2019 College Fantasy Football: SEC Preview
The SEC is known for its ground and pound offenses and stellar defensive play. After a big offseason for coaching changes in 2018, all of the SEc programs held with what they had for the 2019 season. 2018 saw Kentucky snap Florida’s 30+ year winning streak, the strangest punt return ever, and another CFP appearance for the Tide.
What’s in store for 2019? Can Dan Mullen and Jeremy Pruitt keep making strides? Will Arkansas look vastly improved from 2018? Who does Auburn look to with Jarrett Stidham gone? These are some questions among others that I hope to answer in this piece. Enjoy.
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CFF 2019: SEC Preview
Alabama Crimson Tide
Additions: QB Taulia Tagovailoa, RB Trey Sanders, TE Jahleel Billingsley, WR John Metchie
Coaching Changes: Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian
Alabama’s offense from last season was likely the most exciting an Alabama offense has ever been. Tua Tagovailoa didn’t play the fourth quarter for most of the season and the receivers were electric.
Tua is universally considered a top-10 fantasy option at quarterback. He’s an incredible arm talent, he’s mobile, and he’s going to score almost all of Alabama’s touchdowns. Tagovailoa doesn’t do things alone though. Alabama has one of the best wide receiver units in college football and keeps four of their five top producers from last season. Jerry Jeudy is still the man through the air and Henry Ruggs III is also worth some consideration.
The loss of Irv Smith Jr. played a huge roll in this offense last season and the Tide have multiple bodies that are vying for that spot. Incoming freshman Jahleel Billingsley could be the answer to that. Billingsley’s athleticism as a runner and a receiver could make him an asset early for the Tide. 2019’s top running back Trey Sanders is expected to take a role behind Najee Harris who’s breakout season may finally be here. Sanders is an incredible prospect and will eat his way into more and more carries every week.
Losses: QB Ty Storey, WR La’Michael Pettway, QB Cole Kelley, WR Jared Cornelius
Retentions: RB Rakeem Boyd, QB Connor Noland
Chad Morris is in his second year at a school in which he’s made to do a whole overhaul. Last season’s Arkansas team was dreadful and that was mostly due to the wildly inconsistent quarterback play of Ty Storey and Cole Kelley.
This season, Morris has better quarterback options in Texas A&M-transfer Nick Starkel and SMU-transfer Ben Hicks. Hicks knows Morris’ system left and right and Starkel showed promise in his lone season as a starter in 2017. Either way, both options are better than what Morris had last season.
The Razorbacks lose their biggest offensive producer from last season in La’Michael Pettway who averaged 16.6 yards per reception despite abysmal quarterback play. They also keep Rakeem Boyd who came on late in the season. Boyd came in as the No. 2 JUCO running back of 2018 and could’ve topped 1,000 yards had it not been for some injuries.
Morris sold the mess out of playing time this recruiting class and it paid off as he landed a top-25 recruiting class. Treylon Burks and Trey Knox could start right away from the Razorbacks and I have Burks set as one of my feature Arkansas Wide Receivers. Also, Hudson Henry, brother of San Diego Charger Hunter Henry, joined the Razorbacks. CJ O’Grady’s usage from last season makes me a firm believer in Henry’s upside.
Additions: QB Bo Nix, WR/RB Mark-Antony Richards, WR Jashawn Sheffield, TE Jay Jay Wilson
Retentions: RB JaTarvious Whitlow, RB Kam Martin
The Auburn Tigers just didn’t look great offensively last season. Jarrett Stidham’s skill set didn’t match up, Boobie Whitlow was hurt most of last season, and Ryan Davis caught 69 balls while coming nowhere close to 1,000 yards.
2019 is poised to be much different. Whitlow has had a whole offense to heal up and get bigger. Whether it’s Bo Nix or Malik Willis, the Tigers are going back to a mobile quarterback again, Praise God. The only real issue lies at receiver. They lose both Ryan Davis and Darius Slayton who led the team in receiving yards and receptions a season ago. Although they bring in Jashawn Sheffield, they lost long term-commit George Pickens on signing day to Georgia.
Can Gus Malzahn revert back to the 2014 offense that gave us Nick Marshall, Cameron Artis-Payne, and Duke Williams? Or will we get more of the same from the former-Arkansas coach?
Additions: QB Jalon Jones, TE Keon Zipperer, Arjei Henderson
Losses: RB Jordan Scarlett
Florida’s 2018 season wasn’t too bad. Dan Mullen made Feleipe Franks into a not terrible quarterback, they finished second in the SEC East, and capped off the year by demolishing Michigan. Even their loss to Kentucky didn’t look bad by the end of the season given the Wildcats seasonal success.
In year two of Dan Mullen, there are some similarities but some differences. The receiving corps remains strong with Van Jefferson and Tyrie Cleveland. They even add in Ohio State-transfer Trevon Grimes and Arjei Henderson to make this an even deeper and talented unit.
Lamical Perine returns as the leading rusher from 2018 and Malik Davis is aiming to take a larger role now that he’s healthy again. Franks is probably QB1 going into the Spring but the battle between he and Emory Jones is in full swing. Franks sharpened up his throwing motion this offseason but Jones has the higher ceiling. If Jones gets this playbook down, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Mullen make the change. Franks had nice highs but plummeting lows last season. Who proves to be the better man this season?
Additions: WR Lawrence Cager, TE Ryland Goede, QB Dwan Mathis, WR George Pickens, WR Dominick Blaylock, RB Kenny McIntosh
Coaching Changes: Offensive Coordinator James Coley
Georgia lost a lot over the offseason but they seem to have replaced most of it. They lost Mecole Hardman, Terry Godwin, and Riley Ridley and bring in Lawrence Cager from Miami, George Pickens, and Dominick Blaylock. To replace Isaac Nauta, they picked up Ryland Goede who was ranked among the top three tight ends in the 2019 recruiting class.
Jake Fromm surely appreciates the assistance from the receivers above as well as Cal-transfer Demetris Robertson. Georgia’s offense doesn’t emphasize the receiving game so I’m not going to waste too much time on it. Now to the good stuff.
The Bulldogs return D’Andre Swift who led the dogs in rushing yards a season ago. Swift had a fantastic November and finished the year up with 6.4 yards per carry. The Dogs finally get back Zamir White who was the top-ranked back in the 2018 class. White tore his ACL before last season and if he can stay healthy and return back to the explosiveness he displayed in high school then he should top 1,000 yards.
The top two backs from the last two seasons went for more than 1,000 yards and White and Swift will make a great paring. If White can’t remain on the field, the addition of Kenny McIntosh, the power back from Fort Lauderdale, who walked into Georgia’s weight room already close to 200 pounds.
Additions: RB Travis Tisdale
Losses: TE CJ Conrad, RB Benny Snell
Kentucky is coming off of one of the best seasons in recent program history. They had Benny Snell set the new career rushing yards and touchdowns record and they defeated Florida for the first time in over 30 years. The problem this season is how much they lost.
Benny Snell’s career with Kentucky is done and their dynamic pass-catching tight end CJ Conrad is gone. Their biggest retention from a season ago is quarterback Terry Wilson. Wilson’s dual-threat abilities led him to a 500+ rushing yard season but his arm talent is seriously lacking. Wilson is surely the centerpiece of the Wildcat offense next season.
Wilson does get leading receiver Lynn Bowden back and a promising young back in Asim Rose who looked solid behind Snell a season ago. If Rose can’t make things happen, is Wilson ready to manage this kind of role? Or is Gunnar Hoak going to have to take over?
Additions: RB John Emery Jr., WR Trey Palmer, RB Tyrion Davis, WR Devonta Lee, QB Peter Parrish, WR Raydarious Jones
LSU looked solid at times last season. They earned a bid to a New Years Six bowl and demolished the Georgia Bulldogs. While they did have an incredible defense, they had enough offense to win games.
LSU relies on an explosive running game to mask their problems in the passing game. While they didn’t have that last year, Nick Brossette and Clyde Edwards-Helaire at least kept things consistent from week to week. This season they add John Emery Jr. and Tyrion Davis.
Davis is a big bruiser of a back that takes multiple men to bring down when he gets a full head of steam. The back I’m most interested in however is John Emery Jr. Emery is referred to as the most explosive back in the 2019 class and just what LSU needs. If he lives up to that hype, he can join in the line of backs that include Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice.
The loss of Foster Moreau is quietly drastic for the Tigers. Moreau’s toughness and blocking and ability played a key role in LSU’s running game and is a problem going into next season. Can they replace Moreau with a capable blocker or will the ground game falter because of it?
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Additions: QB Garrett Schrader, WR JaVonta Payton
Mississippi State had the most frustrating fantasy outfit of any team in college football. Aeris Williams and Kylin Hill never established who the leading rusher and Nick Fitzgerald couldn’t throw a forward pass.
This season is already poised to be an improvement given that Keytoan Thompson is the guy. Thompson flashed last season but was never given an opportunity to steal the job from Fitzgerald. As far as his pass catchers, Stephen Guidry still has the right stuff to make a star and having a better passer instantly improves his fantasy stock.
Kylin Hill was the better of the two backs. Not an assumption, just a fact-based off of evidence. Hill received 10+ carries in 4 games and went over 100 yards in three of the four. With Williams out of the picture, Hill can show why he was the better fit for this offense all along. It also helps that Fitzgerald won’t steal goalline opportunities as well.
Retentions: RB Larry Roundtree III, WR Johnathan Johnson, WR Jalen Knox
Missouri 2018 and Missouri 2019 are night and day when you place them side by side. 2018 featured a pass-heavy attack with two capable backs. 2019 features a mobile quarterback and a strong back that can carry the load on his own.
Kelly Bryant left Clemson after losing out to Trevor Lawrence. His transfer to Missouri surprised many but given Barry Odom’s development of Drew Lock and their experienced offensive line the move makes sense. Bryant’s legs make him fantasy relevant out the gate and the return of Johnathan Johnson assists in the receiving game.
Given that Bryant wants to improve as a passer it makes sense Larry Roundtree III receives a strong bulk of the carries. Roundtree topped 1,200 yards a season ago and has quietly improved from year to year. The Tigers also bring in Shawn Robinson from TCU who looked good until a shoulder injury hurt his production.
Ole Miss Rebels
Additions: QB Grant Tisdale, WR Jadon Jackson, WR Dontario Drummond, RB Jerrion Ealy, WR Dannis Jackson, WR Jonathan Mingo
Coaching Changes: Offensive Coordinator Rich Rodriguez
Ole Miss’ offense showed no signs of regression after Hugh Freeze left and now that they’ve brought in Rich Rodriguez the good times can continue to roll on. The players that have defined the Ole Miss offense over the past several seasons are out the door but a younger grouping of players will help to assure that nothing goes wrong.
Matt Corral is a player high on my list. He’s flashed an amazing arm and great chemistry with the players he will throw to this year. Ole Miss’ previous quarterbacks have shined in the top 15 players for several years and Corral has one of the higher ceilings of them. Rodriguez as an offensive coordinator is fantastic at using his quarterback’s strengths and Corral has a lot of them.
Replacing Metcalf, Brown, and Lodge will come in the form of Braylon Edwards and Elijah Moore. Both Moore and Edwards had their moments last season and Edwards is likely the receiver to own in full-FBS leagues. They add Dannis Jackson and Jonathan Mingo from the 2019 class and JUCO receiver Dontario Drummond who played out of his mind at EMCC.
I’m not worried at all about Ole Miss and their lack of defense will keep their starters on the field longer and keep the offense rolling.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Additions: QB Ryan Hilinski, WR Keveon Mullins
South Carolina’s offense hasn’t looked the same without Steve Spurrier in charge and that has affected their fantasy performance. Their fantasy prospects have mostly rested in their receivers such as Pharaoh Cooper, Hayden Hurst, and Deebo Samuel. Deebo’s dynamic playmaking ability served many owners well but with his departure, who takes over that role?
Bryan Edwards is an obvious apparent as he wasn’t too far behind Deebo in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns and he’s comfortable fighting for balls. Shi Smith appears more as a Deebo-esque player given his size and skill set. Smith had a day against Clemson last season and is the guy if he takes the next step. A Player that caught my eye in the Spring is Jay Urich. Urich is an incredible athlete and was targetted heavily in the Spring game. Is it possible the former-QB is the answer?
I’m curious as to the quarterback position. Jake Bentley flashed at times last season but hasn’t made the strides that many thought he would. Ryan Hilinski was the highest rated Pro-Style quarterback in the 2019 class. If we’ve hit Bentley’s ceiling, is it possible that moving on would be the better decision for the Gamecocks who want to compete with Florida and Georgia?
Additions: WR Ramel Keyton, RB Eric Gray
Coaching Change: Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney
Tennessee’s 5-7 season surprised many. Tennessee was a dumpster fire under Butch Jones and the coaching search that ended with the hiring of Jeremy Pruitt was that much more awful. But to come away just missing a bowl is huge for his first season. 2019 looks bright for the Vols. They miss out on playing Alabama, Auburn, and West Virginia and replace them with Georgia State, UAB, and Mississippi State and return everyone on offense.
Jarrett Guarantano didn’t look awful last season with a 60% completion percentage and 12:3 TD:INT ratio. They also return a capable pair of runners in Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan with the former finishing the last three games of the season with 80+ yards in each game. The offensive line doesn’t lose anyone and they add two five-star offensive tackles and a four-star guard.
I’m also a believer in this running game this season due to the addition of Jim Chaney. Chaney has served as the Offensive Coordinator at Georgia over the previous seasons and produced four total thousand-yard rushers. Jordan and Chandler showed they had the right stuff last season and Guarantano is talented enough to open up the run game like Fromm does for Georgia.
Texas A&M Aggies
Additions: TE Baylor Cupp, WR Kam Brown, WR Dylan Wright, RB Isaiah Spiller, TE Jalen Wydermyer
Jimbo Fisher faced one of the toughest schedules in football in 2019 and managed to escape with a 9-win season and a bowl win over North Carolina State. They also hauled in the No. 3 recruiting class for 2019, finishing behind Alabama and Georgia in the SEC.
Last seasons Aggie offense featured Trayveon Williams who finished with 1,700+ yards on the ground and 19 total touchdowns. Jashaun Corbin, the Six-foot bruiser, is expected to fill that void and own the rock in the backfield. Fisher has a proven track record of successful running backs and I’m not alone in saying that Corbin is next in line for that.
My concerns for this offense rest only in Kellen Mond. The receiving talent was there last season and while receptions leader Jace Sternberger is gone, they replace him with the top Tight End recruit int the 2019 class in Baylor Cupp. While the receivers seemingly got better, Mond somehow stayed the same. Mond’s offseason development was tremendous but he never took that next step during the season. Can Mond make that next stride in 2019?
Additions: QB Riley Neal, WR Justice Shelton-Mosley
Losses: QB Kyle Shurmur
Retentions: RB Keshawn Vaughn, WR Kalija Lipscomb, TE Jared Pinkney
Had Vanderbilt been in any other conference last season they had the experience to contend for a championship. Both the passing and rushing games were solid and they return a lot of that experience to the 2019 Commodores squad.
Kalija Lipscomb and Jared Pinkney led the team in receptions and receiving yards and denied the NFL for one more season of college ball. Keshawn Vaughn went from zero at Illinois to stud at Vandy in one season in both the rushing and receiving game. The only key loss comes at quarterback where they lose an All-Time great Vandy quarterback in Kyle Shurmur.
While the loss of Shurmur stings, they added Riley Neal from Ball State to the roster. Neal left Ball State top five in all-time passing yards and had a strong performance in the Spring. Neal’s always had problems staying healthy at Ball State and a healthy year with this unit will do wonders for his draft stock.
Want to see more Individual Conference Content? Check out Justin’s piece on what the ACC has in store for 2019.
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