SEC Football: 12 Backups Who Could Start in Another Conference
In SEC football, like many power conferences, a number of talented players are relegated to reserve roles because of logjams at their respective positions.
One late spring departure perfectly illustrates that point for the SEC.
Former Texas A&M quarterback Matt Joeckel left the program, apparently convinced he wouldn’t win the starting spot.
He ultimately chose TCU as his new destination, where he seems like a front-runner for the starting position.
Today we try to find more players who, like Joeckel, could leave their current programs and find substantially more playing time elsewhere.
SEC coaches aren’t especially keen on releasing post-spring practice depth charts, so much of this list consists of best guesses.
Here’s our list.
LB Kendell Beckwith, LSU
D.J. Welter, last year’s second-leading tackler, made himself a target amongst a small contingency of LSU fans with his inconsistent play.
That portion of the fanbase would love to see Kendell Beckwith crack the lineup and take over in the middle of the Tigers defense.
Beckwith arrived in Baton Rouge highly acclaimed as 247Sports’ No. 68 overall prospect in 2013.
It wouldn’t have taken him this long to crack the starting lineup on a number of other programs, but he heads into fall camp needing to beat out Welter to earn a starting nod.
DE Elijah Daniel, Auburn
Even with the loss of Dee Ford, Auburn is loaded at the defensive end position.
LaDarius Owens returns for his senior year and should again lock down a starting spot.
Across the line, talented true sophomores Elijah Daniel and Carl Lawson will duke it out for the starting nod.
This will be a trend on this list: With battles not yet decided, one player should win the job and keep another talented player off the field.
In this case, we simply favor Lawson—not Daniel—to ultimately start.
If the projection went the other way, Lawson would have made this list.
LB Reuben Foster, Alabama
The way Nick Saban recruits leaves numerous high-profile former prospects without a starting spot even in their second seasons or later.
Uber-prospect Reuben Foster enters his sophomore season hoping to beat out Reggie Ragland, rated by 247Sports as a top-50 recruit in 2012.
It should come as no surprise that Saban stockpiled talent at linebacker. The position has been one of strength since he started assembling recruiting classes in Tuscaloosa.
Consider this just another example of sensational depth from which defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has the luxury to choose.
RB Derrick Henry, Alabama
Living up to the hype Derrick Henry arrived at Alabama with would have been difficult.
Much was expected of the 6'3", 240-pound freak with breakaway speed, but the Crimson Tide’s depth kept him off the field.
When Alabama finally called on Henry, though, the true freshman delivered on his significant promise.
Henry averaged 10.6 yards per attempt on his 36 carries and took a catch 61 yards for a score. He also scored four total touchdowns.
Though Henry seems destined for greatness, he will likely back up two-time All-SEC selection T.J. Yeldon.
WR Nick Jones, South Carolina
Cracking South Carolina’s starting lineup as a receiver could prove difficult for Nick Jones, who caught 27 passes for 281 yards and five touchdowns last year.
The Gamecocks enter the 2014 season loaded at the position, with Damiere Byrd, Shaq Roland and Pharoh Cooper all likely favorites to see extended time.
Fortunately for Jones, Steve Spurrier is no stranger to getting a number of different players involved in a passing game.
While Jones might not start, he will get plenty of opportunities.
He could, however, likely be a primary contributor in another program.
RB Keith Marshall, Georgia
Backing up Todd Gurley is no easy task.
Yet Keith Marshall provides a change of pace to his bullish, physical teammate.
A knee injury prematurely ended Marshall’s 2013 season, but he—like Gurley—broke out as a true freshman.
Gurley took the majority of the carries, but Marshall got plenty of looks as well in 2012. He rushed 117 times for 759 yards and eight touchdowns.
Marshall broke three runs for 50 yards or more against SEC opponents as a freshman.
OT Grant Hill, Alabama
As a true freshman, Grant Hill spent part of the season as a pleasant surprise seemingly ready to make a push for a starting position.
Spring came and went, though, and he still has plenty of work to do to secure a spot thanks to the tremendous depth Alabama has amassed.
Hill finds himself chasing Austin Shepherd at right tackle.
Incoming true freshman Cam Robinson, rated by 247Sports as the top-ranked offensive tackle, emerged as the clear front-runner for the left tackle position after enrolling early for spring practice.
Even if Hill doesn’t become a starter right away, he will be a quality swingman along the line.
Still, he would start for a number of other programs.
QB Kenny Hill, Texas A&M
Entering fall camp, Kenny Hill still seems to have a reasonable chance to open the year at quarterback for Texas A&M.
He must beat out true freshman Kyle Allen, who impressed during spring practice, to do so.
Hill didn’t help his own case, however, getting arrested and subsequently suspended for public intoxication.
The son of former Major League Baseball pitcher Ken Hill, the younger Hill is athletic and possesses a strong arm.
Not only could Hill start elsewhere, it’s a reasonable bet he will do so if Allen wins the job, especially considering the quarterback talent Kevin Sumlin continues to bring in to College Station.
RB Marcus Murphy, Missouri
Though Marcus Murphy has taken a number of handoffs since arriving at Missouri, he likely enters the 2014 season behind Russell Hansbrough on the depth chart.
Murphy hasn’t been called upon to show the durability to take a regular pounding in a conference like the SEC, but he has displayed breakaway speed as the Tigers’ home-run threat.
As a reserve last year, Murphy broke at least one 10-yard gain in nine of 13 games—and busted a 20-yard gain in four—despite getting just 92 carries.
RB Kelvin Taylor, Florida
The son of longtime Jacksonville Jaguars tailback Fred Taylor shined as one of the few bright spots for an otherwise bleak season at Florida.
Yet Kelvin Taylor faces significant competition to land the starting role with Matt Jones and Mack Brown both returning from injury.
Whichever player, Taylor or Jones, doesn’t emerge as the starter likely could for a number of non-SEC programs.
DE Channing Ward, Ole Miss
Too much talent is hardly a problem for Ole Miss, especially at a position like defensive end where teams typically prefer to cycle in fresh players.
The Rebels boast a trio of ends who could start for numerous programs, with Channing Ward likely the odd man out in the starting lineup.
C.J. Johnson returns from a leg injury that cost him most of the 2013 season, and Robert Nkemdiche’s talent makes him a virtual must-start.
Their presence relegates Ward to backup status.
Still, Ward showed last year he can make the most of his opportunities. He only earned one sack but registered seven quarterback hurries and a pair of forced fumbles.
RB Jonathan Williams, Arkansas
Unless Bret Bielema moves to the Wing-T or Wishbone offense, Arkansas can typically only field one tailback at a time.
That means either Jonathan Williams or Alex Collins doesn’t start.
It hardly matters which one technically makes the field for the opening play in the game; either could start for a number of programs outside of Fayetteville.