The following is a projected outlook on those players that will most help their respective teams in the 2008 SEC football season.
While there are no sure favorites at this time to step up and take control on either side of the ball for the Tide, this one is hard to predict. Now that doesn’t mean that Bama is void of any quality player. On the contrare, the Crimson squad is full of players who are balanced, with no solid standouts at this point.
The offense will be directed under the command of senior quarterback John Parker Wilson. But no one knows yet how this young man will perform, as 2007 had everyone scratching their heads.
Terry Grant had a great freshman year rushing the ball, but the strength of the team might just be on the defensive side of the ball.
That being said, Rashad Johnson, senior defensive back, will look to live up to his status as team captain.
Johnson, a three year starter for the Tide, will look to further improve upon his 2007 campaign. Last year’s numbers include 81 tackles, which led the team, and six interceptions, which was good for a share of SEC lead and 10th nationally. His experience and ability should make him a threat to opposing offenses and the leader Alabama needs in becoming the Crimson Tide’s 2008 MVP.
Both the offense and the defense have many questions and much mystery surrounding them going into 2008. And with the loss of the nation’s best running back, and another that was perhaps in the top five, Arkansas will certainly be hurting in the backfield this season.
However, one bright spot remains in senior QB Casey Dick.
While many reports discredit his abilities, Dick has proven that he can be a liable threat for the Hogs. Coming into the season he is third on Arkansas’ all-time list for touchdown passes. Further, Dick has 18 consecutive starts at QB, and has an all-time record of 10-0 when he is not picked-off during the game. With new head coach Bobby Petrino and his high-flying offense in place, Dick could have a record-setting season as he becomes the Hogs’ 2008 MVP.
Auburn enters the 2008 season with a few questions of their own. However, their bowl victory over Clemson, under the helm of an offense that has many Auburn fans as giddy as a school girl on prom night, has revived Tiger spirits which once wondered how this season would play out.
While the debate of who will start at quarterback is still lingering, I believe Auburn will look towards the future with a very young Kodi Burns being under center this year. While the potential is there for Burns, unless you have an outstanding supporting cast on offense that ranks as one of the best in the country, or are named Tim Tebow, many quarterbacks that young simply don’t have what it takes to be the true leader.
Running backs Brad Lester and Mario Fanning are both serious threats from many angles, but talent between the two and the new high flying offense may limit the number of times each carries the ball, thus limiting the overall impact each may have.
That leads me to believe that the defense will be Auburn’s stronghold in this transition year, with Junior DB Jerraud Powers leading the way.
Last season Powers recorded four interceptions, a fumble recovery, and 41 solo tackles. Add in five pass deflections and 16 assisted tackles and you have a young man looking forward to another outstanding season, with possible contention to be Auburn’s 2008 MVP.
Well, even a blind man could see this one coming.
When you have the Heisman Trophy winner returning as your quarterback, you know who to expect to carry your team. So, Tim Tebow is the clear favorite for MVP for the Gators, with Percy Harvin nipping at his heels.
As Georgia looks to make its national championship run for 2008, you’ve got to believe this team is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. Particularly though, I believe the offense will outshine the defense this year.
Junior QB Matthew Stafford has an excellent arm, which was evident in the 2500-plus yards he threw last season. His 19 touchdown passes to ten interceptions was good, but must improve if he is going to be the man to carry the team this season.
I for one do believe Stafford will have an excellent season, but his numbers will not be as important to the Dawgs' run for Miami as will be Moreno's.
Knowshon Moreno had a sensational freshman year, gaining over 1300 yards rushing, with 14 touchdowns. Add in another 250-plus yards receiving, giving him almost 1600 yards from scrimmage in just his freshman season, and you have a phenom in the making. Look for Moreno to anchor the backfield in just his sophomore year by becoming UGA’s 2008 MVP.
With the departure of true team leader and quarterback Andre’ Woodson, one of the nation’s best in 2007, the Cats will be searching for someone to step up and take the reigns of this team.
The backfield has several running backs capable of carrying the load, with Tony Dixon (JR) and Derrick Locke (SO) combining for over 1000 yards rushing last season.
However, I believe the true standout on this team is the very athletic defensive back Trevard Lindley(JR). The defense will be called upon this year to lead the way, and with Lindley recording 50 solo tackles, three interceptions, 11 pass deflections, and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown in 2007, he looks to be just the man to step up and become Kentucky’s 2008 MVP.
One of the hardest things to do in sports is repeat. And LSU, who barely made it to the championship game with two losses last year, has lost much of the power and strength that got them there.
Offensive superstars Matt Flynn, Early Doucet, and Jacob Hester (aka the baddest white boy in college football for 2007) are all removed, as well as Ryan Perrilloux the QB heir apparent who seems to have lost more than just his scholarship.
Ali Highsmith reign at linebacker is now over, and all-world defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is now making his millions in the NFL, so there are big shoes to fill defensively as well.
Therefore, with may positions seeing new starters for the first time in a while, look for a dark horse to emerge in 2008 for LSU in the form of Keiland Williams.
Williams, who rushed for over 450 yards in a sophomore year that saw limited playing time, will be called upon to help carry the offensive load where many question marks still remain for the backfield.
His 6.8 yards per rush, with the addition of 12.5 yards per reception, will be just the answer the Tigers need to fill some gaps. Throw in his special team talents and you havea well-rounded, liable threat looking to improve upon his nearly 800 all-purpose yards from 2007 as Keiland Williams becomes LSU’s 2008 MVP.
State saw success in many forms last year. They defeated both Alabama and Auburn, and Sylvester Croom has confidence they can be a deadly threat to win the West this year.
However, if that’s going to happen someone must step up and become a man on fire for the Bulldogs in 2008.
That man might possibly be none other than junior running back Anthony Dixon.
Dixon rushed for over 1000 yards in just his sophomore season, and added another 150-plus in receiving yards, to bring his all-purpose total over 1200 yards for the 2007 season. Throw in 16 touchdowns and an average of over four yards gained each time he touches the ball makes this man the best candidate for MSU’s 2008 MVP.
Mississippi and new head coach Huston Nutt look to rebuild and improve from last season’s dismal performance. The only way they can do that is to put the ball in the hands of true talent and ride him to the finish.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried much of the load last season, but now leaders are needed all over the field to step up to fill the gaps. And one man in particular must be a man among men and spark a fire in this team.
And just where might you find such talent to lead they way in Oxford this season? Rebel fans, expect senior receiver Mike Wallace to be that man.
Wallace hauled in over 700 yards in his junior stint, averaging over 18.5 yards per reception. He also saw significant special teams play as well, amassing over 450 yards on kickoff returns, leaving him one yard shy of 1200 all-purpose yards on the season. Wallace will also look to build upon his seven total touchdowns from last year as he becomes Mississippi’s 2008 MVP.
Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks look to reload and present a threat in the East in 2008. And if there is one thing football fans everywhere know about Spurrier, it’s his love for utilization of the quarterback.
Chris Smelley, in his freshman year, saw playing time in eight games, mounting numbers close behind senior QB Blake Mitchell. His nearly 1200 yards passing is pretty impressive for a guy who was only working part-time. One thing he must improve on though is his touchdown/interception ratio. Nine touchdowns to seven interceptions aren’t the worst numbers, but they aren’t great either.
Look for him to break out in his sophomore year, with passes flying to a host of receivers such as Moe Brown, Freddie Brown, Dion Lecorn, and Kenny McKinley, as Smelley becomes Carolina’s 2008 MVP.
Tennessee’s up and down year in 2007 left the team in Knoxville heartbroken, knowing they came so very close to a coveted BCS appearance. Fulmer will try to put that behind the Vols this year to avoid a plummet, as he looks for both the offense and defense to pick up the speed and get back on track.
A defense once led by Jerod Mayo at linebacker, who was an exceptional athlete, will have big shoes to fill. His 80 solo tackles last year was just one aspect of a very impressive resume that witnessed a great threat for defending passes as well. Mayo recorded an interception returned for a touchdown, and also had eight and one half sacks. But now the defense is being questioned as to who will step up and fill those shoes.
I believe Fulmer will need someone to be ignited on offense, which may be more essential than a defensive spark, in order for UT to have a successful 2008 season. That’s where he turns to senior running back Arian Foster.
Foster carried much of the offensive load last year, rushing for nearly 1200 yards and 12 touchdowns, at nearly five yards per carry. Add in 340 yards receiving which resulted in two touchdowns, plus a little over 100 yards in kickoff returns, and you have a scoring machine just waiting to get loose as UT’s 2008 MVP.
Much talent was lost on both sides of the ball from 2007. In fact, the Dore’s lost a lot when they lost receiver Earl Bennett.
He was perhaps one of the better receivers in the country, and someone will certainly have to fill his void this season. George Smith, senior receiver, will perhaps be that man. However, his hands are not worth much if the ball never reaches him.
That’s where Vandy turns to junior quarterback MackenziAdams. His sophomore season witnessed some fair numbers bothpassing and rushing, when he threw for over 1000 yards and rushed for nearly 300 more. Nine passing touchdowns, with six interceptions, and three rushing touchdowns will surely need to be improved upon this season if Vandy is going to even think of competing.
But rest assured, Adams will step up and be the man needed on offense. However, his contributions will fall just shy of reaching MVP status as junior cornerback D.J. Moore will still the spotlight.
Moore saw playing time from many different positions last year and will certainly be called upon to display his athletic abilities again this year.
In 2007 he rushed the ball six times, returned 32 kickoffs, recorded six interceptions (tied for best in the SEC), and had 67 solo tackles. Other numbers from Moore include two tackles for loss, a sack, 16 assisted tackles, and ten passes broken up. Moore’s athleticism and contributions put him in the perfect position to become Vanderbilt’s 2008 MVP.