It’s time for the SEC West installment of position battles and questions that must be answered during fall camp. It’s hard to imagine Alabama having any questions; however we were able to dig up at least one area for the Crimson Tide. The teams with new coaches in Arkansas and Auburn have many questions to answer on both sides of the ball, but for the long-term future of the head coaches and what they want to do philosophically; I think the two battles are very important.
Alabama - Running Back
The Crimson Tide have one of the best backs in the country in T.J. Yeldon. But if there is one thing I have learned the last four years watching Bama is they will play multiple backs.
This year they may throw the ball more and the carries won’t be there as a collective unit, but they still must find a couple guys behind Yeldon. Freshman Derrick Henry who played in the spring before getting injured and Kenyon Drake appear to be the first two to get a shot at the backup spot. Jalston Fowler and Dee Hart are two veterans that have experienced injuries that could show up as well. Alvin Kamara and Altee Tenpenny are two top recruits that may also get into the mix.
LSU - Secondary
The Tigers have just one guy, Craig Loston, who has played meaningful snaps in the secondary. John Chavis will certainly have the front seven ready for the run. And even though it also experienced a ton of losses, I think teams will try to throw on LSU.
The Tigers have talent, but its young and that might show in the first month of the season. Jalen Collins and Jalen Mills should be the corners with Dwayne Thomas and Derrick Raymond challenging for playing time. The other safety is Ronald Martin, but as I mentioned, this group is green and was torched in the spring by Zach Mettenberger.
Texas A&M - Defensive Line
The Aggies were very good on third down a year ago because of the pass rush put on by Damontre Moore. Now this group is looking for a new leader from the likes of Julien Obioha, Gavin Stansbury, Tyrell Taylor and Jordan Points.
Obioha has the look of the next big thing, and coaches have told me he is the guy to watch. On the inside keep an eye on freshman Alonzo Williams, he is undersized but talented. I think teams will be able to run right at the Aggies this year.
Ole Miss - Secondary
The Rebels gave up 21 pass plays over 30 yards last season, second most in the Southeastern Conference. With Nick Brassell going through spring there was hope that the depth would be there this fall. It appears he won’t be available and the young guys who played last year will just have to grow up.
Charles Sawyer is the veteran of the group that includes Senquez Golson, Cody Prewitt and Wesley Pendleton. The fact that the Rebels may be stouter up front could help the guys on the back end.
Auburn - Quarterback
Gus Malzahn cannot have a tempo offense without a signal caller and that could take more time than the month that remains prior to the regular season. The safe bet is Jonathan Wallace; but keep an eye on Juco prospect Nick Marshall. Kiehl Frazier is also in the mix with freshman Jeremy Johnson.
I would not be surprised if Malzahn has two starters to start the season and game plans accordingly. He then would figure out which guy can handle the bright lights of the SEC. The one thing I like about Marshall is the fact that he is an explosive runner with the ball. He gives them a home-run threat at quarterback and no other guys seems to be able to do that.
Mississippi State - Defensive Back
The Bulldogs lost talent to the NFL in Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay and spent much of the spring testing the new blood on the back end.
Jamerson Love will replace Banks and has the talent to be really good, while junior-college transfer Justin Cox also has the ability to play at the next level on the other side. Both guys lack experience, but as Dan Mullen told me in July, the opener versus Oklahoma State will provide plenty.
Nickoe Whitley returns at safety and Jay Hughes had a big spring game. Keep an eye on Will Redmond, a talented freshman in nickel situations.
Arkansas - Running Back
Bret Bielema settled on a quarterback in the spring. Now he must find a running back or two to bolster his ground attack.
Johnthan Williams is a returner who looks to get the early nod, but keep an eye on true freshman Alex Collins from Florida. He only played eight games as a senior against tough competition and churned out 1,400 yards. Nate Holmes and Kody Walker will likely be in the mix as well, but barring injury I could see the combo of Williams and Collins toting the rock for the opener.
This and That
- Mark Richt is getting wise in his old age (OK he’s not old, but is the longest tenured coach in the SEC in one spot) when he “hyped up” Jadevon Clowney this week. South Carolina has won three in a row against the Dawgs and any type of Jedi mind tricks Richt can play could help. He also will likely be without kicker Marshall Morgan the first two games, but he is not saying.
- Florida won’t have Jeff Driskel for two weeks, which is disappointing for the development of the passing game. Remember Loucheiz Purifoy will spend two weeks on defense while the Gators figure out which young receiver is ready to play. His move to offense should coincide with the return of Driskel. The backups have struggled throwing the ball and this may make it tough to evaluate the freshman.
Odds to win the SEC Championship (courtesy Bovada.com)
- Alabama 1/1
- Georgia 7/2
- South Carolina 9/2
- Texas A&M 15/2
- Florida 9/1
- LSU 9/1
- Ole Miss 33/1
- Tennessee 50/1
- Vanderbilt 50/1
- Missouri 66/1
- Arkansas 75/1
- Auburn 75/1
- Mississippi State 75/1
- Kentucky 100/1
Looking for Value I like Florida and LSU and if you’re looking for a long shot save your money. Alabama might be the safest at even money you’re going to find, or you can be just like me and do nothing and just watch and enjoy!