Some, just a very small sample size, of the best players in the league that the Bulldogs will face this season … and possibly in Atlanta. 8 SEC offensive standouts:
1. CHAD KELLY – QB, Ole Miss
For the Rebels to have a great season, Kelly has to have a big year. He is certainly confident heading into his final campaign in Oxford. He has a good arm and can move. The Rebels must replace three first-round draft choices from a year ago, but there is talent at the skill positions, with Kelly heading the way.
2. JOSHUA DOBBS – QB, Tennessee
In the Volunteers 38-31 comeback win over Georgia last season in Knoxville, Dobbs had his best performance against a premier opponent.
He has been inconsistent, but Dobbs has the tools. He is an excellent student who knows the game. Dobbs is extremely mobile and has a big arm. Accuracy is his key. Tennessee has the pieces, if Dobbs plays big, the Volunteers could do something special in 2016.
3. LEONARD FOURNETTE – RB, LSU
A legend on the Bayou since his early high school days, Fournette is the most high profile recruit of the Les Miles era, and this standout has lived up to the billing. Once again a Heisman front-runner, Fournette – and his standout understudy Derrious Guice – will carry a majority of the Tigers offensive load. You know that first Saturday in November, Fournette and the Bayou Bengals will be hungry for redemption against Alabama.
4. JALEN HURD – RB, Tennessee
The Volunteers are loaded offensively in 2016, and Hurd is the go-to guy He s an outstanding power runner who delivers the hit, can break tackles and deliver those “big chunk” gainers on low risk plays. Hurd’s power opens up all kinds of options for Dobbs. When they are both in a rhythm, enemy defenses are on their heels. This was the case for the Bulldogs in Knoxville a year ago.
5. CALVIN RIDLEY – WR, Alabama
There was Julio Jones, then Amari Cooper and now Calvin Ridley.
Alabama has had big-play dynamos hauling in touchdowns ever since Nick Saban got the dynasty rolling on the capstone. Ridley, the Sunshine State five star and gem of Bama’s 2015 recruiting class, can do it all. He has the hands, the speed and the moves. Ridley makes defensive coordinators and opposing secondaries wake up in cold sweats. He is a game-breaking/game-changing big play touchdown threat every time the Tide snaps the ball.
6. CHRISTIAN KIRK – WR, Texas A&M
What a jet. The Aggies are loaded at wide receiver, the deepest cast of any team in the league. Every year a new standout pass-catcher shows up in College Station, and Kirk may be the best since the dynamic Mike Evans. The Aggies biggest question has been who is throwing the football. It’s been a turnstile of high profile players under center in College Station. The job now falls to Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight. He has lots of targets, and Kirk is the best of the group.
7. O.J. HOWARD – TE, Alabama
There are a lot of outstanding tight ends in the Southeastern Conference. Georgia has several. Evan Engram at Ole Miss is a potential All-Star, and there are a couple of newcomers around the SEC who offer great promise. It is Howard who is at the top though. He is an outstanding blocker, a power player, who has the rare gift of size, speed, hands and power. He will thrive in the NFL. Lane Kiffin didn’t feature him much last season, but in the title tilt victory over Clemson, he came up with the Tide’s biggest offensive play of the game. Howard and Ridley give Alabama a top flight pair of pass catchers.
8. CAM ROBINSON – OL, Alabama
You may have heard his name over the offseason. For a variety of reasons. On the field, he is the top left tackle prospect in college football, another standout on the Alabama front to protect the passer and clear the way for the ground attack. It looks like he will play against Southern Cal. When Bama runs, it will be behind him. When Bama’s quarterback, whoever that may be, is getting the ball to Ridley and Howard, it is Robinson leading the protection. If he passes the off field tests next May, Robinson could be the second pick in the draft behind Clemson phenom quarterback Deshaun Watson.