Jason Bishop

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Plundering Pirates

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2020 Brunswick High Pirates on paper have a chance to be a pretty good football team this fall.

Sean Pender enters his 4th season as head coach of the Pirates and the Pirate faithful are excited about this upcoming football season.

The Pirates have some solid returning talent coming back in 2020 from a 6-6 season in 2019 that saw Brunswick win their first playoff game since 2010 before falling to eventual State Champion Harrison in the second round of the playoffs.

The BHS offense will be led by the two headed monster at running back Chukobe Hill and Khamori Simmons. This running back group for the Pirates refers to themselves as the “Wolfpack” and will be the best RB group in the region. Hill and Simmons combined for 1,600 rushing yards as sophomores in 2019 with Hill rushing for 1,058.

The offensive line has two 300-pound athletes that will open holes in senior Caleb Cook and Kanaya Charlton. Both athletes are generating a lot of recruiting buzz. Cook is impressive in the weight room and can squat over 500 lbs.

Xavier Bean will lead a deep group of wide receivers and KJ Lee will be back for his senior season at QB.

Lee is the wild card for BHS. Lee has put in the work, trimmed down and looks good for the 2020 season. Lee led BHS to a huge comeback win at New Hampstead last year that saved the 2019 season.

On defense the Pirates have size and athletic ability on the defensive line with players like Kayshawn Thomas.

Camron Crump is a huge producer at linebacker returns for his senior season.

Amarion Whitfield moves to corner from WR this fall and looks good so far.

Devonte Gadson and Derrick Smith both had solid 2019 seasons in the secondary.

Breakout player this season will be AJ Wilson. Wilson has bulked up to 225 pounds this offseason and is ready to be an all-star candidate at LB for BHS.

Schedule and Predictions: * Region Game

8/21: @ Windsor Forest (Savannah, GA): Pirates go on the road and unleash the Wolfpack on the Knights. Pirates 34-7 go to 1-0

8/28: McIntosh County Academy (Darien, GA): The Bucs come to Glynn County Stadium and fight hard, but don’t have the depth to beat BHS. Pirates win 35-14 to go to 2-0

9/4: Beach (Savannah, GA): BHS goes to 3-0 with a 38-8 win over Beach.

9/10: @ New Hampstead (Savannah, GA): New Hampstead will have athletes. BHS and The Phoenix played a classic in 2019, but BHS has all of their playmakers returning on offense in 2020. BHS wins 40-18 to go to 4-0

9/25: Glynn Academy *: First region game is the City Championship against the Terrors.

BHS is the home team and has lost 6 straight in the series. Glynn won in 2019 with a walk off field goal, 24-21.

The teams look even on paper, but until BHS has a lead on a scoreboard that reads 0:00 then Glynn is the pick here. GA wins 25-22. Pirates drop to 4-1 and 0-1.

10/2: @ South Effingham (Guyton, GA)*: The Mustangs move back up to 6A after a playoff berth in 2019. Pirates go to the Corral and win 34-17 to go 5-1 and 1-1.

10/9: Statesboro (Statesboro, GA)*: The Blue Devils are also back in 6A. Statesboro made the playoffs in 2019 and have been a massive rebuild for the last few seasons. Pirates win at home 28-20 to go to 6-1 and 2-1.

10/16: @ Richmond Hill (Richmond Hill, GA)*: The Wildcats, with 7A numbers, stayed in 6A after getting a waiver from the GHSA.

The Wildcats should be the region favorites and BHS has lost two straight to them. Make it 3. Richmond Hill wins 24-20. BHS drops to 6-2 and 2-2.

10/30: @ Bradwell Institute (Hinesville, GA)*: Interesting fact is BHS has lost the last two times they have played the Tigers in Hinesville. That streak won’t reach three. BHS wins 35-13. Pirates go to 7-2 and 3-2 in region play.

11/6: Effingham County (Springfield, GA)*: Effingham County is in rebuild mode. Pirates win 40-17 to finish the regular season at 8-2 and 4-2 in the region.

BHS will be a solid playoff team in 2020.

Setting Sail

By: Jason Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

High football fast approaches and many hope we will not lose the season to CoVid-19.

One person in particular that hopes the 2020 season will kick off is the head coach of the McIntosh County Academy Buccaneers, Bradley Warren.

The Bucs appear to have found their long-term answer at the head coaching position of the football team.

Warren took over the program last season and got the Bucs into the playoffs; an accomplishment very few expected from MCA in 2019.

The Bucs fell to region foe, Emanuel County Institute 28-23 in the first round of the GHSA A Playoffs.

MCA returns in 2020 with a team that will be battled tested. The Bucs were considered to be young in 2019 and were in every game, even against teams that most thought would beat MCA handily.

The region also changes for the Buccaneers and will see new and old enemies in region 3-A. The Bucs will be joined by Metter, Bryan County, Claxton, ECI, Jenkins County, Portal and Screven County. This is a very winnable region and the Bucs may be the best team in the region.

In my opinion, region 3-A will be come down to ECI and MCA. The winner of that game may very well end up winning the region.

This is what MCA’s season looks like for 2020.

MCA @ Brunswick High-August 28: The Bucs will make the short trip over to Glynn County Stadium to take on the 6A Brunswick High Pirates. MCA will look good early, but BHS has too many athletes and spoils the season opener.

Windsor Forest @ MCA-September 4: The Bucs will welcome the Windsor Forest Knights to The Ship in Darien and show everyone how good they are. Look for MCA to win handily here.

MCA @ Charlton-September 11: This is a game in which 2 programs are heading in opposite directions. Charlton County, a perennial power, finds itself in a bit of a rebuild, while MCA will be very good. The Bucs will win this game, but nothing ever comes easy down in The Swamp.

MCA @ Bryan County-September 18: The Bucs will head up to Pembroke a 2-1 football team and the momentum will continue against Bryan County. MCA gets to 3-1 on the season and gets an important region win over the Redskins.

Claxton @ MCA-September 25: This is the beginning a tough and important three game stretch for the Bucs. MCA welcomes Claxton to the ship and will earn a hard-fought win at home to stay undefeated in the region and go 4-1 on the season.

MCA @ ECI-October 2: This game will likely determine the winner of the region. I think MCA has a more talented team than ECI, but with the Bulldogs will be at home and this will be the sixth straight game for the Bucs. I am not sure they will come out on top here.

Plus, ECI’s schedule is brutal. Especially, the first half. Thus, ECI will almost have to get this game. I really think this contest could go either way.

Metter @ MCA-October 16: The Buccaneers get a much-deserved off week before the Metter Tigers pay a visit to The Ship. Metter can score and score quickly. This will be a great test for the MCA defense.

The Bucs defense will be up to that test and hold off the Tigers in a high scoring affair.

MCA @ Screven County-October 23: Another region road game for MCA. The Bucs will be flying high off the Metter win and will ride that momentum to another victory. 6-2 for MCA.

Portal @ MCA-October 30: Portal pays a Halloween visit to Darien. There won’t be much tricking done by the Portal Panthers in this game. Instead the Buccaneers will be treating themselves to a 7-2 record.

Jenkins County @ MCA-November 6: Seeding will be on the line as MCA will be making a back to back trip to the playoffs. The Bucs will finish 8-2 on the season and will be a force to be contended with in the GHSA A Playoffs.

Names you will need to know if you are an MCA fan: Senior RB Trenton Johnson, Senior QB Dalton McClellan and Junior QB Austin Crosby. Both QB’s will see time.

Don’t be surprised if you see the MCA Buccaneers playing on TV in December.

Secondary To None

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The way Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, Joe Burrow dissected defenses last season may lead some to think the secondary play in the SEC is on a downturn. I’m here to tell you otherwise.

The secondary in the SEC for 2020 is loaded with future NFL talent. While I’m not sure this class can match the number of players drafted in rounds one and two of the 2020 NFL draft, I do think the talent as a collective is overall stronger than the 2019 class.

Here is my top five defensive back on SEC rosters this season:

  1. Marco Wilson, Junior CB, Redshirt Sophomore Florida: Wilson started in all 13 games for the Gators last season.

After suffering an ACL tear early in the 2018, Wilson recorded 36 total defensive stops (23 solo), 3 interceptions, and 2 pass break-ups.

Wilson is one of only four true freshmen to start at cornerback on opening day for Florida. He was named to the All-SEC Freshman team by the coaches in 2017.

The 6-foot-0, 190 pounder can play both boundary and slot. Wilson has good size and speed and is sticky in man coverage. This season, look for Wilson to lock up top wide receivers on the opposing end.

  1. Richard Lecounte, Safety, Senior Georgia: Lecounte is the top safety in the SEC period.

He has started 27 of 28 games over the past two seasons. The 5-foot-11, 190 pounder was third on the team with tackles with 61 (35 solo), led the SEC in fumbles recovered with three and second in interceptions with four.

Lecounte is the Alpha-Dog of the Georgia secondary. Playing alongside Tyson Campbell, Eric Stokes and DJ Daniels makes Georgia the top secondary in the SEC.

Lecounte is a Preseason All-SEC first team defense selection.

  1. Israel Mukuamu, CB, Junior South Carolina: Mukuamu had arguably the best game by any defensive back in the SEC during the 2019 season, when he helped propel the Gamecocks to an upset win over Georgia.

Mukuamu picked off Georgia QB Jake Fromm three times en route to a 20-17 win. He returned the first interception 53 yards for a touchdown. The final interception came at the most important of times, overtime.

The 6-foot-4, 205 pounder earned second team All-SEC in 2019. Mukuama has been First Team All-SEC Academic Honor Roll for 2018 & 2019.

Mukuamu is a big corner who fights and competes and wins against big named receivers Saturday after Saturday.

  1. Patrick Surtain, CB, Junior Alabama: With Alabama consistently featuring a loaded secondary, it may be hard for a freshman to see the field.

However, Surtain was the exception. He played well in 2018 recording 28 tackles with an interception, seven passes deflected and one forced fumble.

As a sophomore, Surtain had 42 tackles with 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, and 8 passes broken up.

Surtain is a physical cornerback, the 6-foot-2, 203-pound corner routinely bullies receivers. With Josh Jobe, Daniel Wright and Jordan Battle playing with Surtain, Alabama will compete with Georgia on the top secondary in the SEC.

  1. Derek Stingley Jr, CB, Sophomore LSU: Stingley, a true freshman in 2019, was the top ranked cornerback in the country coming out of high school.

Now he is the top ranked cornerback in the SEC. During LSU’s national championship run, Stingley started every game.

The 6-foot-1, 195 pound corner earned a list of awards in 2019: Consensus All-American, First Team All-American (AFCA, AP, Athletic, CBS, ESPN, SI, Sporting News, USA Today), SEC Newcomer of the year (unanimous), first Team All-SEC, SEC All-Freshman Team & SEC Freshman of the Week.

He is, arguably, the most impactful freshmen in the SEC since Herschel Walker. He led the SEC in interceptions with 6 and passes deflected with 21.

He is the Grandson of the late Darryl Stingley, who’s NFL career was cut short after suffering a tragic injury in 1978.

In my opinion, Stingley is the best defensive player in the SEC.

Just outside the Top 5: Kary Vincent, LSU; Josh Jobe, Alabama; Eric Stokes, Georgia: Tyson Cambell, Georgia; DJ Daniels, Georgia; Kewin Joseph, Kentucky; Miles James, Texas A&M; Brandin Echols, Kentucky; Alontae Taylor, Tennessee; Elijah Blades, Texas A&M; Marcus Murphy, Mississippi; Jaycee Horn, South Carolina; JaCoby Stevens, LSU; Daniel Wright, Alabama

Breakout Player: Kaiir Elam Florida

HOF

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Atlanta Falcon franchise is no stranger to having Hall of Fame players.

In fact, some of the best players at their position have spent time in the ATL- Tony Gonzalez, Deion Sanders, Eric Dickerson, Brett Favre.

It’s just that when you think of those guys, their time in Atlanta isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, unless you happen to be a Falcons fan. (Gonzalez might be the one exception, although I believe most NFL fans think of him more as Kansas City Chief than a Falcon.)

The two Hall of Famers you could associate most with the franchise is Charles Humphrey and Morten Anderson. It’s obviously impressive and an honor to be elected to the Hall, but neither of those two names are going to win you a best in show prize.

There’s a good bet that ten years from now Atlanta will have at least one player, if not two, being inducted into the Hall of Fame that will drastically improve their profile in Canton.

The first player, Julio Jones, is basically a given. The All-Decade Team member has been one of the best wideouts since entering the league and as long as he stays healthy, should be productive for the next few years.

Even if he were to leave Atlanta in search of a title, or because both decided to part ways, the sure to be first ballot inductee will likely be the greatest player in franchise history, who has spent a majority of his professional career with them.

And unless Deion entered the Hall as Falcon, Jones will undoubtedly be their best to put on the golden jacket.

The other player, Matt Ryan, isn’t such a sure thing, but he isn’t far off either. Ryan is in that unenviable position where even though his individual stats and wins aren’t bad, neither category is great enough to justify his inclusion.

A perfect example is the comparison between Ryan and Eli Manning. For all intents and purposes Ryan has better individual stats than Eli in almost every category, including actual winning percentage.

But, those two Super Bowl rings Manning has given him a better chance, currently, at making the Hall because both those wins trump his more mediocre stats.

Marino is another example where he only appeared in one Super Bowl but his play and stats were so other worldly, there was no way he wasn’t going to be a Hall of Famer.

Either Ryan is going to have to win more games and at least make another Super Bowl in order to see his bust enshrined, or he’s going to have to have a couple great seasons that really pad his stats.

The good thing for Ryan is much like Jones, as long as he can stay healthy, he’ll have enough time to do what’s necessary to achieve a player’s ultimate individual honor.

Of course, I’d be remissed if I didn’t mention that Julio Jones will certainly play a big part.

It’s like having a team’s quarterback and wideout on your fantasy football; it’s a win/win situation.

Making it into the Hall of Fame is an honor and I’m not trying to demean that accomplishment for anyone.

The inductees entering as an Atlanta Falcon may not bring the most notoriety with them, but that’s about to change within the next year’s or so. Only question is, will there be more than one?

Play Ball

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Now that baseball seems to be a reality in late July. Let’s take a good look at the Atlanta Braves for 2020.

The 2020 season will be 60 games and the season will feel like a prolonged playoff instead of the 162-game grind.

Let’s take a look at your Atlanta Braves:

Ronald Acuna Jr. is, in my opinion, the best young player in baseball. Acuna will be in the NL MVP discussion this year. Freddie Freeman is also an MVP candidate and at age 30 still has a lot left in the tank. Acuna and Freeman give the Atlanta roster two superstars in the lineup every day.

Marcell Ozuna was added in free agency from St. Louis. Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson will be up the middle, with what should be an above average bench featuring Nick Markakis and Austin Riley.

The team did lose Josh Donaldson and his 37 HR’s in free agency, Can Ozuna offset that production?

 

My Projected Starting Lineup:

Ronald Acuna (RF)

Ozzie Albies (2B)

Freddie Freeman (1B)

Marcell Ozuna (LF)

Johan Camargo (3B)

Nick Markakis (DH)

Dansby Swanson (SS)

Travis d’Arnaud (C)

Ender Inciarte (CF)

 

I’m assuming Johan Camargo will win the third base job for Atlanta in my lineup card.

Austin Riley may be the future at 3B, but I am betting on a good season for Camargo in 2020.

This batting order is as good as any in baseball in my opinion. Universal DH in the shortened season will be adopted in the National League will give the Braves the opportunity to let Markakis get swings every day to protect his body from the daily grind of the outfield.

Starting Pitching: Alex Anthopoulos went out and signed veteran, lefty Cole Hamels to a one-year deal and signed former Mariner Felix Hernandez also.

Hernandez could be the wild card here if he looks like he did in Seattle. This addition will put the Braves in the World Series discussion. Hamels, who was set to start the regular season on the injured list, should be rested and ready to go now that the season has been delayed.

Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz, who was brilliant down the stretch until getting blistered in Game 5 of the NLDS, Max Fried and Sean Newcomb will be your starters. Soroka will win a Cy Young Award in Atlanta.

Kyle Wright and Touki Toussaint both got big league innings in 2019.

I like this rotation talent wise, and in a 60-game season, the pickup of Hamels and Hernandez could be looked upon as two of the best moves in Braves history.

Relief Pitching: Going into the 2019 season the Braves bullpen was a big issue. Going into a shortened 2020 season it could be the best in baseball.

The bullen will be anchored by Mark Melancon, Shane Greene and Chris Martin. They re-signed Martin this offseason before he tested free agency.

Atlanta signed former Giants closer Will Smith to maybe form a duo with Melancon at the back end of the bullpen. Darren O’Day, who missed almost all of the 2019 season with a forearm injury, returns healthy. Quality arms are everywhere.

Manager: Brian Snitker has something to prove in 2020.

Snitker has been with the Braves organization since 1977. The roster is there for a trip to the World Series. Can Snitker get this team over the hump and erase those awful Game 5 NLDS memories from 2019?

Predicted Record: 38-22. NL East Champions, National League Champions, Lose in 7 games to the New York Yankees in the World Series.

Biggest potential hurdle in 2020: Covid-19 wipes out the proposed season.

The Generals

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Linebackers are the enforcers of the defenses.

It’s a position that is all about physicality and requires endless hours of film study.

However, in the SEC, linebackers must be relentless and have great instincts, speed, and a tenacity to intimidate opposing players.

These players know how to hunt down ball carriers, blitz the quarterback, or play zone coverage. They are the most active defenders on the field. I believe this is a very deep group of talented young men that will make a tremendous impact on the field this fall.

Here are my top five linebackers in the SEC for the 2020 season.

  1. Erroll Thompson, LB, Mississippi State: When Mike Leach was named head coach at Mississippi State, defensive captain Erroll Thompson decided to return for his senior season.

Thompson, a two-year starter at Mike linebacker led the Bulldogs with 84 tackles in 2019 and 217 career tackles.

The 6-foot 1, 250 pounder is a smart, instinctive, hard hitting senior; who is one of the best linebackers in the SEC.

The Bulldogs will have a new defensive coordinator in Zach Arnett, but the return of Thompson should help stabilize the unit, at least in the linebacker corps.

  1. Monty Rice, LB, Georgia: Monty Rice led the vaunted 2019 Georgia Bulldogs defense in tackles with 89.

He will return for a fourth year between the hedges, and the leadership and toughness of Kirby Smart’s defense will be as great as it has ever been.

The 6-foot-1, 235 pounder was a 2nd team All-SEC player in 2019. Rice was co-winner of the Vince Dooley Defensive MVP, given at the team’s postseason award gala.

Rice can fly from sideline to sideline and has been a very productive middle linebacker for the Dawgs.

In 2020, Rice and the rest of their Senior class will attempt to finish the job and lead the Dawgs back to the College Football Playoffs.

  1. Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama: Dylan Moses’ knee injury that robbed him of his 2019 season was cruel, but instead of declaring for the NFL draft, the former All-American decided to return for one more ride at Alabama.

The 6-foot-3, 235 pounder is a freak athlete, who can play inside and outside linebacker.

Moses was a Butkus Award finalist as a sophomore, when he recorded 86 tackles.

Moses is scary fast running a sub 4.5 after knee surgery. If not for the health concerns, Moses would be the top linebacker in the nation. Alabama’s defense took a setback in 2019 without Moses, but 2020 Bama will be right there with Georgia as the top unit in the SEC.

  1. K.J. Britt, LB Auburn: K.J. Britt was First Team All-SEC in 2019. He finished with 69 tackles (10 for loss) and sacked the quarterback 2.5 times.

2019 was Britt’s first year as the full-time starter. In Auburn’s biggest games, Britt came up solid with 6 tackles against Florida, LSU, Georgia and Alabama. In the Outback Bowl against Minnesota, he led the team with eight tackles. I can’t wait to watch what Britt can do in only his second season.

  1. Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri: A consensus First Team All-SEC pick as a sophomore,

Bulton registered an astonishing 107 tackles (74 solo tackles) for the Tigers in 2019.

Bolton raked in plenty of awards in 2019: Third team All- American, SEC’s top Graded Linebacker (Pro Football Focus), and SEC All-Academic team.

The 6-foot, 232 pounder averaged 8.92 tackles in 2019. He is far and away the best mike linebacker in the SEC.

New Coach Eliah Drinkwitz will have the luxury of having the SEC’s best returning linebacker. Bolton is a dominant athlete, who is willing to mix it up in the trenches.

He possesses elite sideline to sideline speed and functions as a positive against both the run and pass.

Just outside the Top 5: Shane Lee, Alabama; Buddy Johnson, Texas A&M; James Houston, Florida; Henry To’o To’o, Tennessee; Lakca Henry, Ole Miss; Sherrod Greene, South Carolina; Jamin Davis, Kentucky.

Breakout player: Jabril Cox, LSU; Cox is a two-time FCS All American at North Dakota State and recent graduate transfer.

 

Ground Gainers

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

I’m excited about sports returning in 2020.

We all are ready, especially considering how many were cancelled thus far. Let’s take a look at the best running backs in college football heading into the season.

  1. Javian Hawkins, Louisville: He was a redshirt freshman and established himself as one of the best ball carriers in the ACC.

He carried the ball 266 times for 1,525 yards, 9 touchdowns and averaged 5.7 yards per carry. His 40-yard dash time is reportedly in the high 4.3s, which would make him one of the fastest players in the nation.

Hawkins is the focal point of Scott Satterfield’s spread offense so he will have a chance for an even better 2020 season.

  1. Kenny Gainwell, Memphis: As a redshirt freshman in 2019 Gainwell had 2,069 yards of total offense and 16 touchdowns, averaging 7.3 yards per touch.

He is the new generation at the position that can catch passes and run the ball.

He ran for 1,459 yards on 235 carries with 13 rushing TDs. He caught 51 passes for 610 yards and 3 scores. He had 37 plays of 15 or more yards, so he makes explosive plays.

  1. Rakeem Boyd, Arkansas: The Last Chance U star is the only bright spot for the Razorbacks.

Last season he rushed for 1,133 yards, 8 scores on 184 attempts (6.2 YPC). It was his second consecutive year as the team’s leading rusher. He managed five 100-yard games and averaged 94.4 rushing yards per game.

First-year head coach Sam Pittman should help strengthen the offensive line. If that happens Boyd should have the best numbers of his career.

  1. Najee Harris, Alabama: He was the Crimson Tide’s best playmaker last season.

The former 5-star recruit ran for 1,224 yards, 13 TDs on 209 carries (5.9 YPC). He also had 27 receptions for 304 yards and 7 scores. Harris’ 13 rushing touchdowns in 13 games tied for second in the conference.

He ranked third in carries (209), fourth in rushing yards (1,224), and sixth in yards per game (94.15). He is only 1,214 yards behind former Heisman winner Derrick Henry as Alabama’s all-time leading rusher with 2,377 yards for his career.

1.Travis Etienne, Clemson: He doesn’t have anything left to prove at the college

level, so I was surprised he did not declare for the 2020 draft.

Etienne rushed for over 1,600 yards the past two seasons. He’s the Tigers all-time leading rusher and two time All-ACC.

He ran for 1,614 yards and 19 scores last year. In 2018 he led FBS with 24 touchdowns and he rushed for 1,659 yards. He should be a Heisman contender this season.

Honorable mention Kylin Hill, Mississippi State: He’s currently making headlines for threatening to sit out the 2020 season unless the state flag is changed.

Hill is the most talented player the Bulldogs have. He rushed 242 times for 1,350 yards (5.8 YPC) and 10 touchdowns in 2019. He’s currently tied for sixth all-time in 100-yard performances at Mississippi State.

Mike Leach is now the head coach in Starkville and he’s known for the Air Raid. Hill won’t get as many opportunities to carry the ball in 2020.

Beast Of The East

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

College football in the SEC is back operational again with players being back on campus and working out getting ready for the 2020 football season. Here is my predicted finish for the SEC East this fall.

1.Georgia: The Georgia Bulldogs have out-recruited everyone in the SEC East by a mile lately.

The roster is stacked with the only legit question is what will UGA do at the QB position.

The QB room is stocked from a talent perspective. Will JT Daniels be granted a waiver to play immediately like Justin Fields was at Ohio State? We all know UGA has that road trip to Alabama on 9/19. Many think that will be a loss.

The QB job looks like it is Jamie Newman’s to lose right now. If Newman lives up to the hype this team will be in the national title hunt.

Games of concern for 2020: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, and South Carolina. Final regular season record: 11-1 with a loss at Alabama or Auburn.

2.Florida: The Gators are on the way back and are the trendy pick in the SEC East this fall.

Why is that the case? They don’t have a more talented roster than UGA and Dan Mullen is 0-3 against Kirby Smart as a head coach.

I see question marks at running back, wide receiver, and defensive line for Florida.

Florida should be recruiting at a higher level than they currently are.

Can Brenton Cox live up to his five-star hype and be the pass rusher the Gators need?

Dan Mullen is regarded as a great game day coach. I don’t think the Gators are there yet. Close but not there.

Games of concern this fall: Kentucky, Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia, and FSU. Final regular season record 10-2 with losses to LSU, and Georgia. Ole Miss is a trap game.

3.Tennessee: I was on vacation in North Georgia this week and I saw Tennessee shirts everywhere on tourists. I haven’t seen that in years, which means the Tennessee fan base is getting excited again about Tennessee football.

There are plenty of reasons to be excited because Jeremy Pruitt is turning this thing around in Knoxville.

Tennessee has been a dumpster fire for a decade now. QB is a concern along with roster depth across the board. We will know all we need to know about the Vols when they travel to Oklahoma in week 2.

Games of concern this fall: Oklahoma, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky and Georgia. Final regular season record 8-4 with losses to Oklahoma, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia.

4.Kentucky: The Cats have as many as 18 starters returning and will be a thorn in the side of just about everyone they play, but this is not March and Kentucky finds ways to lose football games they can win. Games of concern this fall: Florida, South Carolina, Auburn, Tennessee, and Georgia. Final regular season record 8-4 with losses to Florida, Auburn, Tennessee and Georgia.

5.South Carolina: Will Muschamp is on the hot seat in Columbia.

The schedule is brutal once again. Can Carolina get six wins and a bowl game?

Games of concern this fall: Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Georgia, LSU, Clemson. Carolina will have to beat Kentucky in Lexington to go 6-6. I see Carolina losing all of the games above and finishing 5-7 with a decent football team.

6.Missouri: The Tigers are in full rebuild mode.

Games of concern this fall: Every SEC contest. I see the Tigers going 4-8 with its lone SEC win being over Vanderbilt.

7.Vanderbilt: The only win I can see on Vandy’s schedule this fall is opening day against Mercer.

Final record 1-11 and the firing of Derek Mason. Good football coach at an impossible place to win.

Labor Day weekend can’t get here quick enough.

Rush Hour

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The defensive end is usually the most intimidating defender on the field. It takes great hand movement, flexibility, and a nonstop motor to be a successful pass rusher in the SEC.

Every defensive end wants to wreak havoc and there’s nothing like beating an offensive tackle and making a quarterback eat grass. These individuals display what it takes to be an effective edge rusher and they look to continue their relentless pursuit in the 2020 season.

Here are my top five defensive ends-edge rushers in the SEC.

  1. Brenton Cox Jr., Buck, Florida: Cox, a former five star and rising redshirt sophomore didn’t see the field for the Gators in 2019 after transferring from Georgia.

The 6-foot-4, 247 pounder will fill the spot of SEC sack leader Jonathan Greenard.

In Todd Grantham’s defense Cox will have to be flexible playing linebacker, strong side end, and buck.

Cox is an explosive player who will line up all over the field and will get after the quarterback from all angles. Cox is going to be one the most disruptive players in the SEC, and it doesn’t mean much that he hasn’t played a snap yet.

  1. DeMarvin Leal, DE, Texas A&M: Leal emerged as the starting edge rusher for the Aggies in his very first season.

As a former five-star prospect, Leal played in all 13 games in 2019 and started seven.

He recorded 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

The 6-foot-4, 290 pounder showed some versatility lining up at both end and tackle. I expect Leal’s production to jump next season as he now has one year of experience under his belt.

  1. Aaron Sterling, DE, South Carolina: The senior defensive end, who is coming off his best season as a Gamecock, is Aaron Sterling.

He led the team with 10 tackles for loss and tied the team lead of 6 sacks. Sterling is shorter than most edge rushers, standing 6-foot-1, but at 250 pounds he gets the job done.

Sterling has a motor that does not stop, and with the loss of Kinlaw and Wonnum, the senior is more than capable to lead the Gamecock defense in 2020.

  1. Markaviest “Big Kat” Bryant, Buck, Auburn: Auburn lost three starters on its defensive line but got a big boost when “Big Kat” announced he would return for his senior season.

Bryant is strong off the edge for 6-foot-5, 247 pounds. He has waited his turn after splitting time in Auburn’s deep defensive line rotation and will be a key to the Tigers’ front seven’s success in 2020.

In Kevin Steele’s defense, look for Bryant to lead the Tigers in sacks.

  1. LaBryan Ray, DE, Alabama: Ray had his 2019 season cut short due to a devastating.

season ending foot injury.

Ray was a preseason All-SEC selection in 2019 and was figured to be a key piece of the Crimson Tide’s front seven.

As a sophomore, Ray had 39 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

The redshirt junior will be an important piece of the Alabama defense. Ray is a dominant force against the run and surprisingly explosive off the edge for a 6-foot-5, 292 pounder.

Ray is your prototypical strong side defensive end, but he needs to improve on his rip and swim moves, and he NEEDS to stay healthy. If he polishes his pass rushing skills, this could lead to a double-digit sack season.

Just outside the top five: Jamar Watson, Kentucky; Sam Williams, Ole Miss; Zachary Carter, Florida; Kobe Jones, Mississippi State; Malik Herring, Georgia;

Breakout Player: Azeez Ojulari, Georgia

The Golden Arms

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Clemson has been the dominant program in the ACC for the last six years.

The rest of the conference is a distant second place to the Tigers. There are still some very talented players in the conference. Let’s take a look at the 5 best quarterbacks going into the 2020 season.

  1. Kenny Pickett, Pitt: He’s started the last two years for the Panthers. He’s listed on the preseason watchlist for the Davey O’Brien Award and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm.

In his 12 starts last season, Pickett completed 62% of his passes for 3,098 yards, 13 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.

He led the conference in completions per game (24) and he had five 300-yard passing games.

He’s one of only four QB’s in the ACC entering his third season as the starter. I expect to see major improvement in his touchdown to interception ratio.

  1. Sam Hartman, Wake Forest: This might shock the Georgia fans that have fully bought in to the Jamie Newman hype.

You remember him from season 2 of QB 1Beyond the Lights, which got popular when it was picked up by Netflix.

He set a Wake Forest program freshman record with 16 TD’s during the 2018 season. He was injured in early November and that allowed Newman to emerge as the starter.

Hartman has put on 20 pounds of muscle in his time at Wake. He will lead the Demon Deacons as the starter again this Fall.

  1. D’Eriq King, Miami: The transfer from Houston is a major addition for the Hurricanes.

He’s a true dual threat so if the offensive line continues to struggle, he can still make plays.

He tore his meniscus and underwent successful surgery in November 2018. At the time of his injury, King was leading college football with 50 total touchdowns (36 pass, 14 rush).

He decided to redshirt last season after Houston started 1-3. In his four starts he threw for 663 yards, 6 TD’s, 2 picks while rushing for 312 yards and 6 scores.

  1. Sam Howell, North Carolina: As a true freshman Howell passed for 3,641 yards and 38 touchdowns.

He led multiple game winning drives. His touchdown-pass total was third-most in league single-season history.

He ranked behind future first round picks Deshaun Watson and Jameis Winston. Players typically make the biggest improvement going in to their second year so he should be better in 2020.

Mack Brown is also entering his second season as head coach, in his second term in Chapel Hill. I believe the Tar Heels are one of the best teams in the ACC.

  1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson: This was an obvious choice. He should be the top pick in

the 2021 draft. Lawrence has only lost one game in his two seasons as a starter. At this point he just needs to add a Heisman to his list of accomplishments. He’s passed for 5,778 yards, 58 TD’s and 12 interceptions.

The Tigers are better than every team they will play during the regular season so that will allow Lawrence to have impressive stats.

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