Kenneth Harrison

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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.

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.

The Chiefs

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Florida State has fallen on hard times recently, but they used to be one of the best football programs in the nation.

The Seminoles have produced several talented players that have had success in the NFL. I’m going to look at the best players in program history.

Chris Weinke (1997-2000): This is a name that may be forgotten, and I don’t know why. Weinke played minor league baseball right after high school so it took him a few years to arrive in Tallahassee. He was 25 when he enrolled at FSU and he did not become a starter until the following year.

As a Sophomore in 1998 he led the Seminoles to a 9-1 record before suffering a season ending neck injury against Virginia.

In 1999 FSU went undefeated and beat Virginia Tech in the national championship game.

As a senior, in 2000, Weinke led the nation in passing yards with 4,167 and 33 touchdowns. He won the Heisman Trophy, Davey O’Brien Award and Johnny Unitas Award. FSU played in their third consecutive national championship game. He finished his career with a 32-3 record.

Peter Warrick (1995-99): He’s one of the best wide receivers in program history.

Warrick was First-team All-ACC three times and a consensus All-American twice.

Statistically his junior year was the best. He had 1,232 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. He had another rushing TD.

He was suspended two games his senior year, but he still had 934 yards, 8 receiving touchdowns and 3 rushing touchdowns. In the national championship game, he had over 160 receiving yards and 3 TD’s.

Warrick Dunn (1993-96): He was First-team All-ACC three times and a Second-team All-American in 1996.

He rushed for over 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. He rushed for 1,026 in 1994, 1,242 in 1995 and 1,180 in 1996. He holds the receiving TD record with 31.

Dalvin Cook (2014-16): I knew he was a good player, but I was surprised to find out he’s the leading rusher in school history. He ran for 4,464 yards in his three seasons.

He also has the best rushing season in program history with 1,765 yards in 2016. He was a two time First-team All-American. Cook is also the rushing touchdown leader with 46.

Charlie Ward (1989-93): He started his final two years and he drastically improved.

As a junior he passed for 2,647 yards, 22 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. As a senior he had 3,032 yards, 27 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

In 1993 he won the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and Davey O’Brien Award. He led Florida State to their first national championship. They beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, 18-16.

Terrell Buckley (1989-91): He’s the school interception leader with 21. He has the most picks in a season with 12 in 1991.

He won the Jim Thorpe Award and Jack Tatum Trophy in 1991.

Deion Sanders (1985-89): Prime Time is tied with Lee Corso for third in interceptions with 14. He also played baseball and ran track.

He was a two-time unanimous All-American and won the Jim Thorpe Award (1988). He also had his jersey retired.

Peter Boulware (1994-96): He’s second in career sacks with 34. He had 19 sacks in 1996.

He was a consensus All-American and ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 96.

Jameis Winston: He was 26-1 as a starter.

He won the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt freshman and led the team to an undefeated season and national championship.

In his career he completed 66% of his passes for 7,964 yards and 65 touchdowns.

Chomping For 2020

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Florida Gators are coming off of a very good 2019 season.

They were 11-2, won the Orange Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 6 in the AP Poll. Dan Mullen is entering his third year as the head coach in Gainesville.

It looks like the Gators have finally found their first good quarterback since Tim Tebow. They started the 2019 season with Feleipe Franks under center. He was known for making poor decisions and turning the football over. He got injured in the Kentucky game and Kyle Trask stepped in to come from behind and win the game.

I think he’s a significant upgrade over Franks and playing the entire season will make a big difference.

UF is ranked No. 6 in the preseason poll. They have not won the SEC East since 2016. That doesn’t seem like a long time, but it is for this program that’s used to competing for national championships.

Some of the key departures are defensive end Jon Greenard, corner back C.J. Henderson and running back La’mical Perine. Greenard had 52 tackles, 15.5 for loss and 9.5 sacks in his final season.

Henderson had 11 pass breakups, entered the draft a year early and was the ninth overall pick by Jacksonville.

Perine was the leading rusher in 2019 with 676 yards and 6 touchdowns.

The Gators have some good players returning. Tight end Kyle Pitts is 6’6, 239-pounds and one of the best in the nation. He had 54 catches for 649 yards and five touchdowns.

Wide receiver Trevon Grimes is entering his senior year and he’s going to be the No. 1 receiver. The Ohio State transfer had 33 receptions for 491 yards and 3 TD’s last year.

CB Marco Wilson had three interceptions and 36 tackles in 2019.

The schedule is very manageable.

Eastern Washington: They start the season with the college version of a preseason game against an FCS opponent. They’ll demolish the Eagles.

Kentucky: The Wildcats have lost talented players from last years team. This will be an easy win for Florida.

South Alabama: The Jaguars were 2-10 last year. We don’t expect e team from the Sun Belt to put up much of a fight under normal circumstances and this is a bad team. UF trounces them.

@ Tennessee: The first road game of the season. The Vols started poorly in 2019 but they won their final 6 games to finish 8-5. This is a rivalry game, so I expect it to be close, but I give the edge to the Gators.

South Carolina: Former Florida coach Will Muschamp has been the head coach at South Carolina since 2016. Last season they were 4-8 but they did have a huge upset at Georgia. They won’t be that lucky on this day.

LSU: We all know the Tigers were undefeated and won the national championship in 2019. Heisman Trophy winning QB Joe Burrow is gone and LSU will fall back to earth. Gators get the W.

@ Ole Miss: The Rebels are one of the worst teams in the conference, so this is a cakewalk.

Georgia: This is a Halloween day rivalry game. The Bulldogs have won the last three meetings. That streak will finally get snapped.

@ Vanderbilt: We know Vandy doesn’t stand a chance.

Mizzou: The Tigers are one of the worst teams in the division. Another lopsided win.

New Mexico State: The Aggies are traveling to Gainesville for a beat down.

@ Florida State: The Seminoles are struggling, and this is the final W of the season.

I expect Florida to finish the regular season undefeated.

Down Here

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Free agency and the NFL Draft have already taken place so we have an idea of what each roster will look like.

The NFC South has received a lot of attention with the arrival of Tom Brady to Tampa. Let’s take a look around the division and make some predictions.

Tampa Bay: The Buccaneers made the biggest splash in free agency by signing Tom Brady. They also traded for his former retired tight end Rob Gronkowski.

They drafted Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs in the first round. Wirfs played 10 games at right tackle and three at left tackle last season. He was named an All-American and he should be able to help protect Brady.

Tampa Bay ranked 25th in total defense and they probably will struggle again in 2020.

The Bucs have received a lot of hype this off season. I don’t think they can live up to it. Brady will turn 43 in August and he’s going in to his 20th season.

Think back to Peyton Manning’s final season when his play drastically deteriorated. I think age and attrition will hamper Brady. The Bucs will win 8-9 games, but they will not be legitimate contenders.

Carolina: The Panthers got rid of their franchise quarterback Cam Newton and signed Teddy Bridgewater.

They are led by All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey. He’s really the only weapon on offense and they lack a talented wide receiver.

Carolina used all seven draft picks on defensive players. They did struggle defensively in 2019, ranking 31st in total defense. They gave up 28.8 points per game.

The best-case scenario would be for three or four of the players they drafted to step in and contribute immediately. That would mean they have young players making mistakes but gaining experience. The Panthers will win 4-5 games.

Atlanta: They were a tough team to figure out last season. The Falcons were bad, but they beat New Orleans and San Francisco, two of the best teams in the NFC.

They drafted two offensive linemen in the first round of the 2019 draft but they both dealt with injuries. Protecting Matt Ryan has been a recurring issue. If that can get solved, they might have one of the most potent offenses in the NFL. They still were fifth in total offense.

The running game struggled last year, and it was addressed by signing running back Todd Gurley. Gurley has dealt with a knee injury that has decreased his play significantly.

They ranked 20th in total defense. Dan Quinn’s job is on the line and I think he will be fired. Atlanta should win 7-8 games.

New Orleans: The Saints were 13-3 in 2019. They were one of the best teams in the league and they return many players from that team.

Future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees sustained a torn ligament to his right thumb that caused him to miss five weeks. He’s also 41 years old so his window to win another Super Bowl is closing.

The offense has playmakers like Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas that defenses have to plan for. They ranked ninth in total offense and 15th in total defense.

They will win 10-11 games. New Orleans has to hope they don’t play the Vikings in the playoffs and they will have a chance to get to the Super Bowl.

King Bees

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

When we think of the best ACC basketball programs North Carolina and Duke come to mind. The conference has some other very good programs and once upon a time Georgia Tech was in that category. Let’s look at the best players in program history.

Mark Price (1982-86): He was a two-time All-American and four-time All ACC player.

Price lead the Yellow Jackets to an ACC Championship his junior year by beating North Carolina in the ACC Tournament championship game. He was the ACC Player of the Year in the 1984-85 season.

He was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 1991 and his jersey was retired. He holds several records and he’s the All-time leader in steals (240), consecutive games started (126), minutes played (4,604) and 3-point field goal percentage (.440). He was the first pick in the second round of the 1986 draft (25th overall) by the Dallas Mavericks.

Kenny Anderson (1989-91): He won ACC Rookie of the Year in 1990. Anderson was All ACC and All-American both years at Tech.

He averaged 23 points per game and 7 assists per game. He was a key member of the 1990 team that got to the Final Four. That team also won the ACC title. He was the second pick in the 1991 NBA draft by the New Jersey Nets.

Stephon Marbury (1995-96): You may have noticed a theme here since we have another point guard on the list.

Marbury was a 1995 McDonald’s All-American along with Kevin Garnett, Antawn Jamison, Paul Pierce and Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

He averaged 18.9 ppg and 4.5 apg and was named a Third Team All-American. Tech was 13-3 in conference play which made them the regular season ACC champs.

They advanced to the ACC Tournament championship game but lost by one point to Wake Forest, led by Tim Duncan.

The Yellow Jackets got to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament. He was selected fourth overall by Milwaukee in the legendary 1996 draft.

Chris Bosh (2002-03): Bosh was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2003.

He averaged 15.6 points, 9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 31 games. Georgia Tech had a disappointing season and finished 16-15. They got to the third round of the NIT. He was the No. 4 pick by Toronto in 2003, which is another legendary draft class.

Dennis Scott (1987-90): He led the Yellow Jackets to the NCAA Tournament each year he played.

Scott was ACC Rookie of the Year in 1988, ACC Player of the Year in 1990 and Sporting News Player of the Year (1990). He was also a consensus second-team All-American in 1990. In his career he averaged 21.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 3 apg. He was the No. 4 pick by Orlando in the 1990 draft.

Matt Harpring (1994-98): Harpring was a four-year starter and was named First Team All-ACC three times.

He set career highs in his senior season with 21.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, ranking second in the ACC in both categories.

He finished his collegiate career as Georgia Tech’s second all-time leader in points (2,225) and rebounds (997).

Harpring is the institute’s all-time leader in free throws attempted (675) and made (508).

His jersey was retired in his final regular season home game. He was the 15th pick by Orlando in the 1998 draft.

Travis Best (1991-95): The McDonald’s All-American led Tech to the 1993 ACC Tournament Championship.

He averaged 16.6 ppg and 5.6 apg. He was one of only three ACC players to score 2,000 points with 600 assists. He was the 23rd pick in 1995 by Indiana.

Running Wild

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The SEC has produced a ton of talent over the years.

One of the strongest positions is running back. I want to examine the rich history of the position and see who the best RB in conference history is.

Darren McFadden (Arkansas): He’s the third leading rusher in conference history with 4,590 yards.

McFadden played for the Razorbacks for three seasons (2005-07). He improved his rushing total every year and rushed for 1,830 yards and 16 touchdowns in his final season.

He tied the SEC single game record with 321 rushing yards against South Carolina.

In the 2007 season finale against No. 1 LSU McFadden rushed for 206 yards, 3 TD’s and helped pull off a huge upset.

Bo Jackson (Auburn): Jackson is a legendary athlete and two sport star. He played four years at Auburn and had two seasons with at least one thousand yards.

As a senior he rushed for 1,786 yards and 17 scores. At the time it was the second most rushing yards in a season in conference history.

He won the Heisman trophy in 1985. Jackson is fifth in all-time conference rushing yards with 4,303.

As a sophomore Bo rushed for 1,213 yards, 12 touchdowns and led the Tigers to an 11-1 record.

Kevin Faulk (LSU): This is a forgotten name that deserves some respect. He spent four seasons in Baton Rouge and rushed for more than one thousand yards in his final three.

He was also a threat to catch passes out of the backfield. In that respect he might be the most complete back in SEC history.

As a senior he ran for 1,279 yards, 12 TD’s, 22 receptions and 3 receiving scores. He’s fourth on the all-time SEC rushing list with 4,557.

Errict Rhett (Florida):  When we think of the Gators of the early 90’s Steve Spurrier and passing come to mind.

Rhett did a lot of damage on the ground, racking up two thousand-yard seasons. His lowest rushing total was 845 yards as a freshman, but he averaged 5.7 yards per carry.

He’s seventh on the SEC rushing list with 4,163 yards.

Herschel Walker (Georgia): Walker was a workhorse in Athens. He led the Bulldogs to an undefeated season and national championship as a true freshman in 1980.

He was phenomenal and that was his lowest rushing total of his career. Herschel ran for 1,616 yards, 1,891 yards and 1,752 yards.

He won the Heisman Trophy in 1982 and led the Dawgs to an 11-1 record. They were undefeated and ranked No.1 going into the Sugar Bowl.

He’s the leading rusher in conference history with 5,259 yards. His stats do not include bowl games, which is impressive.

Derrick Henry (Alabama): Henry is a big, bruising back.

His first two seasons weren’t spectacular. As a junior in 2015 he broke out with 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns.

He led the Crimson Tide to a 14-1 record and national championship. Henry also won the Heisman as a junior before departing for the NFL.

Emmitt Smith (Florida): Smith ran wild in Gainesville for three seasons (1987-89). His only season under one thousand yards was as a sophomore (988) but he missed two games due to injury.

He averaged over 5 ypc each year. As a junior he ran for 1,599 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Honorable Mention: Nick Chubb (UGA), Dalton Hilliard (LSU), Mark Ingram (Alabama), Charles Alexander (LSU), Cadillac Williams (Auburn)

There are several great backs to choose from but I think Herschel Walker has to be at the top of the list.

The First Mate

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

In case you’ve been under a rock, you know Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent.

The Buccaneers also traded for his favorite target, Rob Gronkowski. They have not made the playoffs since 2007, but they are a preseason favorite to win the Super Bowl. I’m going to take a look and see who the best player in franchise history is.

The first pick in franchise history was defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, No. 1 overall in 1976. Selmon was one of the NFL’s most dominant pass rushers and the first Tampa Bay player elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He played for the Bucs for nine years (1976-84) and he was selected to six Pro Bowls.

Selmon was Defensive Player of the Year in 1979. He was First-team All-Pro three times and second team twice. In his career he had 742 tackles, 78.5 sacks and 28.5 forced fumbles. His number 63 was retired in 1986.

Warren Sapp was drafted by Tampa Bay in 1995 as the 12th pick overall. The defensive tackle had 77 sacks, which is second-most in franchise history. He made seven consecutive Pro Bowls from 1997-2003. He was NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1999.

Sapp was a four-time First Team All-Pro and two-time Second Team All-Pro. He’s First-team on the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team and Second-team on the 1990s All-Decade Team.

He was pivotal in leading the 2002 Bucs to win Super Bowl XXXVII. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.

Derrick Brooks was also drafted in the first round in 1995 (28th). He played in Tampa his entire career, 1995-2008.

Brooks had 1,715 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 25 interceptions, 24 forced fumbles and 7 touchdowns. He was selected to 11 Pro Bowls, Five-time First-team All-Pro, Four-time Second-team All-Pro and Defensive Player of the Year in 2002. He is also on the 2000s All-Decade Team. He was selected to the Hall of Fame in 2014.

Warrick Dunn was drafted by the Bucs in 1997. He’s the first offensive player on this list.

In his first stint with Tampa Bay he played from 1997-2001. He was AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. He went to two Pro Bowls.

Jimmie Giles played for four teams but was with the Bucs from 1978-86. The tight end went to four Pro Bowls during that time. He holds the team record for touchdowns in a game with four.

Hardy Nickerson (1993-99) was selected to 5 Pro Bowls during that time. He was also a Four-time All-Pro and a member of the 1990s All-Decade team.

John Lynch was known as a hard-hitting safety. He went to 5 Pro Bowls as a member of the Buccaneers. He had three seasons with at least one hundred tackles.

Ronde Barber spent his entire career in Tampa (1997-2012). He is one of two players with 40+ interceptions and 20+ sacks alongside Charles Woodson. He led the league in interceptions in 2001 with 10. He went to 5 Pro Bowls and 5 All-Pro teams.

Simeon Rice is another defensive standout from the early 2000’s. He signed with the team in 2001 and went to 2 Pro Bowls. He recorded double digit sacks in his first three seasons.

There have been several great players to choose from.

I believe Lee Roy Selmon has to be chosen as the best Buc ever.

Beasts From The East

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The SEC East should be a very interesting division in college football. Here is how I think the division stacks up.

Florida: I give the Gators a slight edge over Georgia.

Under Dan Mullen’s watch, Florida has won 21 games and finished in the top 10 in back-to-back years.

The offense needs to take the next step and improve. The offensive line returns four starters so they should get better. Kyle Trask will be one of the best quarterbacks in the conference.

Tight end Kyle Pitts (54 catches) along with receivers Jacob Copeland, Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney make up a strong receiving corp.

The defense should still be strong this season, adding UGA transfer Brenton Cox to strengthen the pass rush. The secondary will be one of the best in the SEC thanks to Marco Wilson and Kaiir Elam.

I think the deciding factor will be crossover scheduling. LSU comes to Gainesville and Georgia plays at Alabama.

Georgia: The Bulldogs lose quarterback Jake Fromm, running back D’Andre Swift and four offensive line starters.

Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman will be the new QB. Last season Newman threw for 2,868 yards, 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also rushed for 574 yards and 6 TD’s.

WR George Pickens had a good freshman season and he could have a breakout sophomore year.

In 2019 the defense ranked at the top of the SEC in yards per play allowed (4.3) and fewest points a game (12.6). They lost safety J.R. Reed and DL Tyler Clark but return most of the unit intact.

Tennessee: The Volunteers are going into coach Jeremy Pruitt’s third year on the right track.

They started 2019 0-2 but rebounded and won their final six games.

Quarterback play is a huge question mark and they need a drastic improvement. Whether it’s Jarrett Guarantano, Brian Maurer, J.T. Shrout or freshman Harrison Bailey, this position will determine the success of the team.

The offensive line and running backs should be the strength of the offense.

The defense improved, holding teams to 5.01 yards per game. I think the Vols are due for a big upset in 2020. I doubt it comes against Alabama or at UGA. Most likely it will be at Oklahoma or home against Florida.

Kentucky: The Wildcats won 26 games through the first five seasons under Mark Stoops, Kentucky has posted 18 over the last two years. Finishing 8-5 in 2019 was an accomplishment for Stoops and his staff.

Starting QB Terry Wilson was lost for the season due to injury in early September but he is returning. The O-line is one of the best in the conference and they return three backs that have at least 500 rushing yards in 2019.

Kentucky’s defense finished fourth in the SEC in fewest points allowed per game (19.3) and allowed 5.3 yards a snap.

South Carolina: The pressure is mounting for Will Muschamp after finishing 4-8. He hired former Colorado State coach Mike Bobo as offensive coordinator.

They have a few options at QB with transfer Collin Hill (Colorado State), Dakereon Joyner, Ryan Hilinski and freshman Luke Doty battling for the starting job. They lost their top three running backs.

Missouri: The Tigers were 8-5 in 2018 and 6-6 in 2019.

Eli Drinkwitz is in his first year in Columbia. He is coming off of only one year as a head coach at Appalachian State.

They will not be able to make a bowl this season.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores finished 3-9 last season. On the bright side these guys are intelligent since they attend Vandy.

That’s the only thing they have to look forward to.

Wild West

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Everyone is aware of the current COVID-19 pandemic and how it has changed everyday life for the world.

The social distancing also has an impact on sports since players cannot compete against or work out with each other.

I think this will be a factor this college football season, assuming we still have one. I’m going to preview the SEC West in 2020.

 

Alabama: They were plagued with injuries in 2019. One player returning from injury is linebacker Dylan Moses. He missed the entire 2019 season with a torn ACL. He led the Crimson Tide with 86 tackles in 2018.

They also lost the top running back in the class of 2019 for the season, Trey Sanders. Najee Harris is also back after passing on the draft.

Quarterback play is under the spotlight with Tua Tagovailoa off to the NFL, but Mac Jones played well at the end of 2019, and true freshman Bryce Young will join the mix.

I don’t think they will have the same bad luck with injuries two years in a row.

LSU: The reigning national champs lose Heisman winning quarterback Joe Burrow. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady left for the NFL. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and wide receiver Justin Jefferson left early for the NFL.

Biletnikoff Award winner Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall are returning, and they combined for 33 touchdown catches.

Texas A&M: The Aggies have returning talent on both sides of the ball.

Leading running back Isaiah Spiller (946 yards) will improve as a sophomore and the offensive line remains largely intact.

The receiving corps is led by receivers Jhamon Ausbon (66 catches) and Ainias Smith (22) and tight ends Jalen Wydermyer and Baylor Cupp.

Can quarterback Kellen Mond take the next step in development as a senior? The defense also returns most of its key pieces.

Auburn: Bo Nix should be one of the most improved players in 2020. He had a good freshman season with 2,542 yards, 16 touchdowns, 6 picks and he completed 58% of his passes. He also rushed for 313 yards and 7 scores.

Former Arkansas coach Chad Morris was hired as the team’s new offensive coordinator, and his experience working with quarterbacks should help Nix develop as a passer.

The Tigers return a solid stable of running backs, and the team’s top three statistical receivers. Unfortunately, the offensive line loses four starters.

The Tigers also have the same problem in the trenches on defense, losing three starters.

Ole Miss: The Rebels lost eight games in 2019 but five came by eight points or less.

New coach Lane Kiffin isn’t stepping into a total rebuild. QB John Rhys Plumlee had a dynamic freshman season and the top three receivers are back. Both tackles are gone so the line may have some problems.

Ole Miss showed marked improvement on defense in 2019. After giving up 36.2 points a game in 2018, this unit allowed 26.5 last season.

Mississippi State: This is Mike Leach’s first year in Starkville.

He’s known for high-powered offense, but he needs to find a quarterback and receivers. All-SEC running back Kylin Hill returned for his senior year.

Arkansas: The Razorbacks have lost 19 consecutive conference games. They have a new coach, Sam Pittman. They have former Last Chance U star, running back Rakeem Boyd (1,133 yards)

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