SEC Football Q&A: Top RBs, Nick Marshall's Passing Game and Vols in the East

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterApril 18, 2014

Georgia RB Todd Gurley
Georgia RB Todd GurleyUSA TODAY Sports

Every Friday, we feature questions from Twitter. Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC Lead Writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee.


You have SEC questions, and I have SEC answers. Thank you for your questions. If I didn't get to them this week, they will be saved and used in the future.

And we're off! 

@BarrettSallee Who is the best running back in the sec? Why?

— Ben Wallace (@Bill_Braskyy) April 11, 2014

I wrote before spring practice that the best running back in the SEC is Todd Gurley, and nothing has shifted this spring to change my mind.

Georgia RB Todd Gurley
Georgia RB Todd GurleySam Greenwood/Getty Images

At 6'1", 232 pounds with track-star speed, Gurley is everything you want from a running back. He is a bruiser between the tackles, a fantastic receiver out of the backfield and a home run hitter when he gets behind the defense.

No disrespect to South Carolina's Mike Davis, Arkansas' Alex Collins or Alabama's duo of Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon, but if you're starting your college football team with a current SEC running back, I don't see how you go with anybody other than Gurley.

He dealt with a nagging ankle injury last season that cost him three games in the middle of the campaign and hampered him during the final six games. But he still managed to rush for 989 yards, adding 441 yards receiving and 16 total touchdowns for the year. 

Only two running backs have won the Heisman Trophy since 2000, and it's unlikely that one will take it home in 2014. If one does, it'll likely be Gurley.


@BarrettSallee do you think nick Marshall's passing game will improve enough to take some load off the running game.

— Andy Forbus (@AndyForbus) April 11, 2014

Nick Marshall's passing game will absolutely improve.

Marshall clearly has a big arm, but he struggled with consistency when he took something off on short and intermediate routes. But he did have success in those situations, including his game-winning touchdown to C.J. Uzomah against Mississippi State and his absolutely perfect pass to Marcus Davis that set up the game-winning touchdown vs. Texas A&M. He again hit Uzomah for a touchdown in the Iron Bowl.

Auburn QB Nick Marshall
Auburn QB Nick MarshallChris Carlson

The potential is there. He just has to be consistent. What Auburn's coaches have working for them this offseason is that they already know that Marshall is fantastic at running the zone read and hitting the deep ball, and they can focus more on what needs work. Because of that, you have to expect that he's going to become a bit more consistent in the passing game.

But does he really have to for Auburn to be successful?

Head coach Gus Malzahn has four returning starters on the offensive line and has produced 11 1,000-yard rushers in eight seasons as a college assistant. The Tigers will be able to produce an offense in 2014 similar to the one that led them to the BCS National Championship Game after last season.

If Marshall adds just a little bit of consistency in the intermediate passing game, I'm not sure how teams will stop that offense.


@BarrettSallee Vols chances of winning the SEC? I'll hang up and listen.....

— FWIW (@JulianBucio) April 15, 2014

Their chances are less than 15 percent. 

Tennessee's offense will be solid in 2013 with Jalen Hurd and Marlin Lane toting the rock, and Marquez North, Josh Malone and Von Pearson presenting matchup nightmares outside.

Tennessee RB Jalen Hurd
Tennessee RB Jalen HurdWade Payne

But will the Vols stop anybody? Head coach Butch Jones was disappointed in his defense's poor tackling following the spring game.

"The thing I was kind of disappointed in, in the spring game today, was the drop off from ones to twos," he said in quotes released by Tennessee. "We need to generate outs defensively and we didn't generate very many three and outs today."

If that doesn't get significantly better in a hurry, it's hard to imagine the Vols being consistent on defense. That offense will likely be able to pick up the slack no matter who wins the four-man quarterback battle among Justin Worley, Riley Ferguson, Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman. But can it pick up the slack consistently?

I don't think so. Not enough to win the East, anyway.

Tennessee WR Marquez North
Tennessee WR Marquez NorthUSA TODAY Sports


Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC Lead Writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee

* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings are courtesy of 247Sports, and all stats are courtesy of