This story appears in ESPN College Football 2016, on newsstands now. Order online today!
Leonard Fournette and Myles Garrett don’t need to fend off any preseason challengers.
But not everybody has the same job security as Fournette, LSU’s star running back, and Texas A&M’s all-world pass-rusher, Garrett.
Here’s the biggest position battle for all 14 SEC teams, presented in order of projected finish.
East DivisionTennessee Volunteers : Left tackle
Longtime starter Kyler Kerbyson is gone, and RT Chance Hall missed the spring with an injury, so Brett Kendrick shifted to his spot. That leaves redshirt freshman Drew Richmond to battle senior Dontavius Blair on the left. Richmond could be the future at this position, but he’ll have to adjust after moving from the right side.
As impressive as Jacob Eason was this spring at Georgia, he’s still a true freshman and will have to battle it out this August in order to win the starting gig. John Bazemore/AP PhotoGeorgia Bulldogs : Quarterback
Pick your poison, Georgia. Graduate transfer and returning starter Greyson Lambert struggled deep into SEC play, averaging just 164.3 pass yards per game. Junior Brice Ramsey, the early 2015 favorite, punted almost as much as he threw last season. True freshman Jacob Eason, the top-ranked prep QB in 2016, is clearly the future of the position but has yet to take a collegiate snap. Although Eason boasts the purest talent of the trio, the Bulldogs’ staff has said it wants to bring him along carefully. So many options … so little clarity.
Florida Gators : Quarterback
There will be pressure until a Gators QB finally proves he can consistently throw against SEC opponents. Former starter Treon Harris moved to receiver, then was suspended in the spring, so Luke Del Rio, who walked on last year, is the favorite. Still, Del Rio failed to establish himself in stints at Alabama and Oregon State, which leaves room for Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby and true freshmen Feleipe’ Franks and Kyle Trask to enter the race.
South Carolina Gamecocks : Quarterback
New OC Kurt Roper wants to run an up-tempo spread, so mobility under center will be critical. While a trio of QBs who logged starts in 2015 return (Perry Orth, Lorenzo Nunez, Connor Mitch), true freshman and 2016 ESPN 300 dual-threat Brandon McIlwain may be best suited to run Roper’s O in the long run.
Missouri Tigers : Offensive line
New faces, redshirts and backups abound. Down four starters with nearly 130 career starts, the O-line returns only a couple of semi-familiar names in Nate Crawford and Alec Abeln, who combined for 11 starts last season. Both tackles will start from scratch, while a couple of sophomores, OT Paul Adams and G Kevin Pendleton, got some work toward the end of the season and could man the right side.
Kentucky Wildcats : Linebacker
The Wildcats lose six of their top seven tacklers from 2015, including, most critically,wholesale college football jerseys LB Josh Forrest. The unit was dealt an additional blow with the offseason dismissal of Jason Hatcher (marijuana trafficking), so Kentucky will depend on a pair of Big Ten transfers — Courtney Love from Nebraska and De’Niro Laster from Minnesota — to fill the hole in the defense’s depleted middle.
Vanderbilt Commodores : Safety
Derek Mason’s D relies heavily on its safeties’ ability to play both in the back end and in the box. With Andrew Williamson gone, junior Oren Burks needs help at the other spot. There’s depth (Ryan White, Emmanuel Smith and Arnold Tarpley return), and frosh Joejuan Williams, Vandy’s lone 2016 ESPN 300 prep, enrolled early and will vie for playing time from Day 1.
best site to buy cheap jerseys West DivisionLSU Tigers : Quarterback
For the third time in as many years, Brandon Harris will compete for QB1. (He served as backup in 2014 before being named starter last season.) Harris, a junior, had a solid first half in 2015, playing to a 78.2 QBR through Week 7, only to throw three TDs and five picks in November. The dual-threat QB will face off against a dropback passer, Purdue transfer Danny Etling, to try to kick-start an aerial attack that ranked No. 105 in the FBS (180.4 yards per game).
Alabama Crimson Tide : Quarterback
Count the Tide as yet another SEC team with a question mark at QB. Junior Cooper Bateman lost the starting job to Jake Coker last season, and this year, Bateman must fend off redshirt freshman Blake Barnett and sophomore David Cornwell for the gig. No matter which pro-style passer gets tabbed, he’ll be best website to buy cheap jerseys Lane Kiffin’s third straight first-time starter in Tuscaloosa.
Ole Miss Rebels: Offensive line
All five starters who lined up in the trenches for the Rebels’ Sugar Bowl victory in January are gone. The arrival of five-star signee OT Gregory Little, the second-ranked prep in the 2016 ESPN 300, certainly helps, but potential starters Rod Taylor and Robert Conyers are the only Ole Miss veterans along the O-line (12 combined career starts). A handful of other linemen (Javon Patterson, Jordan Sims, Sean Rawlings) have some starting reps, but the front line is in major rebuilding mode.
Texas A&M Aggies : Running back
The quarterback saga in College Station is compelling, and certainly critical, but finding Tra Carson’s heir apparent at running back will also be vital this fall. Carson was the first 1,000-yard rusher in the Sumlin era, and though the Aggies have a host of backfield options, the unit’s leading veteran is now junior James White, who ran for just 196 yards last season. Look for Oklahoma transfer Keith Ford and three other backs to push for touches.
Mississippi State Bulldogs: buy cheap jerseys Quarterback
Dak Prescott owns every Mississippi State career passing record, so good luck to his successor. In the spring, Mullen rotated four QBs with the first team, all of whom are promising, if inexperienced. Sophomore Nick Fitzgerald went 11-of-14 for 235 yards and three TDs in eight games last season. Damian Williams and Elijah Staley: 75 career attempts combined. Nick Tiano? Freshman. As Mullen said, this one’s wide open.
Auburn Tigers : Quarterback
Jeremy Johnson earned preseason Heisman chatter in 2015 — then tossed six INTs in the Tigers’ first three games. Sean White took over and wasn’t much better, throwing for one TD in seven outings. The two are in the mix for starter again, with juco transfer John Franklin III as a dual-threat option.
Arkansas Razorbacks : Offensive line
Former starting quarterback Brandon Allen’s younger brother, Austin, will inherit the QB reins, but the question now is who will protect him. RT Dan Skipper and C Frank Ragnow return, but the Hogs are otherwise inexperienced. Among potential starters: redshirt freshman Colton Jackson and converted defensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt.