As we all continue to wish football was here, I’ll do the best I can to make you think about the sport we all love so dearly. My task tonight for Lunce’s List was to name the five SEC players that I think will have a breakout season this year.
There are a lot of different routes I could go with this, but here are the five I came up with:
1. RB D’Andre Swift (Georgia)
There are some big shoes to fill in Athens as Nick Chubb and Sony Michel leave for the NFL. The first man up to help fill those shoes is D’Andre Swift
Swift had a decent freshman year, still rushing for 597 yards and three touchdowns even splitting carries with those two. While he had just under 600 yards, he averaged 8.2 yards per carry which was in the top 10 nationally and right next to Damien Harris atop the SEC. While he never had a hundred yard game, he was still fairly solid averaging 40 yards a game behind two of the best in the country.
He has shown his ability to be a pass catcher as well, with 15 receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown. This is a guy who grew up in Philly, yet was dying to play in the SEC and never argued about playing time when he had to sit behind Chubb and Michel. He’s about to get his chance as one of the best all-purpose backs in the SEC. He can also block very well out of the backfield which makes him a very valuable player to have and he will be the one feature back for this team even though they have had two the last couple of years.
2. DE Nick Coe (Auburn)
Coe is heading into his sophomore year with Auburn after being redshirted in 2016 and making the SEC all-freshman team last year. He finished last season with only 29 tackles but also had two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. He had a sack and five tackles against Alabama leading to him being the SEC defensive lineman of the week heading into the SEC title game.
At A-Day this year, Coe was the defensive MVP recording two tackles for loss, plus a sack that went for a safety early in the game. You hear comparisons to players like Myles Garrett who had a stellar career at Texas A&M and was the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. He’ll be a great pass rusher next season for Auburn and his numbers will only go up. He’s also a good patient player too and can read the field very well. Don’t be surprised if we’re talking about Coe for defensive player of the year in the SEC next season.
3. QB Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama)
I feel like this is an obvious choice. You’ll have people crying “but Jon, why isn’t Tua first?” I put him down the list a little bit because of a few reasons. First, he has more talent surrounding him than anyone else on this list (in my opinion). Second, we’ve only seen one meaningful half of football from him. He’s yet to start a game and play all the way. But most importantly – the hype train needs to back down a little bit. Everyone is ranking him as one of the best, if not THE best quarterback in all of football going into the season, but once again, we’ve only seen him in clean-up duty and one meaningful half of football. People are making him out to be the next Cam Newton, but let’s pump the brakes.
Athlon put out it’s list of best starting college quarterbacks for 2018. Tua was #2 behind Will Grier from West Virginia. Yes, I do think Tua will be good, but he isn’t even actually the starter yet. There is still some development needed with him despite the raw talent that he has.
Tua threw for 636 yards last year, completing 63.6% of his passes with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.
SHOULD he be the starter this year? Yes. SHOULD he lead Alabama to a great season, perhaps even an SEC title or national title? Yes. He deserves to make this list, but let’s hold off a little bit. In a lot of minds he’s already “broken out”, but with him never having started a game, I included him.
4. RB Ty Chandler (Tennessee)
One of the few bright spots for Tennessee over the last few years has been the running back position. John Kelly played decent the last couple of years, Alvin Kamara was a hidden gem that is clearly showing how good he can be now in the NFL and Jalen Hurd was good before eventually leaving the team for Baylor. The next in line should be Ty Chandler, a smaller running back who is only a sophomore this coming season. He’s only 5-11, 195 lbs, but when given a chance to shine, he performed fairly well. He had 305 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season and will take over starting duties with Kelly gone. He’ll be a dynamic playmaker that if utilized right, can be a major threat.
5. LB K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU)
Arden Key was arguably one of the best players in the SEC the last couple of years and now Dave Aranda needs to find the next player to step up in that position, and that seems to be K’Lavon Chaisson. He had two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss last season while playing the back up role. LSU will need a good edge rusher to stay competitive with the SEC West, and LSU hopes this is the next guy.
He has raw talent and hasn’t actually played a ton of football in his career. However, he went to an LSU football camp in June 2015 to support a few friends from his high school and one of his high school coaches told him to get on the field and show the coaches what he had, and a few hours later – he had earned a scholarship to LSU. He then played a couple of seasons at North Shore high school before becoming the #3 weak-side defensive end in the country and was ranked #11 overall in the nation according to 247Sports.
WR Jhamon Ausbon (Texas A&M)
WR Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)
LB Dylan Moses (Alabama)