Robert Craft

Secondary To None

By: Robert Craft 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

The Generals

By: Robert Craft 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.


Rush Hour

By: Robert Craft 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

In The Trenches

By: Robert Craft news services

Who are the defensive tackles who’ll make a key impact on the SEC 2020 season? There will be a changing of the guard in the defensive front across the SEC in 2020.

The SEC had a wealth of talent in the trenches this past season, but many of the conference’s top defensive tackles including Auburn tackle Derrick Brown, who was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, are off to the NFL.

In fact, all the first and second team All SEC defensive tackles are headed to play on Sundays next season. This opens the door for the next group of athletes for fans to get excited about.

Here’s a look at my top five defensive tackles in the SEC for 2020.

  1. Tedarrell Slaton, Florida: Slaton is a 6 foot 5, 343 pounds, senior for the Gators.

Slaton recorded 29 tackles with 2 sacks and a pass defended in 2019.

He played well to close out the 2019 campaign. Slaton is a big nose tackle that caused a lot of disruption and plugged gaps at the point of attack.

I found him wise to come back for his senior year. Slaton needs to work on his pad level and hand strength.

  1. Christian Barmore, Alabama: Barmore was named to the SEC All-Freshman team.

Barmore, a redshirt freshman, played in 12 games and started 2.

He emerged as a key backup for the Crimson Tide by recording 2 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, and 26 total tackles.

The 6 foot 5, 310 pounder made an impact in the Citrus Bowl against Michigan with two tackles, a pass breakup and quarterback hurry.

3.Tyler Shelvin, LSU: Shelvin is your prototypical nose tackle. He is one of the best nose guards in college football’s best conference, the SEC.

The 6 foot 3, 346 pounder was the Tigers’ most productive interior defensive lineman in 2019.

He posted 39 tackles and 3 tackles for loss. Shelvin didn’t have any tackles against Oklahoma, but influenced the coaching by getting double teamed on 94% of the snaps he played.

Shelvin’s pass rushing has a long way to go, but he is the best run stopper returning for 2020.

  1. Tyrone Tuesdell, Auburn: Tuesdell started every game in 2019 alongside All-SEC Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brown.

He racked up 31 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks in 2019.

Tuesdell has been a critical part in the Tiger’s defense success but now serves as a leader on a line that lost two All- Americans.

The 6 foot 2, 310-pound junior has taken his game to a whole new level. It is no surprise to Auburn and SEC fans, now it just a matter of time before everyone else in college football knows Tyrone Tuesdell.

  1. Jordan Davis, Georgia: Jordan Davis is a massive starting nose guard and is a big

reason why the Dawgs only allowed 100 rushing yards in 4 of their 14 games.

He started eight of 14 of them and finished the season with 18 total stops and 2 sacks.  In two games Davis missed with an ankle sprain, Georgia allowed 142 yards rushing to South Carolina and 163 yards to Kentucky.

He demanded a double team on basically every play. Which allowed Monty Rice and Tae Crowder to lead the team in tackles.

Even though his stats may not jump out at you, he is the most impactful player on the Bulldogs starting defense.

The 6 foot 6, 330 pounder will lead what I think will be the best defense in the SEC.

Just outside the top five: Xavier Kelly, Arkansas; Aubrey Solomon, Tennessee; Kobie Whiteside, Missouri; Glen Logan, LSU, Drew Birchmeier, Vanderbilt. Freshman Impact Player: Jordan Burch, South Carolina.

The Beef

By: Robert Craft news services

The SEC is known as a Line of Scrimmage League and the strength up front won’t decrease much in 2020.

These players have demonstrated what it takes to effectively run-block, pass protect, and fight like hell in the trenches.

There’s nothing as satisfying as watching mammoth individuals opening holes, or being that stone wall that cannot be penetrated, or my personal favorite, pancaking a defender as big as they are.

Here are my top five offensive linemen in the SEC for 2020.

  1. Landon Dickerson, Center/Guard, Alabama: Dickerson was a graduate transfer from Florida State, who had a breakout season in 2019 with the Crimson Tide.

He started all 13 games, four at guard and nine at center. His versatility allows him to play every position on the offensive line effectively. The six-foot-six, 318 pounder will help set the tone for the boys up front this fall.

  1. Darin Kinnard, Tackle, Kentucky: Kinnard is an old school masher at right tackle for the Wildcats.

The six-foot-seven, 340 pounder will join senior teammates Drake Jackson, Landon Young and Luke Fortner as four of the top ten returning lineman in the SEC.

Kinnard’s running blocking is on an elite level; he must improve his pass protection and hand placement. Kentucky has one of the top offensive lines in the SEC in 2020.

  1. Deonte Brown, Guard, Alabama: Brown is an absolute beast at every bit six-foot four, 340 pounds.

He grew up in the Auburn game against Derrick Brown as a true testament to his strength.

Deonte Brown is a smooth athlete who gets to his spots on time. If he is to grow, he must improve his pass protection, especially against quicker pass rushers.

Expect another strong season from Brown as the Crimson Tide looks to regain the SEC West title.

  1. Trey Smith, Guard, Tennessee: Smith is one the most seasoned offensive linemen in the SEC, with 31 career starts.

He played tackle in his freshman season and earned Freshman All American and second team All SEC honors. Smith moved to Guard last season and earned first team All SEC while battling blood clot issues. I won’t be surprised if he is on the short list for the Outland Trophy in 2020.

  1. Alex Leatherwood, Tackle, Alabama: If you haven’t noticed, The Crimson Tide will have the best offensive line in the SEC and arguably all of College football in 2020.

Alex Leatherwood will be the heart and soul of the Tide’s offensive line. Bama returns four starters from a line that allowed the fewest number of sacks in the SEC last season.

They were also fourth in the SEC in rushing offense. The six-foot-six, 310-pound Leatherwood allowed only two sacks in the past two seasons.

Leatherwood was also first team All SEC and many experts predict he’ll follow in the footsteps of Jonah Williams, a first round draft pick.

Just outside the Top 5: Cade Mays, Tennessee; Drake Jackson, Kentucky; Trey Hill and Ben Cleveland, Georgia; Austin Deculus, LSU; Steward Reese, Florida; Dylan Wannam, South Carolina.

Top Tight Ends

By: Robert Craft news services

As I continue my position-by-position analysis toward the best returning players in the SEC, this week we look at the tight ends. They are the unsung heroes when it comes to pass catchers.

Tight ends have some of the most important responsibilities on offense. They have to effectively block and move the chains on key third downs. All the players on this list have displayed these traits, and they are looking to deliver in the clutch in 2020.

  1. Tre’ McKitty, Georgia: With Eli Wolf and Charlie Woerner departed, it was necessary for Kirby Smart to go out and find an available veteran to work with an otherwise young and inexperienced group of tight ends.

McKitty, a former three-star tight end, has spent the last three seasons at Florida State. McKitty’s stats at Florida State were 50 receptions for 520 yards. Georgia landed the number two high school tight end in 2020 in Darnell Washington.

They will likely be involved in one of the more explosive 1,2 punches at the tight end position in the SEC.

  1. Jamal Pettigrew, LSU: Jamal Pettigrew is a redshirt senior that missed all the 2018 season with a torn ACL. With limited playing time in 2019, Pettigrew caught only 2 passes for 17 yards.

LSU secured the number one tight end in the 2020 recruiting class. Arik Gilbert, a 6-foot 6 253 pound athlete from Marietta, Georgia.

LSU is in a similar boat as Georgia, as Pettigrew will be the experienced player mentoring the athletic freshman.

  1. Kenny Yeboah, Ole Miss: Yeboah is a graduate transfer from Temple. The 6 foot 5, 240 pound Yeboah comes to Ole Miss after catching 47 passes for 538 yards and 6 touchdowns during his time at Temple.

He shows impressive bursts from the tight end position by averaging 12.3 yards per catch, including his longest of 53 yards.

Head Coach Lane Kiffin’s system fit Yeboah’s skill set. Kiffin’s tight end last season at Florida Atlantic won the Mackey Award for the nation’s top tight end after leading D1 Football with 65 catches.

  1. Jalen Wydermeyer, Texas A&M: Wydermeyer made a name for himself in the SEC and led the Aggies in touchdown receptions as a true freshman.

He was Freshman All American, SEC All Freshman and second team All SEC after catching 32 passes for 447 yards and 6 touchdowns.

A strong bond developed between Wydermeyer and quarterback Kellen Mond over the course of the 2019 season.

The 6 foot 5, 260 pounder looks to take advantage of size and frame in 2020. Jimbo Fisher has a long track record of utilizing the tight end in the passing game.

  1. Kyle Pitts, Florida: Pitts is the most athletic and dangerous tight end in the SEC, hands down. He has tremendous size standing 6 foot 6, 240 pounds and he uses his frame to his advantage.

Pitts had at least five or more receptions in four different games in 2019.

After an impressive breakout year in 2019, Pitts is ready to take his talent to the next level.

He recorded 54 receptions for 649 yards and 5 touchdowns and earned first team ALL SEC. With the departure of four starting wide receivers, Pitts should earn more targets from Kyle Trask.

He is too fast for linebackers and too big for safeties in 1-on-1 coverage. Pitts could improve his blocking, but remains an exploitable mismatch in the passing game.

Just outside the top five: Major Tennison, Alabama; Austin Pope, Tennessee; Hudson Henry Arkansas; Break out player John Samuel Shenker, Auburn.

Wide Open

By: Robert Craft news services

Some wide receivers can beat you with their speed, while others can use their size and footwork as an advantage.

To be a productive wide receiver in the SEC, you have to be able to catch, block, and run crisp routes.

The SEC has produced first round wide receivers in 2019 with Jerry Jeudy (Alabama), Henry Ruggs (Alabama) and Justin Jefferson (LSU). The next class of future pro wide receivers in the SEC is ready to strike.

Here are my top five returning wide receivers in the SEC.

5.Elijah Moore, Ole Miss: Elijah Moore is more than just that guy who “pretended to pee on the field” at the Egg Bowl. Moore led all Ole Miss’s wide receivers with 67 receptions, 850 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Ole Miss’s seven other wide receivers combined for 55 catches.

With Lane Kiffen now running the show in Oxford, Moore should get even more opportunities to show he is one of the top SEC wide receivers.

4.Jaylen Waddle, Alabama: Jaylen Waddle has blazing speed. In two seasons at Alabama, Waddle caught 78 passes for 1,408 yards and 13 touchdowns, and had a breakout performance in the Iron Bowl with 230 all-purpose yards and 4 touchdowns.

Waddle’s prowess in the return game is electric. He led the nation in punt return average at 24.4 yards per return with 20 returns for 487 yards and a touchdown. He also returned five kickoffs for 175 yards and a touchdown.

3.George Pickens, Georgia: George Pickens may not have the same 2019 stats as the others on my list, but there are few receivers with his upside heading into 2020.

Pickens posted a stat line of 49 catches, 727 yards and 8 touchdowns (all SEC best for freshmen in 2019).

Pickens took his game to another level in the Sugar Bowl, making a game high 12 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown.

With new offensive coordinator Todd Monken and new quarterback Jamie Newman, Pickens’s game is about to get a lot more exciting.

2.DeVonta Smith, Alabama: It is hard to believe DeVonta Smith is already entering his senior season at Alabama. It seemed like yesterday when Smith wrote his name in college football history when he hauled in that 41-yard touchdown pass in overtime to seal a national title victory over Georgia.

In 2019, Smith caught 68 passes for 1,256 yards and 14 touchdowns.

He is a six foot one, 175-pound receiver who knows how to earn yards after the catch. Smith earned second team All-SEC and All-American honors in 2019.

Smith was one of the best playmakers in the country in 2019, with two first round draft picks on his roster. In 2020, Smith has a chance to be a bigger focal point in the offense and the opportunity to become a household name.

1.Ja’Marr Chase, LSU:  The best returning wide receiver in the SEC is also last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner.

Ja’Marr Chase led the country in receiving yards with 1,780 and ended his season receiving 20 touchdowns.

Chase broke both the SEC single season receiving yards and touchdown catches, while earning unanimous All American and All SEC honors as a true sophomore.

In 2020, Chase won’t have Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow throwing to him, but nevertheless he should still have another monster season.

Just outside the top 5:Terrace Marshall, LSU; Seth Williams, Auburn; Jhamon Ausbon, Texas A&M. Break out player Osirus Mitchell, Mississippi State.

Running Back

By: Robert Craft news services

In 2019, the SEC leading rusher was wide receiver Lynn Bowden of Kentucky. It was a strange season for running backs in the SEC.

There are star running backs in the 2020 season at nearly every SEC school. There might not be the star power of Todd Gurley and Derrick Henry, and there might not be a once in a generation player like Herschel Walker or Bo Jackson.

Here is my ranking of the five best running backs in the SEC heading into the 2020 season.

  1. Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M: Spiller started seven games as a true freshman at A&M in 2019 and led the Aggies in rushing.

He finished the year with 946 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. He posted 217 yards and 3 touchdowns, tying the school’s freshman rushing record.

Spiller stepped up big time last season after the Aggies lost running back Jashaun Corbin to a season ending hamstring injury in September and Vernon Jackson to a career ending neck injury in the same month.

He was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team, voted on by the SEC head coaches.

  1. Rakeen Boyd, Arkansas: Boyd was the lone bright spot in the Arkansas offense in 2019. He rushed for 1,133 yards and scored 8 touchdowns.

He started his college career at Texas A&M before transferring to Arkansas. Boyd spent one year at Independence Community College (Last Chance U).

Boyd has been the bell cow for the Razorbacks for the two seasons. New Head Coach Sam Pittman should continue to rely on him to be a major contributor in the Razorbacks offense.

  1. Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss: Ealy earned second team All SEC and All SEC Freshman accolades in 2019.

Ealy is a two-sport athlete at Ole Miss playing football and baseball.

He led the SEC in kickoff returns and fifth nationally in all-purpose yardage among freshmen.

He rushed for 722 yards and 6 touchdowns.

New Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin has proven he can make a star of running backs, as FAU’s Devin Singletary set school records and was drafted in the third-round pick under Kiffin’s leadership.

  1. Zamir White, Georgia: White was the number one running back coming out of high school in 2018. With D’Andre Swift leaving for the NFL, now it should be White’s time in Athens.

White gave a sneak preview in the Sugar Bowl against Baylor, with 18 carries for 92 yards.

Health is a major concern with Zamir after the two torn ACLs. He should put up huge numbers in new offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s offense.

  1. Najee Harris, Alabama:  When Najee Harris arrived at Alabama, the five-star prospect was expected to follow in Derrick Henry’s footsteps. Three years later and Harris has not posted the huge numbers some pundits predicted.

The main reason is because Tua Tagovailoa. Tua directed one of the most prolific passing attacks in college football the past two seasons.

In 2019, Harris finished with 1,224 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. He added 304 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns. In 2020, Alabama will have a new quarterback under center and Harris should benefit with a heavier workload.

He is a bona fide star on a team full of five-star athletes. It is not out of the realm of possibility Najee is a top Heisman Candidate.

Players just outside the top five: Larry Rountree, Missouri; Kylin Hill, Mississippi State; Trey Sanders, Alabama; Kenny McIntosh, Georgia and Eric Gray, Tennessee.

Breakout player of the year Dameon Pierce, Florida.

New Kids On the Block

By: Robert Craft news services

There’s a changing of the guard taking place at quarterback in the SEC this season, following the exit of three of the top passers in the league: Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Jake Fromm.

Ranking this year’s best is a serious challenge considering all the new faces. Of my top five SEC quarterbacks entering the 2020 College Football season, two are transfers.

Despite losing a phenomenal group of quarterbacks, the conference still has elite talent returning in 2020.

  1. K J Costello, Mississippi State: Costello should flourish in Mike Leach’s Air Raid system in Starkville.

He is a transfer from Stanford, and he has shown the talent to be a top tier quarterback not only in the SEC, but nationally.

In 2018, Castello was healthy and threw for over 3,500 yards and 29 touchdowns.

He is the prototype pocket passer standing 6 foot 5 and weighing 225. He is an accurate passer and has a chance to lead the SEC in passing.

  1. Mac Jones, Alabama: Jones is the toughest guy to predict on this list because of his limited exposure and a bunch of first round draft picks catching passes.

Looking at the numbers 68.8% completions, 1,503 passing yards and 14 touchdowns in four and a half games. The two interceptions against Auburn in the Iron Bowl make me question his decision making.

Bottom line, he is not Tua. He will be surrounded by talent on both sides of the ball. Alabama has the number 1 returning roster.

  1. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M: No one questions Mond’s arm strength, escapability or accuracy, but his consistency must improve.

Mond is a three-year starter under Coach Jimbo Fisher. He has shown improvement each of his seasons at A&M.

Last season, he threw for 2,897 yards, 20 touchdowns, rushed for 500 yards and 8 touchdowns. The Aggies are coming off an 8-5 season, in which they lost to Clemson, Alabama and LSU by double digits.

He has been productive but not at his best in the SEC level. Jimbo expects that to change in his senior campaign.

  1. Jamie Newman, Georgia: A season ago, Newman had 2,868 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, 574 yards rushing and 6 touchdowns for Wake Forest.

With a better supporting cast around him and new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, Newman could potentially break out.

If the Bulldog’s can tap into Newman’s elite skill set while he trims down turnovers, he will be the best in the SEC in 2020.

My reason for Newman 2nd is the quarantine. He has not been able to work with Monken or his new teammates.

1.Kyle Trask, Florida: Trask wasn’t even the starter at the beginning of 2019, sitting behind Feleipe Franks (now a graduate transfer at Arkansas).

Trask, as is well documented, didn’t even start for his high school team, instead he was watching D’Eriq King (now a graduate transfer at Miami) light it up.

He got his opportunity when Franks went down and never looked back, leading the Gators to 11 wins and completing 66.9 percent of his passes for 2,941 yards, 25 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Trask is steady and he makes the plays that win games.

He needs to work on his quickness and getting the football out faster.

Florida has to replace Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain and Tyrie Cleveland, three starting wide receivers that went in the NFL Draft.

Now, entering the 2020 season, Kyle Trask is expected to be the top-rated quarterback in the SEC.

Outside The 5: A few players right outside the top 5 are Terry Wilson, Bo Nix, and John Rhys Plumblee. My sleeper SEC quarterback is Myles Brennan.

The Fall Of Fromm

By: Robert Craft news services

Jake Fromm’s career at the University of Georgia ended when he declared for the 2020 NFL Draft. Fromm was a three-year starter at Georgia. He took over for Jacob Eason early in his Freshman season and led Georgia to a National Championship Game.

His 8,224 career passing yards is fourth all-time in Georgia history. He’s second all-time in passing touchdowns with 78, fourth in completions with 621 and 5th in attempts with 982.

Those numbers are, honestly, not all that flashy; however, Fromm was 36-7, led Georgia to three straight SEC Championship Games, a playoff appearance, and national title appearance. Fromm is the greatest quarterback in modern Georgia’s football history.

Let’s go back to 2019. At this time ESPN was predicting Fromm to be the number 1 pick in the draft. So why did Jake slip so far in the NFL draft?

Fromm’s slide became the hot topic during the final day of the 2020 NFL Draft. Fromm looked visibly uncomfortable every time ESPN panned in his home.

The reason for his stock to drop is the pre-draft process did not go well for Jake.  At the combine, he ran a horrible 40-yard dash (5.01). In the passing drills, he showed a lack of arm strength. His physical measurements were also in the low decile.

Due to Covid-19, Fromm was not able to have a pro day and was unable to meet face to face with teams.

To me, getting picked by the Buffalo Bills in the 5th round with the 167th pick was a surprise. Buffalo already has a young starting quarterback in Josh Allen.

Jake Fromm’s fall in the draft highlights a flaw in Kirby Smart’s four seasons at Georgia. Smart’s offense is on its third offensive coordinator in three years. That does decline a player’s stock, no matter how many people say it doesn’t.

Smart’s quarterback room in 2018 included Justin Fields but Fields transferred to Ohio State. In his first season with the Buckeyes, Fields threw for 3,273 yards, 41 touchdowns, rushed for 484 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Georgia could not find a way to maximize Fields’ skills but somehow Ryan Day figured it out immediately in Columbus. Kirby had a couple of top quarterbacks in his program, but somehow ended up utilizing them poorly.

Why didn’t Fromm return to Georgia? Fromm left Georgia because the offense was not highlighting his skills. He escaped an offense that was sick with talent deficiency in the wide receiver department, as well as inexperience at coordinator positions and lack of creativity.

Jake Fromm’s numbers spoke for why he entered the draft.  His completion percentage dipped by seven points, he threw six less touchdowns, and attempted 78 fewer passes.

Combine Jake’s poor showing at the NFL combine with Kirby Smart’s inept offense and now you see why Jake dropped to the 5th round.

The big question for Georgia fans: Was it more gut-wrenching watching Jake Fromm end up being picked in the fifth round? Or, watching former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields go top 10 in next year’s NFL Draft?