SEC Football Q&A: Fournette for Heisman, Auburn's Young D and Vandy's Bowl Hopes

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SEC Football Q&A: Fournette for Heisman, Auburn's Young D and Vandy's Bowl Hopes
LSU RB commit Leonard Fournette

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! 

No, not at all.

That's not a knock against Leonard Fournette at all. The 5-star stud and No. 1 overall player in the class of 2014 has all the talent in the world and will absolutely be a star in Baton Rouge. But he won't be a star right off the bat.

LSU RB commit Leonard Fournette

Fournette will have two things working against him in the chase for the Heisman—a crowded backfield and the position he plays.

Are Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard superstars? Probably not. But they'll get more carries than Fournette to start the season, due in large part to the fact that they're upperclassmen and will have better grasps of the blocking schemes than Fournette will.

Only two running backs have won the Heisman since 2000, so in order for one to win it in this day and age, he's going to have to put up video-game numbers and hope it's a down year for quarterbacks around the country. The 2014 season isn't a down year for quarterbacks.

With Oregon's Marcus Mariota, UCLA's Brett Hundley, Ohio State's Braxton Miller and, oh yeah, reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston taking snaps at Florida State, it'll be a tough fraternity for Fournette to crack in year one.

Team Stream Now: Leonard Fournette's 2014 stat projections

There are plenty of options, including 4-star cornerbacks Nick Ruffin, Stephen Roberts and Kalvaraz Bessent, who will provide depth to an Auburn secondary that could use some options, especially if the injury bug hits again.

Linebacker Tre' Williams is a future star, but unless starters Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy get hurt, he'll likely be a reserve or redshirt in 2014. 

Photo Credit:
Auburn DE commit Justin Thornton

Designated pass-rushers are an important part of defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's scheme, and because of that, I'll go with 4-star defensive end Justin Thornton as the freshman defender who will have the biggest impact.

Johnson likes to mix up his front in passing situations. If Thornton can be a beast off the edge, it would allow defensive end Carl Lawson or Elijah Daniel to drop down to defensive tackle in speed packages and get after the quarterback. 

Will he be a superstar in year one? Probably not. But a big reason why Auburn has played for the national title in two of the last four seasons was a defensive line that rotated eight or nine players throughout nearly every game. 

Thornton will be part of that rotation this year, and could be counted on in specific packages to make a big difference in the backfield if he shows he can be a force off the edge.

Justin Thornton high school highlights

I'm glad you asked about bowl eligibility, because back-to-back nine-win seasons have set the bar at Vanderbilt pretty high for first-year head coach Derek Mason.

But bowl eligibility isn't too much to ask from Mason in year one.

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason

Vanderbilt's offense will be pretty solid thanks to a dynamic rushing attack with Jerron Seymour and Brian Kimbrow. Whoever emerges as the quarterback—likely Patton Robinette, Johnny McCrary or perhaps former LSU quarterback Stephen Rivers, according to's Jeremy Fowler—will have a reliable running game to fall back on.

I like the pieces Vandy has at linebacker, particularly Caleb Azubike and Kyle Woestmann, but can they be consistent even if the offense goes through lulls like it did late last year?

They can get to a bowl, but they'll have to spring an upset or two along the way. The 'Dores should win their four nonconference games vs. Temple, UMass, Charleston Southern and Old Dominion. So where will the two other wins come from? Kentucky's a reasonable bet. Tennessee and Mississippi State will likely be favored, but wins in those two games aren't out of the question.

I'd put the chances at 60/40 that Vanderbilt doesn't make a bowl. But the 'Dores have surprised me in each of the last three seasons, so another bowl trip could happen.

Yes. Yes we have. But at least conference realignment isn't an offseason thing this year...yet.

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

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