College Football Predictions 2011: The SEC Leaders for Each Statistical Category
Spring football is finishing up across the country, most notably in the Southeastern Conference—home to the last five BCS National Champions.
All of the talk and chatter this offseason has been about how the SEC will compete against the new-look conferences, but nobody has really addressed the battles that will exist within the conference in 2011.
Lots of big time names are leaving SEC teams, and many fresh faces are primed to take over the spotlight.
So, who's going to be that All-SEC quarterback? Who's going to be the next top defensive player?
Here's a list of who's projected to be at the top of each major individual statistical category.
Passing Yards: Tyler Wilson, Arkansas Razorbacks
2010 Statistics: 453 yards passing, four touchdowns, 155.39 rating
The Razorbacks are expected to reload offensively, despite the loss of Ryan Mallett, under Bobby Petrino’s hot offense. Tyler Wilson will take over with the confidence of Arkansas fans thanks to a solid showing against Auburn in 2010.
Wilson has all of the physical tools to get the job done and will have the best receiving core in the country to throw to. It’s hard to imagine the Razorbacks will decline from their fourth-ranked passing offense. Wilson should threaten for the First-Team All-SEC spot.
Runner up: Tyler Bray, Tennessee Volunteers
Passing Efficiency: Aaron Murray, Georgia Bulldogs
2010 Statistics: 3,049 yards passing, 24 touchdowns, 154.48 rating
The departure of A.J. Green might hurt Georgia’s passing game in terms of big play ability, but the Dawgs have one smart quarterback in Aaron Murray. Murray, as a redshirt freshman last season, threw 24 touchdowns to just eight interceptions.
His pocket presence, running ability and accurate arm should keep him out of the doghouse in terms of interceptions. Murray may only be a second-year starter in 2011, but many already think he’s going to be a special quarterback and possibly the SEC’s best.
Runner up: A.J. McCarron, Alabama Crimson Tide
Rushing Yards: Trent Richardson, Alabama Crimson Tide
2010 Statistics: 700 yards rushing, 6 touchdowns
No school has ever been less worried about losing a Heisman trophy winner than Alabama. Mark Ingram will be replaced in the backfield by Trent Richardson, who rushed for 700 yards to Ingram’s 875 last season.
Richardson won’t be splitting carries in 2011 and will be the workhorse in the most ground-based offense in the SEC. Alabama has enough front-line talent to commit heavily to a run game and have success, which means Richardson could explode.
Runner up: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina Gamecocks
Receiving Yards: Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina Gamecocks
2010 Statistics: 88 receptions, 1,517 yards
South Carolina may not know who their quarterback will be in 2011, but they definitely know who they will be throwing to. Last season Alshon Jeffery hauled in 88 passes for 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns.
At 6’4”, 230 pounds, he’s undoubtedly the SEC’s most NFL-prototype receiver, and he’s without question the best pass catcher in the conference.
Runner up: Greg Childs, Arkansas Razorbacks
Receiving Yards (Tight End): Orson Charles, Georgia Bulldogs
2010 Statistics: 26 catches, 422 yards
Aaron Murray’s favorite target should be tight end Orson Charles. With Green gone, Charles becomes the second-most experienced target in the receiving field (behind receiver Tavarres King) but might be the most reliable.
He played with Murray in high school and has an apparent sixth sense when it comes to finding Murray’s spots on the field. The chemistry between Murray and Charles should lead to a lot of catches for the junior tight end.
Plus, Charles is expected to line up at receiver a few times as well, increasing his chances of getting his hands on the rock.
Runner up: Michael Williams, Alabama Crimson Tide
Sacks: Devin Taylor, South Carolina Gamecocks
2010 Statistics: 7 Sacks
Incoming junior Devin Taylor should be a beast at defensive end for the Gamecocks in 2011. Last year he recorded seven sacks, just one behind his teammate Melvin Ingram.
Taylor is expected to thrive in his third season and might make a quiet case for becoming a dandy draft pick. With 2010 SEC sack leaders Justin Houston and Nick Fairley gone, it’s Taylor’s time to shine.
Runner up: Courtney Upshaw, Alabama Crimson Tide
Tackles: Danny Trevathan, Kentucky Wildcats
2010 Statistics: 85 solo tackles
The Wildcats’ return the SEC’s leading tackler from 2010 in outside linebacker Danny Trevathan. With the five men behind him on that list being seniors, it’s hard to imagine anyone comes close to Travathan’s production in the coming fall.
Last season he averaged an outstanding 11 tackles per game.
Runner up: Alec Ogletree, Georgia Bulldogs
Interceptions: Robert Lester, Alabama Crimson Tide
2010 Statistics: Eight interceptions
Anytime a college defensive back records eight interceptions in a season, it’s a big deal. That’s exactly what Robert Lester did for the Alabama Crimson Tide defense in 2010, and it’s hard to imagine he won’t be at it again.
Most people are bidding on Morris Claibourne having a huge year for LSU, but the Tigers have more defensive holes to fill in the secondary than Alabama. The Tide’s depth won’t allow for opponents to necessarily “throw away” from Lester.
Teams will have to play the full field against ‘Bama’s secondary, which means Lester shouldn’t have trouble tracking balls.
Runner up: Morris Claibourne, LSU Tigers
Return Yards: Brandon Boykin, Georgia Bulldogs
2010 Statistics: Kickoff return touchdown, 825 return yards
Also known as “Bam Bam,” Georgia senior Brandon Boykin enters 2011 as the heart and soul of the Georgia secondary, if not the defense. Boykin has been a solidified starting cornerback for two years now, but he’s made himself a Georgia fan favorite with his returning ability.
Boykin has three 100-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career, four total kickoff returns for touchdowns and has cemented himself as Georgia’s all-time leading kickoff returner. With the potential of returning punts as well, Boykin should be a shoo-in for All-SEC as a returner.
Runner up: Andre Debose, Florida Gators