There are many position battles to be decided during fall camps across the country. Some competitions go deep into the month of September before leaders emerge. This week we will look at the SEC East and West and the positions that need to excel during the month of August. I know some teams have multiple battles, but these are the ones I believe need to be shored up before Aug. 31.
Georgia - Defensive Line
I am looking to see where the numbers and depth will come from across the defensive front. Garrison Smith is the only returning starter, and he finished last season strong with eight tackles versus Georgia Tech to finish the regular season. Ray Drew and Sterling Bailey will compete for the other end spot while a big gap must be filled up the middle. Mike Thornton, Toby Johnson and Chris Mayes could be the key to an improved front.
South Carolina - Linebackers
Five guys from last year’s rotation are gone for the Gamecocks and don’t be surprised if a freshman gets a shot to earn some playing time. Kaiwan Lewis is the key to anchoring the middle and this is not an overly big group by Southeastern Conference standards. TJ Holloman will also play some at that spot and keep an eye on him. Gamecocks need to find three legit starters by Aug. 29.
Florida - Wide Receivers
The Gators have Quinton Dunbar who is a serviceable No. 2 guy. But not having a No. 1 could hinder the Gators championship hopes. Andre Debose has one last year to shine, but the missing star could come by way of the freshman route, like Alabama last season. The Gators have Demarcus Robinson, Ahmad Fullwood, Alvin Bailey, Marqui Hawkins and Chris Thompson. If none of these guys emerge in camp look for Loucheiz Purifoy to play both ways to begin the season.
Vanderbilt - Backfield
The Dores should be set for Game 1 with Austyn Carta-Samuels at quarterback and Wesley Tate at running back. But I think Carta-Samuels did not exactly distinguish himself in the spring, and any signs of going backwards in camp will open up the position. Tate and Brian Kimbrow will share the backfield, but Kimbrow, a top recruit coming out of high school, may have a higher ceiling.
Tennessee - Wide Receivers
The Vols have not settled on a quarterback publicly, but Butch Jones told us at SEC Media Days that Justin Worley was doing all the right things in summer workout. The question is who will he throw to? Jones wants a to run a three-wide set and some top recruits who have not played will need to step up. Vincent Dallas, Jacob Carter and Alton Howard are the top three but keep an eye on Jason Croom, Paul Harris and Devrin Young.
Missouri - Defensive Line
Sheldon Richardson was a wrecking ball last season and was second on the team in tackles. Lucas Vincent will now step up and try to fill those shoes. Matt Hoch, alongside Kony Ealy and Michael Sam, make up the rest of the unit that lacks great size to hold up in the SEC. They will need to develop some depth and stay healthy if they are going to make some noise this season.
Kentucky - Quarterback
You cannot have an Air-Raid offense without a man pulling the string behind center. Maxwell Smith has the experience, but the word is Jalen Whitlow had an eye opening spring. Patrick Towles is one of the top recruits to sign with the Wildcats in years but the job is open as camp begins. Smith had eight touchdowns and just four interceptions in the first three games last year before getting injured and you would think he would take the bull by the horns this camp. Keep an eye on Whitlow however; he looked much improved in the spring.
This and That…
- The more I read about Johnny Manziel the more I think this could be a sink-or-swim type season. Maybe he’s the exception to the rule but his judgment is not what anyone wants to see in his team’s quarterback. I could understand a middle linebacker, but my quarterback needs to make better decisions. Like I said maybe he’s the exception to the rule.
- There is a lot of talk that the Auburn quarterback battle could not only be up for grabs but contain four suitors and not just two. Nick Marshall (who I think will win the job) and Jeremy Johnson are both coming into camp this week with the chance at getting equal reps for Gus Malzahn. He should be able to do this for about a week, but then he will need to narrow his depth chart down to start getting ready for the opener.
- When is the last time the SEC had the best group of quarterbacks in the country? Imagine if Jeff Driskel and Zach Mettenberger play up to their ability and get some help on offense? Both of those guys have NFL bodies and arms. Combine that with the big three of Manziel, McCarron and Murray and it’s not even close in college football.