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Around the SEC: Year of the Running Back

Catch me if you can, suckas.
Catch me if you can, suckas.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

This time two years ago, the SEC was swimming with NFL talent at the quarterback position. Four signal callers from the conference were drafted last year and another* saw his way into a 2014 start.

Johnny Manziel Texas A&M Round 1 (22) Browns
Aaron Murray Georgia Round 5 (163) Chiefs
AJ McCarron Alabama Round 5 (164) Bengals
Zach Mettenberger LSU Round 6 (178) Titans
* Connor Shaw South Carolina UFA Browns

2013 was clearly the Year of the Quarterback in the SEC. Suddenly, there is a dearth of NFL-caliber QB talent in the conference. Despite the emergence of spread offenses, the offensive stars have swung back to the backfield making 2015 the Year of the Running Back.

Alabama Crimson Tide

QB race: In recent days, speculation has stretched this competition out to four candidates in Jake Coker, David Cornwell, Alec Morris, and Blake Barnett. Who steps on the field at Jerry's World against Wisconsin is anyone's guess. FORECAST: CHANCE OF RAINscattered thunderstorms

RBs: Despite the rash of injuries and an academic casualty, the Tide seems pretty solid () at the top of the depth chart. The featured back will be Derrick Henry with Kenyan Drake getting his share of touches. True freshman Damien Harris appears to be living up to his 5-star hype. FORECAST: SUNNYsunny

Arkansas Razorbacks

QB race: While it is nice to have Brandon Allen a returning for his third year as starter, he hasn't exactly taken over games or won any games when needed. It is time to put up or shut up. FORECAST: PARTLY CLOUDYpartly cloudy

RBs: A week ago, this looked like far and away the best backfield in the SEC if not the nation. Then came the devastating news that Jonathan Williams would be out for the season due to a foot injury. At least they still have another 1,000 yard rusher in Alex Collins. However, he will need help from someone. Where that comes from is unknown. It will be interesting to see how lightning (Collins) does with out the thunder (Williams). FORECAST: PARTLY CLOUDYpartly cloudy

Auburn Tigers

QB race: One of the few races that ended last fall, Jeremy Johnson was basically anointed heir apparent after one half against Arkansas. The national press seems to be salivating allover this guy. Coach Gustav better hope he stays healthy because there is nobody behind him. FORECAST: MOSTLY SUNNYmostly sunny

RBs:The Tigers are solid but not spectacular in their backfield with Roc Thomas and juco transfer Jovon Robinson. FORECAST: PARTLY CLOUDYpartly cloudy

Florida Gators

QB race: Treon Harris took over for woeful Jeff Driskel last season but petered out as the season went on. Freshman Will Grier likely gets the nod. FORECAST: STORMYthunderstorm

RBs: Things are not much better in the backfield for the Gators. 500 yard gainer Kelvin Taylor is back but that is about it. True freshman Jordan Scarlett may be his back-up. FORECAST: CHANCE OF RAINscattered thunderstorms

Georgia Bulldogs

QB race: UGA has still not gotten over the Aaron Murray era. Much like Bama, no Bulldog has taken over this race. My money is on sophomore Brice Ramsey over junior Faton Bauta and Virginia graduate-transfer Greyson Lambert. FORECAST: STORMYthunderstorm

RBs: Todd Gurley's injuries and suspension allowed other backs to show their wares. Nick Chubb was outstanding but you have to wonder if Coach Mark Richt used him a bit too much. Sony Michel looked good as well and even Brendan Douglas had his moments. If healthy, forgotten man Keith Marshall is gravy. FORECAST: SUNNYsunny

Kentucky Wildcats

QB race: I guess Mark Stoops was trying to motivate Patrick Towles when he waited until this week to name the returning starter as this year's starter over former 4-star freshman Drew Barker. He is not spectacular but he is serviceable. FORECAST: PARTLY CLOUDYpartly cloudy

RBs: UK returns three of their four top backs from a year ago but they collectively ran for only 1,115 yards: Stanley "Boom" Williams (486), Mikel Horton (323) JoJo Kemp (306). FORECAST: CLOUDYcloudy

LSU Tigers

QB race: Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings? Rock or hard place? Harris might be the lesser of two awfuls here. FORECAST: STORMYthunderstorm

RBs: Leonard Fournette won't have Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard around to help tote the rock. Darrel Williams along with True freshmen Derrius Guice and Nick Brossette will need to help out. FORECAST: MOSTLY SUNNYmostly sunny

Mississippi State Bulldogs

QB race: Dak Prescott look like an NFL first rounder. Junior Damian Williams backs him up but is a major downgrade with little experience (coaching error). One twisted ankle and the Bullies season goes down the toilet. FORECAST: MOSTLY SUNNYmostly sunny

RBs: Workhorse Josh Robinson is in Indianapolis. Left behind is a whole lot of nothing. Juniors Ashton Shumpert and Brandon Holloway take the spotlight. FORECAST: RAINYscattered showers

Missouri Tigers

QB race: Erratic Matty Mauk might be the new "Good Bo/Bad Bo". On the season, his back-up Eddie Printz attempted one pass (against Toledo). FORECAST: CHANCE OF RAINscattered thunderstorms

RBs: 1,000-yard rusher Russell Hansbrough is back absolutely no help behind him. FORECAST: PARTLY CLOUDYpartly cloudy

Ole Miss Rebels

QB race: Speaking of Bo Wallace... despite his gaffes, he will be missed on the Grove. The troubled former Clemson Tiger Chad Kelly looks like the leader ahead of last year's understudies Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade - both of whom have been underwhelming. FORECAST: RAINYscattered showers

RBs: Jaylen Walton and Jordan Wilkins are okay. FORECAST: CLOUDYcloudy

South Carolina Gamecocks

QB race: It wouldn't be a Stever Spurrier team if there wasn't any QB drama. The Gamecocks leading returning passer is actually All-American wide receiver Pharoh Cooper who was 5-8 for 78 yards and two TDs. Soph Connor Mitch had three less completions but likely gets the nod anyway over nobody and no one.FORECAST: STORMYthunderstorm

RBs: Brandon Wilds leads the rushing effort with David Williams backing him up.FORECAST: CLOUDYcloudy

Tennessee Volunteers

QB race: New on ESPN this fall: "Everybody Love Joshua Dobbs"! Butch Jones' original plan was to redshirt Dobbs but removed that shirt when Justin Worley down to a season career-ending injury. Even Jones had not seen enough of him to be convinced of his skills! But now that opposing coaches have film on him, will he have the same success? Butchie better hope so because there is no Plan B this season. FORECAST: CHANCE OF RAINscattered thunderstorms

RBs: The Vols hope former Bama back Alvin Kamara and Jalen Hurd make a good one-two punch. FORECAST: MOSTLY SUNNYmostly sunny

Texas A&M Aggies

QB race: The Aggies have two talented but very young QBs in incumbent starter Kyle Allen and superstar true freshman Kyler Murray. FORECAST: MOSTLY SUNNYmostly sunny

RBs: Tra Carson will be the feature back with assistance from Brandon Williams and James White. Meh. FORECAST: CLOUDYcloudy

Vanderbilt Commodores

QB race: Are you still reading? No best for last here. Vandy rotated FOUR signal callers last year to no good effect. One has taken a medical scholly (HE'S PROCESSING THEM Y'ALL!) and another transferred to FCS, leaving Johnny McCrary and Wade Freebeck to slug it out. Ugh.FORECAST: STORMYthunderstorm

RBs: Unlike QB, the 'Dores have a fine tailback in 900-yard rusher Ralph Webb. He is backed up by Dallas Rivers (not a porn star name). FORECAST: MOSTLY SUNNYmostly sunny


Lotsa good backs, one really good QB, and a bunch of question marks.