tua Tagovailoa last year and played well, but now finds himself in a battle for the starting spot with a guy that's never taken a collegiate snap. Bryce Young comes to Tuscaloosa as a highly coveted recruit, and many already penciled the freshman in as the starting quarterback. Young might be talented, but Jones brings back valuable experience that can't be replicated anywhere but on the field. How this one plays out will influence the Tide's success offensively, but could change the future if Young wins the job right away. Don't count Jones out yet, as he's one of the most poised quarterbacks in all of college football. A little competition isn't going to scare him.