Last week we took a look at the sophomores in the SEC West that need to step up this year to help their team be successful. Now it's time to turn our attention to the SEC...
Florida- Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel (QB): I already touched on this QB battle during one of our roundtables. It's so important to not only this season for Florida but also to Will Muschamp's long term health that I will bring it up again. One of these two youngsters is going to have to step up and take the helm of the Florida offense for them to see any type of turnaround this season. Florida's offensive weapons (Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey) have run out of eligibility and it's up to one of these guys to kick start their offense in the post-John Brantley Gator world.
Georgia- Damian Swann (CB) and Corey Moore (S): The Georgia secondary was once very deep and talented. Now it's still talented but nowhere near as deep. Three back-ups have transferred to seek playing time elsewhere, one talented rising sophomore was kicked off the team and a trio of starters are facing suspensions to start the season. This is where Swann and Moore come in. Swann was going to be expected to probably play nickel this year but with Sanders Commings and possibly Branden Smith gone for the start of the season Swann (along with Malcolm Mitchell) will be starting at safety. Corey Moore will have some big shoes to fill at the start of the season as Bacarri Rambo will potentially miss the first four games. Welcome to the big show guys.
Kentucky- Maxwell Smith (QB): Kentucky is losing a ton of talent on defense but they were dreadful on offense last year and must improve on that side of the football or Joker Phillips will be looking for a new job. If Kentucky is to be better they need Maxwell Smith to step up and grab the QB job by the throat. He doesn't have to be spectacular but if he can just be consistent it could give some of Kentucky's young running backs some breathing room.
Missouri- Kony Ealy (DE)- As a red-shirt freshman last season, Ealy managed to get one sack in thirteen games. That was only four less then the leader for the Tigers. For the Tigers to be a serious contender in the East they are going to need to get after the QB better this season. Mizzou loses two of their top three sack artists from last year and need Ealy, a former four-star recruit, to emerge on one of the edges as a pass rushing threat.
South Carolina- Bruce Ellington (WR)- Will he play or won't he? That was one of the pre-spring storylines for Bruce Ellington and South Carolina. It now looks like he will suit up for football come fall and the Gamecocks will need him as Alshon Jeffrey will be taking his ball to the NFL. Ellington offers the Gamecocks a dual-threat talent on the outside as he can not only hurt you at receiver but also running the football and he was their most prominent kick returner last season.
Tennessee- Marlin Lane (RB)- Sal Sunseri will need help on the defensive side of the football but the guy I think will have the most impact for the sophomore class will be Marlin Lane. Behind a young offensive line, Tennessee was awful running the football last season. Not only were they last in the SEC in yards per game but they only averaged 2.76 yards per carry. If you were wondering, only Memphis and Miami (Ohio) were worse last year. The OL will be one year older this year and if Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter can stay healthy it should open up some lane for Mr Lane to run through.
Vanderbilt- Barron Dixon (DE)- Vanderbilt looks like they can compete in the East on the offensive side of the football. The issue for the Dores is going to be on defense where Chris Marve, Sean Richardson and Casey Heyward are not going to be making the plays. The most likely suspect to make an impact in the sophomore class for Vandy is Barron Dixon. He didn't play much last year but he'll get a chance to go toe-to-toe with the hogmollies in the SEC and will try to limit the exposure of some young true freshmen that will have to play at linebacker for the Dores this season.