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The SEC East's Most Indispensable Players

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterDecember 17, 2016

The SEC East's Most Indispensable Players

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    Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs
    Tennessee QB Joshua DobbsMike Carlson/Getty Images

    In college football, depth is the equivalent of gold.

    Every team wants it, few have it and one injury or suspension could derail an entire season.

    The most indispensable player on each team doesn't necessarily have to be the superstar. At Georgia, injuries to Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb in 2014 and 2015, respectively, could have been devastating had it not been for the depth the Bulldogs had built up at the position.

    Who are the most indispensable players in the SEC East in 2016? Here are our picks based on talent and depth.

Florida Gators: WR Antonio Callaway

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    Florida WR Antonio Callaway
    Florida WR Antonio CallawayRob Foldy/Getty Images

    The worst nightmare for Florida is wide receiver Antonio Callaway missing time, and it has already happened.

    The star sophomore receiver for the Gators has missed the first week of spring practice after being suspended in January, according to Scott Carter of GatorZone.com

    Head coach Jim McElwain, the eventual winner of the quarterback battle and the entire Gator team need Callaway in a big way.

    He caught 35 passes for 678 yards and four touchdowns as a true freshman in 2015 and added 28 punt returns for 435 yards and two touchdowns on special teams. 

    "This is a guy that this conference is going to hear about for awhile to come, and rightfully so," McElwain said at media day prior to the 2015 SEC Championship Game. "Not only what he does as a receiver, but obviously as a return guy. He's energized us, and he is a true playmaker. He's a get-it-to-guy, and we're going to make sure he gets his touches."

    That energy simply can't be replaced. 

    Callaway needs to get right with the coaching staff and adjust to the new quarterback once he hits the practice field, because a return trip to Atlanta to the SEC Championship Game isn't very likely if he's not on the field this fall.

Georgia Bulldogs: LB Lorenzo Carter

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    Georgia LB Lorenzo Carter
    Georgia LB Lorenzo CarterFrederick Breedon/Getty Images

    With Georgia down star linebackers Leonard Floyd, Jordan Jenkins and Jake Ganus from last year's squad, somebody has to become the next face of the Georgia defense.

    Lorenzo Carter needs to be that face.

    The 6'6", 242-pounder from Norcross, Georgia, had just 19 tackles in 2015 after a breakout campaign as a true freshman in 2014 that saw him notch 41 tackles, seven for loss and tally 4.5 sacks.

    He has to get back to his 2014 form if Georgia is going to contend for the SEC East and has the perfect opportunity to do so. Davin Bellamy is the most reliable linebacker in the group and will likely start opposite Carter outside under new head coach Kirby Smart. 

    For Georgia to be at its best, it needs its "Sam" linebacker to be a true three-down backer who's stout against the run and brings the heat to quarterbacks on a regular basis. Carter is slated to be that guy and will help the entire front seven if he lives up to his 5-star potential.

    Behind him, there will be options, including Chuks Amaechi and the ultra-versatile Natrez Patrick, but the depth is nowhere near what it was when the Bulldogs linebacking corps was a force. 

Kentucky Wildcats: RB Stanley "Boom" Williams

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    Kentucky RB Stanley "Boom" Williams
    Kentucky RB Stanley "Boom" WilliamsFrederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Kentucky junior running back Stanley "Boom" Williams will be held out of contact this spring, according to Jon Hale of the Courier-Journalafter undergoing elbow surgery during the offseason.

    That's fine.

    As long as the electric 5'9", 196-pounder from Monroe, Georgia, is ready for the fall, new offensive coordinator Eddie Gran will be pleased.

    Williams rushed for 855 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015 and finished second in the SEC among qualifying running backs in yards per carry (7.07) behind LSU's Derrius Guice (8.55).

    He will be the catalyst for the Wildcats in 2016 and needs to stay healthy if head coach Mark Stoops is going to lead the program to its first bowl game under his watch. Whether it's as a running back or as a receiver out of the backfield, "Boom" is one of the most exciting players in college football and needs to be a star.

     

     

Missouri Tigers: DL Charles Harris

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    Missouri DL Charles Harris
    Missouri DL Charles HarrisEd Zurga/Getty Images

    Missouri has earned the moniker of "D-Line Zou," and this year's squad desperately needs its leader to be at his best.

    Charles Harris emerged as the next great Tiger defensive lineman last year when he finished with 56 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss (second-most in the SEC) and seven sacks along a defensive line that needed to find its new identity in the post-Shane Ray/Markus Golden era.

    Next great Missouri edge rush prospect DE Charles Harris (#91)... Burst off ball, bend on speed rush, mixes in inside moves/spins. Explosive

    — Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) March 11, 2016

    It's true that Missouri is loaded up front—perhaps more so than any other position group on either side of the ball—but Harris needs to be the star, stay healthy and force opposing offensive lines to pay him "Jadeveon Clowney-like" attention in order for the rest of his teammates to exploit one-on-one matchups. 

South Carolina Gamecocks: LB Skai Moore

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    South Carolina LB Skai Moore
    South Carolina LB Skai MooreJim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

    Skai Moore has led South Carolina in tackles in each of his first three seasons with the Gamecocks.

    A fourth time wouldn't hurt.

    The 6'2", 218-pounder from Cooper City, Florida, passed at the chance to jump to the NFL and will be the centerpiece of the new-look Gamecock defense under new head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson.

    As Josh Kendall of the State pointed out last week, Muschamp has stated often this offseason that Moore might drop back to more of a hybrid linebacker/safety role at times this year in order to take advantage of his speed and quickness. 

    He's a hard-hitter, clearly has a knack for finding the ball-carrier and is a ball hawk in coverage (11 career interceptions). Moore can't afford a drop-off from his play from the previous two seasons if Muschamp wants to get the program back to a bowl game in 2016. 

Tennessee Volunteers: QB Joshua Dobbs

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    Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs
    Tennessee QB Joshua DobbsMike Carlson/Getty Images

    Tennessee has a ton of experience across the board heading into 2016, and the depth is there at most positions as well.

    Except, of course, at quarterback, where it's Joshua Dobbs and then a bunch of question marks.

    Dobbs threw for 2,291 yards, rushed for 671 and totaled 26 touchdowns (15 passing, 11 rushing) as a junior for the Volunteers in 2015. He's a dynamic dual threat who can hit the home run on the ground, has improved as a passer and will be a contender for the Heisman Trophy in 2016 as long as he stays healthy.

    If he doesn't, though, things could get dicey. 

    Quinten Dormady completed 13 of his 21 passes as Dobbs' backup last year and is the only quarterback on Tennessee's roster with game experience. While Dormady has the talent to be effective, Dobbs is the guy who can make the Vols contenders on the national stage.

    He's earned the trust of head coach Butch Jones in the passing game, comprises a dangerous backfield that includes backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara and needs to be the centerpiece in 2016.

     

Vanderbilt Commodores: RB Ralph Webb

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    Vanderbilt RB Ralph Webb
    Vanderbilt RB Ralph WebbFrederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Yes, you can make the case that Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham is the most indispensable player on Vanderbilt's roster.

    But I have more faith in head coach/defensive coordinator Derek Mason to find a way to make it work without his defensive star than I do in his offensive star—running back Ralph Webb.

    The 5'10", 200-pound junior rushed for 1,152 yards and five touchdowns in a painfully one-dimensional Commodore offense last year and has proved over his two seasons of work in Nashville that he has what it takes to be an every-down back in the SEC.

    With Webb healthy, it gives the Commodore offense something to build on. Without him, they'd likely be lost thanks to an unstable wide receiving situation and the inexperience of quarterback Kyle Shurmur.

     

    Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

    Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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